Egret and crab

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show


Nanci Griffith

Welcomed home

I stayed at Dain and Sues' beautiful home while I was doing the show in Mesa and they treated me wonderfully. I got up early one morning and was reading the paper in the nook when Dain walked in to get his coffee.

"Are you reading the obituaries?"

I confessed that I was. It is a long time habit. I know that I have been accused of being morbid of late and this only adds fuel to the fire but I wanted to see how many of the good people in Phoenix were now resting comfortably in Jesus's arms. You can tell a lot about a town by its obituary column.

Which is better than the rest of the paper. The Arizona Republic used to be a fine periodical but since they were bought out by Gannett they really suck. Even laid off the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steve Benson last week. After like 38 years. Shadow of its former self.

I told Dain that you could get some neat information on interesting people by reading their obituary.

Like these two fine gentlemen, who happened to be sallying forth into their eternal slumber sitting on top of each other on the obit page.

Daron, an accomplished welder, story teller and skilled concrete finisher, even once held the one time world record for his round tailed chub.

Holy Hannah, have you ever seen a chub that size? That is a whopper. As his nephew says, "heaven has a baited fishing pole and camp fire waiting to welcome him." A life obviously well lived.

And Earl, a man equally comfortable singing off key at church and throwing dice on the luxurious felt of the crap table. Now that's a daily double. Got to love that. Said he smiled the whole way.

Both men I would have felt privileged to meet and hang out with.

War Baby

Rob the slob

I will be the first to admit, I am no fashion plate. Far from it. I came home from Arizona in a loud Hawaiian shirt and wearing these discordant colored socks I got from her store and my spouse said, "Well, you're definitely not gay." Like no self respecting gay man would ever put colors together like that. I fear that she is correct.

I am really not that much into my sartorial self image. As a seventies kid, I grew up around the time of fry boots and clark wallabees, levis cords and velours, hang ten, rugby shirts and levis 501 button downs and pretty much never left. Serious case of arrested development.

The standard attire in my little corner of the antique business has been a pair of jeans and a Hawaiian shirt these past twenty years. Pair of tennis shoes. But maybe not any more? Is there a change in the air? Am I no longer cutting the mustard? I got a lot of crappy comments about my shirts this weekend. You don't wear that island stuff in the desert, son.

I looked like a turd in a punch bowl in my Hawaiian shirt in Mesa, Arizona this week. People were giving me funny looks. Someone whispered in my ear that what was okay in Santa Fe was not okay in Phoenix. Even Danny Verrier had a regular shirt on, which is sort of a first I think.

My wife also gives me grief quite often about wearing white socks with black shoes and jeans. I guess it is a fashion no no. I pointed out to her that Michael Jackson brought the practice into vogue but she was having none of it. Look here. These are my buddy Dain's feet next to mine, in the picture above, getting warmed near his horno in the back yard. So as you can see, at least I'm not the only one who doesn't give a shit. But he does own a tux and can be dressed up on occasion when it is required. My wardrobe is pretty thin these days, can't quite squeeze into the sport coats anymore.

I did this cowboy and indian show in Mesa this weekend, used to be called High Noon but now it is the Old West Show. Did barely tolerable, if you're wondering. Some did better, some did worse. But I did notice that there were an awful lot of older fellers all walking around dressed like well, dandies. Ten gallon hats and waxed mustaches. All with a similar checked shirt. Some wearing spurs on their boots. Many accompanied by rather plain looking women. Only one peacock allowed on this stagecoach.

And I got to thinking that many of these old boys were actually playing costume. Definitely there were some legitimate cowboys  but I think there were a bunch of accountants mixed in playing dress up. Certainly that many fellas couldn't have all mosied up from the ranch. And kind of thinking that many of them seemed very, well, gay. Which is not a bad thing by any stretch. They just may not know it yet. I grew up in the horse show business, worked hunter jumper, saddlebred and western. Invariably the latter group was the most gay. Lots of gay cowboys. Beautiful, no problem. Viva la difference.

It is my personal experience and perception that most straight men don't give a shit enough to be so wrapped up in their clothing and self image. But I could be wrong. It is a brave new metrosexual world. In France the beautiful men we saw with their beautiful women in the restaurants looked like they had primped for hours and some were even wearing makeup. This sort of thing gives me the willies but I guess it takes all kinds and I am a bit of a troglodyte.

When the fat, double chinned guy in levis and hawaiian shirt look comes back into vogue, damn am I going to be ready.

Reckoning hour

I decided to go back and visit
that guy
I used to be
had to make sure
that things were still all straight with me
saw right off the bat - there's obviously so much more to see
still the functioning parts had the same

The I that was once him sure gave me a start
grabbed me right by the collar
reached straight into my heart
stared me square in the eye
raked me over the coals
my gangering doppel
with the private map to my soul

Skinny little knowitall
knew which buttons to press
where the bodies were buried
all the sins to confess
I was twixted and was turned
pretty much all inside out
a short order inspection
this interpersonal bout.

He asked if I remembered the secret promises we made?
the decisions and oaths that we'd take to our grave,
the many people we loved and the friends that all gave
those folks who appeared in an instant and saved us from pain
who loved and believed in us and picked us right up when we fell
were we appropriately grateful
did we wish them all well?

Did we give as we got
were our measurements fair?
Did we do unto others
did we stop and we care?

I broke from his clutch and now too familiar stare
unruffled my collar and patted my hair

while its true that I'm still
a long way from perfect as yet
have faltered and failed and made many a bad bet
I can tell you I've done my reasonable best
to be me and be you
per the boundaries we set

It was now well past time
to get this guy out of our head
let sleeping pasts lie
be present again
I bade farewell to my shadow
that guy that I was
set sail for the future
and that next guy I'll become.

Robert Sommers

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Willie the Weeper

New policy

You know, I occasionally take positions that cause me a bit of flack among certain friends and readers. I get that. But love me or hate me, I don't ever pull my punches.

I post them and everybody knows where I stand, good, bad or indifferent.

I think that I am about done with anonymous commenters. You can comment anonymously if you wish, but if you don't put your name on the bottom and let me know who is writing, your comment will not be posted.

Why should I give you the benefit of anonymous trolling if you won't identify yourself and take responsibility for your positions?

You anonymous tough guys are really a bunch of pussies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019


Land gets stolen, it's the way of the world.

You know, the Covington Christian - Omaha Elder story has been beaten half to death and I am not going to get into the middle of it. Black Israelites, shiny young white boys whooping it up with their maga hats on and Native Americans, does it get any better than this?

Mon-Chonsia, A Kansas Chief - McKenney Hall
But there was one thing I thought should be addressed with the recent kerfuffle that I don't believe has been to this point; the young man who after a group of Native American men walk by the Lincoln Memorial, can be heard saying to them, "Just because you stole the land, don't(sic) make it yours."

A bit ironic, no? The student, who is wearing an Owensboro Catholic High School hoodie and Trump' hat, can be heard saying, "and y'all stole it from the Aboriginals… it's been stolen throughout all of history… land gets stolen… it's how it works… it's the way of the world."

What are they teaching these kids these days? In church or in school? This notion of manifest destiny? We should be clear. There were no aboriginals in this country, the native Americans first walked across Beringia some 20 thousand years ago. There was nobody else around. Amerindians and Athabascans all come from this single genetic source migration. 80% of the natives living today share their genetics with a relative of the Clovis People who lived 12, 707–12,556 calendar years before present. The natives were the first people here.

But the kid's lack of knowledge about American history is only matched by his somewhat cruel and obvious lack of empathy for the theft and subjugation of the natives' land. We made lots of treaties with the first people and we pretty much broke every one of them and often exterminated them in the process. This argument reminds me of a quote from one of the Bundy kids, Ammon or Ryan, after the Malheur standoff and I am paraphrasing, the natives had their time and they lost their claim and now it is under the dominion of white people. Or as their father Cliven once said, "The Indians had rights until they lost the war."

Heart Attack & Vine

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Time for moral capitalism?

I don’t believe in the word ‘fair.’
Carl Icahn

Many of my friends and cohorts loathe David Brooks. I think he nails it on occasion. Like this opinion from last week, The remoralization of the market.

Andy Williams

Andy was a pro, an unbelievable singer. Phenomenal pipes.
A voice right up there with Dean and the King.
His harmonies here are magical.


protean clash
I had some loose pictures lying around, stuff I have just processed or recently re-processed. Here they are. Click on one and you will see them all enlarged.

blue heron

petition the lord with prayer
sandhill cranes
vermilion flycatcher
white sands
red shouldered

Walk in beauty

There is a lot of water in my Santa Margarita River right now. We got a good chunk of rain these last couple weeks, a couple inches past our normal total. A real blessing for my environment, from the plants and my redwood tree to the insects and birds.

I stopped on the high canyon road I live off and snapped a shot on my way home the other day. Today is the first warm day. Hear we might get one more storm. I hope so.

I walked west on the river trail about a week ago and it was flowing pretty good. Saw that the beavers have been busy. People have done a nice job keeping the trail maintained.

I got a nice note from a more conservative friend the other day: Beautiful photos and much more enjoyable without the political anger.  So tired of both sides of the divide. I looked at the blog and realized that he was right. I have been dialing back the politics and the anger of late. A bit subconsciously but definitely.

In the first place I don't want people who visit my blog and have a differing political opinion than I have to feel unwelcome. No one wants to get smashed over the head and nobody has an exclusive stranglehold on virtue and righteousness. Very few minds are getting changed no matter what I say and it is not necessarily my appointed task in life to respond to and highlight every outrage I may perceive.

Secondly, every thinking person in this world knows that we are in a horrible cultural and political war with each other in this country, which is reflected in the people we elect. There are plenty of places to get your information re: said war if you want it and you don't need my help.

We are in a pretty nauseating battle of tit for tat with each other, each side claiming the greater victimhood, then weaponizing their aggrieved status. Look at Fox or MSNBC and see how many articles are framed to show just how miserable the other side is and how righteous our side is. We need to get back to a center position and I hope that it can be accomplished soon. Dial down the animosity a tad.

So I will post politics when I feel like I have to, like on environmental issues, and not feel guilty for trying to, as the dineh say, walk in beauty whenever possible the rest of the time. Find topics that can maybe unite us, regardless of political persuasion. Lot of great stories out there that should make us all feel good, just have to find them.

red tailed hawk with nicitating membrane

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Godfather

We were headed down to watch a college basketball game in San Diego. I left Fallbrook and picked Kent up in Oceanside. Kent wanted to know where I wanted to eat. Hmm, I thought long and hard. I whittled it down in my mind to two places, The Godfather and the Butcher Shop, both very old school San Diego and both situated in Clairemont Mesa.

I couldn't make up my mind and called my wife. "Go to the Butcher Shop," she said. "They'll have to clean the cobwebs off the booths of the Godfather." That settled it, being your basic contrarian, we went to The Godfather. It has honestly been decades since I have eaten there.

Arriving early, we sat in the seats near the fountain outside and waited for the doors to open. Enjoyed the quiet evening. When the door finally opened we were the first one's in and a well dressed gent led us to our table. Place was immaculate, no cobwebs in sight. Didn't look like anything had changed in the thirty or so years since I had eaten there. Welcome back to the seventies, and I say that with love and total respect.

The Godfather is your dad's swank sort of place, down to the plastic grapes and Brando posters. Sort of place you could imagine the Ratpack enjoying a meal at. Decidedly non nouvelle.

A place with eight nine kinds of veal on the menu, scampi, steaks, a place unfazed by time. Mussels, carciofi, canneloni, branzino, frutti di mare, the same menu and food quality you would find at a great spot in Jersey City. Or the famous mob hangout the Sommers boys would frequent while at our blackjack junkets in Las Vegas, the Villa D'Este. I'm a sucker for red velvet.

My family has been eating at the Balistreri family restaurant since they opened the joint in 1974. My father, brother and I had an office around the corner on Convoy Court. And now I am the only one left.

A waiter came and got our drink order, Kent ordered a very nice glass of red wine and I settled for ice water. Brought us good bread. I decided to quiz him. "I haven't been here in a very long time. You still got the wonderful fried zucchini with parmesan?" "Yes sir," he replied, "No, its not on the menu but we will bring it right to your table."

Another waiter walked by that I faintly recognized. "Hey I remember you." He told me in a voice with a slight european accent that he had left thirty years ago but had recently come back. "I remember you," I explained. "The big guy still here, the guy with the operatic voice who would sing once in a while?" "Isadora has retired but he still comes in for a few hours every day to make sure that the sauces are right."

The Godfather was one of our family restaurants, like Busalacchis was later on. They served the type of italian food our family liked to eat. Always good, always well prepared. I ordered veal marsala and a salad and Kent had the superb steak Sinatra, a specialty dish. Both were accompanied by complimentary pasta. I looked around. It seems like every booth in the rapidly filling restaurant was filled with people just like me, people and families who looked like they had been all eating there for over forty years.  Old timers. Eating at a best kept secret, a very familiar place where the menu was good and never needed to change. A classy joint, unaffected by time or the next best thing.

I don't know what made me pick the place. Or maybe I do. My dad and brother and I had season basketball tickets, Rockets, Sails, Conquistadors and the dreaded Clippers and there were many times when we would stop there on the way to a game I imagine. Or hit the Butcher Shop for their stroganoff. I guess I was missing my brother and my pop subconsciously and going to one of our old hangouts helped me get back in touch.

By the way, the food was delicious. Kent thought so too. Zucchini was thinly sliced, as perfect as I remember. The marsala sauce was sublime. Thank you Isadore. Not a cheap dinner but not extravagant. You can handle it.

I'm going back and its not going to take me another twenty or thirty years to do it. The Godfather, it's like going home again.

The Godfather
7878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111


I believe in old friends, old restaurants and old doctors. Things that stand the test of time.

Wave - Paria Escalante

Mick Taylor

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Native talk

My buddy Jeff is an Alaskan. He sent me a neat story the other day about an Alaskan man, Remembering Clarence Wood, a hunter in the truest sense of the word. The late Clarence was an Inupiaq hunter from Ambler. His tale gives you a great sense of what it is like to live on the wild frontier.

Clarence Wood - (Nick Jans photo)
I had a teacher who spent a couple years in the wilds of Alaska in the early fifties. No one locked their doors, if you needed something you borrowed and shared but you did something for your unknown benefactor before you left, cut wood, whatever. People took care of each other.

I'm not sure it is quite like that anymore. But guys like Clarence are guys I definitely like to get to know.
...Clarence wounded a grizzly bear at dusk below our log cache. He’d been drinking, and left 10 minutes later, heading upriver in his boat. I searched for the bear in the dark with a flashlight but couldn’t find it in the willows. I came home discouraged and tired and laid my shotgun on the table. Stacey woke me up during the night. It was windy, dark, the dogs were barking like crazy. I went out barefoot. I heard the bear in the brush, coming up the hill. I held the gun level. When it was a few yards away I was ready to shoot but something stopped me. It was Clarence. His motor had broken down and he’d drifted back downriver. I stretched out a caribou hide for him and in the morning I heard him pumping the Coleman, softly, the way he did, heating water, wanting coffee too damn early. When I woke up again he was gone.
I hope to make it to Alaska one day. But not cruise ship Alaska, hard scrabble Alaska.

Speaking of Alaska, the shutdown is apparently hitting certain remote areas up there like Kodiak Island pretty hard.

The rugged west has more federal land and more federal workers per capita and the furloughed workers are feeling a lion's share of the pain. Many of them are s-o-l in very remote places. Hard to have a bake sale or mow somebody's lawn up on Kodiak Island.

Alaska also has a lot of earthquakes. My other buddy Jeff from Alaska lost a priceless collection of glass and pottery during the last big quake.

I am doing a Cowboy/Indian show in Mesa, Arizona next week called the Mesa Old West show, formerly known as High Noon. It has been around a long time but I have never exhibited before, always having prior conflicts.

Roan Horse - Comanche - unidentified photographer
I understand there is a major collection of historic native photography being auctioned, the Robert G. McCubbin Collection.

I have a very old and beautiful photo of a native male in a eagle feathered bonnet that I might bring and try to sell in my booth.

It has been on my wall for about twenty five years but I am at the stage where I have to let things go. Not sure if the wife will sign off but we will see.

My unidentified photograph
Someone once told me that they thought it might have been taken by C.S. Fly but I am not sure that they really knew.

Most people are familiar with Curtis, Moon, Rinehart, a few more photographers but there were hundreds more. My favorite is probably Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934.) Her work was very artistic.

Iron white man - Käsebier
I was looking for images to see if I could find the author of my beautiful photograph when I was directed to this marvelous resource on Facebook, Moses on the Mesa. Somehow the greatest Native American portrait archive in the world sprung up on Facebook. Remarkable.

And who was Moses on the Mesa? One Solomon Bibo (1853-1934), a Jewish trader from Prussia who became the Governor of Acoma Pueblo in 1872. The only non native to ever serve as governor of a Pueblo. The son of a cantor. He and his brothers had a trading post in the tiny town of Ceboletta.
"None of the Bibos became more endeared to the Indians than Solomon was to the Acomas. In 1882, he arrived at the pueblo and set up a trading post. He learned Queresan, the Acoma language, and helped the tribe fight its legal battles to restore its traditional lands. By treaty in 1877, the Acomas had been granted 94,000 acres of land by the U.S. government, far less than the Indians thought they were entitled to according to historical evidence. The Acomas were determined that they should lose no more than had already slipped through their hands.
To accomplish this end, in 1884 the tribe decided to offer Bibo a 30 year lease to all their land, in exchange for which he would pay them $12,000, protect their cattle, keep squatters away and mine the coal under the Acoma lands, for which he would pay the tribe a royalty of ten cents per ton for each ton extracted. Pedro Sanchez, the U.S. Indian agent from Santa Fe, learned of the deal and jealous of the success of the "rico Israelito" (rich Jew), tried to get the federal government to void the lease.
The Bibo family fought back. Simon Bibo petitioned the Board of Indian Commissioners in Washington to the effect that his brother Solomon's "intentions with the Indians are of the best nature and beneficial to them--because the men, women and children love him as they would a father and he is in the same manner attached to them." In 1888, convinced finally that Bibo had acted honorably, the Indian agent for New Mexico wrote, "To the people of the pueblo of Acoma, having confidence in the ability, integrity and fidelity of Solomon Bibo...I hereby appoint [him] governor of said pueblo.""
Bibo is #15

There were many jewish traders in the west. Must have given the natives a square deal. And perhaps identified with their diaspora.

Frederick Monsen (1865-1929) gelatin silver photograph Hopi woman at the well with water jar, Walpi.
This is a photo I will definitely be taking to the show. It was taken by Frederick Monsen and bears his thunderbird cartouche. I own it with John Fillmore.

It is large, 18 x 14". Monsen was part of a group of California photographers called the Pasadena Eight. They included Charles Lummis, Adam Clark Vroman, George Wharton James and Carl Moon.

If you are in the Phoenix area next week, please come visit and say hello!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Candye Kane

Virgin River

Long distance operator

Personal stuff

Sunset at Avalon Harbor

I got busted by a friend the other day. Justifiably. For an obsessive scribe I sure am a shitty letter writer. I favor short, terse, impersonal replies. And it is pretty awful really because I get some very lovely notes from my friends and can't be bothered to respond with much more than a grunt? Such horrible manners. Really. I can say that it is a conservation of energy thing because I write so much but it would merely be a bullshit excuse.

The blog touches a thousand people a day on a decent day. But it is no excuse either to ignore my close friends or to glean their personal communications for blog fodder. I can't forget the personal. I apologize. My bad.

American Gothic

I have a large network of friends and associates. I think that I usually keep up with the ins and outs of the movements and personalities but there are times things simply pass me by.

I was shocked the other day to hear from Terry S. that Bob Joyce had passed away around Thanksgiving. A picker and antique dealer par excellence, Bob was from Omaha, a near constant sidekick to Terry, Vickie and Jan. A good friend of mine for many years. And to many others.

Unconventional and unbroken, like many of us.
A man who lived his life on his own terms.

I don't know much about his passing. Bradford said he might have heard that they found him in bed with a smile on his face. Hope it is true.

We will miss you Bob. Another one bites the dust.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Camel - Lunar Sea

Taco time

I was running a little crazy this morning, pressed for time. I had a minor eye surgery scheduled in Murrieta and about forty minutes to grab a bite and get up there.

I headed for Jack in the Box, something I honestly rarely do and grabbed the two tacos for a buck deal. Threw in a sausage croissant. Great go to on the cheap.

I love Jack in the Box tacos. So does my sister Barbara in Florida who can't get them back there and has to stop for them first thing when she is in California. There is a gamey quality to the mystery meat paste inside the crackly gems I find both pleasing and intriguing in some horrible and disgusting way.

Jack in the Box is cool, a hometown San Diego product now owned by Ralston Purina and one of two restaurants open all night in Fallbrook, the other being Robertitos. And yes, Ralston Purina is the dog food company but it would be in very poor taste to make any kind of culinary nexus connection. Supposedly, the local Jack is a great tweaker hangout at three in the morning. I hear the company is in some bad financial shape. Franchisees are pissed at headquarters at the moment for some reason.

Frankly there was something a little off on my tacos today, they didn't have the usual je ne cest quois. Hope they haven't monkeyed with their little treasure. Will try again soon and try to nail the difference down. So what are the fabulous and incredibly delectable tacos actually made of? Hamster? Cockroach paste? Is it a tang like space food chemical concoction? Some vegans swear that they are made of soy and down them without guilt. Got me.

I did some checking.

Somebody on the net offered this: Beef Regular Taco Filling Ingredients: Beef, Water, Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy Flour, Caramel Color), Defatted Soy Grits, Seasoning (Chili Pepper, Maltodextrin, Spices, Wheat Flour, Salt, Dry Garlic, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Corn and Wheat Gluten, Monosodium Glutamate, Dry Onion, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium.

Another came up with something entirely different. Taco, Regular Filling Ingredients: Beef, Chicken, Water, Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy flour, Caramel Color), Defatted Soy Grits, Seasoning (Chili Pepper, Corn Maltodextrin, Spices, Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid], Salt, Garlic Powder, Hydrolyzed Corn, Soy, and Wheat Proteins, Monosodium Glutamate, Onion Powder, Natural Flavors, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Succinic Acid), Salt, Tomato Paste, Worcestershire Sauce (Distilled Vinegar, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Caramel Color, Garlic Powder, Sugar, Spices, Tamarind, Natural Flavor, Sulfiting Agent). Tortilla Ingredients: Ground Corn, Water, Lime. Cooked in Canola Blend Frying Oil. Contains Soy, Wheat. 

So the second largest ingredient in the beef taco is chicken? Kind of weird but I can live with that. By the way, Jack and the Box reportedly sells 554 million of these babies a year, over 1055 a minute. I assure you that somebody else is eating them besides me, although few will apparently confess. More on the scrumptious morsels here, which the snide writer likens to a "wet envelope of cat food." Accurate but not altogether charitable.

Anyway, as I said, there was something a little off with them today. They lacked their customary "funny smell." By the way the larger supertaco from Jack is a totally different animal and lacks all the redeemable virtues of its poor and diminutive relative. And full disclosure, the sausage croissant was pretty soaked in its own grease. Which was okay because at least the grease wasn't rancid as it can be if you happen to catch Jack on the wrong day.

First Jack, 63rd and El Cajon blvd. I worked four blocks away,
my first job at the Rolando Apartments. 12 years old.

By the way, I recently discovered the fish taco at Robertitos. Where have I been? A generous portion of deep fried fish with a bit of pico de gallo, cabbage and ample lime slices, all smothered with an appropriate cream sauce. Sprinkle with a liberal dollop of hot sauce. Only three fifty, half the price of the fish burrito and even better, if you ask me. I usually get it with zanahorias, the hot carrots and jalapenos combo that will set you back another fifty cents. Top it off with a fanta and you are in heaven.

Tell them that you want the Blue Heron Blast discount. They will look at you funny and maybe threaten to call the cops.

Sun flare at Arches

ƒ22 1/60th iso 64 Nikon D810 with Bower 14mm ƒ2.8

Monday, January 14, 2019

Eva Cassidy and the London Symphony

One of my favorite covers by the late and incredible Eva Cassidy, posthumously accompanied by the London Symphony. Not quite as stunning as the solo version but still beyond beautiful.

e ticket, fourth iteration

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Cindy Walker

The arrow of time

Black hole entropy equation
I was in a state of half sleep at three in the morning last night when I strew a few lines together.

I have been thinking about my recent conversations on mortality and longevity and my brain was wandering, as it often does in bed. I didn't get up and write down my thoughts as I had told myself to, so this is what I am left with the next day:

The notion of defeating entropy is
as possible as
suspending gravit
or cancelling fall and winter
for a never ending spring.

Bit pessimistic I know. Not going to win a Pulitzer either but it was three in the morning, after all, and sounded much more profound while I was in my pajamas. There is, of course, probably more, now forever lost to dreamland.

I may have filched the last idea from Bradbury, hope that Ray won't mind.

Are you familiar with the basic notion of entropy? The French mathematician Carnot introduced the concept, he wrote a paper in 1803 that proposed that in any natural process there exists an inherent tendency towards the dissipation of useful energy

All closed systems eventually break down. Even organic beings. There are many reasons for the dissipation including friction and wear. The term entropy is used in various schools of science including economics, quantum mechanics, communications and cosmology.

Definition of entropy 

1thermodynamics a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system's disorder, that is a property of the system's state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system.broadly the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system

2athe degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformityEntropy is the general trend of the universe toward death and disorder.— James R. Newman

ba process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorderThe deterioration of copy editing and proof-reading, incidentally, is a token of the cultural entropy that has overtaken us in the postwar years.— John Simon

4statistical mechanics a factor or quantity that is a function of the physical state of a mechanical system and is equal to the logarithm of the probability for the occurrence of the particular molecular arrangement in that state

As I said before, I seem to be in the clear minority on the whole death cheating business. Some of you have great plans for the infinite future, including new planet population and space nookie. I salute you comrades. I am content one day to submit to the natural long sleep. Throw me a cosmic rose on your way by.

And make your move before the Large Magellanic Cloud collides with the Milky Way Galaxy. I hear it is going to be one hell of a crash.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Live and die

I was at a dinner party last week and a friend asked the group how long they hoped/wanted to live? He announced that he was thinking of 130 or 140. Another fellow offered 110, 120. I said that I would be happy if I could hit my next birthday.

I guess I should fill in the conversation a bit. The man who made the query was talking about the new frontier in aging and longevity. He mentioned the Google resident genius Ray Kurzweil, father of the concept of singularity, who he said was a sixty something who now lived in the body of a forty something. The first immortal. Some time ago Kurzweil came up with the idea of nanorobots that would course through your veins and keep your systems working optimally. Who wouldn't want to extend their life? Well, maybe me...

I looked up Kurzweil, who I have  touched on before here. Hate to say it but he didn't look so good to me.

The futurist, who wrote the book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, is down to 100 supplemental pills a day from his high of 250. Undergoes weekly intravenous longevity treatments. Chelation. Much more. Think a super smart Keith Richards. And very self absorbed.

I believe that I am in the minority on this one. I would not want to live beyond what has been the norm the last forty or fifty years. I have packed in every ounce of life experience I could muster in my paltry sixty one years to date. I will leave with nothing left on the table, knowing I have gone for it at every opportunity. Will I have things left on my bucket list? Who doesn't. But nobody gets to do it all and it is a bit unreasonable to try, at least in my way of thinking.

I remember hearing an old Russian folk tale in kindergarten about a man who was granted his wish to live forever. As you might imagine, it quickly became a curse. Losing everyone you have ever loved. Tiring of life and never being able to undergo the cessation, the final sleep. Sounds horrific.

We seem to have a rather finite productive period in our lives. Even if it was extended significantly, an exponentially larger group of older people living past the century mark would put a large burden on the young. Is that fair? Those that have tried to eat of the tree of knowledge and desired immortality have been struck down in a plethora of myths since time immemorial, from Pandora to Adam. The first had an eagle eat his liver for eternity, while chained to a rock. Ouch.

Perhaps artists are somewhat different in how we wish to leave our mark, think Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, the twenty seven club. Or those denizens of Thanatos who exercised even more complete control of their final exit, like Plath and Brautigan. Say your piece, make your mark and split.

I never thought I would make it this long, frankly. I was told by a doctor that I had no more than three days to live at the age of 16. After three years of fighting chronic interactive non a, non b hepatitis, my pancreas emptied out, my feet started itching, vomiting bile, I actually started the process of dying. Necrosis. Down close to 125 lbs. Won't go into the gruesome details, saved by my mother's care and prayers, I made it. Then the eight years of continual bladder and kidney cancer. Which returned twenty five years later.  And an incident after open heart surgery where Leslie and I were informed that I had less than two weeks to live. Which turned out to inaccurate but was taken very seriously at the time. And there have been more.

Call of death, 1934 - Kathe Kollwitz
I learned long ago to live for the day and be good with that.

When you face death on a semi continual basis, you make peace and stop clinging to life in the same way a healthy person might. At least in my experience. Appreciate the moment. But a desire for eternity? No thanks. You might wrestle with death but declare victory? I think not. When my ticket gets punched it gets punched. And I am most happy with that. Maybe people who have always been healthy can't grok that.

Infidel753 wrote something tangential to this conversation on his blog today; A century from now people will look back on our time, which passively accepts aging and natural death as inevitable, with the same pity and horror with which we now look back on the age that accepted its helplessness in the face of the Black Death as something normal.

I don't know why this type of thinking is so antithetical to my own but it is. I recognize that my attitude may be in the minority. I hate the thought of gene editing too, imagining a world of perfect children with perfect teeth with all the mad skills one might pick out of the catalogue. I personally don't trust humans with such power. But a large majority of young people today favor the practice. I think I am outvoted.

Can you imagine how world weary a centenarian might get, watching humanity continue to devolve and others continually repeat the same tired mistakes? Give me a final chapter any day.