Monday, December 31, 2012

long stories short

This nasty-looking thing is a flu virus. I was fighting one most of Friday and all day Saturday.

Long story short: I won; the virus lost. I was running a slight fever both nights, drinking gallons of water and eating chicken soup. The thing never settled in my lungs, and I was fine and back to what passes for normal around here by yesterday.

I feel really good about this. Not only did I dodge what I've heard is a very painful, often weeks-long episode of illness, I was able to do it because the general state of my health (as opposed to the state of my various diseases) is excellent, thanks to a diligent yoga practice and regular cardio workouts, a gift to me from the ladies at Pulmonary Rehab at Jefferson Hospital in Pt. Townsend.

And also, I would add, due to the intercession of someone who insisted I get a flu shot back in late October-early November. I'm sure that helped too.

Yesterday, being Sunday, I decided it would be a good day to go catch the boat to Seattle for supplies. I found Seattle little changed from my three-years sojourn there, and quite unattractive. It used to be greener than it is, and has declined into gray lumps spread on some low hills, with streets mostly deserted on account of the cold.

I read Jim Kunstler's analysis of life on earth and predictions for the coming year first thing this morning. It's long and comprehensive, covering the planet's surface and all the economic activity happening on it, and the long story short is we're screwed.

We've been experiencing systemic collapse for the past seven years, and we can expect it to continue and grow worse. That's just common sense.

It's not like there's nothing we could do to prepare for the what's ahead. Trouble is, the people in charge are trying to hang onto the past, at a time when what we need are leaders who are looking at the future, rather than running away
from it.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I'm not sure, but I think I may be sick. I definitely don't feel so hot.

I haven't tossed my cookies or had dire rear or anything (yet), but I haven't eaten anything today. At all. I just don't feel like it.

It feels like someone is twisting my intestines. Also, my testicles hurt, and I think they might be a little swollen.

I apologize if that's too much information.

I'm gonna lie down and vegetate. Hope to see y'all tomorrow.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

drop over some time

So earlier today comes Hairy Reed, and says over ye cliffe we shall goe, for there's no agreement. Then a little later comes old McConnell saying, "Hold on just one minute there, podnuh...

And so it goes, just like the movin' pitchers.

This whole phiscal cliph thing is looking like it's scripted, like a Hollywood movie. You know -- Obama drops back to throw the hail Mary just as the countdown clock ticks down to zero and the crowd foams like a dog in their collective mouth.

It's starting to look like just another media circus put on for the entertainment and bafflement of the gapes.

sic transit gloria mundi

I've been reading lately and hearing people talking about how we're going the way of them old Romans. Sometimes these people know parts of ancient histories, and sometimes not, but all these parallels are pretty much on track, even though the fall of the Roman Republic in 31 BCE is often confused with the the final collapse of the empire, events separated by more than 500 years.

And there are parallels we can draw from all of it.

Keeping in mind that the Roman Republic really was not one in the way we think of it, but was never more than a Senatorial-class oligarchy, it did have a culturally and politically vigorous era.

One rule of thumb I use to determine whether a society is robust and full of positive energy is to look at the coinage. The strongest societies have governments that mint 90% silver coins, like this one from the Roman Republic.

By the time of the first emperor, the amount of silver in a denarius had been reduced from 1/72 of a pound to 1/84, and currency debasement continued thereafter.

The U.S. minted its last 90-percenters in 1964. It's hard to fix the date when the US went from being a republic to an empire, but 1965 -- the year of the big escalation in Vietnam will serve as well as any.

Another important parallel is concentration of governing power in the executive. In the US it's been a series of gradual encroachments on legislative power, starting with FDR. The first attempt at truly imperial rule, although he didn't quite get there, was mounted by that great Amer-o-can, Drahcir W. Noxin.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The day after Labor Day this year, Dick Armey, the former House member whose name has become synonymous with the right-wing agitprop group "Freedom Works," walked into the organization's D.C. offices accompanied by his wife and an aide packing a prominently displayed revolver. While the aide escorted the top two Freedom Works employees from the premises, Armey told three other employees they would have to leave.

But on September 10, less than a week after his banana-republic-style coup, the five dislodged employees were back on the job, and Armey had been persuaded to leave Freedom Works for good, his decision motivated by an $8-million-dollar bribe paid by a secretive Illinois billionaire, Richard J. Stephens, who has quietly exerted increasing influence over the tea-party-identified "think" tank in the past couple of years.

The mainstream media have generally been playing this internal power struggle among fascists as the "conservative movement" searching for a "new path" in the wake of its crushing defeat by Obama in November. But what it tells me is that there never has been a grassroots "conservative movement" in this country, just a handful of rich pricks who have been gaming the system, attempting to control and intimidate the national media, and running astroturf operations like the Tea Party.

This has been going on since the late sixties, and whether it's the Koch Brothers' Americans for Proserity, or Dick Stephens's Freedom Works, or Murdoch's Fox News Network, the strategy is the same -- dominate the conversation by shouting down the opposition, use tactics such as character assassination when the facts are not on your side (they never are), and keep repeating the same lies, Goebbels style. Assume that the voting public is stupid enough to be fooled, and will willingly believe and repeat whatever horse apples they're fed.

It's worked, up to a point. There have been times in the past 40 years, most notably during the Reagan and Bush II administrations, when our home-grown aristocrats have exercised complete control over the political process. Even when they don't control the process they manage to disrupt it, and we've all been treated to political arguments with people packing a snoot full of Fox, repeating what they've been told to think in that intellectual bottomland, and acting like they've just said something brilliant.

This armed-coup at Freedom Works is just one more gift of the 2012 election -- the gift that keeps on giving. Paul Krugman, bless his economist's heart, had the most cutting comment on Dick Armey's clownish pratfall, in his New York Times blog:

The problem, clearly, is that despite its Tea Party status, FreedomWorks had failed to implement the security measures libertarians have been recommending for schools. If only the staff had been carrying concealed weapons, and those not armed had been trained to launch human wave attacks on gunmen, none of this would have happened, right?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

cool yule

Very cool picture of Santa, eh?

Now, go read Dmitri's Xmas post, "Escape from the Merry Christmas Zone." It deals with the customs and superstitions of Americans, also their lusts and longings.

horn dog

This dog is Not listening to his master's voice. There was a meatball in the horn.

Merry Christmas, and a happy Saturnalia to all you horn dogs out there.

Monday, December 24, 2012


OK then, here's that sammich I said I was making. It turned out good enough to recommend.

I made mistakes of course, and the first one is I made two sandwiches, which meant I had this one left over to take a picture of. If you're hungry enough to eat a whole chicken by yourself, you'll probably want two sanwidges, otherwise, one satisfies any appetite more modest.

The mayonnaise-soy sauce spread is one of the main things that makes this sammmichee really good, so make plenty. Maybe a tablespoon of mayo to a teaspoon of soy sauce, or even more, for one piece of bread. Mix it up real good in a little bowlette and then slap it on a whole-grain shingle.

Pile it up with sardines, sliced tomatoes. halved olives, maybe top it with a little smelly cheese crumbles (mine has Danish bleu). You can use the cheapest sardines for this -- around here that's Cliff's Beach House. Also, put anything else you want on this sanwedge, such as cilantro, slivered bell pepper, filaments of red onion, etc.

Next time I'll use better olives, small black kalamatas, and improve it. Even as is, this is a great sammish -- delicious, cheap, easy to make, and nutritious.

lonely weekend

In retrospect, it's easy to see that the big tobacco companies would have been far better off to fully cooperate with reformers once the cultural paradigm regarding cigarette smoking began to shift. Instead, they stubbornly resisted change, and in the process made themselves look very bad.

Now, in the wake of Newtown, Connecticut, the cultural paradigm regarding high-capacity firearms is shifting even more rapidly than we saw with smoking, as people turn away in sorrow and disgust from the terror of high-capacity guns in the hands of maniacs. However this reality was lost on Mr. LaPierre of the National Rifle Association when he addressed the Newtown massacre on Friday, when he repeated all the mistakes made by the Marlboro Men and added a couple new ones of his own.

It's not just the weapons that now arouse our widespread revulsion, but the mentality that has driven the marketing of them. Maybe the doomsday preppers are at least partly right, and we're in for some interludes of real anarchy as the oil economy passes away and the "finance industry" is made to deal with the consequences of its massive Ponzi schemes. But surviving such interludes cannot be done solitaire; only strong, organized communities can have a chance of accomplishing that.

There's a romantic sickness loose among us, the ideal of the lone-wolf macho homo who through his own strength, toughness, and intelligence survives in a hostile world. The main problem with this scenario is that many who believe in it are actually hoping for it, sensing consciously or unconsciously that it would be an exciting and fulfilling alternative to their present routine, boring and meaningless existence.

These are the ones who lie awake at night worrying that "Obama and the liberals are coming for our guns," but truly, we're only interested in the exotic ones -- AK's, AK knockoffs and wannabees, semiautomatic pistols, etc. Rest assured, you can keep that Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, and even without the Bushmaster you'll still be a guy.


I usually leave discussions of all things food-related and budgetary to my good friend, the lovely and knowledgeable Miss Moneypenny, but since she shares an aversion to the humble sardine with millions of other Americans, I'll have to continue my research in this area without her.

What we know about this tiny fish, which grows quickly, breeds prolifically, and dies young is that it's a near-perfect food source, full of omega-3 fatty acids (good cholesterol), protein, and vitamin D. Furthermore, the several species of live fish that are sold as sardines (a method of preparation, not a species; Matt Groening remarked years ago that "There is no such thing as a live sardine.") are abundant and sustainable.

In a post on his elegantly-written and attractive blog, Sustainable Sushi, the writer Casson reminds us that despite their great virtues as a food, "Unfortunately, sardines have a scandalous reputation. Most Americans view them as cheap, lowbrow fare that is best consumed down by the train tracks, generally accompanied by fortified wines, tall tales, harmonica music, and lots of scratching."

That may be changing, as more and more varieties of top-of-the-food-chain species such as tuna and salmon become more critically endangered from overfishing, causing prices for them to spike, and putting them out of reach for those of us who are less than wealthy. And as Casson points out, the influential foodie (among other things) Oprah herself recently endorsed a menu that includes sardines, and named the humble fishes as one of her 25 "super foods."

So in the interest of promoting great nutrition at affordable prices, here's tonight's experimental menu. I'll make open faced sardine sandwiches on toast spread with a mixture of four parts mayonnaise to one part soy sauce, and including, besides the fish, chopped olives and sliced tomato. I'll use a lightly-smoked Portuguese pilchard from Trader Joes, and a little stinky cheese would probably go good with that, too. It doesn't take much of the gorgonzolas and bleus to bust both a budget and a cholesterol count, but since I'll be getting all that omega-3, these sandwichettes should be cholesterol-neutral.

I'll let you know how it turned out tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

unlucky 13

So 2012 turns out not to have been the end of the world, but just another bad hair year.

Actually, it seems to me that the first 13 years of the new century have been more or less uniformly sucky.

I'm hoping that cycle, whatever it was, has run its course.

debating irrelevancies

If you've been drawn into an argument about gun control this past week -- and who hasn't? -- you'll often find the gun advocates attempting to steer the dispute off the rails by bringing up irrelevancies about the assault weapons craze.

Is the Bushmaster Zip-7 an assault rifle, or a wannabee?

I say it doesn't matter, since the 20 little kids Adam Lanza shot with his mom's Bushmaster are just as dead, whether the gun is a "real" assault weapon or not.

I agree that this gun is a consumer product designed to appeal to guys who have developed a kind of obsession with one or another of the several doomsday scenarios currently being hyped by Hollywood. The fantasy of enabling one's family to survive a "Road Warrior" world with a fake AR-15, a water purifier, and a basement full of canned and dehydrated food is pushed on us by movie makers, advertisers, and the NRA for good reason.

Sales of conventional weapons -- revolvers, rifles for hunting, shotguns, have fallen off in recent years. In the interest of increasing sales and boosting profits, the gun manufacturers and their lobby have pushed both assault rifles and the fantasies that generate a demand for these products.

As usual, it's all about money. Money, money, money, money, money. As always, big capital is perfectly willing to cannibalize children, and immature people vulnerable to a media pitch, if it enhances their bottom line. Remember cigarettes? Same thing.

These weapons need to disappear, along with the NRA. I realize that the first amendment, in combination with the unwritten law of capitalism which says that anything profitable is "good," may make this difficult. Also, such measures would not solve all our problems.

However, they would be an important first step in getting a handle on two crises we're facing, either of which is much, much more threatening than so-called terrorism, or "Islamism," namely, mass lethal violence, and widespread psychological dysfunction.

And in the end, the Bushmaster gun, whether it's a "real" assault rifle or not, feeds our sicknesses and must disappear from civilian life, along with all the other machine guns from hell, fake ones, real ones, toy guns, whatever.

If we can't satisfy our desire to kill something by shooting raccoons and rats in the back yard with a Smith & Wesson revolver, or a .22 rifle, or by preparing for a home invasion by keeping a shotgun in the closet, then we need to go to the doctor. Not the one who's just going to prescribe exotic mind-altering drugs, but a real doctor who will take an interest in seeking the root causes of our dysfunction.

Friday, December 21, 2012

the ruins & the depths

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was trained as an architect, but in his lifetime was celebrated and famous as an artist, or an engraver, to be exact. Starting at age 20, he produced etchings of ancient Roman ruins from drawings made on the spot, such as this gorgeous ærial view of the Flavian amphitheatre, or Colosseum as it's known today.

After a four year side-trip to Venice, Piranesi set to work in 1747 on his comprehensive visual catalogue of Roman monuments and ruins, putting out an incredible amount of finished work until 1784, by which time he'd pretty much exhausted the subject. He combines the architectural draftsman's precision with the enthusiasm of a committed antiquarian, and though he played fast and loose with size and perspective at times, depicting the ruins as impossibly grand, the obsessively-rendered detail transports the viewer to another place.

Besides the views of the ancient city which made him famous during his lifetime, Piranesi worked for years on a series of a different sort of views, these showing the nightmarish architecture and fantastic perspectives of dungeons and cellars which never existed -- the "Carceri" series. Like this one, "The Round Tower," all of them feature confusing and irrational relationships among a proliferation of staircases, overhead walkways, and catwalks. Besides inspiring the twentieth-century Dutch engraver Maurits Escher, I believe Piranesi was consciously depicting the deepest, darkest, and most inaccessible part of any personality, and what the character Morpheus in the film "The Matrix" called "A prison of the mind."

Please mouse click on these pictures to see them in a larger size, so as to appreciate Piranesi's mastery of detail.

Piranesi died in 1778, aged 58, of overwork and the pulmonary effects of the chemicals necessary for etching metal plates.


According to widely misinterpreted ancient Mayan sources, the world will end today. This is a significant date because it marks the end of the Mayan "long count" cycle, but not, according to our friends at NASA, the end of the world.

It's also the date of an annual event feared by our paleolithic ancestors, but celebrated by our neolithic forebears. Sometime between the beginning of the old stone age and the advent of the new, humans learned to think abstractly, and the first fruit of abstraction was numbers and counting.

Once the annual "death of the sun" was recognized as a cyclic phenomenon which could be predicted accurately by keeping count of the days, and measuring corresponding heavenly events, the solstice became an event to be celebrated rather than a mystery to be feared.

Likewise, the end of the Long Count may well be "The dawning of the Age of Aquarius," celebrated prematurely and with eager anticipation in the late-60's musical "Hair."

What does this Age of Aquarius have in store for us? What does it mean? Nobody knows for sure, not even your hairdresser, although no doubt he or she has an opinion about it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

good ol days

Back in the good ol days we had nine planets. It had always been that way, but little did we know...

Back then we had pray-er in our skew-els. And Bible readin. That's how I found out about Moses and the Fay Ro.

Cars had eight pistons, and ran on leaded gas.

Processed food was the new big thing. Teevee dinners were a treat, much better than when mom spent all that effort preparing nutritious meals from scratch.

Everybody smoked, everywhere, all the time. Edward R. Murrow had a lung removed, then died from cancer in the other one.

Those Godless atheistic commies were in charge in Red Russia, and they wanted to kill us. This country was said to be full of commies everywhere, but I never saw one except on the teevee, when they fried the Rosenbergs.

We were happy, and totally clueless.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

free fallin

So Boehner says basically Obama should go jump off ye olde fiscal cliffe.

OK, so far so good. John Amato writing at Crooks & Liars says a true when he says "All the Villagers today have been speaking in somber tones on teevee because they fear we will jump off the cliff and the Pete Petersons will not get their much-hoped-for-and-sought-after pound of flesh out of Social Security or Medicare."

Yes, that and every body's taxes will go up.

The thing is, going off ye cliffe is the thing to do. It's an opportunity to increase funding for Social Security, take a bite or two out of Pentagon spending (or should I say "boondoggles"), and maybe semi-get our house in order. It presents a chance and a gamble, because absolutely everything will be in play at a time of extreme political instability.

So go on witchu Mr. John Boehner. Bring it.

it's not quite the calling of the Estates General in 1789, but could run along those lines.

reefer man

Have you ever met that funny reefer man? Cab Calloway at his 1930's best.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

old times there are not forgotten

The Hays school district, in the little town of Buda, about 15 miles south of Austin, is banning the Confederate battle flag. This action was prompted by a racist incident in which a couple of students dimly wrote some garbage and peed on a black teacher's classroom door.

Of course, that happened seven months ago, way last spring, so the board is not exactly moving with dispatch. I'm sure they're aware that this is one of those highly symbolic, lightning-rod issues, so we can expect the usual blah blah blah about it from both troglodytes and those who need to always be sure their liberal credentials are in order.

Besides those two groups, there are black people who justifiably hate the old battle flag as a symbol of the vanquished slaveocracy and their ancestors' bondage.

Somewhat inexplicably, in my opinion, the school board is not going to change the school teams to some dorky California name like Anteaters or Banana Slugs. They will remain the Rebels, and their fight song will still be Dixie, and for my money that's kind of like eating diet cheesecake.

Monday, December 17, 2012

steinberg again

Some of the characters in Saul Steinberg's Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmare vision of "Bleecker Steeet," New York City 1971, made a more composed and organized appearance in the artist's formal portrait of 20 Americans.

Here, they've been turned loose in an incoherent and dangerously unstable mass. Burnt out winos rub shoulders with gorgeous and well-to-do women, and a green-faced female nearly catches fire from the effects of a powerful psychedelic drug. This is not a society, or even a collection of unsorted types, but a combustible and dangerous mix of exaggerated individuality, with some among them wearing their violent impulses on the outside.

The police noisily dominate the center of the picture, the mounted cop accompanying the car with it's graphically depicted siren squawking to keep some semblance of order on Bleecker Street. But just below the horseback cop, a predatory crocodile prepares to devour its rat-like prey.

Steinberg was the great artist of the 20th century, so of course he bucked all the trends. He was fully modern, but never abstract, and always representational, so what we have here is Bleecker Street exactly as he saw it. I don't know that I've ever before encountered in a representational artist the total unification of the artist with the scene he's looking at, emphasizing the fact that we can never separate what's being viewed from the eye that views it, because they form an indissoluble unity.

Please mouse click on the image to make it large enough to see this work in detail.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

the rifle, man

Note today's date.

Capital watchers of all political persuasions can agree that by Valentine's Day we'll have a comprehensive, nation-wide ban on assault weapons, and on the magazines, clips, drums, and other paraphernalia used to convert conventional weapons into assault weapons.

The NRA is a spent and discredited force.

uncle sammy's drones

While we're mourning the deaths of innocents in Connecticut, let's not forget that our crazy Uncle Sammy is still pounding tribal areas of Pakistan with missiles launched from drone aircraft.

Uncle assures us that these drones are precision machines, capable of launching a missile halfway around the world and hitting a mosquito's butt. However, we all know by now that Uncle Sammy is either delusional or lying through his teeth, that his drone missiles have killed over 600 innocent bystanders, including 176 children who were very similar to the children killed by the crazy person in Connecticut.

Looks to me like old Sammy needs to rest for a while, and maybe talk to a counselor.


Here are a few positive developments we'll be seeing soon, listed in probable order of appearance:

1. Re-instatement of the ban on assault weapons. There were fewer mass shootings between 1994 and 2004 when these weapons of mass destruction were previously banned.

If Congress doesn't have the brains, spines, and hearts sufficient to defy the terrorists of the National Rifle Association and re-instate this ban, the state of Washington can act on its own to do so.

We've already told the Feds what we want (legal marijuana), and now it's time to let them know what we're not going to tolerate.

2. The end of the Bush/Obama tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires. Originally enacted in the last year of the snake (2001), the return of the serpent in the astrological cycle (2013) will be an appropriate time to put a stop to this ongoing larceny by the predatory classes, which has been the main driver of the deficit they pretend to deplore.

Their unsuccessful wars to gain possession of the Persian Gulf oil, the second main driver of the deficit, will be deep-sixed also, some time in 2013.

3. Too big to fail? Too big to jail? The big banks -- Chase, B of A, Wells-Fargo, and Citi -- made a lot of money selling bogus mortgages (liars' loans as they were known in the trade), but they made a lot more by "securitizing" these loans, breaking them into fragments and rolling them into collateralized debt obligations which were than rated triple-A by the ratings agencies and sold to unsuspecting investors.

But now individuals who were scammed in this obvious Ponzi operation, along with pension funds, municipalities, etc. are suing those banks for fraud and a number of these civil actions will bear fruit during the course of the coming year, proving once again that there is no firm too big to fail, and no one so large that his physical vehicle cannot be installed in a 10x6 cell, where he will have ample time to reflect on his past actions.

All these things taken together point to the greatest experience that can occur in an individual life time -- crushing one's enemies completely, driving them before your chariot, and listening to the sweet sounds of their lamentations of woe and sincere expressions of regret.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


After getting the news yesterday I was too sad and upset to write anything.

Obama was obliged to speak, and managed to hold it together and make sense.

"Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago – these neighbourhoods are our neighbourhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said.

For "meaningful action," I'd suggest we re-instate the semiautomatic weapons/assault weapons ban we had in place between 1994 and 2004, when Bush and his Repuglican Congress sunsetted it.

There were muckers doing shootings in those years, but loss of life was a lot less. During that 10-year span there were two mass shootings: Columbine and the mucker day-trader in Atlanta who killed nine at a brokerage house. Both in 1999.

After the ban was lifted there was a mass shooting at a church in Wisconsin in 2005 (six dead), the Amish school mass murder of 2006, where the shooter let the adults and boys go, then shot the 10 little girls left in the school, killing six.

Virginia Tech was in 2007. Then we got lucky in a macabre way, because nobody was killed except the shooter at Northern Illinois University in 2008 -- eighteen wounded. Followed by three such assaults on crowds in 2009, two big ones in 2010, then three last year and four this year -- so far. See the timeline.

We're collectively crazy if we don't take pro-active steps to get a handle on the proliferation of heavy artillery in this country. Trouble is, I'm afraid we are crazy, every bit as nutsoid as we appear to people in foreign lands.

Also, what would it take for people to have more and better access to mental health services?

Friday, December 14, 2012

friday roundup

Susan Rice's dropping her bid for for the Secretary of State job is part of a complex kabuki dance, which will play out like this: Sen. John Kerry will be appointed Secretary of State and quickly approved by the minority-ruled Senate, opening up a Senate seat to which Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will appoint Scott Brown, recently defeated in his bid to return to the Senate for a full term by Liz Warren. Any questions? Good. It's a done deal, which shows the awesomeness of democracy.

Amy Goodman in the Guardian on the US torture regime's treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who turns 25 in three days.

In Michigan, innocent fascist bully-boys were victimized by "union thugs." This violent abuse was documented on video tape (edited, of course).

Preznit Obama says enforcing federal pot laws in states where voters have legalized it is a "low priority." That's a wise decision, being as how his excellency is intimately acquainted with that funny reefer man, who says of the preznit, "Nur. Brocksa persnal frenda mine."

Something's up with YouTube, so I'll have to do music later

Thursday, December 13, 2012

right to make less

OK, so the governor of Michigan has gone and signed a couple of those "right to work" laws, handed to him by his Koch-Brothers-controlled legislature, after promising he wouldn't.

Somebody who knows a lot about this stuff and is on scene is Ramona.

hey bob a re bob


There is no advertising here, and there never will be.

That's all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I saw Ravi Shankar live, performing duets with the great drummer Allah Rakha at San Francisco's civic auditorium in 1967. That was 45 years ago, so he would have been 47 at the time. He was 92 when he died yesterday in the terrestrial paradise called San Diego.

At the time of the concert I owned a couple of Shankar's LP's (remember those?) and listened to them nearly every day. The live experience didn't transport me to another universe or anything (I half expected it would), but it was one of the two or three best concerts I've ever been to, and offered a first-hand glimpse of Indian drumming technique, which has to be seen to be believed.

And it also opened the door to other experiences of the sort which today fall under the extremely general heading of "world music." As opposed to what, I'm not sure, since I've never heard any out-of-this-world music.

If you'd like to hear some very hot, early Ravi, along with a dose of Bengali culture, check out Satyajit Ray's 1955 film "Pather Panchali," for which Shankar performed the sound track.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

airs in spilling & such

Over at a blog called Club Orlov, the proprietor Dmitri is urging all us English speakers to adopt a new alphabet, to correct what he calls "the world's worst orthographic system."

He's right about that, but there's no need to chuck the Roman alphabet. Other languages using the alphabet of classical Latin are models of simplicity, uniformity, and clarity. ¿Habla usted Español?

The problem with the English orthographic system is that it ain't a system, but a hodge podge. The spelling is what seems to drive Orlov nuts, and who can blame him? He grew up in Russia, using a different alphabet (the Cyrillic), writing a language which, like nearly all other languages, changes its spellings as the pronunciation of the language evolves over time.

In fact, English is the only language I know of that has lots and lots of words which are pronounced differently now than they were 400 years ago, but are still spelled the same, or nearly the same, as they were then.

For examples of this, let's look at a few lines from a very old English-language poem, "Twa Corbies." In English, that's "Two Crows."

As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane;
The tane unto the t'other say,
‘Where sall we gang and dine to-day?’

‘In behint yon auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight...

For starters, "alone" and "moan" (lines one and two) did change their spellings as the pronunciation evolved, but note that the two words follow different spellings for producing identical "long O" sounds. Also in the second line, the word signifying the number two is pronounced today just like "too" or "to," so why does it still have a W? "The tane" is "that one," just as "t'other" is "the other."

The rest: "Where shall we go and dine today?
'In behind that old turf dike,
I think there lies a new-slain knight...'

"Gang" means "going" in German, the language modified to produce this kind of English. "Old" is spelled harmoniously with its new pronuciation, and "wot"is gone from the language entirely, but with "knight" we've got a bad one. It used to be pronounced "ka-nikt" and was spelled "knicht," and a whole ton of English words follow this pattern: used to be spelled with a "ch" which was pronounced, now spelled with a "gh" which has either fallen silent, or in some cases may be pronounced as "F"as in enough or laughter.

But the big problem I have with Orlov's suggestion is that it will never happen. Sure, English needs phonemic reform, but no one will ever to get the necessary number of language authorities and cops to agree on a new system.

Besides that, I believe orthographic and phonemic anarchy is a small price to pay for fluency in the language that has far and away the largest vocabulary of any, and endless possibilities for expression.

colbert in the senah?

A lot of South Carolinians apparently want Stephen Colbert as their new Senator, but they won't get him.

Declaring he's available for the S.C. Senate seat which has fallen open, Colbert leads in one poll in South Carolina with 20% of voters saying they like him best. And Colbert's candidacy is legit -- he was born and raised in Charleston.

However, Gov. Nikki Haley will appoint Republican congressman Tim Scott, the guy with 15%, to the seat being vacated by Jim DeMint.

DeMint is leaving to head up the Heritage Foundation, a big and influential D.C.-based fascist agitprop outfit controlled by the Koch Brothers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

sign of decay

There are any number of ways to measure the health and vitality of governments and societies. One of the simplest and most foolproof is to take a close look at a nation's coins.

From time immemorial, robust societies have had governments which minted 90-percent silver coins, like this beautiful denarius from the Roman Republic. These things were durable, and the specimen shown here looks pretty good despite its age -- 2,137 years.

The dime-sized coin was the foundation of Roman currency, and as the society weakened and the power of government declined, it was gradually debased until it reached the point where there was so little of value in it that it had to be withdrawn from circulation.

Under the rule of the Senate, denars contained four and a half grams of silver, or 1/72nd of a Roman pound. By the time Rome formally became an empire the weight was down to 39.6 grams, or 1/84th of a pound. The decline in integrity after that was slow, but steady.

The last 90% silver coins minted in the US came out in 1964 -- dimes, quarters, and halves. If there are any Roosevelt dimes in your pocket right now with dates of 1964 or earlier, you can take them down to the local coin shop and get about $2.35 each for them.

The last 90% silver dollar, the Peace Dollars, were minted in 1935.

If you hold a 1964 US quarter in one hand and a current one in the other, you'll quickly notice that the only similarity is the size. The present-day coins feel like those little plastic discs we played with as kids.

The same thing has happened to our government and our society. The root word is "base," as in base-metal coinage, and when you've reached de basement there's literally no where to go but up.

the times they are a-gettin a little better

Here's the most convincing sign yet that things are starting to improve. Slightly. Jim Kunstler actually wrote a positive and cautiously hopeful blog post this week.

And yes, he is able to smile without his face shattering into a million pieces and falling off.

three chords and the truth, part 1

Things are looking a little better, but not nearly good enough. We need to have a national government (and state governments, too) who are absolutely committed to full employment. If they can't do that, what good are they?

That's your "G" chord, as in "Gee, I never thought of that before."

And we need to stop talking about how we're going to meet our energy needs in the future, and decide what we're doing, and do it. It's obvious to everyone that electricity is the future, because, the grid, plus we know how to do it.

So we need renewable forms of electrical generation, chiefly solar, but also wind and hydro. Mainly, we need to stop jawing about how hard this will be, and start implementing. And no more petroleum subsidies -- I mean, what the hell are we thinking of?

And tbat's your "C" chord, as in "See how simple this is?"

Besides that, there's not much left to do. We'll have to bring back the graduated income tax and shore up Medicare and Social Security, since those three things together are the most effective and efficient income re-distribution program the world has seen yet.

If you don't know why income re-distribution is necessary, see the history of capitalism.

And end the wars, of course, and cut back war ("defense") spending by half to start, and then bring it down further after that. This last couple of items are so obvious that they'll serve nicely as a "D" chord -- D for "Duh."


Click on the Scariest Chart Ever for full size. This chart of the Great Recession is the work of the economics blog

Sunday, December 09, 2012

tuff times

"Face the Nation," which is one of those Sunday bobblehead shows, this one on CBS, had as guests this morning old Earskin Bowls, and his sidekick, the Enema Man out of Wyoming.

Old Earskin didn't have much interesting to say apparently, since his road dog grabbed all the headlines. That would be the Enema Man, who said that taxes are going to go up for rich people, for sure, for sure. Which is significant, 'cause he's not exactly poor himself.

"If anybody out there who's quote 'rich' doesn’t think their taxes will go up, the drinks are on me," he said. "I'll cover it."

Alan Simpson (for such is his name) was one of the co-chairs (along with Earskin Bowls) of the president's (Obama's) cat food commission, appointed to find the best way to screw old people out of their social security and medicare as a way of dealing with the so-called "debt crisis."

He's not completely divorced from political reality, however, so maybe this one can be brought to terms.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

news from around here

Here in the exclusive little community where I live now, the residents have been carping and whinging like a busted bagpipe ever since an unwelcome visitor came to town a couple months ago.

A rusty and inoperable tramp merchant vessel with the inappropriate name "New Star" is tied up at the end of the boat dock at the marina. I haven't been able to determine whether this is the same ship sunk near Vladivostock by the Russian navy in 2009 (and pictured here), in very bad weather, causing the deaths of half the crew of 16. The Russians said the Sierra-Leon-flagged vessel was smuggling.

I don't think the New Star is going anywhere any time soon. The owner has apparently sold it for scrap in Mexico, and promised to move it this weekend. However, he is having a hard time finding a tugboat heavy-duty enough to tow it, and a second stopping point, the Port of Astoria, Oregon, is considering his request for moorage but hasn't actually said "Yes" yet.

This wouldn't be the first time the owner failed to deliver on a promise to move the old ship. The residents here are angry because he has committed the absolute worst offense a person can commit in this town. He has ruined the view.

Just a thought, but everyone I'm sure is familiar with the cliché about making lemonade when life gives us lemons (or squirting your enemy in the eye, as an alternative). Why don't we just say it's ours, since it was left on our property? We could turn it into a restaurant or a nightclub or maybe a casino, or a mini-mall where cute little shop-ettes sell sachets and potpourri and stuff like that. Put androids in it and put on a show. It's big and ugly, and so perfect for a turis trapp.

It's ours, so why not do something with it, like decorate it for Christmas, for starters.

musical interlude

"Nobody gets away until they whip it."

--Devo, "Whip It"

answers to yesterday's history testito

1. At the bottom.

2. A country with a lot of cars, like the USA.

3. She sat down.

4. Music and mathematics.

5. The Juveniles

6. On the side of his head.

7. Unusual names.

8. Hadrian's garden.

9. The second one.

10. "A Night at the Opera."

Illustration: portrait of Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, artist not known at this time.

Most questions and answers were taken from "F In Exams, The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers" selected and edited by Richard Benson, 2011, (unpaginated).

Friday, December 07, 2012

in our memories still

Dorothy Marie Talbott Brice
April 26, 1920 -- December 7, 2008

history test

Everybody loves quizzes, right? You get to show the teacher and the rest of the world how much time you've spent memorizing useless facts and trivia, and doing that enables us to show how smart we are and feel good about ourselfs.

So in that spirit, here's a little quizito to sample your knowledge of history and geography, two subjects that go together, since everything important that ever happened in the world happened some where.

1. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?

2. What is an autocracy?

3. What was Queen Elizabeth II's first act upon ascending the throne?

4. Name two classes that existed throughout medieval Europe.

5. What are the two main tributaries of the Nile called?

6. Where was King Soloman's temple?

7. What did Mohandas K. Gandhi and Genghis Khan have in common?

8. What was enclosed by Hadrian's Wall?

9. Who succeeded the first Roman emperor?

10. What is Karl Marx's most famous work?

Answers tomorrow.

music videos

YouTube, having become an important musical archive and research tool, easily takes us back to the earliest music videos, which sprang up fully-formed in 1927. That was the year that sound and moving pictures were first joined together, in the feature film out of Hollywood called "The Jazz Singer."

Unfortunately, the very first example of the genre, embedded in the movie, was a sleazy and disgusting combination of racism and maudlin sentimentality called "Mammy," sung and rapped by Al Jolson.

Things had improved by the following year, however, as the enormous cameras and impedimentia of sound recording were dragged into theaters where vaudeville was performed. It was in such a setting that this young lady, introduced as Grace Rogers, sang "Lila," a song made famous by Frankie Trumbauer's Orchestra, featuring a stunning cornet solo by Bix Beiderbecke.

Grace Rogers was not her real name, however, and I've been unable to uncover her true identity, and don't know whether she became famous and celebrated as an adult.

Anyone who can help me out with this, please leave a comment or send an email.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


This post will analyze Saul Steinberg's "Twenty Americans," a picture which at first glance appears merely as a mildly amusing cartoon, but the longer one looks the deeper it gets.

It's a simple arrangement of four rows of five small portraits each. The top row contains no human beings -- all four of the "people" there (as well as the bird) are symbols, or icons which represent the country the picture is about. Of the fifteen remaining figures, 11 are human (three women, eight men); there are also an animal, a modified cartoon character, an inanimate object (snowman), and a thing whose identity is indeterminable.

At the top, Uncle Sam on the far left is paired with a native American consort. On the other end, the American eagle and Santa Claus form another pair, indicated by the coordination of the tassels on their hats. The eagle is graduating from something, signaling that Steinberg saw the time in which he was living as transitional (like any other time). Santa Claus is not a uniquely American icon, but this one is definitely American, although the colors on his chest are Xmas colors. Lady Liberty, between the two pairs, anchors the composition of the uppermost quintet.

The second row begins with portraits of "Mr. and Mrs. America," both collages composed on graph paper, devoid of personality and possessing only the biological attributes of humanity. This is how Steinberg saw most Americans, the majority of whom reside in cities or suburbs. Next to them is the artist's self-portrait, like the married couple presented in completely neutral terms. Steinberg chooses to hide behind a boxy, cardboard-like image and reveal nothing of himself, which is very much like him. The animal on his left might be one of his beloved cats, but is more likely a Doberman pinscher belonging to the cop, who wears a riot helmet with visor. The two of them are another couple, this one representing the nascent police state the US was becoming in 1975.

Things get "curiouser and curiouser" in the third row, beginning with a figure which may or may not be human. He's a gangster, but whether he's an image from a 1940's "Noir" film or a person who thinks of himself that way can't be determined. He's accompanied by a very socially-oriented woman with big hair and enormous glasses, very much an urban type. The middle of this composition within a composition is an inscrutable black cowboy, and next to him an astronaut dwarfed by his space suit, which is topped with one of the two American flags in this picture. Next to the astronaut is a scary figure which might be a ghost, spirit, golem, or zombie. What it is can't be determined; we only know it's not human.

The bottom row starts with a radically-modified image of Mickey Mouse, a character Steinberg was never comfortable with, and next to him the artist's comment on immigration (he was an immigrant himself). An Arab man is wearing an American-style suit, but he is American, not Saudi, for the picture is called "Twenty Americans," not "19 Americans and an Arab." Sex in all its glory, captured in a few quick strokes of the artist's Rapidograph, anchors the bottom row as an armless young woman with big hair, big eyes, a big hat, big boobs, and big thighs, all proudly displayed. Next to her is a hippie sort of chap, possibly drinking a soda and wearing the picture's second American flag on the left sleeve of his denim jacket. Finally, on the far right, Frosty the Snowman, whose sad, frozen expression tells us as little as possible.

During his lifetime Steinberg was ignored by many "serious" critics as a mere cartoonist, and characterized by others as a "commercial" artist. Since his death in 1999, his reputation and influence have grown greater every year, and his work is an endorsement of Robert Crumb's maxim that we should ignore the art snobs, with their talk of "high art, 'Cause it's just lines on paper, folks."

WE are the marijuana munchkins

Weed is legal in this state (Washington) today.

It's still illegal in the US, whose capital, also called Washington, is very far away from here.

So close to God (this is God's country, after all). So far from Washington, D.C.

However, there is no talk here of secession. In fact, considering the state has imposed a 25% transaction tax, the Drug Enjoyment Administration is the least of our worries.

Taking the DEA seriously is a bigger worry than their empty threats and impotent warnings.

All I can say about any of this is I hope you're not still smoking pot. You need to have some consideration for your lungs so you don't end up in pulmonary rehab like me (mainly due to tobacco in my case). There are better ways to get those miracle molecules into your brain.

And watch out for los munchies.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

20 americans

Saul Steinberg, "Twenty Americans," 1975 Graphite, crayon, colored pencil, watercolor, and ink on paper with graph paper collage. Mouse click on the image to get a larger and better view.

An analysis of this picture is here.

seens i'd like to see

I would gladly interrupt any Sunday morning edition of NBC's "Press the Meat" to point out to the world that the host of that show is a millionaire butthole, David Gregory, who week after week interviews millionaire politicians like Lindsay Graham, John Kerry, and Jim God Help Us DeMint, and also millionaire pundits like David Brooks and Maria Bartoromo.

This cozy little club of one percenters has been occupying the airwaves for the past 30 years, dispensing idiotic politics and worse economics, such as the maxim that "entitlements" such as Social Security are the cause of our $16 trillion debt.

I know, it's stupid, but it's the best opinion money can buy.

I would gladly walk into the NBC studios on any Sunday morning accompanied by 20 or so of my acquaintances here in Jefferson County, fellows who shoot game fowl and raccoons and pluck and/or skin them in their front yards, and have lived "off the grid" all their lives. We would pull the plug on this little coffee-time monopoly of morons with more money than brains, and announce that we're taking over.

The purpose of course would be to inform people that reality still exists, that it's rapidly descending on our society which has been living in a "Meet-the-Press"-type information bubble which excludes reality, and that when it hits us, it will start at the top.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

souls of insects

"The Ghost of a Flea."

by William Blake, English poet and artist, about 1820.


It's not just the Germans who will reach 100% of their energy supply derived rom renewable sources relatively soon. We all will. That's 100% renewable energy, mostly solar.

A lot of the video I asked people to watch back on the 27th of last month is a chopped-up interview with the guy most responsible for this development, because he recognized the necessity.

Wnat's happening in Germany and Denmark right now, and to a lesser extent throughout Europe, is the work of the late Hermann Scheer, a socialist Bundestag deputy who decided in the late '80's that solar was the future. He wrote two books on the subject, and steered the government subsidy for solar production and the law requiring energy retailers to buy all available excess energy from alternative sources through the legislature.

Scheer saw the debate over energy taking place in governments and businesses as playing out according to three scenarios. (I'm approximating here, not quoting);

1. The playing down of the role of renewables by scientists who are on the payroll of power companies, or who think in their paradigms.

2. More adventurous types who think in terms of 50-50 -- 50% renewable energy and 50% conventional. Many of these scientists lack courage, and don't want to get out of the rut of mainstream debate. They know if they go beyond the conventional limits, they risk being denounced as "Not Serious."

3. There are others who take the view that 100% is best -- renewable energy meets all energy needs. This is the only adequate stance, because it's very easy to show that 100% of all energy needs can be met by renewable energy.

Scheer also adds that "To speak of limited potential is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with science, but only with mythology."

And since the earth is burning under our feet, he has to be right.

(And in fact, an area the size of France [330K square km] in the Sahara Desert covered by solar panels would produce sufficient energy to meet the energy needs of all humans everywhere)

Monday, December 03, 2012

poker face

Obama has won the war of the "fiscal cliff," or the fiscal curb, as I prefer to call it.

He's holding all the high cards, because now either the Republicans will fold and give him what he wants (very unlikely), or we go off the curb. And if that happens, he also gets what he wants.

Here's why: the Republicans and Democrats will work together and quickly jump to restore funding to the Pentagon and other programs they all feel are necessary.

Not so the Bush tax cuts. Congress would have to re-pass them, and that ain't gonna happen. Either way, tax cuts for billionaires now go from making history to being history.

Congress might restore the middle-class cuts, unless the Republicans want to look like even bigger poopy heads than they appear to be right now by blocking them out of spite. They probably won't, because they'd be even more widely hated than they are now.

So Obama's full house is aces and kings, and every card he's got was dealt to him by Republicans. He has no reason to sell out his own supporters as he did in 2010 and 2011 (and keep in mind, after he did that, he still didn't get the deal he'd been promised), so he won't.

No matter how Boehner and his platoon of squinty-eyed greedheads play this, they've seen the green weenie.

Nice job, GOP. What do you do for an encore?

our day is here

For 36 years, football fans in Seattle have pinned their Super Bowl hopes on a band of mercenary gladiators wearing blue-green uniforms topped by helmets emblazoned with what must be the ugliest National Football League logo. Prior to 2005 when the Seahawks lost Super Bowl XL to the Pittsburgh Steelers due to an inexcusably bad call (the other consistent theme in Seahwaks' history), they had the longest string of playoff losses of any team in the history of the league, going back 21 years to 1984.

The heartbreak over the decades has centered on the team's struggle to find The Great Quarterback -- the Moses who would lead the faithful out of the darkness of the past four decades and into the promised land of the NFL championship. And now he's here, and our time is come.

Russell Wilson is a rookie and still-developing quarterback. He was very good at the beginning of the year, and the team's seven-and-five record does not accurately reflect how good they are today, as opposed to three months ago when Wilson played his first regular season game.

This handsome young man, graceful, educated, and well-spoken, puts on his Superman suit on Sunday afternoons, and reveals himself as an athlete, a dnacer, and a magician. Currently he's got the best quarterback rating of any newcomer heading into the playoffs.

The heavens are aligned above the Puget Sound. The signs are all auspicious, and the Seahawks are reaching their peak at exactly the right time. Our day has arrived.

If you didn't see Wilson and the Hawks' overtime victory yesterday, during which they overcame both the Chicago Bears and incompetent officiating, this may sound like the raving of a lunatic. But if you did, then you most likely became a true believer, as did I.