Thursday, March 31, 2005

Game called....

Another great change has taken place. My neighbor in this stark hallway, an internationally renowned Professor of Folklore, collapsed while teaching yesterday and never came back. He was a truly wonderful neighbor to have. He respected the staff here in an old style that many faculty have no concept of. Nevertheless, he had academic stature that many of them will never achieve. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Giants fan, going back to New York days. He knew what is was to watch Willie Mays turn the cavernous centerfield of the Polo Grounds into his front lawn. He and I had many great conversations about the Giants, about folklore, and jokes bad and good. Humor was one of his many fortes. Clearly, he was a rich man on many levels, and I am richer for having known him as superficially as I did. I will raise a glass to his memory, and certainly the first overpriced beer I drink at SBC Park this spring. I will listen to Giants games as always and remember him stopping at my door to check the count and the inning. If I'm lucky, I will still hear from somewhere a deep baritone comment on the action, and be thankful.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More Suppression

Here are more reasons why I am convinced that the Bush administration is as harmful a presidency as we've seen so far. This kind of thing is clearly something that all Americans should be concerned about. The media needs to be more diligent in reporting it and pressuring the White House, but as RFK, Jr. said, they are "stenographers for the White House."

Here's where I got it, with the attending links, and that annoying Salon Day Pass. Scroll down to "Dissent Will Not be Tolerated." Is it not ominous to people? Here's links they have in that article:

The third link just leads you back to the same page. Does anyone really care that this kind of thing goes on? This is important no matter your political bent. Remember, the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in October of 1964, while driven by left wing impulses, was joined by the entire political spectrum. Berkeley College Republicans marched alongside Youth Socialists. What does the administration want to hide? If they are in the right, they'd have nothing to worry about. This suppression of free speech is far more dangerous than anything in the foreign policy. It corrodes our republic from within, and boldly underlines the Big Lie of encouraging democracy abroad. Bush is not interested in getting the word out to ALL the American People, he's interested in getting stroked for the cameras by crowds of adoring dingbats who live in fear of the approaching hordes of married gays, abortion doctors, and insidious brown people with fiery eyes and foreign oaths on their breath. Look out, 'cause if we don't return to the values of the McKinley Era, we're all doomed. You, me . . . everybody. If we allow free speech and criticism and questioning of the governement, the American Way of Life will end.

Wait a minute! I thought free speech was one of the foundations of the American Way of Life. What the hell has happened? What would Nixon do? Would Ike go along with this? Would TR?

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Great Change

We are at the cusp of the disappearance of the previous generation in our family. Well, the physical disappearance anyway. None of these people will ever be truly gone. My father died ten and a half years ago at the age of 77. His older brother lived on. He was born in 1916, and will be celebrating his 89th birthday in a couple of weeks. We just had Easter dinner with him. My mother was there as well, now 80 years old herself, and going strong. My uncle is not. The decline lately has been rapid. Just a year ago he was a bit crankier about being on time, but still witty and charming as ever, and full of conversation. He's a widely educated man, an Episcopal priest, with a degree from Harvard Divinity School. This particular holiday, it came out only in flashes. The smile is there, and the dapper Irish tweeds, and the handshake still firm, but the voice is weaker and up a couple of registers. The conversation was harder to get started just because he always did. Old habits die hard, so now we need to get it started and its tough for some reason.

In any case, this whole scene just started me thinking about the passing of the baton, so to speak. Our parents generation is disappearing slowly but surely. Now we are they, and are we up to it? How many gazillions of times has THAT question been asked? We are self sufficient but we aren't. I think back on the home my parents created for my brother and I, and I still wonder just how they managed it. I feel utterly incapable of doing it as well. At some point, confidence will take over, and I'll worry no longer. Right now, I am scratching my head with a furrowed brow and and muttering, "Oh brother...."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hole in the Wall

Against the blinding granite cliff, the black hole of the cave entrance yawned to the rising morning like the mouth of a dead man. Philo recoiled involuntarily from the idea of going in, but he knew he had no choice. He had reached the end of the climbable slope. Above him rose the wall of granite. As it ascended it leaned toward the east, creating an overhang he was not equipped to deal with. Perhaps his friend Mac, the human gibbon, could have climbed it, but Philo was not cut of that cloth. No one else was, only Mac. Philo was strong and lithe but he had his limits. Exhaustion was setting in as well after a night of being pursued through the Mojave and up the Owens Valley. He'd intended to get to Lone Pine to Mac's place, but his truck had thrown a rod, and there had been nothing for it but to head for the hills.

To the east lay the southern spurs of the White Mountains, dark grey against the rising sun. 1500 feet below he could clearly see the ribbon of US 395. Pulled over on the western shoulder was the old Chevy Apache pickup he had driven down from Oakland, and just behind it the two surplus jeeps that Morris' henchmen had driven on his trail. About a mile west of the road, at the bottom of the slope, the six gunmen were fanning out and looking for his trail. They hadn't spotted him yet, but it wouldn't be long. Philo thanked his lucky stars the girl had waved goodbye about 20 miles down the road. Lucy Morris was worth a little trouble, and he knew he'd never regret dancing with her at the roadhouse in Amboy. That dance, slow and hot, had led to another, longer, sweeter dance in his motel room later on. Somehow, probably from one of her twisted cousins who'd no doubt been drinking at the bar, Morris had found out that his daughter had wandered off into the night with a tall stranger; his sainted, pure daughter, who'd probably shagged half the young studs from Baker to California City. Philo wondered if this kind of thing always happened when she decided to have a little fun. Were all her paramours now laid up cold on some remote cliff in the high Mojave?

Philo shivered in the morning chill and touched the revolver he'd strapped on before abandoning his broken down truck. He traversed the face to the cave entrance and set a foot inside the lip. Just then a fusilade of rifle shots cracked below him, and bullets smacked sharply into the stone around the cave mouth. A shard of granite sliced a gash across his face before he could dive into the darkness.

The On/Off Switch

My Wife was burdened all afternoon and evening by grading final exams. So it fell to me to keep The Little Buccaneer entertained for most of that time. We were out in the late morning doing errands and, having played all morning, he naturally fell asleep in the car seat, like a good boy should. We laid him out on his Spongebob futon while we ate lunch. Sometime around 12:30 he popped up, rubbed his eyes and grinned. Then he stomped on his personal accelerator and left daddy in the dust, and the legos, and the dinosaur puzzles, and plastic turtles until around 6:00 PM when he climbed into his highchair and yelled, "Hasenpfeffer! Where is my HASENPFEFFER? Bring it! Now!"

Well, he doesn't know, but he got chicken and yams instead. One day, he'll figure out that it wasn't hasenpfeffer. Hopefully, he won't resent us too heavily for that. Anyway, he inhaled most of it, and hurled the rest across the dining room, with a huge grin, laughing through an orange mouthful of yams. Then he wanted down, in no uncertain terms; crying through that same mouthful of yams. We released him from the bondage of his tray table and put him on the floor and away he went, and again I tried to keep up. I actually managed to do that and eat an excellent beef bourgogne My Wife had made earlier. Oh boy. We put Shark Tale on the dvd player and Daring Dayton stopped for a few moments. Only a few. Somehow, we corralled him long enough to give him a bath, after which he ran naked but for his bike helmet through the house, yelling and screaming when I caught him and took him back to his room to get into pajamas.

Ten minutes later, before we could even get a bottle between his teeth, he was as asleep as anyone can be; sitting in my lap snoring to beat the band. His off switch had been hit and he was off. This is where I deeply envy him. I can't switch myself on and off like that. In the morning, I fade into consciousness like a broken reostat At night, I sometimes can't keep my eyes shut no matter how tired I am. Daring Dayton merely rubs his face one or twice and shuts his eyes and within a minute, he's out. Same thing in reverse when he wakes up. This leads me into questions of why I don't do that anymore. Sadly, there's no time for it now. Gotta work for a few miunutes. More next time.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A stream

The tennis courts outside the window are awash. Rain has returned as if to slap us all upside the head for thinking that late spring had come early. We were all fooled. No one listened when the stand up comics who do the weather on the Lidless Eye told us it wouldn't last. So now it spits rain and coeds are all "Like, this SO sucks." Makes me yearn for a real South Pacific squall, such that you can't see 100 feet for the rain alone. Makes me want to see these coeds running and squealing for cover as they lose their balance and stumble and drop their ipods. I often wonder if the people on the other end of the cell phones would hear a voice distorted by a strange bubbling sound.

I wonder, did anyone ever get washed into a storm drain before they started putting grids on them? Did they always put grids on them? Not entirely. I remember riding over one and the front tire of my bike going strraight down between the metal slats. That was a bad one. Nothing broken, but plenty of blood. Then some bright bulb decided to put cross bars on them, and we were in a whole new world.

Still, what would it be like to travel through the storm drain down what's left of Codornices Creek and into the Bay? In Riding Giants, they show crazed Southern California surfers riding cardboard through the Huntington Beach storm drain. It seems like it was a hell of a ride for them. But that was Huntington Beach in the early 60s. You'd probably come out of there now with a whacking good case of typhus.

Oh well. Better stick to weird fantasies for now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

So many books, so little time?

Not on a desert island.

I've been tagged by Hip Liz, so I am forc-ed, in the name of the leuaw, to make a few choices. It's cool, though, 'cause it's way more fun than working.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Welll, let's see...not unless the women painted by Frank Frazetta , especially
this one (though not for obvious reasons), for the covers of Conan books and E. R. Burroughs adventures count. Much like Hip Liz, I mostly read Tolkien, RE Howard, and Lovecraft as a young 'un, and a lot of history. So, I suppose those women aren't fictional literary characters, but they represent them, and, uh, you know I, uh, wasn't all that deep about things like that, especially as an adolescent. I remember being captivated with a photo portrait of Winston Churchill's mother, but know.

The last book you bought is:

Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness--Modern History from the Sports Desk . Of course, I am doubly glad I bought it due to the subsequent weird passing of its author. Thompson appealed to me deeply. It sometimes didn't matter what he wrote about, I just wanted the slash and burn of his style. I was introduced to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in college by a wise and far seeing roommate, and there was no turning back. Though I'd grown up a lot by then and become someone who could join a crowd, I still had the habits and the bent of the basic social outsider that I'd become in high school. I suppose Thompson showed how powerful that could be. That's a weird thing to say considering that his modus operandi was to become part of the story and write it from the inside out. Still, I felt he was speaking to the outsider inside me. Still does. Always will. As he often wrote, "We're not like the others."

The last book you read:

I get so little time to read. Essentially, I do all my reading these days in the very few minutes between going to bed and falling asleep, or when sitting on the head on weekend mornings. Crass, you say? Yes, but honest. I think the last thing I actually completed was Michener's South Pacific. I have to say that after I'd finished I sort of felt like, "Well, that was pretty good in spots, but what was all the fuss about?" I much preferred his Rascals in Paradise. There's a great read. That book transported me completely out of the mundane. I felt the tropical heat and torpor, and the amazing caress of tropical lagoons which are neither warm nor cool, but somehow both, just when they need to be. If I had my way, I would have the gelt to take my family and wander around the South Pacific for a couple of years. Ahoy! Now I have to read it again.

What are you currently reading?

Two things...The Garrett Files, and Quartered Safe Out Here. The former I find tedious, but I told someone I'd read it. He was enthusiastic and knows that I am into detective fiction and film noir, especially Out of the Past. This one started out so well, but it just keeps going, and going, and going, and well, it's like an interminable tough guy act which progresses just a bit faster than Mendenhall Glacier. Having said that, it's got some good passages and creates visions the way a good book should. I just wish it would hurry up and get to the denoument.

The latter is one of the most absorbing and gripping books I've ever read. It isn't scenes of combat, it's the minutiae of soldiering and the image Fraser gives of being in the last manifestation of Mr. Kipling's Army. It's Fraser's characterizations of his squad mates. It's the swagger inherent in the men who fought in Burma in the forgotten corner of World War Two. They were up against it and prevailed in the end, and no one could tell them they hadn't gone through the worst offered by Man and the Elements, and come out the other end. Fraser's pride in that and in his mates is evident throughout. Definitely a kind of tough guy's book, but deeply human nevertheless, and honest as they come, I think.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.

Wow. This depends on the day. There's probably no way that next Wednesday the list would be entirely the same as today. Two things come to mind, though, for any day. One would be either the latest edition of the National Geographic Atlas, or the Times Atlas of the World. My Wife says its nerdly, but I like to sit and read the maps, for no particular reason. My Wife is right, but I don't care. If I can't go there, I can at least see where it is and plan a trip that may or may not happen. That's only the first reason to sit and gaze at the atlas. The list is endless. It is my fondest hope that Daring Dayton feels the same as he one day (hopefully) sits with one in his lap and gazes at it for hours.

Another would have to be The Lord of the Rings, if only because it is a monolithic literary. . . thing in my life. I read it and its appendices over and over and over. It is indescribable in its importance to me. You can assign to that statement any speculation you like. For some reason, right now I am unable to go further with that.

For the rest, today's list would be The Great Shark Hunt, by HST. See above on why Thompson.

Goodbye Darkness. World War Two was my father's war. He too served with the Marines, briefly in the Pacific, throughout the war. Happily, he was invalided stateside with a tropical parasite or I might not be here. All but 4 members of his company of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines were killed, most at Tarawa in the tragic fourth wave. This is another heartfelt war memoir by another incredible author. I see names of people and places I used to hear at the dinner table. I first read this when my view of things like this was changing from a Childhood/Hollywood viewpoint to something more complicated that I haven't really figured out yet. There's repulsion that anyone goes ever through this kind of thing, along with a sense that for some, like Winston Churchill, it's a great adventure. How would I react?

Last but not least, Silent World, by Cousteau. I first read it as an assignment from a friend who was certifying me for Scuba diving. It was great motivation and Cousteau's image of flying underwater helped relax me when some tiny hitch, real or perceived, in the air flow would give me the woolly boogers. Presumably, if I'm on a desert island, I would have access to the ocean and the urge to swim in it and under it would be irresistable.

Who are you going to pass this stick to and why?

Good God. I 've no idea. The only people I really am connected to here have already passed it to each other. Sending it to anyone else feels kind of presumptuous. Roy passed it to Hip Liz who passed it to me. Aha! I pass it to Jean Lafitte, just because most everything else he's written is interesting and worthwhile and I knew him way back when.

Now, HL, when next free, bear west by southwest and make for the whisky cabinet well back from the Contra Costa shore. We shall sing songs of plunder and guzzle and swill laugh at the devil. Oh yeah, you can read the books too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A thing

Here's a thing that really fries my grits. I guess we can take small comfort in the fact that the Post is reporting on it. Still, you can bet your bottom dollar that nothing will ever come of it, and the White House will continue to do what it wants and ethics be damned, openness in government be damned, and accountability be damnedest of all.

Here's a key phrase, a quote from the GAO Comptroller:

In an interview yesterday, Walker said the administration's approach is both contrary to appropriations law and unethical. "This is more than a legal issue. It's also an ethical issue and involves important good government principles, namely the need for openness in connection with government activities and expenditures," Walker said. "We should not just be seeking to do what's arguably legal. We should be doing what's right."

Here's the White House mouthpiece:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday that federal agencies have used video news releases for years. "As long as they are providing factual information, it's okay," he said.

Here's another:

"Congress has got to settle it -- either Congress or the courts," Walker said.

Well, someone is watching out for these things, but you can see the White House attitude. They simply will obfuscate, obstruct, or blow off any attempt to hold them accountable for anything.

The press doesn't generally help. As RFK, Jr. just said here at Berkeley, the press have become stenographers for the White House.

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Friday Afternoon

Roy has posted something which he says is boring, but it isn't really. The thing is, the comment function won't let me leave one, so I'll leave it here. Roy, your post was not boring. Interesting comment about Chi. I live every working day in a roiling cauldron of negative chi and only escape to generate positive chi at lunch and at 5, or so. Now I want to look at old photos of Kansas City.

Today, I didn't swim, although it was a fine, hot Noon hour and I could always use the time in the water. I went and drank/ate lunch that was mostly beer. Much of it was Moretti, a fine Italian lager. Made me want to sit at a small table outside a cafe in the Italian Tyrol and lean back with a thumb hooked inside my belt, my tyrolean feathered hat on three hairs, a pipe with a lid drooping off my lip from under the massive mustache, and a weathered crinkly gaze looking out with jaded wisdom on the passing scene. I could have occasional obscene thoughts about the young ladies, and crack wise and phony with any impressionable young hot shots that may come around asking for a guide. I would at first refuse, then after taking them down a few stripes, I would agree to show them the way up the mountain, leaving them all in exhausted wonder out how, at my age I can still do it.

OK, Friday afternoon, even a busy one such as this one, is fertile ground for fantasies of this nature. Was it such an afternoon when John Fogerty wrote "Born on the Bayou?" There ain't no bayous in El Cerrito, unless you count El Cerrito High's soccer field.

"My papa said, 'Son, don't let the Man getcha and do what he done to me!' "

Monday, March 07, 2005

Lonesome George....

There has always been a crowd that thinks that rock 'n' roll is a young man's game. I guess you could make that argument. I argue that it isn't so. There's an element of style there that will always elude the younger performers. I was reminded of this yesterday when watching a dvd of a George Thorogood concert in Nottingham, England. It was by way of being a 30th Anniversary of George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers.

George has aged. He's 53 this year and to his credit, doesn't appear to have tried to hide it. He still dresses in black with pointy boots, and wears his snakeskin pattern scarf around his head. Now, the waistline is larger than it was, and jowls are clearly forming. His eyes are clear, but not clear. They reflect a certain rockbottom understanding of the seamy side of life. In the tradition of Jerry Lee Lewis, they became more feverish as the performance progressed. They became glassy on the fire of sin that he knew was being stoked for all the true believers in the house. The thickened waistline wiggled just as obscenely as it always did and his guitar slide waggled at the audience like Steely Dan on the end of his twitching pinky. Sweat poured off his head and he belted out the blues and smiled that "I wanna do you after the show" smile. There's nothing like that in popular music now and that's a shame. As he said, "There's two kinds of music today, the blues...and that bullshit on TV." The bullshit on TV could use a dose of Lonesome George singing something like "Highway 49." We could have a rebirth of slide guitar rockin' blues, with teenagers across the land rocking and rolling in the old sense of the word, Elmore James slicing out of their speakers, pot smoke drifting through the room filled with empty pizza boxes and beer cans, and the crunching of peanut shells joining in with the squeaking bedsprings.

Ah me. I got a little carried away there, and it's only 9:25 AM.