Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is Los Osos Ready To Go To Pot?

In a Dec 10, 2009 story in the Bay News, editor Neil Ferrell profiled Rich Donald. Mr. Donald is presently running an official 215/SB420-compliant medical marijuana cooperative. Called Cannafornia Health Services ( it is a home delivery service for people with medical marijuana prescriptions. They can log onto the site or call 1-888-926-8420 and once their paperwork/prescriptions are confirmed, they can order their medical marijuana in a variety of forms – smoked, vaporized, edible, etc. – and it will be delivered to their door.

Which is a far cry from having sick people having to drive to Santa Barbara to the dispensary there. But while a to-your-door delivery service is an improvement, an official Dispensary would be able to offer a far wider range of services, including nutritional help as well as other “wellness” therapies under one roof. Which is why Mr. Ferrell held a public information forum at Sea Pines Golf Resort on Saturday, Dec 12th, to sound out the possibility of opening a Medical Marijuana Dispensary somewhere in Los Osos.

And Why Los Osos? you may ask. Because various city fathers have closed the door on any dispensaries at this point, so the only remaining places would be communities “in the County.” Since the BOS has not yet taken an official vote on the matter, I emailed the Supervisors and asked the following question: “Presuming [Mr. Donald] jumps through the proper zoning, Planning, Coastal Commission, regulatory hoops, and etc. would you officially support and vote to allow a licensed medical marijuana dispensary to be opened either here in Los Osos or anywhere under your County jurisdiction?”

Only Supervisor Gibson replied: “I support the idea of compassionate use of marijuana. Whether or not I would support a particular project depends on a lot of details that I’d need to see analyzed.

My biggest concern is that a dispensary not act as a thinly disguised emporium for recreational use. That was the biggest issue for me on the proposal that we rejected in Templeton a while back – the operator clearly had some issues and security would have been a problem.

“There are obviously some legal issues, including whether dispensaries are legal at all under Prop 215 and subsequent legislation (not to mention the federal issues). The recent flurry of openings in the L.A. area is pushing these questions to court soon, and it may be best for us if we could see how they play out.

“So, in short, I think it would be possible to approve a dispensary, but the bar will be set very high.

“I think the real solution here is probably to legalize marijuana (either at the state, or preferably the federal level.) Then we could tax it and use some of the proceeds to treat those with addiction problems. This idea is gaining ground in some unusual places – the most conservative rural counties in the state, which are overwhelmed with illegal and semi-legal growing and distribution activity. The next could of years will be very interesting. . . . “

Gibson touches on one of the peculiarities that surrounds both marijuana and “medical” marijuana and it’s this: Given a choice between easing the suffering of sick and dying people and the possibility that some of these people might “get high” from the drug, and/or that some of the people using the dispensary might not really be “sick” but faking it with a prescription from a hack Doctor Feelgood, and/or some underage kids might game the system and get some quality “medical marijuana” rather than the street junk they’re buying now, City Fathers everywhere will always go with suffering. It’s a reverse of our old mantra that it’s better that ten guilty men go free rather than that one innocent man be wrongly hanged. In the case of medical marijuana, it’s better that sick, dying people be allowed to unnecessarily suffer, rather than one fake pothead gets his hands on a better class of drug than the street junk he’s now smoking and gets high.

All of which is the result of America’s streak of a weirdly puritanical and muddled insanity that runs through our DNA: Suffering is GOOD since we’re all Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God, so ingesting a substance that alleviates pain and suffering is BAD. And heaven help us if we even think about ingesting a substance “recreationally” that makes us feel good and giddy and silly and mildly addles our brains. That’s BAD since it’s a sign of moral lack and indicative of a person going down the slippery slope of sloth and sin and heading directly for the Devil’s Playground.

Except in the case of alcohol and tobacco and a variety of other brain-addling, addictive prescription drugs, in which case, Well, that’s O.K.

It does make for some pretty silly pretzel twisting in logic. For example, Pot Dispensaries are banned by City Fathers who declare that they will “attract crime,” yet nowhere have I heard City Fathers slapping a moratorium on pharmacies as crime magnets. And I have yet to see a gaggle of “criminals” hanging around outside The Medicine Shoppe here on Los Osos Valley Road. And Lord knows, The Medicine Shoppe is loaded with serious, serious “drugs.” (And, O irony, located right next door is The Smoke Shop, legally selling one of the most lethal drugs around. Don’t see any “criminals” hanging around the Smoke Shop, though.)

No, our approach to “drugs” is generally nuts and hypocritical and profoundly damaging. But we do dearly love our insanity. Which is why it will likely be a long, uphill battle to ensure that Our Elected Officials actually follow the law – Prop 215 – providing, of course, they can figure it out since it tangles with Federal Law and that law will likely remain unchanged so long as politicians can demagogue it for their own political advantage.

In California, things may get even more complicated since there’s a ballot measure coming up that would legalize marijuana. The special interests groups are gearing up for battle, “The Children” (you know, those poor dears who need saving – from pot, from the gays, from tax & spend Democrats) will be duly trotted out for the television ads, the alcohol industry’s war chest is undoubtedly growing by barrels full and from the polls, it will be a very close, fiercely fought issue.

In the meantime, an Op/Ed piece in the L.A. Times seemed to offer a pretty common sense approach: Until pot gets legalized (and taxed and regulated like liquor and tobacco), treat medical dispensaries like bars and liquor stores: Issue dispensary licenses (properly vetting the owners), site them under liquor sale/store-zoning laws, and check them regularly for violations. Done. Problem over.

Won’t happen, of course. Too sensible. We’re a Nation Stuck on Stupid. Of course, if pot is legalized, then California will be, like, Dude, a State Stuck on High Stupid. Not much improvement. Although sales of Cheeze Doodles will skyrocket.

Meantime, in this county at least, if you’re desperately ill and you and your doctor thinks you can benefit from medical marijuana, you might as well call Cannafornia (or the several other delivery dispensers) since I wouldn’t wait around for anything to change soon.

I mean, who knows whether or not the upcoming pot-legalization bill will pass and if it does, it’ll likely be appealed. And anyway, even if it does pass, the Feds can refuse to recognize it and/or will take forever to get around to changing their laws concerning medical marijuana. And even if Mr. Donald does go ahead with his plans, the County Sups can nitpick, delay or roadblock any decision until the moon turns blue with cold. All of which could take years and years and years and years, by which time you’ll be dead.

Which is how we Americans like it. Relief from suffering is for Godless Commie Pinko Anti-American Weenies. Real Americans stick to Jack Daniels, like God intended!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your Sunday Recipe

1-3 dogs

1 leash and 1 brace lead

pocket full of poopy bags

warm coat

comfy shoes

Clip dogs to leads. Untangle dogs. Untangle own feet. Put on coat. Put leads down, go get house keys. Untangle dogs again. Get unbrella.

Walk briskly 30 - 35 minutes or until done. Enjoy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Your Christmas Poem

This Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) poem was recited by Patrick Ball (Irish Harpist) at a recent Coalesce Bookstore concert. I found a copy on that came with a few footnotes: the ancient folk belief is that oxen would kneel at midnight on Christmas Eve, that “barton” is a farmyard and “comb” is a valley.

I hope you all are having a lovely day. Watch the sun rise, walk the dog, call a friend, savor the warm sun, welcome all the green sprouts that have come with the winter rains. It’s all a miracle worth kneeling to every midnight of every day.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
by the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dumb Move, Part Duh

Ooooo, Noooo. Has this Jim Patterson/Sarah Christie dust-up gone off into the ditch? Or has the Tribune? Its headlines Dec 23: “Ex-Commissioner says she was betrayed.” Really? Betrayed? Then can someone tell me why the word “betrayed” in quotation marks of a proper direct quote by Christie is to be found nowhere in Bob Cuddy’s story? What Cuddy wrote is, “Former Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie says the man who appointed her, supervisor Jim Patterson, betrayed her in a ‘muscular act of political disloyalty’ and has created a rift in the North County environmental movement.” So, “muscular act of political disloyalty” appears inside quotation marks, but not the word “betrayed.”

So, did Christy use that word? Or did reporter Bob Cuddy?

I ask because the word “betrayed” is the language of lovers, the language of the deeply personal, a gender skewed, sexual harass-y word that carries with it the whiff of gender and power dimorphism. It’s the word used by the helpless weeping woman singing the blues: “I Gave Him The Best Years Of My Life And He Done Betrayed Me and Run Off With That Awful Woman From Trenton, New Jersey, Boo-Hoo, Twang-twang-twang.”

So, No, No, No, wrong word. In the game of muscular public power politics, a better choice would be, “He Done Double-Crossed Me, That Sneaky, Down Low No-Good Varmint!”

Over at the New Times, Colin Rigley interviewed Christy at her home and notes that “She has some collection of folksy music playing and occasionally jumps up to fiddle with the stereo or put in a new CD when the music stops. When she walks back, she sways her hips slightly in little dances and when she sits back down, she sometimes sings along for a word or two,” all apparently critical information the reader needs to know, especially the slightly dancing hips thing. Apparently that highly telling detail about swinging hips was included because it helps the reader to understand the larger philosophical ramifications of her work on the Planning Commission.

But while Rigley’s interview included swaying hips, the word “betrayal” didn’t appear once. Christie was quoted as saying, ‘As you know, I’m a former reporter, and in all the years I did that work, I developed the ability to remember words clearly because you don’t always have the ability to take notes. And I remember very clearly what he said to me, and what he said to me was this: ‘I am done with you, I am so done with you. I have been defending you since the day I appointed you, and I can’t defend you anymore because at this point I agree with the people who are criticizing you.’ And that is verbatim. And as I said last night, I don’t know what that means because I haven’t changed. I mean, I hope I have grown in the job, but in terms of my values and my priorities, I have been completely consistent, regardless of what side of the vote I was on . . . I have never ever voted against those values. I haven’t changed. Begs the question: Who’s changed? What’s changed?”

There were lots of words in that interview but not once did the word “betray” appear.

But “I am done with you,” returns us deliciously to the realm of the language of love, as in, “Ah Married Yew And Now Yew Ran Off With That Guy From Trenton, New Jersey, So Ah Am Done With Yew, Lady Mine, Twang-twang-twang.”

A few pages over on the Opinion page, Jack McCurdy, former reporter for the L.A. Times and the California correspondent for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and bete noir to Morro Bay’s power plant expansion plans is holding forth, noting, “The planning commissioners do not bask in the political limelight, as do elected officials: Relatively few county residents witnessed Christie in action in that setting and therefore can’t really comprehend the severity of losing her. Those of us who have worked alongside her, been taught the art of activism by her and have witnessed her amazing capability and resulting accomplishment for the environment and the public interest, do understand.”

He further notes, “ . . . I believe strength is her greatest quality: strength stemming from her intellect, skills, and long experience in public affairs and environmental protection. She is always respectful and considerate of others in a straightforward manner. Her detractors have disparaged her as being abrasive because she cannot be bridled and/or simply because she’s a strong woman. And she is no doubt annoying to those who want their economic power to prevail, the very ones who targeted her.” . . . “Those interests know full well the Board of Supervisors can and sometimes has countermanded Planning Commission recommendations and actions. But they also know that when the supervisors override commission findings, they frequently are held accountable by well-informed government watchers, including New Times alone among the community media.”

And so forth. Yet nowhere in McCurdy’s piece does the word “betray” or “betrayed”. So, who used that word: Christie or Cuddy?

Meantime, here’s a piece of Sage Advice For The Clueless from Mother Calhoun To Avoid Dumb Moves in the future:

If you are an elected official and you appoint someone to a Commission or Board and they turn into a political (to you) liability, under no circumstances do you do what Patterson did – dump ‘em in the middle of the road for no discernable reason.

This county is constantly engaged in a soap opera neck and neck race between venality and stupidity and dumping demonstrably competent, highly knowledgeable Commissioners is a two-for-one losing bet all ‘round.

Instead, if your term will be up soon (and you’ll be running for office again) both of you will appear at a press conference standing on the steps outside the County government center. You will play the loving couple. Both of you will be smiling with such gleaming white teeth that the reporters will have to put on their sunglasses if they wish to avoid being blinded from the dazzle. You will announce that your Commissioner’s previously agreed-upon 4-year term of service will expire with your term and your Commissioner is anxious to move onto to other projects. You will express feelings of profound loss at losing so wonderful a Commissioner, praise his/her service in glowing terms usually reserved for saints and crowned heads of Europe, thank him/her profusely for his/her service, announce your upcoming election and if you have a new replacement in mind, announce your choice then. Your former Commissioner will then tell the world what a wonderful guy you are, how honored he/she was to serve the greater public good, and declare that his/her replacement will serve the public splendidly.

Sure, both of you will be lying through your teeth, but dead bodies in the street or knives flashing in the hot sun in front of a gaggle of reporters should NOT be part of the Official Public Kabuki Theatre Performance Piece you are required (if you’re smart) to engage in. And sure, the Public --wink-nudge—will read between the political lines and know what’s really going on and vote accordingly. But a properly timed and performed announcement will provide a plausible cover story for everyone that will avoid public humiliation, serious questions about cronyism or political opportunism or political pressure or your lack of sense. You will both save face, and the word “betray” will not need to appear in the headlines.

Even if it is only a word made up by the reporter or headline writer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dumb Move

Boy, was dumping Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie a really, really dumb move, or what? What was County Supervisor Patterson thinking?? Doesn’t he understand that really smart, tough, competent Planning Commissioners are like wolves? They keep the elk herd fit and strong and healthy by taking out the weak, flawed and foolish ones. Same thing with development and building projects. Dumb commissioners, lazy commissioners, incompetent commissioners, commissioners in the developers’ pockets always result in weak, bad, foolish developments that get slowed down or stopped by an outraged public or a semi-awake regulatory agency further down the line so un-wolfed, crappy projects ultimately end up getting delayed and cost way more than building wolf-smart ones in the first place. Or get built then end up a millstone around the community’s tax-paying neck.

So dumping Sarah was a really dumb move. Apparently Patterson doesn’t understand that Christie is only one vote on a five vote panel. He could have kept her incredible competence, knowledge and wolfish determination to make projects better, thereby soothing his “environmental/green build base,” while at the same time continuing to rake in the campaign dough from his corporate “Oh, sure, build like whatever” sponsors by telling them, sotto voce, “Aw, you know I can’t do a thing with Christie, -- wink-nudge – but don’t worry. You have the other Commissioners, so you’ll have the votes.”

Thank God Los Osos got the benefit of Sarah’s vulpine talents before she was unceremoniously dumped. Single-handedly she turned the Really, REALLY Hideous Sloppy County Version of the Los Osos Sewer Project into something far better by asking tough questions and demanding answers. The results were a project that the county SHOULD have proposed in the first place instead of the poorly thought out, Oh, Whatever mess they dragged before the Commissioners in the first place. Her competence and savvy were on display when, under close, hard questioning, county “staff” finally had to admit that, Uh, no, we hadn’t looked at that option, and uh, yeah, it will work, and yeah, it will return water to the basin better than our crappy, sloppy, poorly thought out project, uh, yeah, uh . . . .

Embarrassing. It was truly embarrassing and truly scary to witness that without Sarah’s big white long pointy teeth carefully tearing at the dead, poorly though-out Tonini project the county had dropped at her feet, I have no doubt that it would have been happily rubber stamped by the remaining Commissioners only to be delayed or denied by the Coastal Commission, which would be another expensive disaster for the community. And had it been approved by some all-too-common lack of oversight, we Los Ososians would have been saddled with a crappy, dysfunctional project, our water “sprayed” out of the basin, still stuck with the add-on costs and problems of getting the water back.

Except for Christie.

And now Patterson’s dumping her? No, No, No. We need MORE Sarah Christies on the Planning Commission. At least two, with sharp pointy teeth to harass and stress and test the elk. That way almost all projects will eventually get passed on 3-2 votes, but they’ll have been seriously vetted, which is a good thing. Even developers should support such sharp, tough wolfish Commissioners because they do developers a great service; If a project can be changed for the better, can survive a savage test of its various elements, then the developer knows that problems have been found early on and corrected before he gets to even tougher teeth on his backside further on down the line, when such tooth marks will be hideously expensive to repair. Or end up in a court of law at the last minute, when it gets really, reeeeellly expensive, being sued over some item that could and should have been spotted by the sharp, yellow-eyed Wolfish Ones on the PC.

Dump Christie? Feh. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

A friend of mine wrote a letter to New Times in which she said of author Colin Rigley’s Dec 17 story, that stated, “But Christies departure would signify much more than just the loss of a mid-level decision maker who is virtually a volunteer (planning commissioners make $150 per meeting): it would be a sign the county’s political infrastructure is vulnerable to pressure from private interests.”

“Is this new news that the county’s political infrastructure is vulnerable to pressure from private interests? Mr. Rigley, WAKE UP, private interests are running county government. it is a rare person, like Sarah Christie, who is able to stand up to the pressure of those private interests and give small voice to the lobbyist-less public, those wanting to judge success on more than short-term corporate profitability.

“Mr. Rigley, you would be shocked to know that in government (including this County) local, state and federal laws go unenforced for the benefit of private interests. County employees get harassed by Board members with the acquiescence of their Department Heads (sitting at the pleasure of the board) for the benefit of private interests.”

My friend should know the game well. She used to work for the county. And so it goes.

I thought Patterson was smarter than that. But I guess not. Clearly, he doesn’t “get it.” So now he doesn't “get” my support. And the county taxpayers will really start “getting it” too. Again.

San Luis Obispo County has a long record of eating alive and spitting out all the tough, competent, outstanding public game changers. Which is why we too often end up paying dearly for herds of tottering, spavined, sub-standard, very, very costly, crappy elk.

Well, they don’t call it S-L-O-W Town for nothing, I guess. Too bad for us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

From "Say Uncle," poems by Kay Ryan

The Fourth Wise Man

The fourth wise man

disliked travel. If

you walk, there's the

gravel. If you ride,

there's the camel's attitude.

He far preferred

to be inside in solitude

to contemplate the star

that had been getting

so much larger

and more prolate lately --

stretching vertically

(like the sound of martyrs)

toward the poles

(or like the yawns of babies).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for December 17, 2009

‘Tween Time

Enough is as good as a feast
John Heywood (1497-1580)

It is a season out of joint. In the back yard, the great grape vine can’t make up its mind. Half of its vines are bare and settling in for a long winter’s nap while the other half are filled with deluded leaves reaching for the last rays of the sun. The eternally optimistic nasturtiums have put forth a burst of growth only to be bent hard by an unexpected early frost. It rains, but an inch down the sand is dry. We are in a damp drought and entering a warm cold unpredictable winter.

And in the season of the ancient solstice, wise and serious men and women are meeting in Denmark to discuss the destruction of the earth. They will make passionate speeches and pass fine resolutions and then return to their respective countries where too little will be done too late.

Too late because Mother Nature has already begun the process of killing her ancient children and fashioning new ones for the new world that is coming into being. It is a dance as old as time. The only difference here is that this time we humans were the tripwire. And it is not known if we will be among the disappeared. Or whether we will have the wit and will to avert the worst scenarios and bring our world back from the brink.

Given that humans are hard-wired with delusion as their default position and have great difficulty thinking past the length of their noses, the chances aren’t good. It will be a supreme irony if our epitaph turns out to be a petard.

I would despair of all of this, but despair is a sin of the ego. The world will be what it will be, not what I wish or want it to be. It is written nowhere that polar bears, tree frogs or glaciers must belong in the world any more than thunder lizards, wooly mammoths and dire wolves did. So, I can’t despair, but I can grieve.

And hope, of course. There’s always that in a season that’s turning from dark to light, a season of traditional renewal, of carbon-burning Yule logs, and wasteful Christmas lights bringing joy into the dark night.

And songs and wooden nutcrackers put out on the mantelpiece again, but this year they will share a place next to a large blousy, absurd rubber Henrietta Chicken dog toy, a gift from friends far away. And standing in the yard on Christmas Eve to muse under a star-studded sky, the silhouette of the limbless, dead pine tree out near the front street looms in the darkness like a dark sentinel. The stars are distant and indifferent. To them, we’re a dim, empty planet lost in a limitless cosmos; Nothing special, nothing precious, just one among billions.

But this one particular planet on this one particular day has friends and family and enduringly inedible fruitcake and undrinkable eggnog. And always, always the touch of my dogs’ cold noses on my hand to remind me again that time is passing. That joy is always an option. And that the leashes are ready and that the best Now of all the best possible Nows is a walk in the cold winter air on a frosty morning of a new day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Alt Holiday Din-Din Recipe

Tired of turkey? Here’s a splendid alternative for a festive din-din. I presume you can use canned salmon (pick out the bones) if fresh isn’t available. It won’t look quite so fancy, but should taste just fine. I've changed the recipe a bit for lower fat, etc. Also have been told that it tastes even better if allowed to sit and think about things for a day, so it can be made ahead and gently re-heated for the festive occasion. Which is a good thing during hectic holidays. My thanks to B.D-M. for her version of an old standby.


1/4 C Butter
2 C Sliced Leeks
1lb Sliced Mushrooms
1 Tbl Crushed Garlic (or more to taste)
46 oz Clam Juice or Fish Stock
4 Cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes in Puree or tomatoes smushed up and add tomato paste for color
½ C Chopped Fresh Parsley
2 t Dill, dry or fresh
1-2 bay leaves
& pepper to taste, plus try other seasoning, bit of curry perhaps?
4 C Salmon Cubed and Boned (approx. 3 lbs or can used canned if no fresh)
4 C whole milk or low-fat milk
¼ C Flour or cornstarch to thicken the brew a bit

Melt butter in a large pot. Add leeks, mushrooms & garlic. Saute approx. 5 minutes. Add fish stock, tomatoes, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper. Heat broth to almost boiling (pick out bay leaves) & add salmon. Cook salmon for approximately 3-5 minutes. Stir in milk, and gradually whisk in thickener (flour or cornstarch in a bit of water) . Reheat. Makes approx. 12 servings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

By Ted Kooser from his book” Delights & Shadows.”

In The Hall of Bones

Here we store the reassembled
scaffolding, the split, bleached uprights,
the knobby corner locks and braces
that held up the mastodon’s
bag of wet leaves and the ivory
forklift of its head. Over there are
the planks upon which lay the turtle’s
diving bell, and the articulated
rack that kept the dromedary’s hump
from collapsing under the weight
of its perseverance. And here is
the basket that held the clip-clop
pulse of the miniature horse
as it dreamed of growing tall enough
to have lunch from a tree. And then
here’s man, all matchsticks, wooden spoons,
and tongue depressors wired together,
a rack supporting a leaky jug
of lust and worry. Of all the skeletons
assembled here, this is the only one
in which once throbbed a heart
made sad by brooding on its shadow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh, Dear God, Please, Pluueeezzze, Go Away! No, Wait . . .

Since I’m apparently the ONLY woman in America who HASN’T slept with Tiger Woods, I’m instructing my agent to get me an exclusive, fully-clothed photo-spread in Playboy, and book an evening with Larry King, wherein I can discuss how Tiger DIDN’T call me, so that fact alone makes me THE MOST EXCLUSIVE WOMAN IN AMERICA.

Then I’ll write a best-selling book, exposing all the times Tiger-Wiger DIDN’T text me, all cuddly-wuddly, and how that really makes me SPECIAL because I’m clearly the ONLY woman in America who ISN’T spilling all the intimate beans that didn’t go on between The Tiger Man and me. Plus, all those other women claim to have “loved” Tiger, which is why they’re tripping all over themselves to share their “love” with the rest of the world. Well, I say that simply makes them a dime a dozen, but not me. Nope. I didn’t “love” Tiger. No “love.” No phone call. Like I said, I’m special, exclusive, one in a trillion!

Then it’s off to Broadway for a musical version of “Don’t Kiss Me, Kate, I’m In A Sand Trap, Can You Hear Me Now?” a rousing song and dance show built around a huge cell phone – mine --- the ONLY cell phone in America that DIDN’T get a call from Tiger!

Then it’s off to the White House to get a Medal of Freedom and a swell dinner. Plus I’ll get to play with Bo. Heck, maybe get in a little golf with the Prez.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Age of Stupid, Part Duh

I know we’re instructed to never watch either sausage or laws being made, but it’s getting really hard to pay attention to Congress during its “health care reform” debate. I know that most of Congress is a wholly own subsidiary of the health insurance companies, but what’s so amazing is the level of stupidity and venality on display.

Even weirder is the so obvious contempt Congress has for The Public that elects them. It’s odd. The Public elects these people to go to Washington to do The Public’s business and when The Public says, we want a Public Option, Congress recoils in horror. Public? it spits out? PUBLIC? as if it were a filthy word. And, naturally, some scheme that is second-rate and bound to fail is labeled “Public Option” and dragged into view. Handled with rubber gloves and held noses. Eeeuuuu, public. Eeeeuuuu.

And, the most amazing part. The Public will reelect these people during the next election cycle. It’s like America has turned into a battered wife. Lied to, manipulated, beaten down, fed crumbs and garbage, pimped out to Congresses’ Corporate and Banking Buddies, all her earnings spent on weapons of useless destruction and gambled away on the stock market while her Congress husband gets the finest health care available and she has to make do with a trip to Walgreens in hope that the pharmacist is in.

Yet she loves her Daddy, keeps voting for him, because she’s convinced she doesn’t deserve anything better anyway. Amazing.

And truly scary, for if The Public is held in such contempt over the relatively small issue of delivering decent health care, you can imagine how little The Public will be of concern when it comes to climate change legislation that will literally mean life and death for them and the planet. The Public? The Planet? Ptah! King Coal and corporate profits are our clients.

And Speaking of Not Stupid

When I was a kid, my Mom bought my sister and me a bunch of Classic Comics. I suspect she was trying to undo the brain rot setting in from my reading Mad Magazine. They were cunningly drawn, a sort of illustrated Readers Digest type-precis of such works as “Silas Marner,” or “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Treasure Island,” and etc. The drawing was similar to the newspaper’s Prince Valiant and it was a pretty good way to introduce kids to the basic outline of the classics without scaring them to death. And, of course, to this day, there are “classics” that I only know because I read the Classic Comic (or saw a PBS production.) I know, my education is sadly lacking, but there’s so many books, so little time.

Anyway, in a review written by David Ulin in the L.A. Times book section Dec 6, 09 was a write- up of R. Sikoryak’s “Masterpiece Comics” (Drawn & Quarterly:66 pp., $19.95). So I googled it at Amazon and sure enough. Only this time, Sikoryak’s mixing up the classics with various DC comics, hence you get “The Crypt of Bronte,” as in Heathcliff and Kathy racing around on the moors while muddling Crypt tales with Wuthering Heights. Or, as the Times has it, “It takes a perverse kind of genius to reimagine the Man of Steel as existentialist antihero [Camus’ “The Stranger”], but that’s the power of Sikoryak’s work. A protégé of Art Spiegelman’s [“Maus] (with whom he worked for many years on the ‘commix’ magazine RAW,), he is an uncanny visual mimic, able to draw in a wide range of styles and to reinvent classic comics imagery.

“That’s the appeal of ‘Masterpiece Comics,” which juxtaposes classic literature and classic comics with result that are striking and surreal.

“In one extended sequence, Raskolnikov is portrayed as Batman – a paordy of both Dostoevesky’s ‘Crime and Punishment,’ and CD’s “Detective Comics” that manages to do justice to them both. In “Blond Eve,” Blondie and Dagwood are cast out of the Garden of Eden directly into suburbia; ‘Good ol’ Gregor Brown’ frames Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ as a series of Peanuts strips. Never once does Sikoryak slip off the tightrope that he’s walking between absurdity and grace. Best of all is “Inferno Joe,” in which Dante’s ‘Inferno’ plays out over 10 three-frame Bazooka Joe comics, complete with facsimile fortunes and ads.”

Well, what’s not to love about THAT? So, you can guess what’s going to be waiting to be unwrapped when my sister comes over Christmas Day. Bwa-hahah.

You Better Not Pout

At there’s a bunch of recipes for home-baked goodies that make good holiday gifts, so if you’re baking, that should be a good source of some easy and yummy recipes.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Age of Stupid

Few week ago, I got a postcard inviting me to one of several free screenings of the movie, “The Age of Stupid,” at the Palm. It's a futuristic story of the last man on earth going through the earth’s archives (clips from real events) and asking the audience how and why we missed the boat on global warming and hence did nothing to stop the destruction that followed. The last man on earth was played by British actor, Pete Postlewaite.

Excellent film, very well done. The screenings were sponsored by Sunpower, the company now working on the California Valley Solar Ranch project. That project will be a 250 megawatt photovoltaic array located on private property out in California Valley and when up and running will power about 90,000 homes. The project is chugging through the County Planning process and on its jumps through the various other environmental hoops.

I asked one of the representatives the question I was dying to ask and it’s this: Why doesn’t some outfit like Sunpower (at or by the way) start a program of Rent-A-Roof and put solar panels on every rooftop in SLO County. Reply: only about 30% of the homes here are positioned properly to take advantage of solar panels, i.e. a south facing roof. And, let’s say all 30% wanted to participate in some kind of Rent-A-Roof deal, get free power then the company would sell all the extra power back to the grid, doing so might well trigger the law that would find that 30% to be a “public utility.” And that would put the Rent-A-Roof Company in the clutches of the PUC which means a morass of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape and political game playing (It’s the PUC, fer God’s sake!) that could tie up such a project for YEARS, no matter that it was a project that was helping global warming efforts and removing 30% of SLO County homes from carbon based lighting.

In short, great idea but because of the way our laws are set up, impossible to pull off. Too many roadblocks in place and too many special interests wanting to keep those roadblocks in place, like PG&E for example, a company that doesn’t want to see solar anything unless THEY own it and get the profit from it.

Once again, in the age of stupid, money and profit takes precedence over the health and safety of the earth. Why am I not surprised. As the movie title aptly has it: The Age of Stupid. .

The battle for California Valley’s solar plans will be in the news sooner or later. The usual suspects will arrive at the meetings, NIMBYs disguised as “concerned citizens” to talk about pronghorn antelopes and such like. Hopefully, serious concerns like the need for water to run whatever solar array systems go out there will be looked at. As for the pronghorns, one thing that a lot of “concerned citizens” keep forgetting is this: Global warming will destroy various endangered habitats worse than any solar arrays will so the endangered whatevers are doomed one way or the other. The bigger question is: do nothing and lose it all anyway, or do something and lose half. Take your pick.

Well, stay tuned. With luck the international meetings in Denmark will bring forth something more than useless speeches and ignored promises. In addition to a carbon tax, I’d suggest massive government investments in R&D as well. There’s an array of very smart people toiling away in obscurity in their little privately funded start-up companies. That’s all well and good for normal times with inventors working on nice little profitable widgets, but this is literally World War Three Time, which means all the nations of the world need to get their governments on board vis a vis R&D investment since it literally is a matter of national security for everybody.

But that’s unlikely to happen, certainly in our country, since our Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of CorporateVille and CorporoateVille won’t do anything unless it can make a profit and that includes blocking solar, for example, until it can wring the last dollar out of some carbon based fuel source it owns, no matter that that last bit will be the tipping point of utter destruction. Not important. Corporate bottom line’s important, not the earth. Which is the problem in a nutshell.

And seeing what a hash our Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Health Insurance Companies i.e. Congress has made of health care reform, I won’t hold my breath on their helping to solving energy issues. That’ll likely have to be left to China or Europe or even India.

Thus do empires and countries rise and fall in the Age of Stupid.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Sunday Letter To The Editor And Other Things

Ah, Gawd Love the Tribune.

Dear Sir:

Recently, Dave Edge, SLO County's former chief administrative officer, wrote an article for Public Management Magazine, 'splaining how he came to be un-hired. I'm betting that the average Tribune reader has never heard of and will never read a copy of that magazine and is totally oblivious that Edge wrote anything that appeared anywhere. And the only reason I knew about that is because the Tribune put the story on Edge's self-serving article on the front page of the paper with a big, ginormous headline followed by a story filled with quotes from the magazine article. So now everybody knows all about it, too.

The very next day, the Tribune sends Edge an editorial brickbat, and declares that "some occasions call for silence, and this is one," then asks him to slink off into the sunset rather than trumpeting his advice to former colleagues.

Does the opinion page editor not read her own paper or doesn't she understand anything about front page headlines and how trumpets work?

Mice. Must be Mice.

No sooner had Marley’s Tree been trimmed than Christmas elves put up a birdhouse. O.K, it was probably my neighbor. So life goes on. Even on dead trees.
Or doesn’t. I was out in the backyard last evening doing poop patrol and my flashlight caught what looked like one of Finn’s stuffy toys. Finn is incapable of leaving the back door without a stuffy toy in his mouth. Eventually he ends up hauling out every one of his toys and I have to start toy patrol to bang the sand out of them and bring them back in.
But this was no toy. It was a dead possum. A youngster, from its size, and dead as a doornail, his naturally disheveled possum fur was looking disreputable now, and sad and damp and cold and still. I presume the dogs must have caught him, though what in the world he was doing in a backyard full of dogs I can’t imagine. But fear and a quick bite certainly ended his confused, myopic wanderings. I took his body out to the front yard. The crows will make a meal of him.
And life goes on, even when it doesn’t.

Your Sunday Poem
by Kay Ryan from “Say Uncle.”

The Fabric of Life

It is very stretchy.
We know that, even if
many details remain
sketchy. It is complexly
woven. That much too
has pretty well been
proven. We are loath
to continue our lessons,
which consist of slaps
as sharp and dispersed
as bee stings from
a smashed nest,
when any strand snaps –
hurts working far past
the locus of rupture,
attacking threads
far beyond anything
we would have said

Friday, December 04, 2009

Marley's Tree

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for December 4, 2009

The huge tree was dead. Dead as a doornail. Let there be no doubt whatsoever about that. Pine pitch chancre had carried off its piney soul well over a year ago and the bugs and woodpeckers, acting as undertakers and chief mourners, had moved in for a daily feast, while the crows and an occasional hawk and a gaggle of little birds would roost in its bare branches. Yes, the tree was as dead as a doornail.

And therein lay the problem, for you see the tree was on no-man’s land between my neighbor’s house and mine. But it wasn’t my tree or my neighbor’s tree. And Lord knows how it came to be there. Soaring fifty feet out of no-man’s land these last 25 years, it towered over the roadside, its denuded branches hovering over our respective electrical drop lines.

In common parlance, it was a street tree, on county right-of-way, the county’s tree. And since it was a street tree and now a dead street tree that would, sooner or later, topple over in the winter winds to fall on a passing car or block the road or tip onto the high power lines that run across the street, I did what any citizen would do. I called the County.

Not our problem, the County said. You’re responsible for anything from your property line to the middle of the street. Really? Then I’m going to close off that section and plant rutabagas and petunias, I said. Nope. Can’t do that. That’s County property. Really? Then a dangerous dead tree is on YOUR property. You need to come out and cut this thing down before it falls on somebody. Nope. Can’t do that. That’s your problem.

A call to Pacific Gas & Electricity resulted in their contracted tree-trimmers showing up to simply lop off a tiny section of the top the huge tree that they guessed might hit the top of the high-power transmission lines across the street should the tree topple over. No more. No less. What about the drop lines? I asked. If the tree goes down, you’ll have hot wires in the street, maybe even burn a house down. Not our problem, they replied.

So my neighbor called a tree trimmer who showed up with cherry-picker and crew and he was to simply trim the branches so the tree could still stand as a bird cafeteria and a perch. When the guy in charge yelled up to the kid in the bucket, Hey, you don’t start trimming at the top. Do that and the limbs will crash down breaking other limbs. You start at the bottom and work up, I thought, Uh-oh, a newbie’s in the bucket in the branches over the hot-drop lines. Not good. And no sooner was that thought out of my brain when a small limb flew down, hit the line, BOING-GONNGGG, whipping the power pole across the street back and forth. More not good.

Hey, hollered the man in charge to the newbie in the bucket, Hey, you’ll have to cut and drop the limbs in sections. But it was too late. There, in the middle of the drop line, yards away from where the branch hit, was a bit of wire sticking straight up that hadn’t been there before. I went into the dark, now-powerless house to call PG&E.

Like magic two trucks appeared. And when the trimmers finished in the early dark of the now cold evening, the PG&E guys fired up their fierce work lights. Moving with the studied calm of people who regularly work with lethal wires under often adverse conditions, they removed and then replaced the broken drop line.

In the morning light, it was clear to me that to the crows, who are totally new-phobic, that stumpy-branched thing standing there was NOT a tree and they would have nothing to do with it until they had a chance to study it all for a while. And within a day, one brave outlier was perched on top. Soon the other crows will re-discover that the branch stubs are a nice place to rest and keep an eye on the neighborhood. The bugs will return for lunch and with them the woodpeckers. Then all the other little birds.

And if, after seven or eight years, after all the bugs and birds are fed and this sentinel falls down and blocks a good portion of the county dirt road that runs in front of my house, I’ll just plant rutabagas and petunias in the lee of its huge trunk. And if the County calls to complain about this giant log in the middle of their road, I’ll simply say: Not my problem.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm Ready For My Closeup, Mr. DeMille

Yesterday’s Tribune reports that Dan DeVaul may take his story to Good Morning America and/or Larry King Live. That’s the perfect place for a perfectly crafted David & Goliath story of The Little Guy Helping Others While The Evil Government Breaks His Knees With A Baseball Bat. Even better, this story includes going to jail and getting bailed out by a juror, who also may end up on GMA.

Lights! Camera! Fifteen minutes of fame! Of course, I’m betting that a lot of the details of this story will get conveniently lost. It’s likely no mention will be made of DeVaul’s charging rent to the homeless and recovering folks who stay at Sunny Acres. Nor will it likely be mentioned that he’s been out of county code compliance for years and years and years and had he wished to, he could have set up Sunny Acres in such a way so as to come into compliance but instead chose the old passive aggressive playbook: Up Yours AND The Horse You Rode In On.

While the county waffled and wiggled and under then over reacted and so came up as The Perfect Villain, which will play well on TV – a little divertissement for the national audience; small town saints, rubes and their misguided Barney Fife code enforcers.

Locally, Mr. Kyle Wiens of Atascadero wrote to the editor and suggested that since DeVaul needs $400,000 to bring Sunny Acres up to code, that he had just mailed in a check for $4,000 towards that end, and encouraged other business owners and the public to do the same. Excellent idea. If the whole community chipped in, a functioning, properly run homeless shelter/rehab facility could be set up there.

However, before I contributed a dime, I would have to be sure that Mr. DeVaul wasn’t involved with the project in any meaningful way because I suspect, from past behavior, that Mr. DeVaul loves monkey wrenching the County far more than he loves the down and out.

Meanwhile . . .

on the same Trib page (hint, hint, wink-nudge) is a story about a South County coalition that’s been “recently honored with a resolution by the Board of Supervisors, [and] is now officially an incorporated, nonprofit organization and will soon have a Web site,” all of which is aimed at creating a homeless service center in the South County. The group will begin fund-raising and eventually hope to find a site for a shelter and people’s kitchen type operation. The hint-hint, wink-nudge story makes clear that there are people out there working on the homeless issue but who are doing it the “right way.” Not as much fun, I’m sure, but I’m betting they’ll have a better chance of getting the money and facilities they need in the long run. And, who knows, if they’re successful, maybe they too can go on GMA and Larry King’s program.

Psssst, Listen Up!

Oh, you just knew it was gonna happen. Tiger Woods bangs up his car and himself in the wee hours of the morning and the next thing you know it’s Bimbo Eruption Time with a lady coming out of the woodwork waving emails and voice messages and photos claiming her little bit of Fame as Wood’s girlfriend/truelove/soulmate/ticket-to-Hollywood.

Memo to Famous People; If you have any kind of relationship with anybody anywhere anytime, even some vague distant relationship like serving on the same board as a “terrorist,” some guy you sat a few chairs down from during the once a quarter meetings, or some such, at some point you can be guaranteed that these folks will be dredged up to use as a political weapon or pop up themselves at an opportune time – like uninvited sari-wearing blond trophy wives at a White House dinner – to claim their bit of limelight.

Not only will all your personal, intimate doings that you actually did be paraded before an addicted public desperately needing it’s next fix of Gossip Juice by an equally addicted Cable News system, but all your personal, intimate doings that never happened with people you never met in your life will also be tossed into the mix by some total stranger just making stuff up in order to grab a bit of that fame flash.

So, be prepared and understand that what sounded sweet, lovely, and sincere when being urgently whispered into an ear by candlelight will always translate into appalling embarrassment in the cold light of an e-mail font or hissing out of an answering machine on playback on Larry King Live!

In the Good Old Days, illicit dalliers kept their yaps shut since infamy and ignominy would be heaped on their heads, not the heads of their famous co-dalliers. Nowadays, we have run out of paper bags to put over our heads and since there is absolutely no shame in bad behavior bean-spilling (“Look ! Look! Why, it’s sooooo ME!”), what used to be private has now become a valuable commodity for public sale to the highest bidder, or a tool or weapon to be used for self-promotion or to gain power. So if you’re famous in any way, it’s only a matter of time before you will be either hoist on your own petard or used falsely and cruelly and/or your life will become a joke. And if the laughter is based on fact, that’ll be bad enough. But understand also that even flat out lies will take on a complete life of their own and become part of your biography as well.

That’s the norm in a culture that has no sense of decency and, well, just no sense at all: A nation stuck on stupid.