Sunday, February 28, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

The following poem is in Stephen Dunn’s new book, “What Goes On, Selected and New Poems 1995-2009” and is from his book, “Riffs and Reciprocities” (1998) and carries an epigram, “Poems should be more like essays and essays should be more like poems,” by Charles Olson. And so, in this case, it is.


First, it was more about mystery than about trying to get us to behave. Whichever, we’re still in some lonely cave, not far from that moment a lightening storm or a sunset drove us to invent the upper reaches of the sky. Religion is proof that a good story, well-told, is a powerful thing. Proof, too, that terror makes fabulists of us all. We’re pitiful, finally, and so oddly valiant. The dead god rising into ism after ism – that longing for coherence that keeps us, if not naïve, historically challenged. To love Christ you must love the Buddha, to love Mohammed or Moses you must love Confucius and, say, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche as well. They were all wise and unsponsored and insufficient, some of the best of us. I’m saying this to myself: the sacred cannot be found unless you give up some old version of it. And when you do, mon semblable, mon frère, I swear there’ll be an emptiness it’ll take a lifetime to fill. Indulge, become capacious, give up nothing, Jack my corner grocer said. He was pushing the portobellos, but I was listening with that other, my neediest ear.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Man, A Plan, A Plane

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for February 26, 2010

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrine he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. H.L. Mencken

It was a tragically perfect metaphor for our times: Average American, Joe Stack, angry at “the government” over his own self-created problems, burns his own house down then kills himself by flying his small plane into a Texas IRS building.

America has now self-devolved into a mook’s game. For over twenty years, a sufficient number of Joe Stacks believed the patent nonsense being fed to them by the carny barkers setting them up for a proper fleecing: Tax breaks for the rich would “trickle down” and make them all rich, too. Government is the problem, not the solution, which is why government needs to be starved until it’s weak and small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. The Free Market doesn’t need rules and regulation because The Free Market is never wrong and will solve all problems. Poor You are hideously, unfairly overtaxed! After all, Poor You shouldn’t have to pay taxes in order to pay for all the services you voted for. No, The Other Guy needs to pay for those things, not Poor You. Move your war-profiteering corporate and personal assets offshore into tax havens and you can still receive a standing ovation at a GOPAC convention. Question those tax same havens and you’re engaging in class warfare and are a bad American who wants the terrorists to win. The growing gap between rich and poor is a Good Thing because the American Commons is nothing but “French Socialism.” Our motto isn’t e pluribus unum, it’s “I’m All Right, Jack.”

And so, while the distracting carnival music blared in our ears and the Ferris wheel spun, our real national wealth – workers actually making things, including a living wage that created and supported whole communities -- was drained away offshore and our imaginary wealth – housing bubble Ponzi schemes and stock market gambling with imaginary money selling imaginary “products”—was finally revealed for what it always was: A mechanism to fleece the mooks.

And Everyman Joe Stack brooded. And all across the country angry citizens brooded, then put Hitler moustaches on posters of a President Obama oxymoronically labeled “Communist.” Or gathered in the thousands to angrily declare that they were tired of being overtaxed at the same time they had actually been receiving tax cuts via various stimulus packages. Inchoate anger being fueled by various demagogues – phony Astroturf groups fronting and funded by well-paid lobbyists for a variety of special interests – carny barkers signing best-selling books while preaching doctrine they know to be false to people they believe to be idiots, while the “idiots” sadly refuse to look behind the curtain.

And so it goes. Congress is now in self-inflicted gridlock because voters didn’t send a sufficient number of politicians to Washington with a clearly committed set of marching orders. Or, more accurately, didn’t send a sufficient number of politicians who weren’t already wholly own subsidiaries of Corporate America. And Congress itself continues to suffer from self-inflicted rules that have moved “majority” into “Supermajority,” procedural rules that virtually guarantee that nothing will get done. So here we are, two scorpions in a jar, locked in mortal combat, focused only on jockeying into deadly striking position, while polls now show a country adrift and best described by the phrase, “Yes we want no bananas . . . maybe.”

Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi continues another hilariously brilliant report on “Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle,” noting, “Instead of liquidating the prosecuting the insolvent institutions that took us all down with them in a giant Ponzi scheme, we have showered them with money and guarantees and all sorts of other enabling gestures. And what should really freak everyone out is the fact that Wall Street immediately started skimming off its own rescue money. . . . ‘It’s evidence,’ says Rep. Kanjorski,’ that they still don’t get it.’ . . . More to the point, the fact that we haven’t done much of anything to change the rules and behavior of Wall Street shows that we still don’t get it. Instituting a bailout policy that stressed recapitalizing bad banks was like the addict coming back to the con man to get his lost money back. Ask yourself how well that ever works out. And then get ready for the reload.”

And so it goes. Self-ignited, Rome burns. Demagogues fan the lucrative flames that bring them riches while burning most fiercely their self-blinded adoring supporters. And the usual foxes grin and pick fresh chicken feathers out of their teeth while Joe Stack lights a match to his own house and heads for the airport. Get ready for the reload, indeed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oooo, Nooo, Please, Plluuueeeze Dear Gott Im HImmel, Go Away Some More

Sandy Bank’s column in the February 24 Times added a deliciously new wrinkle to the pathetic Tiger Woods Story: The Tale of The Wronged Woman.

No, not Wood’s wife, but one of his, uh, girlfriends, Veronica Siwik-Daniels went before the cameras with her headline-hunting feminist attorney, Gloria Allred, at her side demanding, DEMANDING, that Woods owed Ms. Siwik-Daniels, above all women, an public apology.

Why, you ask? Well because “ . . . he led her on and broke her heart,” by texting her, “Baby, I’m not going anywhere or doing anything. You please me like no other has or ever will. I am not losing that,” and, as Allred noted, “A woman ought to be able to believe a man when he tells her that.”

In Victorian times an innocent young girl being courted by her swain might have presumed honorable intentions, constancy and true love, but not a former porn star having a sexual affair with a famous married man. Victorian sensibilities don’t mix well with 21st century cell phone sexting; the cognitive dissonance is simply too great. Get me my smelling salts, I feel the vapors coming on.

Well, I’m sure with this particular case, Ms. Allred will wave the words “palimony” around (Siwik-Daniels claimed she “stopped performing in porn movies because Woods ‘couldn’t stand seeing her with another man . . ‘” . . . so “She’s had no income for the past two years.”

In Victorian times, wealthy men understood that dalliances were expensive propositions and what was said about yachts applied also to their mistresses: If you have to ask how much they cost, you can’t afford one.


Headlines in this morning’s Tribune: “Lawmaker to [Anthem Blue Cross] insurer: ‘Have you no shame?” regarding their 39 percent price increases on their hapless “customers.”

A Congressperson actually wasted his breath asking that question?

The Problem:

Dueling Tribune headlines: “Generals wary of repealing ban on gays” and “Navy will soon let women serve on subs.”

The Problem Solved!

Only straight men and gay women will be allowed to serve in the military.

Issue closed. Next problem?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This is by Ellen Bryant Voigt from “Messenger-- New and Selected Poems 1976-2006”


Down on the porch, the blacksnake
sits like a thick fist.
His back is flexed and slick.
The wedge of his forehead turns
to the sun. He does not remember
the skin shucked in the attic,
the high branches of our family tree.

The moth will not recall the flannel
cocoon. The snail empties the endless
convolutions of its shell. Think
of the husk of the locust,
sewn like an ear to the elm.
How easily they leave old lives,
as an eager lover steps from the skirts
at her ankles.

Sleep corrects memory;
the long sleep of bear and woodchuck,
the sleep of the sea,
the sleep of the wooden spool unwinding,
the sleep of snow, when houses lose
their angles and edges, the slow
sleep of no dreaming;
and we could rise up in new skins
to a tall confusion of green,
to the slick stalks of grasses,
and the catalpa, that beany tree, offering
its great, white, aromatic promise.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Oh, Dear God, Pluuuzzzzeee Go Away!

Well, it’s official. We’re all suffering from the Oprahfication of America. Go on TV, cry, talk about your petty, pathetic private sins, talk glowingly about your “recovery” program from addiction to sex, drugs, gambling, money, whatever, beg The Public for forgiveness, then claim that you’re ready to “move on.”

We all know the drill. But why is Tiger Woods standing up there before the cameras apologizing to The Public?

Man plays golf. Was he found guilty of cheating at golf? Fudge his score cards with a little slight of hand and a Pink Pearl eraser? Kick the ball into the cup when nobody was looking? Pick up a ball during the Masters and quick like a bunny toss it down the fairway for a better lie? Use steroids or other banned substances in order to get an improper or illegal competitive edge on his rivals? Use unauthorized clubs or balls to cheat and improve his game in violation of golfing rules? Are there any golfing rules that ban golfers from cheating on their wives?

No. No. And No.

Man plays golf. He plays reeeeeeeely good golf. He makes a lot of money playing golf because, well, he plays golf better than anybody on the face of the earth. Golf. That’s all the public deserves from Tiger. Good golf. Clean golf. No-cheating golf. Winning golf. That’s all. The rest is private, not public.

So, Tiger, you want to apologize to your wife and family and friends for behaving like a jerk, go right ahead. All you owe The Public is honest golf. So, please shut up and go away.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bring On Da Pain

Good news on the “health insurance reform” front: Anthem (Blue Cross) raised their rates on their non-group insurance customers some 30% or more. The howls of outrage are arriving on cue. California insurance authorities are promising to look into the matter. Members of Congress are huffing about how they’re going to look into the matter, too, questioning the raises and noting that the health insurance parent companies have posted massive, record-breaking profits while whining that they’re raising rates because they’re in danger of going broke if they don’t, & etc.

The higher rates will cause more people to drop their insurance as unaffordable, and if they get sick they’ll have to go to already overburdened emergency rooms. Or overtax already buckling public health agencies.

This is all good. Clearly, a sufficient number of Americans don’t see unaffordable health insurance as a problem. Or it’s not important to them that millions more will now be on the “uninsured” rolls. Perhaps, if more and more of them continue to lose their jobs and fall into that non-group insurance group that are getting their rates bumped, it will occur to them to maybe start asking questions.

Questions like, “I wonder why my wholly-owned subsidiary of the Insurance Industry, Congressman Blort, never allowed the public option on the table?” Or, “Come to think of it, My wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Pharma, Congresswoman Smitheres did not allow single-payer, Medicare-for-all to even be allowed on the table. I wonder why not?”

Or they might ask, “Why is it mandatory that our health insurance industry remain a for-profit system? Other countries have health insurance but it’s non-profit. Other countries pay far less for basic health care than we do, and have better overall health outcomes. Why do their systems work well for them? Are they smarter than we are that they can figure out how to offer universal health care for all their citizens at an “affordable” rate? We hear about how happy Canada is with their system? How the heck did Canadians manage that? I mean, Canada??”

Or maybe ask, “Why is our government subsidizing “bad food” that makes us sick (i.e. corn in the form of high fructose corn syrup that’s added to EVERYTHING, corn as the basis for “cheap,” corn-fed fatty meat that has to be prophylacticly doctored with antibiotics & etc ) when they could stop subsidizing bad food and subsidize good food (fresh fruits and veggies, no additives needed) and get two birds with one subsidized stone: Healthier people, lower health care costs?”

Or maybe these Americans, while they’re sitting in the emergency hospital waiting room, need to ask themselves, “Is my congressman or senator one of those that’s using the supermajority tactic to block all legislation for his own political gain? Is my representative the one that’s blocking legislation until so he can get huge pork projects located in his bailiwick, again for his own political gain? Maybe I need to think about electing somebody else, somebody who will stop being a wholly subsidized Corporate Shill and start being a representative looking out for people like me and looking out for the good of the nation as a whole.”

And so forth. So many questions, all requiring serious answers.

But, I won’t hold my breath too long waiting for an answer. I’m betting our insurance-less citizen will, instead, vote the same corporate shills back into office, vote even bigger corporate shills back into office, believe even bigger corporate lies (now that the Supreme Court has opened that door) and continue to fall for carefully framed and deliberately manipulated political talking points, deceptive mantras that would make George Orwell proud, and so get even more fleeced and punished for his inability (and unwillingness) to connect any dots.

Coyote America with a giant cartoon rock eternally being dropped on his head by the wily roadrunner, again and again and again. Comedy time with a tragic ending.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Your Sunday Soup Recipe

Mmmmm, this one is a doozy. From “Saved by Soup,” by Judith Barrett. Asparagus is coming into the market now, so this is a great "Let’s Pretend It’s Spring Even Though It’s Only February" soup. I reduced the tarragon called for (1/2 cup) to about 3-4 sprigs worth of leaves. The recipe’s ½ cup just seemed to overwhelm, but you can play around with it. I suspect you could also finish this on re-heat with a little milk or cream. And/or you could also stir in a squeeze of lemon as a garnish before serving. I also tried blending it with an immersion blender and that worked fine but left more itsy-bitsy fragments and a rougher mouth-feel. Then tried using a regular blender set on Holy Cow! speed, whipping it all up in batches, and that got a much smoother, silkier feel. It’s yummy anyway you make it.

Asparagus and Pea Potage with Tarragon

2 tsp olive oil (or olive oil and butter)
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion (about 1 lb. chopped)
1 large shallot, chopped
4 cups low fat chicken broth (1 box)
1 lb medium sized asparagus spears, tough bottoms cut off, peel skin about 2/3 way up the spear to remove the tough outer skin. (or cut off about 1/3 of the bottom of the spear and use unpeeled since it’ll all be blended up anyway and that’ll give you more fiber.)
2 cups shelled fresh peas or one 10 oz pkg frozen peas, defrosted
3 springs fresh tarragon leaves
salt and pepper

Heat oil in heavy soup pot. Add onions and shallot and cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften (about 3 min.) Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until onions are tender (10 min.) Add asparagus and peas and cook until asparagus is tender.

Process in batches in a blender (or immersion blender for a “rougher” feel). Season to taste and reheat gently and serve.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Desert Ghosts

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for February 12, 2010

Desert Ghosts
The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there.
L.P. Hartley, “The Go-Between.”

The email from a childhood friend led to an obituary in The Desert Sun, a small Coachella Valley newspaper. Glen Kennedy, another one of my early childhood friends was dead. He passed away at his Thermal, CA, home with his family by his side, said the paper. And since he was too young for this – a proper death being, oh, some other time, but not now, not now – it was a sad shock.

Nine year-old Glen of the malachite eyes, ears like ailerons, a dusting of freckles across his pug nose, knew I had an interest in insects of all kinds and so gave me my childhood nickname: “Bug” Hughes, an appellation that soon became my official nome de plume, appearing on all my school papers. I even added a little insect-like squiggle above the “u” in Bug, and thought it was quite the logo.

Naturally, I promptly fell in love with Glen, a secret, unrequited love since there’s nothing to “requite” when you’re nine and your chosen swain thinks all things female can best be described as, “YUK, Girls!”

But that didn’t matter. Nor does it matter that thinking back on all this today, I have to wonder how much of my love for Glen had something to do with the fact that he lived on a ranch and had horses. After all, when it comes to horse-crazy young girls, there’s bound to be some crossover confusion when it comes to boys and horses, or boys who have horses. But that is a quibble because in the country of memory, Glen was my first true childhood love, a fantasy construct that I kept tucked away in a safe place in my heart, far from all the adult realities of life. He was that bell jar-encased piece of childhood innocence, of possibilities, the always open door of What If’s that we carry with us like small flames in the dark.

I suspect we all have such imaginary constructs somewhere in our hearts. The media often features sweet stories, usually popping up on Valentines Day, of old folks reuniting with their high school sweethearts after years apart. A wedding photo of a smiling couple follows. So, it’s possible such early loves can become a reality. But in the normal course of things, these fantasies are simply that. Fictions and memory fragments we hold dear as they are as fragile and transitory as hope.

Fragile, frozen in time, and false. One of the last times I saw Glen was a few months before high school graduation. We were at his house discussing all manner of things, including his staunch declaration that he’d never get drafted (this was 1961 as Vietnam was heating up) and if drafted, he’d head for the hills or Canada first. No way was he going to be conned into this government manipulated “war.” Indeed, in many ways he had grown up into a wised-up, cynical, independent-thinking Holden Caulfield character who was adept at spotting the “phonies.” And since I never saw him again, that is also the Glen of my memory.

Which is why his obituary came as a shock. Continued The Desert Sun, “ In 1966 Glen enlisted in the United States Army, and served his country through two tours of service during the Vietnam War, for which he received the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal. He was honorably discharged following his brave service on Sept 20, 1973, holding the rank of 1st Lieutenant.”

Glen? A Lieutenant? Two tours of duty? And there it was, the perfect example of how elusive our lives and how unreliable our memories are. And how little we know of the people we think we know. And how time and life can work its complex transformations on all of us, leaving our old selves unknowable and our old memories stranded like a delicate extinct Mayfly locked in a piece of golden amber: Bug Hughes who once loved a boy with malachite eyes, long, long ago when the world was new and the desert air was soft with the scent of orange blossoms.

And while the path in front of me grows shorter with every year, I also have the eerie sensation that the path behind me is also winking out, one old friend, one piece of memory at a time. And I know that someone a few years hence – but please, not now, not now –will read my obituary and perhaps recall the fragment shadow of a young girl, an image that is both true and false, an ephemeral snap-shot of memory from an unknowable foreign country that even at the moment of remembering is already passing swiftly into the darkness.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Washington, D.C. is being dumped on, and not by angry Tea Party members. This time it’s snow. LOTS of snow. Record amounts of snow. To which I say, Good. Let it snow.

In his extraordinary book, “The Worst Hard Time; The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Dust Bowl, author Timothy Egan tells of the time that dust started falling on Washington, D.C. It was years into the man-made ecological disaster and devastation. Congress kept saying, it was a temporary problem, it would blow over, it wasn’t really happening, just a minor weather problem, the problem was being exaggerated, a conspiracy by Roosevelt liberals to tax and spend to try to fix the problem, and all those other deja vuish articles of faith we now hear said about “global warming.”

Then dust started fallin on Washington, DC. The sky darkened, literally, and the dust fell. For days and days. Dust from Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, the Panhandle. Dust falling from dark skies at high noon. For days. Scared hell out of the Congressmen who woke up and said, “We got a problem here,” and finally allocated funds for the CCC and various farm bureau programs to get to work planting trees, teaching and instituting soil conservation measures, and buying out near-dead farmers and excess, “toxic” farmlands that never should have been farmed in the first place.

Slowly, through human efforts and the end of a drought cycle, much of the land was restored and the dust blows stop. All it took was dust to fall on Washington D.C. Tons of dust.

Since we have a similar situation with this Congress (global warming is a myth, it isn’t caused by humans activity, it’ll blow over, it’s just a conspiracy by Obama liberals to tax and spend to help avert the coming disaster, & etc.) I say, Let it snow. And snow. And snow. Darkness at noon in D.C. is what we need now.

On the Other Hand

Tim Rutten, in his L.A. Times column presents a far darker problem. Congress itself. Do nothing Congress in the form of Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala) “who has put a personal hold on more than 70 executive branch appointments until the Obama administration agrees to fund a couple of pork-barrel projects hehas earmarked for his state. One involves tens of millions of dollars for an FBI laboratory focusing on improvised explosives – something the bureau desn’t think it needs. The other involves contract specifications for an aerial tanker that Northrop Grumman and Airbus would manufacture in Alabama, if they win the deal. . . . Unless the administration agrees to give Shelby what he wants, he intends to invoke an archaic senatorial privilege that allows him to prevent the chamber from considering any of the administration’s nominees to executive branch vacancies, no matter how crucial. Without the 60 votes to force cloture – another archaic convention – there’s nothing the Democrats or the White House can do. . . . Outside the Senate, Shelby’s conduct would be called extortion: inside the chamber it’s a ‘parliamentary tactic.’

“It’s also the sort of shabby situation that brings into sharp focus both the sources of congressional dysfunction and the popular discontent on both the left and right with the congressional parties. Earmarks and pork are anathema to a majority of conservatives and independents; the Senate’s outdated, made-for-obstruction rules and susceptibility to special interests are a source of increasing frustration to liberals and some independents. Yet, here we have one senator from one Southern state obstructing with impunity an entire nation’s business – purely for his narrow constituency’s financial interest.”

Compared to what global warming will do to this country, the devastation of the Dust Bowl is miniscule. With a dysfunctional government, a clueless, asleep-at-the-switch citizenry, even a mile-wide glacier falling on D.C might not be enough to do the trick.

Get the rowboats.

Oh, Wait, That’s Right.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate and former (resigned) moose-shooting Governor of Alaska (who can see Russia from her house) announced on Fox News that she would consider running for President if she felt it was the right thing for her.

Thank Goodness. We are saved!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Your Super Bowl Sunday Soup

Oh, I know, you’re gonna being gobbling greasy chicken wings and sour crème, but if you might want something lighter, this wonderful, simple to make soup is from the February Sunset Magazine, Fast & Fresh article and was submitted by Rita King of Scottsdale, AZ. I made a few changes, (tossed an extra apple into the soup mixture; you could also add a fennel bulb) as this soup invites changes. The soup freezes very well, but if you plan on freezing it, I’d leave the milk/cream out until just before reheating and serving. I’ve had it both with and without the blue cheese, with and without the garnish apple chunks and for sure the blue cheese really kicks up the flavor. Yum.

Celery soup with apples and blue cheese.

1 head (bunch?) (1 ½ lbs) celery, Slice off bottom, clean of any sand,
½ sweet onion, chopped
1 qt (box) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp butter
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and one finely diced, the other chopped and added to pot.
½ cup half and half – or milk
1/3 tsp each salt and pepper
1/3 c chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

Cut celery into 1 in. chunks, peel and chop one apple. In large pot, boil celery, apple and onion with broth, covered until tender, 20 -25 min.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Peel and fine dice the second apple and cook in pan, stirring occasionally, until carmelized and soft – about 10 min. Set aside as garnish.
Using blender or stick blender, puree soup mixture. Stir in half and half (milk), season to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with parsley, cooked apple and cheese crumbles.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Rainy Day Activities

I know, it's Saturday and it's raining and we can't go out to play. So, here's a few fun things to do until the sun comes out.

1. Visit the Allee Willis Musuem of Kitsch at Don't be shocked to find things there that are duplicates of things you may have laying around the house. Didn't know you owned museum quality things, now did you?

2. The late David Levine was a brilliant artist and caricaturist whose works regularly graced the pages of the New York Review of Books. AT, you can click on any year and take a gander of some of the amazing drawings of noted people throughout the years. His was an extraordinary talent that will be missed.

3. Now it's cleared off it a bit, head down to the San Luis Obispo Art Center (1010 Broad St on west end of Mission Plaza ( to see the 25 year retrospective of the work of David Settino Scott, "California primitive."

I knew David centuries ago in L.A. We had some of his early works in the downtown Simard Art Gallery where I worked. When I moved to Los Osos in 1984 I rather lost track of the L.A. art scene and years went by and up popped a Tribune "Ticket" story on a "David Settino Scott" show at Cuesta College Art Gallery. The name "Settino" wasn't familiar, but the images featured in the story sure were, so I went to the opening and sure enough: David Scott. Unbeknownst to me, he and his wife had moved to the Central Coast about the same time as I did and he'd been working away quietly ever since.

I've been following his career since then and couldn't be happier that he's having this wonderful show. His work's quite amazing, especially the stunning tryptichs and screens. Oh, and be sure to look for three of his wonderfully Poe-ishly creepy and beautiful, beautiful wood, wire, fabric, and encaustic (pigment in wax) black "crows." Woa!

Hell of a show, David. Hell of a show.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Hoot Time

If you're fans of that wonderful local group, " Cafe Musique," or have ever attended a concert by that amazingly ecclectic group, "Vagabond Opera," there's another group -- Fishtank Ensemble -- coming to the Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay on Friday, Feb 26, 7 p.m. and also at the Castoro Cellars in Templeton., Saturday Feb 27 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 and available from SLOFOLKS (as is more information about the group) or from the book store itself. (Cash only for tickets bought at the store.). SLOFOLKS website is for further information. (Slofolks is a great outfit that brings amazing musicians to the central coast. Sign up on their website to get notices of upcoming events.)

From this week's Bay News: "Fishtank Ensemble is world music like you've never heard before. Electrifying stage show combining opera scat, jazz, gypsy, and Flamenco violins. The brainchild of no one, Fishtank is the serendipitous reunion of six gifted and misfit muscians. " Who play violin, musical saw, banjoele, percussion, upright bass, guitar and baglaman.

Baglaman? Woa, who would want to miss that??

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ya Wanna Run That One By Me One More Time?

So, let me see if I have this straight. Let’s say you’re an assistant CEO of a California County and your employment is a [correction] "non-civil service contract job, which means you can be unhired/fired for a variety of good reasons" And it turns out you were canoodling a gentleman with which your duties required you to negotiate over contracts, and otherwise engaging in inappropriate email banter with your immediate supervisor.

So your ultimate bosses, let’s say a Board of Supervisors, found out about this, spent over $300,000 of the taxpayer’s money to investigate you and your canoodling and then unhired your sorry [non civil service] behind.

So you sue the county for a bundle, claiming that you were sexually harassed by the Supervisor whom with you were exchanging inappropriate email. And the county – facing over a million in legal fees needed to defend themselves from you – decide to cut their losses and offer to settle for $180,000.

So you sign the settlement and walk away with $180,000.

Ah, well, nice work if you can get it.

Ask! Hup One, Two; Tell! Hup, One, Two

The Commander in Chief, President Obama, wants the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy rescinded this year. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that he felt that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military is the right thing to do. General Powell, who derailed allowing gays to serve in 1993, has had a change of heart and now wants the ban “reviewed.” Defense Secretary Gates wants to issue orders that will relax the law’s enforcement until a year-long “review” can take place, but to date no stop-loss order has been issued regarding gay service personnel, a simple military order that would put dismissing gays on account of their gayness alone on hold.

Meanwhile, Joint Chief Mullen said the Pentagon will decide how to change the way the military is enforcing the law now and will begin a year-long “study” of how dumping the ban would work, including changes to be made in military benefits and other “equal treatment under military codes” would work.

John McCain, who had previously (when trolling for votes) said that if the top military brass told him lifting the ban was O.K. he’d be fine with that, has suddenly had a change of mind and after hearing from the top military brass saying they’re fine with lifting the ban, he now opposes it (trolling for future votes, fingers to the wind again, eh John?). And some of the loopier homophobe Congressmen went on record to speculate then hyperventilate about totally weird made-up “gay” scenarios pulled out of their psyches, which is always so creepily revealing. But scary, knowing those sexually kinky, fetid, roiling imaginariums are the same ones crafting laws that can do serious injury to the citizenry.

The whole thing brought about a very funny bit on The Daily Show wherein it was proposed that McCain wasn’t being a hypocrite but that he had forgotten what he’d previously said on account of his being old, so what we really need to keep our country safe is to ban OLD people from serving in Congress. After all, if they’re forgetting things, that’s a dangerous situation in a place that writes complex laws. Totally disrupts legislative preparedness and congressional cohesion. Worse, it becomes an awful burden on all the rest of Congress, having to deal daily with these OLD people all the time, often in close quarters, creeping up behind people, fiddling with their hearing aids in public, really icky stuff like that. We really shouldn’t have to subject our elected officials to such rampant OLDNESS. Awful!

Well, this is all déjà vu-ness. All the same tired old arguments were heard when it was proposed that Africa Americans be integrated into the general military population. Ditto when women wanted to sign up. Now, it’s the gays turn in the barrel. Nobody learns anything.

What remains so sad about all this is how willing, easy and quickly We The People are to enact laws that deny or remove basic rights and block or deny equal protections and deny equality under law from our fellow citizens.

And how hard and fiercely we battle -- spending years and years “reviewing” and “studying” and foot dragging -- when it finally becomes more than obvious that such laws need to be struck down or repealed.

Speaks volumes to our self-righteously, publicly professed commitment to “equal justice under law.”

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bang Bang Bear

The State wildlife officials are once again planning on opening up San Luis Obispo County to trophy hunting of bears. The plan showed up again last year but enough people protested that officials went back to do a study so they could justify the hunt. (Initially the argument was the county was so overrun with black bears, bears coming out of cupboard, flooding the streets, pulling a reverse Goldilocks and moving into everyone’s houses like an unwelcome Auntie Ninny Com To Visit, that we all needed to grab our guns and start blasting away just to reduce the varmints to a manageable level.

But the study showed a stable population of about 1,067 bears in the county and, as the Jan 31st Tribune reports, as many as 50 bears could be “taken.”

“The area of the county proposed for the hunt is bound by Highway 1 on the west and Highway 58 and the Salinas River on the east. . . . “ “If approved, the bear hunt would be concurrent with the deer season and would frun from Sept 11 to Dec 26. nonlead bullets would be required to protect California condors from lead poisoning.”

Further, the Tribune reports, “The biologists say hunting could reduce the number of nuisance encounters between bears and people.” although the proposed bear hunt wouldn’t target nuisance bears. Any old bear ambling around the middle of the wilderness could be shot.

Wildlife groups point out that the bear population is stable (unlike deer that often need to be culled so as to not overburden their food supply), the habitat of bears is declining as population pushes into their territory, game warden staffing is down, thereby making monitoring nearly impossible, and if the problem with bears is nuisance bears, those can be targeted by wildlife officials so a wide-open hunt isn’t needed.

The public can get more information and/or offer public comment at

For me, this story is so typical of human nature. Wildlife is increasingly under threat from loss of habitat due to human sprawl. And global warming will bring even more lethal changes to all manner of wild things. Indeed, if the idea is to kill bears, just wait a while and a whole species of them will be wiped out entirely when the polar ice packs are gone.

In short, we are endlessly awash in death; two wars, pandemics, tsunamis, floods, hundreds of thousands dead in Haiti. Daily, the world is simply filled to the brim with death, with even more promised in our future. You’d think that would be enough to satisfy us. But no, apparently not. We still have a small group of “sportsmen” lobbying hard to be able to go kill bears in the empty wild places of this county just so they can display a dead bear head on their walls as a “trophy.”

Isn’t it amazing how much some people need to kill things for no real reason at all?