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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Close, But No Cigar

Iron rule of FilmLand: Auteurs need editors. And reclusive, self-indulgent, often brilliant auteurs really, reeeely need editors. That’s what I kept thinking when Terrence Malick went off the rails in his beautiful and flawed “Tree of Life,” which is now playing at the Palm.

Years ago, when I first saw “Days of Heaven” I was blown away by the photography, but puzzled by the often slow pace and rambling non-narrative narrative until it dawned on me what Malick had created: Instead of the usual exposition by dialogue, he had created a Movie = moving picture(s).

Like “Days,” “Tree” also uses images and very brief narrative snippets as a form of poetic language thick with layered meanings that arise from the juxtapositions of the images. That device is particularly effective and powerful when used to recreate the way our memories work, with flickering, fragment-scenes from the past coming into focus, one after the other, seemingly making no sense until they’re begin to form a more complete tapestry.

In “Tree,” the “remembrance of things past” evocation of the main character’s childhood in a small town in the 1950s is exquisitely realized by those “moving pictures.” You can almost hear the bees in the hot summer flowers, feel the early evening breeze on your cheek, hear the creak of the huge oak tree in the front yard bearing the weight of the young boy in the rope swing that’s tied to its limb. The images recreate the sensory flashes caused by the way our own memories work. And perfectly illustrate the epigram from Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward Angel,” “. . . O lost and by the wind grieved, ghost come back again.”

And the fragment images also recreate the way our own personal narratives are so poorly understood, how little we know of our parent’s real lives, for example, or how unclear we are of our own journey and how hard it is to sort it all out as we’re living it and how nearly impossible it is to clearly see all of it much later. Our lives aren’t a neatly organized open book, but more akin to a folio of single pages that keep falling out and have to be stuck back in higgely-piggely so the coherence keeps changing with each reshuffling. And if a page or two gets lost, the meaning will forever remain obscure.

Unfortunately, in retelling the story of the narrator’s search for meaning in his life, Malick stuck in an endlessly long, visually beautiful but pointless “creation of the universe,” “2001-type” “trip” that ended with an encounter between two dinosaurs, one of which scampers away, while the audience snoozed or scratched their heads and wondered if this were some kind of “Candid Camera” auteur joke. And then ended his film with his version of heaven: a flat, wet beach at sunset (?) sunrise (?) with friends and family wandering around with love in their hearts and silly grins on their faces, an image so clich├ęd I kept looking around for the puffy clouds and harps.

In short, “Tree of Life” is an amazingly flawed film in need of an Editor who would constantly keep asking Malick: “O.K. What is the Basic Question here?” And when Malick wandered off to doodlebug in the Realm Of Precious ME, the Editor would get out the scissors.

But, if you love film, I still recommend you see it. Like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when Malick’s good, he’s very, very, very good and the movie within a movie in this movie is an amazing piece of visual poetry with powerfully realized performances and drop dead gorgeous photography – the work of a genius auteur with a singular vision. And in need of an Editor.

Thanks, Sam.

The dysfunctional State Legislature went by themselves to the Marriage Counselor because their Republican spouse refused to go and kept saying, “I’m not going to change anything. I don’t have anything to do with the mess this marriage is in. It’s all your fault and since you’re the one with the problem, you go solve it yourself.”

So they did, passing a draconian budget because the state’s Republicans have all taken a Blood Oath, not to the state’s Constitution, but to Grover Norquist, so even if the state falls into wrack and ruin, they will not ever, ever vote even so much as one tax on gazillionaires or corporation or anybody, ever, ever. Indeed, they wouldn’t even simply vote to keep taxes at their current levels or even allow voters to vote on keeping those current levels which would have prevented further cuts to schools and universities. Nope, not their problem.

So, when you see your kid’s schools being really hurt, or your favorite state park is closed, or know any poor, old/young, sick people that will now be kicked to the curb (so as to keep even one millionaire from paying a modestly increased tax on his yacht) you can call up Sam Blakeslee and say, “Hey, thanks Sam.”

Meanwhile, the Dems managed to stick in some “taxes,” like requiring Amazon.com pay sales tax for purchases made by Ca. residents (good luck with that, I’m sure that’s heading to court as I type) and includes a few bumps to car registration fees (a whopping (?) $12 a year. Gosh, be still my heart and don’t ask why I should be charged $12 a year for my little car while a millionaire isn’t getting dinged for his yacht – go ask Sam that question.)

And so it goes. If the smiley-faced budget’s projected windfalls don’t come to pass, the cuts will get deeper yet. The happy news is the voters are to blame for whatever falls down on them. After all, they elected all those Grover Norquistians. And Grover, as you know, wants The State drowned in the bathtub, so he doesn’t care if you drown along with it.

If you’re unhappy about that blood oath, hey, if you voted for Sam, you’re getting exactly what you asked for. So, shush up.

It’s All Moot Anyway

Well, not to worry about any of it. Gay marriage is now legal in New York. Stand back. The Republic will crumble into ruin shortly.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Planning


The Piedras Blancas Light Station is open for daily tours during the summer.  Meet at the former Piedras Blancas Motel, which is about 1 1/2 mile north of the station itself at 9:45 a.m..  Guides will then lead the car caravan of visitors to the station for a guided tour.  The tour is about 2 hours and involves an easy and beautiful 1/2 mile stroll along the newly laid out trails.  Tours cost $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17, kids under 5 free.  

The last time I was there, they had just started work on restoration.  All around the lighthouse as far as the eye could see was ice plant, and volunteers were just starting the process of removing all gazillion tons of it.  The task seemed as futile as handing someone a teaspoon and telling them to empty the ocean.  But one should never doubt Weed Warriors with teaspoons since as you can see from the lovely flowers in the photos here, the volunteers did the impossible.  The habitat is now restored as far as the eye can see with native plants and is now filled with little critters of all sorts.  

The tower itself is now in the process of restoration.  Built of brick, for years, it was traditionally whitewashed, an astonishingly difficult and time consuming job, considering its size.  Then the Navy figured they'd save some time and painted it with oil-based paint which contained lead and had the unfortunate side effect of not allowing the brick to breathe which lead to moisture being trapped in the brick with bad consequences for both brick and mortar.  The folks in charge of restoration are now in the process of figuring out (and fund raising) to get the best method to getting the old paint off the tower. 

While the stairs to the top of the tower are block off, the view from inside looking up is still dizzying.

If you haven't been out to Piedras Plancas, now's the time to plan to head out there.  Flowers are all in bloom, there's still some elephant seals lazing about on the sheltered coves and there's plenty of sea lions perched and barking on the white rocks.












For further information go to http://www.piedrasblancas.gov/ 







After touring Piedras Blancas, make a reservation to get down to Santa Maria for the PCPA's production of "Hairspray," which will be playing through July 2 at the Marian Theatre (800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria. http://www.pcpa.org/, 922-8313) They've mounted a splendid, sharply comical, highly energized and sweetly funny production of the musical that's simply terriffic.  

Bree Murphy, who regularly appears at the Melodrama Theatre, leads an outstanding cast.  PCPA always does an amazing job.  It's one of the theatre jewels of the central coast.  

Speaking of jewels, the Palm Theatre is now playing  Woody Allen's film, "Midnight in Paris."  It's a Woody Allen film for people who hate Woody Allen.  He isn't in this one.  Instead, his persona is being sweetly played by an age-appropriate Owen Wilson.  And, unlike so many Woody films, in this movie, the Woody Allen Character actually learns something and changes thereby instead of just kvetching and twitching and doing schtick until you want to reach into the screen and slap him silly. The film is witty, the whole premise very clever (brush up on your early 20th century artists and writers to catch all the sly references), and Paris never looked more beautiful. 

And if you get lucky, you may still be able to gallop down to the PAC box office by noon to get tickets to the last two performances of "Choirs on Fire," the California International Choral Festival & Competition. The Choirs Choice Competition starts a 1 pm. today at the PAC, with the Grand Finale & Awards tonight at 8 pm. which ends with ALL the choirs plus the Mira Costa Choir and the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble joining in for one grand finale. 

The festival started Friday and is an event organized by Gary Lamprecht ( who directs our own Vocal Arts Ensemble) and about a bazillion volunteers and sponsors, that brings international choirs from all over the world for this competition.  And we're the benficiciaries of their efforts. If you're not on the Vocal Arts mailing list, go to www. VocalArts.org and sign up so when the festival comes again in a couple of years, you'll be ready.      

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cat Jumps Out Of Bag TWICE!

Oh, Gosh, what' this?  I see everything twice!  Front page of the Tribune Local section, "Online note alerts supervisors," by Bob Cuddy, about the "Alleged conflict of interest involving public works director draws board's attention." Yes, Paavo & Maria are now officially official since the Tribune has apparently been forced to pay attention and now the Board of Superviors is looking into things -- "reacting to an online posting" -- is how Bob put it.

But, Uh, Bob, I don't think Cal Coast News is properly known as an "online posting," is it? I think's it's more an Online Newspaper, and the story was posted by Karen Velie, with her name on it and all.  An "online posting" makes it sound like something that popped up in a random note in the comment section of the Tribune's online edition or even the comment section of this blog.  You know, some anonymous comment tossed into the mix.  So "online posting" doesn't quite fit.

Or, perhaps it wasn't some wierd, random, anonymous "online posting," that caused the BOS to "react," since several members of the BOS have expressed disdain for and dismissed as trash anything appearing in blogs or other online sources.  Maybe the Board of Supervisors are actually reacting to the email (below), sent a few days ago to the BOS with a request it be put in the public record.:

"Dear Chairman Hill and Board Members:

Please place this letter in the official public record, to be included for consideration at your next Board meeting.

This letter serves as an official request that the County Board of Supervisors reopen a 2009 investigation and inquiry into allegations of ethics violations and wrong-doing by its current Public Works Director, Paavo Ogren.

As a prior elected official for the Los Osos Community Services District (2004-2008), I filed a formal complaint with your board regarding Ogren's handling of public money and the Los Osos wastewater project in the spring of 2009 - this formal complaint remains open and ongoing. I appeared in person before the Board and public on numerous occasions; I wrote letters, provided public testimony and provided supporting documents to your Board and County Counsel.

When I asked repeatedly (by email and phone call) to meet with each Board member during their regular open office hours, in order to discuss details of what I had discovered as an elected official, my requests to meet, by all five members, were repeatedly denied.

County Counsel Warren Jensen provided a report to the Board in the fall of 2009 to supposedly dismiss my formal complaint, yet his report ignored all but one of the allegations raised by it. Any mention or response to the allegations made about conflict of interest, divided loyalties, violation of design build and public contracting codes, ethical violations, backdating and awarding no-bid contracts to prior business associates, improper contract procurement and selection of engineering firms for large county contracts, etc. were all missing from his report.

I request that my complete 2009 complaint, in its entirety (approx. 500 original pages, and omitting all duplicated pages), be reincorporated into the public record again today. All allegations remain valid to this day and take on additional importance with new revelations that have just surfaced this week, regarding a non-disclosed, long term personal relationship between Mr. Ogren and a currently elected official of the LOCSD (who resigned today). This non-disclosed personal relationship may have compromised all decisions made regarding the Los Osos Project, the water supply for Los Osos, the ISJ discussions and any and all business matters between these two public agencies during the past few years.

I request that Mr. Ogren, an “at-will" employee, be immediately and permanently removed from all decisions regarding Los Osos and that he be placed on leave while a complete investigation takes place. I request that an independent investigator be retained by the County, similar to the procedure followed by your Board in 2009, when it was discovered that a high ranking public employee (G. Wilcox) was involved in a similar non-disclosed personal relationship with a public employee/official, where both were also in positions of making and influencing financial decisions using public money. This matter was investigated by an independent personnel specialist in the summer of 2009, and Ms. Wilcox was terminated.

Just like the Wilcox matter, this is not a matter that can be addressed by County Counsel. Mr. Jensen may have a personal relationship with Mr. Ogren that limits his abilities to be fair and impartial in this matter. By refusing to investigate the bulk of citizen concerns already raised about potential legal and ethical breaches made by Ogren in the past, he has already demonstrated an inability to provide impartial review. An independent investigator is required to evaluate whether Mr. Ogren’s history of multiple and repeated instances of questionable ethical behavior, including the most recent activities and actions, rise to a level of criminal code violations.

Nothing less is acceptable in light of yet another high-level County scandal; swift action by you and your Board not only protects the County, the taxpayers, but the integrity of your position and the public process.

Thank you.

Most Sincerely,

Lisa Schicker , Past President and Board Member, LOCSD 2004-2008"

Bets are now being placed as to how quickly County Counsel will shove this (above) complaint off the table, and how quickly County Administrator Jim Grant can investigate the Paavo & Maria story and dismiss it all as baseless. 

O.K., not exactly baseless.  Karen Velie's story spilled the beans about the relationship between these two and now the Tribune confirms that with quotes from Maria as saying that she and "Ogren have been dating for six months" but that the sewer isn't the basis for their relationship so they don't discuss sewerish things. Which is part II of the Velie story, the allegation that this "relationship," while Maria was on the CSD Board, presented a possible conflict of interest, especially since the CSD and the County are involved in ongoing (ISJ) water litigation matters as well as the ongoing sewer project. Since Maria resigned from the CSD Board, that allegation is now moot. 

But now that the cat has jumped out of the bag TWICE -- first with the Cal Coast News story (which was re-posted and linked on this blog) and now with Bob Cuddy's story -- perhaps the County, in the form of Jim Grant, can square away what, if any, county rules have been broken here and what can be classified as Walking While Stupid.

Meantime, I'm tickled by Cuddy's (actually, the Tribune's) use of the term "online posting," that makes NO MENTION of Cal Coast News or Karen Velie.  The reader would have NO IDEA that the online newspaper existed since it is not mentioned by name in any way, shape or form.  Which reminds me of how proper ladies were taught never to mention their husband's mistresses by name and only refered to them distastefully as "that other woman," or "that. . . creature." So, silence rules, which is what the Tribune did with the Wallace story that Cal Coast News first broke as well.  No mention of that when they did the follow up.  Or, should I say, follow after?

Well, stay tuned.  There'll be some huffing and puffing and some cat-in-bag noises, then the County will come out with a report that says, "Everything's fine, no laws were broken, nothing to see here, time to move along." 

That's the SLOTown way.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Karen Velie of Cal Coast News Does It Again!

Now, there’s a crackerjack reporter . . . with a can opener!

Let’s see if the Tribune does any follow up? Oh, right. What was I thinking? Ah, yes. People behaving badly here at the corner of Peyton Place and SewerVille.

http://calcoastnews.com/

http://www.920kvec.com/pages/1051993.php

Sex and the Los Osos sewer

June 17, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

A vehicle crash into a San Luis Obispo creek has revealed the extent of a personal relationship between a top county official and a Los Osos Community Services District board member—raising allegations of a possible conflict of interest.

Accusations that Paavo Ogren, San Luis Obispo County Public Works Director and Maria Kelly, vice president of the Los Osos Community Services District, have been conspiring to help push through a $200 million sewer project have surfaced because the couples’ teenage children, from former marriages, drove a car down a 20-foot embankment into San Luis Creek on June 14.

“In the context of the waste water project for the community, Ms. Kelly has been a proxy for Paavo Ogren,” said Jeff Edwards, a 30-year resident of Los Osos.

Thursday, as suspicions grew that Kelly had been staying in San Luis Obispo with Ogren rather than living in the district she represents as required to serve on the board, Kelly abruptly stepped down from her position as vice president of the district.

“Unfortunately, as I evaluate my current situation and the needs of my children, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I must immediately step down, since I do not believe I can provide the commitment and attention that the Board of Directors requires and that the community of Los Osos deserves,” Kelly said in her letter of resignation.

Ogren’s son is presently facing a felony drunk driving charge after driving Kelly’s son and two other teens into the creek. Police said the teens resided in San Luis Obispo and Atascadero. None provided Los Osos as their place of residence.

Ogren and Kelly began spending time together about two to three years ago, around the time Kelly was elected to the board. Over the years, the couple was observed discussing strategy prior to meetings causing some to question if a conflict of interest existed.

In 2010, Kelly left her husband, transferred her children to San LuisObispo schools and moved in with Ogren. Every other week, she would spend a few days with her children at her former home in Los Osos.
Kelly and her ex-husband are attempting to sell their former residence.

For years, Kelly has advocated in favor of Ogren’s vision for the Los Osos sewer plant – a $200 million controversial sewage system slated to serve about 12,500 people.

“I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to be here in support of the county — and I’m happy to be in support of county staff. I’ve been a broken record on that they’ve been extremely professional, helpful, diligent and very responsive to the community,” Kelly said during a September 2009 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“I already had to take one job due to budget cuts at Cal Poly. I’m willing to take another. I love Los Osos that much. I’m willing to do what I have to do to keep my family there and raise my children,” Kelly added at the time.

Meanwhile, CalCoastNews has learned Ogren’s home is allegedly a frequent after school “party house ” where teens go to smoke and drink. One parent of a teen who was in the accident, said they have found the teens partying after school at Ogren’s home on several occasions.

Ogren and Kelly did not return requests for comment.

Friday, June 17, 2011

K-9 Biz

Friends of the Morro Bay Police Department are raising money to bring a K9 police dog to Morro Bay.  They're holding a Walk-a-Thon from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 18, starting at the Rock in Morro Bay. 

In additon to the walk, there'll be police K9 demonstrations, a dog carnival, contests, vendors, adoptable dogs, and all the walking dogs.  So, come have fun and help raise funds for the K9 unit.  Any questions, call 772-6225.

Also, stop by the Animal Services Division shelter at Highway 1 & Oklahoma St. Lots of kittens and more than enough dogs looking for homes.  And the adoption fees include spaying or neutering, basic vaccinations, and i.d. microchip and a free first veterinarian checkup and ID tag.  What's not to love about that deal?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Oh, Well, That Explains It

Sunday afternoon.  I'm in the Vons parking lot here in Los Osos and heading towards the Ace Hardware store when down the sidewalk comes a woman in a Vons shirt steaming along briskly and speaking loudly to a guy ahead of her, "Sir.  Sir, stop.  Come back here."  Guy ignored her and kept chugging along.  She tried again, only this time people were stopping and looking and soon heard the words, "Stop him.  He stole a bottle of Jagermeister!"  After which several guys joined the woman from Vons and cell phones came out.  "I'm gonna call the sheriff," hollered one.  Guy kept walking along, only to turn back and holler to the Vons' employee that she should go "f---k herself." 

In no time, the guy had reached the Round Table Pizza Parlor and I figured maybe he'd get away with his shoplifting gig, since sheriff's officers out here are so thinly spread, I thought it would take hours to get a car here.  So I went into Ace, made my purchases in about 15 minutes time, and then headed out to Los Osos Valley Nursery.  There on LOVR near the Rexall Drug Store was our boy, cuffed and sitting on the patrol car's bumper, sheriff busily filling out paperwork on his clip board.  It looked like they'd been there for a while.

Fast, efficient police work by our local constabulary?  You betcha, made all the easier by alert Los Ososian citizens willing to get involved , citizens with eagle eyes who called in a description:  Look for a doofus hotfooting it down the street wearing a black hoodie, black cap and a pair of really, really unusual looking brown and black checked knee-length pants.

And THAT, my children, is what drinking Jagermeister can do to you.  First we got Cal Poly blackout "rapes" with panties up palm trees and now fashion-disaster guys shoplifting Jag in broad daylight while walking around in brown and black checked knee-length pants. Aw, Gawd, the shame of it.

Memo To America: If You're Poor, Don't Get Sick

You've probably heard them by now, radio ads urging you to write your supervisor and urge him to not cut any more out of the proposed $800,000 budget for the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast.  The CHC was contracted to care for all the qualified poor, uninsured, underinsured people who used to get their treatment at County General before that facility closed. (Which closure was part of the general push to "privitize" public services with private contractors and thereby pretend to get the responsibility (and cost) off the public budget.)  That was the promise the BOS made at the time - don't worry about closing CG, we'll take care of everyone at outlying facilities and do a better job and do it cheaper. And for years, that worked as fine as can be expected in a country with a needlessly expensive, wasteful, cockamamie healthcare delivery system.

Then came the recession and now suddenly, there's a whole lot MORE poor, uninsured, underinsured people needing healthcare living in a state and county that's broke.  During such times, promises are easly nudged and previously supplied care is cut back to the bone.  And if that leaves a good chunk of people out in the cold and at risk of dying?  Well, what do you expect in a country with a needlessly expensive, wasteful cockamamie healthcare delivery system?

So we have this publicity push to get the community to lobby the BOS to increase the grants to CHC to boost it's operating budget since obviously the need in the community is even greater in this economy of lost jobs, lost health insurance and more and more people falling through the cracks. In today's Tribune, Supervisor Gibson called the mail-in postcard campaign to lobby the Sups "counterproductive" and a "negotiation ploy" by CHC.

The BOS will discuss the matter today at 1:30 p.m.  I'll be at work and so won't be able to attend, but if there's one thing I'd love to hear from any BOS member it's this:  Please tell me exactly where and how I can get health care if I don't quality for HCH's programs? Be precise; names, places, programs, please. Thank you.

My bet is anyone asking that question will get that stony stare of silence that can be so frustating to the public.  Talk to the hand.  Not our problem.  Which is what happens when you live in a country with a needlessly expensive, wasteful cockamamie healthcare delivery system.  If you're poor, don't have great health insurance through your job, or now don't have a job and so lost your health insurance and/or can't get health insurance because of prexisting conditions or because you lost your job and can't afford to buy any insurance at all, in this country you're expected to, well, shut up and die quietly since protesting is "counterproductive."

Because in this country, we fiercely defend and absolutely insist on a for-profit , needlessly expensive, wasteful cockamamie healthcare system that costs more than any other healthcare systems in the "civilized" world yet delivers the worst outcomes and we do this because we absolutely DEMAND that insurace companies be allowed to make obscene profits off our crappy health.  It's the American way.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This by Jane Hirshfield from her new book, "Given Sugar, Given Salt."
Bone

The living dog
has found the old dog's toy.
She brings it to the kitchen,
the blue rubber a little cracked
from all that time outside.
My memories,
my counting and expectations,
mean nothing to her;
my sadness, though,
does puzzle her a moment.
Then she keeps on chewing.
Time's instruments are thumb piano,
oboe, ocarina, flute, and dog.
Its movements
run through her body flawlessly.
Only we sing with a catch in the throat.
She hears the thought. -- "Catch?"
She's ready.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

O.K. Poly Dollies, We Gotta Reeeeely, Reeeely Talk

O.K. Girls and Boys, pay attention to Mother Calhoun. The Tribune yesterday had further details on one recent Cal Poly rape case that indicates how badly things can go south. The young “victim” in this case reported to police that she went to a frat party at 11 pm, scarfed down a dozen shots of Jagermeister liquor and a shot of some other kind of booze. She cannot recall what happened after about 1:30 a.m.. She wakes up in some kind of pain and, as the Tribune notes, “believed she’d been raped.” Police go to the frat house and find her panties “hanging from a palm tree in the courtyard.”

A few days later, a guy called “Joe” called her to see how she’s doing and the police set a phone trap and record the calls, the jist of which is these two young idiots were drunk and had some kind of sex and at this point in the story, it’s not at all clear whether the victim herself can remember what the hell she did or didn’t do or when she did or didn’t pass out. And “Joe,” also drunk, concluded that when the young woman took him aside and said “let’s do it” and got herself undressed, he foolishly thought that implied consent.

And being a drunk young 23 year-old male at a frat party nuzzling up a drunk cute young woman, he went along with that implied consent and ended up with his face and name all over the front page of the local paper and the word “rapist” stuck next to it because the young woman in question “believed” she’d been raped. And even if this particular case is dropped, the rapist brand will stick to “Joe” forever in the world of Google. Even years from now when “Joe” is a successful professional and is perhaps being considered for a job promotion that involves an extensive security background search. Well, you get that picture, don’t you?

And the drunk young woman in question who can’t explain how her panties got up that palm tree? A police report is filed. Just because the newspapers don’t print “victims” names, she’s undoubtedly going to end up immortalized in Google and/or Facebook as well since nowadays, nothing seems to remain a secret for long. And years from now, when she’s being considered for a job promotion involving an extensive security background check?

THAT’s what 12 shots of Jaegermeister will get you in a world where the law can be used as a blunt instrument in dealing with the incredibly complex and fraught world of human sexuality. That's where our politically correct inclinations and our desire to level a playing field in a distinctly unfair natural world and our unwillingness to honestly deal with our complicated and often hidden sexual selves will lead: two lives publicly derailed with consequences that may last a lifetime.

If drunk young boys and girls are going to do what drunk young boys and girls will do, surely there has got to be a better way to handle these cases? Better definitions of just what constitutes “rape” in a real world where random hook-ups by total strangers apparently are the norm? Or even some better way to hold both parties fairly accountable for the crime of walking while stupid?.

Or perhaps in cases like this, we should make it legal to redact both parties’ names until indictments come down. That would be better than what happened to these two idiots that resulted in “Joe” branded forever as a rapist on a “belief” by a drunk young woman who didn’t know how her panties got up that palm tree.

Speaking of Walking While Stupid

Here’s the truly amazing thing about the Congressman Weiner’s wiener. Our political landscape has been turned into a killing ground: No quarter given. It’s swarming with political operatives constantly searching for any chink in anyone’s armor, a relentless 24/7 stake-out using the most sophisticated sneak & peep tools, including hacking and purloined emails. In short, if you’re a Pol you KNOW that there’s a whole army of operatives just gunning for you and that anything and anyone is fair game.

Yet there’s Weiner sexting away with perfect strangers who lose no time contacting various bloggers and networks in order to cash in and get their 15 minutes of fame. In today’s political world, in today’s Facebook, YouTube world, there are no confidences: everybody will sell out everybody else for that 15-minute spotlight.

Yet Weiner still sends dirty pictures and has phone sex with complete strangers? All of which tells me that (1) he can’t help himself, which means (2) he’s out of control, which means he’s (3)unstable and heading for a crash & burn. OR, it means (1) he thinks he’s untouchable and above the Laws of Consequences that govern the rest of us, which means(2) he’s seriously out of touch with reality, which means(3) he’s unstable and heading for a crash & burn.

Which he did.

Two stories, both sad as hell train wrecks for the participants, and likely funny as hell to the passersby. And both stories as old as the hills. As Willa Cather noted, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Which is why the price of stock in Kleenex will never drop.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

O.K. Poly Dollies, We Gotta Talk

A few days ago, Raymond James of Atascadero, wrote a letter to the editor regarding the recent spate of rapes at Cal poly wherein the young women had apparently been drinking at a frat party, etc and, well, you know the rest. Here’s Mr. James:

“As long as the view persists that the victim of a sexual assault is never at fault, they will most assuredly continue. Generations of men have been brought up with the belief that if you are looking for sex that “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” Any young woman who goes to a party with a bunch of horny young men with the belief that she can drink all she wants without there being a risk of consequences is simply misguided.

“I believe the reason that authorities are not prosecuting recent cases of so-called date rate of three drunken women is that a jury will conclude that the women involved gave implied consent for whatever happened. When a woman lets herself get so drunk that she can’t say “no,” she must accept responsibility for being a fool. The general public may be outraged by this comment, but this is a fact of life in the real world.”

By coincidence, shortly after reading Mr. James letter, I was catching up on my reading and picked up a January/February issue of The Atlantic. There were two essays discussing several recent books about boys and girls behaving badly and the issue of the impact of pornography in our culture and sexual mores. Both articles should be required reading by all Cal Poly undergrads. As a matter of fact, the school administration and the various PC “Rape is Bad” activist groups should make these essays required reading.

In a nutshell, here’s Natasha Vargas-Cooper (“Hard Core, The new world of porn is revealing eternal truths about men and women,” p. 97) what too many young men and women either don’t know, weren’t taught by their mothers and fathers, or have simply forgotten:” Men, so the conventional wisdom goes, tend to desire more than women are willing to give them sexually. The granting of sex is the most powerful weapon women possess in their struggle with men. Yet in each new sexual negotiation a woman has with a man, she not only spends down that capital, she begins at a disadvantage, because the potential losses are always greater for her. A failed or even successful single encounter can be life-altering. Whatever ‘social construct’ you might impose upon the whole matter, nature imposes much more rigorous consequences on women than on men.”

And no matter how evolved we humans like to think of ourselves, when it comes to sex, the psyches of both males and females contains some all too dark realities: Men rape; women bleed and die. And both are simply mother nature’s indifferent drive to ensure that the species survives. For males, a successful breeding strategy is to impregnate as many females as possible any way he can: Candy, a movie, a bottle of Jack Daniels and/or a club over the head.) For a female, every sexual encounter has the potential for far more danger: A delightful encounter, a successful pregnancy or rape and/or death in childbirth.

And no matter how we would like to rise above our biology, there is no way around mother nature. As Ms. Vargas-Cooper notes: “nature imposes much more rigorous consequences on women than on men.”

Which is why the young women of Cal Poly who think they can behave like drunken frat boys with no more consequences than a ferocious hangover, are seriously mistaken. If they’re lucky they may walk away “date raped” and much sadder but wiser. If they aren’t so lucky they’ll walk away with an STD or an unwanted pregnancy. And if they are really, really unucky, they’ll never walk away anywhere, ever.

Which is why, Mr. James of Atascadero hit the nail on the head by reminding young women that in the real world, things can operate in far more dangerous fashion than it does in FantasyVille and they alone are responsible for keeping themselves safe and alive, which means they are going to have to accept responsibility for not being used as a piece of Kleenex for a gaggle of immature, horny Drunken Jerk-Boys.

Speaking of Immature, horny Jerk-Boys

Ah, so it WAS Congressman Weiner’s wienie after all. Let me ask again: Are we going to have to only elect eunuchs in order to get anything done in Washington?

So, should Weiner resign his Congressional seat? Hmmm, let’s think here: Here’s an immature lying, ego-riddled, self-involved, headline-grabbing Jerk-Boy Jackass who gets paid big bucks to jerk off on the public’s dime. Hmmm, where should such a guy go to be surrounded by other lying time-wasting idiots, all playing with themselves while Rome burns?

Oh, I know. Congress!

Now, seriously

Understand that the NRC will be in town at the Embassy Suites Wed. June 15th at 7 pm. to listen to the public regarding the re-licensing of Diablo Canyon. If you have anything to say, you might want to show up. It’s likely to be a lively evening.

And, The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to review and approve the Climate Action Plan this summer. That’s a plan that outlines various ways the County can go green. But, apparently, that plant DID NOT include a plan for “Community Choice.”

From the Sierra Club’s newsletter: “Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), established in 2002 by California Assembly Bill 117, is a major policy innovation that gives local governments new and important rights to take major roles in achieving the state’s most important clean energy and climate protection mandates. It empowers local governments and citizens to address many destructive impacts from the way we generate and use electricity. Only the state’s community choice law gives cities and counties the right to purchase electricity from a source other than the utility and determine the sources of their electric power.

 "Basically, SLO County can become its own energy distributor and increase the amount of non-polluting, renewable energy available to residents, providing energy to local residents and businesses at rates that, in successful CCA’s across the country, have been about 20 percent less than what investor-owned utilities charge.”

If you think that plan should be included in the final draft of the SLO County’s Climate Action Plan, let your supervisor know.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi


On Friday, the mallow was in its glory, larger than I'd ever seen it in the 20-some years it has queened it over the back yard with its blaze of pink massed and glowing in the spring sun. So I took a picture of its blooming beauty and posted it before dawn on Sunday morning.  When the sun came up and I went out into the back hard, its cascade of flowers were drooping alarmingly.  Peering more closely, I could see the mass of branches covered with water-catching blooms had simply caught too much of the rain and the added weight of the water had caused the entire plant to shift in the soggy sand and fall over on it's side, with some of its notoriously weedy and weak branches already split and drooping.

I quickly got out the pruning shears and harvested as many blooms as I could, putting several vases full on the dining room table and dropping off several huge bouquets at the neighbors.  Then it was out with the lopping shears.  There'll now be several hours worth of branch chopping for the green recycle bin and a few prayers that the root system wasn't ruined and the pruned back mallow will rise again.

Sic transit gloria mundi.  Or, The Mallow Plant That Was Too Big To Fail.

 Dang.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Rain Daze

The great grape vine doesn't quite know what to do.  It's June.  It's cold. It's raining.  Again.  Instead of filling out with leaves and racing into August's full leaf-waving greenery, the vine is dawdling, lollygagging.  A few leaves here, then there then wait and sniff the air.  The dark liver-red smoke trees in both the front and back yard are still nearly bare.  A few bouquet cluster of leaves helicoptering at the end of a few branches, other buds showing but clutched tighly closed.  Very late to the party is that one. And the purple/green leaved vitus in the front yard, which got really hammered with the frost, are just now coming back to life.  And taking their time, too.  It's like they're checking the unseasonal weather and saying, "Feh. It's cold.  It's wet.  Why bother?  It'll be Christmas soon anyway."

But the 25++ year-old pink mallow plant has run amok this year, which is what I guess it does when it's cut back severely and then gets rained on.  And I discovered wonderful something quite by accident.  Mallow flower stems, in all their hollyhock look-alike glory, make wonderful cut flowers.  Toss a little powdered flower extender/preservative  into the vase and they'll last for well over a week.  Which was a surprise since I figured they'd wilt and croak within hours. 

Given the massive bush in the back yard, I'll have lots of vases of beautiful mallows in the house all summer while I stand in the middle of the livingroom in a sweater and look out at . . . all the rain.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Palinov's Dogs

Calhoun’s Cannons for June 3, 2011 

Humans are the only animals who will follow unstable pack leaders
                                             Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer

The political silly season – summer – started early. First we got the full-throated press pack baying after Donald Trump every time he popped his fox-red furry noggin up past the petunias. La Donald was flogging his TV show by pretending to run for the Republican presidential nomination. “ I’d be yOOOge, yuOOOge!” promised the Donald. But the only thing yOOOge was La Donald’s ego, his hairpiece and, as most people guessed, his 60-million dollar “Celebrity Apprentice” salary which trumped even fake political ambition.

This delightful romp was followed by the next distraction: the mystery of who hacked his Twitter account and publicly posted a photo of a crotch that may or may not be Congressman Anthony Weiner’s weenie. (Oh, Dear God, plueeeze don’t tell me we have another Pesky Political Penis running amok again. Are we going to have to only elect eunuchs in order to get anything done in Washington?) Well, the vital national security issue of Weiner’s Weenie will carry the 24/7 news cycle for a few days until it’s time for the Next Pointless Thing to distract and amuse an ADD nation.

And that rumble you hear comin’ over the hill, diesel fumes in the mornin,’ fumes that smell like . . . Victory, by golly!, well that would be the Queen of Silly, who has and will continue to top them all: Sarah Palin’s Yes I’m Not Running For President ‘12 tour is on the road in a ginormous bus with a huge “One Nation” and a flag painted on it, with the press pack, like Pavlov’s dogs, tongues running out, baying right behind it. And already La Palin’s faux complaining that the press is harassing her, that she and her family are on a little vacation, just like any other heartland family.

Oh, absolutely. You see those heartland “real” Americans all over the road during summer: Dad, who’s been out of work for a year and Mom, who is working two jobs to keep their underwater house afloat, regularly rent a huge, incredibly expensive bus and then have it hand-painted with a flag so they can then take the family on a meet-‘n-greet celebrity photo-op tour vacation to eat pizza with La Donald in New York and make little impromptu stump speeches at various historical American sites. Just like all hard-working real American families do when they go on vacation, you betcha!

All of which, in Palin’s case, is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette who costumed herself and her ladies-in-waiting to look like milkmaids so they could all troop off to a newly created faux farm on the grounds of Versailles to play at being peasants.

And so the Silly Season Summer dance begins, as structured as a pas de deux: Palin pops up, the media bays. They can’t help it. Their jobs depend on it. To their corporate masters, La Palin is pure ratings gold. And to La Palin, those ratings translate into real gold as well. Fake political campaigns, as La Donald and La Huckabee and La Gingrich and the other assorted well paid La Pols on Fox News have discovered, pays waaaayyyy better than public service.

As for the public, well, they demand their daily dose of celebrity as well. It now seems hard-wired into our popular-culture psyche and we are helpless in its grip since the human eye is programmed to scan for and focus on novelty – that unexpected movement in the shrubbery that demands attention.

You see the phenomenon at work every time a TV camera is doing an on-the-street interview, for example. Invariably, somebody will pop into view making a face or yelling something or holding a dumb sign. And try as you might, it’s impossible to ignore that action. La Palin has that pop-up strategy down to a fine art form. Nobody knows how to effectively surf the 24/7 news cycle schedule better than she and her handlers do. Masters at the game.

Is our country on the brink of financial ruin? Default only weeks away? Are the effects of climate change already upon us and because we have dithered, we are totally unprepared and will pay a fearsome price for our folly? Is a nuclear-armed Pakistan riding the Taliban tiger and now can’t get off? Is an Al Qaeda-infested Yemen now on the brink of chaos and civil war?

Well, pay no attention. It’s not important. What’s important is fake news, Dancing With The Stars, missing wieners and now the constant novelty of pop-up, Wack-a-Mole celebrity political theatre. That’s what Americans want, and what Americans want, they get.

Meanwhile, Democrats, comedians and pundits are praying – praying – for a Palin/Bachman GOP presidential ticket. It couldn’t possibly get any better than that: Politics as Farce.