Monday, December 31, 2012

Pupping Beach

A good number of the elephant seals have arrive on the beaches north of Cambria for the birth of their pups.  There were huge crowds of people the day I was there, but not a lot of pups had yet been born. 

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This little guy was pretty young and still in his rumpled velvet fur.

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There’s a lot of jostling and loud complaints whenever the females get to close to their neighbor.

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While most of the elephant seals are a dun brown, this lovely lady decided to go blond and was a gleaming presence in all that tan.

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And always time for lunch.

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Or a good scratch.  Or the need to keep an eye on the lurking seagull who was clearly up to no good.

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There seemed to be several sets of twins on the beach this year.  Don’t think that’s typical .  And as with all twins in the wild, one usually doesn’t make it since the mother only has resources to fully nourish one pup.

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And, of course, this being elephant seal beach, here come the guys, lurching sneakily onto the beach, looking for a chance at a stray female who might escape from the various harems.

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Heading home.  Can there be a lovelier place to live? Or a more spectacular place to greet the New Year, a year I hope will be a good one for all. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Jane Hirshfield from her book, "After."

I Imagine Myself in Time

I imagine myself in time looking back on myself--
this self, this morning,
drinking her coffee on the first day of a new year
and once again almost unable to move her pen through the iron air.
Perplexed by my life as Midas was in his world of sudden metal,
surprised that it was not as he'd expected, what he had asked.
And that other self, who watches me from the distance of decades,
what will she say?  Will she look at me with hatred or with compassion,
I whose choices made her what she will be?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bottoms Up!

Calhoun’s Cannons for Dec 28  2012

Twenty little kids were killed in Newtown, Connecticut and Americans were asked to give up their military style assault weapons.  America said, “No.”

That’s addiction.

Twenty children were slaughtered in Newton, and Americans feared that maybe assault weapons would be banned, so they rushed out and bought more assault weapons.

That’s not the Second Amendment, that’s addiction.

Wayne LaPierre, head of the N.R.A and chief lobbyist for the gun industry said the reason twenty children were murdered in their school by a young man with assault weapons was because Hollywood made violent movies.  He then declared that the solution to gun violence in America is MORE guns everywhere in the hands of everybody, and America said, “Sounds good to me!” and ran out to buy more guns.  

That’s not a sane gun policy, that’s addiction.

Last year firearm sales jumped up 14 percent.  In a depressed economy with massive numbers of people out of work, gun shops and gun manufacturers were thriving, business was booming and very expensive weapons were flying off the shelves.  Baby needs a new pair of shoes?  Sorry, not when I need to buy another gun.  

That’s not a well regulated militia, that’s addiction.

A Congresswoman was gunned down in Arizona and nationwide, gun sales immediately spiked.  Moviegoers were slaughtered in Colorado and gun sales jumped even higher. Twenty kids died in a hail of bullets and gun sales again went through the roof. Clearly, in gun addicted America, dead kids equal increased sales and profits. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d suspect that Wayne LaPierre was hiring shooters himself to get and keep those fourth-quarter sales numbers up. 

Now, that’s great marketing (Dead kids = higher profits) and  addiction.

Fortress America.  This is what we’ve become.  Frightened hoarders irrationally buying more and more guns, hunkered down in our basements with boxes of ammo all around us waiting for the invading armies of those scary Russian/Chinese/Negro/Women/Mexican/Muslims to come thundering down Elm Street.  We have militarized our cities and homes and streets.  We have militarized our culture, our children, our lives. We have sanctified the Second Amendment above life and liberty itself.  Instead of the New Jerusalem, we have become a paranoid, weaponized comic-opera  Sparta – a mentally unstable, untrained gang that can’t shoot straight, a nation that’s become a danger to itself and others, a nation that routinely accepts the constant slaughter of its citizenry as normal, and before the bodies are even cold goes out and buys more guns. Then says there’s no problem here.

That’s addiction and denial of addiction.

Now we have twenty dead kids and a few people are asking:  Will Newtown finally spark an intervention?  If so, who is left to do it?  

Congress?  Too many of them are wholly owned by the N. R.A. and the N.R.A’s job is to sell more guns.  We, the People?  That’s impossible since addicts in denial cannot see the problem. And if you cannot see the problem, you cannot solve the problem. And to America, twenty dead kids clearly isn’t a problem. 

So we greet a new year and wait for the next slaughter and wonder, “If twenty doesn’t do the trick, is there a number that will?” And to our everlasting shame, I suspect the answer will be, “No.”   

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Shudda Never Left The Shire

Peter Jackson’s new film, “The Hobbit, Part I,” is another perfect example of why you should never give a successful filmmaker unlimited money and hand him a project that’s “dear to his heart” without having a gimlet-eyed, ruthless Editor with the unlimited Power of the Scissors standing nearby.

Successful filmmakers with unlimited money almost always succumb to the dreaded malady of Rococoization: the mistaken belief that if one is good, twenty-five will be better. No.  It’s not. But turning everything Rococo is a common affliction. Even George Lucas was not immune.

The first problem with the Hobbit, Part I is the fact that it is a Part I.  “Lord of the Rings, the book, was a complex story told in three volumes.  “Lord of the Rings,” the movie, was a complex story told in three films.  “The Hobbit,” the book, was a modest quest adventure story told in one volume.  “The Hobbit,” the movie, is three, three-hour films.  You see the problem?  Yes.  How do you spell, P A D D I N G.

Even stranger for a filmmaker as skilled as Jackson, whole chunks of “The Hobbit” are told with endless scenes of yak-yakking, blah-blah-blah, exposition and ‘splaining, with actors sounding like they’re reading off huge descriptive chunks from the book. In a film, you don’t ‘splain, you show.  And you hold the unnecessary details to the minimum needed for coherence. The audience doesn’t  need to know the endless begats and begins and backstory; you only need to babble a bit about the Great Knights of the Nodding Trees, then get on with it. You’re not reading a book to the audience, you’re making a moving picture with the key word here being . . . moving. (To see how it’s done, go watch the original “Star Wars.”)  

As for the movie being suitable for kids?  No.  Instead of a clean, exciting quest adventure with exciting-scary orcs and trolls, a movie that would be suitable for kids (which is who Tolkein was writing “The Hobbit” for in the first place – his children ), Jackson, typical of modern fantasy filmmakers, has loaded up the screen with head-ripping violence, drooling, snot-dripping grotesqueries with every wart and wattle rendered in greatest detail, with camera-focus zeroing in on every dripping tongue, salvia-drenched tooth, and, of course, overwrought battle scenes that simply turn into visual chaos – can’t tell the dwarves from the orcs and after a few minutes, who cares?  Which is another result of Rococoization – when you fill every square inch of the screen with squirming images, instead of exciting action, you end up with a visually static frieze. 

Oddly, the use of 3-D did force Jackson to create one visually exciting scene that was a duplication of the ore car, roller-coaster ride in one of the Indiana Jones films – our heroes running and leaping and zooming through the orc’s huge caverns.  The necessity to take advantage of the 3-D effects forced Jackson to zero in on focused movement to track the characters, all of which helped create a hierarchy of movement and point of view.

In short, the movie was a bloated mess.  And instead of using pruning shears – Edit! Edit! Edit!—Jackson just kept adding endless scenes that looked like outtakes from the “Lord” trilogy – repeated infill shot from a zooming helicopter of  our hearty little troop of heroes scampering over hill and dale, utterly dwarfed by the rugged New Zeeland landscape.  Up loud heroic music.  Oy!

But all was not completely lost.  The price of admission was partially redeemed by the scene where Bilbo meets Gollum (and his “precioussss” ring of power).  It’s brilliantly realized, thanks to Andy Serkis and his extraordinary acting abilities.  Andy, wearing his motion-capture suit and face camera, has managed to create an extraordinary character and deliver an amazingly moving performance.  Gollum, pitiable, dangerous, heartbreaking, funny is one of the few characters in the film worth caring about.  Thanks to Serkis, he’s the most real fake character on the screen. That kind of extraordinary performance was first delivered by Serkis  in the “Lord” trilogy, as well as his astonishing turn as the lead ape in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and now “The Hobbit.”  Reason enough to hope that the stodgy Academy will finally understand that those performances weren’t “animation,” they were acting, and will give Serkis his much deserved Academy Award for best supporting actor.

Like another waterboarding session, parts II and III will lumber into town for the next two years to inflict their torture on the returning fans (and extract every last precioussss nickel from their pocketsessss.)  I suspect I may reluctantly drag myself to the theatre if only to see what Jackson has done with Smaug, the dragon. Knowing the wretched excesses he’s ladled on the orcs, I’m not heartened.  But Gollum will surely creep back into the remaining films and those scenes will be worth sitting through all the rest.       

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Laurie Lamon,  from "180 More, Extraordinary Poems for Every Day," an anthology of contemporary poetry selected and edited by Billy Collins.


I heard the dogs before
I opened the door late, after work --
first Maude who was dancing
in praise of my arrival for all she knew
it was; presence without end,
the end of waiting, the end
of boredom --

    and then Li Po,
who, in the middle of his life,
learning to make his feelings known
as one who has carried breath
and heart close to the earth seven
times seven years, in praise
of silence and loneliness, climbed
howling, howling from his bed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Winter's Time

Calhoun’s Cannons for Dec 18, 2012

The winter storm was warm and tropical.  In the yard the grapevine finally turned red and started to settle into its long winter’s nap only to have a sudden burst of summer heat arrive.  It’s now pushed out new green leaves thinking it is spring again, a dangerous mistake when the winter frosts finally arrive.

If they ever do. After all, a whole lot of people believe the world will end promptly at midnight Friday, which has got to have the gentle Maya wandering around their Yucatan corn fields snickering. “Silly Gringos.  Too many Apocalypses.  They must be in love with death.”

Well, grapevines and world endings, it has been another season out of sorts.  The country, too, has spent a few years upended and in the confusion failed to look around to see what it had become  -- a brave new world filled with women, Hispanics, African Americans, a whole lot of ticked off  newly un-prosperous working 47%ers and a new cohort of  the young, all of whom now form a glorious new rainbow majority of World Class Moochers.  Their political ascendancy was aided by a grand old party that also failed to look around and so descended into comic and massively funded irrelevancy.  Like the grapevine, the GOP mistook a permanent change for an anomaly.

Time is out of sorts for me, too.  I’m beginning to lose all sense of it.  Recently, a friend and I were discussing a project we had started together and I was shocked into silence to realize that we had been on that journey for six years.  Six?  I had absolutely lost all connection with the usual signposts of continuity and progression – this happened, then that happened, then this.  Instead, I no longer had a sense of when we had started and so had no real feeling for where we were now.  Six.  One.  Three.  It was all the same size.  She might have well reminded me we had been working together 40 years for all the difference it would have made.

It’s that same time compression I see when I look into the face of The Mighty Finn McCool. In my mind, he’s a gangly greyhound puppy, so it always brings me up short to see his face getting whiter, his step slower, the gimpy lurch of joints getting stiff and old. The same shock occurs when I look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that woman and how did she get into my house?” As for the rest, my life has become a blur interrupted by a flash of illuminations, all of them disconnected from any sense of linear time -- a life turned into a snapshot album.

The normal process of aging, I suppose.  All the boring stuff falls away and what remains are sharp, out-of-time tableaux.  I suspect this transformation explains why it was so easy to erase my life this summer when I gleefully cleaned out closets, purged file cabinets, dumped old photos, childhood mementos, souvenirs, slides, letters and paintings.  Out!  Out! They were no longer precious, sentimental items, things vitally connected to me, a part of my history.  Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, they had become dust-catchers and fodder for the silverfish. Out!

Far from being a depressing activity, this broom-sweeping effort was liberating and when I was done, I immediately thought of that lovely scene in “Harold and Maude,” when Harold gives Maude a sweet token of his affection and she promptly tosses it into the ocean.  Outraged, he asks why she did that and she calmly replies, “That’s so I’ll always know where it is.” 

And so it is with me.  The mementos and memories I want to save are already inside my head.  No need for so many hard copies. And when I can no longer remember even the few I have nestled in my brain, then it really will be time to go.

And so time slips by while we aren’t looking.  The darkness arrives and the winter stars wheel again into view.  We have made a hash of the natural world and it will exact its revenge on us.  Best to take our medicine stoically as we try to heal its wounds, for our children’s sake.

And for our own sakes as well, to keep living the message of love from a small child born in a stable.  Or the command of peace from a merchant who spoke to God in a cave. Or a young prince who sat under a Bodhi tree. Or to all the sages and wisdom-givers who remind us, if only once a year, that we are full of possibilities and light.  We only have to pay attention to see it gleaming, even on the darkest nights at the end of the world.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Before he recently died,  Jack Gilbert's  "Collected Poems," was published, more than fifty years of his work in one volume. It's a wonderful collection, in case you're looking for a fine Christmas gift. Here's a fine from the volume:

The Manager of Incidentals 

We are surrounded by the absurd excess of the universe.
By meaningless bulk, vastness without size,
power without consequence.  The stubborn iteration
that is present without being felt.
Nothing the spirit can marry.  Merely phenomenon
and its physics.  An endless, endless of going on.
No habitat where the brain can recognize itself.
No pertinence for the heart.  Helpless duplication.
The horror of none of it being alive.
No red squirrels, no flowers, not even weed.
Nothing that knows what season it is.
The starts uninflected by awareness.
Miming without implication.  We alone see the iris
in front of the cabin reach its perfection
and quickly perish.  The lamb is born into happiness
and is eaten for Easter.  We are blessed
with powerful love and it goes away.  We can mourn.
We live the strangeness of being momentary,
and still we are exalted by being temporary.
The grand Italy of meanwhile.  It is the fact of being brief,
being small and slight that is the source of our beauty.
We are a singularity that makes music out of noise
because we must hurry.  We make a harvest of loneliness
and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Move Along, Nothing To See Here

Twenty-six people are now dead in Newton, Conn, 20 of them little children in the Sandy Hook Grade School.  Shot dead by a 20-year-old man armed with high-load magazine pistols, those handy rapid-fire guns with their quick-load clips --such a useful weapon when you need to mow down little kids in huge numbers.

The President wiped away a small tear and called for a national dialogue.  Congressmen called for a "conversation" about guns.  The NRA placed a few leash-jerking calls to their wholly owned Congresspeople, making sure they're locked down tight.  A few people even called for placing more guns in the schools, arming teachers and principles.  Heck, why not carry permits for the kids. 

Gun registrations upped as Santa's Wish List spiked to include the buying MORE guns for Christmas. (The perfect gift!  Be sure to include lots of high-load magazines.) Pundits went on the air to ask, "How many kids must die before America comes to her senses?" ignoring the fact that Americans love their guns more than they do their children, so the number of kids dying is limitless.  Twenty? Forty? One hundred?  Not a problem.  Plus, America's highly competitive and right now, this killer failed to top the number killed at Virginia Tech rampage, so that record still needs to be beaten.  Twenty kids murdered only made it the second highest deadly rampage.  Not good enough.

All the boo-hooing will go on for a few days, our fake "national mourning," that makes us feel good while doing nothing to solve the problem.  Then it will be back to the same-old.

Except for the families in Newton.  And they don't count. 

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Dark Coda, Part II

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
                          T.S. Eliot

The death of 81-year-old Gewynn Taylor and the arrest of her husband, George, 86, which started as a mystery, is now unfolding as a tragically familiar horror show.  According to today's Tribune, George and his wife decided to commit suicide because George was feeling depressed.

It gets worse:  As the Tribune reports, the park ranger stopped George in Montana de Oro State Park at 11:30 p.m.  Gewynn's body was in the back seat, a plastic bag tightly fastened around her head.  George told the ranger that she "has been dead since sunset," that they had a suicide pact and that George had tried to cut his wrists and neck and suffocate himself, but it didn't work.

And when the ranger asked if "he or his wife had been ill, Taylor said they were both healthy," but that he had been depressed.

And there it was.

A. Alvarez, who wrote a book about suicide called "The Savage God," noted that "When anyone dies, they leave skeletons in their closets.  When a suicide dies, he leaves his skeleton in your closet." 
And so it has now unfolded in this case: A deadly folly a deux.  Age related physical deterioration. Mental illness in the form of depression.  A couple somehow locked into a false  paradigm that becomes a fearsome trap. Choices not made.  Chances missed. Desperate derangement. No way out. The line between romantic fantasy and reality slipping away down that dark slope of misperception and temporary insanity.  A terrible act done "while the balance of the mind is disturbed."

And then, the awful consequences.  George's wife died.  He didn't.  The love of his life is gone because he was depressed and now he remains behind with the self-inflicted consequences. And friends and family are left to ask, "What did we miss?  What clues were there that we didn't see?  Could we have somehow intervened?  How did we miss this? Surely, this didn't have to happen. Surely, surely, this couldn't possibly have been what the Taylor's wanted. Not this horrorshow.

But there it is.  And that sound you hear?  That is The Savage God, snickering.  He knows well, we've been watching too many romantic movies.  Romeo and Juliet is fiction.  Real suicide is brutal, ugly, desperate, savage, messy.  It's full of fury and rage and fear and sadness.  It's also very hard to do because it's so unpredictable. Knives hurt. Guns misfire. Pills get vomited up. Cars crash wrong.  Wreckage everywhere and still we live.  Yet this God's pound of agony will be exacted.  His nightmare penalties will be paid.  By everyone.  There is no good ending when the mind and spirit breaks and clouded brains mistake a fake scenario for reality.  No good ending.

In one of his books, satirist Kurt Vonnegut has a character dealing with a disaster beyond comprehension and the only solace to be offered is a pat on the shoulder and a murmured, "There, there."

Two pointless words for a pointless deed that is beyond redemption, beyond explanation, beyond expiation, and the only thing left is a simple human touch, a point of contact, a wordless pat for all our fragile fellow creatures.

There, there. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dark Coda

I was heading towards Trader Joe's to buy groceries for a friend who was coming home from the rehab hospital with a busted knee-cap, listening to the radio, when Bill Benica read the snippet of the news that a George Taylor had been arrested.  I rather dumbly thought, "Hmm, that's odd.  Must be another guy named George Taylor in the county," until Bill also noted that Gewynn Taylor, his wife, had been found dead out at Montana de Oro and George had been arrested and taken to jail. 

At that, my only response was a stunned, blank, "Whaaattt?"

I had known the Taylors almost from the first day I moved here in 1984 and, like all Los Ososians, got involved in the many Sewer Wars.  Right in the midst of almost anything having to do with Los Osos and/or any and all water, land, open space, good governance issues large and and small, there were the Taylors. They became a fixture at CSD meetings and BOS meetings, as well as being involved in many local community projects.  To some they were "community activists," to others, "gadflies." Either way, they were fierce "Civic Warriors," a constant presence in public matters, a pair of citizens who were always present and involved and speaking out for years and  years.

And, like all of us, while they were not getting any younger, they were still out and about.  Indeed, I remember seeing them at the Christmas Vocal Arts performance only a week ago.  While George was looking very frail (at 86, to be expected), both of them were smiling and looked like they were enjoying the evening. 

And now Gewynn is dead and George is in jail, engulfed in a world of unimaginable pain, a nightmare of horror that I would never wish on anyone, accused of some sort of murder/suicide pact.  The police are investigating, the neighbor's are puzzled, the community is filled with shock and speculation, and friends and family are stunned and confused and left to untangle this mystery.

And of this mystery, I can tell you that when the investigation is completed and a more comprehensive narrative unfolds, when this sad drama finally plays out, with no possible good ending in sight, when all will be said and done, those friends and family will be left with a permanent sorrow because, ultimately, there will be no good explanations.  There will be understanding, perhaps, there may even be forgiveness and peace, but there will never be any real answers to a mystery that goes to the dark, irrational tangle of the human heart.


Monday, December 10, 2012

It's A Wonderful Life

If you're looking for a great way to start the holiday season, head over to the San Luis Little Theatre ( . Box office: 786-2440, Box office hours: Tues - Fri 11-2pm, Sat. 2-4 pm. ) for a wonderful performance of "It's a Wonderful Life." 

Director Lisa Woske has designed a very clever re-staging of this holiday movie classic so that it's a cross between a "reading" and stage play, using a variety of steps and platforms for staging different scenes. If you've ever seen minimalist stagings of "Our Town," with chairs on the stage as the only props, you'll get the idea.  It works beautifully in this production since this script is so well known that there's little need for anything elaborate in order to tell the story.

All the actors are wonderful, with Chad Stevens doing a great job as George Bailey and Michael Siebrass having a glorious time playing the evil, conniving Mr. Potter . It's a grand cast, a wonderful story and a great way to start your holiday.  Don't miss it.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Judith Kerman, from "Poetry 180," edited by Billy Collins and part of the poetry 180 project.

In Tornado Weather

wet-ash light
blows across the road
I'm driving with my foot to the floor
sixty miles over flat midwestern highway
driving to hear poetry
the sky ready
to boil over, a lid clamped on
the pressure drops
flattens the landscape further
I watch the horizon for state troopers
think of the wind:
one hundred miles to the west it has
sliced the top off a hospital
smashed two miles of Kalamazoo
nothing anyone will read tonight
is wild enough

Friday, December 07, 2012

Oh, now Rita.

The latest County scandal du jour involving Supervisor Gibson has turned into a slow Death By Muddlement, drip, drip, drip.  First came the announcement that he had been sleeping with his aide, but that was nobody's business, so move along.  Then the County twisted itself into a pretzel to cover it's behind and announce, "nothing to see here, move along."  The lapdog Tribune, a paper that never passed up a chance to curry favor with the powers that be, fell all over itself in failing to ask the necessary questions and settled, instead, for expressing editorial  "disappointment" in Gibson's behavior, while dribbling out bits of story that contained delightful, contradictory nonsense.

Case in point was December 5th story by Bob Cuddy who wrote that County Counsel Rita Neal said that "Bruce Gibson violated no policy, misused no money and did not expose the county to any significant legal liability."

Misused no money?  Really?

The money allocated for legislative aides is to pay aides to, well, do "legislative aide" work for the Supervisors.  The job is a direct hire, at-will position, under the direct control of the Supervisor.  It is not an interchangeable county job, with the County being the "employer."  So, that budget item wasn't allocated to pay Aides to go work in another office doing entirely different duties.  Yet Mr. Cuddy's story makes clear that Ms. Aspiro, Gibson's love interest and former aide, "is still an employee of Gibson's, on temporary assigment, earning $68,890, which is paid from the Board of Supervisor's budget."  And that "Gibson is functioning without a legislative aide and has not been interviewing prospective replacements . . ." And "It is not clear who is doing that position's work -- the aides of other supervisors, or Gibson himself."

So, let's recap here:

1) Ms. Aspiro is still getting paid from the Supervisor's budget, which was specifically allocated for legislative aides
2) but she is not doing the work she was specifically hired and paid to do
3) and she is still an employee of Gibson's.

Isn't this where we came into this story? Gibson sleeping with his employee who's still his employee? But now it's suddenly O.K because she moved to another office and continues to not do the work she was hired to do?

Yet County Counsel Rita Neal states that Gibson "misused no money?"  Really?  And Cuddy doesn't ask the obvious followup questions his own article raised, while the Tribune's editorial the next day overlooked those same questions (doesn't anybody at the Tribune read their own paper?) and wrote one of their infamous editorials, known as The Bland Dismissives:  Yes, Yes, very disappointing, but it's time to move along now, so shut up and stop asking questions, case closed.

In other words, pure SLOTOWN! at its finest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

When You Want It Done Right, Call the CCC’s

Rain.  All day.  Rain.  And in the off-leash dog park at El Chorro Park, piles of mulch and wood chips. all generously donated by Davey Tree Service, Greenvale Tree Company, Coastal Tree Experts and the County tree crews.  Piles and piles.  Huge behemoths, mountain high piles as far as the eye can see.  All of which had to be spread over the ground of the dog park.

And standing there with a few pitchforks were a handful of dog park volunteers.  Dismayed.  Overwhelmed by the mountains of mulch when, suddenly, the white CCC van pulled into the parking lot.  And out piled 15 young professionals, dressed in bright rain slickers, who unpacked their equipment, and with nary a word started in to work.

CCC at dog park 007


CCC at dog park 008

Modeled after the original federal Conservation Corps in 1933, the California Conservation Corps was signed into law in 1976 by then-Governor Brown who envisioned the Corps as “a combination Jesuit Seminary, Israeli kibbutz and Marine Corps boot camp.”

CCC at dog park 009

The Corps became a permanent state department in 1983 and the young men and women have been living up to its motto ever since: "Hard work, low pay, and miserable conditions.”

CCC at dog park 006

Which, of course, results in fabulous conservation work all over the state.  Our local Los Padres Corps, with Meggan Gehring as the team leader, is located at Camp San Luis and is constantly involved throughout the county in trail rehabilitation and construction, fire hazard reduction, tree and  native plant restoration, park development and watershed work at the Morro Bay Estuary. So, when you see the C’s at work, honk and wave, or stop and say Thank You.  They’re making your public places beautiful.

CCC at dog park 010

By the end of the afternoon, the results were in: 130++ cubic yards of wood chips spread and a total of 110 hours of volunteer time put in to keep the dog park up and running and ready public use for another year.

El Chorro Dog Park was built 11 years ago and is maintained by SLO-4-PUPs and all the wonderful volunteers who do the hard work involved in keeping it so beautiful.  And this workday was no exception, except everyone went above and beyond duty, including Karyn, who replaced some of the damaged boards on the picnic tables, a tricky job even in dry weather.  And our wonderful volunteer mulch hurlers:

CCC at dog park 017Addie

CCC at dog park 018Wes and Valerie
CCC at dog park 019Trevor

And one Inspector General reviewing the work.  The ever loyal  . . . and very wet . . . Lucky

CCC at dog park 013

A big thank you to everyone.  And if you haven’t visited the El Chorro Do Park, stop by.  You’ll see what wonderful things can be accomplished with a whole lot of helping hands.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Shortly after being appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2001, Billy Collins created a website,   to give young people "the notion that poetry can be a part of everyday life as well as a subject to be studied in the classroom.  On the website, I ask high school teachers and administrators to adopt the program by having a new poem read every day -- one for each of the roughly 180 days of the school year -- as part of the public announcements," either read over a PA system or in school assembly or in each class.  The idea was that students could hear poetry daily without feeling it was something to be "studied," just enjoyed for the pleasure it brought.

Those poem have been collected into two wonderful paperbacks edited by Collins, called, "Poetry 180" and "180 More." They feature a wide variety of new voices, all brought together in two volumes, so you too can have a poem a day. This one is from "180 More" and is by David Graham.

The Dogs in Dutch Paintings

How shall I not love them, snoozing
right through the Annunciation?  They inhabit
the outskirts of every importance, sprawl
dead center in each oblivious household.

They're digging at fleas or snapping at scraps,
dozing with nobel abandon while a boy
bells their tails.  Often they present their rumps
in the foreground of some martyrdom.

What Christ could lean so unconcernedly
against a table leg, the feast above continuing?
Could the Virgin in her joy match this grace
as a hound sagely ponders an upturned turtle?

No scholar at his huge book will capture
my eye so well as the skinny haunches,
the frazzled tails and serene optimism
of the least of these mutts, curled

in the corners of the world's dazzlement.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hold the Gravy, Pass Me My Credit Card

 Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for Nov 29, 12

Once again, the wringing of hands, the brow-wrinkling concern, the dire prognosticators decrying stores that opened their doors on Thanksgiving night.  Outrageous! thunders The Church-of-TV-Punditry-Gasbags.  We’re destroying our American Values, we’re being overtaken by soul-eating commercialism!  Halloween’s barely over, the Kandy Korn is still stuck in our teeth, and here come the Christmas decorations and Big Sale door-busters! Is nothing sacred anymore?

Ah, but we Americans do love our fake nostalgia.  In all our heads we carry the dream of The Great American Tradition – The Perfect Thanksgiving, straight out of Hollywood and a Norman Rockwell magazine cover, the family gathered around the huge white linen-covered table, Granny bringing in the perfect turkey.  The warm sun is pouring into the dining room through lace curtains.  Uncle Fred and Aunt Sarah and Mom and Dad are there.  Little Timmy and Tammy are all brushed up, their unruly cowlicks laying flat, nice and clean in their Sunday best and are gathered around, eyes on the turkey, tummies rumbling with anticipation. 

Soon, the feast will begin, the soft voices of a family sharing stories and decorous laughter rising above the clink of silverware on china.  And when all are replete, the family will retire to the parlor to spend the rest of the lazy Autumn day chatting or playing board games while the men folk doze in the big armchairs and the women folk share gossip and do the washing up.  Later, the kids will go out to play some touch football on the lawn. And towards evening, everyone will take a few moments to think about what a great country they live in and how important it is to spend family time together, and how much they all have to be thankful for. 


In the real world, the busy family stopped eating together years ago.  It’s been food-on-the-fly for ages, and if they were forced to sit at table together for more than 10 minutes, everyone would consider that to be a cruel torture.  At some point, even Granny stopped cooking on the holidays years ago (“I did Thanksgiving for 30 years and I’m not doing it anymore.”), the family’s gone vegan and that’s a Tofurky on the table. Uncle Fred’s fallen off the wagon and is now face down in the mashed potatoes.  Aunt Sarah is hissing at him (“I could have married a doctor years ago, but Nooo, I had to go and marry you!”). Timmy and Tammy are sullenly slouched down in their chairs, their noses buried in their iPhones and furiously texting their friends, wishing to God they were somewhere – anywhere else than here (“OMG! This sucks! What R U doing?”), while Dad has escaped to the living room with his buddies and they’re parked in front of the big screen TV watching football and drinking beer.

In short, dinner’s over in a flash and the family is bored silly and desperate to get away from each other as fast as possible.  And what better way to do that but head to the mall?

It’s the perfect combination: The atomized family, adrift from old fashioned tradition and rigid social restraints, desperate for constant stimulation and entertainment, all gleefully swimming in the vast American Sea of Mass Consumption.  

So starting the new tradition of a Mall ThanksChristgiving seems like a winner.  No need to spend boring time with one another, there’s plenty of excitement and novelty for everyone, tons of instant gratification provided by credit cards, and if anyone misses the thrill of violence formerly provided by football games, consider the recent WalMart/BestBuy riots, the wonderful real-time thrill of dangerous crowd crush, head-butts, elbow-slams, and even gunshots from armed shoppers.   

So I say to the gasbag decriers of the death of tradition:  Zip it.  Americans are always re-inventing their traditions.  It’s what we do. Norman Rockwell’s dead. Get over it. Time for a new holiday: The Great Winter Buy-A-Thon.

That’s when, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, Americans of all ages, will gather together, credit cards securely tucked into their pockets right next to the Glock and their smart phones, a backpack full of turkey sandwiches slung over their shoulders, (O Pioneers!) and head with their fellow Americans to the Malls of America for one of two glorious days of shopping and shooting togetherness, a spectacular blow-out of happily harvesting vast quantities of  unnecessary crap that will end up in the landfill come January 1st.

Can you think of anything more American than that?     

Monday, November 26, 2012

Don't Make Me Get The Flying Monkeys

Run.  No, better yet, fly down to the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, CPA (  ), at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria to catch their Holiday presentation of "The Wizard of Oz," now playing until Dec 26. 

I have never seen a bad performance at PCPA and their holiday presentations are always something even more special.  This year is no exception.  All your favorite Ozian characters are here, including the original music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. And even better, (and what could be more suitable to the Ozian material?), they've added the most amazing puppets (including Toto) designed by Emily DeCola of New York's Puppet Kitchen.  She also created the puppets designs that were so beautifully utiltzed in PCPA's  "My Fairytale," an original musical about Hans Christian Anderson's life that was presented a few years ago.

 There is something so utterly magical about puppets in a theatre piece.  The audience must push the "willing suspension of disbelief" even further into the realm of magic and childlike delight. As Ms. DeCola noted, "There is a co-creation that takes place whenever you ring a puppet on stage, wherein, the audience and performer are both 'believing' something into existence.  As an audience, it's rewarding because puppetry ups the ante in terms of asking the audience to become more creatively involved in the work taking place on stage." Add in the always clever, often astonishing set decoration and incredibly skillful lighting and costumes, and you've got an absolutely enchanting piece of theatre.

So, do yourself a favor, give yourself a real Christmas gift, and don't miss this one.  It's fantastic.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This lovely piece is by Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Dennis from his collection, "New and Selected poems; 1974-2004"


In the fading photograph of the pleasure boat
The pleasure-seekers, dressed in their Sunday best,
Crowd all three decks, women in sun hats
Pausing to chat with bearded men in derbies
Who lean on the rail, listening to the band.

On shore, the quiet farms slide by.  Here and there
A cluster of low houses, a river town.  The sun
Shines overhead.  Everyone looks willing to be interested,
Pointing to the inlets and islands, recalling their names,
Though many have boarded the boat nudged by a friend,
By a promise to a child, though the children are already lost,
Crying with their dolls in the passageways.

It's only because they're long dead
That they all look sad.  But some must be happy.
Some must refuse to envy the boats in front
Or look back on the boats behind and sigh.
The ride is no empty promise to them
of a better ride to come, and no omen of a worse.
Whatever they expected to be shown is here.

Whatever lies behind the water, the sun, the air,
The uniforms of the band, is too imperfect to be be seen,
Unfinished, still composing its face in the dark,
Waiting, as this moment waited, below deck
Till the Sunday comes when it's ready to appear.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks Giving

A few days ago, while I was in the garage, I heard some fluttering noises. It was a hummingbird.  He had gotten himself lost in the garage and was desperately and futilely trying to escape through the little window panes in the roll-up garage door.

The dogs had alerted to the sound and their noses were pointing up at the little windows in full hunting mode.  Since Zuri, the Sloughi, is a fierce hunter and a pretty good jumper when motivated, I quickly hustled all the dogs into the house, opened the door to the garage, turned off the lights and got a broom to try to shoo the little guy out the door.

No such luck.  He zoomed up into the dusty rafters and hid, ignoring the open door and my waving broom.  So I gave up, rolled down the garage door, opened the back door (which is how he got in) and let him be and went back into the house.

A short time later I heard the fluttering again, this time at the front living room windows.  Once again, hustled the dogs out the door, turned out all the lights, opened the front door and got out the broom, but the hummer was having none of it and flew around the room several times before crashing into the kitchen window and slumping down to the sink.

I quickly grabbed a tea towel, crept up, tossed it over him and gently scooped him up, fearful he'd bolt out and start the desperate chase all over again.  But he was totally spent, his tiny feet tangled in sticky cobwebs and dust, exhausted.  Since I had no idea how long he had been trapped, it's likely he hadn't eaten for some time and his reserves were probably on zero.

I gently carried him outside, still clutched in the towel, and started peeling away the cobwebs from his exquisite little clawed feet. When I had gotten enough of the stuff off, I pulled the towel away from his head.  He lay there, his jeweled throat glowing magenta, but made no move to leave.

Suddenly he must have gotten oriented and leaped from my hands and fluttered clumsily into the nearest bush, his left wing akimbo.  Suddenly sick at heart, I thought he might have broken his wing.  But after a minute, he fluffed and shook himself and his wing fell into place.  He then looked around and made a bee line for the feeder, landed on the perch -- belly up to the bar -- and proceeded to stand there and suck down that life-saving nectar.

Then, in all his fierce, fragile beauty, he flew off to the huge coyote bush, safe once again in his territory, focused once again on the business of living.

On this day, my list of things to be thankful for will be a long, long list.  And right at the top will be the memory of the sudden, life-claiming flight of that determined little bird who burst out from a dark, scary place into the bright light of day. 

There is craft in this smallest insect,
With strands of web spinning out his thoughts;
In his tiny body finding rest,
And with the wind lightly turning.
Before the eaves he stakes out his broad earth;
For a moment on the fence top lives through his life.
When you know that all beings are even thus,
You will know what creation is made of.
                         Sugaware no Michizane

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Really? Bruce Too II?

Awww, ya gotta be kidding me.  Tuesday Tribune headlines:  "County mulls a code of behavior," and states,  "In the wake of an affair between county Supervisor Bruce Gibson and his legislative aide, a pair of key county officials say it is time to develop a code of conduct that would regulate such behavior."

Gee, ya think? 

Let's consider:  Two years ago, Supervisor Gibson had a front row seat when he presided over and voted to fire County Administrator Dave Edge for his e-mail involvement in the Gail Wilcox Hot Mess mess.  Up close and personal, he read the investigator's expensive, tax-payer financed report, with all the juicy details that ensue when people start Walking While Stupid, none of which involved Edge sleeping with anyone not his wife, by the way.  Furthermore, the Tribune notes that Gibson is "chairman of CSAC's [County Supervisors Association of California] government and operations policy committee, which deals with, among other things, employee relations. (emphasis mine.) I know of no government office that officially approves of a boss sleeping with his employee.  Indeed, it's generally understood that that's a really, really bad idea and is universally cautioned against.  Yet none of these things stopped Supervisor Gibson from sleeping with the legislative aide he hired.

Which means 1) Supervisor Gibson feels he is above any and all behavior norms, codes of conduct, or even common sense.  Or 2) Supervisor Gibson is incapable of learning anything from context and so is greatly in need of a list of clearly spelled out rules, such as, "Do Not Stick A Pencil In Your Eye," "Do Not Step Into The Open Door Of An Empty Elevator Shaft,"and "Do Not Have Sex With Your Subordinates."

So, yes, Board of Supervisors, please do let's get a Code.  It's too late to stop this particular horse's ass from bolting from the barn, but maybe it'll help other context-challenged Supervisors and/or employees.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Really? Bruce, too?

Oh Lord, it must be something in the water.  General Pretaeus all over the news for committing adultery and now our very own 2nd District County Supervisor, Bruce Gibson, turned out to be another middle-aged egotistical fool who carried on a secret affair with a woman who was not his wife, but was his legislative aide, a woman he interviewed and then hired and then slept with for a good long while, and when the secret was about to get out, he finally got around to telling his wife, then went public to claim it was all a matter of the heart and claim, with that typical smothering Gibsonian cascade of oleoagineous words, that he was chagrined most of all by the “breach of trust that [he] caused to occur with my constituents,”  and because this “relationship and my concealment of it will cause people to question my integrity.”

Bruce Gibson’s constituents trust him and believe he has integrity?  Really?

In General Pretaeus’ case, he least had the integrity to resign, but in Gibson’s case, the poor voters have no such luck.  Instead, the County went into a well practiced CYA dance.  Staff spent gazillions of tax-payer-financed hours combing through all of Gibson and Ms.Cherie Aispuro’s emails and travel vouchers to see if they could glean anything that might stick them with a sexual harassment lawsuit.  And then, because the county doesn’t have a written policy prohibiting such boss/employee canoodling, instead of firing Ms. Aispuro for Walking while Stupid (sleeping with your boss and thereby creating a “hostile workplace"), it raced to make sure Ms. Aispuro was given another job in another department at her nice cushy $68,890 salary, again to ward off any possible later lawsuits by Ms. Aispuro who might decide that while Gibson remained untouched in the Cat Bird Seat (no paper bag over the head for him! He's likely getting himself groomed for a run at higher office!), she had just been given the bum’s rush, and now that her reputation and career are permanently in the toilet, she might decide to Call Her Lawyer.
Well, in this county, that’s how it’s done.

As for Gibson, he’ll remain in office, and no doubt spend his last two years boring everyone to death with self-justification whining or slip into his endless stem-winding, Explain-It-All-For-You  Supervisorial from-the- dais lecture a constant stream of defensive references to how much integrity he has, thereby causing everyone within the sound of his voice to roll their eyes and mumble, “Sure,sure, Bruce, sure, whatever you say.”

But the evidence speaks for itself.  Like all Pols, Bruce has been betraying one group of constituents or another from the day he took office -- promise X, deliver Y, then defensively deny or weasle away from the cold-blooded pre-planned switch. The fact that this comes far too easily to Bruce speaks directly to both character and integrity. 

And, as for matters of the heart, a man of integrity cleans up his messy love life before embarking on an affair of the heart .  A man with no integrity double-deals as long as he can get away with it, and only when discovery is nigh does he cover his egotistical, lying ass by exposing his mistress to scorn and hanging his wife out to dry.

Then goes to the local newspaper to speak of “integrity” and “trust.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

One of my favorite poets, Jack Gilbert, died recently.  In a cruel twist of what he likely would see as poetic irony, he died of Alzheimer's,  a cruel, slow erasure for a man whose genius and soul was composed of words.  Luckily, in 2009, Knopf published his "Collected Poems, which gathered his five original collections (some of which were out of print),  plus some new work, so at least his extraordinary voice would not be lost to the world. Gilbert's work had magnitude, and I am grateful for the gift of it to the world.

If you're unfamiliar with his work, please go get a copy of "Refusing Heaven," which is a good place to start and was the Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.  It's out in paperback so is very affordable.  

This poem, one of my all time favorites, says it all. 

A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere.  Slaughter everywhere.  If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else.  With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the morning before summer dawn would not
be made so fine.  The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well.  The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick.  There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight.  Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.  To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island; the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Koff, Koff

Sunday and Monday, Nov. 18 and 19, Ken Burns' new documentary on The Dust Bowl will run on PBS.  It's running in two, two-hour blocks (check your local listings) on both days and will cover the epic disaster as only Ken Burns can.  And if you want to read more about it, try "The Worst Hard Time," by Timothy Egan.

And if you think you already know everything you need to know about the Dust Bowl, trust me;  You don't.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Terminex Time

Calhoun’s Cannons for November 13 2012

Termites.  Zombie termites.  Whack one over the head and you think that’ll take care of the problem but then you turn around and there he is again, softly munching on the door frame.  

Just like Karl Rove, the brain behind George Bush, the genius behind the Super PAC Crossroads GPS, the darling strategist of the Republicans.  It’s election night on Fox News and Karl was just hit over the head with a huge, thick, heavy book full of numbers; polling numbers, voting numbers, actual facts, and outside-the-bubble reality.  Thwock!

And still Karl wasn’t getting it. Clearly, not getting it.  Instead he was denying those numbers, and rattling off other numbers, happier numbers, Republican numbers that would show his client winning.  Until news anchor Megyn Kelly turned to him and said, right out loud, on air, on Fox News, straight from the belly of the Great Republican BS Bubble Machine, “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?”

And there it was.  From the mouth of a babe.  Brave, pretty Megyn.  The whole Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly ginned up Republican BS Bubble Machine finally exposed, the Ozian curtain pulled aside to reveal all the termites munching away. “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?”

And suddenly, the jig was up, that years-long circle jerk of creepy old very well paid white guys (and several helmet-haired skinny blonds with fierce, rictus smiles) stroking and fueling one another with made up crap, pumped up on faux anger, fake numbers, heating themselves up into a sweaty frenzy of wacko conspiracy theories, racial dog whistle music, and Onanistic misogyny – all those Mexicans! Those Sluts! Those blacks who just want stuff! The moochers are coming! The moochers are coming!

Until it all came crashing down around the King of the Universe, gut stuck by pretty little Megyn and the mooching voters.  

Now, in a sane world, Karl, Sean, Rush, O’Reilly, et all would put paper bags over their heads and slink away in disgrace.  Mainstream newspapers would return their Op/Eds with a courteous, cool No Thank You.  Viewers would snort through their noses and change the channel.  But we don’t live in a sane world.  We live in a Zombie Termite world and shortly after Karl’s amazing sputter on election night, there he was in the Murdochian Wall Street Journal, holding forth in all his brazen punditry.  No shame.  No paper bag.  And from Right Wing World, not a guffaw, not even the hint of a snigger at these guys or a demand from sane Republicans for somebody to, please God, get them off the stage – they’re killing us!

Nope, not a bit of it. Instead, Hannity went on the air to rail at voters for voting for Obama, Bill O’Reilly whined about a world filled with people who just “wanted stuff,” and Rush Limbaugh simply had a complete meltdown – off the rails and utterly flummoxed by his self-created cognitive dissonance and blubbering at the prospect that his own privately invented Apocalypse was at hand. 

Then all of them started blaming the media.  And from their Poobah Pundit Lips came not a whisper of a horrifying possibility:  That America had heard all that the Great Right Wing Republican BS Machine had to say and politely said, No Thanks. That there just might be another reality that consisted of voters who were finally onto the Great Con that had been run on them for 30 years by those same pundits.  And that now, busted, their economy looted, their country beggared and themselves dispossessed, they finally woke up and pulled aside the curtain.    

But if you think you’ve seen the last of Rove and all the other discredited “talking heads” on the media circuit, well you’re out of luck.  Karl and the rest won’t go away. Like all the other official go-to yakkers on the Sunday Morning News Gab Fests, they’ve become a permanent fixture, an interchangeable troop of well paid character actors who appear weekly to play Discredited Democratic Hack arguing with Discredited Republican Hack, on what pretends to be a “news” show presided over by another actor pretending to be a “journalist, all interspersed by commercials for Depends and Mountain Dew.  And not a paper bag in sight. Or a Terminex guy.

World without end.  Thwock!     

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Mary de La Valette, from a lovely anthology: "Life Prayers: 365 Prayers, Blessings and Affirmations to Celebrate the Human Journey," collected from around the world by Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon, who also edited "Earth Prayers."

I do not have to go
To Sacred Places
In far-off lands.
The ground I stand on
Is holy.

Here, in this little garden
I tend
My pilgrimage ends.
The wild honeybees
the hummingbird moths
The flickering fireflies at dusk
Are a microcosm
Of the Universe.
Each seed that grows
Each spade of soil
Is full of miracles.

And I toil and sweat
And watch and wonder
And am full of love.
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty
Dwell here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Question, Part II

Calhoun’s Cannons for Nov 7, 2012

Ah, blessed silence.  No more political ads.  No more robocalls.  Silence. 

No, wait.  I spoke too soon.  Can you hear it?  That awful moaning, that eerie muffled shrieking, the boiling, rumbling, growling rage thundering almost, but not quite, out of hearing range. It’s the minions of Rush Limbaugh, old white guys, radical anti-science, anti-modernity, anti-government wing nuts who have hijacked the Republican party, plus the near entirety of the white South (and who said the Confederacy was defeated?).  And I don’t think they’re very happy.

I can certainly understand that fury.  When you live in a Fake Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Frank Luntz/Donald Trump created bubble long enough, pretty soon you get to thinking that’s reality.  Then something like this comes along and it’s all, Woa! You mean the rest of the country doesn’t think President Obama is the Anti-Christ Muslim Kenyan Socialist Hitler who’s going to turn all our children gay, kill all our grannies in his ObamaCare “death panels,” and then declare America to be a colony of surrender-monkey France?

Guess not.  Quel shock.  But Democrats shouldn’t be going all giddy and waving big foam #1 fingers in the air.  Winning an election is one thing.  Governing is quite another.  And there remains one HUGE question to be answered.

In his concession speech, Governor Romney called on Americans to “pray” for the re-elected President.  While prayers are always nice, what went missing from that speech was the exhortation to his fellow Republicans to stop their mindless stonewalling and get back to the work they were elected to do. 

Which means that there remains One Key Question that this election has still left unanswered:  Will the Republican leadership, Mitch McConnell and the various Young Turks, Paul Ryan, included, once again meet behind closed doors to swear to one another that their one overriding agenda for the next four years is to once again block anything the President and their Democratic colleagues propose? 

In short, will the Republicans in Congress double-down as Rocks in the Road once again or decide to sniff the (real) air, read the (reality-based) tea leaves, and start to engage in the hard, messy work of actually governing?

Which involves compromise, pragmatic hold-your-nose deal-making and, above all, requires that politicians stop believing their own fake PR, made-up wishful thinking, and reality-free ideology. I mean, if hurricane Sandy had one lesson to deliver it was this:  Magical thinking and reality-free ideology doesn’t stop storm surges and howling winds.  

Here in California, there are some signs that reality is modestly returning while Grover Norquists’ blood-oath, evil-grip siren-song (We don’t need to raise taxes to pay for anything.) seems to be lessening.  As of this writing, Governor Brown’s initiative to vote to actually tax ourselves in order to keep our schools from bleeding out looks like it may well pass. Amazing.

And prompts another question: Is it possible that Battered Wife Nation, Suicide Nation, a country that somehow allowed itself to be convinced that it didn’t deserve to live in a decent society, that it was o.k. to gut its middle-class and move its jobs offshore in order to move all that nice profit up to the 1% while leaving the 99% with crumbs, that its kids didn’t deserve a future, that its working poor and most vulnerable should be tossed to the wolves since they were nothing but freeloaders and bums, has suddenly decided that they deserve better after all?

If so, then late being better than never, maybe prayers are in order.  Prayers of thanks

Garage Sale for Doggies

SLO-4-PUPs, the volunteer group that started and maintains the El Chorro Off Leash Dog Park (at El Chorro Park, across from Cuesta College) is having a fund-raising GARAGE SALE.

 Saturday and Sunday, Nov 10 & 11 from 8 a.m. - 3 at 915 Mesa St. in Morro Bay

Loads of great Christmas ornaments, decorations, as well as other wonderful stuff.  So, come early and get some great bargains with the proceeds going to help support the dog park.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

A good day to share a little Wislawa Szymborska, from, "Monologue of a Dog."


I'd have to be really quick
to describe clouds --
a split second's enough
for them to start being something else.

Their trademark:
they don't repeat a single
shape, shade, pose, arrangement.

Unburdened by memory of any kind,
they float easily over the facts.

What on earth could they bear witness to?
They scatter whenever something happens.

Compared to clouds,
life rests on solid ground,
practically permanent, almost eternal.

Next to clouds
even a stone seems like a brother,
someone you can trust,
while they're just distant, flighty cousins.

Let people exist if they want,
and then die, one after another:
clouds simply don't care
what they're up to
down there.

And so their haughty fleet
cruises smoothly over your whole life
and mine, still incomplete.

They aren't obliged to vanish when we're gone.
They don't have to be seen while sailing on.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Question

Calhoun’s Cannons for November 3, 2012

It’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
     Upton Sinclair

O.K. Congress, The Question: Is New Jersey wet enough for you?

It’s a fair question for an elective body that is filled with Climate Deniers, including some of whom are serving on, of all things, the science and energy committees. Really?  Science Committees?  Only in America.  

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, already has an answer.  Ditto, New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg and so, I suspect, does Republican New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, who originally stumped for climate-change derider, Mitt Romney.  But now Christie’s standing next to President Obama and no doubt thanking his lucky stars that Mitt Romney didn’t get a chance to defund and privitize FEMA.  Well, of all the governors and mayors in America, who better than these guys to start  coming up with answers to that basic question.

In the great Blizzard of 1888, New York was totally paralyzed and decided that it had better put all its utilities and a good chunk of its transportation underground so as to not get caught again by snow.  So it dug tunnels and subway tubes and criss-crossed its landscape with what are basically huge underground pipes that are now filled up with water.

Water.  Rain and storm surge from a rising sea level, all of which arrived last week and will continue to arrive with increasingly ferocious regularity.  Unlike their Washington counterparts, Cuomo, and Bloomberg and, I suspect, Christie get it.  And are now finally discussing the obvious – New Jersey has now become our New Normal and we’d better deal with it.

Which is a shocking statement of fact that had a good many conservative Washington Pols twittering nervously.  The House of The Koch Brothers is a flimsy carbon burning structure that stays alive only because of our corrupt and corrupting election processes.  Pols gotta dance with them what bought ‘em and nobody pays better than Big Oil and Coal.  So it’s no wonder that so much of Congress is blind, willfully blind, embarrassingly blind, destructively blind, hiding in the closet with their money and their eyes scrunched shut, thinking the storms won’t find them there.

And now here comes The Guvs and the Mayors, like some kind of modern day Alice in Wonderland pointing out the obvious – Your house, my house, all our houses are nothing but a pack of cards.  They cannot hold. 

The Pentagon figured that out a few years ago.  They’ve been writing White papers for some time detailing exactly how Global Climate Change is a severe national security threat.  The Seabees know about pipes and tunnels and sea surges and high ground.  They’ve been looking at the coasts of America and what they’ve been seeing for some time now is New Jersey, writ large. 

Ditto for the insurance companies.  More quiet samizdat White Papers have been making the rounds: Private insurance companies are realizing that they cannot cover their bets, cannot afford to keep writing paper like they have been, too many “at risk” properties, too many “pre-existing conditions,” too many “New Jerseys” and “fire-stormed” Colorados and “crop-loss” Iowas.  Which means that Americans will soon find that they will no longer be “in safe hands,” and the fine print in their various insurance policies will start getting smaller, more expensive, and more convoluted until translated into the obvious:  Sorry, we no longer cover that . . . whatever it is . . .  and neither does any insurance company in the world.   

Welcome to Climate Change America. Where pivoting seriously to non-carbon burning energy will be expensive while NOT pivoting will be even more expensive, because, one way or the other, Mother Nature will be paid.

And so the Question to Congress. Is New Jersey finally wet enough for you?