Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Local Author as Exemplar

Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.  And local writer, Anne Allen, is living proof of that.  As outlined in yesterday's Tribune column ("By the Bay by Judy Salamacha"), Anne 's writing career got started, then stalled and stalled as the writing world kept changing.  Small publishing houses and small, independent bookstores went the way of the dodo, mega-giant publishers galloped like lemmings to the next big thing -- Vampires!  Vampires AND Zombies -- thereby bypassing so many, many mid-level writers with wonderful non-zombie books left sitting in the dust.

To keep sane and keep her writing brain in good order, Anne started a blog:  "Anne R. Allen's Blog: Writing About Writing Mostly." ( )  The blog was a witty, how-to blog on writing and publishing perils, how to get an agent, what to do, not to do, and soon it expanded to include discussions of the amazing transformation occurring in the publishing world -- the rise of the e-book, the growing popularity of Publish On Demand (POD) books which is now showing such promise that even traditional brick 'n mortar publishing house authors are heading in that direction. Who needs a traditional publisher when you can POD your book, list it on Amazon, market it yourself and keep a nice piece of the profit yourself.  

Before long, Anne's blog attracted other writers doing guest-posts and soon the blog was rapidly being linked to other writing blogs and turning into a must-read for anyone interested in writing or even non-writing "outsiders" interested in getting the inside dope on what was happening in the rapidly changing world of publishing and books.

And before you knew it, Anne and Cambria author ("Pay it Forward," among many other wonderful books) Catherine Ryan Hyde had completed a new book: "How to be a Write in the E-Age . . . and keep Your E-Sanity," and, in part due to the popularity of the blog, Anne's back list of previously published books were picked up by new small presses and, true to the new e-age, were back in e-print as well as paperback.

From published author to unpublished author to blogger and back to published author.  All it took, besides talent and patience and a whole lot of hard work, was a willingness to take a different path.  And have faith that if you ignored your destination and instead focused on turning that new path into the best journey possible, you would eventually end up exactly where you wanted to be in the first place.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Another Sewer Petition

This email arrived in my mailbox.  A local, unidentified group has a petition sign-up site on  One of its aims seems to be, perhaps, to try to wake up the Board of Supervisors, which is futile, since they don’t care.  For them, this is a long-done-deal that is now mercifully off their desks.  Heck, the district’s own Supervisor had to be dragged, kicking and screaming to even make the most feeble of attempts to try to get a zero-interest State Revolving Loan – couldn’t be bothered to even lobby for it, except as an afterthought so the attempt failed. Which means the monthly cost for this project will be higher than it needed to be.   Or, perhaps the intent of the petition is to wake up the Feds, who also don’t care?  You gonna lose your home because you can’t afford a $200 a month sewer bill?  Take a number and get in line with the millions who are also going to out on the street with their underwater homes.

Well, it will be interesting to see how many signatures this site can get. Last chance to shake a fist, I suppose.  Next stop: Economic Cleansing.  A chance for capital rich bargain hunters to move in and make a bundle.  It will take a period of extraordinary economic pain and dislocation, but dear old Los Osos, my Beloved Bangladesh by the Bay, is slated to be transformed into a new Carmel by the Sea. Which is what happens to all seaside communities in California.  It’s the American Way. 

The email:   

Dear Friends,

A petition to stop the planned industrial gravity flow Los Osos waste water system has just been created: Stop The Most Expensive Per Capita Sewer In The US - The Los Osos Sewer!, going to San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and State and Federal Officials: 
As most of you know, this sewer is not needed and will make the water supply in Los Osos less sustainable.  We are also sincerely concerned for the economic plight of families, individuals, retirees, businesses and job stability in our community and county from the impact of the $190 million Los Osos Sewer. This is the most expensive sewer per capita in the
United States.

To convince decision makers the community is concerned and it's not just a handful of people, there is a petition on that every time someone signs the online petition a copy goes to 16 officials including the 5 members of the Board of Supervisors, 3 members of the Coastal Commission, administrators with the USDA who loaned around $80 million, Lois Capps, Senators Boxer and Feinstein and the State Water Regional Control Board.

To show your support of this movement please sign the petition this weekend and send the link to friends and ask them to sign right away.  

Please help make a difference, let these officials know of your concern for the economic stability of our community and our county.

There is also that links to the petition on

The time is urgent, the $300 a month sewer expense awaiting us all is not a given, not if we do something to show concern for the many families who will be displaced and challenge many's ability to provide for themselves and/or their family.

Thank you for reading, PLEASE FORWARD TO YOUR EMAIL LISTS or post on your Facebook page!
And thanks for signing!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Your Sunday Thought

Whatever is experienced will fade to a memory.  Everything that is seen will not be seen again.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Calling Dr. Borenstein . . .

Doctor B?  Please go to   Wait, where'd she go?  Oh, gosh, there she is, hiding under her desk with Supervisors Patterson and Gibson.  Woa, getting crowded under there. Shhh, if you make a sound, they'll simply disappear.  But if we wait very quietly, maybe they'll come out and answer Ron's simple -- very simple -- question.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Movie Time

Do yourself a favor and get on down to the Palm Theatre to see "The Artist""  It's a wonderful conceit: a modern old-timey silent movie, a mash-up of every old, hoary Hollywood movie cliche in the book -- the meet-cute, true love thwarted, the Perils of Paul, Asta the Dog saves the day, true love revealed, boffo ending.  All done with a wink and a nod.  Too clever by half.  And great fun.

Also too clever by half is another nearly silent movie -- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Gary Oldman is marvelous as George Smiley, all owlish eyes, watching, watching, and patiently finding and fitting one small piece of the puzzle after another. The film itself is as fragmented as a puzzle dumped out on a table, a muddle of fragments, brief scenes that mean nothing by themselves, intercut with more fragments of imagery, obscure bits of meaningless dialogue, and through it all, Smiley asking a question here, finding a document there, until all the bits and pieces slowly come together to reveal the mole that Smiley is hunting.

It's a clever bit of film making, all this cutting back and forth in time, from puzzle-bit to puzzle bit.  But for me, it all quickly turned into a long, intricate shaggy dog story, a clever bit of business -- a film about making a hunt-for-a-spy film rather than a film about characters in peril, which means it's ultimately a film with no heart.  By the time the mole is revealed, my response was, "Well, O.K., nicely done." And when the mole gets his just desserts, the only reaction I had was, "Well, no loss there.  Now, let's go home." Which is a huge contrast to Le Carre's "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold."  That movie (and book) was all character and peril and heartbreak in the ugly world of realpolitik.

Except I did feel a good deal of satisfaction when Smiley, inscrutable as ever, gets his job back -- vindicated as the master of a game played by vipers in an ugly world of secrets and sleazy betrayals.

If you're an Elmore Leonard fan, he's got a new book out ("Raylan") and season two (three?) of "Justified," is starting on FX with couple of great bad guys added to the cast.  If they come close to his previous nemesis, the late, great apple-moonshine-making Mags, from last season, this year promises to be a great one. Actor Timothy Oliphant ("Raylan") is lucky to have both great screen writers and a fabulous supporting cast.  And he's particularly lucky to have Walton Goggins ("Boyd Crowder") as his ongoing antagonist.  Both Oliphant and Goggins, like early "NYPD Blue" David Caruso (before he went all fake poseur on "Miami Vice") or Ryan Gosling (in "Drive," or almost anything else he's done), are one of those rare actors you can't (don't dare) take your eyes off of because you have no idea what they're going to do next. It's a rare quality and has got to put all their fellow actors on their best game.

And finally, Performance of the Year, Political Class:  Newt Gingrich's deliciously faux outrage while he feasted on debate moderator CNN's John King who dared to ask about Newt's  performance in "My Three Wives; The Three-Way."  Actually, Newt takes a Newtie (a fake gold statue given for Biggest Bold-Faced, Flat-Out, Flip-Flopping Lie" for just about anything he says and does.(" I am not a lobbyist; I'm a historian.") Plus he gets extra points for being absolutely without shame when uttering his 180's.  In short, he's the Jon Lovitz of the political world -- the "fact" changing prevaricator of SNL who repeatedly, cheerfully, shamelessly, continually changed his story when his lies became untenable -- without missing a beat, Jon would switch one whopper with another equally improbable one until his whole tower of babble lies spun off into the realm of the pure comic.

For Jon, it was all comic gold.  For Newt, his continued performance will depend on whether the voters remain oblivious to his Jon Lovitz act. It's just possible that Newt will tell one hilarious whopper too many and the voters will finally figure out he wasn't being intentionally funny, he was just plain old lying, and The Hook! The Hook! will fly out of the wings and yank him unceremoniously off stage. In comedy, as in politics, there must be a basic "truthiness" to the comic character you're creating -- lose that and you lose the audience.  In comedy as in politics, timing is all. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This from "What Love Comes To; New & Selected Poems," by Ruth Stone

Yes, Think

Mother, said a small tomato caterpillar to a wasp,
why are you kissing me so hard on my back?
You'll see, said the industrious wasp, deftly inserting
a package of her eggs under the small caterpillar's skin.
Every day the small caterpillar ate and ate the delicious
tomato leaves.  I am surely getting larger, it said to itself.
This was a sad miscalculation.  The ravenous hatched
wasp worms were getting larger.  O world, the small
caterpillar said, you were so beautiful.  I am only a small
tomato caterpillar, made to eat the good tomato leaves.
Now I am so tired.  And I am getting even smaller.  Nature
smiled.  Never mind, dear, she said.  You are a lovely link
in the great chain of being.  Think how lucky it is to be born.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Calhoun’s Can(n)on for January 20, 2012

The true axis of evil in America is the brilliance of our marketing combined with the stupidity of our people
                                                                        Bill Maher

            Do you suppose Stephen Colbert will save America from itself? As a comedian/satirist playing a blowhard right wing pundit on TV, his latest stunt just might do the trick.
            Months ago, Colbert sat with his attorney on air, discussed the unbridled, unfettered, astounding benefits and hilarious lack of rules or restraints of a political Super PAC and then, right there on air, started his  own.  And the money from his gleeful, in-on-the-joke fans poured in.
            That was part one.  Part two came a few days ago when his “Daily Show” compadre-in-comedy arrived, and with Colbert’s lawyer standing by with the papers all drawn up, he transferred control of his Super PAC to Jon Stewart.  Then he announced that he was thinking about running for President of the United States of South Carolina.
            After which he and Jon solemnly pledged that, of course, they would have NO COORDINATION between themselves as “candidate” and “Super PAC” administrator.  Nossir.  Absolutely no coordination since that would be . . . illegal.   But, if Colbert discussed in great detail all of his campaign strategies on his TV show and Stewart just happened to tune in and took detailed notes and followed through with everything Colbert discussed, well, that wouldn’t constitute “coordination” under the law and would be perfectly legal, wink-nudge, wink-nudge. And in short order, spoofing “political” ads showed up on the South Carolina airwaves in time for the Republican primary election.
            It was a perfectly delicious comic skit, with only one problem.  Everything they were setting up was absolutely real and legal and already at work in the current presidential race.  The Supreme Court has decreed that money is speech so there can be no limits on political money since it’s “speech,” and if it does not specifically mention a particular candidate (wink-nudge) there can be no limit on it.  So, Super PACs, formed by often unknown people and groups funneling unlimited amounts of money to organizations with fake names, no accountability, and with no requirement to report either the amount or source of those donations, are now the real drivers of our political campaigns.  Indeed, the amount of PAC money available to support a candidate is often two or three times the amount that’s in the candidate’s official campaign coffers. 
            It’s an oligarch’s wet dream.  Rich individuals, corporations, unions, various affinity organizations, even foreign governments, are now effectively free to “buy” any candidate they want and win any political race they want.  It’s all in the numbers.
            For example, a well-funded PAC can buy/bid up all the print space and airtime in a specific district to tout their candidate, thereby forcing any opponents to make do with the few ad spaces left in some small local advertorial publications read by nobody. Strategically target Congressional districts and you can effectively pack Congress with your minions.  Get a sufficient number of hand-picked Congresspersons beholden to you for their new, cushy jobs, and you’ll soon get legislation beneficial to your interests. All it takes is money. Which is speech.  Which is free.
            And it’s all perfectly legal.    
            The media savvy and political junkies are hip to what too many ordinary Americans apparently don’t understand:  Control the narrative and you almost always control the outcome.  If that means you falsify the narrative, then that’s what you do, since politics is no longer about educating and informing the voter, or competing with the best vision or policies; it’s about winning by any means necessary. And the voter too often goes along with the deception, even when the outcome will harm him or her in very real ways.
            And that’s where PACs have their real power: Unlimited funds to hire the expertise needed to create those false narratives with no way to hold them to account.  If voters thought the “death panels” lie was bad, they haven’t seen anything yet. Well-financed Big Lies can be half-way on their way to becoming Received Wisdom before Poor Truth can put on his shoes.  It’ll be one multimillion-dollar Swift Boating campaign after another.  It’s a good bet that pollster Frank Luntz, Republican political strategist/False Narrative meister extraordinaire, already has his clients all lined up.  America, The Uninformed, The Badly Informed, The Falsely Informed is now up for sale to the highest bidder.
            Unless a pair of comedians performing a piece of theatrical satire wake up enough voters who will ask: Is this any way to run a country?  And do it before American democracy is put up on the auction block.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Ruth Stone from "What Love Comes To, New and Selected Poems."

The Dog

The dog is God.
It knows it is God.
It is God living with God.
Even in the rain,
the esters, the pheromones,
calligraphy of the sacred,the great head points into the wind,
the blood thrashes in the thick veins.
The language of the feces, urine,
species, rut, offal, decay --
nothing is hidden from the dog,
who keeps its own cousel,
leading you by the leash. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bag It!

               The robo call was rather alarming.  A voice warning me that my cloth shopping bag was FULL OF GERMS! And could CONTAMINATE my groceries.  And if the ordinance up for a vote Wednesday was passed we could all die in the streets like dawgs! 
            Turns out the robo calls were by a couple of “Doctors,” who were hired by some vague “coalition” that was opposed to the ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags and they thought that maybe a little scare campaign would work on SLO Towners. 
            BIG mistake.  As a rule, SLO Towners are a squint-eyed, insulated, suspicious, well-read, smart, tough-minded, dueling-banjo picking backwoods,latte-sipping lot who don’t take kindly to strangers a’comin’ inta their town and trying to tell them what to think or do. And when one of the scary germ guys on the phone turned out to be, not a medical  “Doctor,” but a guy with a doctorate in musical art, well, the Tribune’s editorial staff went into a high dudgeon.  And SLO Towners were left to wonder, “What? So if we use a reusable shopping bag we’re gonna die of a Motzart fugue?  Screaming in agony, crying out, “Too many notes!  Too many notes?”
            And just when you thought you were safe from the long tentacles of national politics, here came Grover Norquist, the wealthy K-Street lobbyist who now has every Republican in the republic bent to his will and safely locked into his blood oath. He sent a letter to Jim Patterson, chairman of the IWMA (Integrated Waste Management Authority), which was holding the hearings and would vote on the issues, knowing that every Republican member of the Board would get copies of the letter and be put on notice as to how they should vote:  Grover had spoken and they would obey.
            And so the stage was set for the SLOTown drama pitting latte-sipping enviros, the grocery industry (Surprising to me, The California Grocers Association endorses the ordinance, primarily because “free” plastic/paper bags cost stores money.), our county waste management dept, against Grover’s Boys, the fear-mongering Germ Squad,  COLAB (Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business) and “Keep Bags Free,” a group supported by the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying arm of the plastics industry.
            But it soon became clear that the drama in the room during the nearly 4 hours of testimony was really a picture of National Politics writ small:  North vs South, Urban vs Rural, Rich vs Poor, Conservative vs Liberal, Republican vs Democrat, Privitizers vs The Good of the Commons. “Don’t Tread on Me” vs “Regulations are the price we pay for civilization.”
            And one poor woman who identified herself as a health worker who works with fragile, old/young patients and who was growing more unbalanced and hysterical the longer she stood at the podium going on about germs.  Poor woman was clearly getting ramped up into the realm of “Uh-Oh, Call the Sheriff” before she got control of herself and sat down, still highly agitated.
            She was a perfect example of how fear-mongering can affect the already disturbed, although perfectly sane speakers were also going off into the realm of the silly:
             – declaring that people’s reusable bags are so filthy and encrusted with dangerous germs that they will endanger grocery baggers with plague and death, while ignoring a reasonable solution:  grocery baggers are perfectly free to say to customers, “This bag is not safe to pack for either you or me.  You’ll need to pack it yourself or get a new bag.” Problem solved.
            --painting a picture of grocery shoppers so stupid they will just toss dripping salmonella-coated meat packages into their bags with the rutabagas when most people normally put their produce and meat into the plastic produce bags offered (which will still be available), thereby keeping each safely separated from each, just like they do now.
            -- a public so stupid they’re incapable of washing their cloth bags when needed and so unaware that they live and move daily in an environment filled with germs.  And if they compared the germs on their kitchen sponge with even a filthy reusable cloth bag, they would faint and never go into their kitchen again.
            And so it went, speakers waxing into high drama, going all Mel Gibson shrieking, “FREEDOM!  FREEDOM!” Speakers comparing a simple waste management problem to ghastly TYRANNY!  With jack-booted thugs arresting store owners who violate the ordinance, then selling their children to slavers while they rot in prison for life. All of which sparked some one-upsmanship between several Board members, each trying to out-patriot the other, while yet another Board member drolly informed the audience of his famous forebear who was elected to the House of Burgess at the same time George Washington was, and who would roll over in his grave to ever hear “freedom” and “tyranny” being used in reference to use or non-use of a plastic bag
            Well, it was an old, old American argument: balancing individual liberty to do what we will, when we will and damn the consequences versus curbing our reckless selfishness for the sake of the common good. Clearly, compliance on a voluntary basis hasn’t worked; recycling isn’t working well because the plastics industry hasn’t stepped up to the plate on the issue and on a more practical issue, “dirty” plastic bags can’t be used in recycling, plus there’s little market for low-grade recycled bags.  And, not enough people are voluntarily recycling in the first place.  It’s all going into the land fill.
            But several Board members still wanted to redo the ordinance to stress voluntary compliance and “education,” including Board member John Hamon of  Paso Robles. He felt it should all be about education.  But, then he went on to note what a bother the ordinance would be to someone like him, like when his wife now calls him at work and asks him to stop at the store for a few things on the way home and he doesn’t have any bags with him, thereby proving that “education” clearly hadn’t worked on HIM.
            And, like clockwork, County Supervisor Frank Mecham checked in with his usual for-public-consumption blather.  He’s famous for that – statements that sound great, but upon closer examination, are, at best, ingenuous, at worst, fatuous and fake.  But initially sure look good as sound-bites.
             Like, “Let’s put this ordinance to a vote”.  Right.  Thanks to the Robert’s Supreme Court, elections now go, not to what a majority of voters really want, but to the bankrolls of the biggest corporations, the wealthiest players.  Want to guess how much money the plastics industry would spend in this little county to defeat any kind of vote on the issue? And guess how “fair” that vote would really be. 
            Or Mecham’s, “This is a littering problem,” and all that was needed was to enforce littering laws. Which sounded wonderful, but would Frank then vote to raise taxes sky high to hire the thousands of additional police needed to do what he suggested?  Not a chance.  So the result of that suggestion would be, status quo, which is the opposite of what he was supposed to be doing on this Board – managing waste, reducing the waste stream, not maintain the status quo.
            It was pure Mecham.  Play to the crowd with great sounding but ultimately fatuous statements that really translate into, “let’s do nothing but look busy while doing it.”
            Well, like SLOTown’s banning of smoking in public places, this ordinance (going into effect in more and more cities and counties throughout the state) will likely be seen to be “controversial,” until it isn’t and becomes commonplace.  After which everyone will puzzle out why anybody got upset at such a simple change in behavior that’s easily accomplished and one that perhaps can lead to other ways of living that all can cumulative help improve our environment.
            And make no mistake, plastics of all kinds are a serious threat.  Not because single-use bags are going to kill us all, but because all plastics eventually degrade into smaller and smaller particles which then begin to affect the plankton, the base upon which all sea life depends.  Kill off the plankton, choked to death in a lethal soup of miniscule plastic molecules, and you choke the sea to death. And the consequences of that catastrophe on all of us and the generations coming after us is something that warrants action now by all of us. Including Grover Norquist’s clients, the plastic industry, since all those employees, even their CEOs, occupy the same planet as latte-sipping SLOTowners do – a shared fate, the common good.
            By five o’clock it was time to wind up and vote.  One of the Norquist Boys, John Hamon, the Board member representing the city of Paso Robles, the “education” guy who learned nothing, tried to derail the whole thing by calling for a Super Vote (8 versus the simple majority).  But the ploy failed.  Clearly, there was a super majority of Board members who understood that this issue wasn’t about FREEDOM or even the environment: it was a County Waste Management issue, and was an ordinance first created by the County Waste Management Authority itself, in cooperation with all plastic-bag using groups, (business, grocers, enviros, public) in order to reduce (manage) Waste, which was what the board was all about in the first place.
            And so it went, the vote 8 – 5 in favor.  Before the meeting got started, they had to go into closed session to discuss a threatened lawsuit from various opponents.  So the ordinance may be delayed or derailed, as usual. But, if it stays in place, starting in October, every one better start remembering to bring bags to the stores or get dinged 10-cents for paper bags.  Based on other counties/cities that have enacted a similar ordinance, in a very short time, those 10-cent purchases drop precipitously.
            Thereby proving you can teach an old dog new tricks.   

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This from "The Voice at 3:00 A.M.  Selected Late and New Poems" by Charles Simic

What The Gypsies Told My Grandmother While She Was Still A Young Girl.

War, illness and famine will make you their favorite grandchild.
You'll be like a blind person watching a silent movie.
You'll chop onions and pieces of your heart
     into the same hot skillet.
Your children will sleep in a suitcase tied with a rope.
Your husband will kiss your breasts every night
     as if they were two gravestones.

Already the crows are grooming themselves
     for you and your people.
Your oldest son will lie with flies on his lips
     without smiling or lifting his hand.
You'll envy every ant you meet in your life
     and every roadside weed.
Your body and soul will sit on separate stoops
     chewing the same piece of gum.

Little cutie, are you for sale? the devil will say.
The undertaker will buy a toy for your grandson.
Your mind will be a hornet's nest even on your
You will pray to God but God will hang a sign
     that He's not to be disturbed.
Question no further, that's all I know.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Snack Time

               Ummm, grab your knives and forks.  It’s time for a feast.  The Republicans are dining on one another and Iowa is just a preview of what’s to come in South Carolina. Ummm.  Delicious. 
            Consider, Newt Gingrich whining because Romney’s PAC was running ads that said mean things about Newt.  Newt whining?  Newt is the father of the PAC and the father of formalizing mean things to say that will demonize your opponent.
            And, surprise, Rick Santorum “wins” Iowa and is now chugging off, suddenly a serious candidate.  Rick Santorum?  The guy who went from the topic of gay marriage straight to man on dog sex in zero steps.  What kind of mind keeps that connection rattling around in his brain so in no time he can go there?  I mean, before I’d be able to make that connection and come to that kind of  conclusion, I’d have to make a whole bunch of steps and think seriously to find anything resembling the “six degrees of separation” connections needed to make that leap.  But not Rick.  Nope.  Apparently equal marriage rights for gays equals man on dog sex.   Eeeuuuuu.  Creepy Brain Time.
            Well, South Carolina should be a hoot. We’ll have our Man On Dog Santorum, Can’t Remember S—t Perry, PAC-man Newt, and “Lurch” Romney.   And LOTS of secret corporate money, none of it accountable to the public, thanks to the Robert’s Supreme Court.
            Does it get any better than this?

What If?

            Interesting article in the L.A. Times by Marc Lifsher reporting that about “a dozen companies are the first in state to apply to become ‘benefit corporations.”
            “A dozen companies committed to maximizing social good while turning a profit have filed papers with the state to become California’s first ‘benefit corporations.”  Amazingly enough, California has a new law that “gives companies a way to legally structure their businesses to consider social and environmental efforts as part of their missions.
            “While that may sound like marketing hype, it’s important from a legal standpoint because it helps shield benefit corporations from lawsuits brought by shareholders who say that company do-gooding has diluted the value of their stock.
            “California becomes the seventh state to adopt this relatively new corporate structure.
            “Until now, California corporate law mandated that shareholders’ interests trump those of all other parties. . . . . Benefit corporations offer for-profit companies a way to do well and do right, said Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) . . . ‘There is a way to create jobs and grow the economy while raising the bar for social and environmental responsibility.”
            If you want to understand one reason why we have, as a country, been heading down the drain, it’s because our corporate structures are legally required to put maximum profit ahead of all other considerations.  That focus on profit above all is the source of so many of our woes. That and the total focus on quarterly reports as opposed to long-term business/economic health.
            In short, we have set up an economic system now that behaves like a bad germ – a virus that kills its host too quickly.  In nature, the goal of a smart germ, like a smart parasite, is to keep its host alive as long as possible so it can feed and reproduce.  A dumb germ/parasite, gobbles it all, kills its host to soon, and therefore dies as well.  That’s been our model – gobble and die.  Not smart.
            But a benefit corporation?  Ah, that allows a corporate parasite a good way to feed heartily but still keep its host alive for years and years.  Think what a transformation would happen in this country if long-term planning and social/environmental considerations became part of the business mix – companies that understood, for example, that keeping their employees healthy and happy paid off financially.  Companies that understood that toxic waste actually is a resource that’s worth money and can be profitable for them.  Corporations that were allowed to factor in long-term thinking instead of simple Grab ‘n Run greed.  
            The story finishes thusly:  “The growing interest in benefit corporations reflects a sense that there’s a better way of doing business out there,” said John Montgomery, a Melo Park lawyer who helped draft the new California law.”  . . .  “Patagonia [one of the the new benefit corporations] is trying to build a company that could last 100 years . . . Benefit corporation legislation creates the legal framework to enable mission-driven companies like Patagonia to stay mission-driven through succession, capital raises and even changes in ownership by institutionalizing the value, culture, processes and high standards put in place by founding entrepreneurs.”
            Imagine that.

On the Other Hand    
            Of course, creating a decent society may be all moot.  According to some folks, the Mayan Calendar tells us that the world will in 2012, so why bother?
            It never ceases to amaze me how in love with World Death so many people are. Apparently the earth is such a hideous place for them that it becomes a deep-seated need to fantasize about and long for its violent end.  Armageddon! Mayan Calendars!  Wheeeee, destroy it all!  Even the hummingbirds and sweet-smelling lemon blossoms.  Wipe them all out.
            I don’t get it.  If those folks are so in love with world destruction, there’s a quick shortcut to that end: Suicide.  One bullet and your whole world ends.  Problem solved, while still leaving this beautiful, magical, extraordinary place intact for others to enjoy.

A reminder

            Well, since the world won’t end, despite what the Mayans say, on Wednesday January 18 from 6 pm – 7 pm at the Monarch Grove Elementary School, 348 Los Osos Valley Rd) there’ll be a public meeting to review “The restoration of your neighborhood streets and roadways following the installation of the waste water collection system,” wherein you’ll see a 45-minute overview of the repair, restoration and enhancement efforts for your streets.”
            With any luck, maybe everybody will speak up and push for “low impact” type pavement that will help get every drop of rainwater back down into the ground instead of having it all flood down the street.  Though on my street, we do end up with some quite spectacular lakes that you can float a boat on.  Which is great entertainment for the dreary winter months. 



Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Days

Calhoun’s Cannons for Jan 6, 2012

If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.
                                                                     Meister Eckhart

            A new year.  A new day.  The sun is wan and low, the daily temperature moving from the overnight 40’s to the daytime 70’s and back again, neither winter nor spring.  But the grapevines have finally given up amidst the confusing temperatures and have fallen into a deep slumber, their scraggy vines waiting to be clipped. An unexpected and early frost has already blasted the rest of the garden, except for the mallows and some sort of cascading ground cover that is improbably blooming and sending its pale blue flowers down over the concrete retaining wall.  A long surviving purple petunia, which was hiding under the lemon tree, has come back to life, and is now waving around its rococo petal ruffles.  Silly thing.  We may not be done with frosts so this brazen blooming is an act of foolhardy bravery. Bless its heart.

            Christmas has been packed away for another year, except for a package from dear friends in Florida that was saved for the new year. She and I try to see how much interesting, fun stuff we can cram into a U.S. Postal Service Flat Rate box.  Our motto has become, “If it don’t fit in the box, you ain’t getting it for Christmas.”  Unfortunately, the flat rate tended to encourage shipping things like a heavy cast iron door- stop shaped like a frog, so we also had to institute another rule: “If I have to dust it, I don’t want it.”

            So, in this year’s box are all manner of wonderful things, including cream white tea-towels and a pot holder with a black silhouette of a raven on it and the words “ravenous.”  Which were far too fine to actually use in the kitchen, so they promptly went up on the mantelpiece.  To collect dust.

            Well, there are rules and there are rules. No need to get too fussy about it all. Same goes for New Year’s resolutions.  I stopped making those years ago. I’ve already given up cigarettes and booze.  Those are vices for whippersnappers.  I no longer whip or snap.  And the dogs see to it that I get in a daily walk, so that resolution is really their doing, for which I can take no credit and can receive no smug sense of virtue.

            Besides, change is both habit and choice and those things are best when they strike at random, when you are ready for both.  Setting some arbitrary month for doing (or not doing) things is a set up for failure.  Like leaping out on stage at Carnegie Hall before you’ve had a single dance lesson.  Not likely to bring the crowd to their feet.

            No, no.  Stick with the small stuff that really is the big stuff.  About all I can manage daily is a resolution to try to remember Don Miguel Ruiz’ “The Four Agreements,” which I’ve stuck up on my computer so I can see them every morning:  Be Impeccable With Your Word / Don’t Take Anything Personally / Don’t Make Assumptions / Always Do Your Best. Remembering daily to follow those directions regularly keeps me out of a whole lot of unnecessary drama.  It’s also a reminder that we are all works in progress that unfortunately did not come with operating instructions.

            Which makes things both interesting and exciting.  And problematic. Bring Band-Aids.

            The dogs, of course, don’t bother with any of this foodle-fardle.  Their operating instructions are built in:  Run fast.  Have fun.  Chow down.  Sleep soundly.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

            Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good New Year’s Resolution for all of us. A new year.  A new month.  A new day.  A new hour.  A new minute.  Live it well. 

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year

Show me a day when the world wasn't new
                                        Sister Barbara Hance

New year.  New day.  New hour.  New minute.  

Live it well.