Sunday, April 28, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This one stopped me cold.  Never thought of that before.  And he's right. By Miller Williams from "Poetry 180, A Turning Back to Poetry," edited by Billy Collins.


I think the death of domestic animals
marks the sea changes in our lives.
Think how things were, when things were different.
There was an animal then, a dog or a cat,
not the one you have now, another one.
Think when things were different before that.
There was another one then.  You had almost forgotten.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beantown Irregulars

Calhoun's Calhoun's for April 22, 2013

Sherlock Holmes would have been delighted. When in need of information fast, he would send word to his Baker Street irregulars, a gaggle of street urchins who, for a pittance, would quickly fan out and scour the hidden warrens of London and swiftly bring back bits of intel which Holmes would piece together into a case-solving clue.

In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, police called for their irregulars: seventy bazillion bits of film/fotos from surveillance cameras, cell phones and video cameras in the hands of the public, all of which contained bits of intel shot before, during and after the event, all taken from every direction.  Specially trained law enforcement started the Herculean task of sifting images until two likely suspects came up.  Those photographs were then broadcast over social media, television and print and suddenly the game was afoot and everyone in the entire wired world became Sherlock Holmes in hot pursuit.

It was a loopy sci-fi moment:  "1984" in reverse, but this time WE were Big Brother.  And we were pissed off and empowered and in hunting mode.  It must have been a spooky moment for the two Chechen brothers, with their gentle Byzantine ikon eyes: One moment anonymous and the next --- WTF??!!  Nowhere to run, except to ground -- or hide in a boat -- and wait for the wrath that was about to descend.

Several years ago, when street surveillance cameras first appeared, various civil libertarians raised red flags.  Wicked Government was taking away our Freedom!  Big Brother was coming!  But before the arguments could be formulated, technology and culture bypassed the discussion itself.  Big Brother had already arrived and he was everywhere .  But this time he was the Citizens themselves. And their iPhones.

And I suspect, in their arrogance and ignorance, the Tsamaev brothers never gave a moment's thought about the one unique thing about our contemporary society: There IS no privacy anywhere anymore.  Too many hi-tech phones in the hands of a cohort that documents its existence every single moment of the day with snapshots -- pictures of what they're eating, shots of a sidewalk, a street, a car passing by -- cameras, cameras everywhere, all clicking away and posted to social media, and all filled with little bits of intel just waiting for Sherlock's call. If you live in America, you've probably already been "tagged" on Facebook, and FB images live forever, and facial recognition software is getting better and better each year. Truly, we are all in the databanks now.   

And suddenly, the Second Amendment starts looking a bit anachronistic.  Who needs armed vigilantes to protect a free peoples against predation by criminals and terrorists; all you need are cell phones, social media, a well trained police force, and a vigilant, cooperative citizenry that refuses to cower and be rendered helpless by fear. Screw Big Brother, said Boston. WE are Big Brother, we're our brother's keeper and nobody is going to get away with killing any of our own or screwing with our town.

Which is what happened in Beantown and surprised no one who knows that tough, scrappy, wonderful place.  

Sherlock would be pleased.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Your Sunday Thought

From "Life Prayers," edited by Elizabeth Roberts  and Elias Amidon, on this beautiful April morning. 

Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter.
If your mind isn't clouded by
unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Gunfight at the Do Nothing Corral

Calhoun's Cannons for April 15, 2013

O.K.  Now this is getting funny. The earnest, grieving parents of shot-to-pieces kids -- 20 of 'em at Sandy Hook.  The pontificating pols declaring that we must do something to stem this culture of violence.  The pro-gun Congressmen and Senators hiding under their desks when the grieving parents come to call to ask them to support legislation that would ban the type of guns that shot their children to pieces.  The media turning this all into some kind of horse race in order to goose their ratings. 

All for naught.  Whatever legislation that had been reasonably tough to begin with has already been gutted before it could even be debated -- no military style weapons ban, no high capacity magazine bans.  And what is now left -- increased registration requirements --- is being watered down even as I write.  And by the time the Senate finishes having it's debate -- if that even happens since several Republicans have vowed to filibuster it -- whatever bill survives being gummed to death, will arrive a weak, poor thing.

Which will be then turned over to the tender mercies of the Republican controlled House of Representatives, an august body wholly owned by the NRA, where it will be shot to pieces by amendments.

In short, Congress will do the least it can possibly do on the matter while quietly, behind the scenes, the NRA sits, like Penelope at her loom, weaving in legislative loopholes and booby-trapping whatever bill survives. Nothing will escape their tender ministrations.  After all, their job is to do everything they can to make sure that more guns get into more hands.  "Limit" or "restrict" are not in the NRA's vocabulary.  

Yet, nationwide, the furious debate rages on as if people actually think that this time -- surely, this time --something meaningful about gun control will be done. That 20 dead kids was finally some kind of tipping point.  Wasn't it?  Wouldn't twenty dead kids finally be enough?

Well, no.  Clearly, twenty wasn't the magic number.  And that's where it starts getting funny.  For some bizarre reason, Americans think of themselves as decent, law-abiding people who love their children and want to live in decent, safe communities where their kids don't get blown away while going to school. In addition, they also have this quaint notion that they live in a country governed by and for the people. And that their earnest, sincere, heart-felt efforts will result in their elected representative voting for some kind of sane, reasonable policy regarding guns.

Yet, at the same time, this national debate has brought into focus the undeniable fact that these same Americans truly, deeply, passionately love their guns. The bigger the better. The more lethal it is, the faster it sells.  The country is awash in guns, a gun for every day of the week and two on Sunday. Even people who've been shot in the head, like Congresswoman Gifford, will still go on TV to declare that having pieces of their skull blown away has not in any way diminished their love of guns.

And the sound of those two deeply felt passions colliding is the sound of a Whoopie cushion exploding.  Risible and ridiculous: An endless Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch played out with real dead kids and real bullets.  But this one will have no happy ending.  Except for the NRA and its master: The gun manufacturers of America. For them, happy days are always here again.    

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This one is for anyone who says poetry is too difficult, too dour, too stuffy.  By Paul Violi, from "180 More, Extraordinary Poems for Every Day," edited by Billy Collins.

Appeal to the Grammarians

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we're capsized.
We, who love precise language,
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we're ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift,
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn't bounce back,
The flat tire at journey's outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehauken.
But mainly because I need it -- here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, "See, that's why
I don't like to eat outside."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Art Opening

“A Spectrum of Music-Art,” an exhibition curated by author, Debra Hosseini, opened last night at The Seven Sisters Gallery in Morro Bay.  The gallery was hosting the show as part of the national  “April is Autism Awareness Month.”

The opening had music by Jesse Williams on keyboard:

Artism show, seven sisters 002

And Mark Witt on guitar:

Artism show, seven sisters 003

Gallery Manager, Shawn Cantu and her son, Jason,  whose drawing was part of the exhibition. Jason’s lovely black and white drawing of a dove in flight is above left.

Artism show, seven sisters 009

All of the works are for sale and there’s nothing more exciting for any young artist than to have one of their works sold. 

Artism show, seven sisters 006

If you get a chance, stop by the gallery to see the paintings.  The show will run until May 7th. The gallery is located at 601 Embarcadero, in the Marina Square Bldg. For further information, call 772-9955 or visit the website

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Your Sunday Event and Poem

SLO-4-PUPs, the volunteer group (of which I am a part) held its annual  fund-raising garage sale.  All proceeds go to maintain and run the county’s first (and finest!) off-leash dog park at El Chorro Regional Park (off Hwy 1 across from Cuesta College.)

The sale was part of the city-wide Garage Sale Day.  This year, the city is trying for a Guinness record: Largest number of garage sales in a town in a day.

Prior to the big day, many items were donated, and days were spent sorting and tagging.

Dog park garage sale, Val's garden 014

Sale day, boxes and boxes were toted out to the street, piled on tables, all ready for the crowds.

Dog park garage sale, Val's garden 012

Which started coming in a steady stream all day.

Dog park garage sale, Val's garden 013
 Dog park garage sale, Val's garden 015
During which, a birthday was celebrated with a gorgeous fruit tart from The French Bakery in Morro Bay. 

Dog park garage sale, Val's garden 019

All in all, a fun, big sale day, which continues this morning, and should net a tidy sum to help keep El Chorro Dog Park running for another year.  A good portion of the left-over items will be boxed up and picked up by an equestrian rescue group and will be used as the basis for their own garage sale fund-raiser, so everything will do double duty to two volunteer groups.

So, many thanks for everyone involved in the Dog Park sale.  I don’t know, at this point, whether Morro Bay’s Guinness record challenge will be successful.  Considering the number of cars flooding the town, it’s entirely possible.

And now, your Sunday Poem

This by Tukaram, at 17th century Indian saint, from  "Love Poems from God," edited by Daniel Ladinsky.

                First He Looked Confused

I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog "God."
                       First he looked

     then he started smiling, then he even

           I kept at it:  now he doesn't even

                 I am wondering if this
                   might work on


Friday, April 05, 2013


Tomorrow: Morro Bay will be trying for a Guinness Book of Records record: largest number of garage sales in a city on one day. Wheee-ha!  Here's hoping.  Our dog park, El Chorro Off Leash Dog Park, will be part of the Guinness fun since we're having our annual fund-raising garage sale Sat & Sunday at 914 Mesa St., Morro Bay.  Do do come by and pick up some treasures.  All proceeds go to support the dog park.  

Next Friday, April 12, the gallery where I work will be hosting a specially curated exhibition as part of the  "April is Autism Awareness Month."  Here's the press release:

""A Spectrum of Music-Art" an exhibition curated by author, Debra Hosseini, will open with a nod to “April, Autism Awareness Month” and a special reception at Seven Sisters Gallery on Morro Bay’s Art Walk Friday, April 12 from 5-8 pm. Many of the artists are featured in Hosseini’s impressive book, The Heart of Autism: Shifting Perceptions, of which signed copies will also be available. Autism, a developmental disability effecting 1 in 88 children, is gaining increased public attention and Hosseini’s books and exhibitions touting the tagline, “the Art of Autism is a movement!”, are designed to bring focus to some of the extraordinary artwork being done by artists challenged with autism and serve as a resource to assist them in pursuing their artistic endeavors. Artists include locals Kylie Swan, Jason Cantu and Andrew Mendoza, along with students from Hidden Wings, a unique autism school for young adults in Solvang, including Kevin Hosseini, the author’s son. Reception will feature musical artists, Mark Witt on acoustic guitar and Jesse Williams on keyboards. The show runs 4/12-5/7 at Seven Sisters Gallery, in Marina Square at 601 Embarcadero, Suite 8, Morro Bay. 772-9955."

This should be a wonderful exhibit. It's amazing how talented these kids are, plus it's wonderful how art can be used as an aid to help these kids deal with their cognitive challenges and so navigate better in the non-autistic the world.  The result is what Debra Hosseini, who's curating the exhibition, playfully calls "Artism." 

In addition, some of these same artists are part of the Adventure Club SLO, which consists of small groups of special needs individuals who do indeed engage in "adventures," including making movies, two of which, co-starring Timothy Bottoms, recently aired at the Palm.  The Adventure Club is part of Director Jon Gange's Cayucos company, "Wonderful World Adventures."  
Below are a few works that were sent out with the press packet for the exhibition.  Some of the other works in the show will likely be by students from Hidden Wings as well as other artists Ms. Hosseini is representing. (Debra's website is and further information on "Hidden Wings School," is at  ) I hope you'll have a chance to attend the reception on April 12th (live entertainment and munchies) and meet some of these talented artists.  Or, do stop by the gallery when you can to see what these kids are up to.

Jason Cantu

Kylie Swan

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Coffee Anyone

Calhoun's Cannons for April 2, 2013

I wish I had confidence that the Supreme Court will do the right thing when it comes to ruling on gay marriage, but I don't. They and they alone chose to hear the DOMA and California's Prop 8 cases and speculation was that it was Justice Scalia, viewed as an anti-gay partisan, who was the deciding vote on taking those cases.  Presumption was he pushed for getting the case before the courts now when there was a chance to defeat or long delay all efforts to legalize gay marriage, a surprisingly "activist judge" move that, oddly, didn't get a peep out of conservatives ever on the lookout for activist judges. So, I guess that epithet only applies to "liberal" judges "legislating from the bench," not conservative ones.

So the court chose to hear those specific cases and yet there was Chief Justice Roberts whining about having to decide such a controversial and potentially complex issue.  That hints at an unsure court, a timid court, a court unwilling to do any heavy lifting while desperately looking for the door.  Indeed, like a kid cranking on about having to do his algebra homework, Roberts wondered aloud why the President didn't just settle one of these cases himself, which hardly inspires confidence that we have a court that understands its constitutional role.

On the other hand, Justice Ginsberg sounded like she might have to take those whiny boys well in hand with her talk of "skim-milk marriage," a delightfully earthy metaphor that went to the heart of the matter.  Whole milk, skim milk.  That in a nutshell is always at the heart of issues involving  "equal rights under law."

And that's why I'm so constantly disheartened by the astonishing and fiercely defended disconnect between what we profess and how we actually proceed.  In public, pols, preachers, and patriots, all sporting little American flag pins in their lapels, piously preach freedom and justice for all in public, then privately vote for (and defend) laws that offer neither to certain citizens.

It's tempting to think that this disconnect is just run-of-the-mill hypocrisy, but it's far darker than that.  It's always a thick stew of fear, ignorance, animus, privilege, greed, lack of empathy, a failure of imagination, and an odd inability to rationally extrapolate from the individual to the larger case.  All of it a series of crippling failures of heart and reason that are almost always propped up by  invoking "belief," or "tradition" or "God." 

And even though the arc of history tends to bend towards justice, as Martin Luther King  observed, too many people turn themselves into rocks-in-the-road impediments to the very "freedom and justice" they think they're preaching. And those rocks cause very real harm to real people in real time, none of it reparative.  Which is always discouraging, especially since no sooner has one injustice finally been rectified than another springs to life.

Deep, deep is the human need for and love of injustice that comes cloaked in deceptive soothing phrases, especially when that injustice only strikes The Other Guy. But in a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal, skim milk is still skim milk.

And so here we all sit, reading the morning paper, coffee cup in hand, waiting for the Supreme Court to pass the sugar bowl and the pitcher of  . . . what?