Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Awful Art

It's rather hard to know what to make of Tim Burton's new movie, "Big Eyes."  Is it an absurdist, satirical comedy about the abiding  power of fads, fame, high-level marketing combined with the low level of American artistic taste?  Yes.  Is it an appallingly sordid tale of domestic abuse, child endangerment, alcoholism, fraud, greed and quintessential and astonishingly successful American huckesterism on a grand scale?  Yes. For those of us who lived through that period, is it two hours of torture revisiting all those hideous, sappy Keane paintings of big-eyed tikes who looked like they had spent the better part of their lives in Dachau?  Yes.  Is there a certain sort of perverse glee in watching a biopic staring people whose characters have little to commend them -- weak, dishonest, greedy, foolish -- then chortling when the worst of the lot (Walter) gets his well-deserved comeuppance?  (Exposed as a fraud.  He painted nothing.  The Wife did it all.)  Yes. Then feel a twinge of dissatisfaction that Margaret, the real painter who unleashed this hideous "art"  on the world and who participated (and benefited) from the fraud, comes out smelling like a rose, money in hand, without paying for her Crimes on Good Taste?  Yes.

Certainly the acting all round is wonderful, though casting Christoph Waltz, with his German accent, seemed a bit ff-putting.  After all, Walter Keane was the absolute epitome of the stereotyped American Huckster -- a sort of painterly Music Man spinning his fantasies and taking a whole country along with him for a goofy ride.  (He was Andy Warhol before Warhol was Warhol. Like Kinkade, "The Painter of Light,"  was Keane after Keane was Keane.)  But Waltz is such a fine actor, despite the odd accent, he managed to keep Walter's dangerous edge present in the midst of his toothy bonhomie.

As a cultural observation, "Big Eyes," certainly has a good deal of bite.  And perhaps that uneasy mix of sappy and sick, comedy and low melodrama is the perfect tone for a phenomenon that was The Keane Affair. Come to think of it, perhaps the best response to the whole sordid tale is to be found in the expressions on all of Margaret's tikes: Blank-eyed, dumbfounded depression at what passes for Public Taste?   

Monday, December 29, 2014

Clever and Clean

A little souvenir of Sewerville's The Big Dig: A bar of soap complete with a picture of heavy pipe laying equipment on the label, made by Los Osos Soaps and -- if there are any left -- sold in Volumes of Pleasure Bookstore.  Is that clever, or what?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chow Line, Sunday

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solstice Drift

Calhoun's Cannons for December 21, 2014

Hog on ice, but without the ice.  This last year has felt like being in a waiting room without any hope of an appointment. Becalmed, but before the storm.  Clocks ticking, time wasting that we do not have to waste.  The world's carbon reduction deadlines are again ignored when there is no wiggle room left to head off the worst of what's coming. Then American voters elected even more legislators who are wholly committed to King Coal and Oil.  It takes a peculiar kind of suicidal lunacy to step on the gas when you're at the cliff's edge.  

In my own little world, global warming is arriving in the form of drought that is changing an already stressed landscape, with more to come and none of it pleasant.  All because we value political expediency over our very survival. Surely the coming generations will curse our names. 

So I drift in this odd, airless year that hovers like a shoe about to drop.  Should the United Nation's most recent report on climate change cause immense sorrow or gales of bitter laughter at what we have done to ourselves? We are bad stewards of God's Creation with no good excuse for our folly. Surely, that's a recipe for comedy? Except for the polar bears.  And butterflies.  And our great grandchildren's lives. 

And so it goes.  Drift in a disordered world.  Neither tears nor laughter matter any longer. We have tied the knot, set the noose.  And now we wait.

In my small back yard, the earth's troubling oddness is writ small, but writ: The great Roger's Red Grape Vine is both going into winter's crimson sleep and sprouting new spring growth.  If a sudden, unseasonable frost hits, the vine will pay dearly for its confusion. The hardy native chaparral is game but looking weary.  The weather changes are coming too fast and in the wrong form for much successful biological adaptation.  So everything now waits for the great winnowing that is coming.  

For the dogs, of course, it's all drift all the time. Disordered world? Where's supper?

And no drift in my vegetable garden.  There it was all ferocious focus: Kentucky Wonders that spun off green beans in an unstoppable supply, and zombie zucchini that didn't know when to quit and had me trooping around to the neighbors with full plastic bags only to find hastily scribbled signs over their doorbells: "No Solicitors.  No zucchini. We've moved to France."

Now, December has come and instead of an icy solstice moon with frost covering the ground, the late brief rains have created an out of sync carpet of spring wildflowers starting their race for the sun. Winter is half over before it's begun, while I'm still in my summer shirtsleeves.  

But I dutifully get the  Christmas nutcrackers out of their boxes to once again stand guard in the night, and garland the house in lights, even though this year it all seems rather like caroling on the Titanic. 

Still, there will be laughter, feasting, song and lights on this silent night.  In a disordered world that's adrift and heading for a hard future, we will still need hope and joy and love.  And the dogs will always need a walk on a fine Christmas morning. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fifty Years Late

Ploop! Ploop! The noise you hear is the heads of old right-wing, conservative, reactionary anti-Commies exploding as President Obama single-handedly loosened some restrictions on Cuba.

Well, it's long past time is all I can say.  That economic embargo was ridiculous from day one. Embargos rarely work unless you have all hands on deck and this one had only our hands on it so of course it wouldn't work worth beans, except to make common Cubans miserable while leaving Castro untouched.

What we should have done is welcomed Castro down out of the hills, and immediately started selling his people Levis and Coca-colas and later satellite dishes and iPods.  Connection, baby.  Connection and engagement is what it's all about.  In a wired world what's needed is MORE wire, not less.

We didn't learn that in Vietnam on account of right-wing, conservative, reactionary anti-commie old poops either.  Did Vietnam want out from under the yoke of the French? Fine.  Did they want to organize their country as a communist/socialist structure -- distribute the wealth, reorganize their country as they wished?  Fine also.  Start selling them Levis and TVs and millions of people wouldn't have had to die.  Just give people time and the seductiveness of American/western culture and goods and the benefits of controlled capitalism becomes clear to everyone.  Even China, with our engagement, is slowly turning towards "modified" capitalism. Commie China now becoming a capitalists' wet dream. That's how powerful the jingle of a few coins in the pocket are.  

And Iran?  All those young Iranians with designer jeans under their robes?  Seriously?  Engage, engage!  More wire! More wire!

I know the pro-embargo crowd is even now crying about what an awful man Castro is as a reason to continue the boycott.  Phooey.  We have been in bed with an endless number of murderous thugs when it benefited us to do so.  Including Saudi Arabia, some of whose citizens, if you recall, flew planes into the World Trade Center.  Castro is no different. 

Instead, I'm sure the old right-wing, reactionary Republicans will make sure when they take over in January that the new Embassy in Havana won't be funded and they'll pull all kinds of tricks to shut the door again. Stupid.  Let's hope cooler heads prevail in the Senate, but I won't hold my breath because Americans -- especially old right-wing reactionaries --  just don't ever seem to learn anything

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Nation of Laws

Dick Cheney was a frightened man.  Deeply shaken when the twin towers fell. His fear fed his own  harsh proclivities, it clouded his mind, as fear always does, and too easily lured his heart's own longing for the dark side.

Dick Cheney was not alone.  Too many Americans shared his mind frame. The only difference was that Cheney was the Vice President of the most powerful nation on earth.  He was also the inside man, the man with full access to the CIA, the man who got things done, the fixer, the enforcer.  And standing in his way was a nation that prided itself on being a nation of laws, laws that required that we "keep the gloves on" at all times, because that's who we think we are.  For Dick, however, gloves were always an unwanted impediment to his powerful sense of realpolitik.  His fear and 9/11 was the perfect excuse he needed to take them off.

From that, all else followed.     

And so, here we are.  What was known-but-not-known is now beyond denial, except for those whose jobs and reputations and legacies depend on their continuing The Big Lie. It's a tactic that will work because it always does.  Which is why the most discouraging thing about the recently released report on the CIA and Torture is that we can all be sure that nothing will be done.  There will be no accountability, no consequences, no perp-walks, no war-crime trials, no Truth and Reconciliation hearings,  no nothing.  Just a massive report which will be denied by those who administered the program, then put on a shelf.  Then . . . nothing.

Except we will once again start piously declaring to ourselves and the world about how America is a nation of laws.The rest of the world will snigger up their sleeves.  They know better.

America tortures.  America commits war crimes.  Just like a lot of other Thug Nations that America publicly decries.  But America gets away with its murders because Power and Expediency, not Law, not Justice, is what America is a nation of. 

So we regularly go through this sad dance of faux "Accountability," throw a few low-level folks under the bus, declare ourselves My Bad, write, then shelve a big thick report, and then The Great Forgetting will set in . Until next time.

I have no doubt that some very angry jihadists will use this report to engage in some war crimes of their own.  Murder always calls out for more murder.  And already the foxes are defending their chicken coops while a whole gaggle of politicians are diving under their desks in a fit of forgetting as to what they knew and when they knew it. This will play out in the 24/7 news media, and partisan politicians are already starting to change the narrative: The 9/11 "mood" of the country made us do it.  After all, everyone knows that torture works and war crimes are O.K. . . . . if you're angry.

In no time, that narrative will prevail and we'll be back cocooned inside our comforting belief that we are exceptional and so did no wrong because we are, after all, America -- a Nation of Laws.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Coffee’s Up


Once again, SLO Roasted Coffee Company in Los Osos had it’s annual Holiday open house yesterday.

Santa guarded the rows of glass coffee cups waiting the guests.


Who showed up to sample coffees , including the darkly sweet and delicious Ethiopian Yirgachieffe.  The Yirgachieffe  shows up for a limited time and then, Poof!, gone , so if you like that roast, better get your Christmas list and head over to the warehouse.

And, with coffee, came the holiday cookies.


For those of you who love SLO Roasted coffe but only have Keurig coffee machines, now you can have your SLO coffee and drink it, too. They've got a new item: Single serve Pods!


As they did last year, there were raffles and a coffee roasting demonstration.  Great chance to visit friends and neighbors, get some fabulous coffee and support one of our very own Los Osos small businesses.

All watched over by a small, festive coffee bush in front of the massive roaster that is waiting to be fired up for an aromatic run.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Smoking Kills

 Calhoun's Cannon for December 4, 2014

 If you’re a big black guy illegally selling individual cigarettes on the streets of New York, you’ll be swarmed by a gaggle of small, scared, inept, poorly trained white cops who will put you in an illegal choke hold, and despite your repeated cries of, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” you will die on the sidewalk, and none of the cops who killed you will be indicted on any charges by a grand jury even though the whole event was caught on tape for everyone to see.

So, what is there left to say about all this, except to cynically observe that this is just another example of how tobacco kills?

Surely, we’ve all gone nuts.  We have armed ourselves to the teeth, convinced that the ghost of old Nat Turner is coming out of the swamps with his cane knife to kill all us white folks in our beds.  We arm our kids to the teeth with toy guns that look so real that recently a couple of inept, poorly trained cops ended up doing a roll-up shooting on a 12 year-old kid.  They didn’t get the word that he was a kid and the gun was a toy.  Nope, they saw a scary black guy waving a gun. Blam! Done and done.

Anybody want to lay the odds on what the grand jury findings in that case will be ?  No?

White America has been listening to a rising chorus of talk-radio, social media, cable TV 24/7 “news,” wink-nudge racial dog-whistle music since Obama got elected.  The tune is an old, old one and is always the same:  Black people aren’t “real Americans,” they’re criminals, they’re animals, they’re “demons,” they’re dangerous killers.  And when they’re not being those things, they’re being greedy, lazy welfare queens, or cheats and moochers or drug dealers or felons.  They’re the dreaded Other.  And they’re scary. And they have to be controlled and kept in their place. By the police.

Repeat that false meme enough times and is it any wonder why too many Americans have become a frightened citizenry armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons of war?  And because the citizenry is now outgunning the police, we now have to supply our police units with full-on Army surplus assault vehicles and weapons so now we’ve turned our streets into war zones and turned our citizens into enemy combatants, with the two sides too often facing off in dangerous Us versus Them confrontations.

Or consider how our illegal drug use has been the driver for turning Mexico into an abattoir and our own streets into deadly free-fire zones for warring drug gangs. While our inadequate mental health, drug/alcohol treatment services leaves too many impaired people (many of whom are armed, just like the rest of America) wandering the streets to be dealt with by a militarized police who are trained and primed for fusillades, not the slow, messy business of helping sad, broken minds.

Or how we have allowed our communities to rot, our schools to fail, our health and safety net to shred while The Wall Street Boys and their handmaidens in Congress shipped our jobs overseas, looted the national treasury and walked away scot free.  And then, instead of engaging in massive, nationwide civic regeneration and repair, we turned these choking, broken communities over to the police to just keep order, while we walked away. 

And now we stare in wonderment when selling single cigarettes on the streets of New York is a crime that is now punishable by death while Justice turns her face away, not only blind but deaf and dumb as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Plans

It's that time again.  Time to grab the kids and head down to PCPA ( http://www.PCPA.ORG ) for their wonderful Christmas offering, "Christmas is Here Again," a new musical by Brad Carrol and Jeremy Mann.  This charmer is a wonderful mashup of Hans Christian Anderson's "Snow Queen," ("Frozen"), Peter Pan, (Clap if you believe in Peter Pan), and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

The musical is an adaption of the 2007 animated feature film of the same name, and this production makes wonderful use of the original images from the film that are projected on the back screen.  It's a very effective device to set the scene, carry the story forward and give the production a unique "look" that honors the original film.

The story is simple: Years before, Christmas, Santa and the official Doler Out Of Lumps of Coal for naughty children (Krad, play by Billy Breed) had a falling out.  Santa didn't want any punishment for any kids while Krad demanded accountability in order to keep things in balance.  Santa won and in revenge, Krad stole away Santa's magic sack of toys thereby mading Christmas disappear.  Enter our heroine, Sophiana, a poor orphan who, armed with hope and faith and a magic star, sets off to retrieve the sack and bring back Christmas.  She's joined in her journey by an elf, a young reindeer (Prancer's grandson), a polar bear (hilariously played by Erik Stein) and a smooth-talking, raffish boulevardier fox (played by George Walker, who's worth the price of admission alone).

Together the little band confronts Krad, convinces him that Santa has seen the errors of his ways, that the universe needs both accountability as well as kindness and love, and, ta-da! Christmas again returns. 

Like everything PCA does, this show is wonderfully done and is a great way to kick off your Holiday.  So, grab the kids, or, if you don't have kids, become a kid yourself and take yourself down to Santa Maria to see it.

Meanwhile. . .

Saturday, Dec. 6, from noon to 4 pm.  SLO Roasted Coffee Company is having their annual Holiday Open House on Los Olivos St. here in Los Osos.  There's free coffee sampling, a roasting demonstration, raffle prizes, discount coupons for coffee purchases, and, if memory serves, a discount for all coffee purchased that day. 

And Saturday Dec 13, the Los Osos Christmas Parade, starting at 10 a.m. after which, head down to the Community Center for the annual Wish & Needs fund-raiser for the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter.  This is the big annual event that does Los Osos proud, so after the parade, be sure to go get a hot dog, check out the silent auction and other goodies, and stop off at the big donation jar and give generously.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson, MO

Two lives ruined over a package of stolen Cigarillos. 

Doesn't get sadder or dumber than that.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Creepy Comic

Here's what I find the most puzzling about Bill Cosby's decades-long sexual proclivities:  The pills. 

If these women's reports are to be believed,--and there's so many of them it's impossible not to believe what they're describing -- then Cosby had some of them at "Hello."  So why pills?

I mean, famous star, willing dewy-eyed sweet young things, (or ambitious sweet young things with an eye on the main chance and a head full of fake promises), a trip to a hotel room, a dreamed up affair, "true love," and/or a good career move dancing in their heads.  A cocktail or two to loosen everyone up. That's the stock scenario for sweet young things, philandering old coots, smarmy lotharios, and Bill Cosby.

But. . . knock-out pills?  Is the guy into necrophilia?

If that's the case, while his career as a comedian is apparently tanking, perhaps he'll consider a few guest appearances on "The Walking Dead."That might be a more apt role than Cliff Huxtable.

So sad. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winter Blessing

Spring's colt, now nearly as big as his Mum, feasts on the first greening.  A winter blessing after the long summer's drought.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Where Were You?

Nov 22, 1963.  Dallas.  A rifle.  A shot.  And the path of history changed in an instant.  If you are of a certain age, can you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing?  I sure do.

I was in college, had taken a semester off and was working in the shipping department of U.S. Electrical Motors in L.A..  One of the line workers came into the office and said, "The president's been shot."  In the shocked silence, a woman named Rugh, who worked on the motor serial desk, a rabid, racist Republican who would have fit in perfectly at a particularly looney Tea Party rally, leaned back in her chair, clapped her hands, laughed and said, "Well, they finally got that son of a bitch!"

The silence in the room went on forever.

It wasn't until years later that I began to comprehend exactly what she represented.  And while she has been long dead, her ghost never died.  It's alive and well and is operating overtime today. Some ugly things in America just never die.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ah, Politics, Politics

Well, good for Obama.  By issuing his executive orders on a segment of immigration policy, he’s given at least a little relief to millions of people . . . for now . . . and that’s a good thing. 

Republicans will now go back into their rooms, refuse to do anything  for the next two years, and sulkily blame Obama for their inaction.  Not that anybody will notice , since that’s what they’ve been doing for the past six years.  Since this is a Congress unfit to govern, then perhaps not governing is a very good thing.

Now, the interesting thing to see will be whether the friends of all those millions of people this executive order is helping (and/or their friends)  will vote Republican in 2016 or stay home in sizeable enough numbers that will help get a Republican congress AND Republican president elected. That will be something to see.  Serpents teeth, ungrateful children and all that.

Meanwhile in upstate New York, residents there have been buried under tons of snow, it’s going to heat up Monday when they’re likely going to be buried under tons of water.  So, here’s the question:  Are they paying attention to the issue of Climate change now? Is the rest of the country?

Speaking of Politics

The sad drama that played out in Arroyo Grande has come to a quiet end . . . . for now.  The Tribune reports that the A.G. city council accepted city manager Steve Adams’s resignation offer and placed him on immediate administrative leave.  If you recall, he and Community Development Director Teresa McClish were found by the cops alone together at City Hall late at night, apparently both sobering up enough to drive home after attending a social event.

The incident blew up into a melee and prompted an expensive outside investigation, which concluded that there was no evidence that the two were engaged in an “inappropriate or romantic relationship,” but , most interestingly, did find that “a significant number of city employees who were interviewed perceived that there was ‘something more than just a casual or business manager-subordinate relationship between the two.’”

Which gets us back to the eternal heart of the dangers that lurk along the pathways of all who serve in the public eye:  Caesar’s Wife.

She, you remember, understood well that not only did she need to actually be above suspicion, she had to appear to be above suspicion. In the real world, that’s often a hard, but necessary task.

Arroyo Grande resident Will Power was reported as saying that this whole brouhaha and the way it was handled created “’a cheap, cynical attitude toward city government [that] has affected many residents,’ leading to a stampede of judgment, which resulted in an expensive, unnecessary investigation.”

“Newly elected members to city government should know that you will be presumed guilty until proven innocent,” he said.”

Good advice from Mr. Power, even though I think he meant it as a criticism of what he views as an unfair state of politics.  I, on the other hand, take that advice as totally sound, something that should be taken seriously.

If you’re an elected official or are serving in the public eye, you should be presumed guilty until you can prove yourself to be otherwise. Failure to take Caesar’s Wife to heart is something you do at your own peril.  Perception IS reality.  It’s all simply part of the job description, so stop wining and mind your P’s and Q’s.

Being in the public eye, being in politics has always been a hard, unpredictable game for big boys and girls.  So, time to don those grownup panties.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Aw Dang!  I wanted President Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill so I could see Senator Mitch McConnell's head explode. But Congress beat me to it; the Senate defeated the bill . . . for now.  Dang!

Then I wanted President Obama to issue his executive order on immigration so I could watch John Boehner's head explode, but I guess I'll have a wait a bit for that. Maybe that will happen in time for Christmas.  What a present!

Of course, the immigration thing will also cause Senator Ted Cruz's head to explode, after which he'll start impeachment proceedings, which will cause all the Democrats' heads to explode.  Which is going to make the floors in Congress pretty messy, and that's why I'm now heavily investing in several major cleaning service businesses. 

I'll also have to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the health care issue.  I want them to rule so that Obamacare can be totally dismantled so "Freeeeedom!" will prevail and all those millions of people who now have health care will lose it.  And everyone else can return to the good old days when they could be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, or be tossed off their insurance when their illnesses got too expensive, or go bankrupt when they got ill.  Since "everybody" hates Obamacare (except those who actually have it; most of them are satisfied with their coverage) I say, get rid of it and make the insurance companies very happy. Then everyone can return to harping about how awful our medical care system is while doing nothing about fixing it.  And we can go back to choosing between buying food or paying for our medicines.  Like God intended.

Once the Republicans take over both houses of Congress in January,  I'm hoping all regulations and restrictions on gas, coal, oil  are lifted (More Freeeeedom!) and we start burning every last bit of it -- especially that really, really dirty tar sand oil that the XL pipeline will be bringing across America to be sold overseas. I also want lots of oil spills from that pipeline.  Oil spills are job creators! 

And I want us to bring back the SUV!  We need to drive more!  It's Burn, America, Burn. And I want every nation on earth (especially China and India) do the same. The bigger the burn, the faster the weather will change.  And I want the weather to change because the sooner it does, the sooner Senator Jim Inhofe's beloved state (Oklahoma) will be wiped off the face of the earth by super tornadoes generated by Global Warming (which he doesn't believe in) and so I want to see if, standing amidst the rubble, he finally "gets it" and that causes his head to explode.

Right now, polar bear numbers are dropping by 40%.  We've got to do better than that, people.  There's oil under that ice so the quicker we get rid of the ice, the quicker we can get to that oil. It's a matter of national security now because we'll soon be fighting global Resource Wars -- food, water, energy, governmental collapse, massive immigration, disease -- so we'll need all the oil we can get.

Otherwise all our heads will explode and the only thing that will be left on our self-destroyed planet will be cockroaches and dead-battery iPhones.   

Monday, November 17, 2014


If you’ve ever seriously pursued the arts –- dance, music, theatre, fine arts , or been deeply committed to mastering a sport , or experienced a tough teacher who demanded nothing but your best and tolerated no excuses -- then Whiplash is a film that will resonate  powerfully with you.

It’s a familiar theme (think “Fame,” “Drumline”)— A musical drama about a talented, hot-shot kid (Miles Teller) attending “the finest musical school in the country,” determined to be the best at his art form (drumming) who learns a lesson about the often lethal demands The Muse and The Maestro (J. K. Simmons at his fearsome best) can make on their acolytes.

Add into this mix another question:  How far can/should a teacher go to ensure one of his students not only achieves his own personal best, but breaks through to “greatness?”

As those issues play out, the viewer is given a cringe-worthy glimpse into what it can take to master any art form that demands peak performance – the grinding, exhausting mastery of the basics, the harrowing discipline required, and the dreams broken by the cruel, inexorable winnowing of “good enough” from “excellent,” from  “great.”

And asks the hard questions:  Who pays the price for greatness?   What’s the cost of failure? And is it worth it?   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Intersteller Snoozing

Rule of thumb for moviemakers of big, block-busting Sci-Fi/Fantasy-type movies like the new Intersteller: 

Don't 'splain too much. 

Just toss out some reasonably techy-sounding argle-bargle, then get on it with it!  This is a Sci-Fi blockbuster, not a Stephen Hawking lecture.  There will be no test waiting n the lobby after the movie is over.  Plus, your audience has already seen enough Star Trek episodes that they already "get" all the time travel concepts needed to keep your basic story coherent.  Anything more is TMI and acts as a ginormous lead-footed Yak-Yak-Yak-Yak brake on a story that should be racing ahead at the speed of light.

And, Do Not, under any circumstance, have your various protagonists endlessly 'splaining lots of complicated quantum physics, time-travel concepts, and even expository plot points while engaged in a life and death struggle on the ledge of a snowy precipice.  Seriously?

Plus, most SciFi/Fantasy moviegoers have learned long ago:  Don't ask.  

And watch the music.  A Mormon Tabernacle-sized pipe organ operating full blast at every conceivable "dramatic moment" needlessly blows your audience out of their chairs and turns your movie into a comic thunderous mashup of Monty Python Meets Phantom of the Opera TA-DAH! moments.

New Times reviewer Jessica Pena ends her recent review by noting that "The story may be contrived, the dialogue may be clunky, but there are things in this movie you won't see anywhere else, and that makes Intersteller a significant achievement." While co-reviewer Rhys Heyden notes, "Every even year since 2006, everyone's favorite writer-director of humorless yet undeniably majestic magna opera has graced us with another one of his films.  . . . [which] is classic Nolan, playing to all of his strengths and acccentuating his weak spots."

Well, faint praise, but that about says it all.

And, spoiler alert, the world gets saved and love triumphs.  TA-DAH!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Seas of Red

For most of us, World War I is quaint, ancient history.  And to this day, few people, including historians, can come up with a half-way sane reason for its awful, pointless, brutal, lethal stupidity. In his book, "The Missing of the Somme," Geoff Dyer writes, "The exact number of people who died in the Great War will never be known.  France and Germany each lost more than a million and a half men; Russia, two million.  Three-quarters of a million of the dead were British -- a figure which rises to almost a million when the losses of the Empire as a whole are considered."

Those millions truly were a lost generation, and their loss would echo down the years, the war itself becoming the locus for the next one in an unholy cycle of death. But conceiving of "millions" is hard for the human mind to comprehend.  Which is why an art installation at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the start of that awful war is so effective.  Try Googling "Seas of Red," and trail through the listings, some news stories and photos, the other listings video images. (  )

The piece consists of 888,246 three-feet tall red ceramic poppies -- the poppies of Flanders Fields fame, one for each of the Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Great War.  The poppies spill out of a window at the Tower of London (a place not unfamiliar with blood itself) like a river of blood, a river that floods the great moat.  The effect is visually arresting, creepy, appalling and beautiful, all at the same time.  It also gives the viewer a visceral, symbolic image of the scale of what was lost in those Flanders Fields.

And all the other Flanders Fields that came after it --  The never ending flood of war dead.

Armistice Day, 11/11/19, was originally set aside to commemorate the ending of this one, singularly unique "Great War." By 1954, there were too many other war-dead that needed inclusion so the name was changed to Veterans Day since it was clear that the war to end all wars was a misnomer.

And because it was a misnomer, perhaps it's time for every country to create their own Seas of Red to remind citizens in a very real way, of what  they continue to lose every time old men beat the war drums while young men and women march to their deaths. To start, I suggest a Sea of Red spilling out of the doors of Congress and running down the mall in a crimson flood to end at the doors of the Veterans Administration.  A pointed reminder that a good part of that red tide is the living war-wounded who are still bleeding.  And need our help.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Comic Opera

 Calhoun's Cannons for Nov 6,2014

The U.S. seems a country hell-bent on its own failure.
                                    Clive Crook

Well,, that election was a head scratcher.  From the first days of the Obama administration, Republicans determined that their number one priority was to become the Party of NO! And for years, voters caterwauled about this do-nothing Congress, yet when given a chance they elected even more Party of No Republicans and sent them back as a majority in both Congress and the Senate to do even more nothing. 

According to a Pew Research Center poll, likely voters disliked the Republican Party even more than they disliked the Democrats and 68% said they'd like to fire every incumbent. But when the chance came to do just that, they reelected the incumbents and sent even more of the "disliked" Republicans to Washington.

So either the voter's wails of discontent to the pollsters was all an act or the American voter has an inability to grasp the concept that if you don't like what A is doing, electing two more A's won't solve your problem.

The comedy got even better when Congressman Mitch McConnell gave his victory speech. "Just because we have a two-party system doesn't mean we have to be in perpetual conflict. . . We have an obligation to work together on the issues where we can agree," said the man who vowed that his number one priority in Congress was to make Obama a one term president by stopping anything the President proposed.  Now that Republicans have both houses, he is proposing comity with a straight face? It does not get any better than that.

Democrats, of course, are now covered in sackcloth, wringing their hands and wondering why they lost to a political party whose popularity rated lower than dog poo.  True, some of the losses came because of Republican gerrymandered districts and the new Republican efforts at voter suppression, but the real answer for the Democrats is in the numbers:  Not enough of them bothered to go vote. 

So either their wails of discontent to the pollsters was all an act as well, or Democrats are hazy on the concept that if you don't like what A is doing, and you have a chance to vote A out of office, sitting home on your couch on election day won't  solve your problem.    

What a country!

Well, good luck to 'em all.  McConnell has his work cut out for him -- herding Republican House cats, a gaggle of Tea party anti-government types wishing to burn the place down, ambitious men with knives, eyeing Caesar and dreaming, with El Gato Primo, Ted Cruz, being the biggest dreamer of them all. The President said he'd sit down to sip bourbon with McConnell. Good advice.  And bring a bottle of aspirin.  It's going to be a bumpy, comical two years.

Not so comical is that through all this nonsense,  Mother Nature's clock is ticking. A recent UN report on global warming has made it clear that we only have a narrow window of opportunity for major political and technical action to pivot away from carbon-based energy if we're to avert the worst of what's coming down on  us.   Recent polls have shown that global warming now has a majority of voters concerned, yet they just voted for a House and Senate controlled by the party of climate deniers, a party committed to King Coal and Big Oil, a party that will ensure two critical years will be lost while the Big Burn continues or accelerates.

So, either the American people really don't care about their future and are lying to the pollsters, or they don't understand the concept that Mother Nature does not negotiate.  Her terms are clear: Burn it now and your grandchildren will burn later.  Very simple.  And not funny at all.   

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

OMG! OMG! Sewer Wars Half-Over?

Poor Pandora.  Her efforts at getting her Boys (Storm, Baltimore, Tornatzky) elected to the CSD by trying to re-start the Hideous Sewer Wars with her letter-to-the-editor (Oct 23) attacking candidates Cesena and/or Swanson failed.  One of her targets (Cesena) got elected to serve alongside her two boys, Storm and Tornatzky.

The immediate result of this "voter's choice" is that the LOCSD's general manager's job is safe, for now, but the meetings will likely remain a bit testy, which is as it should be.  A too-cozy board is a board that's not doing its job. And a board that defers with too few questions to an administrator is also a board that's not doing its job. So, with this new slate, it's the CSD that's the winner, IF everyone takes a deep breath and takes as a given that this vote was an indication that the voters did, indeed, want everyone -- Tri-Wers and Move the  Sewerers -- to serve together on the Board and . . .  "move forward."

Congratulations to the winners (and my deepest sympathy -- now comes the hard part: governing this growling, contentious bear of a community) and thank you to all the candidates for running for a tough, thankless job. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

And Bones Will Fall From The Sky: The New Old Lemos Open for Business


Lemos Pet Store in Morro Bay is now back in its old site but in fine new rags.  The new building looks like a cross between a barn and an old timey railroad station, complete with a “rusty” metal roof and other fine details. All beautifully done.

There’s now a Dog Wash complete with various sizes and heights of metal tubs for scrubbing your pooch.


And plenty of room for a wide variety of stock, including dog dog beds


 And, of course, a cat corner.


But cat houses  held no interest for “Sarge,” a Mastiff/Geat Dane puppy who was checking the place out.

He was after  much more interesting game. 

As for the rest of the two-legged shoppers . . .


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Oooooo Nooooo, Not The Sewer Wars Redux

Aw, dang!  And things were going along so nicely here in Sewerville.  The sewer pipes are in, the sewer plant is a-building right along.  A new Los Osos CSD election was on its way.  The letters to the editor pages were filled with snarking about every other race but our own.  The CSD candidates' forum was very  informative and collegial and collectively respectful, the only "controversy" was over why two of the candidates apparently failed to contact the organizers (the local Democratic club and/or whoever was handling the arrangements) to say they couldn't attend and could we please set another night. But, everyone soldiered on nonetheless.

Then everything started to go sideways: The CSD decided that use of Channel 20 to broadcast the debate was verboten because the group organizing the debate was considered a "political" group, even though political affiliation has never been a part of the CSD candidate qualifications or of the CSD election itself.  So the debate had to air on You Tube, of all places, until it finally aired on AGP's Channel 21.

Then Pandora Nash-Karner fired an opening salvo in the pages of the Tribune, directly attacking two of the candidates, dredging up the Old Sewer Wars, then touting her own slate of candidates.  It was a letter that caused me to snort coffee out of my nose and think:  It is supremely delicious how the architect of the original disaster now points with faux-dismay at those who were left to deal with the inevitable cascading debacle that resulted from the original disaster.  Sudden concern about the fate of the CSD from the woman who demanded Roger Briggs fine the CSD out of existence?  Quel gall.  

But I said nary a word on this blog and hoped everyone else would zip-it.  A few days later a clone of Pandora's letter appeared.  Again, I posted nothing. And waited, with bated breath, but no counter letters appeared, so I figured maybe Pandora's targets and her Chosen Three would ALL rise above her baited opening salvo and stay focused on what's become our favorite mantra out here: A relentlessly smiley-faced "Moving Forward!

But, no such luck.  Saturday front page, the Sewer Wars erupted, with Pandora's Chosen Three now joined up and issuing a flier attacking their two opponents over the (ancient history) sewer while defending their own attack flier by saying that Cesena and Swanson are to blame since they criticized  the two incumbants over "not holding the [current] district's administration accountable."

Yikes!  Criticizing incumbents over current issues.  In an election, no less.  Who would have thought? 

Well,  you can see how splendidly our smiley-faced "Moving Forward!" mantra is working.  As is our loudly stated insistence on not dredging up the Bad Old Days, our relentlessly positive efforts to just focus on current-and-future CSD issues, so long as candidates don't disagree with or criticize any incumbents for present-day administrative difficulties?  

So, here we are once again in a fifth-grade Poo fight. With an added bonus: A Tribune front-page story that also tosses Mr. Storm's temper and obscene gesture issues front and center, a piece of information I doubt the average voter had been aware of prior to this.

Sigh.  More proof positive that knives in a knife fight have blades that can cut both ways.

Since a good many people in Los Osos use mail-in ballots and vote early, the CSD election may well have been decided after the candidate forum but before Pandora's first shot and/or the Tribune headlines and this morning's final tit-for-tat final two letters. Wouldn't that be interesting to contemplate? Well, two more days and we'll see what happens.  Good luck to all the candidates and thanks for running. 

Except for the Tribune's final parting shot: The CSD candidates didn't even rate an editorial recommendation.  Poor Los Osos.  Still the county's Red-Haired Stepchild.  

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Your Sunday Poem on a Saturday.

Soft rain, sweet rain
longed for rain, prayed for  rain
a blessing on the earth. 
Puddles of rain, gutters of rain
delicious on a run-out tongue,
tasting of  . . .  "More, please!" 
Thank you. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Does Ebola Make You Stupid?

Would somebody please round up the ignoramuses who are spreading EbolaFear.  Especially all the faux-macho guys trying to out Ebola one another on the Toughness Meter. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Governor Christie!  And quarantine them all for 21 years.  Seriously.

I get it.  That quick chill at the base of the skull. Ebola is a spooky, nasty virus that kills its victims in a particularly horrible way. Read anything about how it kills and your stomach will churn. And don't even begin to think about this virus mutating. If you try reading anything about the terrible suffering of its victims and of the heroic medical workers and Doctors who, against terrible odds and in terrible conditions, continue to risk (and lose) their lives to help those who are infected, your heart will ache.

But bloviating politicians who can't get their acts together?  A public that doesn't seem able to educate themselves with a little Google searching so they don't go flying off into Urban MythLand, government authorities having a hard time getting on the same page, and our usual Hysterical 24/7 shrieking News Cycles all flipping out in an Ebola Feeding Frenzy.  Dear God, spare us.

And now, thanks to a spunky nurse, Kaci Hickox, we'll soon be caught up in a Max Sennett Comedy. Kaci, a nurse, came back from a stint in Sierra Leon as a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders and landed in Newark.  Her temperature was taken by an unreliable method (the new temple/laser thermometers are often less imprecise than the old fashioned methods), she had a slight fever so she was hustled off to a hospital that was clearly not ready for any possible Ebola patients.  So she ended up in a tent-like arrangement and when her fever disappeared she was informed that, nonetheless, she had been quarantined for 21 days so she'd have to park it in her little tent.  Where, Governor Christie opined, she'd be perfectly happy since "she could order take out from Newark's finest restaurants,"

Take out food from Newark's finest?  Well, that did it. She called a lawyer, and the battle was on: Science and law vs. cobbled together, slap-dash "public safety" rules made up on the fly and changing from day to day, state to state as the experts argued over what should be done with people like Kaci.

In no time, Kaci got herself sprung and promptly left for her home in Maine where she refused her "quarantine," since she had no fever, was not infective, so she went out for a bike ride with the media in tow and the Governor threatening arrest.  And with that one defiant act, the Ebola Narrative switched away from the tragic, desperate suffering in West Africa and became an American Comedy: Spunky Gal vs The Evil Government. A glorious and entertaining conflation of Little Eliza and Perilous Pauline jumping her bicycle from ice flow to ice flow as the baying bloodhounds close in.

Tragedy to comedy in an eyeblink.  And now the bloviating politicians. The stupidity has to be catching.  Well, suit up everybody, Dumbth has gone viral.

Have a Happy Halloween. Wrap the kids in plastic, bring umbrellas on your trick-or-treat outings, and pray for rain.   

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No MAS, please

Poor Morro Bay.  It's like a rather lackadaisical family who lets the nickles and dimes fall out of their pockets and accumulate under the couch cushions, until Momma needs a new pair of shoes and then the family roars into the living room and starts tearing the couch apart in a fury looking for those dimes, shrieking, "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" and terrifying the children.

Apparently, Morro Bay has been pretty lax over the years when it came to making sure all businesses are up to date on their business licenses.  Then, months ago, since they're cash-strapped (aren't we all?), they passed a consent agenda item without really understanding what they were getting themselves in for.  They held no public hearings, did no research, got no feedback before they signed a contract with Municipal Auditing Services (MAS) to do a thorough audit of the town in order to shake loose all those missing business licenses.

So MAS roared into town like wild-eyed Momma with a huge pair of giant scissors in her hands heading for the couch cushions and those dimes hidden underneath.  Rather alarming and confusing  letters filled with muddled but unmistakeable menace went out to businesses.  The letters can best be summed up as, "You're gonna pay up big time, you scofflawing low-life, or we're gonna dynamite your store and hang your dog!"  Soon, complaints were coming in about the "rude, intimidating" follow- up phone calls. And before you know it, fear and fury roared through the business community, which is the lifeblood of the town, and all kinds of dark, dire imagining rose into the air like a terrifying miasma. It was like a spooky, scary Halloween before Halloween.

The Chamber and other business folk soon called a "workshop" to try to figure out what the hell was going on.  At the meeting they were able to make clear some of what MAS was going to do -- collect four years of back license fees plus taxes plus penalties, with a possible total cost of $1,200 or more -- and require that all "vendors" that sell anything to anybody in Morro Bay cough up a $135-a-year license.  That information caused a good many jaws to drop and eyeballs to pop out and tempers rose accordingly.

Worse, was what that $135-a-year would mean to  "artists, artisans, home crafters" who eke out a modest living occasionally selling their work to galleries and consignment stores, with the concern being that Morro Bay's lively arts community would go kaput.  After all, what artist, who may do one or two shows a year, often selling very little, would exhibit in Morro Bay if they had to cough up $135 smackaroonies for the "privilege" of doing so.

And, nobody seem to know what the hell the term "vendors" meant.  Like was MAS going to post blockades on every road into town and stop any vehicle coming in with anything intended to be sold in the town's stores, and check them for their "vendor's" licenses?   Or take the names of every product sold in the town then write a little note to the manufacturer of that product demanding they cough up the dough for a business license  since they are a "vendor" selling a product in the town?

In short, things were in a mess, but the staff and Council listened to the concerns and last night the Council came up with a few modifications: A 90 day amnesty for everyone not in compliance -- no back taxes, no back penalties, just pay the previous 4 years license fees which will bring your business current and you'll be good to go.  And small art crafters/artist "vendors" who sell $2,500 or less per year, would only need to get themselves current then would need a $10 license. And they promised to revisit the municipal business codes to see what needed updating and fixing so they could end up with a more level playing field and make sure that all businesses are paying their fair share, without killing off the golden geese  (small business) that keep Morro Bay a thriving community.

As an example of how poorly this whole things was handled, I had to ask whether that $2,500 for art/crafters/vendors was gross or net.  The council didn't know.  And there was the reason why this whole mess went sideways from day one.  The municipal codes, the MAS implementation, all of it was ass-backwards and not ready for prime time.  Worse, City Manager, David Buckingham, stated that "outside vendors" (which nobody bothered to define) would not be tracked down if they lived and worked out of the city or , as Mr. Buckinham put it, they were not worth the juice (i.e. the cost of pursuing costs more than what they would owe.).  Which means you've got a law on the books that will be selectively enforced at the whim of MAS or Mr. Buckingham, which means it's a bad law.

And there the problem lies.  The city needed to first re-consider and re-define the code and decide what various parameters should be, define the terms, outline categories with fee amounts and etc.  Then do an education/outreach effort, and only then bring in something like MAS for enforcement.

But that didn't happen because, as the Council made clear, they had hired MAS without doing their homework/due diligence, without thinking through some of the unintended consequences, and were now very sorry but they had already signed the contracts and were stuck for the next three years.

And then something extraordinary happened.  One by one (Jamie Irons had recused himself for possible conflict of interest since he was already officially appealing a MAS ruling on his license requirements)  the Council members APOLOGIZED to the community for screwing up and causing such distress.

Apologized to the community!  It was a breathtaking thing to see.

And certainly a hopeful sign that they will be working hard to ensure this cockamamie mess gets fixed, will be open to community input, will work to get the codes tweaked and improved to ensure fairness and common sense.  And they'll likely put a muzzle on the MAS enforcers, maybe school them in the Morro Bay Way.


Ron Crawford, over at www.   
 is wondering why a handful of people got a refund check from the bankruptcy proceedings while others didn't.  Hmmm, more ancient history to unwind. Ron is just having too much fun.

Fair warning to my fanboy/girl Sewer Trolls, don't come on this comment section to chew on my ankles.  You will be dumped.  If you got a crank, go chew on Ron's ankles on his website.  And if you know any of the folks listed, ask them to give Ron a call or post on his website so he can finish his story on this little wrinkle. Thanks.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lessons Unlearned

Calhoun's Cannons for Oct 27, 2014

"You get the most flak when you're right above the target."
                                                                   Kill the Messenger

The late investigative reporter, Gary Webb, should have been the wake-up call, a warning bell that a new era had arrived.  But the real meaning of his life and death got lost among the din.  And remains lost to this day.  Which was the point.

The era Webb was writing about  was Reagan's, the War On Drugs was running full-blast, as was the CIA and their "dirty-little wars," various black-ops being run under the public's radar. Webb was what's known in the popular imagination and in Hollywood portrayals as a "dogged reporter."  One of those passionate post-Nixon, post Watergate, post Woodward and Bernstein guys who actually believed that journalism was an honorable profession.  He was working for the San Jose Mercury News, a smallish paper that had a pretty solid reputation, a paper that Hollywood would portray as "scrappy."

Until Gary stumbled on a story that seemed inconceivable at the time -- that during the '80s the U.S. government, namely the CIA knew/ had to have known/ knowingly was laundering drug money (specifically cocaine funneled into L.A. and most pointedly and politically explosively into black South Central L.A., via a major drug-dealer, "Freeway" Ricky Ross). Gary tracked the story down and in 1996 the Merc News ran it and before anyone had invented the word "going viral," the story went viral.

At the time, I remember reading the story and I watched in amazement at the growing firestorms, and headlines by the other "big papers" -- the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times -- that followed: accusations that the CIA had deliberately funneled crack cocaine into the black community in order to destroy it, that the CIA itself was selling the drugs to pay for it's secret Nicaraguan "Contra" wars, each claim more outrageous than the other and all being laid at Gary's feet.  Then came the shift in focus from denial to a growing criticism of Gary's story, and finally Gary himself, until the ultimate betrayal by his own paper, which threw him under the bus in an effort to save itself..  All of which is very well portrayed in the new film, "Kill the Messenger," staring Jeremy Renner as Webb.

However, throughout this media assault, I kept noticing one constant, repeating small point that consistently got steamrolled:  The accusations and claims making the headlines and being debunked, were NOT what Gary had written.  He never said what the news stories were reporting he said.  But instead of taking Gary's lead and running with the story, taking it further, digging deeper, the media stopped looking and just repeated the straw-man lies until that false narrative became "true." Then they ran with that.

And continued to run with it for years whenever events caused the story to be referenced again.  Fake "facts," like some Urban Myth, endlessly repeating. It was a surreal phenomenon to watch at the time and I kept thinking that surely, a big paper like the L.A. Times would discover its error and correct their own record. 

Years later, when the CIA 'fessed up that they were doing exactly what Webb reported -- looking the other way as drug money was laundered to buy guns for their "contra" operations -- the L.A. Times buried that story way back in the middle of the paper in a single column and it wasn't until 2006 that they finally acknowledge their own complicity in the falsification of that story.  But by that time, Gary was dead, his death ruled a suicide, his career destroyed, his reputation sullied; death by a thousand cuts administered, not by his enemies, but by his professional colleagues.

For a man who considered journalism to be an honorable profession, it was an unimaginable betrayal, and is perfectly represented by the film's ending: Gary, his career already in ruins, is shown accepting an "Excellence in Journalism Award."  The bitter irony was not lost on the audience.

Tragically, the public didn't pay attention to what had just happened with Gary, a dangerous change in how the media/corporate/government complex operates that continues (on steroids) to play out today: the rise of mega-corporate news organizations, the too-cozy willingness of  that media to act as a lapdog to government, not a watchdog, the willingness of both media and the public to focus on the messenger, not the message, the ease with which a narrative can be falsified by changing even one word, and the willingness of the public to "buy" that false narrative, even at their own peril.

What happened to Gary Webb was the template for how easy it is to get away with it all -- crash an economy, start wars on lies, spy on millions of Americans, you name it.  The list is endless but the M.O. is the same: Falsify the narrative, kill the messenger, distract the audience until it loses interest, then re-write history.  Simple.  


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Your Sunday Photo

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spooky Water Woes


Drought stricken Cambria put on a brave face and her town full of scarecrows soldiered on, while thousands of visitors filled the streets and sidewalks and businesses, gawking, snapping pics, shopping and having a wonderful time.

The public restroom was closed so visitors were presented  instead with a long line of large porta-potties.  And I’m sure if anyone went into a restaurant they had to specifically ask for a glass of water and were probably lucky if they didn't get The Soup Nazi as a waiter who would yell at them, "No Water For YOU!"

Being the topic du jour, water scarcity was also on the scarecrows’ minds. And they all had suggestions on ways to conserve water.


I spoke to one shop owner who likely spoke for all the shop owners: They were delighted to see all the visitors since tourism is Cambria’s life blood, but were rather resentfully envious thinking about all those (unrestricted) visitors taking long, hot showers in their motel rooms while the rest of the town had to make do with 3- minute sluicings and dead lawns.

And so I offered a modest proposal: A Chamber of Commerce ad campaign that promised a Cambria resident would come with every motel room and would join the visitor in their nice hot, unlimited water shower stall to act as a professional soaping-up back-scrubber .

I know.  I doubt the Chamber will go for it either. 

The Scarecrow Festival continues until the end of the month so if you get a chance, go up and see all of them, including this wonderful fellow. 


Be sure to bring a bottle of water. And after scarecrowing, head up to Sebastian’s for a sandwich and a visit from a real non-scared crow.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Your Sunday Photos

Zuri Waits For The Green Beans . . .

. . . . And Bones Did Rain Down From The Skies . . .