Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Folly

It started while I was in the nursery staring at this little tree.  It was the dead of winter and here was this little tree, the photo-tag clinging to its fragile branch, a photo promising much. promising a dream, really, of warm springs, flowering blossoms, and baskets of crunchy fruits when fall is in the air. Ka-Ching! went the cash register.


That’s how it started, that one little tree.  Soon, some vague agrarian idea about peas and beets and squash floated into my brain so more digging commenced. But freshly turned dirt, smelling of worms and muck, soon lured the dogs who found the decorative fencing no match for their tall legs. So, ka-ching!  more fencing had to be bought.

Vegetable garden, Before 002

Of course, Molly still managed to leap over that or somehow get her snooter through the openings, which prompted another trip to the hardware store for the next step:

Garden Folly V, dog fence 002

Fortress America! 

Thus swaddled, success!  Pea pod shoots.
And apple leaves followed!

Garden Folly IV, netting 003Garden Folly IV, netting 002

Of course, with tasty shoots, the snails arrived.  Then little worms. Then  the birds. Voracious birds like flying dentures, pecking up everything in sight.  So with a sigh, I had to make another trip to the store for . . . ka-Ching!

Garden Folly IV, netting 001

Bird netting – nearly invisible, endlessly snagging, tangling , infuriating bird netting.  And a roll of flashing, shimmery, reflective tape that’s supposed to scare birds away.

In no time, wrapped and be-ribboned, my little garden plot prospered:  Beets, beans, pea pods, squash.  And somewhere in there a few carrots, and a pumpkin vine that escaped the fencing and was soon snaking across the bare earth, heading for the hydrangeas.

Oh, yes, and a higher than normal water bill.

001Garden Folly VI, beets, beans, peas 5-14 002

But there I finally was, Farmer McGregor proudly surveying my farm plot  filled with fresh, organic produce, all blissfully growing somewhere under the huge, expensive wrapping of fencing, netting and bamboo stake-poles until it was time for first harvest:

Garden Folly Finale 001


Bon Appetite!

Monday, June 23, 2014

PCPA has a Winner, again.

If you’re of a certain age, the musical review, “Forever Plaid,” now playing at Santa Maria’s PCPA, will be a lovely, funny trip down memory lane. If you’re not of a certain age, but are familiar with the great American popular music songbook, it will also be a trip down a musical historical lane.  And a lot of laughs.

The plot is simple:  Four young guys  (think clean-cut nerds with pocket protectors and wonderful voices) form a close-harmony group (think The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen, all popular “guy groups” in the 1950’s). They are driving down the highway in their 1954 Mercury convertible on their way to pick up their plaid tuxedoes when they’re broadsided and killed by a school bus filled with Catholic girls on their way to see the first Beatles concert on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Yes.  Nice touch.
The show is all about their return from heaven to sing one last concert as The Plaids.  And sing they do, 29 classic 1950’s hits, from Day-O, Sixteen Tons, Three Coins in the Fountain, and the only finale possible with such a line-up – Love is a Many Splendid Thing. 

Plus a show stopper: A hilarious send-up of “The Ed Sullivan Show in Three Minutes, 27 Seconds” with “Lady of Spain” played on the accordion the whole time. That was worth the price of admission alone.

The cast, Jeff Parker, Richie Ferris, Kyle Smith and Nick Tubbs, are all part of the regular line  of PCPA players, and manage the very difficult task of being both ironic/comic and ‘50’s sentimental/sappy while singing gorgeous close harmony songs.  Not an easy challenge.

Well, I don’t think there’s much of anything the players at PCPA can’t do.  It’s an extraordinary theatre gem right here in our backyard.  Do yourself a favor if you want to have a genuinely entertaining afternoon:  Go see “Forever Plaid.”  But you’d better hurry.  It’s  closing this Sunday, June 29.  So call the box office at 922-8313 or order tickets on line at

Meanwhile, over at the SLO Little Theatre (  (805) 786-2440) I had a chance to finally catch one of their “Ubu’s Other Shoe” performances.  These are described as “staged readings,” which brings to mind a bunch of actors sitting around a table reading from a script.  Not correct, though the actors do have their scripts with them and the theatre is pretty bare except for the  most limited props.  The notes in the program added this bit of information:  “Ubu’s Other Shoe” was created to present challenging, though-provoking plays, old and new, the content of which might make them unsuitable for main state production.  It also gives directors and actors and opportunity to work on challenging plays that would not otherwise be available.”

In short, “Ubu’s Other Shoe” is a win/win.  In order to practice and hone their craft, actors and directors need to act, they need a script and they need a place to do it all in.  But staging a full play – costumes, sets, takes time and money and if the play is a challenging one and unlikely to bring in enough paying customers to pay the bills, what do do? 

Well, Ubu’s what you do.  The plays can be quickly staged utilizing the playgoers’  imagination – the true magic of theatre (think “theatre of the mind” radio dramas ), the presentations can utilize dates when the theatre would otherwise be dark, the ticket price is cheaper (with a season ticket, it’s only $10 a show.) which means live theatre can fit into far more budgets.
I had a chance to go see Ubu’s presentation of “August: Osage County,” and was amazed.  Yes, the actors carried their scripts but they weren’t “reading,” they were full-bore acting.  So prepared and on target was the cast, the show was more like a dress rehearsal than just some walk-read-through.
And what a performance it was and quite a wonderful eye-opener to see how one play, same characters, same dialogue can be so transformed, depending on what interpretation the actor brings to the table.

I had seen the movie with Meryl Streep.  It was a Bataan Death March of a film – dark and grim.  And Streep’s gravitas and powerful presence moved her Violet Weston into the realm of Medea – a savage, relentless, genuinely awful woman in a drama with few laughs.

  In Ubu’s presentation, the play was listed as a “black comedy,” and Jill Turnbow’s wonderful performance turned Violet into a wounded woman whose malice is driven by her own pain and fear, her own dysfunction  and an inability to do or know any better. She is a woman both sinned against and sinning and Turnbow’s performance is both richly comic and touchingly tragic.  Instead of some grim Greek Drama, we get a picture of a family coping with secrets, old wounds and family legacies they’re not prepared or willing to deal honestly with. Medea was not in the room, but a lot of belly laughs were.

It was like seeing two different plays.  Again, the magic of theatre and the transformative power of an actor to shape a role, set a tone, and so shape an entire play.

SLO Little Theatre has also become one of our own theatre gems.  They’re starting their new season, including both Ubu’s Other Shoe’s line-up and a series of plays called “After Hours,” which presents both original plays and/or material suitable for adults.  Clearly, something for everyone.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Winter Is Coming . . .

Summer Solstice and amid the summer petunias and Johnny Jump-Ups,  under the summer green, the leaves on the Rogers Red grapevine are slowly starting to turn red.  Winter is coming.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Coffee Time

Once again, SLO Roasted Coffee is having it's Summer Open House, Sat. June 28th, noon to 4 pm.  They'll have the usual samplings of different coffees, plus "coffee infused edibles."  (They sell some little coffee flavored hard candy nibs there that are really yummy.) 

For this fest, they're also doing a Tri-Tip BBQ, the meat encrusted with coffee rub, and coffee enfused vegetarian BBQ beans, and coffee browned butter espresso sugar cookies from Apple Farm.  You can also sample an Ethopian Yirgacheffe coffee, a European Roast blend and "summertime cold press coffee"

From 1-2 they'll have their coffee roasting demonstration, followed by showing how the automatic bagging operates (from 2-3).

All this and 30% off on all their retail items during the day. ( At their Christmas open house I got one of the way cool manual Aero Press single cup espresso makers, a cunning little portable tube/plunger thingee that's whip-fast and makes yummy espresso.) And if you saw their flyer in yesterday's Tribune, there's even a coupon for $2 off on your next visit. 

The SLO Roasted factory/little retail store is at 1172 Los Olivos Ave right here in beautiful downtown Los Osos.  If you're a SLO Roasted Coffee fan, this bi-yearly event (next one will be in early December, just in time for Christmas) don't miss the fun. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Put Down The Dog And Step Away From The Trash Can

Ah, I love the Tribune's "County Roundup" section -- little snippets of news stories that, becuse they are snippets, intrigue for what's often missing.  Take the story a couple of days ago, "Shot fired over dog doo dispute." written by Cynthia Lambert. 

Seems a couple were walking down Santa Ynez St. (1100 block, here in Los Osos) and "noticed a sign warning people not to leave dog excrement in the garbage container . . " which, I presume was sitting out on the street.  The story isn't clear, but apparently there was a sign on (?), next to (?) the trash can saying not to dump dog doo in there.

Now, here's where the story gets interesting. According to the story, "When the man peered into the container, [Christopher Patrick ] Dierks (67), came out of the house and the two men started arguing. Dierks went back inside, came out with a 12-gage shotgun and fired one shot into the ground about 10 feet away from the couple"

No one was injured but Mr. Dierks got his behind arrested and taken to County Jail where he would be charged "with negligent discharge of a firearm and brandishing a firearm."

O.K., so far, so good, but here's a few puzzles.  Were the couple walking a dog at the time?  The story doesn't say.  If they weren't, if there was no dog with them, then why did the man peer into the trash can?  I mean, you're walking down the street, minding your own business, you don't have a dog, don't know anything about a dog, you see a trash can with a sign on it saying, "don't put dog doo in this thing," and so the very first thing you do is to immediately rush over to open the lid and peer in???

Looking for . . . . what? 

Unless you did have a dog with you and did drop a bag full of your dog doo into the can. Both of which Mr. Dierks likely saw, like maybe he was lurking by the front window, waiting to see if somebody would be stupid enough to take the bait and drop dog doo into a can saying "no dog doo."

But that will have to remain one of the mysteries of this story since the story makes no mention of the presence of a dog.

But we do know what happened next:  Mr. Dierks hollered at the couple for opening, for peering, for standing near his trash can, and the couple apparently started arguing  back.

Again, a mystery.  What kind of doofus, first peers into a trash can for no reason, then when told to Go away, Leave my trash can alone, Beat it! Shoo! starts back-talking?  Anyone with sense would say, Oops, Sorry, give a wave and keep walking.  Of course, anyone with any sense wouldn't be peering into trash cans in the first place.

And another mystery.  While it's very bad manners to drop your trash into other people's trash cans, is dog doo in a plastic bag worse by a factor of 10 than other noisome things that end up in trash cans?  So hideous it's worth getting a gun out?  After all, a garbage can isn't a dinner plate, so what's the difference?  Unless, of course, the doo in question isn't in a plastic bag but has been picked up in great goopy clumps with the bare hands and dumped in and scraped off onto the can lid.  But how likely is that?   

The rest of the story, of course, is clear.  Mr. Dierks goes and gets his 12-gage and fires it into the ground and gets his ass arrested -- a perfect NRA Poster Boy with anger issues, guilty of Walking While Stupid.  (Not that the trash-can-peerer is any Einstein either.)

End of story, except for the mystery: Where's the dog? Surely there had to be a dog.

Put Down The Coffee Cup And Step Away From Yer Mules. 

Yes,  another Walking While Stupid story. John C. Sears, "Mr. Mule Guy," who has been trekking all over the country with his mules, camping where he will, showed up in SLOTown and got arrested for "illegal camping." 

Naturally, he pitched a fit.  Went on his website -- --  and  Facebook page (Yes, this is a 21st Century story -- Crusty, Endearing, Old Western Trekking Coot w/Mules has a website and FB page) to whine and complain about how he, out of everyone in the world, should be allowed to camp anywhere he wanted to just because he's a Crusty, Endearing, Old Western Trekking Coot w/ Mules, Please Send Money.

What makes Coot so ridiculous -- besides his infantile belief in his own specialness -- is that he has full access via his social media to endless campsites from a variety of people who would love to host a Crusty Old Coot for overnight stays.  Instead, he chooses to play the victim in his own silly drama.  Like he's watched "Lonely Art The Brave" too many times and thinks he's Kirk Douglas.

Something a genuine Old Trekker would never think to do. They knew there's traveling smart and there's traveling dumb.  It's a lesson Mr. Sears apparently needs to learn.  Perhaps once he gets settled in a proper camping area and is sitting around the campfire staring at his mules, the ghost of old Jim Bridger will come pay him a visit and they can have a little chat before he heads off down the road.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mohammed's Briar Patch

Calhoun's Cannons for June 16, 2014

We warned long ago that the adventurism the Americans and the British started there would not end well."
                                                  Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov

Would somebody please send Senator John MaCain to Iraq so he can bomb something -- anything.  Right now, his war-lust, like all the old men who send other people's children to war, is running amok.  And who invited all those zombies back on TV?  Kristol, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the Bush-era Unrepentant Undead are flooding the airwaves once again to peer out from the TV screen to proffer more wrong "advice," singing the old PNAC song.  They were wrong then and wrong now.  Dear God, please make them go away. 

Well, it's not like anybody knows what to do, except "something."  But  what?  Even McCain's longed-for desire to bomb somebody, anybody, would likely end up with a supreme irony: American forces fighting on the same side of Iran, an official terrorist state.  That's how cork-screwed the Middle East has become, thanks to our "help."

Watching the predictable news out of Iraq, I can only ask, "Is America finally ready to get schooled in the terrible price we always pay for our willful ignorance, our deliberate know-nothingness, both of which fuel our pathological willingness to fall for the Big Con?"

The Neo-Con Philosopher Kings, their media pundits and their chosen President deluded themselves into thinking that folks living in the oil-rich middle east  under those funny clothes,  were, at heart, conservative-minded Rotarians from small-town Iowa who were just waiting for someone to bring them "freedom" so they could open up a Levis store, make lots of money and send their daughters to study Am. Lit. at a nice liberal arts college, then marry a stock broker.  

And what better excuse to launch this PNAC plan than after 9/11, when America had blood in her eye, no world history in her head, and didn't know a Sunni from a Shi'a, and  Iraq from Yemen?  If you "looked muslim," that was good enough.  You were a terrorist and a threat to "our way of life" and if we shocked and awed the wrong country in our pursuit of al Quaeda, who cared?  We'd be greeted as liberators and the oil money would pay for this grand jingo jaunt, and we'd have a fine time kicking some Muslim ass.

Only it didn't turn out that way, as old Sergey knew, Russia having had it's own "Iraqi" moment in Afghanistan.  As Colin Powell knew with his "you break it you own it" rhetoric.  As history itself would/should have told us, had we bothered to read or even talk to some old coot in British Intelligence, one of the old guys who arbitrarily divided up these countries after WWI, a fateful division of spoils with built-in poison pills that are finally coming due.

And poor Iraq may also be ready to be schooled in the terrible price to be paid when sectarian ideology trumps practical reality.  When dogs fight over a bone, it is the wolf who will settle the hash. And in this case, ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, appears ready to collect a good deal of the bones. Yet another lost lesson:  Beware the religious or political  fanatic whose "purity" (and weaponry and tactical smarts) is greater than your own. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dreams of a neo-Caliphate and that dream may prove to be more costly than anyone can imagine.

No, Sergey, this adventure did not turn out well.  It's possible that the Middle East simply isn't ready for any good solutions, except for their own hideous version of The Thirty Years War.  As long as fundamentalism appears to be an attractive bulwark against modernism and western  imperial designs, too many Islamic countries will remain  locked in the 16th century.  Democracy and modernity cannot thrive with a fundamentalist boot on the neck of the body politic. 

Or it's possible that tribal societies simply can't operate as large modern nation-states. That Iraq, hastily cobbled together by the British and French at the end of World War I, was never sustainable.  Right now, ISIS is re-drawing the map, forcefully, murderously creating something of a fait accompli  dual state -- Sunni to the north, Shi'a to the south.

If that division holds, the next lesson the people of the middle east will have to learn is an old one:  Be careful what you wish for, you might get it. And if Mr. Baghdadi turns out to be the Devil who will deliver the deal, it will not turn out well.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Movie Time

If you're out playing hooky at the movies, don't miss "Chef." (at the Palm.)  But get there early.  The matinee line was snaking around the front of the building and into the parking lot. 

This charming indy prod and stars Jon Favreau as a famous chef whose life has come to a dulling dead end.  Once the golden boy, cutting edge hot chef, he's now plodding along in Dustin Hoffman's restaurant dishing out dull old food, along with his two sous chefs (John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale) . When a blogging food reviewer (Oliver Platt) publicly trashes him, Favreau sends a reply in what he thinks is a private tweet.

 One problem.  It wasn't private, nor was his meltdown rant calling out the blogger in the restaurant, all of which goes viral.  So, his job over, his life in shambles, he sets off with his tweet-savvy son and ex-wife to kick start his career, reclaim his life and family as the new owner of  . . .  a Cuban Sandwich "taco" truck.

Happy endings all around in this funny, sweet film.

At the other end of the universe, Tom Cruise, like Russell Crow and Kevin Costner, delivers a credible performance in an incredible story.  All three of these guys manage the really difficult task of making the audience believe any amount of hooey because they believe, no matter how cockamamie the story is.

"Edge of Tomorrow" is the sci-fi version of "Groundhog Day," with Cruise and super warrior Emily Blunt trapped in an illusion created by alien invaders.  These two were rendered special because some alien goo got on them so somehow they're able to figure out that they're trapped in this illusionary time warp.  Every time they die they return to day one, again and again and again.  Until, bit by bit, they "learn" and remember and inch forward on each re-do until the grand slam ending wherein the alien is defeated.

Luckily, this nonsense (It's one of those movies where you just don't ask.) is leavened by a great deal of wit,  (Cruise and Blunt's training scenes -- and repeated bullets to the head -- is worth the price of admission.  Add in great editing, excellent CGI work (the skittery aliens are suitably startling) and toss in both stars' skill at making us believe all this silliness, and you've got a thoroughly entertaining summer flick: A sci-fi flick with a sly sense of humor.  Best kind.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Belmont Bummer

Aw, Dang!  The big red Redneck horse from outback SLOTown didn't make it.  The fairy tale turned south as California Chrome was beat out by fresh(er)  horses.  One of his owners caused everyone's eyebrows to fly off their faces when he breached the usual Gentlemen"s Racing Codes of Silence & Suck-it-Up Sportsmanship and lashed out at the "spoilers," -- those owners who held their horses back, fresh horses that didn't run in the Derby or the Preakness.  Called them out for taking the "cowards way,"withholding their horses from the real test just to take a run at and knock off any possible Triple Crown possibles. 

You could just imagine the harumphing that would be taking place in  the genteel clubhouses across the racing demimonde that evening.  Bad form, old man.  Bad form.  But then, what can you expect from these hick upstarts from (sniff) California.

Well, hell, I'm glad the old guy got it out on the table.  He's right.  If the Triple Crown is supposed to be some ultimate test of horseflesh, then they should go ahead and set it up that way: Can't run your horse in one without running your horse in all of 'em. That way, they're all stressed and exhausted together. Plus, you'd be testing all of them on the shorter tracks for speed, on the longer course for endurance and on all three for stamina and strength.  Then, whatever triple winner came out of the grueling slog could truly be said to be something special.  The best of the best.

As it is now, it's more of a crapshoot rather than some kind of ultimate race.  And remains unfair to those horses who have done the Derby and the Preakness and then have to not only go the extra distance at Belmont, but have to do so against fresh, rested mounts. 

So I say, let's kick it up a notch:  Change the rules and go for the Grand Slam -- Derby, Preakness, Belmont -- all in.  Then hope California Chrome has some long-legged running-fool babies who come off the Harris Ranch and head east to kick some ass.

Meantime, good job, Chrome.  You're one hell of a horse who took the country and your owners on a pretty wonderful ride.  Thanks!

Sunday, June 01, 2014