Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oh, For The Love Of Christ

"Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life. 
Simone Weil, French philosopher

Costo apologizes for labeling the Bible fiction.

Of course it belongs in the non-fiction section, right next to the Dr. Seuss' tomes. There is no such thing as allegory.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It’s Not Art. It’s Graphic Defecation!

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Nelson Mandela, former South African president

Ever since Daniel Boone allegedly tagged a tree stating he killed a bear a couple of hundred years ago graffiti has proliferated. The hills of Chatsworth, California and surrounding areas are where hundreds of old movies, mostly westerns were filmed from as early as 1914 (beginning with D.W. Griffith’s short silent drama “Brute Force,” which was a story of cavemen and dinosaurs), through the late 1950s. The trails around the areas are generally easy hiking trails and they provide a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding San Fernando Valley.

Steve (identified only by his first name) is not pushing a rock up hill, but he is trying to save rocks and boulders from being another eye sore and casualty of graffiti from gangs, drunken teenagers partying in the hills, and wantabe graffiti artists. It as close to a true Sisyphean effort as there may be.
Over the years, the recognizable rocks of Chatsworth Park have filled with graffiti marking gang names, lovers, and favorite beverages has served as a place to show off artistic prowess, some dated long before graffiti artist Banksy became famous.

Steve is an avid hiker and the bombardment of senseless defacing of nature was frustrating. He called the Graffiti hotline several times and never had a called returned. Three times he called Los Angeles County Michael Antonovich’s office, which is the County’s fifth Supervisorial District that comprises San Fernando Valley, and not a single call was returned. He called Metrolink on whose property much of the graffiti resides and was told he’d need a train spotter at $750 a day, even though he is hundreds of yards away from the railroad tracks. He called the park ranger and was told that he cannot paint over the defaced rocks or he would be arrested, as if he were tagging the rocks with graffiti. He finally talked to LA County Sheriff’s who were more sympathetic to his quest and would most likely ignore him.

Mad as hell, Steve took action into his own hands. On a sweltering November day he loaded his truck with two gallons of paint, roller brush, paintbrush, and rope and started his quest. Traipsing through the brush, he climbs the hills with a 20- to 30-pound backpack. He covered up a few of the offending tagged rocks. He has no reason other than the graffiti aggravates his aesthetic sensibilities.

“It’s not art. It’s graphic defecation,” said Steve. He has made five trips up there and spent 15 hours. “I feel like I have made a lot of progress. Maybe by the time I get 30 hours in it will just be maintenance.”

 The color was a bit off on the first patches, but he found the right color. The guys at the Do It Center hardware store laugh that they have never mixed paint for rocks before. Steve spends $40 a trip to do his part to restore nature as best he can.

On his fifth trip up there, he loaded his truck up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Hiking up to the area, he was mildly surprised and frustrated that one of the cleaned rocks was already painted over. He is hopeful his efforts on the higher boulders last longer than some of the urban hieroglyphics.

“I don’t want to wake up any sleeping giants. It’s enough that it is getting done. Maybe I’m doing it for karma points.”

All photographs by RJW

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Have You No Decency -- Republicans Hold Nation Hostage

"...You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
 --Joseph Nye Welch (October 22, 1890 – October 6, 1960) was the head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities, an investigation known as the Army–McCarthy hearings.

From The New York Times: Because some states are not expanding Medicaid, two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and a majority of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance will not benefit from the new health law. 

Millions of Poor are left uncovered by Health Law and Republicans continue to try and stop the availability of health care.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Republican Congress Tells Citizens to Eat Cake

“If the people have no bread, let them eat cake.” 
--falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette

"If you are sick, please die"
--U.S. Republican members of the House of Representatives tell U.S. Citizens

Unlike Marie Antoinette's misattributed quote, there is no mistaking Congress' disdain for its citizens, led by House Speaker John A. Boehner. They don't care if more than 800,000 federal workers across the country are facing an uncertain financial future, including everyone with a 401K savings that is losing retirement money.

In the days ahead many government agencies prepared to close their doors, set up barricades and turn out the lights all because Republicans don't like President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act.

Just remember in November to quote another outspoken, knuckleheaded Republican when you vote and tell your elected representative, "You're fired!"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Endless Roads

"The road that leads to nowhere for others might just be the road that leads to somewhere for you!”
Mehmet Murat ildan, writer

What is it about roads? I love paintings and photographs that show a road disappearing into a distance. Maybe it easily captures the imagination and instantly allows the viewer to imagine driving off down the road or possibly the opposite that a lost love is returning (see the Long Road post below).
It’s not just visional arts, but there are myriad songs that talk about the road from going down the road, hitting the road, lost on the road, people who live on the road. We are suckers for the promise of a new start whether coming or going down the road.
A dirt road in Brian Head, Utah that leads up the hill to 11,000 plus elevation for a breathtaking view

When I added up all the time in the last 11 years I spent driving back and forth to downtown Los Angeles, I frighteningly found that I sat behind the wheel for six straight months 24 hours a day. Until I calculated all that time, I simply accepted it because I refused to live in Los Angeles County proper with its crazy congestion, crime, and corruption. I adapted and enjoyed my alone time listening to the news, books, or music. I suspect that is why one of the reasons that I have a relatively large collection of music. The last time I checked it was 23,000 plus of songs. I could probably drive for a few weeks without worrying about running out of songs. My Misanthropic playlist includes 780 songs and will play for 2.1 days, according to iTunes. I am continually revising my numerous lists. The first few songs of The Misanthrope Songs list include:
·      Wrote a Song for Everyone by John Fogerty
·      Heart on a Strong by Jason Isbell
·      Checkout Time in Vegas by the Drive-By Truckers
·      Waiting for Dawn by Bobby Long
·      Long as I can see the Light by John Fogerty with Morning Jacket
·      Take Me to Tomorrow by Dave Matthews
·      Operator by Grateful Dead
·      Useless But Important Information by Jimmy Buffett
·      Call Me The Breeze by John Mayer
·      Different Days by Jason Isbell
·      Oldest Surfer on the Beach by Jimmy Buffett
·      Ripple by Grateful Dead
·      Happy Just to Be Like I am by Taj Mahal
·      He’s Gone by Grateful Dead
·      Time Passes Slowly by Bob Dylan
·      Goddamn Lonely Love by Drive-By Truckers
·      I Throw it All Away by Bob Dylan
·      Roll Another Number by Neil Young and another 761 songs

This little structure was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. From this lookout you can see parts of Nevada and Arizona.
The view from the shack above

A few years ago when I drove alone from San Francisco back home, I navigated Highway 1 all the way. For some reason I felt my playlist of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was apropos. After a practically tough day at the office, I used to listen to my Misanthropic Jazz list, but today it’s mostly played when writing or reading. Because of the recent deaths of people close to me (my dad and uncle), as well as a short story idea I keep puttering with I feel I have assembled a perfect list for the time being. A few songs from my jazz list include:
·      Star Dust by Joshua Redman
·      So Long Mr. T by Aki Takase
·      Let it Be by Joshua Redman
·      I Have Dreamed by Christian McBride
·      Solitude by Aki Takase
·      I Guess I’ll Have to Forget by Christian McBride
·      State of Mind by The Christian Jacob Trio
·      Left Along by Terence Blanchard
·      I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good by Aki Takase
·      The Folks Who Live on the Hill by Joshua Redman
·      One for My Baby by Chris Botti
·      Melancolico by Stan Getz
·      Apres un reve by Arturo Sandoval
·      Don’t Explain by Dexter Gordon
·      Here’s That Rainy Day by Art Pepper
·      Fables of Faubus by Project Trio**
·      Fat Back and Greens by Regina Carter and Christian McBride
·      Slow Song for a Dog by Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer

One of the photos from my journey on Highway 1, all those years ago
I have a Coffee House play list with acoustic songs and another one title Bar Jazz with Sinatra, Nat Cole, Diana Krall, Dean Martin and many others. So, you can see why I got use to driving and sometimes didn’t mind it.

I have not created a playlist of songs that incorporate road, but a quick sort found dozens, but here are a few:
 ·      Wrong Side of the Road by Tom Waits
·      Winding Roads by Terence Blanchard
·      Rules of the Road by Nat Cole
·      Revelation Road by Shelby Lynne
·      Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road by Shelby Lynne
·      Old Dirt Road by John Lennon
·      Coming Down the Road by John Mellencamp
·      Love is a Long Road by Tom Petty
·      Lowside of the Road Tom Waits
·      One for My Baby (And one more for the road) by Frank Sinatra
·      The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles
·      Why Don’t We Do it in the Road by The Beatles
·      Road Ladies by Frank Zappa
·      Dark Road Annie Lennox
·      King of the Road by Dean Martin
·      Further On Up the Road by The Bank
·      On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, and I am sure hundreds more, but you get the idea.

Short city driving is certainly not my favorite and my little, redneck conservative city will eventually become known as the city of stoplights. I counted 12 traffic signals just going four miles and that does not include the stop signs. That kind of interruptive, stressful driving is only occasionally helped by music, so I try not to drive much in town.

It’s the long open road winding out to destinations unknown that stoke our imagination and keep us hopeful.

A wild flower along the road

Photographs by RJW

** "Fables of Faubus" is a song composed by jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus. One of Mingus' most explicitly political works, the song was written as a direct protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus, who in 1957 sent out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School by nine African American teenagers. Source: Wikipedia. I just discovered this when I was looking up the word Faubus for this piece.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Keys to Anything

“I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.”
 --Clarence B. Kelland, American Writer (1881-1964)

photo by RJW

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Days of Ribbons and Keys

I'm totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter.
--Joan Didion, writer

There is a bittersweet melancholy to the remembrance of things past. Recently we were in a river town in the mountains of southern California and the main road had several antique shops. Not sure why other than it is a tourist destination. Saturday morning after breakfast we ventured out to see the offerings of a bygone period.

As we walked through the stores item after item brought back a time of youth. There was a Browning camera that I remember my grandparents used. There were dishes my wife noticed that her mother used frequently when Kennedy and Johnson were leaders of the United States. Long playing records from the same era and even earlier featuring Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, as well as many other bands and artists from the 1950s through the 1960s. Surprisingly Bruce Springsteen’s first box set of live performances from the mid-80s was also in one of the stores.

I purchased a heavy duty Smith-Corona typewriter. It was similar to the gun-metal gray Remington I used as a budding journalist. For those young’uns who might venture to read this, typewriters were the indispensable tools for practically all writing, similar to your smartphone or your computer today. While I have my issues with technology, I have no intention of returning to the typewriter. Once the personal library is restored, the typewriter will grace a shelf along side a 1950s rotary phone with a letter prefix, instead of an area code.

Browsing through the aged goods were myriad unknown family photos and portraits exhibited in various old-fashion picture frames, but my thoughts drifted to the families who were once so thrilled to view and own those photos. I doubt any of the subjects or their relatives would really want their family photos on display as just filler. Sadly, more likely than not, those in the photos had either passed away and their relatives had no idea that a photo ended up discarded as part of an estate sale. Then again, I know people who have no interest in fulfilling a love one’s last request.

What will the antique store in 20 years contain? Will there be smartphones, iPads, DVDs all replaced by Google glasses or will they eventually be obsolete and people will communicate telepathically? But, that may be hard if everything continues to be so dumbed down that any communications will have to be nearly Neanderthal.

Maybe we should return to ribbons and keyboards that allow people to ponder and provide some thought to what is communicated.

Photos by RJW

Friday, May 10, 2013

Time to Change our End of Life Rules

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
--Joseph Nye Welch
I can’t imagine any scenario where the end of a love one’s life is joyous. It is frequently rationalized and justified that the dying person is in a better place in order to make the survivors feel a bit better, but the departing loved one just went through several circles of hell to get there.
The end of life is not a pleasant production. There are hallucinations, painful, poignant, and pleasant memories, combined with some sad good-byes. There is the blue book of death ”Gone From My Sight, The Dying Experience” by Registered Nurse Barbara Karnes that Kaiser Healthcare provides to its patients in between fighting for palliative or hospice care, that explains what signs to be cognizant of during a love one’s last day(s).
Experts, specialists, and medical staff can recognize all the signs from decreasing appetite, disorientation, physical changes, and breathing patterns, but yet we do not allow the patient or the love one to make the call to leave their mortal coil. We would never let our pets suffer the way our society demand we have to suffer the indignities of the Grim Reaper’s visit, but we have to let our parents and other love ones go through the opprobrium of having everything shut down before we allow the life to ebb from their bodies.
Why is that? It seems there are reasons from religion’s rules to legal liabilities that continue to allow people to suffer until everything stops working, no matter how painful, even if morphine is of little help.
After jumping through hoops in contorted positions, one is lucky if hospice shows up in a timely fashion to ease the pain. The hospice people seem friendly and sympathetic; maybe it’s because they know how hard it was to finally reach this point of care.
On Mother’s day last year, I was on the phone demanding morphine and calling the caregiver from his family dinner to get his butt back to ease my father’s suffering. It is approaching the one-year of my dad’s passing and now my uncle is preparing to go. Yet, my relatives have gone through the same difficult stages. My uncle realized his time was approaching and told them that he was ready to go, but no. They explained he’d have to go to Oregon to die with that kind of dignity.
What a shame that a convicted killer can come closer to getting his/her request for death honored easier than you or I can at the end of our life. 
“…I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.”
--Joseph Nye Welch

 photo by RJW

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Following Losing Followers

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.
--Orson Welles, director

I watched The Following with great hopes at the start of the season. Sadly at every turn the show disappointed with nonsensial plot twists and unrealistic police or FBI procedures. I am not even close to knowing all the proper protocols, but if I can tell the show lacks verisimilitude that is bad.

I will probably try to watch it next season, but if it continues its silly course they will have lost two viewers, which I suspect may be indicative of what many others are feeling.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Library Variations

“Real luxury is time and opportunity to read for pleasure”
                                --Jane Brody

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Long Road

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
—Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

Photographs of roads leading into the horizon capture the imagination. One can contemplate and stare at the road that stretches before them and wonder where they lead. The physical destination is not as important as the mental journey – it makes all the difference.

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
– Lewis Carroll Alice, “Adventures in Wonderland”

Photographs by RJW

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life’s Cadence

“Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.”
                                                                                        –Henry David Thoreau

Once a strong and healthy tree cut down in its prime by Mother Nature. A strong wind, fierce waves finally broke it into submission. Now sitting in the ocean repeatedly enduring the pulse of the waves absorbing the water’s cadence.

Enjoy your Monday

Photograph by RJW

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When Words Flow

“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.” 
                                                                               –Oscar Wilde
On a good day the words just flow. On a bad day each word is akin to passing a kidney stone.

The Last Book Store

Photograph by RJW

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sit and Think

“My eyes are an ocean in which my dreams are reflected.” 

Sitting and pondering the future or revisiting the past, either topic is best approached from such a location that provides blue skies and pillowy clouds. Rare is undisturbed contemplation to determine whether introspection or simple vacuity is called for.
Maybe it’s neither. Just appreciate the spectacular view.

Photograph by RJW

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Read Your Eyes Out

"I read my eyes out and can't read half enough...the more one reads the more one sees we have to read."                           ―John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, Dec. 28, 1794

The Last Book Store

The Last Book Store
Vincent van Gogh, Piles of French Novels and Roses in a Glass ("Romans Parisiens"), c. 1887
Photographs by RJW (painting by van Gogh)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winter is Gone, Spring is Here

“The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clocks an hour ahead and change the batteries in the smoke alarms [oil in the crankcase].” 
            ― with apologies to E.B. White (1899-1985), essayist, "One Man's Meat"

Water lily at Hearst Castle
Photograph by RJW

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mind on Books

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” 
                                                                   - Confucius

Monday, March 18, 2013

Serenity on a Monday

"I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” 
                                   ― William Shakespeare

Oh the serenity, such a distant memory on Monday morning.

Around Napa, California 2012

Photograph by RJW

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Flower of Separated Lovers

“And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us.”                        ― Pablo Neruda

Our honeymoon gift from an ATV guide as we cruised the Kipu Ranch on Kauai made our day even more special. We took a three-hour tour of the 3,000-acre property that extended from the Huleia River to the top of the Haupu Mountains. This was a property owned by Hawaiian royalty, then given to a priest, whose family went on to become sugar-cane millionaires and land owners, all the while thanking God.

Our tour included a stop where Harrison Ford, in the first Indiana Jones movie, escaped to the awaiting seaplane from the inhospitable natives protecting their treasures. We had the opportunity to swing out over the river just as Ford did, so we did.

The highlight of the trip was the breathtaking beauty that awaited us at the top of Haupu Ridge. This isolated area is on the privately owned ranch that provides an awe-inspiring view of Kipu Kai beach that is only accessible by boat to the public.  However, there is a road now accessible only to the caretakers of this isolated beach. The makers of the movie paved a road down to the beach for the caretaker that was the payment instead of cash to film there.

We soaked in the beauty of the place and prepared to leave, we mentioned to our guide that this was our honeymoon. He said, that he had a story to tell us. He pointed out a half flower called Naupaka. Its blossoms appear incomplete; they are only half a flower because all the petals are on one side. In reality, the flower is complete.

The flowers are white or cream colored, often with purple streaks. They have an irregular shape with all five petals on one side of the flower making them appear to have been torn in half.

One of the myths surrounding the flower is that a princess was forbidden to marry her true love, a fisherman, because he was a commoner. As they parted ways forever, she tore a flower in half, giving one half to him and keeping the other half for herself. She then returned to the mountains where her family lived. Brokenhearted, they both cried and planted their halves of the flower. Each half grew and became the two forms of naupaka – the beach naupaka (naupaka kahakai) and the mountain naupaka (naupaka kuahiwi).

It is said that if the mountain Naupaka and beach Naupaka flowers are reunited, the two young lovers will be together again.

Here is the secret of the flowers: when the two are jointed they create a heart. This was our guide’s honeymoon gift to us.

Photographs by RJW