All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Be The Coolest Kid!

No shame getting a little professional help before that high school reunion.

I have long wanted to write a self-help book and am satisfied the time has come. The idea came to me 50 or 60 years ago and I got the first part of the title down but something came up. Project was delayed while I fleshed out the theme. I only got back to it the other day when Norma took the cover photo at my cardiologist's office --she goes with me to help describe my symptoms and make sure I don't run away-- so that's done.

Scientific studies establish that women can hear and smell better than men but men can read finer print. I don't know if it's true but I know women smell better than men so I will write the book in large print and everybody can read it. But these were not issues when I was actually in high school. I graduated from EGHS (pronounced "egghiss"), named after a prominent local figure, Gwyllm Eghs, who immigrated from a nearly vowel-less Welsh village and made good.My high school days were before smog laws and poor California air quality had an unfortunate effect upon our school uniform and, of course, our class photo:

In fact, it was not until we were all out of high school that I noticed, with delight and some relief, that most of my girlfriends had been female. Gone were the days when I'd have to go, "Say, can you read this fine print for me?" --which gave off confusing messages all 'round. Socially, EPA is helpful.

But as to the text of the book: I shall have to set out certain cool axioms to work from. Early on, I learned being cool consisted of raised eyebrows, a slight knowing smile and just looking like wherever you are, THAT'S the place to BE! While waiting in your cardiologist's consulting room, this can be done with eyes closed. Trick is not to slide out of your chair. When I master that, I'll continue the book.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Harry Naked

Philosophical historians have assembled a list of hundreds of past apocalyptic hubbubs and one may study all or any part of it from the revelations of the twelve eagles of Romulus to exploiters of the Mayan Long-Count. A cursory review of the subject reveals the end of the world has been widely and enthusiastically predicted 76 times since I was born. They were impassioned predictions but I am uncertain of their accuracy.

Unlike this picture of my wife's family setting out on their immigration to America, they lack documentation:

Much as Norma misses her native Krypton, she has never become nihilistic.

Nihilism is a philosophy suggesting the negation of meaningful aspects of life. Existential nihilism argues that life is without intrinsic value, that there is no inherent morality. Epistemological, metaphysical and ontological nihilism go on to prove knowledge is impossible and reality does not exist --which makes one wonder why they bothered.

Enter Harry Naked, young adjunct professor of introductory philosophy at Pollyanna ("We put the HI! in nihilism") Tech. His article,"Tenure Me I Need My Teeth Fixed", changed the tenor of the university. It also surprised non-singers with its revolutionary theme: "Reforming Ontological Metaphysical Philosophy", or ROMP. ROMP caused quite a fury especially in the media:

The main point of contention was nihilist philosophers' reaction to Naked's major premise: "If the world doesn't exist in the first place, it can't properly end." A close second was caused by his conclusion: "If any Apocalyptic predictions have come true, you'd think the traffic on I-80 would let up a little."

But the most telling idea was given in answer to an undergraduate's question regarding the personalization of ROMP, "How does this affect the traditional view of an afterlife?" To which Harry Naked replied, "Young as I am, I have already outlived many people. I don't know why I should not outlive myself too."

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Meaning Of Life

The meaning of life is not so exciting as haunted castles, storied towers, mighty oceans or even crumbling buttes in Arizona, but still it is a mystery, an enigma, and therefore worthy of our attenton.

Whenever I can't think of anything to think about, I most always go for the meaning of life. It sounds important, doesn't it? I suppose it is, and one feels useful pondering it and that's important. It's not an urgent question. Tomorrow, or the next day, the meaning of life will be right where it was a billion years ago and, to a researcher who is also a gardener, that's about like caught up.

Picture above is not a product of electronic wizardry but of an old man whose life-pondering made him get into his toybox and pull out a goofy-lens. He's got lots of them.

Goofy-lenses are set in little plastic cones that fit nicely over the web-cam eyehole on this computer. I also took a picture of a goofy lens over my own eyehole, which they are really meant to do but I'm not allowed to run with them like that, just sit quietly and look dignified.

Point is, Life is multifaceted. As philosophical instruments, goofy-lenses can only take us so far. Is the physical-psychological-spiritual plenum best viewed in segments like time zones on earth? Nah. Time zones are just another way of different people in the world trying to avoid each other. Consider these two propositions:

1. Oh sure, you didn't call on my birthday because you're in yesterday. Likely story!

2. No wonder the world's a mess when I wake up. Everybody east of here's been up hours fiddling with it.
Now who can make sense of that? What we want here is science. Science is composed entirely of one slightly less erroneous guess after another. Empiricism demands it. Progress requires it. You don't get perfection in a bunch. Problems are solved at the expense of manifold new questions. Not an activity for the Squeamish.

Carl Jung wasn't Squeamish, he was Swiss. He came up with much to advance meaning as a science: Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious; Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people; There is no coming to consciousness without pain; Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves; Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses; Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.

Jung thought of all those clues to the meaning of life while having trouble thinking of anything else. It happens. He looked at the mish-mash of ideas that preceded his and decided feverish speculations simply would not do. Science --order and method-- gave him no guarantee of getting anywhere other than nowhere either but at least it would leave us certain of which nowhere we are not.

And, of course, there is always uncertainty attendant to cosmic questions --but they advance us in the language of the universe. For instance, in the word "Cosmic", the "s" is often silent.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Un Chien de Shakespeare (And delusional dogs? Quite the opposite!)

My friend, Willie, having collected appellative credits from the Beat, Hippie and Raver eras, has arrived at the Coplandian appellation springboard of Theatrical Agent to launch a new actor's career. I refer, of course, to the stage debut of his canine companion, Jasper. Jasper, he tells me, has no last name, is a single-moniker artist like Madonna or Cher or Prince. But this is not an affected stage-monocur. I believe Jasper, like all dogs, does have a last name composed of a pause that contains a universe inaudible to humans. Also, Jasper doesn't sing. He acts. Here are actor and agent:

According to Will, "Jasper is true roué, having grown up on the mean streets of San Francisco, specifically the Castro district. After his rescue from a life of dissolution, he resettled in the more salubrious climes of Sonoma, where he has been trained as a service and therapy dog, both good steps to becoming a true thespian." Here he is in his current role as "Crab", dog to the servant of Proteus, Sancho:

This is not the first time Shakespeare experimented with dog-actors. The role of Hamlet was originally written for a dog. Canonical scholars teach us the famous "To be or not to be..." soliloquy was originally a set of simple stage directions: "Hamlet howleth, growleth and cheweth the scenery!" Admittedly, only a minor difference in some productions but when the death of Polonius by a playful nip on the ankle was considered unconvincing, major rewrites began. When the death of Hamlet by Laertes --followed by the death of Laertes by Hamlet-- was reviewed as,"a silly fellowe poking a poor dogge til everyone dyeth", the duel scene was rebuilt from scratch.

The play, "Julius Caesar", was the Bard's first production intended for an all-dog cast, revised only slightly by the author as evidenced by the enduring line, "Cry havoc!, and let slip the humans of war." But this masterpiece was also modified. By whom? Some say it was by collaboration of the brothers James, who didn't consider "Caesar" on the same plane as the other plays. William James said, "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." I haven't checked thoroughly here --I am oft-criticized for my quotes-- but if William James didn't say that, it's the ONLY damn thing he didn't say.

At some point, the third James brother, Jesse, pulled a gun on William and Henry and took their lunch money. He fled to America, robbed banks and founded the town of Sonoma. His family forgave him because psychiatrists found he not only suffered a split-personality but had a fourth brother named Frank who really did share Jesse's clothes while Jesse was in them. This led to the Bear Flag Rebellion, which I shall cover in another essay.


Addendum, snippet from Aug.17th edition of Argus-Courier:"One of the splendid aspects of Shakespeare's plays is their infinite adaptability. Thus changing the location of the play from Italy's Verona and Milan to Napa and Petaluma; switching the time frame to 1846, just prior to the Bear Flag rebellion, and using Vallejo and Sacramento's Captain John Sutter as characters in the play-well, it all works."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Now It Can Be Told, A Biography Of Lord Ockett

It is still deucedly hot out and I am confined by my physician to areas well away from whatever he prescribed that turned me into an idiot. But I am recovering and even got out to see my optometrist today, where I spent a great deal of time staring at a wall socket while waiting for my eyes to dilate. It was during this meditation I realized there has never been a proper biography of Lord Wallace Ockett, discoverer of pareidolia . Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a random stimulus being perceived as significant, like seeing a man in the moon. Here is a photo of Lord Ockett as an infant.

Even at this early stage, Ockett was said to exude a special aura of competence. When the attending physician completed delivery and got a good look at Ockett, his appraisal was enthusiastically expressed by shouting, "GOOD LORD!" The doctor's opinion was often echoed spontaneously by others throughout Wallace's childhood. He could have made excellent use of his privileged birth and led a life of idleness and comfort, but chose instead to pursue scientific research. He grew into a round-cheeked, inquisitive, vigorous young man.

He was ambivalent in regard to peerage. When addressed as "Dear Sir" in a letter suggestting he had violated the British Corn Law, he replied: "'Sir' is a title confined to Baronets and Knights, neither of which am I. Nor am I 'Lord Wallace'. For public purposes, I am Wallace Ockett, and only privately 'Lord Ockett'. I am 'Earl Ockett', but the word 'Earl' is never used in conversation. I therefore am hopelessly confused and have no idea what to do with your letter."

At this point, Ockett went abroad to research fuels cleaner and less noisome than that used in the new diesel-powered typewriters that had just come on the market and were suspected of causing hearing-loss and secretarial dementia. He was gone twenty years and returned somewhat worse for wear.

He recovered sufficiently to spread his ideas about electricity, which he'd seen in his travels and accepted as a safe, viable means of fueling typewriters. He also married and had six children.

The six little Ocketts grew into their father's enterprise and carried both the popularization of electric typewriters and the abolition of diesel ones to other continents, chiefly Europe and America. Lord Wallace was able to retire and enjoyed talking with the press. At one memorable conference he was told about pareidolia. He asked what it meant.

"Well," said the reporter. "It's when billions of meteors, over billions of years, accidentally carve a human face on the moon."

Ockett replied, "Oh! Do they? Do they really?" Which threw the whole idea into the productive doubt it enjoys today.

For this and his contribution to electric typing --which I'm doing right now-- Lord Wallace Ockett was awarded the perpetual honor of having dual portraits of himself framed singly on walls all over the world.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fear Of Fear

[Bela Lugosi]

Best I can do today is rewrite an old essay. It is 110 degrees in this valley and I am suffering side-effects of a medicine that has doubled the circumference of my jugular veins. They told me it would control anxiety and ease withdrawal from nicotine. By evening I shall develop gills and piranha teeth, but anxious? No. I suffer, decidedly I suffer and fear nothing! Pffft! What, after all, is anxiety?

FDR said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." He was talking about anxiety and worry, nuisances produced by natural selection. Those Darwinian candidates who rehearsed emergencies effectively survived them. Those who didn't didn't. But many good things can be overdone. All roof repairs, no matter how small, become a way of life. Same with worry, with fear.

It even gets fashionable. Madame affects a nerve storm and swoons decorously upon the chaise lounge (English for the French "chaise longue", rhymes with tongue which real French ones have) , with proper form, backhand to brow, observed by all upper --or "swooning"--classes. Brandy is fetched by a domestic --or butling--class-member from the butlery. Butling is appellation derived from the naturalist's word for tuxedoed children who grow up to be butlers. This should not be confused with pathogenic coinage such as "liveried servant", which, since found to be inoculable, has passed from common usage just as hospital wards treating livery have been summarily refitted. Society is thus stratified by worry. Pffft!

A doctor --"professional" class-- is sent for and solemnly orders a rest-cure at a very expensive sanatorium run by, well I don't know but they all wear white coats and prattle on about "waters" --that class. The master of the house must pay for it by raising rents and poisoning uncles --and the roof is leaking. This leads to worry all round.

For our purposes, anxiety may be adequately defined as a fear of fear itself. As Admiral Farragut put it so cerebrally, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" This utterance marked his conquest of Campobello and liberation of the Bay of Fundy, which resulted in his becoming our 32nd U.S. president. Literature of the time adopted this sort of bravery for great sea stories, but some suspected the "Brass Class" spoke only for itself. Neglected in these accounts were "Crew Class" members who actually feared getting exploded, drowned or sharkbit over fear itself.

This latter sentiment is reflected in the third word of Melville's "Moby Dick" ("Call me etc."), which was originally "fishmeal". Censors changed it to something Biblical and nothing more could be done. There was some resistance. Heretics were burned, lunatics were spurned and slackjawedhicks were gol-durned. Science was compelled to combat this worrisome religious mindset and its threat of ultimacy. Field studies were begun in the nascent discipline of Psychology.

[Dwight Frye as Renfield]
Southwestern Indians were examined. It was found that preindustrial societies worried less. Hopes ran high that simple living could reduce stress, but science also brings disappointments. The Indians had long traded with the Freudians to the north, and with them pooled anxieties to use in psychological warfare against the Harridans, who had them both surrounded. The rest is grouchy Biblical history.

Again and again, anxiety proved universal. In order to keep their new jobs, about which they'd begun to really worry, psychologists published the conclusion that anxiety should be limited to things that always go wrong but we seldom think about. This created a whole new industry, and is the reason roofs are now made of stuff that goes to pieces. Does this cause me anxiety? Pffft! No, it causes me grouchy --there is no pill for grouchy.

And "Pffft!" is so much more effective with smoke in it. I keep a pipe and tobacco in the pumphouse for sentimental reasons. Sentiments I must brave the heat to exercise. Excuse me.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

California Dreaming

Friend Dan had a magnum bottle of 2004 Sterling Cabernet that I didn't know about until today. Suddenly, the 103 degree temperature outside was unimportant and I got our pre-A.C. (A.C.,latin: "aether"=air "condicio"=conditioning) car started and headed over there to make sure it was genuine. Sterling Vineyards is a winery near Calistoga, a central coast region well-known for its waters. They are geyserous and curative and I was hoping the same benefits were imparted to its wine but I am not an optimist and was prepared for pleasurable disappointment.

Dan and I are in our 60s and therefore knew enough to ask our dates to this function some 40 years in advance. They immediately tired of our silent appreciation of the waters and began discussing charmeuse silk as they wandered away. Being longtime Californians, Dan and I thought they were saying "Shamu", which is the name of a whale at Marine World who became famous for something and whose name was associated with whales ever after.

We decided "charmeuse" is a French word for whale.

Then the conversation would drift back as our wives passed though with their heads together and we learned of warp and weft. Ah! All who have taken folding chairs and hot cocoa to Reyes Point in January know the whales are passing by on their way to...something. As we consumed more of the waters we speculated upon this migratory imperative. This destination must be where the whales spin their cocoons and hope to emerge as butterflies weighing 3 to 9 tons.

We learned whale silk is used in bridal gowns, hankies and boxer shorts. It was at this point I looked at Dan and wondered why he stopped aging at 45 tops while I look every minute of my age. When I recover from the effect of these rejuvenating waters, I fully intend to investigate it. Meanwhile, I'll have what he's having.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conation (and vibes)

[Norma photo: Geo. feeling vibes!]
Conation is such a vital and essential element of life, and one so commonplace that no one feels much need to mention it, and no one does. That is why I must look it up every time I think of it and say, "Oh yes! Of course that is what it means."

One strives and tries always, but there are different stages to strife and trial that require ever-deeper understanding of psychology. For this, one consults the psychologist. This helps, especially if you don't know what I'm talking about, and helps even more if I don't know what I'm talking about. Puzzling if we ignore two points; the fact that psychology is predicated upon the assumption that we confuse and mislead ourselves every chance we get; everything useful and profitable in the science of psychology was discovered by used car salesmen, then translated into Latin.

The conative experience is collective. Let me illustrate. One has, among contacts, friends, family and coworkers. Should one retire, and three years ago I did, suddenly I am without coworkers. A whole THIRD of my contacts in the world disappear. Coworkers are gone and many cows go unorked. Then one realizes one didn't especially like orking cows and looks for new frontiers of conation. This is peculiar. Peculiar to personal progress. For the purposes of this scholarly essay, I refer to the liberation of self-direction and conscience.

One is prepared, admittedly, while still employed. I felt a freedom of conscience because my employers could not easily do without me and I insisted upon it. But there was always a rejoinder on their parts, spoken or implied, that the day Geo. could rule his own destiny was yet to come. And when it did come, it was not with fanfare, bells or whistles --I sat in the break-room and shared a box of candy with a friend and we both missed our retirement luncheon. Then two cars left the lot, one of them mine, and never returned.

Where did I go? I went to blow bubbles with my grandchildren. Bubbles echo the shape and mechanism of the universe. They are made of events, seeking the elastic and uncontainable shape of their container. They follow physical laws that must be true because we thought of them ourselves, to explain events. We alternately forget and discover the word, conation. We are always trying to navigate events.


Events are what you see before you, around you, within you. All possible events are assembled in the manifold universe and compose themselves into coincidences, a monstrous compilation of coincidences --infinitely large and infinitely detailed. What you and I think of it depends upon it.

Because it is what thought is made of too.

Friday, August 3, 2012

10 Things You Only Need To Know 1/10th Of

I am a serious man.

This is a self-assessment typical of my generation, which dates back to the 1480s when young princes, whose existences ran counter to established interests, were locked in the Tower of London. As we grew taller, stopped wearing blond hair and velvet and progressed politically in the 1950s, children were still legally required to give three-weeks' written notice before running or jumping. This was stern, but manageable.

The guide for childhood education used in the 1950s was compiled by King Henry VII of England, a standard reference book in schools until Dr. Benjamin Spock --a Vulcan-- found its pages blank. This was because the author's son, Henry VIII, destroyed all records of his father except for the word "oodle" on page 56 and some enthusiastic promotional blurbs from Richard III on the back cover. VII and III, as they familiarly called each other, fell out for some reason before they got out of their 20's, I think. It's an awkward age.

VIII and III are really Roman numerals. Here is a picture of Romans.

They are soldiers, centurions --even though they look much younger-- and they do roll call like this: Sound off! "Aye!", Aye aye!", "Aye aye aye", "Aye Vee!" and so on until "Cee" at which number you have a full compliment of centenarians.

I remember, age 30, and sympathize with Henry VII and Richard III, when friends seemed to involute socially and withdraw, cling to their own rocks like whelks. It was an unpleasant surprise. But even that failed to prepare me for what happened 30 years after that. When I retired I thought I had scads of work friends, which narrowed down immediately to mere oodles, then one. Basically, when out of sight, one is also out of mind, heart and invitation rosters.

I might as well have got locked in the Tower Of London.

Now I just fart around wondering things like, how many oodles make a scad. Most of my friends have been around most of my life, and I love them, but I sure miss the ones that wandered mindlessly away. I guess the trick is to overstock early, like maybe 50 or 100 scads, then you might get an oodle in your 60s.

Or you can get to know new kids. Cool them off. Let them call you Gramps and like you. The world doesn't have enough likeable old characters called Gramps, even though old movies are lousy with them.

[Norma photo]

But as for raising kids, just let their minds stay healthy and they'll raise themselves. Each of them is all 10 of the things we only need to know 1/10th of and they want to be happy. Take it from Gramps. I'm Gramps and I'm a serious man.