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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Atmospheric Delirium

The picture above is of our garden thermometer. I just emailed it to pen-pal, DB, at Vagabond Journeys in response to his hope that we are surviving this heat wave. I am happy to report that we are, sort of.  I can rely upon shade, air conditioning, beer and partial nudity to furnish a physical analeptic, but my mental condition is one of inescapable delirium. I am moved by his concern and stabilized by his sympathy, but DB lives 2000 miles away and they are having rain.

I remember rain. It rained a week ago and I did this:
Then last night I called up my friend, Willie, who lives in another valley an hour away. He bragged that it was only 106 degrees at his house. Then we checked out each others' mental state, as we have done with no detectable regularity for 47 years:

"Ok, who was that guy?"

"Alexander McCall Smith. What is the geography of Japan?

"Wait a minute, who's asking the questions here?"

"That's a question. Don't you know?"

"Ok, Japan is composed of  four main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Honolulu and the Santa Maria."

"What did Mahatma Gandhi think of Western Civilization?"

"He thought it would be a very good idea. Define Commerce."

"It is a town in Texas. It is also their means of revenue. What is revenue?"

"Trading pit bulls for dope in an ever-expanding cycle of meaningless exchange."

"I think we're delirious now. Pumphouse thermometer says 112 F. Lookie:"

"What are you thinking?"

"Who? I've lost track."

"Doesn't matter."

"Ok. You know dice?"

"Like throwing dice, in a game?"

"Uh huh. You throw the dice, add the dots, then turn both die over and add the dots of the opposing sides to that."

"It always totals 14."


"Definitely delirious."


Friday, June 28, 2013

Prospects And Aerodynamics Of The Soul

[Illustration from Our Wonder World, Vol.1, Schuman&co.1918]

It has been many years since I've hiked the slopes around Placerville, a town 40 miles uphill from here, but I can't imagine it much changed. It was called Bloodandguts and Hangtown before residents settled on Placer to emphasize alluvial deposits over boomtown origins. This valuable sediment was exploited by miners who dug little holes, big holes and holes of no particular character or limit. It was holey ground, dedicated to a belief in reward --a product of faith-based enterprise. Backfilling was a concept unknown during this cultic frenzy.

As metaphor, the Gold Rush had some features in common with the search for the human soul. One may examine holy scripture, seek revelation, epiphany, cultivate faith and apply it to oneself. One soul-searches, a meditation by which one explores regions resistant to sensate measurement,  like walking into a very dark room. One has no notion of height or size and must solve the volume of gloom without using eyes. If one is brave, distances can be paced off  but there is a lot of tripping, bumping, falling down. Sometimes the ground just gives way over a hole with no effective bottom. We can conclude the topography of the soul is much like the outskirts of Placerville on a moonless night.

Then 50, 60 years went by and people got tired of digging for diminishing returns. So they looked up from their holes and were stunned by a great hierophany. Over their heads was the biggest hole they ever saw, and it didn't go down either. It went up, and up and up. Picks and shovels were beaten into aeroplanes and imaginations ignited instead of dynamite . The illustration from my beloved 1918 edition of  Our Wonder World shows us exploring the vast outer hole in magnificent airships, complete with outdoor observation and promenade decks where brandy is sipped and cigars are smoked while planets roll past.

The picture is captioned, "A race for the planets at the terrific speed of two miles a minute." This might cause one's hat to blow off and induce vertigo and swooning, but such is the uncertainty of faith-based technology. Most people choose to go to church instead. . Church is good but sometimes misleading. One hears so much about church leaders who compromise morality on a regular basis, then go right on leading churches, certain of forgiveness and salvation. This suggests we of the laity spend far more time impressing God than is strictly necessary.

As with gold-mining and aeronautics, I am likewise no expert on  churches. I know they are different from each other. Most even out their differences for the greater good. Others go defensive in a farrago of theological anxieties and regional squabbles. The former tolerates questions while the latter rejects them. To the imaginative researcher I recommend the defensive ones. This may come as a surprise, but after all, why would they fear your investigations unless there is something to be discovered?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Enigmatic Gallimaufry And The Fall Of Peking

One compiles, amid labors of life, a routine of refreshment and exertion. We keep things close by to assist our progress and keep our sanity intact under the terrible rule of our wisdom (Homo sapiens).  Parenthetically, H. sapiens --"Man The Wise"-- is what we call ourselves as a species. It comforts one from feeling reminded of someone one used to know who one was once.

One might, what with one thing and another and this being California, come to rely upon espresso and wine as aide-mémoires but, as suggested by the illustration above, gift serving-ware (from a caring offspring) and pharmaceutical treats find their ways into the ritual. Which brings us to Homo religiosus (Man the religious).

H. religiosus is a term I learned in 1970, while starting a family in the city of Chico and attending the strange college there.

My Religions prof, Chas. Winquist, was a great admirer of the historian of religion and philosopher, Mircea Eliade. They both used the term, H. religiosus, frequently, had beards and smoked pipes. Here is a picture of Mircea Eliade in his 60s or 70s:
Professor Winquist was only 32 years old at the time and looked much as Eliade must have before he was kidnapped and beaten up by an older version of himself. I have the same problem. For readers younger, fresher and more sanitary than I, it would be helpful to mention all professors smoked pipes in those days. Poor Winquist was often turned away and sent home when he forgot his --even though that reinforced his reputation for absent-mindedness, which was the other professorial requirement. In fact, his lectures were regularly punctuated by the need to throw a blazing trash can out the window after he'd tapped out his live dottle into it. To do this, one or another of us would have to stand up, which defines Homo erectus.

Smoking in school became, as one's diversions do, politically incorrect (un-pc), but that is as nothing compared to what political correctness did to poor Homo erectus. Our introduction to this early human came with the discovery of Peking Man, the first resident of Peking --who lived there some 250,000 years ago.

Peking Man occupied a cave on Dragon Bone Hill in the Fangshan District. The city that rose upon that site took its name directly from archaeological  notes transcribed from his prehistoric mailbox. The picture above is from his college yearbook. All we know about him is he was not a physician because medical school grad-photos were taken in x-ray. But they found fossil evidence that he was on the football team.
So, for a quarter million years, the city around his little cave paid homage to Peking Man. Then came Political Correctness. First the PC Movement changed China's chairman's name from Mao Tse-tung to Mao Zedong  (and liddle lamzy divey.A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?). Then they came up with Beijing and everybody in Peking, about 20 million people, had to pack up and move there at great inconvenience. No more Peking, only a poor caveman all alone on Dragon Bone Hill.

All movements go too far.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

It is evening, Father's Day, and I am waiting in the kitchen to have a word interstitially with the kid who called latest. You see, they talk most with their mother, which is the way of the world and how the world should be, and I get handed the phone now and then. I listen from across the table and reflect no disturbance where there is none to reflect. Ah, excuse me, it is my turn.

There, the space between this paragraph and the one above represents 45 minutes, discussing plans, excitements, adventures with my eldest son, 42 (by coincidence, that is also his age). But as I set the receiver back on its base, I noticed the message light blinking. I press the button and hear this:

"Hi, Dad. It's me, Robert! I just wanted to wish you a happy Father's Day."

Robert? Robert must have left the message while I was out buying pants. There's only one problem: I have no child named Robert.   

I am measurelessly proud of all my children. They are fine people, trying and succeeding, improving the world. There is much to improve. They belong to a very creative, resourceful and hardworking generation and I must, as I always have tried to do, be my best for them and be as strong as they need me to be.  I love that they all contacted me today and wish only the best for them and their entire generation, even Robert.

Whoever Robert is.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Song Catcher In Erewhon

             [Elevation of Erehwon adapted from some sort of psychology site]

In 1872, a book was published anonymously in England by Anonymous (Samuel Butler) called Erewhon. Some say Erewhon was a myth. Others contend it never existed. Still others swear there is no such place. It is not my job as essayist and song-catcher to decide which of these contentious troublemakers is right. So I won't (because I don't want to and besides, it was probably New Zealand --which, reckoning from photographs of astonishing vistas and wildlife might be imaginary too ). I will proceed directly into the history of the very real country upon which the book was based, the country of Erehwon --which, as the astute reader can see, differs from the fictitious country only by transposition of two letters.

The real country of Erehwon originally occupied an Antarctic ice shelf which, heated below by an undersea caldera and above by the sun, was calved off and set adrift. It had no fixed navigational coordinates, no reliable longitude or latitude, no particular location at all. My assignment as gatherer of Erehwonian folk songs was hindered by that country's lack of a written language. This was because they had no paper. They had ice. The people were literate, and had billboards, signs and books, but all printed on ice sheets that melted right away. Their libraries and public swimming pools were indistinguishable. I was able to complete synopses of only three songs:

      "Garçom, eu não consigo engolir essa!" (Waiter, I cannot swallow this!)

Little Poppita has gone into the village to feed the poor and throw rocks. The kindly priest pats her on the head. So does the mayor and the nice tall lady who pats everyone on the head. She says to them: "We believe a lot of things we are told by people who just behave as though we ought to believe them." Then she throws rocks at them. Naughty Poppita! 

     "O irmão do meu pai é coberto em avuncles!" (My father's brother is covered in avuncles!)

Jorge, the singing tax collector, sets out to gather revenue but realizes all humans are pulverulent and end in dust. "We sleep in dust, wake with plants and move with animals, then ...!" he sings empty-handed to his supervisors at the IRS. They pulverize him and dock him a day's pay.

     "Eu sou um poeta, eu espero que as coisas!" (I'm a poet, I expect things!)

The town lawyer goes to the hospital for a tonsil and appendix transplant but his wife gives birth instead. "What is this?" He cries, "A baby is supposed to look like his parents but this one is much shorter!" The lawyer and his wife sue the entire universe in a fit of pique. They win. The wise judge says:"Fantasy, even wild delusions are sometimes as necessary to happiness as reality." Poppita throws a rock at him.

These songs are all sung to the tune of "Postcard From Jamaica" by Sopwith Camel: 

Then the country of Erehwon was invited by the United nations to be admitted into that august body as a sovereign member. So Erehwonians fitted a rudder to their iceberg and were underway. As they entered New York Harbor, the awful heat spell that summer caused their entire nation to melt and leave only a cup of slush. The U.N., with regrets, was unable to recognize it. The Erehwonians responded, "That's ok, we hardly do either." How Samuel Butler learned of it over a century earlier is a true enigma.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Howling Enigma

First, I thank Delores at thefeatherednest for awarding me the wolf. This award requires the following:

1. Add Semper Fidelis Award logo to blog. [It's up top]
2. Thank person who nominated you and link back to their blog.[Did that first]
3. Nominate five bloggers you consider part of your 'wolf pack'. [Will work on that now. It's complicated]
4. Post something special for each one of your nominees.[Yes]
5. Let your nominees know that they are nominated. [That's the complicated part]

I treasure each and every follower of this blog, and consider each a cornerstone to this effort because this effort is all corners. So I will confine myself to those members who receive little in the way of notice here but are in some way remarkable. I will post five names and write some special things about them, satisfying instruction #4. Understand, they are typical of the people I have sought out, on and off the internet, toward spending my retirement in the company of good minds --among which you all number-- and I hope you all visit and share with them.

No Guitar Music: Arno (Arnaud) Cahaigne is employed in the maritime, visiting, photographing places that few see outside his ports-of-call or his blog  --but Arno sees, and I trust his impressions . His text composition is sensitive, surreal and comprehensible --a poet in prose. Here is a line at random:
"Ok dear reader and dear reader (spectra, do you exist?), The scapegoat is dead, it does not solve anything. The other story behind the bed. I will, in this narrow corridor, look for the magic tavern. Where the stories are new and where you drink without paying." You don't get lines like that often enough.

Anitra Ford's Personal Blog: She writes:"You have reached the woman who was a model in the 60's, an actress in the 70's and wound up behind Door Number Three on The Price is Right. I now walk the beach and hike in the hills of Southern California -- and think of you, the one who might check into this blog and read a thing or two." I remembered her from an early film by Nicholas Meyer (who went on to write Star Trek movies and some of my favorite Conan Doyle pastiches). She is an accomplished hiker, keen intellect and observer, photographer and writer. I know good poetry when I read it, hers is . And she replies to comments in the most courteous and pleasant way.

Un Breve Instante No Tempo  Milton Ostetto describes himself: "A lover .... An intense vitality of family... Photography ... fine wine .. Friends .." And he does take the most wonderful photographs of scenes, seascapes and nature, but it is his depiction of people in everyday life, street scenes, crowd shots, individual impromptu portraits that catalogue an emotional range from joy to despair and all  degrees between. He is able to capture peoples' strengths in the most unexpected ways. I don't know the Portuguese word, or any other, for talents between detective and flâneur, but it would be appropriate to his powers of observation. A true artist.

Pinecone Stew: Harry Goaz --"Can act. Can ride a unicycle. Can make toast."-- is an actor of substantial experience, a busy rancher and presenter of enigmas. His excellent photos and curiously selected captions bear close attention, and reward it. As an appreciator of enigmas and trainrides, I feel he has scaled them as if they were twin peaks (incidentally, Harry portrayed Deputy Sheriff Andy  Brennan in "Twin Peaks"). Hint:  Do not neglect the labels under his posts.

Gwendoline: She is lovely, a grandmother, a gardener, a teacher and, like Arno, exceptionally tolerant of my French, which is at best American. By way of introduction, she writes, "Speaking little, you hear more. Natural, casual", and that does thematize her fascinating photographic essays into art, architecture, details of antiquated building and door hardware, garden design and progress --mainly in the Auvergne region but elsewhere as well--and wildlife. She is a keen observer and truly delightful writer. Recently, I learned she sometimes substitute-teaches a class of a colleague who is the mother of Audrey Tautou.

So, I have recommended five people, as instructed by the lone-wolf award, but I could write all night about everyone with whom I am connected on Blogger. All are remarkable in their success at insightful progress, making sense of the forces that shape our lives, people they know and people they are. They have worked long and hard at it. They have pasts and have learned how to have pasts. They do not belong merely to the prickley cult of now. They seek an informed view of the future.

I will depart from the Malthusian geometry of choosing five recipients and close with an important question to all dear readers. On July 1st, Google Reader will be deactivated. I have tried to learn and understand whether or not this will impact related functions. I'm clueless here. There's a column on my dashboard that is headed "Reading list | All blogs". It has current, updated, pics and text snippets of blogs I follow. I click on them to visit the site. Is that going away? I used to have a thing called "Google Reader" that had whole texts and was accessible from my Gmail. Haven't been able to find that for a month or two, but seldom used it when I could. Figured that's all I was losing. Is this something more? Will I lose my blogroll? Will I lose my links to you? I worry. Ladies and gentlemen, please advise!