Tuesday, August 30, 2005

They did the deed

Peter took the best pictures, but I got this one of him taking care of business, business suit and all.

It was a nice occasion in a charming location. Quite possibly the most memorable activity of the day, except maybe to the bride and groom, was the ceremony of the moving of the tables. Only a video could capture the experience.

About a dozen tables and chairs were set up in a fine broad clearing. But it was a hot day at the top of Tilden Park. When it was time to eat, the noonday sun shone brightly. There was, fortunately, one great tree which cast its broad shadow over a piece of the clearing. When it became time to eat, all the table and chairs were hefted and moved to the shady spot, and we all began to dig in heartily to a delicious Cajun feast.

In about ten minutes or so, the sun moved its glaring warmth to a couple of the western edge tables. Their occupants hefted these tables and chairs and moved them to the newly shaded section at the eastern side of the umbrage. Then, of course, as the sun continued its relentless route west, a couple more tables soon followed the move to the fresh shade. Every eight or ten minutes, another groups of tables followed suit.

Eventually all the table were moved, and then some had to be moved again. I would love to have a video of it set to music.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mid summer madness

Julie and I leave tomorrow on a brief excursion to a remote region of the East Bay in order to witness the joining of Trav and Jenny in ecological wedlock. As this photo attests, they have already found happiness together so now they must be looking for something else. We wish them all the best.

I made hotel and car reservations online and early enough to get pretty good rates. I just printed out my confirmations and my Microsoft Streets & Trips map and directions, routing us from inner urban San Francisco to wooded hinterlands somewhere near a Berkeley and Oakland border. How did I ever travel pre-Internet?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Route 66 re-visited

Back in the late spring of 2002, Peter and I took a road trip from Oakland to Chicago and then back west along as much of Route 66 as was reasonable. Much of that ride has been previously related, including the little remembrance below. A recent comment on one of my Flickr photos leads me to post this story here.

On my first trip west in 1950, with two friends, we threw a rod just outside the roadside town of Adrian in the Texas panhandle; a curious little oasis of a town consisting of a very small cluster of trees and houses on one side of the highway and a couple of stores and a gas station with restaurant on the other. We chunk-a-chunked the car into the Adrian repair shop and had to wait a couple of days for the parts delivery and repair.

One night, after leaving the local restaurant, five cowboys in their pickup truck cornered us on the dark road leading to our rooming house. They explained that they were cowpunchers who had spent the past month on the range and this was their weekend to howl and they didn't like "City boys" and they wanted to "See who could whup." My two friends panicked a bit; one ran immediately and the other pulled a knife from his pocket and flashed it before he scooted off. The biggest cowboy laughed at that and pulled a rifle from the truck. As he held up the gun, I saw that he wore red fingernail polish.

I held my ground and one of them slammed me in the chest, demanding that I call my friends back so that we could all square off in a fair fight: two of the big ones against my taller friends and the young and shorter one against me. I told the cowboys to play it cool. "Play it cool--what's that?" the red fingernails asked. Somehow, I got them to back off and they climbed back into the truck. As I headed to the rooming house -- no streetlights in that dark night -- my friends came toward me with some men from the house. I hushed them up and told them to drop back out of sight. We went back to the house where my friends shared one room and I had another.

From my upper room, I watched for some time as the pickup truck drove back and forth, as if they couldn't make up their minds whether to drop the matter or not. At one point, they parked the truck nearby and stalked the house. Crouched in my dark room at the open window, I could hear them debating how to get in the house and find "the City Boys." But they obviously did not want trouble from the other men in the house so their resolve seemed to weaken as the booze they were drinking led their thoughts elsewhere.

I slept late the next morning and when I saw my friends, one of them had bought a .22 rifle. I told him he was a lunatic and took it away from him. If any of those cowboys saw him with it he could end up a dead man. Eventually the car engine was repaired and we continued on our way to California.

So, 52 years later, there came up the Route 66 turn off sign for Adrian. I took the dusty old road toward the little patch of buildings and felt a slight tightening in my chest, a curious apprehension that made me drive slowly I think it was a sense of both fear and loss. But I don't know why.

Peter was asleep as I drove around those few drab streets. Adrian wasn't a ghost town; it was a corpse. Some of the weathered old homes were occupied, but I can't imagine why. On the business side of the the road, there was one spiffy little diner/souvenir shop in operation. I was its only customer so far that day.

When I got back in the van, Peter woke up. Adrian seems to me like a dream from which I still haven't woken up. Peter couldn't understand why I would waste time driving around those bumpy little streets, and I couldn't either, but I drove off Adrian with an unknowing sadness. Which I still feel, and still don't understand as I write this.

At any rate, I found again that I really like the road. I do believe I could live very happily with a reasonable pension and a Winnebago.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

He's at it again

W has adopted another set of initials to add to his infamy: BTK.

He has Blinded his American supporters, Tortured his un-christian enemies and Killed unconscionable numbers of theirs and ours.

And there is no telling when he will stop.

Yet his conservative supporters save all their rancor for Cindy Sheehan. These kill-crazed sychophants want no one to stand in the way of WBTK's international evil-doing in the names of democracy and christianity.

How sick can you be?

Sunday, August 14, 2005


For those twisted minds who believe that great "Q" can only be found in mis-located shacks, I am here to say, "You are right!"

Jay Bee's tiny shack in Gardena is a perfect example. Wherever you are starting out from, it is worth the drive.

And the best ribs and brisket I tasted in San Francisco can be found in the middle of a whole block of shacks on Haight St. at Memphis Minnie's.

I'm eatin' Jay Bee's ribs this week, and Memphis Minnie's next week.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

California CarFooling

Carpool lanes have helped clog our California freeways for about 30 years now. In that time, I have not seen a single study of the matter that hasn't shown these lanes to be ineffective in the overall scheme of traffic movement. Yet, instead of doing away with these counter-productive lanes, the new Federal Transportation Bill has allocated 130 million dollars for an extension of the Diamond Lane between Westwood and Sherman Oaks on the 405.

Speeding along in most Southern California Diamond Lanes are: Members of a family outing; Couples on a date or other social drive; A parent with child. You get the picture, the non-driver has not left a car in the garage in order to car-pool on this little excursion to school, the soccer field or restaurant. These Diamond Lane drivers have achieved an elite status by merely escorting a friend or family member on their way. And by occupying long, empty stretches of that lane, they increase the congestion in the other lanes as well as contributing to greater fuel consumption in those stop-and-go lanes.

Adding Hybrids to the lanes is not going to add to traffic movement or improvement. A very small handful of qualified hybrid owners will now be allowed into those elite lanes. There are not nearly enough of them, however, to produce any noticeable reduction in fuel consumption.

But I guess that any boondoggle that can be promoted by specious and self-serving claims is worth any bribery a legislator can collect.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

America Surrenders

It is now official. The War on Terrorism is over and we lost. President George W. Bush has surrendered to Terrorism and America will fight that brave fight no longer. But Bush has found a new enemy for us do battle: Islam Extremists. Not to be confused with previous Republican presidential candidate who avowed proudly that "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." Add to that, that muslims do not partake of alcoholic beverages, which makes them virtually vice free in Republican minds.

It is obvious that radical muslims and Republicans have much in common.

Friday, August 05, 2005

America's Mythical Heroism

The following article from today's LA TIMES is a lesson in how governments falsify history to justify, and even Smithsonian Institutionalize, their evil actions. If the righteous Left want to decry the deviltry of President Bush, they must also hold to account his evil predecessor, Cold War creator and witch hunt instigator Harry S. Truman. It is interesting to note how some of our most ordinary, down-home type presidents reflect Hanna Arendt's definition of the banality of evil.

The myths of Hiroshima
By Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, KAI BIRD and MARTIN J. SHERWIN are coauthors of "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," published earlier this year by Knopf.

SIXTY YEARS ago tomorrow, an atomic bomb was dropped without warning on the center of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One hundred and forty thousand people were killed, more than 95% of them women and children and other noncombatants. At least half of the victims died of radiation poisoning over the next few months. Three days after Hiroshima was obliterated, the city of Nagasaki suffered a similar fate.

The magnitude of death was enormous, but on Aug. 14, 1945 — just five days after the Nagasaki bombing — Radio Tokyo announced that the Japanese emperor had accepted the U.S. terms for surrender. To many Americans at the time, and still for many today, it seemed clear that the bomb had ended the war, even "saving" a million lives that might have been lost if the U.S. had been required to invade mainland Japan.

This powerful narrative took root quickly and is now deeply embedded in our historical sense of who we are as a nation. A decade ago, on the 50th anniversary, this narrative was reinforced in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution on the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first bomb. The exhibit, which had been the subject of a bruising political battle, presented nearly 4 million Americans with an officially sanctioned view of the atomic bombings that again portrayed them as a necessary act in a just war.

But although patriotically correct, the exhibit and the narrative on which it was based were historically inaccurate. For one thing, the Smithsonian downplayed the casualties, saying only that the bombs "caused many tens of thousands of deaths" and that Hiroshima was "a definite military target."

Americans were also told that use of the bombs "led to the immediate surrender of Japan and made unnecessary the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands." But it's not that straightforward. As Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has shown definitively in his new book, "Racing the Enemy" — and many other historians have long argued — it was the Soviet Union's entry into the Pacific war on Aug. 8, two days after the Hiroshima bombing, that provided the final "shock" that led to Japan's capitulation.

The Enola Gay exhibit also repeated such outright lies as the assertion that "special leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities" warning civilians to evacuate. The fact is that atomic bomb warning leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities, but only after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed.

The hard truth is that the atomic bombings were unnecessary. A million lives were not saved. Indeed, McGeorge Bundy, the man who first popularized this figure, later confessed that he had pulled it out of thin air in order to justify the bombings in a 1947 Harper's magazine essay he had ghostwritten for Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

The bomb was dropped, as J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, said in November 1945, on "an essentially defeated enemy." President Truman and his closest advisor, Secretary of State James Byrnes, quite plainly used it primarily to prevent the Soviets from sharing in the occupation of Japan. And they used it on Aug. 6 even though they had agreed among themselves as they returned home from the Potsdam Conference on Aug. 3 that the Japanese were looking for peace.

These unpleasant historical facts were censored from the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit, an action that should trouble every American. When a government substitutes an officially sanctioned view for publicly debated history, democracy is diminished.

Today, in the post-9/11 era, it is critically important that the U.S. face the truth about the atomic bomb. For one thing, the myths surrounding Hiroshima have made it possible for our defense establishment to argue that atomic bombs are legitimate weapons that belong in a democracy's arsenal. But if, as Oppenheimer said, "they are weapons of aggression, of surprise and of terror," how can a democracy rely on such weapons?

Oppenheimer understood very soon after Hiroshima that these weapons would ultimately threaten our very survival.

Presciently, he even warned us against what is now our worst national nightmare — and Osama bin Laden's frequently voiced dream — an atomic suitcase bomb smuggled into an American city: "Of course it could be done," Oppenheimer told a Senate committee, "and people could destroy New York."

Ironically, Hiroshima's myths are now motivating our enemies to attack us with the very weapon we invented. Bin Laden repeatedly refers to Hiroshima in his rambling speeches. It was, he believes, the atomic bombings that shocked the Japanese imperial government into an early surrender — and, he says, he is planning an atomic attack on the U.S. that will similarly shock us into retreating from the Mideast.

Finally, Hiroshima's myths have gradually given rise to an American unilateralism born of atomic arrogance.

Oppenheimer warned against this "sleazy sense of omnipotence." He observed that "if you approach the problem and say, 'We know what is right and we would like to use the atomic bomb to persuade you to agree with us,' then you are in a very weak position and you will not succeed…. You will find yourselves attempting by force of arms to prevent a disaster."

Monday, August 01, 2005

St.-Tropez à Go-Go ?

How out of date can the New York Times get?

I think I know this place. It is a little postage stamp of patio with a patch of beach about the size you see beside the little Marina Del Rey inlet lagoons. The glamour is all in the minds of the travel agents and writers who pump up this sad Riviera as a desirable destination.

But it is a pretty picture.

Ride the High Country

This Wednesday, TCM is screening what may be Hollywood's last great western. It is a beautifully filmed action melodrama, and an emotionally moving existential drama of human character and commitment.

With current television screens of width and clarity, it should be a real treat to watch. And since it is currently only available on VHS, not DVD, Turner may be the only widescreen opportunity we have for a while.

Virtually ignored during its brief release by MGM, mostly due to a non-supportive exhibition system, Ride the High Country is now rated a Four Star movie by every critic. Of course, I was already on board in 1962 and following is a brief excerpt of my original review.

“High Country”
Above Standard

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea star in a story about two aging ex-lawmen with nothing to show for their work but a now-declining skill with six-guns. Despite his age, and with no knowledge of his weakening eyesight, McCrea is hired by a bank to transport some yield from a mountain diggings named Coarse Gold.

Seeing an opportunity, Scott offers to help McCrea, hoping to convince him that their current state of poverty, after years of upholding the law, entitles them to this final, illegal reward. The moral issues the picture deals with seem simple enough, but they run deep. They are clear cut, but never pedantic.

The script by N.B. Stone, Jr. and the direction of Sam Peckinpah are imaginative, inventive and exciting. The performances of McCrea and Scott are superbly moving. They have all the charm and authority of the best of the old greats still working. And they are backed up by a richly talented and appealing supporting cast.

The film does have flaws. Some of the traditional elements come across as cliches. Some of the off-beat touches are not so good but seem to be just there for the sake of being off-beat. Much of the behavior of the characters is not sensibly motivated. But, as with some women who are beautiful not only despite their flaws but because of them, this film succeeds in justifying itself through an intuitive, yet tangible, rightness about almost everything it presents.

It is an unfortunate example of the limited thinking on Hollywood that when a really entertaining picture such as "High Country" is made, its chances of getting proper attention are minimized by being released through an unimaginative and out - moded distribution set-up. Currently in Los Angeles, this excellent film has been relegated to the bottom half of a double-bill of which the pathetically unfunny and ineptly made "Boys Night Out" is the feature attraction.

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