More Morose Delectation

Bessie Love (1898-1986)

Bessie Love (1898-1986)

Once again it is Labor Day Weekend in the United States, and Martine and I have celebrated by seeing loads of films and seeing old friends at Cinecon 49 in Hollywood. Among the pictures we saw were:

  • The Holy Terror (1937) with Jane Withers
  • A Blonde’s Revenge (1926) with Ruth Taylor
  • The Good Bad Man (1926) with Douglas Fairbanks Sr and Bessie Love, directed by Allan Dwan
  • Transient Lady (1935) with Frances Drake
  • Their First Execution (1913) by Mack Sennett
  • Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) with Paulette Goddard and Fred MacMurray

Once again, I was impressed how beautiful many of the young actresses were almost a hundred years ago. Bessie Love in The Good Bad Man wasn’t much of an actress, but her beauty was heartbreaking.

Ruth Taylor (1905-1984)

Ruth Taylor (1905-1984)

Then there was Ruth Taylor with a small role in the Ben Turpin two-reeler A Blonde’s Revenge. It’s difficult to believe that she was the mother of Buck Henry.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to go in to work to help our computer consultant set up a new file server and seven workstations. But then, on Monday, Martine and I return to Hollywood and Cinecon for more movies.


Extreme Weather

Are You Ready for Biblical Storms?

Whether or not you believe in climate change, it’s going to happen—all over you! The Montana thunderstorm illustrated above looks like something from a science fiction movie, but it’s just typical of the kind of intense weather we can expect from now on.

The reason my mind dwells on the subject right now is that we are having a heinous heat wave in Southern California, the kind of heat wave that makes a good night’s sleep impossible. My apartment building was built just after World War Two, so it wasn’t insulated. When I woke up at 6:30 this morning, it was still 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the bedroom. Tonight I expect it to be still hotter.

At lunch today, I read an interesting article in The New York Review of Books (June 20, 2013) on Henry Petroski’s To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure. In it, reviewer Bill McKibben writes:

In the course of Petroski’s life, and all of ours, we’ve left behind the Holocene, the ten-thousand-year period of benign climatic stability that marked the rise of human civilization. We’ve raised the global temperature about a degree so far, but a better way of thinking about it is: we’ve amped up the energy trapped in our narrow envelope of atmosphere, and hence every process that feeds off that energy is now accelerating. For instance, this piece of simple physics: warm air holds more water vapor than cold. Already we’ve increased moisture in the atmosphere about 4 percent on average, thus increasing the danger both of drought, because heat is evaporating more surface water, and of flood, because evaporated water must eventually come down as rain. And those loaded dice are doing great damage. The federal government spent more money last year repairing the damage from extreme weather than it did not education.

Haboob Time

Haboob Time

Now I’m not going to point any fingers, because, frankly, it’s too late. We can expect a lot of terrible weather all around the globe, from hundred-year floods to hundred-year-droughts—except occurring in much less time than a hundred years. Every year we seem to break new records, such as the Rim Fire now threatening Yosemite National Park.

Speaking as a Californian, I hope that the phenomenon we are now facing does not affect the movement of tectonic plates under the earth, or we are in for a wild ride. No, California won’t fall into the ocean, but it will continue to shake and bake … at an accelerated rate.

Memory and Expectation

Obsessed with Time

Obsessed with Time

We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.—Alan Watts

Another War Nobody Wants

Just What We Needed!

Just What We Needed!

I guess things have been going too well for us lately. It must be time for another war. Let’s dust off those “Support Our Troops” signs and wave that raggedy flag. We are about to step once again into that Tar Baby par excellence, the Middle East, which is full of people who hate us and want to get even with us for … for … I forget what. We don’t understand them, though they understand us somewhat from being exposed to our entertainment media for so long.

There is no possible good outcome from our involvement in Syria. Innocent Syrians will be killed by our weaponry, and thousands of people will thereupon discover they have a blood feud with the United States. I thought Obama was smarter than that.

Let’s say we have a super bomb in our arsenal that will seek out Bashar al-Assad and blow him to kingdom come. Then what? Even such a surgical strike will lead to a civil war among Islamists, al-Qaida, Baathists, Druzes, Shi’ites, Alawites, and others. Are we going to send in referees with striped shirts to declare who will be the winner and who is fighting fair. No one will be fighting fair, and of one thing I am certain: Before long, all weapons will be aimed at us. So much for gratitude, huh?


Is Peru Next?

I Am Thinking of Visiting Peru Next

I Am Thinking of Visiting Peru Next

If my next vacation will be solo like my trip to Iceland, I think I will visit Peru some time next year. My first view of the Andes from Argentina in 2006 and 2011 have whetted my appetite for more, and where better to go than Peru, home of the Inca Empire?

If, on the other hand, Martine gets better or decides she can travel, I will probably pick a destination in the United States, such as Oregon and Washington. Unfortunately, Martine still can’t lift anything and spends a lot of time resting from back pain.

Since I have been fairly healthy, I will test myself at high altitudes. Will the dread soroche bring me down? If my destination is Peru, I will ascend the Andes slowly, going by way of Arequipa and other intermediate destinations before I reach the heights of Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca.


Twerking Our Way to Nowhere

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards

I don’t know if I can express my disapproval over a performance that made Rush Limbaugh so livid with rage.“It was just this side on on-stage pornography,” the Viagra user who liked even looser women in the Dominican Republic. “It was pure, unadulterated rot.”

Actually, it was pure nothing. I saw the full number on YouTube before the high sheriffs of Copyrightdom had it removed. It was jerky, and sexy more in its intent than its execution.

But I’ll bet that Pat Robertson was mightily aroused to wrath, and we’ll be hearing some priceless lines from the right-wing Christian doomsayer-elect within the next day or so.

I frankly don’t care if Miley Cyrus dances full-on naked on the stage. It’s been done  before, though not by Hannah Montana,.and it will be done again.

In the meantime, more serious issues await our consideration: We are about to add to the mess in Syria. The Stock Market is taking a dive in anticipation of same. Washington continues to be more divided than a Civil War battlefield, with belligerent threats from the Republicans made worse by their suspicion that they are about to be regarded as a very bad episode in our country’s history.

Guess Who’s Missing from the Constitution

And He’s Not in the Declaration of Independence Either

And He’s Not in the Declaration of Independence Either

With all the Evangelical hoo-hah about the United States being a Christian nation, you will not find any of the following words in the U.S. Constitution: “Jesus,” “Christ,” “God,” “Deity,” “Christian,” or “Christians.” And the word “God” appears only once in the Declaration of Independence in a phrase that is not quite the way it would be used in an American suburban megachurch:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Note that the word “God” appears only after the phrase “Laws of Nature.” (Sounds like something the Sierra Club would write.)

If you don’t believe me, search these two documents yourself. You can find them at and at We have so many misconceptions about the Founding Fathers of our country, especially those tricorn-hatted imbeciles who go by the name of Tea Party, that we don’t realize that the particular brand of Christianity practiced then was too remote and intellectual for most of today’s Holy Rollers. I am referring specifically to Deism. You might want to follow the link to learn for yourself in what they believed.

Note in particular the phrase “rejection of revelation and authority.” In other words, the Founding Fathers were not big-time Bible-readers.

I would like to see someone like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck explain this curious omission.

OK, Who Cut the Cheese?

It’s Best to Be Slow and Through on This Issue

It’s Best to Be Slow and Thorough on This Issue

I don’t really mean to be facetious about this, but there exist several possibilities regarding the use of nerve gas in Syria:

  • Most people think that Bashar al-Assad is responsible, and he might very well be
  • Arrayed against Bashar and his Baathists are a lot of Al-Qaida baddies, who might well have gotten their hands on some Sarin from Chemical Ali’s stock of it in Iraq
  • It could be that both sides are releasing nerve gas, which is not as outlandish as it may seem

Remember that George W. Bush had us going to war against Saddam in Iraq based on “weapons of mass destruction” that were never found. We cannot risk making assumptions that will lead to a massive loss of lives among Syrians or among our own armed forces.

Even if we are able to identify which side is employing nerve gas, I am reluctant about committing ourselves to bombing raids or, worse yet, “boots on the ground.” If we send in our bombers and Cruise Missiles, how do we know what targets to hit, considering that our military intelligence is god-awful or nonexistent. And do we want to set up another Green Zone, this time in Damascus or Homs or Aleppo, from which we cannot venture out without being blown to bits by roadside bombs?

And if we commit to either course, who stands to gain? Who stands to lose? Are we even asking ourselves these questions, or do we just assume that we’re still the world’s policeman after all these failed forays?


Kills Wife, Children, Self

I’m Beginning To Think It’s Well Beyond Gun Control

I’m Beginning To Think It’s Well Beyond Gun Control

Something highly incongruous is happening around the country. On one hand, the total rate of crime, including murder, is decreasing nationwide. On the other hand, what murders there are are becoming more spectacular:

  • The random killing in Duncan, Oklahoma, of a young Australian baseball player by teens who were “bored”
  • The murder of a World War II veteran who is beaten to death by teens in Spokane
  • The shooting of four co-workers by a North Florida man who then took his own life

And that’s just within the last couple of days. Whether guns are involved or not, there seems to be a dangerous anomie among teens, and a total lack of conflict resolution skills among many of their elders.

So frequent are these stories that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish one occurrence from another: They merge into one another, with the result that it seems everyone is out there senselessly killing people—all the time!

For one thing, the news media obviously batten on to these stories so that people watching the news or reading the paper (wait—they don’t do that any more) are sickened. Each is accompanied by a news media orgy that continues until it is time for the next news media orgy to begin.

Since I have given up on watching the news, I don’t get as badly hammered by bad news as most people. But even following stories on the Internet causes sufficient consternation.

What must other people think when they watch our news program? I am reminded of Mexican newspapers giving gory details of murders and showing photos of the bodies. At least, that’s the way it was when I used to travel through Mexico in the 1980s.

Will Petrograd Fall to the Whites?

Victor Serge

Victor Serge

“Never, perhaps, have I lived in such total serenity. There is great happiness in being detached from everything and understanding everything. The happiness I feel is immense, bitter, painful, and calm. Life appeared suddenly before me stripped of everything that encumbered it: habits, conventions, duties, worries, superfluous relations. We end up abandoning our souls almost entirely to these things. Do you remember that story by Kipling we read together at Vevey: ‘The Miracle of Purun Bhagat’? It’s the tale of an old Westernized Hindu who retires high up in the mountains in order to finish out his life there with the earth, plants, tame animals—eternal reality. I’m an occidental. I have no wish to remove myself from men or from action: these too belong to eternity. I wish only to overcome my own impotence and to finally understand the curve described in the sky by the hurricane which is carrying all of us along with it.

“All man’s miseries are reduced to naked simplicity here. We live the life of the poor. And I understand the poor, their direct vision of reality, their power to hate, their need to overturn the world. I have no hate, except, perhaps, in the end, for the things I love the most—I believe we are almost all of us without hate in this prison. I may be mistaken, for I don’t observe the others enough. I don’t have the time, would you believe it?

“They say the terror is going to end; I don’t think so. It is still a necessity. The storm must uproot the old trees, stir the ocean to its depths, wash clean the old stones, replenish the impoverished fields. The world will be new afterward.”—The Counterrevolutionary Professor Lytaev in Victor Serge’s Conquered City