Totally Out of Whack

None of These Bozos Will Make It to the White House

None of These Bozos Will Make It to the White House

There are currently so many GOP candidates for the Presidency that they could not fit into any vehicle smaller than the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler. Frankly, I don’t think I can name them all from memory. All I know about them is that they tend to say a lot of stupid things, which the echo chamber of the press magnifies until it seems that there is only one political party: The Tea Party.

As for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, no one really likes her. I don’t like her. Martine despises her. She is probably more competent to run our country than any of the Klown Kar Republicans. But she knows that everything she says will be drowned out by cries of Benghazi! E-mail! Foundation money! Why, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Faux News reveals that she had a torrid affair with Monica Lewinsky, and they probably have the dress to prove it!

Our political process has become so toxic that the only reason I vote is that I know that, if I didn’t, some Evangelical Jesus child molester will win. Gone is any Roman sense of duty. I will trudge down to the polling precinct by myself, thinking dark thoughts, while crowded church buses full of rednecks vote en masse.

In the Jungles of This Earth

Orchid in L.A. Arboretum Greenhouse

Orchid in L.A. Arboretum Greenhouse

In various posts I have made to this blog, I have expressed some distaste about visiting the tropics. In November, I will make a two-day exception by visiting Iguazu Falls at the junction of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Since I share with Martine an abhorrence of mosquitoes and the diseases they pass on to humans, I will wear insect repellent and avoid going out at dusk, when they are most active. I shall also ask my physician—who herself has visited the falls—whether I should also take chloroquine, which I could buy over the counter in Buenos Aires.

My curiosity has been piqued by all the great waterfalls I saw In iceland, especially at Dynjandi and Gullfoss, in 2013. For someone living in an extreme drought zone like California, the thought of all that water is intriguing.

I shall take an overnight bus from Retiro bus station in B.A. to Puerto Iguazu and fly back to B.A. after two days.

Despite my reluctance to pick up some tropical disease, I will probably take one or two of the jungle trails around the falls (just not at dusk) to see all the rich plant and animal life. Tourists at the falls are assailed by troops of coatimundi (see below). They are cute little buggers, but extremely voracious and aggressive.

Cute But Dangerous

Cute But Dangerous

After my broken shoulder, all I need are some nasty coatimundi bites, possibly rabid.


Juice Wondering …

Are They Really As Healthy As People Think?

Are They Really As Healthy As People Think?

Omigosh, that photo caption is almost pure clickbait! The point I am trying to make is that fruit juices are one of those categories of foods that are almost universally thought to be good for you.

Except for one thing: They concentrate their one ingredient which is not so good for you, namely sugar, and throw out the fiber that your body needs far more. This goes back to that mantra of “quick energy” that used to be claimed for most sugary beverages going back to the 1960s.

To the youth of America, fiber is not only boring but decided unsexy. It seems to be associated exclusively with the old people’s bowel movements. Actually more important is that the fiber keeps the pancreas from being bombarded by an excess of sugar. According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, they act to form complex carbohydrates:

These carbohydrates have more complex chemical structures, with three or more sugars linked together (known as oligosaccharides and polysaccharides).  Many complex carbohydrate foods contain fiber, vitamins and minerals, and they take longer to digest – which means they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly.

At a time when a whole generation seems to be headed into the maws of Type II Diabetes, it’s probably a good idea to minimize the impact of sugar on one’s diet—regardless of the promise of “quick energy.” So drink water, coffee, or tea instead.



Tarnmoor’s ABCs: William Shakespeare

The Famous Droeshout Portrait of the Bard

The Famous Droeshout Portrait of the Bard

All the blog posts in this series are based on Czeslaw Milosz’s book Milosz’s ABC’s. There, in the form of a brief and alphabetically-ordered personal encyclopedia, was the story of the life of a Nobel Prize winning poet, of the people, places, and things that meant the most to him.

My own ABCs consist of places I have loved (Iceland, Patagonia, Quebec, Scotland), things I feared (Earthquakes), writers I have admired (Chesterton, Balzac, Proust, and Borges); locales associated with my past life (Cleveland, Dartmouth College, and UCLA), people who have influenced me (John F. Kennedy), foods I love (Olives and Tea), and things I love to do (Automobiles and Books). This blog entry is my own humble attempt to imitate a writer whom I have read on and off for thirty years without having sated my curiosity. Consequently, over the weeks to come (there are only three letters left in the alphabet: X, Y, and Z), you will see a number of postings under the heading “Tarnmoor’s ABCs” that will attempt to do for my life what Milosz accomplished for his. To see my other entries under this category, hit the tag below marked “ABCs”. Today is W for William Shakespeare.

On one hand, it is pretty easy to make fun of the Immortal Bard. The following is from Jonathan Miller’s On Further Reflection: 60 Years of Writing:

Take this my hand, and you fair Essex this
And with this bond we’ll cry anon
And shout Jack Cock o’London to the foe.

Or: “Is it botched up then, Master Puke?” Or: “Now is steel ’twixt gut and bladder interposed.”

If one is not in the habit of reading difficult or old works, tackling Shakespeare can be a chore. His rich, even overripe, use of language goes against everything we have been taught about written communication. And yet, and yet, there are many complex thoughts and emotions that have never been better expressed before or since.

Over the last six months, I have been reading the “tetralogy” of Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3, followed by Richard III. Not too many people venture to read Henry VI, but from them come some great thoughts, such as this from Part 2, scene 3:

What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted!
Thrice is he arm’d, that hath his quarrel just;
And he but naked, though lock’d up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

Also from Henry VI comes such phrases as “main chance,” “let’s kill all the lawyers,” “I owe him little duty and less love,” “O, tiger’s heart, wrapped in a woman’s hide!,” and “hasty marriage seldom proveth well.”

And yet these are all in a minor key when you compare them to the four great tragedies—Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello—which will shake the world of whoever reads, hears, or sees the plays. Take this from the wretched Lear in Act IV:

Ay, every inch a king:
When I do stare, see how the subject quakes.
I pardon that man’s life. — What was thy cause? —
Adultery? —
Thou shalt not die: die for adultery! No:
The wren goes to’t, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloster’s bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got ’tween the lawful sheets.
To’t, luxury, pell-mell! for I lack soldiers. —
Behold yond simpering dame,
Whose face between her forks presages snow;
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure’s name; —
The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to’t
With a more riotous appetite
Down from the waist they are centaurs,
Though women all above.
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiend’s; there’s hell, there’s darkness,
There is the sulphurous pit; burning, scalding, stench, consumption! — fie, fie, fie! pah, pah! Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination: there’s money for thee.

I will continue reading the history plays, and then I’ll tackle the tragedies and comedies again. Shakespeare just gets deeper as you continue reading. One is never done with him.




Attacked by One of Their Own

James Laughlin Visits Burma

James Laughlin Visits Burma

Every once in a million years, someone from the hated 1% not makes a positive contribution to the culture but also attacks his fellow millionaires. James Laughlin (1914-1997) was not only a poet of some repute, but also the founder and publisher of the New Directions paperbacks that are to be found all over my library, including my favorite volume of stories by Jorge Luis Borges:

One of My All-Time Faves

One of My All-Time Faves

Interestingly, James Laughlin was from the Laughlins of Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, founded in 1852 and one of the giants of American manufacturing.

Imagine what his family thought of the following poem attacking corporate executives for their intransigence in a remarkably modern way:

Confidential Report

The president of the
corporation was of the

opinion that the best
thing to do was just

to let the old ship
sink as pleasantly &

easily as possible be-
cause it was plain as

day you couldn’t op-
erate at a profit as

long as that man was
in the white house &

now he was there for
good you might just

as well fold yr hands
and shut yr face and

let the old boat take
water till she sank.

Now it is quite obvious that the president of whom Laughlin was talking was Franklin D. Roosevelt, though I can see the same thing being said about Obama, Carter, or even Clinton.


A Club for Kids

Every Boy’s Sweetheart:  Annette Funicello

Every Boy’s Sweetheart: Annette Funicello

On October 3, 1955, I walked over a mile to Warrensville at the corner of Northfield Road and Van Aken to see a movie; but I was more interested in what was going to be on T.V. when I got home. Although I ran at what for me at the age of ten was top speed, I only missed a few minutes of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” I did not make that mistake in days to come: there were kids like me, cartoons, special guests, and various other little daily features.

And there was that ultimate sexpot of the 1950s.No, not Marilyn. The shorter one: Annette Funicello. In darkened living rooms all around the country, little boys were sighing as their hearts went pit-a-pat.

Disney really made it happen for me. That same year, he was going to open a theme park in Anaheim called Disneyland. It was to be an unattainable place of dreams.

Unattainable, at least, until the tail end of 1966, when I came out to Southern California to go to graduate school in film at UCLA. Our old neighbors from Cleveland, the Gurals, took me to a ball game in Anaheim to see the Cleveland Indians lose to the (then) California Angels, after which we went to … DISNEYLAND!

I am not one of those people who are too old and too sophisticated for Disneyland. Granted, the greasy kid stuff at Fantasyland is de trop for me, but I still love New Orleans Square and, nowadays, Toontown. I have yet to visit the Calfornia Adventure theme park next door, but I will eventually.


The Dance Goes On

Little Girls in Greek Costumes

Little Girls in Greek Costume

Yesterday afternoon, Martine and i went to the Valley Greek Festival at St. Nicholas in North Hills. It was a cool overcast day, but people came from all over the Valley to party. Unfortunately, there were some signs of increased organization and decreased quality, especially in the food service area. But it’s still fun, what with all the music and Greek dancing. (No, I didn’t dance: I was not born with the ability to move in time to music without causing pain to my dancing partners’ feet.)

We took our usual tour of the church. Greek Orthodox churches can be pretty spectacular, and St. Nicholas is one of them. In case you were wondering, yes, it’s Saint Nick, Santa Claus, after whom the church is named. For some reason, this year there was no Question and Answer session with one of the parish priests, which I rather miss. Although I was raised a Catholic, I have a lingering admiration for Orthodoxy.

Doctrinally, the major difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is a single word—filioque—in the Nicene Creed. Also, their priests can be married; whereas Roman Catholic clergy must remain celibate. Curiously, there are several different rites of he Catholic Church, under Papal jurisdiction, in which marriage is also permitted.



All-American Glop

Burger Heaven, American Style

Burger Heaven, American Style

One of the advantages of my having a Hungarian upbringing is that it allows me to cast a critical eye on what most Americans would consider good eating. Take, for example, the hamburger. One starts with a plain piece of ground meat, chars it, and adds an inch or two of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions (either raw or caramelized), mayonnaise, ketchup, mushrooms, and God knows what. The result is a concoction that will likely contribute more to staining your shirtfront than satisfying your hunger.

Hungarians prefer to season the meat itself rather than topping it off with a salad. My mother used to mince (not chop!) onions, garlic, and parsley and work it gently in with the ground beef (which itself could be mixed with bits of ground pork or veal). Take a look, for example, at this recipe for fasirt, a kind of Magyar fried hamburger. Whether fried or charbroiled, the Hungarian hamburger would usually be served between two pieces of rye bread, cheese optional. It had flavor. And if we wanted vegetables, they would be there on the plate, fresh from our garden, rather than piled high over the meat patty.

The same goes for meatballs. If you get matballs and spaghetti in an Italian-American restaurant, the meatballs will usually be plain meat. Our late landlady made her meatballs the Old Country way, buy adding seasonings to the meat before cooking it.

It’s a simple technique, perhaps a little time-consuming, but it tastes ever so much better than the plain unadorned ground meat.



The Blue House on Galos

I’m Starting to Book My Vacation...

I’m Starting to Book My Vacation…

I’ve already begun booking my vacation, even though it is still months in the future. There are still a few question marks. Now that Calbuco has gone to orange alert, I suspect I won’t have any major volcano troubles.The biggest question right now is how I will get a reservation on the November 13 Tren Patagonico between Viedma and San Carlos Bariloche. I suspect what I’ll do is contact an English-speaking tour agency in Buenos Aires, one like Say Hueque, which is geared to more independent travelers like me.

According to the international rail travel website The Man in Seat 61:

Viedma is across the river by small ferry from Carmen de Patagones, but no same day connection is possible so you need a night in a hotel. The Trén Patagonico from Viedma to C. de Bariloche is tremendous fun and thoroughly recommended!  Comfy secure sleeping cars (solo travellers are given a compartment to themselves and a key to lock it), excellent dining car serves steaks and wine, good company and wonderful Patagonian scenery in the morning. Excellent value, and you can buy the tickets in advance in Buenos Aires at Gallerias Rio Negro on Reconquista.

I’m afraid that by the time I get to Gallerias Rio Negro on November 4, the train will be all sold out.

In the meantime, I booked a ideally situated hotel overlooking the Recoleta Cemetery on Azcuénaga in Buenos Aires, and a nice boutique hotel near the river in Puerto Iguazu. For Valparaíso, I’ll be at the La Nona B&B on Galos (Wales) Street atop Cerro Alegre. It’s in the blue building on the left in the above photo.

Yes, it’s beginning to take shape!

This Morning’s Harvest

Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!

Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!

It appears that one of my e-mail addresses has made the Numero Uno suckerbait list. Here’s a selection of just some of the garbage offers that ended up in my mailbox:

  • Interest too high? Find the perfect card—from “Zero Interest Cards.” Yeah, well, did you ever hear of fees?
  • Uncover your ancestors and your family tree. Try it – 14 days no/cost. Give us your e-mail address so we can send you even more clickbait.
  • Most Wanted summer-slim-down – ready for delivery!  You, too, can experiment with your health by using expensive and untested meds.
  • Final Notice: Your gift card is about to expire.  Why would Chilis Bar & Grill, which I’ve never heard of, send me a gift card?
  • 10-second trick makes Diabetes go away. This is from Harvard Research Dept (whatever that is), so it must be true.
  • Do you want to Improvement your hearing in 1-7 days? No, but I’d love to Improvement your English!
  • Cover all of your Appliances with Choice Home Warranty. Whaddaya mean you won’t reimburse me $1,000 for my bum toaster?
  • You have been selected for inclusion. This is from Eddie Lopez, who sent the same e-mail twice, so he must want me real bad.
  • Fabulous and wonderful in your kitchen. Why thank you: I didn’t think you knew!
  • Avoid the Hassles of Home Repair. Get Your First Month Free! It’s those Choice Home Warranty (CHW) people again. In essence: Pay us and say goodbye to your money.
  • When you lose something finding it fast with this! What about that quarter that fell through a hole in my pocket in 1956?
  • (Wow!) Satellite photos make amazing discovery. That’s nice….

This is just a small selection of what parades through my mailbox every day, sometimes as many as several hundred in one twenty-four hour period.