All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Sid and Francis

In our Peace Garden, Siddhārtha Gautama decided to go see Giovanni di Bernardone. I took notes:

"Hi Sid."


"How's it going?"

"Oh, ok for an old guy, but I hear you've been jumpy."

"Yeah, I was a soldier for quite a while and ...well, Sid, you wouldn't know."

"Francis, I was a teacher for 45 years. I know what stress is."

"Do you? Do you really?"

"Really. What is real, this dove in your hand that I touch with my hand?

"It's made of plaster, Sid. The dove is an idea."

"We too are ideas, around which garden sculptures are cast, but there are doves above us."

"Yes, that's why Geo. built this little Catholic church over me. I never had one of my own."

"Me neither, still don't, but he glues me back together from time to time. Last month, my head fell off."

"Looks fine now."

"Yeah he used cork and caulk. Norma's going to bronze me. So, Francis, why is Geo. so fond of you?"

"Well, he's very taken with something I said a thousand years ago: 'Preach the Gospel at all times and, when absolutely necessary, use words'.  What's he like about you?"

"This quote: 'Until you make peace with who you are you'll never be content with what you have.'"

"You never said that, Sid."

"I know, Francis.  Doris Mortman did. But you don't argue with someone who's gluing your head back on."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Solving Cushion Cautions

Earlier this month I wrote a very exciting essay about my new driver's seat cushion and closed with the intention of someday reading the instructions. I have done so and can quote from memory: "Place cushion flat on your seat with gel side facing up." In fact, I have brought it in from the car for a web-cam photo and am confident I can reinstall it.

However, once this operational lesson was mastered I found a long list of warnings and cautions further down the page. I know these must be necessary for protection of buyer and manufacturer. The human mind is a complicated thing and cannot reliably correlate all its contents. Norma took photos:
This seat cushion must only be used while seated, but not seated in bed asleep under blankets while unsound of mind or body --or while one's attendant (or keeper) is on break and not supervising what one is plugging the cushion into.  Failure to follow warnings results in things so horrible they don't even fit in the photo.  Thus concludes the "cautions" and commenceth "warnings". Of course "This is not a toy!" Toys are what I give my grandchildren and decline this warning to "Keep away" from them. I have seen this advice printed on matchbooks too, but refuse to neglect my family.  And I do live far enough inland to know my seat cushion from a flotation device --or do I (it is also spelled floatation)? Let's proceed:
Here we continue warnings against excessive force --would that the world would comply! This could end war. It is followed by advice to leave the cushion alone should it explode --and not leave anywhere, especially respectable social gatherings, while plugged into a 12volt power source.  I never do. The rest of it, I will consult if ever seized by a compulsion to use my cushion while wet and smoking over an open flame. And yet...

And yet, I acknowledge the mind is a complicated thing and must be attuned to specific instructions and precautions. Our very language attests. For instance, steer and stere are pronounced identically, yet the first means a boy-cow and the second, a cubic meter. Similarly, paradiddle is a sort of drum roll while taradiddle means nonsense. Frankly, my inclination is toward the latter but I'm sure you get my point, whatever it is.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Emergency Enigma! Tabula Rasa Copyright?

Let's begin with a bit of self-exposition. I buy blank books. In them, I doodle, write, paste clippings, generally take notes on life as I find it --with special attention to enigmas. Enigmas are puzzles which, if not noted or recorded, go oft unremembered because the mind has many other things to do. I have bought one blank book a year since the age of 16. I now have 50 of them, some in soft cover, others bound in board and buckram. 

The one above was kindly purchased for me by Norma. It was sold online. A tabula rasa. My notes have consumed its inside cover and front page. This afternoon, however, after a half-century of using tabula rasas, I encountered something new on page 2. Observe:
It's a Blank Book!   The contents of this book, so long as they are blank, are protected under copyright law! My legal expertise is limited to a fender-bender sorted out by small-claims court in 1967, so I'm no expert, but it seems to me that all blank pages are now subject to copyright and unauthorized duplication is legally actionable. This post, itself, easily qualifies as a "review for inclusion in a...broadcast", so I feel safe. However, should you or I photocopy blank pages of anything --uncopyrighted unused typing, sketching or toilet paper-- there is no way to prove we have not violated the rights of this publisher in defiance of the law. As regards solution to this enigma, I confess myself baffled and ask you, my readers and colleagues, for advice. The future of blank pages, insides of envelopes and the backs of posters depends upon you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Awful Fuel Economy Of Cruise Ships

I do not usually generate posts in such rapid succession but my powers are under a cloud.  The healthful spring air of California is full of natural microscopic wonders that spread new life from plant to plant, forest, field and farm, and make a bubble boy of me. So I am indoors, trying to correct errors in my previous post --which was overlong, haphazard and maybe had a baboon in it, or something with too many o's and b's, like bassoon or oboe--so I finally just added "Giant Atomic..." to the title, as one does in such a fix. This left the balance of the afternoon free to discuss maritime history, which --in the tradition of the genre-- one makes up as one goes along.

                                    [file released into public domain by author]

Over this paragraph is a photo of the cruise ship, Illegible. It is typical of modern cruise ships --real long, about a quarter mile, and a gas guzzler, almost as bad as some American SUVs. At top cruising speed, about 25 miles per hour, Illegible gets maybe 10, 20 feet per gallon of gas. That's on flat surfaces. She does a lot better downhill but uphill only around 2 or 3 inches per gallon. This is why you don't see many cruise ships traveling in the mountains. Good thing too.

There is promise for improvement. I direct your attention to the vessel along the port ("port" being a nautical term invented by a vintner) side of the ship. Not the big clotty-looking thing, which is part of New York Harbor that got snagged on Illegible's way out, but the bright streaky bit. That is a special laundry boat on its way to pick up wet sheets. Because its designer, Sir Ralph Woof, insisted all his inventions be pronounceable to his beloved pet dogs, this specialized craft is called a Barque. Here is an illustration of a barque drying bed sheets on its many clothes lines:
It is theorized that such laundry can react to sea winds and cause a ship to easily traverse 20 miles in an hour without burning 10,000 gallons of gas. Maritime travels might someday even be freed from fossil fuels by this innovative discovery. It verges on a new technology that may increase the velocity of cruise ships by, in scientific jargon, "Making them go faster." I don't pretend to understand it, but wonders await!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Return Sermon With Giant Atomic Oboe

Welcome to this Sunday's insurrection. I'll be your substitute pastor until one of the chosen calls the right people to lead me away. I prepared by scanning over back-sermons when I found a 3-year-old one that had been damaged. Some company I never heard of now owns rights to poor Joe Dassin and Laurel and Hardy. I was shocked and confused. Well, maybe I was already confused, but shocked enough to go after the clips they'd excised and reinstate them. Oddly, nobody had, in those 3 years, interfered with "Farewell to Stromness" --probably because it glows in the dark-- but I'm going to add something, not sure what, just to show moneyed interests they have no dominion over human spirituality, or do they? So fold something up between pew and you because we'll be here a while. I'm fond of this cushion from Pep Boys. Let's begin where we started 3 years ago:

This is one of those days we've been doing our shopping and walking among languages. I wish I understood more of them. On my profile page, years ago, I listed Joe Dassin as a favorite musician.  He was an American, a polyglot, a Frenchman, a doctor of ethnology, a poet and singer. He was a citizen of the world. He was on a tragically tight schedule,  had a bad heart, but left the world with one of the happiest songs I ever heard: The song is about walking on a street, in this case a very famous street and having life jump out at you, cataloguing its wonders in the form of possibilities. Here: Joe Dassin, Les Champs Elysees;
Tu m'as dit : "J'ai rendez-vous
Dans un sous-sol avec des fous
Qui vivent la guitare à la main
Du soir au matin."

My translation: "You told me: 'I have an appointment in a basement of fools who live guitar-in-hand all night."

I like to think the basement was full of guitars because they couldn't fit a piano in it, and the fools combined themselves into the range of notes required for pieces written for heavier artillery. One of my favorite piano pieces is"Farewell To Stromness", by Peter Maxwell Davies. The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet couldn't do a better job of it even if they were in a basement:
I suppose my western upbringing left me with a fondness for guitars --the preferred instrument of the American cowboy. So I will close with a dance by Oliver Hardy, an American, and Stan Laurel, an Englishman, to a guitar and yodeling version of "Commence To Dancing":
There is a relaxed, happy feel about this dance that finds proof in its imperfections. In fact, none of my three examples of happiness is entirely perfect. They all took some work. Their artists did not accept the archetype of happiness as a force of nature. They approached it with skills and ideas that were artistically limited. Sometimes it is necessary to be masterful and not nervous about details. Go thou and do likewise.

I have spent so much time restoring this old sermon that I felt an update warranted an addition --an example of how a substitute pastor like myself imagines he sounds playing a kazoo in the shower. It is my reward for dogged diligence, so I found one of Johann Hummel's most cheerful tunes and stuck it on. The excellent bassoonist waits about 3 minutes into the clip to get hooting but I'm glad he showed up --it would take me even longer to perform naked with a wet kazoo before a competent orchestra. Go thou and do                   And have a happy Sunday full of cheerful music. You'll notice the choir is out today (doing some paid cheering --see end of video), so turn on the shower and do your damnedest.

Friday, April 8, 2016

My Enigmatic Bond With The Pep Boys --Touchez Moi!

Happily, it doesn't happen very often, but when it does there's only one thing for it. This past Saturday, the 90 mile drive from the coast consumed 3 hours. Here is the math: 90miles divided by 3 hours equals an average of 30 miles per hour --on Interstate 80. It is a freeway. Unimpeded velocity is usually 70 mph.  On that day, tens of thousands of cars were slowing up behind the inevitable driver who, while slipping in and out of consciousness, decides brake suddenly and perhaps change lanes, text, or simply run a pop quiz on the skill of other motorists --and afterward, accelerate mischievously back to rational speed. Car behind also brakes and accelerates, but requires a fraction of a second longer to do so, so does the car behind that and so on. If you are lucky enough to be 1000 cars behind them, the short lag, of perhaps 1/5 second, multiplies 1000 times to a full minute or more of standing still, giving you opportunities to photograph the greening Coastal Range. Rather fine, isn't it?
Then, 5 minutes later (or before, I've forgotten by now) it happens again and we watch spring vegetation reclaiming the wetlands:
Five or ten minutes of patient idling is rewarded once again with freeway speeds, wheeee!
Then, of course, it happens again and again. Neither mathematics nor any coping mechanisms Californians devise can help abusing one's body as a spring-steel stop and go --oh no, screech--stop and go hyperalert linkage between butt and brake in this sort of motoring --especially among senior citizens on fixed incomes like the test subject in this scholarly essay. Many hours later, our abused remains return rattled home.

Sunday morning comes and our subject is wakened by his skeleton  crawling out and offering to haul him around in the pillow case. Let us draw a curtain over that mis-start. Everyone knows the day after Saturday was Monday this week. At 8 a.m., our subject visits his doctor who runs a sonogram for blood clots a recommends therapeutic hobbling. No one to turn to now except Manny, Moe and Jack.

Since 1921, The Pep Boys have sold great automotive accessories and solved most of the world's problems with products like this:
Who could resist this wondrous nostrum from Ontario, Canada, full of heating elements, cooling gel, memory-foam and  an invitation where a bit sticks out inviting, "Touch Me!", in French?! Nobody, that's who. These people understand old guys who have no more natural padding back there --dudes who worked their asses off years and years ago. I plunked down a couple 20's and installed it in the parking lot. Circulation returned. My pain is gone! Someday soon I will even read  the directions! But that is another essay.