Monthly Archives: May 2014

Day 2 of the LONG WEEKEND

APRIL, MAY 2014 059

Clouds and rain. For more than seven minutes. Happiness.

And I wrote a lot.

And my new recipe for Roasted Tomatoes with Polenta and Spinach from Shutterbean is delicious and easy.

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APRIL, MAY 2014 052

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Nordic Novelistic Noir by an American


P1070379 (2)I just this moment finished a VERY GOOD BOOK. Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller is not easily definable; it’s a crime novel but only barely; the emphasis is really on story and character, and in no small way on culture and society. And just for good measure there is all sorts of sly humor peaking through everywhere.

Here’s the plot. An elderly Jewish Korean war veteran from New York moves to Norway with his granddaughter and her husband. He is witness to a crime and winds up on an intense if somewhat idiosyncratic journey through the Norwegian countryside with a small boy he calls Paul.

So yes, a slightly unlikely scenario but it all comes off as quite plausible. Thanks in no small part to the character of Sheldon, the elderly Jew who happens to be former Marine sniper. Miller has created a larger-than-life cranky old guy, in…

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FROM WORK. A sculpture sort of. Can you tell I don't work for an insurance company?

FROM WORK. A sculpture sort of. Can you tell I don’t work for an insurance company?

Long weekends are the best reason for working (besides the money of course). Regular weekends just give you a hint of the good life in which you can create or veg out or garden or have time for an art/sporting event or sleep late or…. Vacations take a lot of work both AT work AND planning AND checking the tires or downloading the tickets. Sick days, especially if you’re not that sick, carry that tinge of guilt and if you’re really sick, well what a waste of perfectly good time off.

We hung a new piece in our lobby today. Can hardly notice it among the other subdued colors?

We hung a new piece in our lobby today. Can hardly notice it among the other subdued colors?

But long weekends are the best. FREE TIME. All the regular weekend stuff can happen and then there is that EXTRA DAY. OFF.  Demands no planning, no guilt. Not enough extra time to accomplish anything important so you may as well watch 13 episodes of House of Cards or read an entire Swedish crime novel or cook that thing you’ve kept the recipe for that will require you to drink at least half a bottle of wine during the prep.

I, on the other hand, must write write write for my class—which makes me a UCLA student, nose to the grindstone over a long weekend, but feeling smart and self-righteous and ever so literate. And cooking a new polenta tomato thing and drinking the wine goes nicely with writing.

So it's not a great photo. IT SHOWS RAIN. In New Mexico that makes it a great photo okay?

So it’s not a great photo. IT SHOWS RAIN. In New Mexico that makes it a great photo okay?


To Know Anything about Anything READ HISTORY



LAWRENCE IN ARABIA is Scott Anderson’s stirring historical/biographical narrative regarding this near-mythical figure in world history. T. E. Lawrence emerges from his too good to be true image (depending on whose perspective of course) with depth, determination and a wry slyness previously unknown—apparently Anderson offers the most clear-eyed view of Lawrence to date.

Anderson asks in his introduction, “How did a painfully shy Oxford archaeologist without a single day of military training become the battlefield commander of a foreign revolutionary army, the political master strategist who foretold so many of the Middle Eastern calamities to come?”

The answer, he says, is “…because no one was paying attention.”

If the various and sundry military and non-military actions surrounding WW I hadn’t been in such complete disarray most of the time, some incompetent general surely would have brain-washed or beaten Lawrence into submission or gotten him off the playing field altogether. Such…

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News from the Hood

There’s a new bank one block from me. Really? We need more banks in this world? People needing more money for their work and families is not the same as adding new banks is it? But capitalism tends to confuse those two issues. And besides it is quite an ugly, or at the very least non-descript, bank.


Couple blocks along and the roses are out in glorious bloom which lifts one’s spirits after contemplating the number of banks and bankers in the world.





Then a truck sped down Tingley and hit a duck as it crossed the road with its friends. Didn’t even stop to see whether it lived or not. A kindly man coming behind got the dying bird off the street and was trying to figure out if he could catch the driver of the truck but then what could he do. Truck drivers who carelessly kill things and don’t stop are likely as not have a gun tucked in here or there in the cab so a confrontation would not end well.

The lucky ones slept in.

The lucky ones slept in.

A woman was watering her blue flowers. I can’t remember what they’re called.


Back at my house my cactus is awake.



In line at Starbucks. No ducks though.

In line at Starbucks. No ducks though.

At work by 7am with the grand idea of getting a lot of work done………..good morning meeting……….so far so good. A quick trip to computer-geek-land. From there it was all downhill.

More scenic shots from the Starbucks drive-in.

More scenic shots from the Starbucks drive-in.

Nevertheless life is not so bad. I had an iced latte with Walgreen’s bean dip and Fritos for an early dinner: I have my third new laptop from Best Buy (third time’s the something or other?), it’s 6:18pm and in one hour and 42 minutes I can go to bed and read “Norwegian by Night” which is a really really fine book. I’ve read a string of great books lately which I will try to review this weekend.

I am outta here...did I spell outta right?

I am outta here…did I spell outta right?



Back at the Beach

The great great grandchildren of 2012's duck (not geese right?) photos.

The great great grandchildren of 2012’s duck (not geese right?) photos.

Tingley is just the kind of beach you want when you’re over a certain age, whatever age that is for each of us. No swimming, sunbathing, beer drinking, beach volleyball or making out allowed. Just walkers and cyclists and ducks and me.

Late May and the daytime temperature already in the upper 80s but at 6am one can believe that life is fresh and green…somewhere to the east perhaps. It was a little chilly this morning but the drought is so extreme that even at dawn there is not the slightest hint of damp in the air. I don’t ever remember dew in this part of the world, but sometimes, very early in the day the memory of moisture might tantalize. Not anymore.

Never mind. It was beautiful in its own New Mexico way.

Friends are good.

Friends are good.

Dining on Happy Exotic Animals

Reblogging this so we can make our reservations for dinner at Da Capo’s in Cape Town in September. Scott, are you paying attention? New travel posts here soon.



 Since I only eat free-range meat or none at all and think hunting is not a real sport but rather some kind of bizarre male bonding ritual leftover from the ‘hunter-gatherer’ era and believe in conservation of natural wild things…tonight’s dinner was solely done to prove to my San Diego son that I’m not an exotic-food wimp. I did not break all of my rules; I am quite sure the springbok, kudu and impala I ate for dinner were wild and happy until slaughtered by some great white hunter type who took the heads home to White Bear Lake or Syracuse and they’re not very endangered…are they? And ostriches are living everywhere. This one probably got loose from the local ostrich farm and was hit by an out-of-control truck between here and Stellenbosch.

 Here’s how it all happened. I was wandering around my lovely Green Market Square neighborhood after…

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Curbside Dining in Beirut

I am very proud of this post, but the real reason I’m re-posting it from 2010 is because the latter part is about the destruction and rebuilding of Beirut, about big boys and guns and how they play in their big world sandboxes with their tanks and bulldozers. I am just very pissed because of the destruction of the beautiful cities of Damascus and now they’re moving into Odessa and it just never ends. Anyway that’s all for another post, but you’ll definitely get the idea from this post.


 In the spring of 2009, I traveled to the Middle East, starting in Jordan, then to the West Bank and Israel, then Syria and finally by taxi! up to Beirut. Before traveling I had become quite fascinated with the history of Lebanon, starting years ago with Thomas Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, then Robert Fisk and “Pity the Nation” along with a few shorter pieces and film (especially “Waltz with Bashir”). I have been working on a dense but brilliant book, “Constructing Lebanon: A Century of Literary Narratives” published by the University of Florida–a book I may–or may not–get through it in this lifetime.

I am sitting on a curb in Beirut in the working class neighborhood at the very start of the Green Line, that famous division the Christians and Muslims of this city used for so many years as their bloody ‘line in the sand.’ I am a

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