Sunday, May 22, 2016

Who Was That Guy?

Donald Trump reminds me of some New York Mets fans that I encountered in 1986 at the AstroDome. The Mets were playing the Astros in the playoffs that year. It was a sellout crowd, all Astros fans, except for five drunk guys from Queens who were sitting in front of me. These guys were loud, vulgar and shameless.

But what really impressed about these nasty Mets fans from Queens was their courage, because we were in Houston, Texas, in the presence of over 50,000 screaming Texan baseball fans. Five against 50,000 -- the Mets fans screamed like donkeys anyway..

So you think you don't want anything to do with guys like this, but what if it was 1942 and you were in Casablanca sitting with Rick at his cafe and the Nazis swagger in. Then you want the nasty Mets fans to be there, to be on our side.

The Mets beat Boston in the World Series that year. I still hate them.

Rick, as you all know, came from Brooklyn. He had a borderline contempt for Queens folk.
Secretary. I had a good meeting with Anita, the outgoing secretary of the Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club. We worked our way through the procedures. She explained them one by one. Then I repeated the explanation back to her to indicate that I understood. By this process we worked through all the steps, and that took one hour. She said she was impressed that I had learned so quickly, but I reminded her that we would have to do this all over again.....that repetition was necessary.
She expects to become President of the club, but she cannot serve well unless a competent person takes over as secretary, and that would be me. It seems that we work well together.

Somerset Maugham. Somerset Maugham was an intelligent and entertaining author. I am on page 209 of his great work Of Human Bondage. Philip, the main character, has come to Paris as a young man to live his life and study art. He falls under the sway of Cronshaw, an old drunken poet, who gives him this bit of advice --
Philip asks, "Have you ever done anything you regret?"
"How can I regret when what I did was inevitable," asked Cronshaw in return.
"But that is fatalism."
"The illusion which man has that his will is free is so deeply rooted that I am ready to accept it. I act as though I were a free agent. But when an action is performed it is clear that all the forces of the universe from all eternity conspired to cause it, and nothing I could do could have prevented it. If it was good I can claim no merit; if it was bad I can accept no censure."
"My brain reels," said Philip.
"Have some whiskey," returned Cronshaw.
Reading this I realized that Cronshow, the drunken poet, got this nugget from Baruch Spinoza, the Jewish-Dutch philosopher -- that much is obvious. Spinoza believed that God did no favors, that prayer was useless, but to understand God and Nature through the use of reason led to clarity and happiness.
Anyway, the book is plot-driven and far from philosophical except in the truth of this -- that a young man away from home, living his life, studying art in Paris, will seriously ponder deep questions that hardly concern the rest of us.
Hollywood Dumps Trump. It's not like I know a lot of people in the business, but it would not surprise anyone that they all dump on Trump. This cinematic mogul -- you could look her up on if I gave you her name -- said:
"God, I can't stand Donald Trump....It doesn't matter what magazine I pick up, what paper I read, or what station I switch to, he's always staring at me, yammering on and on about something or someone. I have read everything he says and everything that's written about him, and still, I have never felt this much disdain for a candidate before. It hurts my head and my heart and it's only May."
The Internet was the solution to a problem we did not have.
The most important domestic problem is student loan debt. It should be forgiven and restructured. We should do this for our young people.
The least important domestic issue is bathroom access. Let's kick that can down the road and talk about it after we get a new President in 2017.
If Donald Trump wins I am going to Mexico. Everybody else is going to Canada and I don't run with that crowd.
Mrs. Clinton says she is not good at politics. I agree. So why is she running for President? I mean, it is a job that requires political talent, which she does not have, as she admits.
Yet I remain a Clinton voter by default.
Thank you.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Of Human Bondage

But first the news:

Politics. Donald Trump and I have a lot in common, except I'm not rich, or mean, or crazy. Trump will be 70 on June 14, I will be 70 on June 25, so we are just the same age. But in other ways we are a lot different. I like to read books. He likes to build golf courses.... I wonder if he actually plays golf?
He says he only sleeps three hours a day. Good for him. I sleep eight hours plus an afternoon nap.
Otherwise, he's a human being like me and we live in the same country.
Headlines. Trump can get a headline anytime he wants. I was half-listening to his interview on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos who was pressing him to reveal his income taxes. Trump said, "It's None of Your Business." I heard him say that -- it's none of your business -- and I knew that  bingo! he had just gotten himself another headline.
The New York Times dutifully wrote the front-page headline that Trump said, "It's None of Your Business."
So Trump marches on and I heard that recent polls show him ahead of Hillary Clinton in Ohio.
I have to check up on this. I have some friends in Columbus, Ohio, all ardent Democrats, and they read this newsletter. Hey fellas, is Trump gonna take Ohio?
Of Human Bondage. I'm on page 23 of this great novel by Somerset Maugham. He is a plot-driven writer. That's how he can get away with poor sentences like "It was a week later."

A lot of writers would try to smooth that out. But Maugham doesn't. He has a story to tell, so he just wrote that it was a week later  -- why try to be stylish?
I read a volume of his short stories this winter. Then I read the Painted Veil which was made into a 2006 movie starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts.  Another good movie, The Razor's Edge, starred Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney in 1946, also based on a Maugham novel.

Next Book. Hannah Arendt is best known for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Her point was that Eichmann was quite an ordinary man and still capable of great evil.
But she has written on philosophy as well, so I checked out her two-volume work titled Thinking.  It's about thinking. I do a lot of thinking so I decided to read it.
Here's one sentence: "Aristotle's De Anima is full of tantalizing hints at psychic phenomena and their close interconnection with the body in contrast with the relation or, rather, non-relation between body and mind."
I don't understand what Arendt is saying in this book. I have made it to page 44 and it just keeps going, getting thicker and denser. The thing is -- I trust her and I believe she is not wasting my time, so I'm sticking it out.
Next Book. The next book is Consilience by E.O. Wilson. Wilson is the famous ant doctor. He knows from ants. That is his life's work. Isn't that the coolest thing in the world -- to be a bug doctor? He writes with authority on the social life of ants and humans. He explains the path of evolution, and he is so much easier to understand than Hannah Arendt.
Next Book. The next book has a very long title but it is quite an easy book to understand. It is called the Theological-Political Treatise  written in 1670 by Baruch Spinoza, the Dutch-Jewish philosopher.
You need to understand Spinoza because he was the foundation of Enlightenment thinking. Spinoza was the man who inspired the very non-religious thinking of our Founding Fathers. From Spinoza you get Thomas Jefferson.
God is Nature. Nature is God. Moses did not part the Red Sea, that is just a story. Jesus was a wise teacher but he did not rise from the dead.
Spinoza's thinking was very radical for the time, 1670, but he was fortunate to live in Holland, which tolerated this free thinker.
"Men should never be superstitious."  --- That is the opening sentence in the Preface to this work.
Next and Last Book. President Andrew Jackson got Zinn-ified and downgraded off the $20 bill  (Zinnified is where you get found out. Howard Zinn finds out that you were a bum and a tyrant and no hero whatsoever.)
Another statue gets torn down and so the mighty have been humbled. But I know so little about Andrew Jackson. He won the Battle of New Orleans after the war was over, and he drove the Indians out of the Old Dixie and over to Oklahoma.
There's to more to it, so I must read his history. I found a heavy 500-page volume with his stern visage on the cover. This would not be a good book to take to the beach. But next to it was a sweet and slender volume titled A Being So Gentle: the Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson.
This slim volume lies before me on the coffee table. It seems he had a wife.  I have not read it yet. It might be good.

With that I wish you a restful and pleasant weekend.

Spring Subscription Drive.  In a response to overwhelming demand, I have decided to keep Frog Hospital going for another year. I believe I have goods worthy of your reception. I do not write when the mood strikes me, I only write when I have something to say that you might find interesting.
This is quite a political year, so we will have lots of that.  And be ready for surprises. Can you learn? It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how experienced you are, it only matters if you can learn. Frog Hospital will be making many regrettable errors in the coming year -- because we are learning as we go.
Stay with us and please help us out with subscription dollars. This income keeps the editor from endorsing a cause or a movement. This income keeps the editor from getting preachy or self-righteous.
Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50.
Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Spending Time With Your Dog

We have a great story about spending time with your dog, but first we have to brush up on our Latin.
Numquam se plus agere quam nihil cum ageret, numquam minus solum esse quam cum solus esset. Cato wrote that 2,000 years ago. It means "Never is a man more active than when he does nothing, never is he less alone than when he is by himself."
You remember Cato. Cato was the old Roman statesman who was most famous for saying Carthago delenda est which means "Carthage must be destroyed." This saying was a successful bit of propaganda that Cato endlessly repeated until it caught on and became the chant of a mob and sure enough, the Romans destroyed Carthage.
Carthage is gone, or to be precise, it is now only a small village on the railroad line in Tunisia. But Rome is eternal and still with us -- thanks to Cato.
But the saying at the top here starts with NUMQUAM meaning never and you're never more active than when you are doing nothing -- what the heck does that mean? It's a bit of a puzzle, a puzzle that Hannah Arendt tackled in her volume of philosophy published in 1971 and titled "Thinking." Arendt is best remembered for her writing of "Eichmann in Jerusalem," but I found her thinking volume on the philosophy shelf at the library and I am checking it out.
Just keep this mind -- if you are sitting around the house all day in your pajamas and just thinking about stuff, you are making a valuable contribution to our culture and prosperity.
The Next Story Is About A Dog
Good, there is no more Latin in this week’s issue of Frog Hospital. The next story is by Bill Skubi, a friend of mine who lives in Coupeville, Washington. The story was originally published in the Puget Sound Mail in 1989 if you remember that obscure, quirky newspaper that I once published. The Puget Sound Mail promised “News of Lasting Value” and we kept that promise because this story about a man and his dog is not aged or dated.

Spending Time With Your Dog
By Bill Skubi

The frantic pace of modern life was catching up with me. I was taking a good hard look at the strange kind of person I had let myself become. This began a few weeks ago when Jan told me there was something wrong with Jackson’s ear. I was hearing what she said, but to my utter horror I realized that I didn’t care. Jackson is a lumbering old Yellow Lab. He has been my dog almost eleven years, slightly longer than I have been married to Jan. Just the week before I had caught myself actually trying to give him away to a friend who had moved his family into the country.
The excuse I gave myself was that Jackson was no longer happy living with us, since Jan insisted he be tied. The truth was that he was not happy because I had become too pre-occupied to spend any time with him. He was just this big, sad, obligatory maintenance retriever at the end of his tether. And so was I. That reminded me that it was I who had consciously fled the academic world fifteen years ago. At that point I realized that twenty years of schooling had trained me to read and write obscure sentences about “contingencies and non-linear variables.” At that rate I knew I would probably never live long enough to figure out what I wanted to say, and if I did figure that out, nobody would want to read it.
The writer in me wanted to git back home, do some plain talkin’, leave the footnotes, spend some evenings rocking on the front porch with a big ol’ hound-dog curled up at my feet. And I did it too, but the years brought marriage, a mortgage, and a child, along with career changes, and I let a whole new set of pressures come between me and my humanity. Or to put it another way, part of me woke up and was shocked to be sharing a body with someone who would offer to give away his dog. I really didn’t like the person I had become. I know I am basically an incurably selfish person. I attend church and take my marriage vows seriously knowing they are twin anchors on a spirit I know can be dangerously free, but I had forgotten that Jackson, too, was utterly dedicated to protecting me, and I owed him the same.
So I went to see what was ailing Jack’s ear. It was pretty sore all right, he was awful dirty and so was his house. I gave him a bath, and he was so proud to ride in my new truck and he didn’t even care he was going to the veterinarian. The vet had to keep him awhile to remove foxtail grass seeds from his ears. I went home, cleaned out his house and built him a new run in a place where he would have a good view of things. He was still a little wobbly on his hind legs from the medication when I brought him home. I showed him around his new digs and told him we would have to spend more time together. Then I noticed he was shaking uncontrollably.  At first I could not tell whether he was sick or reacting to the medication. Then I got down to where I could stroke him and discovered he was shaking from pure joy.
Philosophers and theologians will forever debate the highest possible achievement of man on Earth, and I would submit to them that being the object of such perfect love might be right up there.
Anyway, I bought a blanket at the thrift store for Jack to lie on in the truck. I can still be too busy to take him along, but we do have an understanding. And my young son asks a question that I remember asking, “Do dogs go to heaven when they die?” His mother isn’t sure how to answer. As for me, there have been times in my life when I have doubted whether or not heaven really exists, but I have never doubted that dogs would be there if it did.
Politics:  Can You Learn?
Trump is learning. He's getting better, not better-better just better at what he has been doing. That's the sign of a winner. Stephen Curry is not just the world's best basketball player, he's getting better. That's a good example. A bad example is an antibiotic resisting microbe in your local hospital. This microbe is evolving rapidly -- it is learning. How you fought it last week will not work today.
So the question goes to Hillary. Yes, she is smart. Everybody knows that, but is she learning?
Stay loose on your feet. Be ready for surprises. It doesn't matter how good you are. It only matters if you can learn.
Spring Subscription Drive.  In a response to overwhelming demand, I have decided to keep Frog Hospital going for another year. I believe I have goods worthy of your reception. I do not write when the mood strikes me, I only write when I have something to say that you might find interesting.
This is quite a political year, so we will have lots of that.  And be ready for surprises. Can you learn? It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how experienced you are, it only matters if you can learn. Frog Hospital will be making many regrettable errors in the coming year -- because we are learning as we go.
Stay with us and please help us out with subscription dollars. This income keeps the editor from endorsing a cause or a movement. This income keeps the editor from getting preachy or self-righteous.
Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50.
Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fr. Beall didn't think it was funny.

I found this letter in the archives. It speaks for itself.

Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois
March 21, 1962

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Owens:

I regret to inform you that your son has been referred to my office for failure to conform to a very significant school regulation. He has been guilty of levity during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is offered for the boys each day at noon. Needless to say, the school administration can, on occasion, look lightly upon levity in the classroom but it will never tolerate such carelessness in Chapel during the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Such an offense is considered quite serious. The only thing that saves your son from a suspension from school on this occasion is his ignorance and immaturity. Please impress upon him the seriousness of such an act of disrespect to the Blessed Sacrament.

Should there be any further occurrence of such childishness, a suspension will follow immediately.

Sincerely yours,
(Rev.) John P. Beall, S.J.
Assistant Principal

Attachment. This is the original letter, as typed by Mrs. Serwich. She was Fr. Beall's secretary. I always liked her.

The Letter.  The letter itself is a model of composition. It is concise and coherent, explaining a situation and leading to a conclusion.

It is curious to read that the student was saved by his immaturity and ignorance. This might seem like an accusation, but it is merely the statement of a fact. The young man was a sophomore in high school, age 15. Therefore, like most of the students in his class, he was immature and ignorant.

It was the task of the Jesuit order to solve that problem. It was expected that after four years of their training the student would be mature and a bit wiser.

There is a lack of moral judgment in the conclusion. The student will  be suspended for his behavior if it happens again, but not punished by God. The state of his soul is not brought into question, only his behavior. What the student thinks or believes is between him and God. How he behaves in chapel is the concern of the Jesuits.

They were good at making these distinctions.

I was thinking -- we have a new Pope and Francis is a Jesuiit, just like Fr. Beall, only with a brighter smile. I should apply for a pardon  -- and a plenary indulgence, why not?

As I said, this letter is a model of composition with no wasted words. It was the Jesuits who taught me how to write. I was not a model student. I was a frequent visitor to Fr. Beall's office. Mrs. Serwich was at her desk in the outer office and she had a big smile for me, kind of a gallows humor, as she escorted me to the inner office for a continued dialog with the man himself. And I always liked him  -- that's the funny thing. It was other faculty members whom I hated or resented.

This was Loyola Academy in Wilmette,  Illinois, a leafy suburb of Chicago. The all male school had 1,600 students, 400 in each class. I was 15 and a sophomore.

I can't for the life of me remember what it was that I did to generate this letter, but it was like the student's medal of honor to show my mom and dad, and to keep in my archives.  It was personal.  It was soulful.

Other news. Spring is here in southern California and the wildflower blossoms are incredible. The book I wrote might have a publisher  -- but it's not good to talk about this right now. Laurie and I are driving to Arizona in a few days, to visit friends and have fun for a few days. Gardening work has been steady. I have five steady customers with choice gardens, so that is good. My daughter Eva sent me a smiling photo of herself with a friend on the Bainbridge Island ferry in Seattle.  My son Eugene works as a librarian in Los Angeles. He was a twenty-minute walk home from the bus after work, and that is when he is liable to call me and we catch up on things.

Subscriptions. Subscriptions to Frog Hospital cost $25. You can go to the the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button.
Or you can send a check for $25 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara CA 93105

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Just like 1968

FROG HOSPITAL -- March 13, 2016 -- unsubscribe anytime
By Fred Owens
It was just like 1968, Trump people clashing with cops and demonstrators in Chicago. I was there in 1968. It was intense, violent and chaotic, but we got through it and we are still here. This thing right now with Trump -- we can survive it as well.
I have read many explanations of why Trump is so popular. None of these explanations make any sense. So I can save you some trouble here at Frog Hospital and say, honestly, that I Don't Know.
I Don't Know. It would be refreshing to hear our leadership say I Don't Know.  Imagine Bernie or Hillary saying that. Or saying, "I have to admit I'm stumped."  A leader with that much honesty would inspire me.  Does every problem have a solution? Does every question have an answer? Does every disease have a cure? We can be confident about the future without trying to be 100% certified and certain.

City of Jasmine.  I hired a Los Angeles artist to give me a custom paint job on my black 2004 Nissan Sentra. With some hours of brushwork she made it bold and powerful. So now I'm driving down the freeway and I get more respect. This is California and your car is who you are, and now I get that respect.
The artist lives just to the east side of downtown. This is not East LA, which is major Chicano country and I never go there, but this is the East Side, and if you think neighborhoods don't have identities in LA you are wrong. The artist lives in the Highland Park neighborhood on the East Side and if she is not careful she will get rent-blasted and gentrified right over to Boyle's Landing down by Long Beach.
I made up that last part, about Boyle's Landing, there is no such a place. Lately I am having trouble keeping my imagination in check.
But I do not make up the custom paint job. The artist, a woman of burgeoning renown, painted her own car with portraits of her students. It is a compelling gallery of eager young faces, done in black and white on the side and roof and hood of her Volvo.
I decided I wanted that for my car, not the portraits of course, but flowers. I've been involved in flowers for my working life -- flower farms and rose gardens, commercial and residential. It's hard work, but it's rewarding. I wanted people to know who I am. And in California you do that with your car.
Now my car has flowers all over it -- the blue and red of the passion flower says I am passionate. I am.

The sweet scent of the the jasmine says I am from Damascus in a past life. Damascus -- you should know this, but since you don't, I will tell you -- Damascus is pronounced Dimashk in Arabic and has the nickname of Medina Al-Yasmeen, which means City of Jasmine.
Imagine that -- this war-torn ancient city was once overflowing with flowers and gardens. Someday, when the war is over, I will go for a visit. In the meantime, the jasmine vine and flowers are painted on the hood of my car, because that is who I am.
The artist made it beautiful, and I will share her contact information if you request it.

Cosmo is Dying. I was in Los Angeles for two days. I spent some of that time at Abbot's Habit coffee shop in Venice Beach. This where the old men gather, since before the hipsters and the fashionistas took over on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. You should see them -- the young men wearing sneakers that cost $500, the young women impossibly tall and beautiful... and Google millionaires in hoodies and ragged jeans trying to look like everybody else... and homeless people trying to look like Google millionaires.
But we were there first, us old guys, so we get enough respect. I sat with Eric  and Big Mike, both originally from the Bronx, out here since the fifties. I call Eric the Godfather because he has been here the longest. He's older than the Pope, made a fortune in real estate, wears a $2 hat. Young people come and sit with him for a moment or two, he says a few words and then they leave.
Big Mike lives on the others side of Lincoln where the streets are wider and the lots are bigger. Big Mike has a substantial garden and several abundant peach trees. He brags about it, but it's true -- he gets a lot of fruit.
Evan comes in late every day, from work. He has a remodeling business. He gets his coffee and says hello, then he takes a seat outside.

Cosmo never sits with us. Nobody likes him. I don't like him, and not Eric, and not Big Mike. Evan might put in a good word for Cosmo, but nobody else likes him. 
Cosmo is short and stout and bald. He talks all the time. He blames everybody for everything. People have screwed him over. He got a raw deal. Woman dump on him. He sees life is not pretty.
Then he got pancreatic cancer and you didn't see him at the cafe every day. He was gone. The thing is that he was always at the cafe. We didn't like him, but we were awful used to him being there. So we kind of liked him as long as he didn't try to sit with us. You know what I'm saying.
So Cosmo doesn't come to the cafe now and with the pancreatic cancer he won't last long. That was his life. He was really just as good as the rest of us.

Subscriptions. Subscriptions to Frog Hospital cost $25. You can go to the the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button.
Or you can send a check for $25 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara CA 93105

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Friday, March 04, 2016

"Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?"

"Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?" Joseph Welch challenged Senator McCarthy with this damning accusation in 1954. The episode marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt.
Many people today hope for a new accusation against Donald Trump -- hoping to shame him......
In 1954 there was a sense of decency, meaning a widespread consensus on what was courteous and ethical behavior.......and that sense of decency is what finally brought McCarthy to heal.
Today, in 2016 there is no sense of decency, in the sense of a widespread agreement. There is only your opinion, but there is no objective reality, no ethical judgment and certainly no eternal truth. That would be judgmental. And you heard what Pope Francis said, "Who am I to judge?"
When Trump heard that he got the green light. In my opinion Donald Trump is a jackass, offensive to my standards of good taste and good judgment, but all I have is my own opinion. I mean that I would not do what Trump does or say what Trump says, but who am I to judge?
By what standard or authority might I accuse him?

Is it better in Santa Barbara?
Yes, it is better in Santa Barbara and here is the secret -- good weather and lots of money.
Thousands of people visit Santa Barbara every year and they love it -- because coming here makes them feel good. That is almost guaranteed. People come here and they start smiling and they start relaxing. Now it ain't cheap, the hotels and all, but it's worth it.
I am living here almost five years now. I like living next to all these rich people because they have good taste and they don't offend me.
Believe me, I am a very touchy old grouch and a garish display of wealth is disgusting to me  -- but they don't do that in Santa Barbara. I drive around town and everywhere it's beautiful, the houses, and walkways, the trees and the gardens -- all in proper proportions  -- soothing my highly critical psyche.

Hollywood. I love Hollywood, but the movies are about make believe, and we get easily confused because Hollywood people are acting, even when they are not acting. .. The diversity problem is such a piece of fakery. There is no problem. Anybody can make a movie. Who's stopping you? I go to see the movies I like, not the movies I'm supposed to like.... the market for movies is global and rapidly expanding. The technology for making good film is dramatically cheaper. So go forth, act, and shoot! If it's any good, people will come to see it. There is no barrier, no obstacle to this creative expression. Telenovelas in Mexico are getting better all the time. An incredible volume of good and bad movies are coming out of Mumbai..... A revolutionary new cinematic scene emerges in Nigeria.... and more.

I have been in Toastmasters for one year, in an attempt to get over my fear of public speaking.....After much effort I can report a ten percent improvement....But I still get palpitations and shaky knees standing up in front of 15 people and actually talking....I would rather go to the dentist.

Life in Prison. I've been writing to my friend who is spending the rest of his life in prison -- which is pretty much where he deserves to be -- but he's still my friend. He's 51 and I've known him since he was 9 years old. Saw him grow up. Tried to be a good influence. Didn't think he had it in him -- that crime. But we don't talk about that -- he's serving his sentence and that's all there is to it.
His mother visits him every week. She is really glad that I have written to him. She said, "I would give up my whole life if I could get him out of prison, but that will not ever happen."
I started to think -- how do you write to someone you haven't seen in fifteen years -- since he got sent away. What do you talk about?

Subscriptions. Subscriptions to Frog Hospital cost $25. You can go to the the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button.
Or you can send a check for $25 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara CA 93105

Thank you

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Goleta Pier

FROG HOSPITAL -- Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 -- unsubscribe anytime
Goleta Pier
By Fred Owens
The fishermen on Goleta Pier are Transcendent Beings. They live on a higher plane than us earth-bound folks. The fishermen wait  -- that's what they do.
In America, stillness is likened to prayer and religion, to be guarded by rituals and contained. Meditation is suspect. Doing nothing is a crime called vagrancy. Notice what the cops say, "Sir, what are you doing here.?" Nothing is the wrong answer and you gotta move along.
But fishing is doing something. You take the same man sitting on the pier doing nothing and stick a fishing pole in his hands  -- ta da! -- he's fishing, an honorable pastime.
And of fishermen, the pier fisherman is the highest order of transcendence because he waits.  The guy with a boat and a net chases fish all over the ocean, burning gas, killing dolphins, smashing into turtles. The guy on the pier throws his line in the water and he waits.
The highest possible level of doing is that doing which is closest to not doing. The man on the pier is doing that not doing. He sits, or he stands. He might lean against the rail. He might listen to the ball game. But he doesn't read  -- reading creates mental static. He waits. He checks his line, he puts fresh bait on his hook. He might drink a beer.
Fish are attracted to structures -- rocks and reefs, oil well platforms, and the stately underwater columns of a pier. The fish are lured to the pier and they mouth flashing objects, or bite them, and they are caught and heaved up on the deck of the pier, flapping madly. It's a cruel thing to watch, and they kill it with a bang and put it in a bucket. A dead fish.
The fisherman baits his hook and puts his line in the water again. Waiting.
El Nino.  The weatherman is waffling. He said El Nino is coming and El Nino would bring strong winter rains. Everyone believed him here in Southern California. We bought rubber boots and plastic tarps. We did soil control projects on steep hillsides. We broadcast seed for new plants to stabilize the soil. We stockpiled sandbags. And we wanted it to rain so badly. The weatherman enjoyed the power of telling us what we wanted to hear and we made him a hero because he knew El Nino was bringing strong rains.
The ocean warmed up, just like he said, but it did not rain. Here it is almost March and there has been scant relief. Today the weatherman has another explanation, but why should we trust him? I would fire the weatherman if I could -- and give him six months picking up litter on the freeway in an orange vest. He's a disgrace. We all wanted to believe him.
Prophets. Poets. Pioneers. Pays Poorly. Occupational hazards abundant. Find some other way to make a living. Never be the first.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They won this weekend, so you can imagine them as nominees and possible Presidents. Picture Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton giving the Inaugural Address on the steps of the Capitol. I wouldn't vote for Trump. I have a personal dislike for Mrs. Clinton and her husband, but I would vote for her. I think she would take a measured but strong response to Middle Eastern threats, which is the most important thing.
The Court. I want to downplay the importance of the Supreme Court. The best changes are made in the Congress and the states. It's too easy to go to court with a dispute, when it should be the last resort. If you cannot get a victory in Congress, you probably deserve to lose. And don't get smart with me and point up some good court decisions -- of course, and they have been good because they were necessary. But don't go to court. Walk away. Take a loss. Compromise. Forgive. Wait. Wait. Suffer. And only then go to Court.
Apple. Apple is the biggest, strongest, richest corporation in the history of the world, and yet we love it. Not me. I fear Apple and all its power. We feared the railroads when they were almighty. We feared US Steel and its power. We feared the Union Pacific. We feared General Motors and then IBM and even Microsoft  -- because they had so much power.
But we love Apple (and Google). That is so frightening -- to place an innocent trust in such an enormously powerful being. We fear the Catholic Church, rightly. We fear the power of our federal government, rightly. And we trust Apple? That cannot be. Never has a corporation been so powerful and so popular.
Do you notice Bernie Sanders attacks the banks, but he never touches Apple, Google, Amazon or Facebook? It could be that  it's safe to attack the banks, but it would take courage beyond Bernie's abilities to challenge the Tech Masters.

Griping. Isn't griping wonderful? What a country.

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