January 2008


Ahhh, the suffering:


There was a Great Moment in Tennis this morning in the men’s finals at the Australian Open.

Djokovic’s mother grabbed a medallion hanging at her throat, brought it to her lips, and in a brazen appeal to the Chair Umpire in the Sky, closed her eyes tightly and kissed it.

That one was answered.  He won.

Pity she hadn’t prayed instead for an end to hunger and suffering.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Some steps on Castro:


On the evening of Saturday the 5th of January, I rode the Segway over to a dinner party a few blocks away since parking at night is impossible, and I can’t walk well enough now to do it on foot. Alas, I was ignoring Mother’s admonition to look where I’m going and consequently discovered an unseen obstacle and took a hard fall – hurting my right hand, scraping my left leg, and utterly destroying my favorite pair of Dockers.

But of course it was unthinkable not to pick myself up and press on to dinner, where the hosts taped up my leg and I discovered that my hand wouldn’t operate a fork well enough to cut lasagna.

The hand changed color, swelled up, and was pretty much useless for the next several days, so I broke down and phoned my doctor’s office on Thursday. Since I insisted on seeing her rather than her colleague, I had to wait the following Monday morning. And then after she sent me for an x-ray, there was a delay until Wednesday evening in getting word back to me that I had sustained an oblique fracture of the second metacarpal in my right hand with moderate displacement, and, to get less technical, sprained the devil outta my thumb. The good news is that the orthopedist worked me in on Thursday.

As I was shuffling across Stockton street on the way to the orthopedist, I saw that I was running out of time in the crosswalk and broke into a trot. Now, I don’t know why I was thinking I could run when I can barely walk, but after the first couple of strides my legs failed, and as the lights turned, I fell in the crosswalk…in front of the cars.

They were generous.

Luckily, I had landed mainly on my left arm/hand and right knee…the previously undamaged and thus fresh extremities. Scraped the knee, but luckily, the hand was only bruised and the Calvins were unharmed, No no, the blue denim trousers.

The orthopedist and I decided that my hand might heal well enough just in a cast to get me through my remaining golden years without surgery to correct the displacement. He also gave me a cortisone shot in the thumb which was completely painless owing to my briefly blacking out when he whipped out this syringe with a three-inch needle on it that you could see down the barrel of, and I’m thinking, omigod! he’s gonna run it in from the tip of my thumb!

Sybil, very good at pointed questions after sixty years of managing Merrill and the kids, delicately asked whether my delay in getting treatment had caused problems. I told her not much – other than a week or so of extra pain, an eleven-day delay in the beginning of the healing process, and some possible additional displacement in the fracture. Hmmmm, should maybe think about this.

By highly ironic coincidence, my Dutch friend Rina, who’s coming to visit me in March, broke her hand the day before I broke mine. Of course being a woman, she sought medical help immediately and is by now halfway through her sentence in the cast. How boring! Or is there something to learn here?

Naw, my friends mutter, he’ll never learn, but to them I say, nonsense! I am now very clear that during unanticipated dismounts, I must immediately let go of the handlebars.

The old model Segways like mine are steered by twisting the left handle grip, which frees up the right hand for carrying things like large packages or small casts. The abrasion and bruising from yesterday morning’s pratfall on Stockton Street are not bad enough to ground me, so I zipped down to the barber this morning, brandishing my cast at the nay-sayers.

My friend Bob heaved a great sigh, “At least you’re consistent.”

“Well then,” I responded, “you may address me as Your Consistency.”

Since then, friends have suggested alternative forms: Your Obstinacy, Your Recalcitrance, and Your Incorrigibility…among others less kind.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Here’s some beauty, which i didn’t learn until 2010 was by the artist Rigo 23  Here’s the background behind this work. See the following for a brief disquisition on truth:

Truth by Rigo 23

For the past several days, Merck has had a two-full-page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle. Below, I quote exactly from the text, with my interleaved comments:

“Are you taking Zetia® … or Vytorin®…?

“If so, you may be worried about recent news stories questioning the benefit of these medicines…[ellipsis theirs] on the basis of a single study that has generated a lot of confusion.”

[oh yes, the ‘confusion’!!!!! In the first place, the study was theirs, and its conclusions were quite clear, as numerous news articles have demonstrated. For example, here’s one from yesterday’s New York Times.

‘Confusion’ is what Merck is trying with this clever ad to create in order to keep the profit pipeline open. They made untold millions by stalling for two years publication of their negative study, and the last thing they want anybody to do is be ‘worried’ enough not to buy Zetia.]

“In fact, ZETIA and VYTORIN have been proven to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol along with diet in multiple clinical studies involving thousands of patients. Both the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association agree that lowering bad cholesterol is important.”

[Both sentences are 100% true even though neither of them addresses the issue. See the NYT  link above. They are pure smoke screen and misdirection.]

“All of us at Merck and Schering-Plough proudly stand behind the established efficacy and safety profiles of ZETIA and VYTORIN.

[and we’re hoping you’ll be safe and join us and your neighbors on our bandwagon.]

“If you have high cholesterol, follow your doctor’s recommendations on eating right, staying active, and taking your prescribed medicines.”

[No argument here, except this time they left out the part about asking your doctor whether you might benefit from Zetia. That’s in a different ad campaign. Wouldn’t want to ‘confuse’ the public by putting it in here. The above is followed by two columns of the standard sort of disclaimer, buried in the middle of which is the following sentence: ]

“ZETIA has not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks.”

[Oh. Well, you ask, then why in the world would anyone want to take it? And then you realize that by burying this tidbit down in the middle of the blather in the lower part of the page, they can defend themselves against lawsuits by claiming that they warned users that the drug was useless. Meanwhile, they tout the drug in the top half, beyond which few readers will venture.]

The levels of greed and mendacity displayed by Merck are egregious. Merck made millions while hundreds, thousands? ten of thousands? of people died while taking a drug that was useless. The executives of this company are mass murders. They should be hanged on the White House lawn, live on prime-time television.

As it is, they will remain fat, smug, and obscenely wealthy…laughing at all us fools for letting them get away with it.

Actually, their behavior is even worse than I’ve had space to discuss. Here’s that link again:  New York Times

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


A favorite meter over on Castro:


I am celebrating the New Year by playing for the first time a recent acquisition – the final volume of Gilbert Rowland’s recordings of the complete harpsichord sonatas of Antonio Soler.

Over and over.

In one of those undeserved turns of luck with which my life has been stricken, I read a glowing review of Mr. Rowland’s first volume when it was released in 1996. I ordered it, was enchanted, and began a twelve-year pilgrimage.

It was not an easy journey, as since the albums were released with maddening irregularity, I never knew when to expect the next, and there was an agonizing drought during 2004-5 when I feared that the collection might not be completed.

But now I have it all: 137 sonatas, sixteen glorious hours on thirteen disks.

Prancing in the footsteps of the late Fernando Valenti, Rowland is one of the modern generation of harpsichordists who can somehow force that fussy little beast into dynamic expression undreamt of by pioneers like Landowska, bless her heart, and Kirkpatrick, for all his scholarly contributions, neither of whom I can imagine laughing after their brief childhoods.

And Soler? Soler’s debt to Scarlatti is obvious, but Soler stands on Scarlatti’s shoulders, and his output, both in quantity and quality, is astonishing considering that he was a monk with a demanding religious routine to follow, not to mention his numerous secular duties at the Escorial like training and leading the choir and performing for the royal family during their extended residences. To think that the harpsichord sonatas represent less than a third of his works!

Rowland tells us that an anonymous obituary was written by a fellow monk the day Soler died and that “mention is … made of his religious devotion, compassionate nature, scholarly interests, and excessive candor.”

I’m going for all of that. Well, except for being fiercely secular.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment