Monday, October 5, 2015

First Monday with Characters

Edited by Morris Dean

William Silveira, by train and car
Marylin and I recently completed a 19-day trip into New Mexico and Arizona with a couple of friends. We spent some time in Santa Fe and Taos, and at Red River in New Mexico.
    We particularly enjoyed the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos. Rogers, a Standard Oil heir, acquired an extensive collection of Native American Pottery and textiles. The collection included works of pottery by Maria Martinez and some of her family members. Rogers herself was a talented and beautiful woman – a high-fashion model (Vogue) and clothing designer.
    We also took a 63-mile ride on the Cumbres and Toltec rail line between Antonito, Colorado, and Chama, New Mexico. The train was pulled by a 1925 coal fired Baldwin steam engine which chugged, huffed, and puffed up steep grades and over chasms, emitting black coal smoke, and finally gaining an altitude of over 10,000 feet. The child still left within me loved it all. (However, I must admit that I had more than my fill of the odor of coal smoke.) There were times when I felt as if I were in the middle of a train scene from a John Wayne movie or from Gunsmoke. The scenery was spectacular. The train crossed the New Mexican and Colorado borders several times.

    On our travel from New Mexico we went northward to Beaver Creek, Colorado, stopping for lunch in Leadville, Colorado, at the Golden Burro restaurant – a long-time fixture there. On display there are photos and other artifacts of Leadville’s mining boom – particularly in silver. (Remember “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” as well as the story of Baby Jane Tauber? Shirley Hickman’s uncle delivered groceries to Tauber.) The aspens were in full color (deep, golden yellow with spots of orange and red) as we drove north from Leadville to Vail.
    During the trip I managed to finish Adam Rutherford’s book, Creation: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself. Rutherford demonstrates our evolution from single-celled bacteria, explaining the workings of the double helix containing 20 amino acids described with 4 letters and arranged in groups of 3. He supports his thesis with scientific history and shows us how evolution occurred as first put forth by Darwin. I had started this book once and put it down as I had a difficult time understanding the science. It was worth the effort. In the final chapters Rutherford details the creation of new genetic codes by scientists and of life forms being created in laboratories other than through cell division. Along the way he also convincingly debunks current arguments regarding the dangers of genetically modified foods. (However, he does not address the danger of the elimination by extinction of certain varieties of food plants because of over-reliance on varieties that are resistant to herbicides.) This book is well-written with numerous footnotes (some humorous). It was obviously written to increase the knowledge of laypersons about the significance of current scientific investigations and the merger of biology with chemistry and, more distantly, physics. My understanding of genetics has been improved, but I still must confess I find difficulty in fully understanding the science he explains. The fault is not his, but rather mine, which springs from a very weak grounding in these fields.
Chuck Smythe, on foot
We hiked to see the fall colors in Rocky Mountain National Park, and to Chasm Lake, at the foot of The Diamond on Longs Peak. A long, steep hike for geezers, but I’ll do it again.

Sharon Stoner, by car next time?
Question? Should I fly to California for Christmas with my grandchildren, or rent a car and drive? And why would anyone, at my age, consider driving for 3 days to California and 3 days back? Lots of questions and here’s why:
    My dad passed last month, and to get to Tulare I booked a flight from Jacksonville, FL with a 3-hour layover in Chicago. The airbus loads, and first the pilot announces the radio is not working so he’s calling the tower on his cell phone. Really? Before the plane can back up, a lightning storm hits and we sit for over an hour.
    My LA flight to Fresno was to leave at 7:36 p.m. My flight arrived at LA at 8:45 p.m. Next flight? The next morning, 7:00 a.m. to San Francisco, then Fresno at 4:00 p.m. Dad’s service would already have happened, at 10:00 a.m. Now what?
    Another passenger was going to Selma, CA and asked if I would share a car rental. Ok, we both asked for our luggage and were told to go to Carousel 2 and in 45 minutes our luggage would be there. Nope, didn’t show up. Go to baggage claim, agent types and says it will be another 45 minutes. Two hours later, no luggage. Back to the agent, she types and says luggage is in Fresno!
    It’s now midnight, agent calls a car rental place, we get a booking number, we catch a shuttle, and the rental place can’t find the booking number, so the $80, one-way trip is now $136. I drive the other lady to Selma and then return to Tulare, arriving at 3:00am.
    Never stay at the Red Roof Inn, it’s a dump! I had no luggage and could not drive back to Fresno Airport, get my bag, and return to Tulare for the funeral with 4 hours sleep. Luckily a friend had driven down from Sacramento and I could wear some of her clothes and shoes, and she drove me to the cemetery.
    We checked out of the "dump," got another room, and then drove to the airport so I could rent a car. The car I booked wasn’t available, so I rented a car at 3 times the price of the original booking.
    Then, for the flight back to Florida, from Fresno via Denver, the plane had electrical problems, everyone deplaned, and 30 minutes later we were loaded onto another plane. We arrived late in Houston, missing the connection back to Jacksonville. United put everyone up at a nice hotel, food vouchers, flight at 10 the next morning.
    Now for the topper. I had left my phone, with my “life” in it, in my truck at the parking facility in Jacksonville. I had no phone numbers, no way to find my way around without GPS. I arrived home Thursday, but again without luggage. My bag was “vacationing” in Sarasota, FL until Saturday, some of its contents having been liberated by unknown persons.
    In a way I was lucky this time. Two months ago I had been stranded at Denver airport for 30 hours before I made it to Fresno.
    So you see why I want to drive?
Geoffrey Dean, composing film music
After I moved to Salt Lake City in August 2014, one of my new work colleagues showed me a side project he had been working on – a feature film of which he is the screenwriter and producer. At that time he told me that he wanted me to compose the soundtrack. I told him that I arrange existing music, but I don’t really compose. His reply: “Sweet, I’ll send you the rough cut.” This August and September I put my original reservations aside and created some movie music, using the simplest materials I could think of – a repeating bass line and ballade-like melodies, all played on the cello, the instrument I know best. Inspired by the inner struggle of the character who video-documents the lives of his friends as he deals alone with a terminal illness, the sound I went for is a kind of “melancholy metal” reminiscent of the Apocalyptica cello ensemble, minus the electric guitar and percussion. It doesn’t really sound anything like the following Apocalyptica sample except for the lyrical cello-ness of it [3:30]:

    My movie music sounds a little more like the following piece I arranged a few years back for a tour with a Japanese guitarist, but without the guitar and viola – just a lot of brooding cellos [7:40]:

    My colleague’s movie is now in the final stages of editing, and I hope to share the finished product with you soon!
Rachel Zamorski, selling real estate in a new setting
I think the last time I checked in with Moristotle & Co. was on May 8, 2013 [yes, we interviewed Rachel on selling real estate]. I was then a stay-at-home mom who found success selling residential real estate. It seemed that my outgoing personality and knowledge of the local market made me a favorite among area buyers and sellers. And then, in August 2014, I joined Keller Williams Realty and created the Rachel Z Team. Katie Burkholder, previously a top recruiter with a tech firm, joined me as a buyers’ agent, and in the past year production has increased 130%.
    [Learn more about Rachel’s latest activities in real estate by reading her new interview in this week’s Ask Wednesday column, day after tomorrow.]
James Knudsen, on stage
This weekend marked the opening of Lisa D’Amour’s play Detroit on the mainstage at Fresno City College. I have a small role.
    If you’re not familiar with the title don’t worry, it premiered at the Steppenwolf in 2010 and then moved to New York, Off-Broadway for a one-month run at the Playwrights Horizons in 2012. The play deals with suburban life in a first ring suburb that’s experiencing some gentrification and interaction of two couples from very different worlds. The theme of turnover in a neighborhood is one that was explored in Bruce Norris’s play, Clybourne Park, which also premiered in 2010. If you’ve read George Packer’s, “The Unwinding,” you’ll recognize some of the forces at work.
    Elsewhere, I’m learning, following my remarks about Pope Francis I, what Kristin Chenoweth learned following her appearance on “The 700 Club,” that while you can’t make everyone happy, you [or the Pope] can make everyone mad at you.
    That sentence is really a response to the Brian Dalton YouTube rant that Bob Boldt brought to our attention. There’s an element in the gay community, as there is any group, that is very angry. I was tempted to comment on Mr. Dalton’s “harangue” (as Moristotle put it), but couldn’t make it happen and get to rehearsal. Mr. Dalton’s anger is particularly ironic and aggravating in light of the fact that the LBGT community has won the marriage equality war. And I’m happy about it. Yes, there are holdouts who want to continue the struggle, Kim Davis being the best known example, but the war is over and equality has prevailed.
    I read a while back a piece in which the author felt that the “left” needed to pull back a bit and give the “right” a little space to lose. They have lost and while many feel entitled to have a victory lap, there will be millions of victory marches in the years to come that take place in the aisles of churches in a spirit of joy. Given this fact, Mr. Dalton’s rant is unnecessary and uniquely nasty.
    And before we react to “uniquely nasty” (which I believe is the title of a new documentary about the Federal government’s policy of excluding gays from federal jobs) by calling a theatre professor a homophobe, for over ten years in West Hollywood I had brunch, the gayest meal of the day, at a table with gay men.
    All this goes to my point – and I’m sure many share this view – that ideological purity is becoming what is not just expected, but demanded. My gay-friendly credentials are solid, but if I approve of Pope Francis and his more tolerant views, which lack the requisite purity on marriage equality, then I am suddenly baking cookies with Kim Davis to raise money for her defense fund. Somewhere – pretty much everywhere except the ideologically pure fringe – is a place for where people are allowed to hold nuanced viewpoints.
    Anyway, finally, about 90% of the mint off my back porch has disappeared. Anyone know what this is?

Bettina Sperry, at home on the range
I am living the dream Jeff and I built. He wanted horses. He wanted racehorses, specifically. He wanted a larger farm. He wanted cows and a goat. I have his horses and cows and his goat and the larger farm of which he spoke and for which he was searching at the time of his passing. This is the life I am living. It is an awesome venture. Yes. Jeff, you left me with a lot of responsibility. But I got it under control. There’s no place like home...ever. All is quiet on the range.
    And Mr. Prosecutor recently ran a great race, coming in 2nd!

John Browns Farm State Historic Site
James T. Carney, particularly busy
I have been particularly busy with work. When some matters get closed out, I keep getting new matters to replace them. For example, I got an invitation last week to serve as the arbitrator in a multi-employer pension plan dispute. Well, I certainly enjoy arbitrating more than some of the litigation I do, since some of the litigation involves difficult plaintiffs, and arbitration pays on a daily (hearing day) or hourly basis, so it is more profitable generally than contingent fee litigation. I am currently handling 18 matters – litigation cases, estates, and cases where I am an arbitrator – and see only three of them ending before the end of the year (and the ones that will end are relatively small matters).
    In all events I have been trying to get everything done that I can before my trip starting Wednesday evening to London, Dubrovnik, and Montenegro. I will be gone a total of two weeks and will not have much access to anything other than email. My one regret is that I have not gotten in better shape. I planned to do a lot of hiking in the mountains when I went up to close up the family cabin [in the Adirondacks], but it didn't work out. I didn’t feel as bad leaving the cabin this time as I did in August because this time no one else was left there (whereas I left my sister and her family in August and had to come home a day early to deal with some problems.) Sometimes I just get to the point where I am ready to leave, and this was one of those times. Of course, while we had beautiful weather, we could tell that winter was coming on.
    One thing we did do was go over to Lake Placid and see [abolitionist] John Brown’s homestead, where he lived until he went off to Bloody Kansas and then on to Harper’s Ferry. The homestead was a fairly simple house typical of that time and containing a number of objects that were in use when my great grandparents built and lived in the cabin. The old barn was set up to show an interesting but short film about the Underground Railway, which, of course, ran through the Adirondacks. One thing that many people do not realize is that northern and western New York were really part of New England and were settled by people from New England (as witness my family coming through Massachusetts) and then over to Vermont and finally to the St. Lawrence River valley. Accordingly, attitudes in northern and western New York mirrored those in New England and was home to a number of reformers.
The Rogers, in the rain
We are well into our rainy season. October is the worst month, with rain and lighting every afternoon. About the middle of November we move toward the dry season and all the snowbirds from up north head our way.

Morris Dean, also in the rain
    It’s soggy around Mebane, where we have had over eight inches of rain in the past 11 days. We might get more, but not nearly as much as we might have gotten if Hurricane Joaquin hadn’t turned away from the coast.

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. utiful music videos. Everyone's pictures are great. Interesting stories, good job!

    1. And, Sharon, did you take notes as one screw-up after another proceeded on your travels, or have you simply been unable to wipe them from your memory and forget them?They do make a fun read, though (as we sit comfortably at home, far away from the road and the airport).

  2. Jim Carney, I would have thought that another regret for your European trip would be that you were going at all, having to leave your enjoyable and profitable arbitration cases behind for two weeks!

  3. Chuck, I can't parse “geezer” and you in the same sentence or paragraph. So I looked the word up. The Urban Dictionary helpfully distinguishes a U.K. geezer (“a guy, a bloke, a person in general; the British equivalent of the American slang word ‘dude’”) from a U.S. geezer (“an old man, particularly one who is either cranky or eccentric; rather derogatory term”). Ha, dude, just as I suspected: your roots are pronouncedly British – including your very British-sounding name, “Smythe,” rather that the more American-seeming “Smith.”

  4. Bill Silveira, thanks for reviewing Adam Rutherford’s book, Creation: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself. I just wish that I’d realized sooner that I could have held that part of your report and run it this coming Sunday as a review!

  5. James Knudsen, whatever that chewing-gum blob of voracious organism is that is eating your mint, he does seem to be enjoying it!
        On the Dalton front, I am chagrined that consideration of that nasty fellow seems to have pressured you into mentioning your gay-friendly credentials.

  6. Bettina, what are those black garments Mr. Prosecutor is wearing on his lower legs? Are they for warmth? Do they deliver topical unguent? Are they purely a fashion statement? Are they typical on racehorses, especially after a race? (I guess fashion statements wouldn't be typical, though, for no self-respecting racehorse would think he or she was making a fashion statement by wearing what everyone else was wearing.)

  7. Geoff, I echo Sharon's assessment: “utiful music”! And as in the case of Bill's book review, I wish now that I'd realized at the time that I had a possible Second Monday Music column in your update. I guess I'll either have to do a re-run (which I usually don't do so soon after original publication) or come up with an alternative on my own (or get lucky and receive a submission from Chuck Smythe, André Duvall, or Jim Rix – my other go-to guys for music essays).
        But we’ll definitely plan on a music column for when you share the finished product of your colleague’s movie.

  8. ​Rachel, I’ve read your interview (published today), and I just want to say thanks for making a two-step splash on Moristotle & Co. this week. I hope we can look forward to monthly updates about yourself and the other members of the Rachel Z team​ – or is Katie B the only other team member​?