Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another Book Finished--Inside Out by Demi Moore

Inside Out by Demi Moore

How does one see a life honestly and accurately from the inside?  How does one manage this  phey have been raped at the age of fifteen? Moore’s story starts with unruly unstable relatives and abusive unstable and suicidal parents. With that background to start with Moore had almost no normal home life. The family moved so often that Moore seldom was in a school for more than a few months at a time. Set free in this environment in her early teens she fell victim to the kind of drug and alcohol abuse that was already a common factor in her parent’s lives. The final straw was being pimped by her own mother for $500 at the age of fifteen.

Moore does see now that many of her problems with relationships, sex, marriage, and motherhood stemmed from a sense of helplessness, inadequacy, and guilt fostered by her mother’s actions and failures. Thus her story is another spoke in the wheel of the "Me too" era in which women find themselves trying valiantly to rid themselves of the sins that were never theirs in the first place.  The man who raped her was clearly another Harvey Weinstein.

As luck would have it, Moore was able to parlay some early modeling jobs into an acting career of real significance. Yet each step along the way was often made more difficult by difficult relationships and returning alcohol and drug dependency.  One area she never really deals with how the financial success issue and her choice of profession intimately connected with her problems.  For instance, it is pretty obvious in the book that the money allowed her to fund debilitating habits without ending up a fowl of the law,  Many people raised in the environment she was raised in have ended up incarcerated before they could dig themselves out of the holes they had dug themselves into. Might there have been fewer issues if she had not chosen to marry men who were also famous actors and had their own problems?

I found some of the stories of the films she made interesting, but on the whole this didn’t keep the telling of her life story from being as much celebrity voyeurism as a warning to avoid the mistakes I made.  Ultimately for me it was certainly a warning that having a lot of money to throw at problems doesn’t necessarily cure them. I do certainly wish her peace now and a continued career in the arts.




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Potpourri of Tucson Mountain Views

T'was a simple reference from the weather man. There would be snow at higher elevations.


Run for the long lens.

Unfortunately I don't have my photo editing program on the computer out here in AZ. so I can't work on removing the power lines.  But look closely at the little white sticks just above the top power line and to the right.  Them there sticks are the towers atop Mount Lemmon, the highest point around here.The snowy hills we can see are actually in front of Mount Lemmon, which is further away though higher in elevation.. Below is a photo I took in 2015 when we did drive up to the top.

It is a gorgeous drive from the Tucson Valley and there are plenty of stopping places. 

One of the interesting views gives you a look at Thimble Peak. It is an easy marker to identify the separation between Bear canyon in front of the thimble and Sabino Canyon which is on the other side of the thimbe.

Climbers are sometimes around to test their skills on some of the formations.

Or you can just gaze down into Tucson from above.

My daughter and our two grandsons were on this particular drive.

If there has been a recent rain you can also see some waterfalls.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


It took me two weeks to get through A Very Stable Genius and now I have polished off a new mystery in a little over two days.

Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney

This is a first adult detective novel for Brittney who has a long history with books for young adults and children. She sets her story in London during WWI and infuses it with a lot of material about the fight of women for the vote and general recognition within the war economy.

A police inspector named Beech is assigned to investigate the murder of a young Lord of the land who has recently returned with war injuries and  some major personality changes. The victim’s young wife has been found battered and bleeding near the body but Beech doubts the general conclusion that the woman has killed her husband.

The Inspector gets permission from his superior to look more deeply into the crime and also to experiment with using some females to assist in the investigation. The current police force is all male, like so many other occupations, and there is a beginning recognition that they may have to admit women as the manpower shortage increases.  Beech locates a female physician and a female lawyer to join his small male group and they are all off to track down the killer. The search moves from the posh homes of Belgravia to the more seamy parts of the city where prostitution and drugs enter the picture. You can now guess that the ladies will be instrumental in finding the solution to the puzzle.   

The prose is competent though not as dense or descriptive as someone like PD James, but it does take you through the streets of London effectively. As an Anglophile of long standing, I am a sucker for anything set in my favorite city in the world and I relish being taken to familiar locations as the action progresses. This was a fine fun read and I would look for more in the series if the author continues to write them. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Goings on at Sabino Canyon This Week

In spite of the lockdown orders we have been able to take advantage of Sabino Canyon's open spaces. This week we did spy the first red bud on a so called Christmas Cholla.

The Phainopepla is the most common bird we see in the canyon. The male is almost all black and getting a decent picture of them is difficult. The one below is perhaps the best one I've taken this year.

Also quite common is the mourning dove. They are easier to photograph and we hear them almost every daybreak. 

The most common cactus we see other than the saguaro is the prickly pear and you can see several here..

This is a closer view of a single pad that seemed to me to be shaped like a little mitten.  It is cute but I
don't think you want to shake hands with it. 

Prickly Pears grow by sprouting new pads out of old ones. You can see one just getting started here.

Here's one a little further along. You can see the typical shape forming.

Here's another first flower spotted. Jan called it a Salsify

I occasionally like to remind you that the canyon is dependent on rocks and this is a nice example of a common one associated with the formation of the canyon.  It is the beautifully layered metamorphic rock called the Catalina Gneiss..

I like this shot because it enables you to see the varied size of the blooms. The chicory, on the bottom,  is a fairly large one and the so called Bastard Toadflax is about half the size of a dime.

Another of the fairly common type of bush cactus is the Staghorn

They can have varied colored buds or fruits. Sometimes red like the Christmas cholla

And sometimes pink or greenish.

 Another new bloom we saw this week is called Chia.  The buds are about the size of a quarter or  half dollar sized and the flowers are very small indeed.

The endings of great saguaros are sad though. This giant will probably have fallen by next year.

We end on a hopeful note.  After the rain the clouds are quite strange and lovely.

And every so often comes the rainbow.

That's it for this week. 

Book Review: A Very Stable Genius

I have just plowed through, and plowed is an accurate verb, A Very Stable Genius  by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig.  My overall feeling is that it is an effective depiction of Donald Trump’s approach to managing the office of President of the United States.  

There is nothing in the book that should surprise anyone who has even marginally followed the news in the past three years. Your own take on the events of the Trump presidency might differ depending on which news sources you frequent, but the events themselves are basically not in dispute.

The book is organized chronologically and takes you from the beginning of his presidency to the Mueller Report. The formal impeachment inquiry is not treated. My sense is that the authors wanted to zero in on the revolving door of presidential staffing.  We get detail after detail on how the president chooses his underlings, how he treats them, how he uses social media platforms and public rallies to steer public response to his actions, and in particular how he disposes of those who displease him.

As I write this the Covid-19 pandemic has taken over the news and the Trump approach to this challenge seems to me to mirror the management philosophy that this book chronicles.

Trump initially underplays the significance of potential difficulties. He will also attempt to distract by putting some other alternate event into the atmosphere. Think here of things like, “What about Hilary’s e-mails?” or “Why haven’t those FBI agents been prosecuted?”  His conservative echo chamber will then reliably reinforce what he says or tweets. He gives himself ten out of ten ratings while Jeff Sessions, James Comey, China, or the media are dependable villains to be excoriated at will. 

The authors show that time after time Trump does not read briefing material prepared for him in advance of meetings and does not pay much attention to daily intelligence briefings.  He prefers to enter meetings without careful preparation and will either avoid or belittle the opinions of anyone who offers material he does not like. He does this according to Rucker and Leonnig because he thinks he already has all the  knowledge he needs in his own head.  When he does listen it is often only to his cronies or his immediate family.  He seems particularly suspicious of people in the military or intelligence areas and apparently now in the council of public health officials.

Trump, the authors conclude, remains mired in political blame, self-aggrandizement, lack of empathy, rampant nepotism, and gut based decision making. These traits, they say, have consistently put the country at odds with itself and our friends and allies.

Unfortunately, Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis up to this time appears to be following the same patterns outlined in the book. The Trumpian toolbox just seems ill equipped to handle a health pandemic. He remains faced with addressing a scourge that knows no walls, no borders, no economic philosophy, and no partisan political affiliation.

All we can do now is hope for some changes in the established pattern.  


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What We Talk About When We Talk About Books

What We Talk About When We Talk About Books
By Leah Price

I’ve recently finished this book about books and though it did peter out in the later chapters, there was still plenty to chew on and enjoy.    
Price first delineates three areas of book study. The first is the disease some of us caught when young and are still suffering from in our dotage—i.e. Booklover.  Some from this category will move on to become Literary Scholars and Teachers.   Her third area is the more rarified occupation of Book Historian.

Most readers of all kinds consider the author, the historical context, and the content as they read, but the book historian specializes in the physical book—its shape, its size, its construction and how the business of publishing has developed over time.

A book can take many forms. It can range from a fancy tooled leather-bound presentation volume, to a traditional hardback, to a cheap paperback reprint, to a computer file on a kindle or some other digital device. Those differences can lead the book historian to a multitude of other considerations ranging from why a reader chooses a specific type of delivery package to the world of typefaces, edition histories, and even extra-textual marginalia inserted by readers in a given volume over time. This might be called reading for dog ears and coffee stains. 

Book historians can  also delve into the economics of the book ranging from how many copies, at what price, and in what form were printed to the whole range of costs, advertising, distribution, inventory control, and other aspects of the publishing business. Price makes a case that the publishing industry has been a major initiator and contributor to the history of business including product advertising, commercial sales, and literally all current commercial distribution and inventory systems. She contends that because books were among the earliest of all mass marketed products that the systems to advertise them, market them, ship them, etc. were the models for most of our later systems of commercial exchange.

She also reminds the reader who wishes to puff up the intellectual contributions of books that the majority of things inscribed on paper or clay tablets since the invention of written communication have been made to throw away or be destroyed.  She cites Benjamin Franklin’s printing records and notes that forms, order pads, receipts, note pads, and announcements of temporal events were the most common jobs done by his business.  And she claims this continues to be true for the majority of printing businesses today.

Price gives no credence to the purveyors of doom who would have you believe that the printed book is dead.  She notes that information dissemination has always been on the cutting edge.  Manuscript copies of oral material represented a major advance just as the copying of those manuscripts by faithful monks added to the spread of knowledge. Guttenberg’s press, of course, signaled an exponential advance in time, price, and distribution of words, but the computer era has simply added to the variety and the speed in which words are spread. She admits that after the Kindle was introduced traditional book sales took a dip, but now they are rising again just as vinyl records are coming back in spite of the invention of the CD.

One of her final chapters deals with a particular modern problem. Although it is easier and cheaper than ever to buy or access books, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find the time to read them.  I hope that will not be the straw that breaks the camel’s and the book’s back.   

Till then "Happy Reading."

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Some rain, some clouds, some more flowers

Friday was a fine day

Good morning sun.

It rained about two inches in the mountains last night and you could see the results in the puddles.
The trams are running abbreviated routes. It takes very little to turn little Sabino Creek into a good sized torrent.  Oops no wading today at the the Bear Canyon road bridge.                                         


We walked up to the Overlook on Saturday and the high water was still evident.

This is a test.
Look UP

                                                                       Look UP again.
                                            The fantail hawks are loving the puffy clouds.

                             And the Brittlebush flowers are busting out all over after the rain


                                                            More of those puffy clouds

And some interesting stray patterns 

A first find for this year and this is a tough one to spot. The wife's sharp eyes found a Praying Mantis egg case waiting to open.  Here you can get a size idea from her hand.
This closeup even shows the little zipper that will open to release the insects.
Another new item is this blue flower. We are not quite sure what it is right now.

Not sure what this was but he flew just as I snapped.

Some further snaps from Saturday
Brittlebush plus prickly pear

And finally a nice healthy looking fairy duster.
For the decay series how about an Octopus Cactus

Or this fading to yellow barrel cactus.

Final shot for Saturday is this panorama of brittlebush, saguaro, Tucson valley and the Rincons in the distance.