I loved science fiction movies and books as a kid; I still do, although I don’t read much sci-fi these days. In 1958, at camp Androscoggin in Maine, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was shown one movie night, and visions of a disabled saucer crashing into the Washington Monument stayed with me for years. The… Read the rest

Coming back?

The other day the boys and I were talking about the afterlife, and that if such a thing exists, would any of the four of us want to “come back.” I was the only one to answer “yes.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the average age of us four boys is seventy-five, and we all have, in one way or another, faced a life-threatening… Read the rest

Sonoma, Super-Sized

The Cheese Factory proposal by the Oxbow developer

Since its beginnings, Sonoma has been a small town. It once was the county seat, long ago, but that role fell to Santa Rosa and, well, thank goodness for that. From then on Sonoma’s destiny seemed to be an indelible Bear Flag moment of history combined… Read the rest

Hit and myth

Our human experience is fundamentally emotional, and emotions are fundamentally confusing. The stuff of imagination and subconscious life, emotions are primordial, which means not subject to the whims of logic or reason. From the standpoint of brain development, logic and reason are newcomers… Read the rest

Sonoma’s new oligarchy

The City of Sonoma has always had oligarchs, powerful people of great wealth and the inclination to use it. First among these was General Mariano Vallejo, the Mexican General who owned much of Northern California, including the town of Sonoma. He laid out the city, subdivided the land and was, by all … Read the rest

Ubu Trump

In 1895, Alfred Jarry’s play entitled Ubu Roi (The King Ubu) was performed in Paris for its first, and until very much later, its last time. Public reaction to the farce was so extreme that a riot ensued. Jarry, who never wrote another play, had no idea that a century-and-a-quarter later his theatrical… Read the rest

In love with the glow

Character Ralph Kramden (right) and Ed Norton (left) of the Jackie Gleason Show, The Honeymooners

I grew up in the glow of TV. It was black and white until I was perhaps ten years old, and color television after that. Color television actually was a big deal, once.

My childhood shows were foolish affairs… Read the rest

Game Over

By the measuring stick of capitalism, Donald Trump has won the game. He has attained the pinnacle of American business success, namely power; his finger on the nuclear button, Donald Trump is now the most fearsome businessman in the world. He has vanquished all enemies and proven his top-predator status;… Read the rest

Cloud Nine

How funny it is that everybody’s talking ’bout The Cloud! English lexicon has caught up with the reality of human consciousness: we have always had our heads in the clouds.

Human beings float in a boundless sky of mental and emotional ambiguity from which we extract concepts and string … Read the rest

Eating Sunlight

I think that if we are going to alter human genetics, we should get going on it right away and concentrate on giving human beings the gift of photosynthesis. As  you most likely know, through photosynthesis plants feed themselves with sunlight.

Chlorophyll, water, carbon dioxide and oxygen are the … Read the rest


Workers labor to produce canned tangerine to be exported at the Huangyan No 1 Canned Food Factory in Huangyan, eastern China’s Zhejiang province Wednesday Dec. 12, 2007. China has taken a series of steps to crack down on tainted and unsafe products after various foods, medicines and other items
Read the rest

The child of invention

We live in wondrous, terrible times. In every field of human endeavor we are exceeding ourselves, almost daily. Our tallest buildings are getting taller, our fastest computers are getting faster; gas-powered autos are giving way to electric vehicles, natural evolution is being supplanted by gene-editing.… Read the rest

Friend or Food

The most uncomfortable truth of human experience is that life feeds on other life, and each of us depends upon the death of other living things for our continued existence. In early societies, this truth infused creation mythology and manifested in rituals during which life-from-death was reenacted… Read the rest

Oil Price Skeptic

Just as global warming gains international traction with treaties, targets and timetables the price of oil miraculously drops. A coincidence? I think not.

Just as solar, wind, biofuel and electric technologies become more competitive with high-priced oil and gain wider adoption worldwide the … Read the rest

Ebola Rising

Illustration of the Ebola virus among red blood cells

Every new artifact of human culture generates a set of effects. The most predictable of these relate directly to the operation or impact of the artifact; for example, the invention of the automobile made the horse and buggy obsolete. Less obvious… Read the rest

The poverty problem

Why does poverty exist in the wealthiest countries in the world? This question has vexed economists for several hundred years, and the answer remains elusive.

In tribal societies, now increasingly rare, economy is intrinsic to cultural habits and social relationships; reciprocity, sharing and… Read the rest

The role of ritual

An unoccupied mind is a dangerous thing. Organic brain’s powerful processing capacity combined with limitless symbolic creativity of mind gives rise to the need for pursuing purpose and meaning. Lacking these, people veer into forms of madness; hyperactive states of violence against others, self-injury,… Read the rest


Like Jack ferrying a donkey to market, trading it for magical beans and then escaping the confines of conventional society in ‘Jack and The Beanstalk’, the giant he disturbs is analogous to the giant gray-market behemoth suddenly disrupting our economy, stomping on established forms of commerce … Read the rest

Cause and blame

We conventionally view causality moving from “Point A” to “Point B,” a straight line through which we can trace each step and assess responsibility. Even if we move from points “A” to “D” we still think in terms of lines of responsibility, which pass through points “B” and “C.” The framework of our legal… Read the rest

Outmoded and outworn

We’re all familiar with verbal clichés; they’re a dime-a-dozen and no big deal. We use them all the time as shorthand for the commonplace, experiences so everyday as to resonate with nearly everyone. The path from metaphor to cliché is particularly fast in our information-centric 24-hour news cycle,… Read the rest

Come again another day

Before the last storm, we had barely over 2” of rain for the season as compared with 23” last year and a “normal” of 17.” Our risk of prolonged drought is real, but a study done recently that looked at the growth rings of old conifers that were submerged under cold water conditions for thousands of years (3,000)… Read the rest

Baby-sitting the baby-sitters

Surveillance in the digital age is a universal reality at unprecedented scale, reaching into the intimate details of uncountable millions of individual lives. Now politely called “data-mining” to lessen it’s sense of violation, we used to call such activity espionage or spying and its “Peeping … Read the rest

My daily paper

I like getting the newspaper every day. I like the ritual of looking for it in the darkend driveway, and plopping it down on the kitchen table. I read the the “funnies” last, holding off what for me is the most revealing part of the daily paper. That sense of anticipation doesn’t last long, though; I read … Read the rest

The All-American game

I grew up with All-American images of clean-cut baseball heroes — Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and the like. Despite later revelations of alcohol problems, their images as wholesome, talented sportsmen resonated across the 1950s and contributed to the backdrop of conformist cultural… Read the rest

Regarding the infinite

The human power of abstraction, our ability to imagine something and then build upon that imaginary idea distinguishes us from lower animals. Brain physiologists might say such abilities reside within our frontal lobes, that area of the brain held responsible for higher thought, but whatever the… Read the rest

On poppin’ counterfeit pills

I recently refilled a prescription for a beta-blocker I’ve been taking daily for twenty-some odd years. The electrical system of my heart becomes unstable every once in a while, and Atenolol settles it down to a nice normal rhythm.

Atenolol was first produced by pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca under… Read the rest

$elling $onoma

A pervasive belief within Sonoma’s tourist serving businesses is that we must constantly compete for the attention of tourists. The recently formed Tourism Improvement District (TID) is spending $450,000/yr. on advertising of all sorts to “brand” Sonoma; placards on BART trains, billboards, … Read the rest

Signifying nothing

When the economy collapsed in 2008 it was widely blamed on poor home loan lending practices. People who should have never received loans to purchase a house due to their inability to repay those loans once the introductory low-interest rate period ended were granted loans anyway.

It is true that in the… Read the rest

The umpire strikes back

One of the great things about baseball is the umpire. No ump and baseball would be a never-ending series of arguments and fist fights. As it is, the umpire is God, and his word and rule is absolute. To defy the ump is to risk being banned from the field. Even an eyebrow raised in his general direction is a challenge.… Read the rest

Can you feel it?

The season is changing. You’d think after 65 years, I’d be used to it, but I’m not. I was born in September, so perhaps that’s sharpened my attention. Whatever the cause, I can feel it.

My wife and I recently spent a week by the ocean. Surrounded by the sound of surf I watched the tides and wondered why I couldn’t… Read the rest

Sonoma’s Thneeds

In his children’s story “The Lorax,” Dr. Seuss presents a parable about greed depleting the richness of nature and the enduring power of human longing. In his tale, beautiful Truffula trees cover the land and display a soft and colorful foliage which is exploited to extinction by a thoughtless industrial… Read the rest

Ordinary madness

By all accounts, particularly his own, poet Charles Bukowski was a miserable wretch. I attended one of his readings in my youth, and from the mini-fridge next to his stool on stage, he extracted beer after beer; as the evening progressed he ended up falling-down drunk and unable to continue.

But Bukowski… Read the rest

Across the homegrown bagelverse

He stroked his beard, leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes in thought. I’d known Ben Eleazar for many years, but never could predict how long such pauses would go on. I’d once waited two hours and twenty two minutes.

“Ok,” he said, “I’ll tell you.” It had only been four minutes. “But,” he added quickly,… Read the rest

The notebooks of von Meier

“Ashes to ashes, shed to shed.” So go the notebooks of Von Meier. For over 40 years my friend Kurt von Meier kept a daily notebook. A compulsive documentarian, he stored his filled notebooks in file boxes, and as they accumulated, placed the boxes in a shed in his backyard. When he died in 2011 the thought… Read the rest

Marking territory

Males of many species mark their territorial boundaries. The other day my wife accused me of marking mine.

I will confess to feeling shocked by her comments at first. The shoes I leave under the coffee table in the living room, a pile of mail stacked on the dining table, my pants draped over the cedar chest… Read the rest

Guiding the hand of government

The wealthy and powerful expect to get what they pay for, and most often they do, spending billions on lobbying and campaign donations to guide the hand of government. Though lip-service is paid to the free market, tax rules, land-use law and public policy all favor “big money,” and for these reasons … Read the rest

Let them eat bugs…in space

The subject of two articles in today’s newspaper have been conflated in the title of this column. Article one involved the prospect that as the world’s population reaches 8 billion people, the need for a protein-rich food source will create an international diet of bugs. Bugs, the article points out,… Read the rest

The real tourist trap

For the North Bay wine country, including Sonoma, tourism has been a mixed blessing. Just one-hour’s drive from five million people looking for a weekend escape, the boom in tourism has both irrevocably altered the rural landscape with wineries, hotels and backed-up traffic and simultaneously filled… Read the rest

All politics is internal

There is a yogic practice in Tibet that takes place in a charnel ground, or what we call a graveyard. Graveyards in Tibet, which is mostly rock, are not the neat and grassy parks we have here in America. Tibetan charnel grounds are bone-scattered yards where the dead are dismembered and their body parts… Read the rest

Living in an immaterial world

We think we live in a world of things: cars, dogs, trees, tables, salt shakers, cardboard boxes, underwear… the list is nearly inexhaustible. Every culture has its own words for each thing, and each thing has many sub-categories, right down to its molecular structure. So complete is the presentation… Read the rest

What weather type are you?

My father-in-law used to answer, “Fair to partly cloudy,” when I asked how he was. By this time he was in his late 70’s and not in the best of health, but I suspect he’d been a “fair to partly cloudy” guy his whole life.

I certainly know people who spend a lot of time “Overcast,” a gray cloud hanging above their… Read the rest

Going nuclear

Contaminated, radioactive water stored in tanks at Fukushima

Recent reports on the condition of the Fukushima nuclear power reactors in Japan indicate that highly radioactive water used in the makeshift reactor cooling system has been leaking from buried storage tanks damaged in a tsunami several… Read the rest

Oh those Giants

My wife surprised me a few weeks ago when she announced that she thought we should follow Giants’ baseball this year. “It will,” she said, “be fun.”

I should note that we like to watch the World Series when we can, but to call us regular baseball fans is more than a stretch. We’ve gone to a few games over the … Read the rest

Letting boys be boys

A recent report indicates that as many as one-in-five high-school-age boys have been diagnosed with ADHD and many of them are being treated with drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. Clearly, either there is a growing epidemic of ADHD of unknown causes, or diagnostic criteria and social standards… Read the rest

Citizenship in the 21st Century

New American citizens

A tremendous amount of energy and attention is focused on providing a path to citizenship for America’s many immigrants, and appropriately so. Citizenship provides, first and foremost, the protections of the Bill of Rights and laws granting access to legal representation,… Read the rest

The food of the gods

For nearly 10,000 years human beings have lived in a land of milk and honey. Milk and its derivatives are used ubiquitously as food, and the importance of cattle made them one of society’s first forms of money. Old African tribes like the Maasai still measure wealth by number of cattle and notably, the … Read the rest

Disturbing the established order

All seemingly stable systems are subject to perturbations and disruptions; what we perceive as stability is only the temporary emergence of fixed patterns within a container of unfathomable complexity, or what we commonly call chaos. We begin to th