Thursday, August 28, 2014

A little late summer Rimbaud

With the onset of milder fall weather, I get to use my screened in back porch again for reading. Anticipating this, I began looking at my poetry books and I thought I’d share my favorite poem by Rimbaud.

I first became familiar with Rimbaud after reading a reference to him in Heavy Metal Magazine, and I later became intrigued by the various English translations of his French work.

Albeit admittedly a little risqué, in this poem Rimbaud reminds me of the Cavalier poets who had a much more realistic approach to the wooing game than the Petrarch sonneteers. While the sonneteer wailed and moaned and in general elevated the woman of his passion, the Cavalier poet recognized that the woman he was after was composed of living tissue, and most importantly that living tissue needs living tissue. (“let’s obey the proclamation made for May, and sin no more, as we have done, by staying; But my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.”)  The pretentious elevated “eternal passion” of the Petrarch, was replaced with the new motto of “seize the day!”  Poor Phillip Sidney and his group could have learned from Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvell. 

In this spirit, let me introduce “First Evening,” by Arthur Rimbaud.

First Evening
                 (Première Soirée)

She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves,
In malice, quite close, quite close.

Sitting in my deep chair,
Half-naked, hands clasped together,
On the floor, little feet, so fine,
So fine, shivered with pleasure.

I watched, the beeswax colour
Of a truant ray of sun-glow
Flit about her smile, and over
Her breast – a fly on the rose.

– I kissed her delicate ankle.
She gave an abrupt sweet giggle
Chiming in clear trills,
A pretty laugh of crystal.

Her little feet under her slip
Sped away: ‘Will you desist!’
Allowing that first bold act,
Her laugh pretended to punish!

– Trembling under my lips,
Poor things, I gently kissed her lids.
– She threw her vapid head back.
‘Oh! That’s worse, that is!’…

‘Sir, I’ve two words to say to you...’
– I planted the rest on her breast
In a kiss that made her laugh
With a laugh of readiness….

– She was barely dressed though,
And the great indiscreet trees
Touched the glass with their leaves
In malice, quite close, quite close.

               Arthur Rimbaud, 1870

*The painting is Picasso's Le Reve, a portrait of Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese, sitting in a chair, in a pose more suited for a Balthus painting. It was recently purchased by hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for $155 million from casino magnate Steve Wynn.  Wynn had previously agreed to sell the painting to Cohen in 2006 for $139 million, but the sale was cancelled when Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the canvas.  However, Wynn had the painting repaired and the two came to a new arrangement in March of 2013.  Glad it worked out.   -JP

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Got Shame?

Recently Travis County brought a political payback indictment against Governor Rick Perry because he vetoed some funding for a DA Rosemary Lehmberg who was convicted of drunk driving. Governor Perry offered to continue the funding if she resigned, and even signaled his willingness to appoint another democrat to the office. But being a democrat, and having no shame, Lehmberg declined to resign and the rest as they say is history.

Aristotle made the point that shame is a fundamental requirement for a society as it functions to self-police behavior. By bringing all of this back into the public eye through her political payback indictment, Rosemary Lehmberg has assured that thousands of Texas that had not previously seen her arrest video will now see it and rightfully cringe at her chutzpah. The one bright spot is that she didn’t kill anybody while driving with 3 times the legal limit in blood alcohol.

The second point is that the indictment is without merit as Perry executed his lawful authority to defund Lehmberg. There’s an old saying that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and so the hyperbole becomes reality here. The reporting method treats the fact of an indictment as the primary news, and the merit as a secondary analytic question, making it difficult for people reading the news to grasp just how farfetched this indictment is. (The Wall Street Journal has gone as far as to recommend Governor Perry file litigation against the Travis County attorneys in their private capacities for their mischief.)

Third, while we can expect the usual liberal huzzahs, from a raw political perspective, tying your cause to such a fundamentally flawed person depicted in such graphic footage is simply not a smart use of political chips.

Apropos, one of the reasons Texas Democrats are now hurting in the governor’s race is that they rushed into bed with Wendy Davis whose one and only signature issue was late term (20 weeks) abortions, a gruesome cause from which she’s lately try to unsuccessfully back paddle from. Off hand I can think of at least 3 Texas State Senators who are both Hispanics and Catholics, who would have made much better gubernatorial candidates for the Texas Democrats. But instead they went with a candidate who has been called “Abortion Barbie.” Nice going guys.

Finally, the sophist argument being made by some of “a pox on both your houses,” –meaning a pox on both democrats and republicans- while providing a quick feeling of moral superiority, does nothing in terms of our stewardship responsibility. In politics you don’t get a custom fitted suit, you take what you can get off the rack. Sadly, partisan knee jerk reactions of the Roman Mob are now the norm.

I’m fully aware that Rick Perry is a big boy and that he can take care of himself, but ask yourself this- If a shoddy extortionate prosecutor can misuse the law and bring such frivolous charges against a rich powerful governor, then what can they do to you?

-John P.

“I would uphold the law if for no other reason but to protect myself.”
- Sir Thomas More

Below is the train-wreck-footage that Texas Democrats were so proud to share with the nation.

Friday, April 12, 2013

No Bull

The photo above is from a facebook page called “Remember El Paso When.” The snap is of a bullfight arena in Juarez Mexico (right across the border from El Paso) and it reminded me of an event I hadn’t thought about in years. I posted the story below:

"I attended many bullfights there with my father and favorite uncle. Afterwards we would go to the Kentucky Bar before returning to El Paso. Once, we got stuck on Avenida 16 de Septiembre (16th of September Avenue) during a PAN rally that was getting ugly. I couldn't move the car because of the crowd, and some of the PANistas were forcefully removing people from their cars. My uncle without missing a beat, grabbed one of the PAN signs from a demonstrator and starting waving it at the crowd yelling, "PAN! PAN! PAN!" The PANistas took us for one of their own, and let us pass safely. Later at the Kentucky Bar, I had several drinks in quiet relief while my father and uncle made fun of me for being such a nervous Nelly."

AThe Kentucky Bar has this old wooden bar that was brought to El Paso from New Orleans in covered wagons in the 1800's. During Prohibition, it was moved to Juarez to its present location.  If you look closely, you can still see bullet holes from the days of the gunslingers.

Over the years, many celebrities have drank at the Kentucky Bar, including Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.

 All photos off the web.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Texas Lobby Day

Spent yesterday afternoon lobbying at the Texas Legislature. Specifically we lobbied for Senate Bill 97 by Senator Dan Patrick (R) that will require FDA Guidelines for RU 486. Currently abortionists who are prescribing RU-486 are not following FDA-approved guidelines and needlessly endangering women’s lives. We had medical doctors lobbying with us and it was very informative afternoon organized by Joe Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life. Kudos to Joe and everyone who took the afternoon off to participate. Also special Kudos to my State Senator Donna Campbell (also an emergency room physician) who I understand co-authored the bill.


 PS- My wife and I have been long time supporters of the Texas Alliance for Life and would encourage anyone living in the Austin or Central Texas area to join the TAL Leadership Circle. The organization does great work. 

TAL Mission Statement:
"Texas Alliance for Life is a nonprofit organization of people committed to protecting the fundamental right to life of all innocent human beings and to promoting respect for their value and dignity from the moment of conception until natural death. We therefore oppose the advocacy and practice of abortion (except to preserve the mother's life), infanticide, euthanasia, and all forms of assisted suicide.

We have three principal areas of peaceful, legal activity:
• Education We educate community leaders, elected officials, the media, and the general public about the value of innocent human life and the need for its respect and protection. We do this through our newsletters, websites, public speaking, and events.
• Public Policy We support public policies that protect innocent human life. We work through the federal, state, and local legislative, administrative, and legal processes.
• Alternatives We promote compassionate alternatives to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia."

A brother Knight (I’m a member of the Knights of Columbus, a catholic fraternal organization) who was dressed in full regalia at the TAL 2013 Texas Rally for Life.  As usual, I was wearing my Barbour.

PS2- Don’t just post stuff on facebook! Learn how to make a positive impact for family conservative values during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session! Sign up to attend the Faith and Family Briefing Session at the Capitol Auditorium on Tuesday, March 26th, from 8am to 11:30am. Call up a friend to go with you!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ogden Nash Redux

This morning I was speaking with a man who makes a living by doing odd jobs and repairs, and he was complaining about his shrinking paycheck under Obama, not only in the form of less work opportunities, but the actual deductions from his pay in the form of added taxes and health care costs (I think he files quarterly).

His lament was almost word for word Mr. Nash’s famous poem:

One From One Leaves Two

Higgledy piggledy, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Gentlemen come every day
To count what my black hen doth lay.
If perchance she lays too many,
They fine my hen a pretty penny;
If perchance she fails to lay,
The gentlemen a bonus pay.

Mumbledy pumbledy, my red cow,
She’s cooperating now.
At first she didn’t understand
That milk production must be planned;
She didn’t understand at first
She either had to plan or burst,
But now the government reports
She’s giving pints instead of quarts.

Fiddle de dee, my next-door neighbors,
They are giggling at their labors.
First they plant the tiny seed,
Then they water, then they weed,
Then they hoe and prune and lop,
They they raise a record crop,
Then they laugh their sides asunder,
And plow the whole caboodle under.

Abracadabra, thus we learn
The more you create, the less you earn.
The less you earn, the more you're given,
The less you lead, the more you're driven,
The more destroyed, the more they feed,
The more you pay, the more they need,
The more you earn, the less you keep,
And now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to take
If the tax-collector hasn’t got it before I wake.

-Ogden Nash

Snaps of my old battered 1975 book of selected poems by Ogden Nash-

In addition to his poetry, the book also contains many of Ogden Nash's hand drawn cartoons.
This one reminds of a certain politician I know.

Another of my favorites.

- JP

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mars Revisited - A short writing sketch


The planet before him was red and gray.  

He checked his dashboard and saw his ship was already entering the martian atmosphere.  The retro rockets had fired so thinly that he hadn’t even felt them.  It was a crucial moment in the mission, yet his one overriding thought was an itch in his leg he couldn’t get to. He rubbed his hand against the space suite in a vain attempt to get some relief through the 32 layers of material.

The martian landing module was designed for up to three crewmembers, but the other two seats were empty on the landing attempt.  This was an insurance against mishap.  If his ship crashed, as the first landing module had, he would die alone and the crew in the main ship would leave orbit and return to Earth with whatever data they had gathered from his failure.

After the disaster of the first landing attempt on Mars, engineers had added a series of enhanced black boxes. In theory they would survive and beam back the data of the last moments back to the orbiter craft.

The ship’s digital display clearly ticked off the time as the retros fired for the second time, but instead his eyes closely measured the seconds on his own mechanical Rolex Pepsi GMT strapped just above his glove line.  The vintage watch immaculately maintained by him, and his good luck piece.  His father had flow missions off the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan with it. He closed his helmet visor and resisted the silly temptation to take the yoke away from the computer.  Instead he concentrated on the navigation readout waiting for it to begin giving him information on his glide path.  Absentmindedly, he once again fruitlessly tried to rub out the itch in his leg through the 32 layers.

The cockpit lights dimmed to red, and a bleep told him communications black out had begun as the ionization increased. His main flight screen readout began showing his glide path.  His vehicle, represented by a black aircraft silhouette in the display, was showing dead center.  For the first time that morning he allowed himself to feel optimism.  The turbulence was bad, but because the Martian atmosphere was thinner than Earth’s, it was nowhere near as bad as re-entry to Earth.  He took his eyes off the flight path monitor as he saw some flames flickering past his windshield.  With his next glance he saw the heat shield read outs and noted no alarms.  The angle was good, and the aircraft was handling the heat.

Having entered the martian atmosphere, the cockpit lights returned to normal white light and the readouts showed data was once again being streamed to the orbiter.  The computer seamlessly began a series of rolls to bleed off speed and better pinpoint the landing area.  Looking at Mars coming up before him, he felt a sense of annoyance that a computer should be in control at this historic moment.

He was remembering frustrated Apollo Astronaut Eugene Cernan, and how NASA had been careful to under-fuel his lunar module in Apollo 10 to make sure he wouldn't try to land on the moon; when the master alarm sounded. 

As he turned off the alarm, he noted he was no longer in a preprogrammed glide path, but dropping sharply.  He felt the craft changing angle and in danger of going into a spin. Intuitively, he took the yoke and steadied.  Noting his altitude, he also manually turned on his atmosphere engines.  On his headset, he could hear the orbiter calling out to him, but he tuned them out.  The itch in his leg was forgotten along with his previous annoyance.  He was no longer a monkey in a capsule, but a pilot.  Had a passenger been sitting next to him, the passenger would have been surprised to see him smiling.

A quick look over of his navigation told him the assigned landing was still possible, but he had to watch his fuel.  Nonetheless he played with the craft to check his control and to get a feel for the Martian atmosphere.  Satisfied, he set about to perform a manual landing.  He was going to be the first successful manned landing on Mars after all.

He tersely reported to the orbiter that he had control of the craft and asked them to standby.  As he descended he saw more features of the Mars surface, he pondered how many science fiction writers had beaten him here.  Probably no Martian princess awaited him, but there was plenty of martian desert.  For a moment he allowed himself the brief fantasy that maybe Percival Lowell or Ray Bradbury had been right, and he would find relics of long dead civilizations underneath the sand. Stuff that had been missed by the unmanned probes.

A beep sounded. His ground radar identified the landing site and he began his alignment. The ground radar also showed a large metal presence that shouldn’t be there.  His brain was trying to dissect this fact when his front windshield was lit up by a brilliant green light. His vision grew fuzzy and he felt tremendous heat. His last thought before he lost consciousness was on whether the newly designed black boxes would survive his crash.  

Next: Chapter One- Mars really is Barsoom!

Mars Sunset


Post Note:  The short writing sketch above is just a quick end-of-year foray by me into Science Fiction.  In 2012 I re-read Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars (it was free from Amazon on my Kindle) and that got me thinking about all the pulp science fiction I read as a boy, in particular Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.  In my mind I still prefer to think of Mars in Percival Lowell’s terms- Martian canals dug by a dying civilization, ancient ruins, and all the entertaining story telling that comes with that. In the above, our hero does not die in a crash, but wakes up below the surface of Mars as a prisoner of modern day Martians. Naturally their world is dying, and naturally they want to conquer the Earth.

PS 2-  I don't care what the International Astronomical Union says. I still say Pluto is a planet.

Postscript 3-  March 2014
I heard about a new Mars novel that’s supposed to be pretty good:  The Martian by author Andy Weir.  It’s a survival story about an astronaut stranded on Mars.  A sort of futuristic Robinson Crusoe meets Mission Impossible in which the astronaut has to figure out how to survive with only the equipment on hand.  It’ll be the next book on my Kindle. 

On Amazon: $9.99 Kindle; $15 hardcover.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

Nancy and me checking out the Christmas lights at nearby Johnson City

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. "

 Merry Christmas from the Texas Hill Country!

Postscript: This was my last Christmas with Nancy, my Chocolate Lab. She passed on in January 2013. At 13 years of age, she was suffering from ill respiratory health and arthritis. I loved all my three Labradors, but from a pup, Nancy always held a special place in my heart.

“I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness (in Heaven). If it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there.”
-Billy Graham

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas for Men, men’s stuff part eleven

“Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope."
-Bill Cosby

If you’re a woman and starting to face unease as to what you’re going to get your husband for Christmas, you’re in luck, this post is aimed at you.

Every year I speak to at least one friend who is frantically looking for last minutes gifts for her husband. The reasons for this is are: One, men usually don’t open up about what we want, and Two- men and women really do think differently.

So here are seven y chromosome gift ideas that I hope will be helpful-

Gift Idea Number 1: Scotch and Cigars- These can’t be beat as stocking stuffers or individually wrapped presents.

Scotch- There is a large variety of single malt Scotches you can purchase from $50 on up to several hundred dollars. There are also small bottle sampler box sets that you can break up and put into his stocking. (They’re similar to the small bottles they serve on airplanes.)

Cigars- Make sure the cigar is in a tube. Otherwise it will grow stale before he can smoke it on Christmas. Cigar accessories also make good gifts- compact leather travel cases, cigar cutters, small humidors, crystal ashtrays, etc. The key here is to avoid large sized humidors or similarly over the top merchandise. A small item is preferable as he can easily fit that into any area of his office or bedside table. (Oh and don’t forget to pack some wooden matches for him to light up with.)

If you already know his favorite cigars, you can purchase presentation boxes usually for about $200 to $300.

Gift Idea Number 2: DVDs- Buy him a DVD of his favorite movie or television program. Note that I said his favorite movie or television program, no chick flicks. If that means Chuck Norris, then that means Chuck Norris. Christmas is not the time to try to help him grow.

Gift Idea Number 3: A basic Hamilton Field Watch- Admittedly this can be a tricky item, but most men like watches, and I believe most men would welcome a field watch as an addition to their collection. And what better field watch than the original? Hamilton has recently lowered their prices on these basic watches and they can be purchased for as low as about $100 for a quartz movement model, to about $300 for a mechanical version.

Gift Idea Number 4: A Personalized Needlepoint Belt- It’s like being given permission to wear red socks with a black suit. Just make sure you match up the belt pattern to match his hobbies or interests. (Warning, a sense of humor is essential for this gift to work.)

Gift Idea Number 5: A basic clothing item like a white cable-knit sweater- Not much to elaborate here. We’re talking about a basic clothing item most men have had in their wardrobe at some point in time. If this specific item doesn’t meet the bill, think of some other basic clothing item he loves that needs replacement with an exact like item. For example say his favorite navy blue Lacoste shirt is becoming frayed, or he has an old pair of topsiders that are falling apart. I think you get the idea. Just make sure it's the exact same size and brand.

Gift Idea Number 6: Wet Shaving gear- Now this idea is risky. If he is a confirmed electric shaver man, or an analytic engineer type, forget about this one. However if he is the type that likes a little elegance in his life, or likes traditional stuff; this gift may take. To find out more about this, visit my post, “On Wet Shaving.”

Gift Idea Number 7: A Swiss Army Knife- Even if he already has one, trust me, he can always use another one. I have one in my desk, and one in each car. I also have one with a corkscrew in my travel shaving kit. That way I can always open a bottle of wine while on the road.

Finally, if all else fails, get him some soap on a rope. He will get the message and this will guarantee that he will be more forthcoming with his Christmas list next year.

John P.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

A Difficult Week

“Change before you have to”
- Jack Welch

The hard drive on my MacBook Pro crashed this week, and put my week into chaos.  Naturally this came at a highly inconvenient time as I was prepping to take on some additional projects.

First I had to wait for my MackBook’s return from the Apple Store, and then I had to rebuild my stuff by reloading all the files and programs.  The good news is that I had my files backed up, the bad news is that I still had to reconfig everything. 

It was while I was doing the reconfig that I realized I probably needed to update the way I manage my schedule and productivity.  I currently use Office for Mac 2008, and sync its Entourage to a 4-year old Blackberry Pearl; and what became evident is that I’m at the cliff for support on both these platforms. The smart thing to do is to move on.

This coming week, I’m going to say goodbye to my Blackberry and switch to an iphone.   From there, before end-of-year, I intend to migrate to icloud.  I’m still going to keep Office for Mac because of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; but my email, schedule, and task lists management will change. 

The big question is what should I do about project management software?  There are currently two pc notebooks in our household that have Microsoft Project, but it’s a pain to have to use multiple computers, so I’m going to begin research to see if there’s a suitable Apple or cloud based replacement.

If anyone has any good suggestions, please email them to me at JohnPachecoBlogs at .


Post Photo- Luca Signorelli’s The Damned Cast Into Hell