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Sunday, May 21, 2017


This is Sunday, reserved by Christians for worship, the only one of the five great religions to do so.  While I'm not terribly pious, I live in a country where 83% are, Christians, that is, so I regularly weave in biblical references into my posting on this day.

It was done in mild jest, but I originally pinpointed 15 Craigside as a Purgatory site.  This allowed me to pontificate on religion in general, a subject of great mystery to me, as elaborated in a full chapter focusing on this topic in my SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.  Then earlier this year I expanded Purgatory to Planet Earth.  If you are confused about the term purgatory, just click on my links.

So let me start with a healthy breakfast and go on to a sodium-saturated Hawaiian luau set, both on my lanai at 15 Craigside, a particularly hallowed spot in  my Purgatory, maybe even the Gateway:

For lunch yesterday I walked to the Chinese Cultural Plaza for Shanghai Soup Dumplings (known in China as Xiaolongbao) at Fook Lam:

But first, my $1 beer, which was a Steel Reserve at 8.1% ethanol, double the Bud:

This liquor store in the Plaza also sells Betel Nuts, chewed by Bloody Mary.  They are legal in the USA.  $5/package here:

Fook Lam generally serves the best Shanghai Soup Dumplings (last Saturday I went to Lucky Belly to have noodles in soup) in Hawaii, but the interior of the delicacy was somewhat lukewarm yesterday:

If you've never had this before:
  • place the dumpling on a piece of chinese green vegetable unto a large spoon
  • make a hole at the top and pour in a small amount of cognac
  • lay on some chile and sliced ginger-in-vinegar
  • slurp the whole thing into your mouth, first assuring that the temperature is not too hot
Drink the beer to balance the temperature, texture and taste.  I brought my own cognac.  Fook Lam allows you to BYOB.  I should add that my golfing expeditions at Ala Wai have resulted in my losing four of the six pounds I gained on my world adventure, so I rewarded my body by also ordering custard tarts.

On my way back I stopped by Foster Botanical Garden, for they were having a plant sale, meaning they don't charge admission to enter.  So, if you are cheap, as I am sometimes, this is when to visit the park.  Frankly, not much was blooming.  However, there is always an assortment of oddities.

The irony of this all was that the best total scene was back home at 15 Craigside, where Pearl's Gold Tree was blooming:

That's my building in the bottom photo.  And, the most beautiful flowers of the day were in my apartment (yellow orchids just about to bloom):


Saturday, May 20, 2017


At 15 Craigside we intelligently discuss the full range of issues.  These dining partners are mostly well-educated citizens who keep up with the news.  I was thus stunned to gain a sense that no one had any conception of how much we set aside for defense...or war.  When I cited Barack Obama last year (in his final State of the Union address) mentioning that the U.S. spends more on our military than the next eight nations combined, there was a vacant look on their faces.  I'm not sure if they didn't care or the concept was so beyond their thinking level, for there was no follow-up comment.

Granted, I have become a peace monger of sorts.  My first Huffington Post article proposed an ultimate peace plan to Barack Obama when he was still running for the Democratic nomination nine years ago.  I followed two years later with a 10% Simple Solution for Peace.

So what do war weapons cost?  Last year the Department of Defense purchased 149 Tomahawk cruise missiles for $202 million.  Add the cost of deployment, and they average $1.6 million each.  Last month President Donald Trump authorized the launching of 59 to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad's Sarin gas attack.  Cost?  $94.4 million.  Americans largely applauded Trump's decision.  According to Gallup/CBS/ABC:
  • 2017:  50% supported Trump's Syrian attack
  • 80% of Republicans have confidence with Trump in Syria, while 84% of Democrats have no confidence
  • 1983:  53% said okay to invasion of Grenada
  • 3 in 10 back air strikes but no ground troops
  • 26% only want diplomatic talks and no military action
  • 15% want no American involvement whatsoever
My favorite misspent defense item is the aircraft carrier, which has already been deemed by experts as obsolete.  I've had several postings on them.  Read this one from last year and five years ago.  You know how many of these ships are in service today?
  • 10:  USA
  •   2:  Italy
  •   1:  China, France, India, Russia, Spain, Thailand
  •   0:  Germany, Japan, UK...and rest of the world
The latest carrier group we have cost $30 billion to build and will spend $2.5 billion annually to man.  Multiply that by eleven.  The Gerald R. Ford was supposed to have been delivered last month at a cost of $13 billion.  Nine more are planned!  Sure, keep two or three for political posturing purposes, but more than twenty?  For an expensive but obsolete war tool?

A reported lemon of a fighter jet, the F-35, began operations in 2006, and as of today, 231 has been produced.  Each Lockheed Stealth multirole fighter costs around $100 million.  Bloomberg expects the F-35 to cost more than a trillion dollars, with Wikipedia indicating $1.5 trillion.

Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 U.S. ‘base sites’ in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon. Hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places. Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.


Rarely does anyone ask if we need hundreds of bases overseas or if, at an estimated annual cost of perhaps $156 billion or more, the U.S. can afford them. Rarely does anyone wonder how we would feel if China, Russia, or Iran built even a single base anywhere near our borders, let alone in the United States.

You would think that these mega-billions would be protested by the masses.  We are confronted with a China that couldn't care less about conquering the world, a Russia that is getting old, a North Korea that could soon be dust and scattered bunches of disorganized terrorists.  The USSR was a formidable adversary, but that was a quarter century ago.  You would  have thought our Defense budget would have dropped since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but, no, it's gone up:

However, for a society that loves to lay out, every year, $70 billion on lottery tickets, $80 billion on cigarettes and nearly $100 billion on beer, you can better appreciate why we tolerate expenditures for maintaining peace through bombs.  Oh, add $2.3 billion annually for tattoos.

Like Ike, I keep blaming the Military-Industrial Complex, which is, indeed, a power to be feared.  However, they remain a force because every state has military spending needs.  The Republicans are well-supported by the MIC, but, more so, the average citizen feels more secure if we maintain overkill while boosting the local economy.  If 15 Craigside can be any indicator of widespread support or nonchalance regarding military spending, my peace effort is just another delusion on par with the Blue Revolution, hydrogen jetliner, direct methanol fuel cell, fusion, SETI and similar fantasies.


Friday, May 19, 2017


As I am wont to do, I was watching Classic Arts Showcase and observed this attractive female singing from Rigoletto in a 1950 clip.  She looked like a cross between Julie Andrews and Deborah Kerr.  I was surprised to learn that this was Margaret Nixon McEthron, known by her stage name as Marni Nixon.  It occurred to me that I had never before seen her face.

Certainly I remembered she was the voice of Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.  But here is a tape of the same scene with the real and decent voice of Hepburn.  And her loverly rendition of Wouldn't It be Loverly.  I fell in love with Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Not terrific, but just the touch you would want for her portrayal of a pitiable call girl.

So what happened to Marni Nixon?  (Here to the left in her younger days.)  Sadly, she passed away less than a year ago at the age of 86.

Who knew that she was a child film actress who also played a violin from the age of 4 and sang with the Roger Wagner Chorale?  She was an accomplished opera singer who at the age of 17 starred in the Hollywood Bowl's Carmina Burana with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Leopold Stokowski.

She was the angelic voice heard by Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc (1948) and dubbed Margaret O'Brien singing that same year in Big City, then the following year in The Secret Garden.  Nixon provided Marilyn Monroe's high notes for Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds (1950).

She did double duty by enhancing Rita Moreno's voice in West Side Story, but only got paid because Leonard Bernstein gave her 1/4 of  1% of his personal royalties from the film.  Her only visible screen appearance was as a nun on The Sound of Music.

By any standard, she lived a successful stage life, appearing on Broadway, in a range of operas, acted in films, sang on more than 50 soundtracks, performed a lot on television and widely toured with Victor Borge and Liberace.  She taught for a lengthy period in the Santa Barbara area, won four Emmy Awards as best actress, had three husbands (the final one, Albert David Block, for a third of a century until he passed away in 2015), had three children and lived a grand life.  She wrote her memoirs as I Could Have Sung All Night.  Welcome back into my memories, Marni.

I can't let by Melissa McCarthy's latest version of Sean Spicer in Saturday Night Live go by.  This is a must click, for Trump advocates will very shortly arrange to have it deleted, and who knows how long he will continue as President.

My meals yesterday were eminently satisfying.  First, breakfast of abaraki (a German pork sausage), eggs, rice, tsukemono and sashimi with...

My lunch, a Mitsu-Ken bento of stew and garlic chicken, in the environs of the Reef Runway, where I could feel the vibration and pressure of planes taking off:

Today golf, followed by lau lau and Hawaiian food accompaniments on my lanai for sunset.  Just another terrific two days in Purgatory.