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Stacy Alexander


© Stacy Alexander – 2017
Reproduction or use of the content on this blog restricted without author’s permission.


Stacy Alexander – ARTE CALIFORNIA – Welcome!

Weep for Napa



Yesterday, my cousin Billy’s house burned to the ground off Atlas Peak Road in Napa.  Today, my Aunt Gaylon called to tell me that the fire has almost reached the hill at the back of their house, and that she has evacuated.  My cousin and uncle remained behind to release the horses, should the flames reach the barn.  They are in grave danger, but she assured me that they have a plan.  There is devastation everywhere in the Napa Valley that I love, and my heart is broken. However, my own feelings are of minor concern right now.  My family is in danger.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the effects of global warming on temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture are turning many of our forests into kindling during wildfire season.  When are people going to listen to the gravity of Global Warming?  The ignorance of our current president is staggering, as he continues to eliminate the very climate regulations that are causing disaster after disaster in this country.  This is EXACTLY what Al Gore predicted would happen 10 years ago, yet the uneducated are still in denial.

As the climate warms, moisture and precipitation levels are changing, with wet areas becoming wetter and dry areas becoming drier.

Higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snow-melt typically cause soils to be drier for longer, increasing the likelihood of drought and a longer wildfire season, particularly in the western United States.

These hot, dry conditions also increase the likelihood that, once wildfires are started by lightning strikes or human error, they will be more intense and long-burning.

The costs of wildfires, in terms of risks to human life and health, property damage, and state and federal dollars, are devastating, and they are only likely to increase unless we better address the risks of wildfires and reduce our activities that lead to further climate change.

Wildfires are already on the rise

Wildfires in the western United States have been increasing in frequency and duration since the mid-1980s, occurring nearly four times more often, burning more than six times the land area, and lasting almost five times as long (comparisons are between 1970-1986 and 1986-2003).

Natural cycles, human activities—such as land-use (clearing, development, mining) and fire exclusion—as well as climate change can influence the likelihood of wildfires. However, many of the areas that have seen these increases—such as Yosemite National Park  and the Northern Rockies—are protected from or relatively unaffected by human land-use and behaviors. This suggests that climate change is a major factor driving the increase in wildfires.

What is the relationship between precipitation patterns, global warming, and wildfires?

While severe wildfires have been observed to occur more frequently and this trend is projected to continue throughout the 21st century, it is worth noting that not every year has an equal likelihood of experiencing droughts or wildfires.

Natural, cyclical weather occurrences, such as El Niño events, also affect the likelihood of wildfires by affecting levels of precipitation and moisture and lead to year-by-year variability in the potential for drought and wildfires regionally.

Nonetheless, because temperatures and precipitation levels are projected to alter further over the course of this century, the overall potential for wildfires in the United States, especially the southern states, is likely to increase as well.

As the world warms, we can expect more wildfires

Wildfire seasons (seasons with higher wildfire potential) in the United States are projected to lengthen, with the southwest’s season of fire potential lengthening from seven months to all year long. Additionally, wildfires themselves are likely to be more severe.

Researchers and modelers project that moist, forested areas are the most likely to face greater threats from wildfires as conditions grow drier and hotter.

Surprisingly, some dry grassland areas may be less at risk, but not because they would be flourishing—the intense aridity is likely to prevent these grasses from growing at all, leaving these areas so barren that they are likely to lack even the fodder for wildfire.  

A conflagration of costs

The economic costs of wildfires can be crippling. Between 2000 and 2009, the property damages from wildfires averaged $665 million per year.

In addition to the property damage they wreak, wildfires cost states and the federal government millions in fire-suppression management; the U.S. Forest Service’s yearly fire-suppression costs have exceeded $1 billion dollars at least twice since FY 2000.

The risk to property owners at the “wildland-urban interface” in California (more than 5 million homes in southern coastal California, the Bay Area, and north of Sacramento) is projected to increase with the increase in wildfires near these areas.

The environmental and health costs of wildfires are also considerable: not only do wildfires threaten lives directly, but they have the potential to increase local air pollution— exacerbating lung diseases and causing breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals.

Additionally, a counterintuitive aspect of wildfires—especially in the semi-arid southwest United States—is that when the rains do come, mountain forest wildfires increase flash flood risk in lower-lying areas in the days and months following the fire due to loss of vegetation and the inability of burned soil to absorb moisture (PDF). For example, residents in Arizona living along usually dry stream beds have lost property and life following such tragic and unexpected post-wildfire flash floods.

What can we do to address the threat of wildfires?

The global temperature is increasing and the climate is changing due to the greenhouse-gas emissions we have already produced, leading to a likely rise in the incidence of wildfires.

But it is not too late. What we do now has the power to influence the frequency and severity of these fires and their effects on us.

By engaging in mitigation efforts—creating buffer zones between human habitation and susceptible forests, and meeting home and city fire-safety standards—and by taking steps to reduce our impact on the climate, we can help to keep our forests, our homes, and our health safe.

A word from Ms. Tan


The following is from Amy Tan:

I was shocked and dismayed to learn a few days ago that a friend I’ve known for years is an ardent 45 supporter. The realization that we are fundamentally and morally very different people was underscored when I was told her answer to healthcare was this: “If someone cannot afford health insurance, they should work two jobs, and then they will be able to pay for it.” What a simple answer! Hey, cancer patients, did you hear that? 
I have mulled over why she would say this. It’s significant, I think, that she makes millions a year. I think it goes along with the 45 belief system: that “America First” for many 45 supporters is “Me, first.” Their rationale is that they don’t want to pay for those who they perceive to be a burden on society. To them, people in Puerto Rico are not American citizens and thus, we should not provide too much assistance. Guess what? They are American citizens and we should help them as we did those in Texas and Florida. Under 45’s steering we are headed toward a Mockracy of what the values of this country used to be. Pack up the Statue of Liberty and send her to Puerto Rico.  
The 45 supporters have perverted the word, “Liberal.” They say it with a sneer, implying that Liberals are spendthrifts and flaky over “political correctness.” They think people are being too sensitive when racial epithets are thrown around and women are referred to as bitches and sluts. Liberals, they say, are concerned with non-essential issues, like polar ice caps melting versus the benefits of coal mining. They say: What’s wrong with turning national parks into privatized real estate? They think the answer to people who are struggling is a trickle-down economy, which has always served as the potemkin of the GOP’s false beneficence, proven to benefit only the wealthy.  
The 45 supporters can continue to mock “liberals” as soft on issues that they think are dragging down the country. I define Liberal as COMPASSIONATE. We are the compassionate people who believe “Me First” is the opposite of making America great. We care about everyone, now and into the future.  
   I cannot maintain a civil relationship with my friend, the 45 supporter. I could not bear to hear her mocking tone about liberal concerns, her disdain for those who need compassion instead of a second job to pay for healthcare.  
I know that some followers on my Facebook page are 45 supporters and may be offended by what I say. Perhaps you don’t follow all of 45’s Ideology. But if you do, please don’t bother to threaten to never buy my books. My answer to that is a hearty laugh. In fact, you definitely should not buy my next book. It contains a chapter on the morality of those who have bought into 45’s ideology. A 45 fan would hate it.

About That Kneeling Thing….


The REAL Patriots are the protestors.

Donald Trump says that he supports a peaceful protest because it’s an American right….but not the protest about black oppression and racism…..and this is the problem.    Any protest that he, or any conservative, does not agree with, is, according to conservatives, a protest that should be stopped.

Martin Luther King should have marched across a different bridge.  Young black Americans should have gone to a different college and found a different lunch counter, and college kids in the 60’s had no right to protest an immoral war.

People who served in the military during the Vietnam war ….some of them with injuries that our President would have claimed disqualified them from doing so.  They served anyway, because they loved their country.  Their friends were killed in combat….their brothers. Those people did not die so that you could decide who is a patriot and who loves America more.

The young black athletes are not disrespecting America nor the military by taking a kneel during the anthem.  They are respecting the best thing about America.   It’s a dog whistle to the uneducated, racist rednecks among us to say otherwise.   They, and each one of us, should protest how Black Americans are treated in this country.  And if you don’t think white privilege is a fact, you simply don’t understand America.

The comedian, Chris Rock, says it best.  There’s not a white man in America who would trade places with him….and he’s rich.  It has not gone unnoticed that trump has spoken out against the Mexicans who want to come to America for a better life, against the Muslims, and now, the great black athletes.   However, he keeps his mouth shut for days, about the white men who marched under a Nazi flag in Charlottesville, except to remind us, there were “good people” there.   And when he finally tried to say the right thing, NOT ONE of them was called an S.O.B., nor did he say they should be fired.

We have white men in America who wave the Nazi flag or the Confederate flag, and he’s concerned about taking a knee because it “disrespects” this flag.  We use that flag to sell mattresses and beer. We wear it as swimsuits, and wrap our bald heads in flag bandanas, and stick it in our pants, because we disrespect that flag every single day.

Perhaps we all need to read the Constitution again.  There has never been a better use of pen to paper.  Our forefathers made freedom of speech the first amendment.  They listed 10, and not one of them says, “You have to stand during the anthem,” and I’m pretty sure that those men respected the country that they fought for and founded, a great deal more than the self-proclaimed patriots who are simply ignorant hypocrites, because they want to deny the basic freedom of this great country, a country they supposedly value and cherish so much.

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Here Are A Bunch Of Ways Americans Disrespect Our Flag Daily–And No One Complains About It


Yo! NFL! Go ahead and Sit!


Ok….so the American flag is a piece of cloth. It, (the flag itself), can’t be “disrespected” but the things that it stands for can be. One of the American rights that our flag symbolizes, and that I am seeing being disrespected, is the right to protest. People are trying to destroy the lives of those PEACEFUL protestors who love our country, but who are kneeling or sitting down during the national anthem, simply because they choose to symbolize their objections to police violence and injustice in black America. I object to those things, too. Ending those things will make this a greater country. My friend, Genie Webster posted a quote by Daniel Bunch on her Facebook this morning. It asked, “If you mandate respect for an icon of freedom, can it continue to be an icon of freedom?” No, it can’t. Don’t tell me what to respect, and don’t try to convince me that someone is “bad” or “unAmerican” for exercising their Constitutional right to protest. This is America, not communist China. I’m just as American as you are, and I love my country just as much as every person who chooses to stand during the National Anthem or to dress in red, white and blue. So do those NFL players who are kneeling and sitting. This isn’t about who loves America more. It’s about what is right. Protesting against discrimination and oppression is right, because those things are wrong. This is not about the flag and the anthem. It’s about racism.

Happy Birthday, Sarah-Lynda


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Today, we are celebrating the birthday of my daughter, Sarah-Lynda.  I couldn’t be prouder of her.  She is a fabulous mother to Ingrid, wife to Nathan, and daughter to us.  She is an associate college professor, a magnificent artist, and a good person, in general.  She is the type of daughter others can only dream of having.   I am so grateful for every minute I can spend with her.

Happy, happy birthday, with love, Sarah-Lynda.

Guilt Over Happiness


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Yesterday, I read a Facebook post by a friend, who was expressing how she doesn’t feel she has a right to feel happiness in the face of all this darkness that our country (and the world) is currently facing…from the hurricanes, to the forest fires, to the racist idiot in the White House, the violence, and now, this horrible DACA thing.

I try to think of something to say that is upbeat or positive….like how much I have to be grateful for….because I do….or “Ooo! Doesn’t this food look good!”…but I think about those people in Houston.  I think about the 800,000 innocents who will be adversely effected by what just went down with DACA.  I think about my friend in Canada, who has been evacuated from her home, and another one who is fighting for custody of her children in a terrible divorce, and someone else, who is under a barrage of criticism, violence and unhappiness…and on and on….and it is so hard to smile.

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The stress from all of this, leaves me longing for a break from it all…but hey. I can’t even go out for a walk, because the air is filled with smoke, and it’s not safe. (Yeah, I know. Poor me. Right?  Wrong. ) However, I am fundamentally happy, and have so much to be grateful for….yet, I feel guilty during these times, whenever I feel this happiness.  It’s like, there are so many people out there who have it worse off than I do. What gives me the right to smile?

Then, I have to ask myself, what good that guilt does.  How does it help, in any way?  The answer is:  It doesn’t.   In order to feed positive energy into the world, when we have the opportunity, we should dance and sing and revel in order to bring that positive energy home to be shared with others.

My friend pointed out that perhaps all this is happening because the universe is jolting us awake to learn love and compassion for mother earth and all her sentient beings.  With regard to the heaviness of empathy and grief, Ram Dass recommends the luggage method…..Just pick it up, then put it down, pick it up, then set it down….so that we can stay present without any denial or clinging.  In other words, one must discover how to be happy AND sad at the same time, in order to stay sane and well balanced.

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Each day, I try to do what I can to affect good.  I can’t move mountains, but I can do little things….important things….whether it is to comfort my best friend in his time of need, or to listen to my little grandchild tell me about her day, or to cook something healthful for my ailing husband to eat.    I give what I can, and try to be the best person that I can be….and in the end….it does matter.  My being in a good place does not diminish those who are not in a good place.  My heart goes out to them all.

The Rae Gordon Band


We went to hear the Rae Gordon band last weekend.  Just as I was about to request one of my all-time favorite songs, the band played the opening notes of it, and I flipped out. What a great rendition of a classic song.  I have no negative associations with this song. In other words, the lyrics don’t apply to me, since no one has “left me behind,”….but the music itself really sings to my heart.

I hope you love this as much as I do!   (WordPress is being wonky today.  Can you please comment and let me know whether or not you can hear it?  Thakns.)

Happy Birthday to Ingrid Neko Kesswood!


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8 years ago today, we were blessed with the birth of our darling Ingrid.  I spoke to her on the phone earlier, and she is absolutely high on life. I have never met a happier child.

We will be celebrating this afternoon, and have lots of surprises ready for her.

I am so grateful for this child, for my awesome family, for my best friend, and for all of my friends in general .  My life is a simple and good one, that is filled with love.

Ingrid contributes to this mix in the most delightful way.  I learn something new from her every time I see her.   I fully understand how lucky I am.

Happy birthday, precious Ingrid.  I am so happy that you are a part of my life.

“Both sides” did NOT start the Charlottesville Riots!


From someone who was there, as a medic. Don’t want to hear any more about it being two sided.
From a (verified) source who was on the ground at Charlottesville.  Please link to this and/or share it with everyone you know.  This is important information.

I rarely post politics or anything else on Facebook …. But let me be clear. I was acting as a medic in Charlottesville. “Both sides”-ing about it is absolutely unacceptable. Content note: I’m going to get quite graphic here, because while I understand that there’s quite a range of political viewpoints among my Facebook friends, I want to *get this point through to everyone whatever your politics*.
In the run-up to that weekend, some local counterprotest organizers’ families were forced to flee their homes because of violent threats. Some of them had “bodyguards” – friends escorting them everywhere they went that week, even to the grocery store, work, all the mundane places that people go in their normal lives.
On Friday night, a torch-wielding mob chanting Nazi and other racist slogans (e.g. “blood and soil,” “Jews will not replace us”), some doing Nazi salutes, surrounded, screamed “White lives matter” and “anti-white” at, a small group of college student counterprotesters who had linked arms around a statue and had a banner. They then threw fuel at them, beat them with lit torches, pepper-sprayed them, and punched them (including pepper-spraying a girl in a wheelchair). The police mostly stood by until the nazis were gone. A medic who was wearing a kippah (a Jewish skullcap) was followed in the dark by one of the nazis, and took it off after that so as not to be targeted. A university librarian who joined the students to try to protect them has now had a stroke. At some point that evening, the torch-wielders also surrounded a black church while chanting racist slogans. All of this not only hurt people that night but set expectations for how the white nationalists would behave the next day.
On Saturday morning, a line of clergy, along with a gradually growing group of other protesters, showed up outside the nazi rally (given the iconography, including swastikas, the Black Sun, and fasces, and the chants, of involved groups, I don’t have a problem using that word, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking these were mainstream conservative groups that are being described hyperbolically), facing militia movement members who were carrying assault rifles. There was shouting back and forth, and a small early fistfight where a nazi punched a nearby counterprotester who spilled coffee on him. Nazis were screaming antisemitic things at rabbis in the clergy line, and chanting “blood and soil” in response to the clergy singing “This little light of mine.” At one point, some clergy did a peaceful blockade of one of the park entrances, which was forcibly broken by an incoming white nationalist group with skulls painted on their shields.
The heavy bidirectional fighting, though, mostly got going after a group of counterprotesters nonviolently blocked the way of an oncoming group of white nationalists, who broke through the blockade with clubs and heavy shields. Some people defended themselves as the white nationalists kept charging and swinging clubs. After that, there were fistfights and club-fights breaking out all around, nazis pepper-spraying and tear-gassing counterprotest crowds, plastic water bottles thrown in both directions. A nazi group that didn’t know where the entrance to the park was added to the street fights.
Some clergy ran to shield vulnerable people with their bodies, and those clergy were protected by antifa-associated counterprotesters – multiple clergy/theologians have said that they would have been “crushed” and maybe killed if antifa had not protected them. This went on for a long time. For most of this, the police stood around. Eventually, they cleared both sides out of the area.
The town’s synagogue is a short distance from the park. Throughout the day, nazis paraded by it doing the Nazi salute and shouting antisemitic slurs. The police had refused to provide a guard to the synagogue for some reason, so it had hired its own armed guard. There were threats of burning it down coming in. It had to cancel a havdalah service at a congregant’s house that evening out of fear of attack.
The march that was attacked with a car by James Fields was that afternoon. What street fighting had happened was long-since over by then. It was a happy march, it was not fighting anyone. The car attack came out of nowhere and the aftermath looked like a war zone. It hit the front of the march as the march was going around a corner, and many people weren’t sure what had happened at first, people were screaming about a bomb. In addition to the woman who died, many people had serious injuries. A medic who was hit had to have emergency surgery to not lose her leg. A 13 year-old girl and her mom were among the injured. The street was covered in blood. The firefighters and paramedics were great. The police, on the other hand, rolled in an armored vehicle and threatened the crowd of survivors with a tear gas launcher. Police officers ordered the medics who were performing CPR on the woman who died to leave her and clear the area. They refused, and bystanders negotiated with the police to leave them alone.
There were several other incidents throughout the afternoon where white nationalists/nazis/whatever were menacing small groups of wandering counterprotesters with their cars, swerving toward them on the sidewalk like they were going to hit them, that kind of thing, including after the car attack. At one point my medic buddy and I were about 50 feet ahead of such a group and heard screeching car sounds and screams, and ran back, thinking for a second that there had been another terrorist attack and that this time we were the only medics on site, but fortunately it was just a scare – the driver then “rolled coal” (intentionally emitting a dark cloud of exhaust) at the people on the sidewalk before driving away. There was also an incident at some point where a young black man was badly beaten by white nationalists in a parking garage.
There is no “both sides” here. I mean, first of all, there is no moral both sides because antifascists and nazis aren’t morally the same, period. Disrupting nazis isn’t the same as being one, period. But there was also no “both sides” even beyond that. Mutual street fighting primarily kicked off by an attack from the opposing side, doesn’t compare to mowing people down with a car, to threatening a synagogue and a black church, to stalking someone for being visibly Jewish, to being part of a Nazi-slogan-screaming mob that surrounds and attacks peaceful college kids and could have easily killed one of them if the fuel thrown on a couple of them had been lit by one of the many thrown or swung torches.
Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking the Saturday rally was starting out just a rally like others, but with racist assholes.
The people organizing counterprotests, whose families had to flee town, would probably take issue with that. The black church and the synagogue, the synagogue congregant who had to cancel a religious/cultural ceremony out of fear, and the ones who had to leave the building in groups out the back entrance to avoid attack, would probably take issue with that. The people who were physically attacked, on Friday night, by those in town for the Saturday rally, would probably take issue with that.
Don’t elide the difference in the questions of whether hate speech should be criminalized, and how communities and their supporters should protect themselves when people who are already threatening to kill them roll into town to rally and then physically attack community members before their rally while the police don’t stop it. Don’t invoke the Civil Rights Movement to elide it, or tsk-tsk people who were on the ground in Cville. The Civil Rights Movement had its Deacons for Defense and Justice, and similar groups. Just as importantly, many of the leading lights of the Civil Rights Movement were murdered. If you think the only valid kind of activism in response to racist hate is martyrdom, you need to at least think through the implications of that belief.
I did not have a good weekend and I have no interest in hearing comments about how, despite everything I saw and everything I said here, you think this is a “both sides” thing.

trump’s Divide and Conquer Strategy



From Social Good:

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donald trump is using a classic “divide and conquer” strategy to gain and maintain power. Here’s how it works.

The strategy of “divide and conquer,” is as old as conflict itself. Basically, it says that if you want to conquer a group of people, you don’t want to fight them head on.  Instead, you want to create division and distrust within that group.

The goal is to separate the enemy into factions that are not strong enough on their on.  For instance, if you don’t want the media and the public to unite against you, you can turn them against one another by calling the media “FAKE NEWS,” and an “ENEMY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.”    Some people will agree. Others won’t.  But the point is that everyone will be forced to choose a side. ….and regardless of which side is chosen, the result is a fractured environment that only benefits one person.

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You can see this strategy at work in some of trump’s cabinet picks.  He picked a guy wo doesn’t believe humans are the main cause of climate control to lead the EPA.  Now the EPA is fractured and cannot unite against him.  He picked a woman with no background in education to head the Department of Education.  Now, that department is fractured and cannot unite against him.    Even in his own inner circle, trump surrounds himself with people who constantly fight with each other.

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trump has reportedly said that this is to prevent any single aide from gaining too much power.  As a bonus, this “divide and conquer” strategy gives his base an eternal enemy to fight against.  As long as trump keeps his base distracted with conflict, they won’t notice how badly he is screwing them over.

Remember.  The biggest threat to authoritarianism is unity.  Ultimately, we’re all in the same boat, so don’t let yourself get labeled and separated into a category. No group is 100% good or 100% bad.  We live in a country where Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart can co-exist peacefully.  Surely we can bet along with one another.    Only one person benefits from a divide and conquer country, and that’s not you nor I.

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Conspiracy Theorists. Aren’t They Just Delightful?


The election of donald j. trump has brought the conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork like never before.  After all, the man LOVES the uneducated.  He said so himself, and conspiracy theories are those theories that are not based in fact.  They are not based on scientific evidence.  They are not even based on common sense.  They are cooked up stories based on literally nothing, and their proponents claim that they “resonate” with them or that they are “spiritually based” or other reasons, and they vehemently believe them.

Most roots of conspiracy theories stem from prejudice, whether it is racial discrimination, sexual discrimination or other redneck, uneducated beliefs.

I found this commentary on conspiracy theorists on Scientific American, and wanted to share it with you, because this seems to cover the subject very well.   However, first, I want to bring attention to an excellent book on the topic of people who believe conspiracy theories.  It is called Empire of Conspiracy by Tim Melley.

Melley seeks to explain why conspiracy theories and paranoia have become so pervasive in American culture in recent decades. He discusses some of the paranoia behind our obsessions with political assassinations, gender and race relations, stalkers, mind control, bureaucracies, and the power of corporations and governments.

Melley proposes that conspiracy thinking arises from a combination of two factors, when someone: 1) holds strong individualist values and 2) lacks a sense of control. The first attribute refers to people who care deeply about an individual’s right to make their own choices and direct their own lives without interference or obligations to a larger system (like the government). But combine this with a sense of powerlessness in one’s own life, and you get what Melley calls agency panic, “intense anxiety about an apparent loss of autonomy” to outside forces or regulators.

When fervent individualists feel that they cannot exercise their independence, they experience a crisis and assume that larger forces are to blame for usurping this freedom. “For one who refuses to relinquish the assumptions of liberal individualism, such newly revealed forms of regulation frequently seem so unacceptable or unbelievable that they can only be met with anxiety, melodrama, or panic.”

Research by psychologist Jean Twenge is consistent with his hypotheses. Twenge’s research examines how Americans’ personality traits have been changing over the past several decades. She reviews the results of hundreds of studies published from the 1960s through the end of the century, looking at the personality scores for each year. For example, she finds that trait anxiety (or neuroticism) has been rising dramatically in both children and adults over this period.

In another study, she shows that people have come to hold an increasingly stronger external “locus of control”; this refers to the feeling that external forces are determining what happens to you, as opposed to an internal locus of control, the feeling that you dictate your own outcomes. Twenge suggests that the stronger external locus of control reflects our ever-increasing exposure to uncontrollable events and a rise in the “victim mentality” of our culture. (Is this sounding familiar?)

Individualistic values have also been getting stronger in our culture, with greater importance attached to personal freedoms and self-reliance. The U.S. currently ranks highest in individualism compared to all other nations in the world.

The rise in anxiety, individualism, and external locus of control may therefore underlie the rise in conspiracy thinking. This is somewhat troubling because these personality trends show no sign of leveling off. In fact, given the current pace of globalization and the “Americanization” of other countries, it seems likely that these personality traits (and conspiracy thinking) will be increasing elsewhere too.

But what’s the actual appeal of believing in conspiracy theories? What purpose do they serve people?

For one thing, conspiracy theories help us cope with distressing events and make sense out of them. Conspiracies assure us that bad things don’t just happen randomly. Conspiracies tell us that someone out there is accountable, however unwittingly or secretly or incomprehensibly, so it’s possible to stop these people and punish them and in due course let everyone else re-establish control over their own lives. Conspiracies also remind us that we shouldn’t blame ourselves for our predicaments; it’s not our fault, it’s them! In these ways, believing in conspiracies serves many of the same self-protective functions as scapegoating.

In addition to the changes in personality, conspiracy theories are also growing more popular because of the mass media, which circulates these ideas to a wider audience and indoctrinates more believers. Plus, the sheer amount of information in today’s media increases the odds that someone will detect “coincidences” or “patterns” that serve to fuel these beliefs. These trends in the media won’t be reversing themselves anytime soon either.

Does all this mean we should expect even more conspiracy theorizing and paranoia to come? Will conspiracy theories ever become a dominant ideology in our culture the way scapegoating sometimes is in other cultures?

It’s not clear whether we’ve reached any sort of tipping point yet. But if polls are any indication, the events of 9/11 may have transformed conspiracy theories from “implausible visions of a lunatic fringe” to a mainstream response to the most disturbing of events.

Here is the Scientific American article that I referred to earlier:

By Caitlin Shure on September 1, 2013

Scientific American

Credit: Flickr/Upside of Inertia

Conspiracy theories and scientific theories attempt to explain the world around us. Both apply a filter of logic to the complexity of the universe, thereby transforming randomness into reason. Yet these two theoretical breeds differ in important ways. Scientific theories, by definition, must be falsifiable. That is, they must make reliable predictions about the world; and if those predictions turn out to be incorrect, the theory can be declared false. Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are tough to disprove. Their proponents can make the theories increasingly elaborate to accommodate new observations; and, ultimately, any information contradicting a conspiracy theory can be answered with, “Well sure, that’s what they want you to think.”

Despite their unfalsifiable nature, conspiracy theories attract significant followings. Not all theorists, it seems, hold their “truths” to the standards of conventional science. And scientists are beginning to understand the types of personalities that buy into more extreme and unlikely theories. Research reveals that conspiracy theorists tend to share a core set of traits, regardless of their conspiracy of choice. Low self-esteem, for example, may characterize both those who believe that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and those who think that Britain’s royal family consists of reptilian aliens.

For a more in-depth account, see “What a Hoax” by Sander van der Linden in the September/October issue of Scientific American MIND.


Credit: Courtesy of Jez Elliot

The theory:
Some or all of the claims made in Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, are true.

Studies say:
Even theories billed as fiction can attract a following. A survey conducted in 2005 revealed that 64 percent of respondents who read The Da Vinci Code believed to some extent that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had spawned a secret bloodline. Willingness to believe in this conspiracy may be related to what researchers call “terror management theory,” which holds that subscribing to such grand dogma can assuage fears related to mortality. Indeed, a 2011 study found an association between belief in Da Vinci-esque conspiracies and anxiety about death.


Credit: Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Harris & Ewing Collection Collection

The theory:
The disappearance of aviators Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan has bred an array of conspiracy theories ranging from the optimistic (Earhart survived and lived in New Jersey until 1982) to the extraterrestrial (the duo was abducted by aliens).

Studies say:
In a study of 914 adults in London, University of Westminster’s Viren Swami andAdrian Furnham of University College London found that 4.5 percent of respondents espoused an alien abduction theory, 5.5 percent believed the two were spies taken down by the Japanese, and only 32 percent endorsed a relatively undramatic account that the plane crashed into the Pacific after running out of gas. Further, researchers found that respondents who believed in Earhart conspiracy theories had lower self-esteem, were more likely to be cynical toward politics, were less agreeable and gave themselves lower ratings of intelligence.



Credit: Courtesy of diking

The theory:
Numerous outlandish narratives exist surrounding the events of September 11, 2001. In many of these stories, the U.S. government knew about the attacks ahead of time; in some, they even helped orchestrate the tragedy.

Studies say:
A second study by Viren Swami and colleagues found that belief in a 9/11 conspiracy was associated with political cynicism and a general tendency toward believing in conspiracies. This latter finding supports what psychologists call a “monological belief system,” in which any and all events can be explained by a web of interconnected conspiracies.


Credit: Courtesy of Michael Irving

The theory:
HIV was created by government-funded scientists as a bioweapon to extinguish certain minority populations.

Studies say:
Conspiracy theories can sometimes arise as a means of making sense of an otherwise senseless tragedy. In this way, theories about the HIV epidemic may help people cope with fear of the virus or the passing of loved ones afflicted by disease-related illness. Though assigning blame may be therapeutic to some people, such attribution has been linked with risky sexual behavior, negative attitudes about medication and lower treatment adherence among those infected with the disease.

DIANA and OSAMA (and 2Pac and ELVIS)

Credit: Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Exit Art’s “Reactions” Exhibition Collection

The theory:
Osama bin Laden was dead prior to the U.S. raid on his compound. Also, he is still alive.

Studies say:
A study in 2012 by Michael J. Wood and his colleagues at the University of Kent found that those who believed Bin Laden was dead prior to American intervention are more likely to believe he’s currently alive. Similarly, authors found that those who think Princess Diana faked her death are more likely to believe she was murdered. So, which is it? Dead or alive? Research suggests that such contradictory narratives are linked by an underlying distrust of authority. Among conspiracy theorists, it seems, this suspicion is strong enough to overpower traditional life-death logic.


Credit: Courtesy of Kathryn Hansen/NASA

The theory:
Scientists are not to be trusted. The 1969 moon landing was produced on a Hollywood movie set. And global warming is a conspiracy between the government and scientists to achieve world domination.

Studies say:
Polls estimate that anywhere from 6 to 25 percent of the general population believes the moon landing was faked, and 37 percent of Americans suspect global warming is a hoax. Although theories of earth and moon seem worlds apart, they are linked by a general rejection of science wherein distrust of one scientific claim predicts distrust of others.  Researchers have found, for example, that people who reject climate science are also more likely to reject evidence that smoking causes cancer. But that’s just, y’know, according to science, and who believes that stuff, anyway?

Charlie Zero – A Poet for Our Times


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There is nothing typical about 31 year old contemporary poet, Charlie Zero. From L.A,  the young artist has been composing stream of conscientiousness poetry for 17 years.   I have a special relationship with Charlie.  He calls me “MoM” and I call him “Sonny boy” or “son.”  We are as alike as we are different.

Charlie’s work resonated with me early on, and for a good reason. He is influenced by some of the historical  literary and music figures that I admire most….William Boroughs, William Gibson, Allen Ginsberg, Fredereck Nitche, Captain Beefheart, to name a few….. He also cites Stanley Kubric,  and French film and theatre director, screenwriter, playwright, actor, author, poet, producer, composer, musician, comics writer, and spiritual guru, Alejandro Jodorowsky as influences, and also specific musical influences, such as jazz as being influential.

He attributes three primary factors to shaping his current work:

  1.    Dream sequences
  2.    The current state of the world
  3.    A sense of heightened paranoia

In addressing his poetry, Charlie uses what he refers to as the “cut up technique,” or, as it is known in French, the découpé literary method in which a stream of thought or literary work is cut up and rearranged to create an entirely new piece of work. I use a similar technique in my painting, at times, when I cut up the work of a famous artist, and reclaim it as my own composition.

Charlie is attracted to the odd and unusual, and with his work, seeks a sense of hope and safety. He is currently working on his second book of poetry.  His first book is entitled, “The Robot Dream; Inside a Plastic Soul.”

Without further adieu, here is some of Charlie’s awesome work.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, because to me, this is an exceptional young man who has something profound to express.

Gandalf’s Lesbian Fettuccine


Two hobbits one cup
let it play in –
like 5 nuns licking
a punching bag.
And Mona Lisa
shreds her version
of vagina fettuccine.

Westboro Baptist Church
your comical inventions
puts Kirk Cameron
on family feud.
You guys make holiness
feel gonorrhea & Coca cola.

Bob hope would pee
in his speedos –
if he’d found out
Frodo Baggins
was a lesbian pudding
filing for chapter 13 in bankruptcy.

Brad Pitt, you we’re right.
Antiperspirant leads to prostitution.
Take some advice
from Gandalf.
He shook hands with Bill Cosby
the king of Oscar Mayer Wieners.
Doesn’t that mean Whoopi Goldberg to you?
No, it doesn’t…
but if you sell me athlete’s foot
for $5 bucks, will call it ‘lee van cleef’, deal.

All Rights Reserved – 2017

Charlie Zero the Poet

Absurd Stories from the Talking Diarrhea


President Diarrhea speaks:

My fellow ohhhmericans…

We the pimple
face the greatest threat of all –
enchiladas & victoria secret
If you want to cook lingerie
I suggest seasoning it
with sex appeal & anemic,
the darker we cook it,
the more succulent discoveries
of the big bang nostrils taste.

Health care coverage –
sponsors eat less
& gluten later.
Gucci & Calvin Klein
They demand sexy
to be the next casket.

Pimple of planet girth
your Eiffel Tower shafts
grow veiny & hard
try “Joe Pesci’s”, prophylactic
the best #1 doctor recommended.

Protects against:
Soy yogurt, Tofu,
Seitan, Chickpeas,
Cashews, Brown rice,
Quinoa, Multigrain pasta,
Dry broth, Sun-dried tomatoes,
Flax seeds, & Nutritional yeast…

Be patient hombre’s
hold on to your mac & cheez
Al Qaeda’s got the beans burning.

Purging disorder,
look around you
replicas compete
with one another.

Michael Kors
eat me,
buy me.

The sucked face assholes
of ohhhmerica –
should Botox their nut sacks
and illegalize Panda express.

Don’t even get me started on the bible.
The worst science fiction
since Neil Armstrong
took Viagra mistaking it for penicillin.
You see the problem folks: Listerine power to your prejudice.

[Note: This poem is NOT about ‘Trump’. In fact – its my own world of  ‘ohhhmerica’, and how I’d like to see it one day –
society speaking in weird manner towards one another
and its consumerism of absurdity.]

Vervain Earthlings


Apotheosis tyro,
you see its abscissa;
forming into a sapient.
Vervain jeers at dots
with guile and immure.

frailty intuit,
despair of organisms.
varmint hod,
rumple sinew debunks somehow.

Extraterrestrials piss
out a gooey homunculus
featherlike albatross mutant.
Its glass hollow teeth
a crystal ball of futureless seems.

Permanent measles…
Sorry, hot blind stitch.
Unwind, you circle-mill hue –
crack the smoother invite the few.

Copyright © 2017 Charlie Zero the Poet

All rights Reserved.


Eaten by Eros Whispering Remains


Time chewer
whispers untying,
eaten by eros
love maids’ seduce turbulence.

Dolphin’s breath
edits the pine gods.
ebony celiac,
the horrific ones
pleased unperceived.

Crocodiles & vipers
inhale the mushroom.
Its profound colloquial –
remains a loud staid
endangered glimmer.

Gruesome cream
and coda cork.
Cumulonimbus carcass,
devils brothel
mosque in revelry,
escort biohazard –
you now, manufacture spirit.

Thespian whirlwind
shadows blue pig dire.
A smite emit fling;
this antifreeze can’t think.


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Zero the Poet

All rights Reserved.


For more examples of Charlie Zero’s poetry, please visit his website.    CLICK HERE

My Husband’s Play

“Castle Happy” Recreates Hollywood Party, at Altarena Playhouse, Alameda

My husband’s play, “Castle Happy,” which he wrote with composer, Jeff Dunn, opened in the Bay Area last week and has been sold out for every show!  Two days ago, the first reviews came out which I am posting below for you to get a feel for what the play is like:

“Castle Happy” Recreates Hollywood Party, at Altarena Playhouse, Alameda

Dunn & Freed Score Scandalous Musical Intrigue

by Robert M. Gardner

“Castle Happy” provides us with many happy moments as we meet William Randolph Hearst (skilled Leland Morine) whose excellent baritone brings power and gravitas to Hearst’s character. He is paired with the wonderful Cindy Head, who plays Hearst’s mistress, the vivacious Marion Davies.

Cindy Head as Marion Davies. ACT OUT Photography by Jim Norrena.

The beautiful 1930s costumes showcase the exquisite sense of style of  Director Clay David, who is also the Costume Designer. The set is bare, with only a black box for seating, standing, and singing—in front of a small stage with a grand piano. The simplicity makes us focus on the actors and their singing, as we are swept up in the machinations of an elite weekend at Hearst Castle at San Simeon.

Hearst and Davies are joined by their famous guests, glamorous Bette Davis (outstanding Kim Schroeder Long) and her romantic interest Errol Flynn (debonair Nathaniel Rothrock). Flynn is openly flirtatious with everyone who enters, without reference to age or gender.

Cindy Head as Marion Davies. Photos by ACT OUT/Jim Norrena.

The long-suffering Bette Davis expresses her dissatisfaction with Flynn in my favorite song of the night, “Something’s Strange Here / I’ll Never Show the Pain,” sung with Hearst and Davies. Schroeder Long just completed a very successful run as Rosemary Clooney in “Tenderly, The Rosemary Clooney Musical.” She is delighted to recreate another Hollywood luminary with her depiction of Bette Davis.

Cindy Head (Marion Davies) & Leland Morine (W.R. Hearst)

The opening piano piece played by the talented Kim Rankin gives the audience a wonderful introduction into the mind of composer Jeff Dunn. I was transfixed by the piece and believe it deserves a broader treatment in another setting. It is an intricate, sophisticated composition that transports the listener and surprises and delights at several junctures.

The show opens with Arthur Lake (the dynamic Stephen Kanaski), an aspiring movie actor, arriving by train. He wonders what he is doing there, as he sings “Lost in the Fog.” Kanaski sparkles like an early Jimmy Cagney, clicking his heels and doing a little dance. Lake finds a romantic interest in the captivating teenager Patricia Van Cleve (up and coming Autumn Allee). Their duets are sweet and endearing.

Steven Kanaski (Arthur Lake) & Autumn Allee (Patricia Van Cleve)

We laugh and chuckle at the antics and machinations of these fabled Hollywood legends. The musical suffers from a bit too much story, which often leaves some songs indistinct and the action a bit disjointed. In his opening remarks, lyricist Jeff Dunn explained that playwright John Freed and he were still making changes.

Clay David’s solid, sparking directing adds “Castle Happy” to his long line of hits. The fast pace, the enthusiastic acting, the spiffy period costumes, and the brilliant comic timing clearly emanate from Clay David’s sure hand. “Castle Happy” chronicles an extravagant time that has many parallels to the present. I recommend that you catch the train for the next performance of “Castle Happy.”


“Castle Happy” by John Freed and Jeff Dunn, directed by Clay David, at Altarena Playhouse, Alameda, California, through Sunday, July 30, 2017. Info:

Cast: Kim Rankin, Stephen Kanaski, Ben Brady, Kim Schroeder Long, Nathaniel Rothrock, Maria Caycedo, Rebecca Euchler, Autumn Allee, Cindy Head, and Leland Morine.

Reno, Tahoe… One More Time


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Me, with my partner in crime at The Braiserie in Reno.  Photo credit:  Kat Wilson

We have just returned from one of the best trips we’ve ever made to Reno and Tahoe.  The video is our friend, Kat Wilson, who invited us to Truckee for dinner with her and our other friends, and then to listen to her band, Arizona Jones, which provided an outstanding evening of entertainment.   We danced until we closed the place down.  Then everyone came over to our Tahoe place for a great evening of fellowship, food and laughter.

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My made up sista wife, Kat,  with the non-made up me, enjoying a happy evening with the gang.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…..Let me back up and start with Reno….

We ate at some new (for us) restaurants, joined by various friends, and we joined Kat and her boyfriend, Len, for a second dinner that was also spectacular.

One of the places we tried was the Napa Bistro, upstairs, at the Atlantis Casino.

The food at this restaurant was outstanding, and the service was even better.  We had a great visit with a guy who is attending helicopter school here in Portland, and made plans to hook up with him later.

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I had an excellent marinaded portobello mushroom with polenta.  John had the flatbread pizza.  My husband went over the top and bought us a bottle of  Krug, Clos du Mesnil (2000), which we shared.  We rarely splurge to that extent, but we were on holiday after working very hard through the winter so why not?  We thoroughly enjoyed it, and had such a nice, romantic lunch together.

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We had little shot glass desserts…pies….and then the waiter brought cotton candy on a plate.  Stop!  Too much sugar!!! But fun, nonetheless.


One night, I cooked a nice Mexican dinner for my friend, Patti Hazeltine and her boyfriend, Mark.  After we ate, we all went downstairs and played pool.  Patti beat us all.  She’s good!

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Upon a friend’s recommendation, we went to a tiny nearby bar called, “The Point” where we ended up hanging out with the band, consisting of Joe, Doug and Paul, AKA “The Kindred Souls.”  Went back to hear them a second time on our way out of town.  Really had a nice time.

We also went to the Nevada Art Museum, where we saw a Burningman retrospective, and an exhibit by Ugo Rondinone, a collection of Maynard Dixon’s work and a Mexican collection of modern and contemporary work.  After shooting dozens of photos, I discovered that I had left the memory card out of my camera, so no evidence of the visit.  🙂 Both of us love that museum, though.  It is small and intimate, and excellently curated.  We go there every time we visit Reno.

After a couple of days in Reno, we headed up to the Tahoe house.

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This is a gorgeous house situated up in the hills at Carnelian Bay.  The deck sits at treetop level, and it is a perfect place just to bask in nature and relax.  I spent a good deal of time cooking, taking walks, visiting with friends, spending time with John , and doing other things that I love.

My friend CalLing came down from California, as did my Santa Cruz friend, Linda, and her son, Brandon.  Sutton, Kat, Len, Debbie…..the whole gang came out off and on, and we had some laughs, passed the time together, and generally had a great time.

Tahoe water levels were abnormally high, and the water was a spectacular blue.

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We explored restaurants at the lake that we had not been to before. We went on hikes, meditated.   It was all grand, and the time passed too quickly.  I always leave part of my heart there when we leave….as I did this time as well.


More to come….


Hi Folks,

I’ve been in Reno and at Lake Tahoe, having an awesome time with our friends there, and haven’t had the opportunity to update.  Coming soon, is a photo essay of the time we spent there, and also an article about contemporary US poet, Charlie Zero, who I interviewed before we left.

Just hang tight.  Will return soon with all that and more.



What are the Best Supplements for Fibromyalgia?


The following article come from, Dr. Michael Greger.  Sign up on the website to receive the latest in nutritional news and research updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Fibromyalgia is one of the most common joint and muscle diseases, affecting millions of Americans, characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, and often accompanied by other symptoms, such as fatigue. The medical profession used to think it was all in people’s heads, “but today there is irrefutable evidence” that it is, indeed, a disorder of the body and not just the mind.

Back in 2003, an influential paper was published out of the Mayo Clinic, in which a shocking 93% of fibromyalgia-type patients were found to be vitamin D deficient; and so, they concluded that all such patients are at high risk of severe vitamin D deficiency. But wait a second, said the skeptics, there was no control group. Where’s the Mayo Clinic located? Minnesota. Maybe 90% of everyone in Minnesota is D deficient.

When controlled studies were done, some did, indeed, find that those suffering from these kinds of pain syndromes were significantly more likely to be D deficient, but other studies did not. Even if all the studies did, though, that doesn’t mean that low vitamin D levels cause fibromyalgia. Maybe, chronic widespread pain disorders, like fibromyalgia, cause low vitamin D. It’s the sunshine vitamin, after all, and fibromyalgia patients may not be running around outside as much as healthy controls. To know if vitamin D is contributing to the disease, you have to put it to the test.

Studies like this found that the majority of those with pain syndromes and low D levels appeared to benefit from vitamin D supplementation. Clinical improvement in up to 90% of patients. (You can imagine how rife vitamin D deficiency is among Arab women in the Middle East.) But these studies weren’t controlled either. Maybe they would have gotten better on their own without the supplements, or maybe it was the placebo effect? There are many examples in the medical literature of treatments that looked great in uncontrolled trials, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy for multiple sclerosis, but when put to the test in randomized controlled trials, they failed miserably.

And, that’s what seemed to happen in the first randomized controlled trial of vitamin D for a fibromyalgia-type syndrome in 2008. No significant difference in pain scores, though the study only lasted three months, and in that time, the treatment was only able to get the vitamin D blood levels up to about 30. Unfortunately, no controlled study had ever been done pushing levels any higher, until 2014. Fibromyalgia patients were given up to 2400 units of D a day for 20 weeks; and their D levels rose up to about 50 and then, once they stopped the vitamin D, levels came back down to match the placebo. That was reflected in their pain scores, a significant drop in pain severity while they were on the D and then, back to baseline when they came off of it. The researchers concluded “that this economical—[in fact, over-the-counter]—therapy with a low side effect profile may well be considered in patients with [fibromyalgia syndrome.]”


Sources Cited: