Going to LA

aqueduct
Click image to enlarge; thanks to John Fleck, via Rabett Run, for this beautiful graphic. Of course it reminds you that the city’s water – Chinatown and all that – is coming from desert rivers that don’t flow quite like they used to.

Some small costs of mafias

We went to Italy in the first half of August, partly to relax and see friends but mostly because Simona’s father had just died, and Leonardo needed to spend time with his nonna [grandmother]. Just before we went I read about a big mafia bust in Ostia, a town on the sea near Rome. Sicilian mafia families, it seems, pretty much run the streets in Ostia, wringing protection from businesses and controlling the allocation of beach umbrellas, as well as running guns, drugs and prostitutes. Things had been getting out of hand – somebody gunned down in the middle of Ostia, and too much mafia activity was moving into Rome itself – so some arrests were needed.

Simona’s mother was staying not far away, near the beach not far to the south-east of Ostia, north-west of Anzio. Simona and I hung around for a few days while Leonardo and Nonna settled into a new routine, without Nonno. After we paid for dinner one evening at a restaurant by the beach, I observed that Simona had not asked for a receipt, as she would have done in Rome. She’s always told me – I have never actually seen this happen – that the Guardia di Finanza might stop us as we came out of a restaurant and demand to see our receipt, to verify that our payment had been recorded for tax purposes. “There’s no need for a receipt here”, she said, “this is all mafia, all up and down this coast. The police Continue reading

A Season in the Congo


Congo, Lumumba, Mobutu… we all know the ending of this one, and appropriately the play is in a Brechtian mode: there are characters, but the tragedy is created by material interests – colonial mining interests (played by a chorus of puppets) and Cold War superpowers are Fates holding forth from opposing balconies. Character (flaws, virtues…) serves only to shape the roles the different people are given in the tragedy. With fine performances, singing, dancing, puppets and set, wonderfully in your face in the Young Vic. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the lead. Continue reading

Going to London for news of the US

For parts of my childhood on a sunny wooded hillside in California, we got our international news from this damp country where I now live, in the overseas weekly edition of what was then called the Manchester Guardian. We got that paper not because my parents had any connection to England – neither of them had even been there, or done any foreign travel at all other than my father’s time in the Pacific during the war. But it was still the depth of the Cold War and the escalation of the Vietnam war and the perspectives on international affairs published in US daily newspapers were, shall we say, limited. Hence the subscription.

So my breast wells warm with nostalgia to see in today’s Guardian that the US Army is blocking access to the Guardian on large parts of its network: the paper is still playing the same role of bringing in news that’s a bit hard to find at home.

Such a linear, ordered, minimalist …. purposeful graffito

Book him, Danno.

Anthony Cardenas was arrested by Vallejo police for felony vandalism. … Cardenas is in [jail] for painting one crosswalk and adding cross-hatching to the three official ones…. [jail] time, …. $15,000 bail …

Read from the whole story from David Edmondson at Vibrant Bay Area.

Zoe Heller award nominee

Zoe Heller’s book reviews are skillful, gleeful demolitions, and fun to read. Hence the title of this post, which has no other connection to Heller. This artilce by Afiya Shehrbano comes close to Heller’s standard, and does so in the difficult territory of polygamy, provoked into action by Jemima Khan’s recent BBC program.