Put it to the test; leave a king entirely alone quite at leisure, with nothing to satisfy his senses, no care to occupy the mind, with complete leisure to think about himself, and you will see that a king without diversion is a very wretched man. Therefore such a thing is carefully avoided, and the persons of kings are invariably attended by a great number of people concerned to see that diversion comes after affairs of state, watching over their leisure hours to provide pleasures and sport so that there should never be an empty moment. In other words they are surrounded by people who are incredibly careful to see that the king should never be alone and able to think about himself, because they know that, king though he is, he will be miserable if he does think about it.

from Pascal’s Pensées, quoted by Laszlo Foldenyi in his book about melancholy, quoted by Dan Wang!

Mama Irene Mural

The street art in my neighborhood is good.

There’s always something wild at the Taschen store.

This one I walk by all the time, and I got to wondering, who is Mama Irene?

Some local Latina community leader?  Is she wearing gardening clothes?  A pioneering urban farmer?

Seen here with my colleague Ted for scale:

Turns out, this is the mother of EDM impresario and Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella:


The mural was unveiled after Mama Irene’s funeral at nearby Hollywood Forever cemetery.  It was commissioned by Kaskade.

Raddon is married and has three children. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[30]

Mystery of the Joshua Tree Missing Hikers

Early on Thursday, July 27, these two people entered Joshua Tree National Park.

At 4:50 pm that day, there was a ping from the guy’s cell phone that put them in the park.

That was a darn hot day in the park:

On Friday, July 28, says The Hi Desert Star, the person who took care of the Air BnB where they were supposed to be checked out found their stuff.  So they started a search.

Their car was found near the Maze Loop trailhead, one of the closest trails to the West Entrance of the park:

With terrain:


Here it is on Tom Harrison’s map:

For perspective, here is the whole park, which is, in our nation’s tiredest comparison, almost as big as Rhode Island:

All the more tragic to think these folks weren’t too far from a road.  The Maze Loop looks like this:

It’s trippy and weird and spooky and cool:

The trail is pretty well marked but it’s easy to get lost if it’s a hundred degrees and you’re out of water.

All day that Saturday, July 29, there were helicopters over the park.

Walking along the northern edge of the park that evening I ran into a search and rescue team, who told me the troubling tale of the missing hikers. They had crossed up from the trailhead looking for these folks.  They’d found a water bottle, weren’t sure it was related.

There was strange weather in the desert around this time.  On Sunday July 30 a monsoon blew through:

An interesting detail that emerged, again from the Hi Desert Star, that the young man had been out to the park a few weeks before, on “a scouting trip,” with a friend who could now not be found because he was in Japan.

“Interesting,” I thought.

Perhaps someday they would be found alive like this lost couple.

Time passed.

The search was downgraded from “search and rescue” to “search and recovery.”

But the persistent searchers, including the missing man’s father, kept at it.

On Sunday, Oct. 15:

The cause of death was a twist: gunshot wounds.

A curious case.

The absolute source I would want to get on this story would be Desert Oracle, and wouldn’t you know it, Desert Oracle radio came in with a strong take.  Let me encourage you to listen to Desert Oracle, Episode 12, to which I award a spontaneous Helytimes Prize for Best Podcast Episode, California Division, 2017.

You can subscribe to Desert Oracle print quarterly here, and at $25, you’re crazy not to.

Water Dreaming at Kalipinya

Says the 2001 NYTimes obituary of painter Johnny Warangkua Tjupurrula:

He died a penniless alcoholic. In 1997 one of his paintings, ”Water Dreaming at Kalipinya,” which he had sold in 1972 for $75, changed hands at a Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne for $263,145, setting a record for any Aboriginal work of art. Mr. Tjupurrula’s request for 4 percent of the sale price was refused by both seller and buyer.

Not cool!  From a 2010 Smithsonian article by Arthur Lubow:

The Wilkersons’ costliest board was the 1972 painting Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa, a dazzling patchwork of stippled, dotted and crosshatched shapes, bought in 2000 for some $220,000—more than twice the price it had been auctioned for only three years earlier. The painting was done by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, an original member of the Papunya cooperative and one of its most celebrated. Sadly, the artist himself had long been overlooked; in 1997, an Australian journalist found Warangkula, by then old and homeless, sleeping along with other Aboriginal people in a dry riverbed near Alice Springs. Though he reportedly received less than $150 for his best-known painting, the publicity surrounding the 1997 sale revived his career somewhat and he soon resumed painting. Warangkula died in a nursing home in 2001.

Here’s his 1972 painting Potato Dreaming: