Uncle Vanya, A New Version By Annie Baker

We were up in San Luis Obispo and took a walk to the campus of Cal Poly.

In the college bookstore, among the unsold textbooks, I found this and bought it:

Man, I felt like Keats looking into Chapman’s Homer reading this thing.  These lifeless translations can kill you when you take on foreign literature.  The bad translation can put you off a whole literature for the rest of your life.  In college I was supposed to read one of Chekhov’s plays.  Trying to save a couple bucks bought the Dover Thrift translation, which is probably worse than putting the Russian into Google Translate. (We didn’t have Google Translate then, children).

I KNEW something was wrong here.  There was something about Chekhov that moved people to tears, there was a reason theater people were still talking about Uncle Vanya.

You think this guy didn’t know what he was doing?

Well, anyway, in this Annie Baker edition, you can feel it.  The pain and the sadness and the funniness and the absurdity and the humanity of the whole situation.  Man.

Five stars. 

California Voter Suggestions


Look, Gavin Newsom and Villaraigosa are both kind of repulsive and uninspiring individuals.  (Savage takedown of Newsom).  Newsom will probably win which sucks.

John Chiang is a nerd who probably won’t win, but far as I can see he’s a man of integrity.  The LA Times main knock on him is that he didn’t suggest easy answers to everything and suggested he might think and reflect before making decisions.

A text from the Newsom campaign cheesed me off:

lol progressive agenda.  Homeboy’s ex wife is a Fox news personality who was almost Trump’s press secretary:

Texting with a friend about why on Earth LA Times endorsed sorry-ass Villaraigosa:

CHIANG for governor.  (There’s like 30 candidates).

I’ll miss Jerry Brown.


source: Nancy Wong on Wiki

At the last second, early voting, I went for Dianne Feinstein.  INSANE that we have an 86 year old Senator, I get primarying Lady D, but Kevin De Leon took money from Cadiz, an evil water company out in the desert that’s trying to drink our national preserve’s milkshake.

Dianne’s career has been at least a little heroic.


Believe Fiona Ma will join our fine tradition of state treasurers.  Well briefed on this one, plus I’ve followed her on Twitter for awhile and I admire how reasonable and boring she is!

Have we forgotten that boring, calm, careful, honest, reasonable, prudent, balanced, patient, informed, these are qualities we want in our elected officials?


very happy with my own congressman Adam Schiff, who believes in holding the executive branch accountable to the people. Seriously, even if you’re into Trump, ask what he’s done for your district.  The answer, spoiler alert, is nothing or worse.  (Have been happy with Schiff since a chipper and bright and positive young man from his office gave me, a constituent with a request, a tour of the Capitol in 2015.  All politics is local.)

For everything else I’m not well informed enough and deferred to LA Times:

though I kind of think it’s a cool move to vote NO on every ballot initiative as a kind of protest.

Hearing some love for Tony Thurmond for the supervisor of instruction.

Ridiculous that we have to vote for judges.  I hope Governor Chiang moves to make this an appointed office.  

Good luck to all the candidates, and I’m open to having my mind changed if you’re knowledgable!

UPDATE: Owen’s take:

A good citizen and a good man.

UPDATE: if I figure out how I will link to Kara Vallow’s thorough guide.  Here she is on the ballot measures:


Before we start with candidates, here’s a quick list on ballot measures.

68:  YES – $4.1 billion in state bonds for a variety of environmental and climate change needs, drought, flood protection, and coastal protection programs/what government is supposed to do.

69:  YES – Ensures certain new transportation revenues – based on a 2017 Jerry Brown law – be dedicated for transportation uses, rather than being diverted elsewhere when other budgetary needs are looking for pots of money.

70:  NO – Republicans dreamed this horrible bullshit up to be able to dictate cap and trade reserve fund uses post 2024.

71:  YES – The most significant measure on the June ballot. This constitutional amendment states that any law enacted by voters through a proposition only takes effect once the final votes are tallied statewide and the election is certified. Some shenanigans – you may remember – have taken place in the past with too-close-to-call races election night.

72:  YES – This is a drought measure that allows you to put a rain capture system on your house without incurring additional taxes when your home is assessed. Duh.

UPDATE: The comments are already lit with takes!

The Hockney thing at LACMA

is cool.  Eighty-two portraits in one room, creates a neat effect.  Worth a visit if you’re in the area. 


this lost hiker agreed to pose for a photograph

Geoff Manaugh gets it, writing about a 2010 disappearance in Joshua Tree in the NY Times:

The mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot once observed that the British coastline can never be fully mapped because the more closely you examine it — not just the bays, but the inlets within the bays, and the streams within the inlets — the longer the coast becomes. Although Joshua Tree comprises more than 1,200 square miles of desert with a clear and bounded border, its interior is a constantly changing landscape of hills, canyons, riverbeds, caves and alcoves large enough to hide a human from view. Solid canyon walls reveal themselves, on closer inspection, to be loose agglomerations of huge rocks, hiding crevasses as large as living rooms. The park is, in a sense, immeasurable.


luckily I was able to point him towards home

Love a turning point like this in someone’s life:

Marsland began drinking less, losing nearly 40 pounds as he reoriented his free time around this quest to find a stranger. “I crossed the line from being somebody who just sat in his room and passively participated in something to being actively involved,” he said. “It was a big moment for me, and it led to a lot of other good things happening in my life.”

A Confederate General from Big Sur by Richard Brautigan

It was during the second day of the Battle of the Wilderness.  A. P. Hill’s brave but exhausted confederate troops had been hit at daybreak by Union General Hancock’s II Corps of 30,000 men.  A. P. Hill’s troops were shattered by the attack and fell back in defeat and confusion along the Orange Plank Road.

Twenty-eight-year-old Colonel William Poague, the South’s fine artillery man, waited with sixteen guns in one of the few clearings in the Wilderness, Widow Tapp’s farm.  Colonel Poague had his guns loaded with antipersonnel ammunition and opened fire as soon as A. P. Hill’s men had barely fled the Orange Plank Road.

The Union assault funneled itself right into a vision of scupltured artillery fire, and the Union troops suddenly found pieces of flying marble breaking their centers and breaking their edges.  At the instant of contact, history transformed their bodies into statues.  They didn’t like it, and the assault began to back up along the Orange Plank Road.  What a nice name for a road.

On title alone this book had me.  I’d never read Brautigan, cult hero of the age when the Army was giving LSD to draftees.  This one came out in 1964.

Most of the book tells the story of the narrator living rough in Big Sur with Lee Mellon, who is convinced he’s descended from a Confederate general.

I met Mellon five years ago in San Francisco.  It was spring.  He had just “hitch-hiked” up from Big Sur.  Along the way a rich queer stopped and picked Lee Mellon up in a sports car.  The rich queer offered Lee Mellon ten dollars to commit an act of oral outrage.

Lee Mellon said all right and they stopped at some lonely place where there were trees leading back into the mountains, joining up with a forest way back in there, and then the forest went over the top of the mountains.

“After you,” Lee Mellon said, and they walked back into the trees, the rich queer leading the way.  Lee Mellon picked up a rock and bashed the rich queer in the head with it.


At times reading this book felt like talking to a person who is on drugs when you yourself are not on drugs.  By the end of this short book it felt little tedious.  The semi-jokes seemed more like dodges.

Still, Brautigan has an infectious style.

Mallley says:

Like much of Brautigan’s work, Confederate General belongs, at least partly, to a broad category of American literature – stories dealing with a man going off alone (or two men going off together), away from the complex problems and frustrations of society into a simpler world closer to nature, whether in the woods, in the mountains, on the river, wherever.

For a more satisfying read on men going off away from the complex problems and frustrations of society in the same region, I might recommend:


but it’s short and alive.  The few short passages about the Civil War were my favorite.

We left with the muscatel and went up to the Ina Coolbrith Park on Vallejo Street. She was a poet contemporary of Mark Twain and Brett Harte during that great San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1860s.

Then Ina Coolbrith was an Oakland librarian for thirty-two years and first delivered books into the hands of the child Jack London.  She was born in 1841 and died in 1928: “Loved Laurel-Crowned Poet of California,” and she was the same woman whose husband took a shot at her with a rifle in 1861.  He missed.

“Here’s to General Augustus Mellon, Flower of Southern Chivalry and Lion of the Battlefield!” Lee Mellon said, taking the cap off four pounds of muscatel.

We drank the four pounds of muscatel in the Ina Coolbrith Park, looking down Vallejo Street to San Francisco Bay and how the sunny morning was upon it and a barge of railroad cars going across to Marin County.

“What a warrior,” Lee Mellon said, putting the last 1/3 ounce of muscatel, “the corner,” in his mouth.

As for Brautigan:

According to Michael Caines, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, the story that Brautigan left a suicide note that simply read: “Messy, isn’t it?” is apocryphal.


I’d like to ask Dr. Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of Symbology, about some of the things going on in this local street art.

Empty Bucket Land