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DRY WEATHER WITH ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES are expected through Friday. Temperatures will then gradually cool during the weekend. A front will move across the area early next week bringing rain and locally gusty southerly winds. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): If you liked the weather yesterday you will love the next 3 days. More of the same into Sunday when some cooling will happen. Our rain for early next week is still in the forecast. I have 55F under clear skies on the coast this Thursday morning.
FORT BRAGG WATER SURVEY
The City of Fort Bragg was awarded grant funding from the California Department of Water Resources for a 12-month pilot project to test wave-powered desalination system. This project will include one buoy-like device that is roughly 26 feet long and 20 feet wide that will be placed in the waters just off of Fort Bragg.
We are seeking community input to inform our communications work on innovative technologies for alleviating water scarcity. We would like every Fort Bragg resident to take a brief 10-minute survey to hear their thoughts on drought issues and water reliability.
THIS SAM BANKMAN-FRIED KID, alleged crypto-currency swindler, is all over the news. Slipping into therapy mode here, and having read a long, interesting article about the lad in The New Yorker, and having watched the 60 Minutes interview with Michael Lewis who has a whole book about Sam out just this week, my sole credentials, I say Sam is innocent, not having one whit of ability to intentionally defraud anyone. Crypto? Anybody who invests in it deserves to get ripped off.
CRYPTO, the word, means “seeming” or “hidden,” so you're running out to buy Sam's bitcoin because it seems like money? Tom Brady, Steph Curry, some unfunny comedian, all bought in big time, so beguiled by the boy genius's uniqueness, so unlike was Bankman-Fried to the five-thousand dollar suits our moneybags usually deal with, they bought in and then bought some more.
BANKMAN-FRIED is a high ability savant, a math wizard who, probably like high ability math savants everywhere, was instantly beguiled by crypto's complicated mechanics. (Unlike you or me, savants can really, really focus. Can you multiply 5678 by 9547 in your head in three seconds? No? You can't play, then.) He, they, are not normal. This guy in particular had one desire — using his rare gift to make a lot of money real fast so he could do good things with it unlike, say, the Koch Brothers or Trump.
THE BOY literally didn't know what he was doing beyond piling up billions and shifting all those big numbers around various accounts. And crypto being based entirely on faith in its viability, when a competing crypto-magnate said he didn't think Sam's empire was sustainable, all Sam's investors ran, as in a run on a big bank. As Michael Lewis pointed out on 60 Minutes, if Bankman-Fried had turned over management to a capable underling, the kid would still be sailing on towards his dreams of making money work for the common good.
THE FEDERAL PROSECUTOR says Bankman-Fried's empire was “built on lies.” I don't think so. Bankman-Fried is about as capable of deliberate lies as a three-year-old. He is utterly without guile, a rare innocent adrift in a sea of moral turpitude. Sad story, really. The feds will put him away for a long time, when all that is really required is to ban him from any kind of financial involvement more complicated than his credit card.
A GRATEFUL READERSHIP thanks you, Dr. Anderson, for your penetrating analysis of Mr. Bankman-Fried. Now if District Attorney Eyster will assume the couch for your assessment of him, you might be two for two on the day. “Counselor? Mr. DA? Please take the couch.” Lately, I understand I'm known around the DA's office as “that fucking Anderson” so, of necessity, this will be a brief speculation.
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY let it be known to several of his intimates that he intended to run for the Ten Mile Court judge job presently occupied by Clay Brennan. Judge jobs are your basic sinecure. You make a lotta money for processing the halt and the lame on through the justice system, most of whom should be locked up for their own safety, but someone has to enforce the rules, right?.
EYSTER, early on in Brennan's Mendo tenure, took an entirely irrational dislike to the harmless, pot smoking newcomer, and here the DA is years later hoping to knock Brennan clear off the bench in a clear case of personal revenge.
THE ELECTION PROBLEM for Eyster seems to have been immediate. He ran his possible candidacy up the Courthouse flagpole and nobody, I mean nobody, saluted, which may have caused Mendo's top law enforcement officer to pause for a re-think of his electoral plans.
COULD HE DEFEAT Brennan? Probably. Judge elections are county-wide, which would give Eyster a big advantage in name recognition since Brennan is known only among the Mendocino Coast's defendant community, few of whom vote. He might also be fairly well known among the Westside Ukiah's royal family where his ex-wife, Mari Rodin, has long presided as Queen Mother. Since her majesty would also take a big fiscal hit, presumably, if her ex were deposed, Rodin can probably be counted on to round up the Westside's aristocracy for her former husband.
EYSTER'S STRENGTHS? Well, he has a smart and charming wife and he's a lawn guy, but how many lawn people are there in a rural county like this one? Hell, half the population came here to escape lawns!
MY COLLEAGUE, Major Mark Scaramella, USAF ret., turned 79 today, giving the AVA's combined leadership of Boonville's beloved weekly, roughly 80 years in the communications business. Factor in our aged contributors and we're well on our way to two centuries of news gathering experience. Please celebrate with me America's sole journalo-gerontocracy!
WHO MURDERED MY SON? The Chris Giauque case: "Law enforcement was not responsible for what happened to Chris. My PI and I have a tremendous amount of information on the case. I personally know a lot about what transpired, including who some of the individuals were that were responsible for Chris’ demise. Unfortunately, we have not had the necessary co-operation or interest from law enforcement required to seek justice for my son. Part of this is a result of Chris’ conflict with law enforcement in Humboldt County. There are some individual(s) who want me off the map. Nevertheless, it is great that there are still so many people that remember Chris and also want justice to prevail. There is a 24 x 12 ft billboard regarding the reward funds up in Laytonville. It has stirred up a hornet’s nest. A number of individuals know what transpired. I sincerely wish that one of them had the guts to come forward with information that would force law enforcement to take action. I would like to distribute the reward funds. A number of people in the marijuana culture have more respect for money and territory than they do for life. One should ask these people how they would feel if their child, sibling, or significant relative who was murdered. I thank Lisa Music, Kym Kemp and other publications in the past for exposing this situation. Unfortunately, a number of other families have also under gone similar situations. Chris’ father will NEVER give up until he passes on or is taken out. JUSTICE FOR CHRIS!
Larry Wagner, October Featured Artist at Cloud Nine on Franklin St. Cloud Nine Art Gallery, 320 N. Franklin St., Fort Bragg
First Friday, October 6, from 5-8, and continuing through Oct.31. Join us on First Friday to celebrate the fine art photography of Larry Wagner. Larry will give a brief talk about his work with a Q&A at 5:30. Enjoy a glass of bubbly and light refreshments with background guitar music by Chris Cisper.
In his own words: “What drew me to digital photography in 2006 was that it gave me the ability to create a photographic image with no limits but my imagination. At times it is great fun to create a picture that exists in your mind but not necessarily in your eye. My October show, Imagination, will display examples. I explore everything from still lifes to pure fantasy.”
Cloud Nine Art Gallery is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 12-5 and by appointment.
TREVOR MOCKEL :
I was able to attend Mike McGuire's 2023 chili feed and it was amazing to catch up with some old colleagues and make some new friends. This was my first year attending as a guest and not working the event, a surreal experience. McGuire and his staff are some of the hardest working people in politics and I'm honored for the time I got to work with them. They are all amazing people and I know together they will accomplish great things in the future.
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We had an incredible turnout at the Car & Bike Show in Ukiah today! The energy and enthusiasm were absolutely contagious. A huge thank you to all the amazing participants and staff who worked tirelessly to make this event a huge success. I also want to extend my gratitude to the fantastic businesses that opened their doors and created a welcoming atmosphere for everyone. But above all, a massive shoutout to the people of Ukiah for showing up in full force and supporting this event.
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(Sept. 24) Today, I had the opportunity to register voters at The Annual Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show, a tradition since 1924. Amidst a flourishing wine industry and increased tourist traffic, it's heartening to see this old-time harvest festival endure. Thanks to everyone that came out to support and volunteer.
FLYNN CREEK CIRCUS BRINGS ALL NEW SHOW TO BOONVILLE FOR THEIR SEASON FINALE
Internationally acclaimed Flynn Creek Circus returns to Boonville with a super star line up in their all new show, ‘Desert Myth!’ Come enjoy the spectacle under the big top tent at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, October 20th through 22nd. This will be the final stop of their 2023 season.
Featuring wild stunts and mind blowing skills, ‘Desert Myth’ is an acrobatic thrill ride that draws on a rich history of traditional folklore. Flynn Creek Circus’ distinctive presentation marked by high comedy, modern creativity and playful absurdity promises to exceed expectations.
Follow the Nomad as he journeys into an imaginative desert land looking for an oasis. The Tourist, The Cacti, and the Vultures are some of the colorful characters he meets along the way. This light hearted, comedic tale reflects a thirst for truth in a desolate land of well meaning ‘mis-guides.’
World renown circus artists from Ukraine, Canada and the United States will captivate audiences of all ages. Flynn Creek Circus’ enchanting performances dazzle with unforgettable, animal-free entertainment.
In addition to the family friendly showings, Flynn Creek Circus also presents the wildly popular ‘Adults Only Show’ boasting outrageous acts, dark comedy and an infamous party atmosphere at selected showtimes.
Spectators for all showings are invited to the tent to experience the magic up to 40 minutes before each show. The event will offer beer, wine and light concession for purchase and include a 15 minute intermission during the two hour show.
Tickets for Flynn Creek Circus are now available for purchase online at flynncreekcircus.com. Individual ticket prices start at $23 or table reservation options start at $84 for two attendees. Early booking is encouraged for this highly anticipated event.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Wednesday, October 4, 2023
JASON BARTOLOMEI, Lucerne/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
KERRY BROWN, San Jose/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
DEREK CLEEK, Willits. Possession of destrutive device, possession of materials to make destructive device, felon-addict with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person.
JORGE FLORES, North Hollywood/Ukiah. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
NICHOLAS GUGLIELMINO, Ukiah. DUI.
LAURIE HAYES, Covelo. Under influence, probation revocation.
SYDNEY SHACKMAN, Ukiah. Under influence.
THE ONES BETWEEN
by Marshall Newman
Lately, the ones between have been on my mind. Those folks not the originator in a certain discipline, but who made contributions to it and in turn inspired the next generation to make even greater contributions. The ones between get little acknowledgement or credit; indeed, most of them fade into history with scarcely a trace. Yet they are instrumental to progress in every field: science, technology, politics, sports, business, and the arts.
There are countless examples of the ones between. The one that caught my attention was a 19th and early 20th century landscape photographer whose primary subject was Yosemite Valley: George Fiske.
Born in New Hampshire in 1835, Fiske moved to Sacramento in the 1850s to clerk at his brother’s banking house, Thomas S. Fiske & Co. Evidence regarding his entry into the photography trade is scant, but by the early 1860s he had become a professional. In the late 1860s he was working as an assistant to Carleton E. Watkins at the latter’s Yo-Semite Gallery in San Francisco.
Watkins originated landscape photography in the late 1850s and was already famous when Fiske joined him. It was Watkins’ Mammoth Plate photographs (an impressive 18 X 22 inches, printed from glass negatives of the same size) of Yosemite Valley that influenced Congress in 1864 to establish the Yosemite Land Grant, the precursor to our National Parks. His subsequent photographs over the following decades cemented his reputation as the pre-eminent landscape photographer of the 19th century.
Fiske would remain with Watkins until 1874. In 1878, after a brief period as a rooming house proprietor, he began selling his own photographs, usually signed and numbered at the bottom of the glass negatives.
Though he probably visited Yosemite Valley previously, George Fiske moved there permanently in 1879, becoming the first photographer to live in the valley year round. About 1883, the Yosemite Valley Commissioners granted Fiske’s request to build a house and darkroom in Yosemite Village, then located on the south side of the valley. It would be his home for the next 35 years.
During those years, Fiske shot Yosemite in every season, from virtually every vantage point. Most of his photographs were “boudoir” size, approximately 5 X 8 inches: a departure from the giant Mammoth Plate prints of Watkins. He also stuck with photographs rather than the then-hugely popular stereovision slides that combined two images to create a 3-D effect in a viewer.
His photos represented an evolution in landscape photography. Watkins’ photos showed Yosemite Valley’s landscape unadorned. Fiske’s photos showed that same landscape, but also captured its drama.
In addition to selling photographs from his house, Fiske supplied the pictures used to illustrate In the Heart of the Sierras, a guide to Yosemite by local innkeeper James M. Hutchings.
Although his photographs were widely praised, life was not kind to George Fiske. In 1904, he lost two cameras, many glass negatives and most of his photographs to a house fire. Though he continued to shoot and sell Yosemite Valley pictures in the early 20th century, the advent of the box camera effectively put an end to his business. Suffering from a brain tumor and in terrible pain, he took his own life in 1918. After his death, his remaining glass negatives were acquired by Yosemite Park and Curry Company and stored in an abandoned sawmill. The building burned in 1943 and Fiske’s remaining work, except for those photographs in private collections, was lost.
The story of George Fiske should have ended there. Only it did not. Around 1915, when Ansel Adams was a boy, his Aunt Mary gave him a copy of In the Heart of the Sierras, the book illustrated with George Fiske photographs. Adams was so taken by the images, he persuaded his parents to vacation in Yosemite National Park in 1916. Adams went on to become the 20th century’s most famous landscape photographer and one of its most important environmentalists.
Ansel Adams remained a steadfast Fiske fan throughout his life. Commenting on the sawmill fire that destroyed Fiske’s remaining negatives, Adams said, “If that hadn’t happened, Fiske could have been revealed today, I firmly believe, as a top photographer, a top interpretive photographer. I really can’t get excited at Watkins and Muybridge (Eadweard Muybridge, another 19th century Yosemite photographer) – I do get excited at Fiske. I think he had the better eye.”
So remember the ones between. They almost never get the credit they deserve, but they have enhanced our lives in countless ways. They deserve our respect and our thanks.
UC VP BOOTS STATE SENATOR
by Bob Dempel
Our State Senator holds an annual Chili Feed which draws hundreds of supporters. Last week’s event was titled Mike’s 2023 Chili. The function was well attended even though the Senator has been termed out. He is now running for another state office. He is well liked and I have no doubt he will be successful.
The venue invitation listed World Famous Chili, Boot shaking live entertainment from a famous band, a Champion Pie eating contest, face painting, live auction, and the always popular 4-H petting farm.
Host committee levels started at $5,000 and worked down to $150 per person We fell into the lower level but still had a great afternoon at Richards Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard. We have supported Mike all the way from when he ran for supervisor several years ago. He has been a strong supporter of both 4-H and FFA programs.
Just last Thursday some information reached me that was very disturbing, As anyone who has followed my articles in the AVA know how much of a supporter I am for the 4-H program
In fact, I met my wife of 64 years thru 4-H. My wife was a founding member of the 4-H Foundation which operates a building for the 4-H community here in Sonoma County. We live and die for both 4-H and FFA.
It seems that someone at the University of California back office does not have enough to do on their plate; They looked at the invitation just last Thursday and decided that the 4-H could not bring their 4-H farm animals to the function for the Senator. Now, when the University wants some support (money) from the legislator the University thinks nothing of asking 4-H leaders to start a letter or phone campaign in support for more money to the University. Never mind that if the University gets more funds from the legislature, it may never trickle down to the local 4-H program.
So last week I attended the Senator’s function and sure enough there were no visible 4-H members. The new flyer indicated Down Under Critter Farm. I haven’t the notion what a Down Under Critter Farm is. Maybe some animals from South America or Australia.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Is it too early for Indian Summer? Beautiful day with bright sun, gentle breeze, and temps in the mid 80s. What a day to be alive! After two years I got my old British Army Motorcycle going and rode it down to the donut shop where a guy asked me “Are we being invaded by the British?” I told him not yet but I’d heard the Rolling Stones are making one last tour, the final ‘Farewell Tour’. Mick Jagger has to be in his early 80s; one wonders how he does it. And why Keith Richards is still alive.
EVS AS A POWER SOURCE
It is true that California needs to substantially increase its clean electricity capacity to meet the demands of beneficial electrification, which includes the rising numbers of electric vehicles in the state (“Meeting power demands,” Letters, Sept. 25). And yes, we need an equitable plan for expanding access to EVs for lower income drivers.
One important thing to note is that EVs can also be an electric reliability resource for the grid. EVs are power supplies on wheels. If EVs have the ability to send their stored power to the grid in times of peak demand, something known as bidirectionality, when aggregated they become a grid asset.
Each EV owner could be compensated for this service, which would only draw a pre-agreed amount of power that does not impair the use of the vehicle for transportation. Many EVs, including the Nissan Leaf, already have bidirectional capability. They all should.
CALIFORNIA TO REQUIRE MANY CITIES TO SIGNIFICANTLY CUT WATER USE
by Kurtis Alexander
A second straight wet winter may be in store for California, but state water regulators are turning their attention to the prospect of long-term water shortages, with plans for permanent statewide restrictions.
Under a first-of-its-kind proposal, about 400 cities and suppliers, including most in the Bay Area, will soon have to meet state-mandated targets on water use, requiring some to cut consumption by 20% or more within two years, regardless of how wet or dry it is. Fines for violators could run as high as $10,000 per day.
Water agencies, under the plan, will be responsible for figuring out how to hit the new targets, with many likely to fall back on familiar drought-time conservation practices, namely encouraging residents to use less or requiring it.
The regulation is the product of two bills signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 after last decade’s drought. They call for strict efficiency standards for urban suppliers with the goal of preparing California for hotter, drier bouts of weather expected with climate change.
“It’s a huge challenge that we have to face as a state,” said Charlotte Ely, climate and strategy advisor for the State Water Resources Control Board, which wrote the proposal.
Not everyone, however, welcomes the restrictions. Critics, which include the state’s largest advocacy for public water suppliers, the Association of California Water Agencies, worry about over-regulation. In particular, many are concerned about the timelines for the reductions, which start in 2025.
On Wednesday, the state water board is holding a workshop to hear public comment on the plan, which is dubbed Making Conservation a California Way of Life. A final policy is expected to be in place next year.
The required cuts under the proposal are tailored to individual water agencies, with each assigned a budget that includes an indoor-usage allocation that gets increasingly stringent over time, an outdoor-usage allocation based on the local climate and an allowance for water loss due to leaks.
Most water agencies in the Bay Area will face only small reductions because residents already don’t use much water, mainly because of the mild weather. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and San Jose Water Company aren’t projected to see any restrictions over the next 12 years, the period through which the state has estimated cuts. The East Bay Municipal Utility District also won’t see reductions in 2025 but will be subject to a 3% cut in 2030 and a 7% cut in 2035.
Others in the Bay Area will have to take more drastic measures. Utilities in Martinez, Livermore and Foster City will have to achieve double-digit reductions by 2030, according to state estimates. Even more severe cuts will be required in the Central Valley and Southern California, where larger properties and a drier climate generally yield greater water use. In some cases, reductions of more than 50% will be mandated by 2035.
In total, about 80% of water agencies in California will be forced to cut back within the next 12 years, according to state estimates.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” said Stephanie Nevins, water use efficiency supervisor for the Alameda County Water District, which serves about 350,000 people in the East Bay. “I think the timeline is just so condensed that I don’t know if these elements are achievable.”
To meet a required 4% reduction by 2030 and a 7% reduction by 2035, the Alameda County agency expects to take several actions. It will give away more water efficiency devices such as low-flow showerheads, it will ramp up its leak-detection program, and it may consider limiting how often customers can water outdoors.
Many of these strategies, Nevins said, come at a significant expense.
A financial report by the state water board estimates that the proposal will boost costs for both suppliers and customers, among others, by $13.5 billion through 2040, due largely to new efficiency measures and lost revenues from reduced water sales. However, the benefits, which include the savings from producing less water, could exceed $15 billion.
The level of cuts currently projected for each water agency could change before the regulation takes effect. Communities would also be able to apply for variances when they have unique circumstances, such as uncounted seasonal residents using more water. The agencies could get credits for using recycled supplies.
Many environmentalists and water conservation advocates support the effort.
“What this does is really help us move away from a reactive drought response to proactive drought preparations,” said Heather Cooley, director of research at the Pacific Institute, a water think tank in Oakland. “Statewide efficiency requirements are essential.”
Under the regulation, urban water use statewide would drop more than 400,000 acre-feet annually by 2030, the amount used by nearly 1 million households in a year, according to state estimates. By 2035, urban water use would be 8.4% less than it was in 2022, the estimates show.
The savings would help offset projected dips in California’s water supply. The state Department of Water Resources estimates a 10% decline in water by 2040 due to hotter, drier conditions.
This past year, though, was an anomaly. A series of unrelenting atmospheric river storms over the winter delivered near-record rain and snow and left reservoirs filled to the brim, ending three years of drought. Strengthening El Nino conditions in the Pacific this fall, which can alter the storm track and boost precipitation, have many predicting another wet winter in California.
AT THE WORLD PETROLEUM CONGRESS
by Michaela Cavanagh
One of the panel discussions at the 24th World Petroleum Congress in Calgary last week was on “Social Responsibility: Earning a Licence to Operate.” “I get challenged by my children and grandchildren,” the executive secretary of the Latin American energy association admitted. “We’re getting cancelled.” He took a poll of the hundred-odd oil professionals in the audience. “Raise your hand if you believe you’re a fiendish villain.” The crowd laughed. “I see very few hands,” he joked – nobody had put their hand up. “No, I see none.”
The first WPC was held at the Science Museum in London in July 1933. This year, for the first time – nearly a century and more than a degree of global warming later – decarbonization wasn’t only a specter haunting the halls of the convention center. Five thousand delegates, including oil executives, politicians and petro-dignitaries from around the world, had gathered to map out the industry’s future under the rubric “Energy Transition: The Path to Net Zero.” The week-long event – which I heard variously described as “a gathering of friends” and “a celebration” – started with a symbolic name change, from World Petroleum Congress to WPC Energy.
The path to net zero is paved with good intentions. Across the congress – the ministerial dialogues, the CEO strategic sessions, the technical forums – nobody cast doubt on the need for an energy transition. But questions of when, how and at what pace were hazier. In a dark conference hall on Monday morning I looked out across a sea of dark suits – the gender split was perhaps 85:15 – as ExxonMobil’s CEO, Darren Woods, addressed the crowd. He set the tone for the week when he warned the transition wouldn’t happen overnight. “There seems to be wishful thinking that we’re going to flip a switch from where we’re at today to where it will be tomorrow,” Woods said.
At the congress, every solution was on the table except for the most obvious – to stop burning fossil fuels – which was conspicuously absent. The oil industry’s approach is narrow in scope, and in Calgary it came with some sleight of hand. Over and over speakers would say that the industry needs to transition, but to be realistic about the timeframe and costs; it needs to reduce emissions, but not production; it needs to keep burning fossil fuels as it transitions; and none of this can mean losing out on profits.
As ExxonMobil’s VP of low carbon solutions technology put it, “We have a job to do right now for our society as well as for our shareholders.” But when I asked people if they believed the industry would meet the 2050 net-zero targets laid out by the International Energy Agency to keep warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – which according to a new study would require global oil supply to decline by an average of 62% – most would wordlessly shake their heads, roll their eyes or shrug.
Outside the conference center, Calgary was lucky to be enjoying a run of clean air days after a summer choked by smoke. Canada had just been through its worst wildfire season in recorded history, but no one was talking about climate change or its effects. Instead, the conference app sent a weather notification every morning: “Bring a jacket!”
As I walked past the pancake breakfast and country band into the exhibition hall on Tuesday morning, I nearly tripped on the plush carpet. The hall was all dazzling lights, glossy pavilions and sparkling silver bullets: oil companies from around the world touted their carbon capture and storage, clean hydrogen projects or advances in LNG.
In 2021, 60% of the public messages put out by the supermajors – BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total and Chevron – contained green claims. But the same companies were forecast to allocate only 12% of their capital expenditure to low-carbon investments in 2022, according to InfluenceMap, an independent think tank. Only 23% of the majors’ public messaging contained claims about oil and gas, but all except one (BP) were expected to expand production until at least 2026.
At the Saudi pavilion I took a virtual reality tour of the kingdom’s oil and gas fields and the offshore wind farms of its future – Saudi Arabia is aiming to get half its power from renewables by 2050. At ExxonMobil, I watched as people lined up for a cup of coffee with an image of their face etched into the foam. At Canada’s Pathways Alliance, representing the oil sands producers, a school group was hearing about a plan to build a 400-kilometer carbon pipeline and storage hub. “How long does it stay there?” a student asked. Before they had a chance to hear the answer, the teenagers were whisked back to their school bus. “Be sure to grab an ice cream on your way out!” the Pathways representative said.
A Belgian delegate told me that people who work for oil companies are walking on eggshells in Europe as the climate movement gains momentum and makes it harder for them to operate – they could never say the things she’d heard people say in Calgary. I asked her how the North American and European contexts compare. “Here, they don’t realize that they’re on the edge. And if society really turns it’s going to be impossible to do business,” she said. “Everybody here says you have to be part of the solution – but from where I stand, it’s more that we realize that it’s not a given that we will be part of the solution.”
(London Review of Books)
ARTIFICIAL INTIMACY: How Generative AI Can Now Create Your Dream Girlfriend
by Bernard Marr
Imagine being able to create your perfect partner – picking out items from a list to determine everything about them. You want red hair? You got it! Like a bubbly, fun personality? Check. Want them to be a biological, sentient being you can physically touch? Oh well, you can’t have it all!
Today, you can choose to spend the wee hours talking sweet (or not-so-sweet) nothings to whoever you want, as long as you're happy that they're a digital personality and you're willing to pay for the experience.
One provider of such services is DreamGF, which makes the tantalizing promise that your virtual girlfriend is just a few clicks away.
This comes at a time when a growing number of influencers are discovering that creating a virtual avatar to talk to fans on their behalf can be a time-saving and lucrative side hustle.
So how does this work and perhaps more importantly, what are the implications for the future of relationships between real living, breathing human beings?
I decided to have a chat with two executives of DreamGF to try and find out.
DreamGF allows users to design and then attempt to form relationships with girlfriends whose images and personalities are entirely constructed by generative AI.
Users can choose from a range of physical attributes, including hair length, ethnicity, age, and breast size. They can also choose from a much smaller set of personality attributes to decide whether she is a nympho, dominatrix, or nurse.
Once she's manifested in the digital universe, they can chat with her, including sexting her, and also ask her to send them pictures of an adult nature.
Although there is an option to select lesbian as a personality trait, it seems pretty clear that the service is designed for heterosexual men. However, I'm told that a DreamBF version is in the works.…
THE MORE THE MEDIA peddled fear, the more the people lost the ability to believe in one another.
For every new ill that befell them, the media created an explanation, and the explanation always had a face and a name. The people came to fear even their closest neighbors. At the level of the individual, the community, and the nation, people sought signs of others’ ill intentions; and everywhere they looked, they found them, for this is what looking does.
— Bernard Beckett
JERRY DIPOTO SAYS THE ALREADY LOUD PART EVEN LOUDER
The truth about modern baseball is that MLB owners only kinda want to win
by Dan Secatore
In almost every industry that exists in society, there’s a general principle that is pretty much universally accepted: the more money a manufacturer puts into creating an end-product, the better that end-product will be.…
THE HOUSE VOTE
What lies ahead for the US: for our invaded ally, Ukraine, and for Congress when all of us face a myriad of issues? An unending flow of immigrants from the South, a mile-long list of bills sorely needed by the American people, and Republican members of the House of Representatives split between “arsonists” and responsible moderates.
Yesterday, by a vote of 206-200, Speaker McCarthy was ousted from the speakership post. Eight Republicans joined all the Democrats in removing Rep. McCarthy-despite his action to avert an imminent government shutdown. There were several reasons: he “sold out” to get himself his job which took 15 votes, changing his tune on the Jan. 6th Capitol riot, and lying to President Biden on the debt-ceiling deal they made last March.
Now the nation is really in trouble from this vacuum of leadership and direction in its lower chamber. Lack of funding for Ukraine, poor ethics in the Republican party: Matt Gaetz, D.J. Trump, Jim Jordan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Yesterday’s House vote was truly historic, the first in modern times (since 1910) and it was the first successful Speaker ouster ever.
Frank H. Baumgardner, III
DAVID MARCUS: In a shambolic, fumbling own goal, eight House Republicans joined every single Democrat in voting to oust Congressman Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. This would be shocking were it not just another example of the utter incompetence of America's political class — from top to bottom. In the White House, our doddering 80-year-old president is the rightful focus of an impeachment inquiry. His bi-weekly old man gaffes and senior moments compromise the nation he incompetently leads, while his influence-peddling son sashays from child support hearings to State Dinners to courtrooms without a hint of shame. And speaking of courts, when he's not on the campaign trail, the leading GOP presidential candidate is sitting in the dock, under 91 state and federal indictments, pursued by an overzealous, politically biased U.S justice system. This past weekend the government nearly shut down — and no one cares except the federal workers and soldiers in uniform who nearly went unpaid.
UKRAINE, WEDNESDAY, 4TH OCTOBER
Senior Biden administration officials believe only weeks remain before a lack of additional Ukraine funding starts to become a serious battlefield concern following the historic ouster of US House speaker Kevin McCarthy, which cast fresh doubt on any approval for new funding.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said he believes Russia is now weaker than it was at the beginning of the war, so pausing the support or turning the fighting into a frozen conflict would mean helping the aggressor.
In a move that could help to alleviate potential shortages, the US will transfer thousands of seized Iranian weapons and rounds of ammunition to Ukraine, US officials told CNN.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Intelligence released a video showing an amphibious raid along the coast of Russian-occupied Crimea, as Russian state media claimed a Ukrainian "saboteur" had been captured. A Ukrainian official said there were losses on both sides during the raid.
DIANE FEINSTEIN’S finest hour was when she took the lead in publicizing Sy Hersh’s Abu Ghraib expose, which was bold by conventional standards. (But being against torture is hardly a singular virtue.) The short-lived assault weapons ban was ok, albeit hardly a controversial target for anyone but the NRA and its membership. However, as Tim Redmond has pointed out both at the time and recently, Feinstein was a full-throated, full-time flak for SF and California real estate and development interests during her tenure as a Supervisor and as a Senator. She also was instrumental (with Clinton and Garamendi) in maxing out the big Maxxam giveaway to corporate raider and fraudster Charles Hurwitz to save old growth trees that would have been illegal to cut down if they had simply enforced the law. I could go on. (Mark Scaramella)
DONALD CRUSER ON THE ROAD: In the 50’s through 70’s the pride of the US was that we had the largest middle class of industrial nations in the world. Then along came Reagan and we now have one of the smallest, For more details on how this happened read the book “America, What Went Wrong”. The Germans, who with 80 million people are the 2nd largest exporter of products in the world, have avoided this problem with one simple law: Half of the board of directors of large corporations must be line workers from the company. They don’t vote to send their jobs overseas and the CEOs make about 40 times what a line worker makes. In this country the ceos occupy seats on each other's boards and give themselves raises and salaries that are beyond comprehension.
I don’t encounter homeless people when I am in Germany and education and healthcare are human rights covered by taxes. Public transportation is cheap and efficient. Quality of life is emphasized: Public transportation is free on the weekends for families traveling together. The forests are selectively cut without changing the character. Many beautiful and maintained parks. Waking the streets at any time feels safe. The many water parks are the best with their hot tubs, saunas, pools, and solar rooms. One has hot mineral salt water with a railing around the edge so you can hook your heels on it, lay back and float weightless, while classical music is played under water. Big solar arrays and windmills everywhere. More than 59% of the energy comes from clean sources. Rather civilized don’t you think? I have heard Scandinavians refer to Americans in a derogatory way as “cowboys”. Reagan was our classic cowboy and he destroyed the lives of ordinary working people. They can’t afford to buy a home any more.
PARAGUAY EN EL CORAZON (For Alban Eheler)
by Denis Rouse
A Foreword of Sorts
Regarding original art, scene from Battle of Curupaity September 22, 1866, that opened the bloody drama of The War of the Triple Alliance between Paraguay and the tripartite allied armies of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. It is generally thought Curupaity is the only battle in the years-long conflagration that Paraguay won (Paraguayan casualties: only 92. Combined Argentinian/Brazilian: 10,000). The battle was fought over access to the Paraguayan capital of Ascension on the Parana River involving naval, artillery and foot soldier forces. Paraguay’s forces numbered 5000 men, Argentina and Brazil had 17,000, but Paraguay held the high ground above the river and the allied naval bombardment didn’t have the range or the ability to destroy the Paraguayan citadels. Worse for the Argentinians and the Brazilians they chose to attack the Paraguayan positions with infantry crossing open marshy ground thus creating something of a turkey shoot for the Paraguayan rifle and artillery men from their mostly hidden parapets. The parallel here is something like Gettysburg, had the Paraguayan general pressed his advantage and totally destroyed his enemy, as Meade should have done against Lee’s army, perhaps at least the war would have come to an earlier conclusion. Instead the war continued and the Paraguayans were slaughtered wholesale in many coming battles, including a shameful massacre (The Battle of Acosta Nu – 1869) in which Paraguayan children were told to paint mustaches on their faces and defend their country like men which they did to the last kid, and the Paraguayan president Mariscal Lopez was found in hiding and summarily executed. A half million or so people perished in this war, the worst ever in Latin America, including 70 to 80% of the male Paraguayan population, the country is still struggling with it.
We bought the painting at an outdoor market near the parliament building at the Plaza De Independencia. The artist Francisco Vargas took it off the wall and unstapled it from the frame and rolled it in protective paper so we could stash it in our luggage, our prayer is that it is undamaged when you unwrap it, it needs to be re-stretched and re-mounted on a frame. The next day, our final one in country, we dressed appropriately (I didn’t wear my sweatpants or shorts and Gwen slipped into her Paraguayan attire purchased earlier), and we were driven by our guide Gustavo (whose grandfather is a veteran of the Chaco War 1932-35 with Paraguay’s neighbor to the north, Bolivia, another mortal engagement in the country’s martial past) to the Museo de Militar at the Ministerio de Defensa where the above mentioned events and others astonish your history-loving heart. Think of the British Museum stuffed in a bloody empanada.
Con salud, amor y dinero y tiempo para gustarlo. —dmr
* * *
Dear faithful amigo and guide, nuestro bruder en Paraguay, we’re home again, home again, with a furious case of jetlag after spending ten days with you in your fascinating country down there deep and landlocked in the great South American continent. Woody Allen would know how to handle our story, elderly Jewish man from L.A. with his shiksa girlfriend from Spokane land in Asuncion, Paraguay at Silvio Pettirossi Airport at zero dark thirty in the middle of the fricking night after seventeen hours from LAX including a grueling five-hour layover in Panama City courtesy of our commercial carrier, that isthmus country’s COPA Airlines. First order of business is to stagger over to the nice lady in the immigration kiosk and pay her $320.00 American for two visas (crisp clean bills only; folded, creased, limp ones unacceptable) then get met by Gustavo Schulz, professional Paraguayan tour guide of German heritage, but very much Paraguayan since he was born here and his grandfather was wounded in the Chaco War (1932-35), a conflagration with Bolivia, Paraguay’s neighbor to the north, which many believe shadowy imperialist interests from the U.S.A. and Europe, by proxy through rival oil companies, contributed greatly to the outbreak of the 20th Century’s worst South American conflict (130,000 casualties). It’s sometimes called in Spanish “La Guerra de la Sed” (“The War of the Thirst”) because of the huge arid wilderness in which it took place, because most of the fatalities were the result of dehydration.
Luggage stashed in Gustavo’s Hyundai minivan, we’re headed to our hotel in downtown Asuncion through a quiet, vacant 12-mile corridor of 2 am surreal Clockwork Orange gloaming that intensifies the feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. The feeling vanishes when we pull up to the fetching entrance of the Granados Park Hotel in the heart of the city and see friendly welcoming faces at the registration desk who register us so quickly and efficiently it’s obvious they’re being considerate, that they know we are dead tired, we need our room and our bed without delay. Gustavo says something about being ready for a walking tour at 8 am, that Alban’s coming in the morning, that Alban speaks English, Spanish and German and he’s very smart and he knows a great deal about Paraguay and then he leaves us with wishes for a restful if truncated night. It’s obvious again even in our state of near collapse as we partially unpack and get ready for seriously needed Z’s we’ve lucked out hotel wise. The Granados Park brochure says the hotel “offers a beautiful look starting from the central lobby with an architectonic style and enormous placidness. It’s sophisticated yet with a warm atmosphere, made of noble materials and light colors designed for the warm welcome you need”. The copy is right on the money. Speaking of money our room is a big cushy comfortable royally appointed luxury suite for $140.00 a night. I’ve paid more at the Holiday Inn Express everywhere in the states for far, far less. Score a big one for Paraguay, the American dollar is worth thousands of Paraguayan guaranis, about six thousand at the moment, and I will tell you up front that it’s the least of many great reasons to visit this country.
Morning comes like it usually does. Coffee, need it badly. We get it rich and dark in the convivial breakfast room of the hotel along with a buffet table loaded with all the cold, sliced, fresh fruits of Paraguay including papaya and mangos and plums of unusual sweetness and delicacy, and eggs scrambled the way eggs should be scrambled rich and creamy, with roasted peppers and onions if you choose, and warm loaves of just baked bread and thick chunks of savory smoky bacon and slices of wonderful ham and local cheeses and desserts including cheesecake that would make a New Yorker blush. Ah, breakfast at Tiffany’s in the beating heart of Asuncion, life is far more interesting than we know. Alban Ehler, professional Paraguayan tour guide who’s partnered with Gustavo on our behalf, shows up promptly to accompany us on a stroll through downtown Asuncion which, thanks to the hotel’s proximity, involves short walking distances to many sites suffused with Paraguayan history and culture, including foremost the Casa de la Independencia where events led to the country’s freedom from Spain on the morning of May 15, 1811, without a shot being fired, when, however, two cannons were set up at the Spanish governor’s front door. A gentleman central to this much celebrated outcome is Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, who would become Paraguay’s first president, actually dictator-for-life, who a year earlier placed two pistols on the table in Congress and declared his intentions against Spain and Argentina with whom Paraguay was also contentious at the moment. I was particularly fetched by this because just down the street posted at the columned entrance to the Cabildo, the pink palace where the senate used to meet, is a big portrait of Paraguay’s most famous writer, Augusto Roa Bastos, whose Cervantes prizewinning novel “I The Supreme”, which I was into a hundred pages or so, reimagines the mad surreal visions of de Francia, who called himself “El Supremo”, in one of the great milestones of Latin American literature.
We’ve just met Alban but Gwen and I are already much taken with him. He was born in Germany but has lived and worked in Paraguay long enough to marry Guillermina, a lovely Guarani lady, their daughter is four. He tells me he gets along great with his in-laws because they speak only Guarani and he doesn’t. His passion for the country, his expertise in its history and its culture, and his political leanings that suggest abiding compassion for the Paraguayan people have impressed us. When we walk by a ten-story commercial building that was obviously abandoned during a late stage of its construction due to a combination of government, banking and real estate malfeasance that shut off the funding and left an ugly towering deteriorating dangerous monument to corruption, he gives me some details with a whispered German expletive. As our stroll brings us to the National Congress Building (funded by Taiwan which tells of Paraguayan/Chinese relations), and Alban begins to narrate the horrific events that took place here just before Easter in March 1999 when a huge crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators were shot at by snipers, inciting a melee that left eight dead and 700 wounded, our attention is diverted by a young boy with a mangled hand and missing a foot begging for money, he obviously from the thousands of makeshift hovels of the Banado just across the street, where the poorest of the poor are crammed into low lying space between the gleaming parliament on the Plaza de la Democracia, and the river which flooded in 2014 only adding to their misery. Alban hands the boy a coin which I suppose is a few hundred guaranis and the three of us continue what the tour operator bills as our Full Day Asuncion Golden Tour.
How did Nietzsche put it? Were it not for art we’d die of the truth. Next stop is a small park of flowered greenery called the Plaza de los Desaparecidos. The reference is to those thousands killed, tortured and exiled (the latter including Paraguay’s aforementioned literary giant Augusto Roa Bastos) during the dictatorial reign of Alfredo Stroessner, the son of a German immigrant, and head of the Paraguayan armed forces, who seized power in 1954. What ensued was a murderous 34-year campaign to eliminate opponents under the guise of a hunt for communists. When the dictatorship ended Stroessner’s statue in the centrum of Asuncion was removed from the Cerro Lambare, the highest hill in Asuncion, and consigned to an artist commissioned to create something appropriate to the memory of the victims of this awful era. The symbolic result here is literally smashing, the torn apart remains of Stroessner’s bronze image crushed between two huge blocks of concrete with only a left hand and the damaged face clearly visible.
Day of the Circuito de Oro
Gwen wants to go shopping on this Circuit of Gold, a collection of small towns an hour or so away from Asuncion each featuring one or more of the traditional Paraguayan crafts. She’s interested in the silver filigree jewelry of Luque, the pottery of Aregua and especially the famous Nanduti lacework of Itaugua. Nanduti means spiderweb in Guarani, it’s that exquisite and delicate. Alban and Gustavo pick us up at the hotel in the morning and off we go with Gustavo at the wheel of the van again, this time during rush hour in Asuncion when superior driving skills and reflexes are mandatory because the fashion here is to anticipate other vehicles causing any delay, and instead of slowing down per the custom we know, speeding up to adroitly avail any option of escape. Made us clinch our butts a few times but I was surprised how effective is the technique. And as far as pedestrians are concerned, they know they’re at the bottom of the food chain, no one steps off a curb without serious risk appraisal. I liked the shopping, but Gwen liked it a lot more, the van was quickly filling with her treasure. For me the best of the day was getting our first look at the green countryside, the campo of Paraguay, and the quiet rural village life that’s within surprising proximity of the buzz of the city. Too, we visited the beautiful basilica of Caacupe, the spiritual capital of the country where the feast day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 brings in around a million pilgrims. Alban tells of the legend here about Jose, a terrified young Indian boy being hunted by a fierce tribe. While hiding behind a tree, he vowed that if his life was saved he would carve a statue of the Virgin from the wood of the tree. When I ask Alban if Jose fulfilled his promise, he has a succinct answer: “Is the Pope Catholic?”.
We have lunch in San Bernardino at Los Alpes, a Paraguayan restaurant with German roots located near the bucolic somewhat hidden retreat on the shore of Lake Ypacarai. There’s a shadow here if you know as everyone seems to that Josef Mengele, Auschwitz’s “Angel of Death” lived here for a time notably during the Stroessner regime. Much of history isn’t a box of chocolates, but as the philosopher warned, forgetting it is the most dangerous ignorance. The sausage was terrific, but I was disappointed that the deep pan of stewed surubi, the giant catfish of the local rivers, a favored staple of the country, was cleaned by the time I got to it. You shouldn’t have wasted time on the salads first, Alban tells me. We wind up the day with a stop at the large imposing church of Yaguaron, a 16th Century Franciscan Reduction, one of the first missions established in Paraguay for the benefit of the indigenous people. There’s a weathered seemingly nondescript wooden sign nailed to a tree near the front gate that reads Todos Quieren Cambiar El Mundo, Pero Nadie Preocupa Por Cambiarse a Si Mismo. Everyone Wants to Change the World, But No One Wants to Change Himself. It struck me as the gospel truth.
Day of the Caiman and Capybara Empanadas
Alban shows up in the morning with Cesar, another driver who works for the tour company, and we take off again through the intense video game that is Asuncion’s rush hour. Cesar plays it as well as Gustavo but he’s big, burly, with forearms the size of stovepipes, looks as if he could do major damage on the Paraguayan football team that specializes in a defensive attacking mode of soccer that equals the NFL’s violence but without helmets and pads. I’m amazed at Cesar’s skill at the wheel, his relaxed aplomb as he sips iced shots of terere (cold mate) from his guampa (cup) utilizing his traditional metal straw called a bombilla, all the while keeping us going with alacrity through a traffic circus of cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles and taxis, the latter reminding us how fortunate we are that the cabbie revolt, scheduled this morning to block streets in protest of the government’s impending approval of Uber, has been cancelled as the legislature decided to at least temporarily shelve the issue. Gracias Dios we’re all thinking aloud, you can still hail a cab here without downloading an app. How novel.
A short time later we reach Paraguari, a town known as the “Cradle of National Independence”, for it was here in 1811 that the Paraguayans defeated the Argentine Army in a decisive battle in that effort. But we’re not here for history, but rather for what Alban and Cesar call the best Guarani chipas so’o (pronounced soho) in Paraguay. At a local chiperia known quite well to them, they secure a bag of hefty hot baked croissant-shaped breakfast bombs with flaky corn flour crust, loaded with lard, cheese, eggs, and beef the country’s famous for, that make gringo breakfast burritos up north seem like ladyfingers. This is the second time we’ve eaten this morning but not much later, after a brief pause in Quindy famous for its fine leather manufacture of soccer and volleyballs, hundreds in every color hanging for sale on A-frames that line the roadside through the whole town (we buy one and deflate it and stash it in our luggage), we reach the outskirts of Caapucu where Alban has remembered our early discussion of rural favorites, Capybara and Caiman empanadas. So, voila, we pull into a small roadside restaurant preferred by local campaneros and out they come, fried little pies filled with the meat of the biggest rodent in the world and a smaller member of the alligator phyla, both a protected species, but in Paraguay many timeless cultural traditions persist. I notice Alban has stashed some of the chipas and empanadas in a bag thinking for a snack later in the day, but no, they’re for a caretaker at the Museo Cabanas where there is no fee to take a short hike back in time, being careful to step over cow pies, to visit a beautiful 17th Century stone and adobe rancho, an outpost along a busy route then of everybody from soldiers to priests, run by a colonial Spanish family living in a most tumultuous time in Paraguay’s history when the Cabanas probably wanted peace and quiet at times, when wealthy landowners in Asuncion wanted slaves from Brazilian headhunters, when Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries wanted security, dignity, communal independence and the Roman Catholic faith for the indigenous Guarani people, and when the Spanish throne wanted more control over its burgeoning empire in the New World. It was a conflicting dynamic that was to shape the country to this day where Guarani is the mother tongue in 90% of Paraguayan homes.
We wind up the day with what else? More shopping of course, but how to avoid it in San Miguel where cotton and wool is woven on old looms by hand and foot into gorgeous practical goods like the hammock Gwen buys to hang from the rafters of her wood shop at home, and my cool new shirt that will be perfect for the many Paraguayan parrilla barbecues we’ll host at home in the future, not! We roll through San Juan Bautista where Paraguay’s world-famous guitarist and composer Augustin Pio Barrios known as Mangore was born, then pause too briefly in San Ignacio Guasu to view the great murals and sculpture in the church that anchored the first of the Jesuit-Guarani Reductions, or Missions, founded in 1609. There’s so much of importance to see here, so much one wants to see, ten days just doesn’t begin to cut the queso.
Days at the Estancia
Ah, nirvana at Estancia Tacuaty, a big historic cattle ranch located what seems a million miles from the urban rush of Asuncion, sprawled on the lush pastures of the savannah known as the Pastizales de las Misiones, only about a hundred and fifty miles away as the Paraguayan cuervo flies, but we’ve had a long day touring in the 90-degree heat of February, late summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so the swimming pool we see glistening in the sun the minute we come through the gate looks like heaven, and as we discover shortly, it is.
You always know immediately when you’ve come to the right place. As Alban, Gwen and I seat ourselves on a comfortable ranch house patio with boss lady Senora Julia Gonzalez, soon to be just Julia to us, performing the guest registering formalities, a sleek English pointer, his name is Mister, leaps gracefully up on the tabletop obviously happy to show affection in the manner high spirited but gentle, intelligent, well trained dogs do. It’s an especially sweet moment for animal lover Gwen who calls her horses at home “my boys”. We stash the luggage in our rooms, Alban decides to take a nap, while Gwen and I make fast tracks for the cool refreshment of the pool. As we relax there in the shade of a towering copse of trees, including Paraguay’s national tree, the Lapacho, and some huge specimens of regional cedar known as cedros, the cacophony of a birdwatcher’s delight starts to play as flocks of wild parakeets zoom in and out of the massive foliage like speedy little fighter planes, so impossibly green they seem to disappear in the leaves. We soon notice a pair of woodpeckers working away on a fencepost, and a glance upward reveals the lone white sentinel of a Snowy egret standing tall atop the canopy. Then, adding zest to the surrounding ubiquity of avian behavior, Mister streaks by us like a round of tracer fire, intent on terrorizing a platoon of Southern lapwings, or Tero-Tero as they are known in Guarani, foraging along the shore of a two-acre lake that graces the ranch just a few yards away from our poolside retreat. And later, Gwen looks up and discovers there are others living in the branches besides the feathered type as she spots a big dark-furred male Howler monkey and his cinnamon-toned mate coursing effortlessly through their lofty arboreal world.
Next morning, I step on my herman big time. I get up early and walk to the kitchen in the ranch house where Julia has coffee and papaya slices ready for me to take back to the balcony of our second story room in the guest quarters so Gwen and I can enjoy a little pre-breakfast with a great view of the spread in burgeoning light. Before I leave she offers me a what I think is a cold guampa of terere with a bombilla protruding, and remembering that terere is often shared, and that it’s polite to finish it cleanly before passing the cup of yerba back to refill, I take a huge hit through the wooden straw realizing instantly it’s not terere but hot mate poured just for me. Julia’s eyes become big as ping pong balls. I’m in some pain but stifle it as best I can and thank her profusely as if it’s my custom to be the weirdest gringo in Paraguay.
The day gets better. Gwen wants to ride and I want to go fishing. It happens in that order. A couple of horses are saddled up for us, Guano the white gelding and Princesa the roan mare, and off we go for a relaxing hour on the green carpet of the pasture, Gwen at the reins of her mount, me on a lead line in the trusted hands of one of the tropaderos who work the ranch, Julia obviously thinking I bear watching.
Then Alban shows up with a big thermos of ice water, a guampa of terere, and a couple of bare bamboo poles with ten yards of monofilament attached to the tips, #6 hooks tied on the business end of the lines, and a Ziploc bag of raw beef chunks for bait. Thusly equipped for a style of fishing on a Paraguayan estancia that would gain Mark Twain’s approval, we walk to the shore of the lake, twirl out the baited hooks, and don’t wait long for action provided by fish that look like pan size trout that have been cross-bred with piranha, they’ve got the formidable jaws and teeth of the latter. They’re called Ta’ry in Guarani according to Santiago, Julia’s son, a sharp young lawyer from Asuncion we meet later in the afternoon.
We loathe leaving Estancia Tacuaty after only two peaceful days feeling like we’ve become members of the Gonzalez family, where the table fare three times daily is expertly prepared from what’s grown and raised right on the ranch, including a memorable evening of chicken-fried steaks, with sautéed manioc, and a gravy Julia brought to our table that was so wonderful it would have embarrassed my grandmother.
Day of the Three Jesuit Misiones
Margaret Hebblethwaite, the author of the Bradt Travel Guide to Paraguay, eloquently sums up the essence of the history we encounter this memorable day, roughly paraphrased, “A group of Jesuits arrived in 1607 to found a new province of Paraquaria, the origin of the name of the country. (asterisked footnote here: *Alban disagrees with Ms. Hebblethwaite, says the Guarani called their world Para gua’y, or Land of a Thousand Rivers, for centuries before any Europeans arrived). With them, a new era began in which the Jesuit Reductions did not work within the Spanish colonial system, but outside of it, in territory that the Europeans were forbidden to occupy. The Spanish were thus deprived of slaves and had the embarrassment of seeing those who they regarded as semi-human natives develop a civilization of art, architecture and music superior to their own. The resentment, jealousy and hostility this aroused eventuated in the order of Carlos III of Spain in 1767 to expel the Jesuits from South America. Although the reductions were over-run, exploited and de-populated, 150 years of protected life laid bases which have never been completely annihilated, most particularly in the survival of the Guarani language in a country that is still truly bi-lingual”.
The story becomes palpable as Alban and a slim gorgeous young Guarani guide with shining black hair, a girl named Maria, lead our way through a colonnaded brick, mission-tiled arcade at the Reduction of San Cosme Y San Damien for a look at the sundial still functioning with precision atop a stone plinth, set up in 1718 by the astronomer-priest P. Buenaventura Suarez who studied Jupiter, wrote a book predicting solar and lunar eclipses, and installed an observatory using quartz crystals from the Parana River for his lenses. An equally evocative moment comes when we enter the huge vestry of the roofless church, unfinished due to the Expulsion, at the Mission known as Jesus de Tavarangue where we’re dwarfed by massive walls and two rows of six great stone columns that would have supported three vaulted roofs that had been planned. The best moment for me comes when I’m standing alone with my puny camera on the brink of the vast plaza of the ruins of La Santisima Trinidad del Parana, The Most Holy Trinity of the Parana River, facing the enormous silent sculpted walls of so many angels carved in the stone, I could nonetheless hear clearly the elegiac wail of a lost paradise.
Two days that comprise our final touring before heading back to Asuncion include an overnight in Encarnacion at the riverside Awa Resort Hotel we’ll always remember because of the great people who work there, particularly the waiters who attend the twenty-five-foot dinner buffet table loaded with every Paraguayan favorite including two tureens, one of stewed pork and the other laced with beef. When Gwen couldn’t discern what was in each, with her Spanish limited, she queried one of the young men with, “Is this one moo-moo or oink-oink?”, a question that good-naturedly cracks up the whole room.
A couple of lunches on the road during those two days stand out, one at a local roadside café in Coronel Bogado that was big on parrilla, tender chunks of beef and pork grilled over a wood fire, then offered on skewers, just ask if you want a juicy cut bone-in. And at an obviously locally favored restaurant overlooking the Tebicuary River in Villa Florida, I finally get a bowl of Sopa de Surubi loaded with delicious bone-in cuts of the river monster’s succulence in a rich cheesy broth that’s a Paraguayan favorite. Alban and Gustavo order the fried version and poke a little fun at mine they say has all the fish parts that no one else wants, showing they know zilch of Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods” and Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” that play regularly on the tube at home. How Paraguayan really are these German guys?
Our last day in country in Asuncion we go even deeper into the food scene. We grab a cab with Alban and head to the Mercado Quatro, a teeming warren of what were once thoroughfares, now crowded aisles of shoppers purveying vendors under flapping low-slung canvas selling everything from counterfeit designer wear to yerba leaves that can cure any malady. Make the right turn by the smoking grill of chorizo and you end up at long lunch counters adjacent the butcher stall where a fifty pound surubi is being chopped into steaks, along with chickens and meats of every description, including body parts and organs that look unfamiliar, and order two different soups with noodles (chicken and beef, I think) along with sticks of manioc, and if you require more zest, peruse the sure to please Smirnoff bottle of fiery homemade chili juice.
The evening before we grab our 2 am marathon flight for home, Alban has to forego our invitation to share a last repast together because it’s his daughter’s fourth birthday, so Gustavo picks us up solo in his trusty van and we head for Roveo, a big glitzy Brazilian barbecue restaurant near Estadio Manuel Ferreira where a soccer game going on has the whole neighborhood rocking and cars seem to be parked everywhere atop one another. We enjoy the action in the restaurant on a ten-foot-wide TV screen. We whale on the biggest salad bar in the country. And can’t pass on any of the many delectable cuts of meat brought to our table on swords, and then, full to the gills, I notice the sushi cart. I can’t resist trying what looks to be one of my favorites, the Japanese call it ikura, a dollop of salmon roe on a vinagared rice ball wrapped in nori. Upon tasting I judge it by far the best, finest, silkiest, subtlest flavored I’ve ever eaten. And the color of the roe was paler and more reddish than the orange of the salmon’s and slightly larger. Could it have been from one of the Parana River monsters, the surubi, or the giant golden dorado? With my bad Spanish I knew I didn’t have a prayer of finding out, and to tell you the truth I didn’t want to. I prefer to keep it a mystery de Paraguay, one of many, en mi corazon.