A Letter to Anti-Vaxxers

In 1969 I was drafted into the US Military, enough of a national emergency to send young men off to a war in Southeast Asia. I disagreed with the policies and the ethics of that war, even though they were declared a public good.

Think of the penalties the unvaccinated will be forced to pay as being like a draft. If you don’t want to suffer them, then face the consequences.

I became a felon, a fugitive to Canada, gave up my citizenship and faced innumerable instances of legal harassment over my subsequent lifetime..

If you do not accept vaccination for the public good, then at least leave the country, like I did. 

There is always a chance, here admittedly slim, of a later amnesty.


(For the record, I was amnestied by  President Carter in 1977, my citizenship, which was illegally taken from me in the 70s, was formally restored in 2009.)

Conversation around Richard Olney

An exchange on Richard Olney, occasioned by one of our estival Olney menu dinners on28 August, which led to this IG post:


On Aug 25, 2021, at 11:34, JA wrote:


We’ll convene on Saturday at our place for the second Olney dinner this summer.  Festivities begin at 6.

Looking forward!

MM replies:

Bonus points to anyone interested in dressing up like Julia or Paul as Jonathan works his interpretation of the Olney food magic. 😘

Julia feeds Paul






Richard in his Kitchen









MM adds:

Source: http://archive.kuow.org/post/vive-les-gourmands-how-six-american-expats-paris-changed-how-we-eat

 “Richard Olney unpacked the way the French plan a menu and synchronize not only the dishes but the wines, occasion, time of year and company, to make a meal a work of art. He also gave us a model for eating that’s close to the earth and of living simply and beautifully.”

SJ intervenes :

Gosh, can I come as Richard?? He’s pretty handsome.  I guess I’ll have to take up smoking …

I reply (GL) :

If we doin’ drag I am too small to become Julia.

Richard always wore the same thing: cord espadrilles, khaki shorts and a usually checked cotton short sleeve., substituting long pants whenever restaurant protocol required. I don’t have any espadrilles anymore but when in the south of France I dressed just like him.

Yes, he smoked Gaulouses until he died at 71. He was one of rhe few who was allowed a post-prandial … cig at Chez Panisse. He called them “fags”. And I was allowed to smoke alongside him. His palette was based on nicotine, he claimed.

SJ replies :

Hah!  Thanks for the sartorial details!  Wish I had espadrilles, but I’ll pass on the Gauloises.

GL 2:

They, Gauloises, haven’t been for sale in the US for decades now. Fear of US litigation. The first years I was here I used to always bring back some packs from EU.

MM 3

Well, Nordstrom has options: https://www.nordstrom.com/sr?origin=keywordsearch&keyword=espadrilles  😜

I love y’all! I was just joking. And I loved those pics because Richard was in slacks and I thought barefoot in his kitchen. Thanks George for the espadrilles history. I presume the photographer or perhaps Julia insisted on the slacks. 😂

GL 3:

Since we’re on this jag, two more with Richard (courtesy of Judith Olney)

With James’s first wife, Judith, herself the author of several cookbooks. She’s on Instagram and still teaches cookery in Miami Beach. 

Richard with his sister-in-law Judith Olney









With his buddy Georges Garin in the stripèd tee, and Richard’s friend Mary Painter, by then Mary Garin, circa 1969. She was the dedicacee of Another Country. For more lit gossip see the second item in https://lithub.com/behind-the-dedications-james-baldwin/. Baldwin once said, “When I realized I couldn’t marry Mary Painter, I realized I could marry no one.”

Richard, Georges Garin,, Mary Garin









Finally, the calling card of Garin’s resto on the Left Bank.  I had a fabulous 4 hour luncheon there as Mary’s guest in November, 1972, from which I emerged inebriated beyond measure to confront the full façade of Notre Dame in 5pm sunset glow. Took a cab back to my hovel in the 14th and slept until the next morning. 



GL 4

For info: Richard’s espadrilles were the basic provençal version, the rope sole with light canvas uppers. He would go through a couple of pairs every summer. Didn’t mind going barefoot either.

For those who haven’t seen it, R’s portrait of James Baldwin.


RB joins in:

Dear Georges,

Your reminisces and photos are fantastic, in all senses of the word! Wow!

And I really look forward to being with you all on Saturday!


GL 5 :

Thx, R-,

Not to be presumptious (o what the hell, why not?), the byline in my Insta account profile reads:  Memoria vitae bene actae iucunda est. Memories of a well-lived life are a pleasure.

This afternoon, anyway, I feel like I had a well-lived life 😇.


And JA’s IG on the event:

Is a Gentle Death Possible?

Dear M…,

Just an installment in an epistolar meditation inspired by your own meditation of yesterday.

Although I was intrigued by Zen as a young man (almost anything arcane was to my taste at 21), I  didn’t really start “to get it” until I spent  five years getting my black belt in aikido (wiki :  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aikido  ; my page : https://alteritas.net/GXL/?page_id=2372).

The first Zen “master” I read was Sokei-an (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokei-an). He espoused vegetarianism, though would seem to have been more of a flexitarian or reducetarian per the info you linked, because he did not absolutely rule out meat.  The principle to which he referred was the Buddha’s about not eating anything you have chosen to kill or have killed for you.

In the Jivaka Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya #55), Jivaka, a disciple, asked the Buddha about the consumption of meat. The Buddha’s reply was that meat would be unsuitable if the living animal had been chosen by the disciple, if the living animal had been mistreated or mishandled, if the intent was the animal was slain specifically to feed that monk, if the living thing was frightened, or if knowing any of these things to be true the disciple/monk consumed it anyway. In any of these instances either the consumer, the provider, or both would engender negative karmic consequences

The dilemma boils down to what it means to be killed “for you”. I like to frame the argument around the meat counter at, say, Albertsons. Obviously, the meat there is not killed for you in particular — but presumably your choosing to eat meat implicates you in bad karma. On the other hand, if there was no choice involved, you could eat any meat served you or that you found if were hungry or in need.

Obviously a wide open field for sophists (with all due respect, S…), who could devise a string of arguments about who chooses, how one chooses, etc., arguments which lead to another question: what does it mean to choose for someone else, etc. Also, note the Buddha’s injunction against terrifying animals you might then eat.

Is a gentle death even possible?

For record, I don’t consider myself either a true adept of Zen or even have a developed philosophy of any one “-arian” stripe or another. But I do appreciate the force and import of the discussion. In practice I still choose to have meat, either by buying it already prepared at the butchers or willingly eating it when served it.

(At one point I was willing to argue that you should only eat meat you had killed yourself, but that was a silly, atavistic posture. I was taught to hunt as a boy and there is a macho side deep within me who believes that killing game is clean, albeit only if you are intending to eat it yourself, or provide it to others to eat.)

On the other hand, I now find myself eating less and less of everything, so that I probably am under the maximum for the vulnerable items in the Small Planet diet. I can’t claim virtue for this, rather a slowing metabolism, one preparing me for the worm and bacteria who will soon enough consume my own flesh, my own karmic fate  🙂

Thanks again for spurring this discussion on.


Pythagorean Proof

Every once in a while, my mind gets snagged by numbers, nowhere as often as when I was seven or eight and used to work out sums in my head (that was before I discovered masturbation).

A Financial Times recent piece by Tim Harford entitled “We must face facts — even the ones we don’t like” provides a good example.

The universe is not constructed in terms of whole numbers. A hypotenuse across a square  is prima facie evidence, a dilemma for true-believing Pythagoreans, who thought whole numbers were the basis of everything. Hence the fun in using the Pythagorean theorem to show they are not.

The square of the hypotenuse is the sum of the square of the other two sides. Formulaically:  c2 = a2 + b2 

Assume a whole number fraction, a/b, does equal √2, that is a/b  =  √2 . Let’s also assume that a/b is the simplest possible fraction, with a and b sharing no common factors.

Rearranging a/b  =  √2  gives us 2b2 = a2.

That means that a2 is an even number, which implies four thngs: a is also even. and therefore a2/2 is also even, therefore b2 is even and therefore b is even.

Alas, we began by assuming that a/b was the simplest possible whole number fraction, but we’ve just proved that a/b is the ratio of two even numbers and it follows that this fraction could be simplified by dividing both of them by 2.

This contradion shows that our original assumption — that a and b exist at all — must be wrong.

From Tim Harford, Undercover Economist, Financial Times, 10/11 July, 2021, p 18.

Performing Québec

Old Con seems to be pretty predictably on script.

Actually, it crossed my mind to say about him what John does occasionally about black woke BLM types, that they are performing their static outrage, static because things are not going to change, and if things did their spiel would have to reflect it, in which case they would have little left to say.

The reason I allow myself this bit of ad hominen characterization is because Con knows that Canada is an elite accommodation, that the official version of the country is just that, the official version, that the mass of CDN Anglophones are never going to be bilingual (in French anyway), but that the surface of interaction must reflect the pretence that both languages are equal. This is because the processes of diglossia and bilingualism are not going to be deeply affected by legislation or by official pretence. Infrastructure vs superstructure.

In particular I disagree with his claim that the Québec elite made a good-faith promise to have a bilingual Canada, and that they have “betrayed” that deal.

No, Con: no one ever imagined by that all of Canada was going to become bilingual. That bit of work was intended for the hard-working elite interlocuters, translators among them, who grease the creaky wheels of officialdom. And whence the sudden concern for poor unilingual francophones in Québec? Crocodile tears, I say. Let them stay unilingual. That’s their business, that of Québécois on the street, not a constitutional issue. And my experience as an anglophone in Q has been that for a half-century is that it is a great place, not a source of oppression. In fact most of the young in Montreal, anglophones and allophones leading, are bilingual and comfortable with it.

Put another way, Québec is no more likely to change than say South Dakota, Wyoming or … Lousiana. The secret to successful governing is allowing for variegated accommodation among diverse constituencies (did I write that?). There is huge assymetry in Canadian society, but the Q seem to understand that, as far as language goes, and have learned to get the most out of it they can. Unitarian Canuck nationalists, who can be sometimes preoccupied with Québec, want instead to iron out imperfections and wrinkles, most of which are pro forma.

All this to say that I am not worried about Q becoming a renegade province within the orbit of the capacious Canadian constitution, a wad of sticky flypaper if ever there was one.

That Zemmour is certainly a nasty piece of work, alright.

I had forgotten about Ellison’s quip, so long ago since I read it. Beautiful.

Of course I can detect traces of Lasch in your disappointment about John having based the last Bears Mentioning with a SNL skit, rather than something real …. Certainly a “secular” tendency which is rampant these days, secular in the sense of “generational”. John is at least writing in that context as an editorialist rather than as an educator. What I too dislike is the mass infusion of popular culture into education, e.g. vampire movies serving as target of “cultural analysis” — a “hook” to use your word.

Snag the young and innocent with allusions to what they already know, unload your message, and send them on the way with no further effort to understand. What ever happened to having to learn new material? OK, it you want, talk about vampires but try to include some geography and history in the discussion. Where has that Stoff come from? Etc.

But I’m an old fart. Generations pass. The sun also rises. A sentiment which Con betrays in his last sentence.