Food for Thought

Fire up the modality, we’re takin’ a trip

By Karl Isberg
PREVIEW columnist


Have you taken stock lately of what a ridiculous lot we humans are — how gullible we are, how foolish?

If you have, it’s likely you haven’t said much about it. It is fashionable these days amongst the high minded to not focus criticism on any person or group, for fear of damaging oh-so-sensitive souls, brutalizing self esteem. This, alone, is a prime example of our idiocy; we live, after all, in a world in which stark violence and nastiness are too often the rule on one hand, while a delusional correctness prevails on the other. Kind of like: I’ll blow you and your family to smithereens, but I won’t say anything to hurt your feelings.

Devote attention to our gullibility; check out what we tend to believe, and what kind of “proof” we accept as justification for our beliefs. When you do so, tighten your seatbelt and make sure your tray is in the upright and locked position … there’s a crash ahead.

I have a persistent source of lunacy available for inspection: The contents of my e-mail file at work. There is no spam filter on my e-mail since, every once in a while, something comes through that is worthy of use in the newspaper.

But the rest? Yow!

I wade through an average 200 e-mails per day — many expressing concern about erectile dysfunction, others proffering splendid loan opportunities. I get offers for bargain OTC drugs and a raft of invites to skranky-looking porn sites. There are clumsily composed come-ons from alleged sons, daughters, ex-wives of deposed African/South American/Asian government officials, from their solicitors, etc., trumpeting my opportunity to assist in the move of millions of dollars from hidden accounts. All I need to do is forward my bank account number to the hapless heir or attorney and a hefty percentage of the fortune transferred to me will be mine to keep.

People fall for this.

I get notices indicating I have won a stupendous sum in a Canadian provincial lottery. All I need do is forward a meaningless thousand dollars to pay for the necessary government paperwork (it is Canada, after all) and millions will be mine in return. Every other word in the notices is misspelled.

Yet, people fall for this.

We are feeble beings, we humans. But our problem is greater than a tendency to be lured into financial scams. The erectile dysfunction pitch, the lust for money, the need for lower-priced medications, they are irritating — but the e-mails from folks involved in “alternative” spiritual and “healing” practices … these are the best. Or worst, depending on your point of view.

Key word: “Modalities.” We’re dealing with different modalities here, folks. So, any test that applies in a vaguely empirical frame of reference, is of little use here. This is a different modality.

“Different modality” seems to be a snappy way of saying: We will take your cash while you convince yourself you are getting better — physically, spiritually, emotionally. Until, of course, you run out of money, or you die. Whichever comes first..

Everyone who enters this domain (and pays the price, of course) can be “transformed.”
Including me. I got an e-mail notifying me that Dan is conducting a workshop at which he will affect a “dynamic transformation.” Dynamic transformations are the best kind, you know. (I assume if I saddle Dan’s modality and ride it to the finish line, the most dynamic transformation will occur in my bank account.)

Dan is a powerful fellow: He can assist me with weight management, help me quit smoking, find lost baubles as a “clairvoyant medium,” lead me to “future progression” (whatever that is) and guide me in “past life regression.”

Need credentials? Rest easy: Dan is “Arizona’s remarkable sound healer and intuitive.” Thus, he is obviously qualified to help me “answer the call of the heart” and “be part of the Awakening.”

Need more proof?

No problemo: Dan “received his gifts in a near death experience.”

Now, according to my tradition, every experience is a near-death experience, so this claim doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. What does mean something is the fact there are folks who buy into this nonsense. In every way.

Another goof touts herself as a “Doctor/Master— an extraordinary healer, advanced spiritual master and inspired teacher.”

No ego problems here, eh? We should probably take her word for it, shouldn’t we? After all, it’s a different modality.

Yet another “heals” with Hawaiian music. Four or five Mai Tais, and I might go with this one.

Another bills himself as a “catalyst for wealth, happiness, health and enlightenment.” I have no doubt that, as long as someone is dumb enough to pay up, someone’s wealth and happiness is assured. Wonder who that might be?

Reflecting the complete idiocy exhibited by all too many parents is a pitch I am sure has hooked a crowd of proud mommies and daddies — you know, the ones who put bumper stickers on their SUV: “My child is an honor student at Larry, Moe and Curly Junior High School.”

This is a beauty: An “award-winning educator and expert in child-directed learning” will, for a price of course, show every parent how to bring out their child’s “innate genius.”

Mom, Dad ... you were right! Little Johnny is 14 years old, doesn’t know how to wear a hat, dresses like a circus clown and can’t drink from a cup without spilling — but he is possessed of “innate genius.” Little Jimmy is 16, stays in his room 18 hours a day, flipping from one Internet site to another, doing who knows what (chronically) but, despite the fact his shoes fasten with Velcro because he hasn’t mastered the art of tying a bow knot, what you’ve suspected all along is true: He’s brilliant!

Baby Brenda is 17, has a botched bunny tattoo on her tummy, can’t make correct change at her job at the fast food joint, picks her nose incessantly and eats whatever she finds, but … you guessed it… innate Ms. Einstein.

People buy this.


Best of all, though, is an offer I received to sign up for a special workshop in Sedona — Land of Loons.

And, since I am as gullible as any guy in any modality, I am signing on.

Guess what, kids … I’m goin’ on a Sperm Journey!

Yep, you read this correctly: A Sperm Journey.

In so doing, I am going to get in touch with the source of all my “unconscious impulses.” The mysteries of my “emotional life” and my “psychological tendencies” will be unraveled.
Some who know me are probably thinking: “Karl, you were in the rock and roll business as a kid. You spent decades lurking in the art world. Surely, you’ve been on way too many sperm journeys to mention.”

Ah, but you would be wrong. This is different. This workshop is led by an “internationally renowned” savant, in a “supporting and nurturing environment” (hardly the Lower East Side of Manhattan, circa 1966).

I am going to learn about “the actual journey of the amazing sperm cell” — my sperm cell, the little critter that struggled from a nurturing environment in Dad, to the welcoming egg waiting in Mom. When the two met: Kablam! … Karl.

How is this going to happen, you ask?

Easy — via “inherent body movements and precise exercises.”

There’s a bit of meaningful symmetry for you: The journey, in my sperm cell’s case anyway, had to involve some pretty precise and likely frantic inherent body movements, since Dad was downright crazed when he jumped off the troop train in 1945. There were a lot of inherent body movements going on all over the country right around that time. Kablam! … the Baby Boom.

So, for just $645, I get two days of precise exercises and inherent body movements (plus a single bed and two continental breakfasts) and I come out on the other end (pardon the pun) a fully realized, “healed” person.

Let’s get serious for a moment, dear reader.

There are people out there who actually believe this crap. They will do, and pay, anything to escape the misery of the self they are stuck with. They will do anything to avert their gaze from the ponderous and imponderable fact of their mortality. They will flip to any “modality” necessary, be as dumb as need be, in order to experience something that approximates companionship and community, that provides a veneer of connection and intimacy.

What a species we are.

But, as my Great Teacher, Alfred E. Neuman, said: “What ... me worry?”

Cause I’m going on a Sperm Journey in Sedona. Who knows, I might even indulge in a bit of sound healing, some hot crystal therapy, a tad bit of past life regression. I was Isadora Duncan and Robin Hood, you know ... right after I was Ramses II.

The big problem, aside from a whopping case of terminal gullibility?

What do you eat when you’re ready to take a Sperm Journey?

One thing for sure: It isn’t going to be tapioca pudding.

No, I think I’ll need something light, but packing plenty of protein. There’s precise exercises ahead.

Fish. That’s it. Served with a moderate load of carbs since there will, no doubt, be a need for some quick energy during those inherent movements.

I’ll look for a hunk of “fresh” halibut at the store, at a per-ounce price just below that of platinum. I’ll need a couple lemons, a can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, a handful of pitted kalamata olives, some shallots, some fresh parsley, unsalted butter, kosher salt and fresh, coarse-ground pepper.

I’ll pick up a few fingerling potatoes, for roasting, and a pack of frozen haricots vert. The fixins for a simple salad will top things off.

I’ll set the spuds to roasting at 400 F, on a baking sheet, halved, coated with extra-virgin olive oil, seasoned with kosher salt, pepper and herbs de Provence. I’ll tear up some greens, quarter a few small, hothouse tomatoes, chunk up an avocado and make a vinaigrette with lemon juice, high-grade olive oil, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and a sprinkle of the aforementioned herbs. A bit of salted water will be heated in a saucepan to await the arrival of the green beans.

The halibut will be separated from its skin and the fillets dried and seasoned. When the potatoes are nearly done, the beans go on quick trip to the heat, and into a mix of butter and olive oil go the fillets, to quickly brown on one side, then the next, in a heavy fry pan over medium high heat. The pan goes into the oven for approximately eight minutes (more or less, depending on the thickness of the fish — the center of the flesh should be a bit jiggly since it will continue to cook). When the pan comes out, the fillets go on a heated plate. Into the pan, over medium-high heat go minced shallot and chopped parsley. A moment later, a couple spoons of tomato, a splash of lemon juice and some herbs de Provence join the vegetables. A moment later, in go some olives and a huge wad of butter. The pan comes off the heat, the butter melts and emulsifies the goodies, the fish goes back in the pan for a coating.

And I’ll dig in, comfy in my absolute favorite modality, contemplating the journey of a lifetime.

Do you think I’ll need sunscreen?

What's Cookin?

Black Bean and Couscous Salad with Jalapeno-Lemon Dressing

By Kim Vernon, CSU Extension
PREVIEW columnist

2/3 cup uncooked couscous
2/3 cup canned black beans, drained, rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
1. Prepare couscous according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
2. Spread couscous on a baking sheeting in a thin layer; let stand to 10 minutes or until completely cooled.
3. Meanwhile, combine lemon rind and next six ingredients in a small bowl; set aside
4. Combine couscous, beans and onions in a large bowl. Add reserved lemon mixture and toss gently.
Yields 8 servings: 1/2 cup per serving — 91 calories, 2.6g protein, 2.6g carbohydrates, 1.9g fiber, 277mg sodium.


Margaret Elizabeth Hernandez

Margaret Elizabeth Hernandez passed away on April 11, 2007. Margaret was 61 years young; she was born on Aug. 4, 1945, in Los Angeles, Calif. Margaret married Regino D. Hernandez Jr. on Nov. 15, 1964.

She is survived by her husband, Regino D. Hernandez, Jr.; daughters Tina Koster, of Pagosa Springs, and Gina Randall, of Grass Valley, Calif.; son, Vincent Hernandez, of Lincoln, Calif.; father, Martin Gonzales, of Smartville, Calif.; sisters, Helen Yeoman and Norma Baker, of Smartville, Calif.; grandchildren: Shawnee and Catelyn Koster, of Pagosa Springs; Kevin, Lily, Lucas, Vincent Jr. and Anthony Hernandez, of Lincoln, Calif., Marissa and Celine Randall, of Grass Valley, Calif. She is preceded by her mother, Maxine Gonzales.

Margaret resided in Pagosa Springs since 2005, was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Pagosa Springs, and worked for the Archuleta County Clerk/Recorder’s Office. Services for Margaret will be announced at a later date.

Jose Ramon Rivera

Jose Ramon (Ray) Rivera passed away April 16, 2007, in Durango, Colo. He was born May 29, 1939, in Monero, N.M. His parents were Jose Teodoro Rivera and Margarita Adelia Carillo.

His partner in life was Jenny Bell.

Ray was employed by Smith Co., Sonco, Wolf Creek Industries, Byron Greco and San Juan Lumber.
Ray lead a simple life. He was a loving father, grandfather and partner.
He would like to be remembered riding his motorcycle, walking, laughing and enjoying his family and friends. The family asks for a prayer in this time of need.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus. He also enjoyed fishing, building, creating/crafts, camping, gardening, hunting, motorcycle riding, hiking and walking.

Ray was preceded in death by his parents, Jose Teodoro Rivera and Margarita Adelia Carillo, and Sandra Martinez.
Ray is survived by children: David and Toni, Christopher, Daniel, Stephani Rivera and Tasha Rivera, of Houston, Texas; Danny and Shayla, Joshua, LaTarah Rivera, of Pagosa Springs; Donald and Jodi, Elizabeth, Jaymes Rivera of Sloughhouse, Calif.; Diane and Chad, Jack McInnis, of Pagosa Springs; brother, Ike Rivera of Durango, Colo.; sisters, Pilar Martinez, Dolores Gurule, Jeannie Baldwin, of Pagosa Springs; and Fabiola Rivas of Cortez, Colo.; numerous nieces and nephews, and his little buddies, Dylan and Jude Lindberg and Zachary Olsen.

Rosary and mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 21, 2007, at the Immaculate Hart of Mary Church. Burial will be at Rosa, N.M., after the meal. Memorial contributions may be directed to the Knights of Columbus.

Sidney A. Martin, Jr.

Sidney A. Martin, Jr., 91, passed away April 11, 2007, in San Marcos, Texas. He was born in Ft. Worth Feb. 20, 1916. He attended North Texas Agricultural College in Arlington (now UT Arlington), and the University of Texas in Austin, where he earned a B.A. in Physics cum laude in 1938.

He worked as a geophysicist for Humble Oil Company where he helped develop new techniques of searching for oil, including “thumper” trucks. He married his first wife, Elizabeth Ann Martin, in 1939. During WW II, he worked with an elite team of scientists developing airborne radar at the MIT Radiation Laboratory. After the war, he settled with his family in Houston, where he worked for Humble, then Exxon, for 38 years.

His wife, Ann, predeceased him in 1976, and he married Phyllis Salz, who survives him.

In 1978 Sid retired from Exxon and moved to Pagosa Springs, where he built a house on Rainbow Drive and enjoyed an active lifestyle, including snowmobiling, hiking, cross-country skiing, and downhill skiing, which he took up at the age of 70. He loved to ski at Wolf Creek Pass.

He was always active in the Catholic Church. Sid and Phyllis were active members of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, where he served on the parish council, and both of them participated as Eucharistic Ministers and taking communion to the sick.

They were also involved in the Grey Wolves Club, and enjoyed camping and travelling in their RV. They spent time in Albuquerque, where they had a house for a few years, and in Phoenix. Sid was a member of the Rotary Club.
In 1997, they sold the house they had built on Rainbow Drive and moved to a smaller home in Lake Pagosa Park. In 2000 they moved back to Texas, living in Wimberley for two years and then San Marcos.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 30 years, Phyllis, and one brother, Doug Martin, both of San Marcos; four children: Jeannette Sheridan of Wimberley, Mary Wallace of Sour Lake, Abigail Landon of Dallas, and Robert Martin of Corinth; six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren; and numerous relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Ann, and his daughter, Mary Margaret, who died as an infant.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CTMC Hospice, 1315 IH 35 North, San Marcos TX 78666.