Monthly Archives: March 2017

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Nine

Dear Simon,

I want to make one other change in the blogging. I’m shitcanning the idea of a penultimate blog shining with the eternal light of a City of God, as His Servant, chanting in the profound cadences of the Gregorian, sways with The Great Unwashed. What was I thinking!

The last time I saw this movie was in Minnesota, the brilliant Pfotenhauer girls, Martha, looking away for a moment from a magnificent watercolor she was painting and young Esther, looking up from a book, the porch a glory of fresh flowers,
the light shimmering under a cloudless, blue sky. They watched the men below. They never waved, shouted, sang out to the farmer boys cranking along in their wagons.

They waited motionless until the young lads moved deeper into the valley and disappeared.

What Rebecca and Norman taught me is that if you want to master anything it’s done one problem at a time. Put all your eggs in one basket and WATCH THAT BASKET! I think Thurber said that first. Damn! Like I said, no more Pinocchios. The genius Democrat still gets the last word in the ultimate blog.

Problem: The Right and The Left, together,

God’s in His heaven,
All’s right with the world.

Out of our 240 year history as the UNITED States, which two Presidents out of our forty five Chiefs of State, had the depth of mind and strength of character to recognize this binary structure.

Answer – George Washington and Barack Obama.

Evidence: Yesterday, Rhodehamel’s biography of Washington, The Wonder of the Age, arrived. Published 2017! I read through the first nine pages. Done! Tossed the book some place. Today I had to waste fifteen minutes digging it out. Beethoven signed many of his letters, “In haste.” “Hurriedly.” I understand that now. Of course, he was writing The Ode to Joy, and Freddy is writing a blog to Simon. Hume, Bion, Beckett, Ludwig, Freddy – bunch of folks trying to strike a balance between hierarchical and planarity That’s what my planned exegesis of The Right and The Left, in that penultimate blog, was about. Instead, we’ll take it one carefully held egg at a time.

I’m going to simply quote from those nine pages. It wasn’t Hanna Segal sending me over the moon, but close.

“Washington was the central figure in a radical revolution that aimed at nothing less than the transformation of Western civilization.”

“Even in England the king was the unquestioned head of state.Just beneath royalty revolved the glittering constellations of aristocracy – proud lords and highborn ladies. They too were exalted far above the common run of men and women.”

“The American Revolution made the theory of popular government a reality for the first time. American success marked a fundamental turning point in human affairs.”

Washington “considered the new constitution an experiment on the practicability of republican government, and with what dose of liberty man could be trusted for his own good. He was determined the experiment should have a fair trial and would lose the last drop of his blood in support of it.”

“In an age that believed power corrupted its possessors, Washington was the wonder of the age. It was safe enough to treat this man like a king, because he didn’t want to be one.”

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Eight

Dear Simon,

I’ve got a fun egg for our frying pan this morning. I feel good. Ever since I’ve been thrashing your question, been sleeping five hours a night instead of ten. Yet feel rested. Ready to rumble.

I want to make a change in the deep structure of my blogging. Instead of story telling, I want to switch to problem solving. Learned this from Rebecca and Norm. She graduated from MIT, he from Cal Tech. Both institutions work under the Damoclean Sword of mathematics. Much of biology doesn’t. Psychoanalysis doesn’t. Bion’s Grid is an effort to solve the problem.

Problem – What is the factual evidence money is the major determinant in setting up hierarchical structure?

Answer – In five minutes, every new patient produces the factual evidence by my asking a series of questions.

Patient comes in, I say Hi, I’m Doctor Kurth.

What is your full name? I write down in chart and all subsequent answers.

Married? Divorced?
Kids OK?
Any health issues, current or past?
Addiction? – tobacco, alcohol, drugs
Work? Work history past five years?
Money? How much earn? How much past five years?
“I’d rather not say.” “Why do you ask?” “None of your
business?” “Didn’t expect such a question” After shock
wears off –
What brings you here?

Now I’m ready to set up shop.

Money matters. Money quantifies energy available. I told Allen and Arline as Pauline was dying that her heart had beat over two billion times in her 101 years. Heart pump accounts for 80% of 98.6. The moment energy stopped flowing through her body, Pauline died.

Simon, you want to know how powerful money is in the hierarchical scheme of things? My own kids won’t talk to me about their money! I mean arithmetically. Vague generalities. If I push, they get angry. Pisses me off. My wife says it’s none of my business. I can understand not talking about their sex life. And I never have. But money? for Chris sake!

Besides Warren Buffet, do you know of any rich man or woman who doesn’t go over the top with money? John McCain owns seven houses. Maybe that doesn’t count because he’s a Republican. The 1% is determined by their wisdom, their generosity, their kindness to animals? Give me a break!

Defund Planned Parenthood. Don’t fund Obamacare and it’ll wither and die. Medicare is in a death spiral. Make the lazy bastards work until 70. Cut Food Stamps. Starve the bums. That goes for Meals on Wheels, too.

What I most admire about you, Simon, is that you stayed onward and upward in the Life of the Mind as expressed through theatre. You didn’t get rich at the Fountain. You stayed alive.

I’ve been thinking. August Wilson brought out Fences in 1985. It took 30 years to get made into a movie. You and Val and I re-wrote The Beethovens – again! – the other month. Bion would call that a transformation.

Johanna and Ludwig, anyone?

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Seven

Dear Simon

Does anyone believe my dad was acting like a Nixon Republican when he whistled all the way to Rockaway Beach when it was getting dark for me to come off the street where I was running with Pinocchio on Pleasure Island and would have kept running until I dropped?

Or do you think Wilfred fooled us with his deprecatory modesty, when he had British Empire written all over him? Wilfred was born in India in 1898, the same year as both my parents, and came to England at age eight. In World War I he served in a British tank corps. Thirty seven out of thirty eight got incinerated in their tanks, Wilfred the lone survivor. He got the highest medal The Empire offered. For bravery. Wilfred told me if he had run in the opposite direction, he’d likely been shot for being a coward.

Why do you think Chuck Schumar goes on and on about the Republicans would be all over Hillary’s case if she were President had she pulled Trump shit? Why is it the natural order of things for the king to be in his counting house counting all his money? Or Russian billionaire oligarchs ruling Russia?

Why did John Adams find puzzling the fact that so few thinkers thought about politics?

Why did it take five hundred years from the Magna Carta to the French Revolution to discover The Right and The Left?

Because hierarchy is doing what comes naturally, but it takes eternal vigilance to maintain planarity?

Remember Munich? Hitler began talking to Neville Chamberlain and company at noon and talked until three. THREE AM!

When I was a muck-a-muck in the Mar Vista park Little League and managed The Dodgers with my buddy, Frank Fernandez, the cheating bastards kept dragging out the meetings, sometimes until midnight. I never left. Fuck the next day’s work. I’m sorry, precious conversational partners, I’ll hang tough. But if I leave, they’ll pull their shenanigans.

Eternal vigilance – comes trippingly off the tongue. One problem – folks on The Left get tired. They’re going against the grain.

Simon, I had just sent you my third blog of the day. I was packing it in. Not a thought in my mind. Blessed quiet. I’ll have a cup of coffee and let my wife take off my shoes and socks and shorts and underwear and tuck me in for the night.

BOOM! Here comes a fresh battalion. Somewhere in Shakespeare, Big Bill says, “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” But I’ve never had so much fun in my life as these last twenty seven or whatever number of blogs.

And if they go to ninety five, wouldn’t that be fun!

This time I am packing it in for the night.

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Six

Dear Simon,

A couple years ago, I was reading through the New York Review of Books. There was a review of Samuel Beckett’s Collected Letters. Maybe the first of several planned volumes. I don’t remember. I love Samuel Beckett. Every time I went to see Waiting for Godot, I thought, That’s pure Bion translated by a genius.

So I started reading, and then, WHAM! What the fuck! I thought I’d faint. Like Schubert when he heard Beethoven’s C minor. Beckett had been in treatment with Wilfred?! I’d start reading, and then I’d get woozy.

Here’s the skinny. Samuel Beckett lived in Ireland. He was crazier than shit. Overwhelming anxiety. Not hallucinations. Not voices. Anxiety. He would sleep with his brother, hanging on for dear life through the night. What about psychoanalysis?
Forbidden in Catholic Ireland. Well, move to London for a while. There’s supposed to be this young genius there. Bion.
So Beckett moved to London and went into treatment with my Wilfred. And Wilfred saved him. Beckett clung to Bion for years, but he was able to travel. Best of all, he was able to work!

And I’m bawling as I write this. The fuckin’ John Boehner Boo-Hoo syndrome. But what I see at this moment, for the first time, is that Beckett is Bion’s translator. Bion was a terrible writer. His writing sucks. But like it or not, the apostolic succession is Freud, Klein and Bion.

Melanie, which is how Wilfred always referred to her, had no formal education. But she came to London from someplace in eastern Europe, I forget where, and set up shop. Next thing you know, she’s in the British Psychoanalytic Institute going toe to toe with Anna Freud, Freud’s favorite son. Wilfred underwent psychoanalysis with Melanie. Eventually, of course, they became buddies.

Wilfred never spoke a word to me about Beckett.

It’s been a long day. I’m packing it in.

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Five

Well, the Big Guy comes to Tinsel Town. Wilfred Bion! He had written tons of books. Nobody read any of them, and the ones who tried couldn’t make sense out of them. Yet he was unquestionably the mightiest psychoanalyst of them all. Of course, we all knew that. The apostolic succession – Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion. Or maybe that’s a Pinocchio. Most analysts didn’t give a shit.

So when he hit town, the powers-that-be lost no time scheduling a symposium, Wilfred Bion, the featured speaker. And how ’bout this for a subject, “What is a Cure?” Place is packed. First, the intro, with the usual encomiums and panegyrics. And then Bion, smooth as silk, purring British modesty as a proper English gentleman. And before you knew it,

“I had this patient. Whenever I said anything, she’d scream. This went on for months. And then one day, I don’t know what I had said, some bloody nonsense, more than likely, she asked,
“What did you say, Doctor?” Is that a cure?”

And he sat down.

Welcome to America, Wilfred.

I went hierarchical in my life with Wilfred. First, analysand; then supervisee; then full-fledged colleague, then buddy. Like me and David Hume – buddies.

But Jesus, I never escaped the hierarchical. Try hard as I could. That’s what I couldn’t get over with Obama. He didn’t get entangled with the hierarchical. He kept flowing. O, he wore many hats. Do you think he was stupid! “It’s good to be back in Palookaville;” and singing “Amazing Grace” in Charlotte that just about broke me in two.

Here’s when I knew I’d never recover from the hierarchical. (By the way, being a Democrat helps. We’re planarians.) I had written a 60 page blockbuster that no one gave a shit about, even made fun of at one seminar. Except Bion. He really liked it. It expanded on his Grid, that no in Chrisendom gave a fuck. So my buddy invites me and my wife to dinner at his house.
I was in such a sweat the whole evening. We sat at an elegant small table, Marilyn across from Francesca, Bion’s gracious, British wife. Second wife. His first wife died in childbirth. Me and Wilfred at opposite ends. But no more than five feet apart. All I can remember of that evening is that Francesca served an elegant, red wine.

Just like that Freudian world-famous psychoanalyst invited me to come by his house once a week, so Bion asked me, his buddy. It was different. The Freudian had had Marilyn Monroe in his house in order to save her. He was in over his head. He was in fact heart-broken. He’d have us walk out in his huge ground floor, or atrium, whatever the hell you call it, and we’d look up at the railings on the second floor walkway and he’d tell me how he and Joe Dimaggio put Marilyn in her place.

I gave Wilfred the Collected Writings of Charles Sanders Peirce. Charles, arguably, is the smartest American in our history. Close friend with William James. Father, Benjamin Peirce. Maybe our greatest mathematician. “Mathematics draws necessary conclusions.”

Because I’m a bright bastard, I kinda wiggled out of the hierarchical when we talked about Charles. But years later, something happened, long after Wilfred had packed up at around age 80 and returned to England. He died soon after, in six days, with leukemia. Francesca said he was ready to leave.

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Four

Dear Simon,

Well, wouldn’t you know. Blog 24. Honest. No Pinocchio. Hamlet had it right,

There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them how we will.

My neighbor of 54 years died last night. Pauline Alchian. She would have turned 102 on July Fourth. Her husband died four years ago. I knew them at least thirty years before I learned he had made the short list twice for a Nobel Prize. I thought he was just another UCLA prof in economics. And, like me, a golfing nut.

I’ve been thinking about my funeral off and on for years. It all came together this morning, so I’ll make that my Blog 24!
Pauline wanted no memorial service. She wanted a regular Mass celebrated. That will be Sunday. She wanted to be cremated. And that’s it!

My funeral is titled,

Death, you’re in the way.

First, I want to be cremated. My wife signed us up in the Neptune Society many years ago. Thirteen hundred bucks, each.

Then I want my ashes to be brought to 3109 Colby. The Homestead.

I’m an atheist, but I want played on my computer Gustavo Dudamel conducting Gustave Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, first movement only.

Then I want my ashes scattered in my garden that my wife kept beautiful for 54 years. Well, after our dog, Max, croaked.

And then everybody go about your business.

frederick william kurth

husband, father, neighbor

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Three

Dear Simon,

I enjoyed my three years as a country doc. I enjoyed my three years doing a psychiatric residency. I enjoyed my five years training in the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute. I had climbed the mountain. And set up shop -where else? Beverly Hills! Freddy had arrived.

And Freddy was top drawer. Smart as a whip. Deep thinker. Referrals poured in. Got someone really crazy, scaring the shit out of you? Send ’em to Freddy. He’s great with psychotics.

After five years, working meticulously in the Freudian paradigm, the jig was up. I couldn’t go on. “Terence, this is stupid stuff.” Hausman, you stupid fairy, you think!

Clay lies still,
But blood’s a rover,
Breath’s a ware
That will not keep.
Up lad, when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough to sleep.

Hell, I’ll drive a truck for a living, This is killing me. It’s not that Freud didn’t make sense. The sessions parsed. The Doctor and the Analysand, the Psychoanalytic Couple, belonged in a museum.

Not 10,000 to one odds, but the Lord saved little Frederick again. I still needed supervisory hours. I had undoubtedly the most brilliant, charismatic, swash-buckling, internationally renowned muck-a-muck in the business. A generation older, he had written a famous paper on the Psychoanalytic Couple.
We whooped it up. Two Wunderkind. The Psychoanalytic Couple remained in the museum.

So I set up a plan. Hanna Segal was coming to town.
With a bunch of other Kleinians from England. I’d present the same session to the Freudian supervisor and then to Hanna Segal, the Kleinian supervisor.

Hanna had parked herself for two weeks in the Wilshire hotel. She’d do supervisions by day and lecture at the Institute at night. So Andy Patterson, my long-time buddy, and I signed up.
I remember coming into her hotel room. She was a little bit on the dumpy side, a bit heavy. But like Kent said of Lear, she breathed authority.

Andy and I had agreed I’d present my case first. I had presented the case to my Freudian supervisor the day before. We shook hands and Segal immediately waved us to our chairs, which I now noticed sitting in the middle of the room. So I started, zama, zama. More zama, zama. And then I stopped and waited.

After what seemed forever, Segal began talking. Omigod! I could feel myself sailing over the sun, the moon and the stars. It was awesome. I couldn’t believe it. As we rode the elevator back down, I looked at Andy. “What the hell was that! Jesus Christ!”

God had saved me again. From then on, I was the other half of what I came to call, The Conversational Couple.

Free at last. Free at last.
Thank God I’m free at last.

But God had another great plan for Freddy. Wilfred Bion! He bestrode the psychoanalytic world with seven league boots. Long-time president of the British Psychoanalytic Society. people thought he was either one smart motherfucker, or crazy. He wrote books nobody could understand. I hunkered down with Transformations for at least six months. If you think The Federalist Papers are a tough slog!

Finally, I got what Bion was up to. No more Pinocchios! The reason why I was able to plough through his goddamn books is because he was moving to Los Angeles! 67 years old, he was coming to set up shop. I’ll be a sonofabitch.

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty Two

Dear Simon,

David Hume popped into my head just now as I was having a midnight snack. Hume, the Great Skeptic, one of my favorite Great Ones. He greatly influenced the economic theories of Adam Smith, with whom he was also a good friend. He described playing billiards, having just gotten up from his writing table.

“And what have you been writing?”

-Nothing. Just writing.

“Seriously, what have you been writing?

– Seriously, I can’t remember.

Hume had destroyed causality, bounced epistemology on its head and dispatched Aristotle into the ether. He knew, as he stretched across the billiard table, “Side pocket. Seven,” that whatever he was working on, whatever the hell it was, it was going well.

This is my fourth blog today. Fun. In the flow. Not the slightest idea what the other three were about. Just like my buddy, David.

Early on, I had read Chomsky’s, Language and Mind. Mind has inchoate thoughts. Language develops them. This leads to new thoughts and language goes to work again. WORK IS THE FUN! But by the time I click on Send, it’s such a happy feeling. The blog disappears into the ether. Gone. Done with. Yahoo!

What is life without work? No blogging? I had a ball today, working my ass off.

What is life without labor? A house turned into a dump, that’s what. Do I want to let entropy transmogrify my neat and tidy home into a crazy frat house? I know. I know. Cleaning up is boring. Dirty work is for immigrants.

What is life without play? No Bruins? No roller skating? No reason to get the LA Times Sports Section? No Toy Department?

Simon, this is blog twenty two. 24 blogs? Gonna go over. Too bad. 24 and I could’ve met my grandfather in heaven and told him, “You know God wrote The Messiah in 24 days. I wrote 24 blogs, and I don’t know who wrote them.”

My mind is a fun house of inchoate ideas. This I can tell you. In the penultimate blog, I will provide an exegesis of “Simon’s Question” that will knock your socks off. And as an added goodie, how to turn the Trump presidency into as great a success as the Obama’s. Substantively, not aesthetically.

Then there’s the ultimate blog, with that speech-maker for the ages, the greatest political animal, in my judgment, that ever came down the pike. He gets The Last Word.

Tonight I get the last word –


(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty One

Dear Simon,

Here’s fun! Remember when we talked about Polanyi’s “unanticipated and uncovenanted consequences?”

Well, as a matter of fact, I do eat an apple every day in my sun-splashed little garden that my wife forever putters in, and today was no different. But, how brilliant! Val and Norm had just been talking about the Garden of Eden, etc. etc. I’d probably make a Pinocchio out of this, but my wife can’t stand the little darlin’, and that’s why I leave him in the closet – most of the time. Without her in my life, I’d be a master Geppeto.

Homo faber – Man the Toolmaker. Many smart folks have thought our capacity for making tools, some bordering on the miraculous, like this computer I’m pounding on, defines Homo sapiens sapiens. Close, but no cigar. I think one tool made the Humanistic Revolution possible in the reign of the divinely inspired King John. Without that tool, the Revolution may have first got a full head of steam cranked in 2015, or 3015, but it would have happened. In the fullness of time, as they say. We weren’t smart enough to make nuclear bombs or the internal combustion engine so the planet would have survived long enough for it to happen.

That one tool was the printing press. Gutenburg, in 1038 A.D., invented it, a mere one hundred and thirty three years before that ground-breaking discussion at Runnymeade. Before Gutenburg, a scribe could turn out three to five pages a day. With the tool, 3,000 pages a day! Within fifty years, the printing press was ready for business throughout Europe.

In 1215 AD began The March. Steve and I call it,

The Humanitarian Revolution, The Great March to Planarity.

When my computer goes on the blink, I go psychotic. How can I work? And play on You Tube? There are three compartments in life – Labor, Work, Play. Labor is no fun. It’s maintenance. I’m supposed to be happy cleaning up my desk? Eric Hoffer said a capacity to do maintenance is the hall-mark of civilization. For my computer maintenance, Rebecca is my techno-weenie. I just follow instructions. I understand nothing of what she’s telling me to do. But she never fails! She loves solving problems. I’m so happy for her! She graduated from MIT, and when I talk with Steve, a big muck-a-muck on campus, that’s probably the first thing I’ll tell him. It’s not a Pinocchio.

Somewhere in his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson at the end-half of their lives, John Adams wondered why history had paid so little attention to politics. A few treatises here, a few there. Plato’s Republic, that dangerous gospel according to authoritarianism.

There’s a very good reason why – Hierarchy. It’s the defining structure in Nature. Thomas and John were going against the grain. Of course, they knew that. That’s why they burned the midnight oil poring over John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and Voltaire, and a whole lot of others,

Reason’s soldiers,
Marching to planarity.

(to be continued)

Simon’s Question, Part Twenty

Dear Simon,

I had a pleasant surprise this morning. I was looking at Steve’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and I stumbled across an inscription in the front of it. I had forgotten, but Val and Norm had given Pinker’s book to me for Christmas in 2011. The inscription is astonishingly long, but I’m going to give you the full monty.

You got to know Norm well during our Beethoven project. Norm is one smart motherfucker. Val is the finest human being I know. Norm just finished ten years as the head of CITA, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics. He’s written over a hundred papers on star formation and such stuff. I can’t understand two words of his papers. Why? It’s all math. One great regret I have – I never took math as a student. Norm and I have talked up a storm over the years. I’m very smart at physics – qualitatively! Norm does quantitative physics. That’s an entirely different animal. Here’s the inscription.


We have had many discussions over the years about human nature and the general course of civilization, whether toward good or evil. The serial insanity of the race is well known and well chronicled. Less well known but presented here in a compelling manner is the hundred thousand year trend toward sanity – even through the apocalypse of the twentieth century.

“This book turns most creation facts on their heads. We have not been tossed out of the Garden of Eden, we are gradually planting it. You chose a profession dedicated to the reduction of suffering, aiding on a person to person basis the sowing of the Garden. We hope you enjoy reading about the harvest.

Love, Val and Norm”

Reading that again made me cry. I’ve got the John Boehner Boo-Hoo syndrome. I cry whenever I’m experiencing something good. I bawled through the ending of Manchester by the Sea. I couldn’t believe it was so authentic. For two hundred years, they rewrote Lear. Had Cordelia marry and live happily ever after. Some fancy Pinocchio shit. Shakespeare’s Lear is like the Museo della Tortura. It’s unbearable. Norm and I saw Anthony Hopkins play Lear in London many moons ago. That bastard. You told Anthony he was destined to play Beethoven. He didn’t hear. Too bad. I’m glad we’re taking another whack at The Beethovens. I like our new title, Johanna and Ludwig. That’s another unbearable story. Beethoven’s Late Quartet in C minor is Lear. And Lee in Manchester. And the Agnus Dei. The Missa works better in a theatre than the quartet.

“Stop crying, Pee Wee. After all the race has been through, you have to admire the human animal. Fuck Trump. We’ll make him a museum piece fast enough.”

Right now, I’m going to go eat my apple on my sun-splashed patio in the gorgeous little garden my wife putters in all the time. Just waiting for the next blog to hit.

(to be continued)