Blogging: When Only the Un-Dead Do It

Blog Machine

Blog Machine (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

I don’t even have to think any longer, which is a relief.

Here’s a headline from my morning Time magazine feed:

The 25 Best Bloggers of 2013

This was the lead:

“For years now, pundits have been knowingly declaring that blogging is dead, rendered irrelevant by alternative means of personal publishing such as Facebook and Twitter. The best way to quash that silly notion is to read scads of blogs, as we did to compile this story. Gifted bloggers are busy everywhere from their own hand-crafted sites to sites operated by major corporations…”

So, I am encouraged to think, after all – Thanks, Time – that I have once again discovered another once-trendy hobby and am riding it down like a ticket holder on the Hindenburg.  This article should give hope to all the bloggers in cyber space, and cheese-off a lot of the graphomaniacs.  But, the two are so often overlapping demographics, you can all join me in my little game of bicameral brain splitting over most everything I look at, smell, touch, hear, and taste….I got all five senses, didn’t…yeah, one, two, three, four, five….got ’em.

So, here’s the first up, just to give you a tease, as Time did for me.  I loved this…David Sedaris in hot rollers !  And I always imagined David Sedaris in hot rollers…I wasn’t hooked until the bit about Neil Gaiman growing up in Texas with a taxidermist for a father.  Now that did it….growing up amongst all those stuffed armadillos…bonding with a favorite non-normal uncle or slowly deteriorating grandfather who was so tired of the swear words they knew that they had to invent their own…and they swore in three and five languages respectively.  I could relate…David…you’re on your own with the hot rollers, bud.

But, I digress…this is not about me (blogger, graphomaniac, potty mouth) but about people like Jenny Lawson, and her blog “The Blogess.”  I got off on that, seeing as how every post of mine has at least two yawning grammar holes, and thanks to editing by cut-and-drag method, even more syntax problems.  I thought for a moment she had screwed up on the Blogess bit – no such luck.  Here’s how article author Susanna Schrobsdorff (what a cool last name…I’m stealing it for a character) introduced Ms. Lawson:

A self-portrait of the Bloggess, also known as...

A self-portrait of the Bloggess, also known as Jenny Lawson, an Internet blogger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“She’s been called dark, disturbing and laugh-out-loud funny — all of which is  true. But beyond that, The Bloggess is a just a really talented writer.  Think David Sedaris in hot rollers or Neil Gaiman if he liked to swear and  had grown up in Texas with a father who was a professional  taxidermist. What Jenny Lawson is not, is a typical mommy blogger. There  are no humblebrag confessions about “that one time I let my kid have three  Cheetos.” Her blog is about trying to stay sane when you’re generally prone  not to, and about making a long-running marriage work. When she published her memoir in 2012, it debuted at number one on the New York  Times best seller list.”

Read more: http://techland.time.com/2013/08/05/the-25-best-bloggers-2013-edition/slide/jenny-lawson-the-bloggess/#ixzz2bCjI1PI9

So…there it is.  I’m too worn from going through this list of top 25.  And I thought this blogging habit I picked up was just a lark.  My rise to the top, and subsequent fall from grace, shouldn’t take any time at all now, not with all the confidence this article has given me.

Blog on, blog on, bloggers…. (Sing amongst yourselves, to the tune of “Sail on, sail on, sailor…” from that ugh-some song by the re-formed, or was it reformed (?) Beach Boys.

Later….

The Philosopher Red Stimulates my Reptilian Core

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

Great…I finally get home, and I have had to make a strategic move back to the Ghost Hotel.  I’ve heard rumors of three gringos in town, very white-toned skin, wearing dark blue pants, serious expressions, and asking questions – which is bad form in a community of refugees from the “real” world – too many with too much to lose from answering questions.  Then, there’s that terrifying AA of American Airlines on the patch sewed onto the breast of the trio’s equally dark blue jackets.  I think this has something to do with my outburst in O’Hare after being delayed three times, missing a connection, and being re-routed to Chicago where thunderstorms had us grounded for three hours.  Look…I really had nothing to do with the disappearance of that snaggly woman at the Missed Flights/Distressed Passenger counter.

Any Way…I thought I could sit this out in peace here with the Philosopher Red at the Ghost Hotel, but he wasn’t around, only a dozen or so empty Impeial beer bottles and a messy pile of clippings from magazines to even suggest he had been here in the last month or so since I’ve been gone.  The clippings of word combinations were a bit disturbing, since I lean toward gallows humor and conspiracy theories.  Here’s what I found:

Sometimes, coming home can be a battle in itself.

TE ESPARA (you wait, in Spanish)

Black Magic

EXCESSIVE FORCE

Stay Comfortable, Stay Connected

No more business as usual

Donde estan los ninos?  (Where are your children, in Spanish)

Robotic revolution

Heroes among us

Prefiere sus reuniones cara a cara a las 7:30 (you want to meet face-to-face at 7:30, in Spanish) with the “7” inked out, and a “9” scribbled above it.

Brilliance.  Proximity.  It’s all Here

VeryKool

A Costa Rica Wilson

While sifting through this debris I noticed a few marks on the fence Red and I put up to discourage any outside examination of our life in the Ghost Hotel.

Lifting a candle up to the marks I found this.  Wilson…  Yes, Wilson in Costa Rica.

I was getting the fear.

The more optimistic types – those who don’t know the history of the Philosopher Red – might take these clippings for an exercise in found poetry…the image for an innocent blot left after a day of painting – but I do know his history.

Now, I’m not sure about anything any longer, but the purpose for these clippings, and the paint blot?

I’ve  watched enough television cop shows to know the beginning of a ransom note, or a warning to the Rude Red Dude’s perceived enemies when I see one.

 

pilsen girl

pilsen girl (Photo credit: w rollins)

A young surf bum on a stool at a beach club bar (or, an apparently young surf bum) with an Australian  accent, leaned into me and whispered, “They hijacked an Imperial truck two days ago,” to me while I was yelling – I mean asking – the local Pilsen Girl why the only cold beer they had was Pilsen.

Imperial is the “Beer of Costa Rica” as the advertising says.

Just then the local miriachi band started playing Hotel California for the 137th time since I’ve been here, but there were no tourists paying them, and the singer was  staring directly at me.  The rest of the musicians were looking at their instruments, the ground, the palm trees, anywhere but at me.  Something in that Reptilian core of my brain began to itch…the fight or flight center which has always served me well.

The Aussie beach bum slipped me a local magazine called The Howler, opened it to the editor’s page, and said, “I’d read this if I were you.”  He left immediately, without finishing his Pilsen.  I did too.

It seems that some researchers have been snooping around, trying to connect the way children learn language with the way baby birds learn to make bird calls.  One of their bodies was found in the estuary of Las Baulus National Park, the favorite dumping ground for Nicaraguan and Columbian – I’ve got to go.  I’ll explain later, when I can…if I can.

Later…

Immortal Bananas, Super-Sizing for Jesus, and My Last Meal

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I survived a few extremely uncomfortable experiences on my trip to GringoLandia, probably the most uncomfortably numb moments were shopping with my wife.  I could go on about that in detail, but it would just decay into cliché bitching.  Here’s one of the weirder things I noticed while shopping – Immortal Bananas.

How can it be that the hundred or more bananas at some Box Store were all the same size, the same perfect color of yellow, and as pristine as the photos on a grocery store advertisement?  And, after making off with a few of these Franken-Nanners, they defied the aging process, staying as yellow and perfect as plastic fruit for several days…no splitting, no browning, no banana activity whatsoever.  I live in a Banana Republic…I eat bananas every day…they’re supposed to get spotty, split at the seams…and smell…and taste like something other than paraffin.

I decided to do some internet cruising while waiting out the Immortal Bananas, and, of course, found weirdness.

One of the stranger websites I came across while waiting for my bananas to act like bananas was one dedicated to last-meal requests in the state of Texas.  Texas proudly claims to be the first state to offer specialized last meals, reportedly starting the ritualistic chow-down in 1924.  That all came to an end though, in September of 2011, after condemned prisoner Lawrence Russell Brewer requested a huge last meal and did not eat it, saying he wasn’t hungry.  Brewer’s refused request –

Two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza topped with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon, and sausage; one pint of Blue Bell ice cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers.

Most states offer last meals to condemned inmates a day or two before are scheduled to be executed.  Some opt for simple, like some joker named Victor Feguer – a single, unpitted olive.  Timothy McVeigh, of Oklahoma City in-fame, ordered two pints of mint, chocolate chip ice cream.  John Wayne Gacy ordered a full meal, with the addition of a bucket of original recipe fried chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken.  The site I found this on was comprehensive enough to include the fact that before Gacy became a student nurse killer he managed three franchises for the Colonel…ahhhh, the memories.  (Wasn’t he also a semi-pro clown?)

Seems that Super-Sizing has reached into even the most remote niches of American Life…and Death.

Oh well, if you think websites dedicated to last meals is nonsense, get a load of this nonsense:

Brian Wansink photo -- Executive Director of U...

Brian Wansink photo — Executive Director of USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian Wansink, a food behavior scientist at Cornell University, conducted a study comparing the size of food portions in 52 of the most famous portrayals of Jesus Christ and his disciples at The Last Supper.

I don’t know which is stranger, that some moron gets who knows how large a pile of grant money to investigate and quantify such balderdash, or that some moron would come up with such an idea. But, any how, with the smell of filthy lucre in the air, Wansink brought his brother, Craig, a professor of Religious Studies at  Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia, in on the scam.

Utilizing computer technology that allowed them to scan, rotate and calculate images regardless of their orientation in the paintings, the brothers compared the portion sizes to the heads of the disciples. Their findings…between the years 1000 AD and 2000 AD, numerous artists enlarged the size of the main dish by an average of 69 per cent; the size of the plate, 66 per cent; and the bread, 23 per cent.

I get the picture, I think…though I don’t know why.

Religiously inspired artists through the ages must have put as much value on the size of a serving of food being placed before Jesus the Christ and his disciples as modern-day parents do when grazing their increasingly obese children on the obscenely large doses of what is considered food in these modern-day United States of America.

But, this can’t be the whole story…that only came out when the details of the study were published in the April issue of –

International Journal of Obesity

International Journal of Obesity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The International Journal of Obesity.

Yes, folks…there is an actual International Journal of Obesity. Who would have thought?  I can’t even imagine who the target audience is.  And, this only gets weirder.

Wansink’s position at Cornell – one that would allow enough academic juice to engage in such idiotic research…he’s the John S. Dyson Endowed Chair in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University.  For his intrepid efforts he also became a 2007 recipient of the humorous Ig Nobel Prize and was named ABC World News Person of the Weekon January 4, 2008.

What a world !

Wansink was no joker though.  He has figured out how to belly up to the private trough, researching the size of the Last Supper, for whatever reason, and he’s also elbowed his way into position at the taxpayer-financed trough.  George W. Bush tabbed Wansink for his Executive Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), a post which Wansink filled from 2007 to 2009.  And, what good is any of this unless a book deal can be the end result?  Well, there was such a result…

 

Mindless Eating

 

Bon appetit…I think I’m done eating for a week or two.  I’m going to send out an e-mail to the friends I was staying with in the states…ask them if those bananas have started to show any sign of Mortality.

Later…

 

Hot Coffee, Same-Sex Unions, and Ohio – Running for Cover

Rust Belt

Rust Belt (Photo credit: jenni from the block)

So, I’m still on the run…or on vacation, as some people call it.

Morning coffee…cigarette…all good to go – until I spilled that hot coffee on my bare foot, causing me to drop my cigarette in the folds of my cat pyjamas.  The fire was a threat to spread to the newpaper I was reading, those heartless black and white symbols of progress and knowledge all going up in smoke?  Not on my watch !  I should know betterthan to read the news – I should KNOW better !

Yelping for my wife in my usual exaggerated, animated, over-reactive manner, she didn’t know whether to respond to a flood, a forest fire, a visit from a deity, or just go back to bed – which is often her most sensible choice, and she can be sensible.  Despite all that, she rushed to the front deck, carrying a glass of cold water – which she doused my lap with…thanks, hon ! – then tossed a towel at me, then gave me her best scowl, disappointed there was no true emergency, since they usually suggest degrees of her superiority to me in such situations.  But, I was engrossed in the news of the day, and the reason for my latest morning histrionics was a bit of breaking news, and dysfunction from my adopted country, Costa Rica.  Try this on for size:

THE WORLD

Costa RicaConservative lawmakers are mortified that they may have accidentally approved language making same-sex unions legal when they passed legislation this week and didn”t notice that the final version of the bill had changed earlier language that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  President Laura Chinchilla signed the bill late Thursday.  She has refused to veto the bill.

Laura Chinchilla

Laura Chinchilla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do love these fumbling, bumbling attempts to restrict the private lives of human beings…they never seem to work out just right.  And, before anyone in some industrialized, “First World” country gets too puffed up about how screwed up those political posers in so-called “Third World” countries can get while trying to imitate the streamlined, well-oiled legislative processes of their betters, STOP !  I used to live in Ohio, the Mississippi of the North, as I’ve heard a few people call it.  It will always be the Buckle of the Rust Belt to me…but I am getting away from my purpose.

I survived Ohio for fourteen years, finishing a sort of education and teaching at a university there.  I was going to get married at one point, before I discovered it was illegal for me to do so….and it wasn’t because of my sexual preferences.

I was – and still am – an epileptic. My kind has a history with the conservative, uber religious set as being spawn of the devil, a danger to the pure gene pool.  Really…I’m not joking.  Religious influence in early law-making labeled epileptics as “spawn of the devil” and “marked by the beast as his” and were gently – sometimes not so gently – encouraged to not breed.

(These dim wits thought forbidding undesirables the right to marry would keep them from reproducing…”who you calling imbecile, imbecile?”).  I guess I haven’t got to the part about imbeciles and marriage yet, so, maybe I should…here:

In the stilted view of Ohio lawmakers of yore I was bunched in with a class of humans to be banned from that most public of pools, humans such as habitual drunkards, epileptics, imbeciles, or the insane.  These laws were pushed into being by eugenicists…conservative crusaders whose agenda was to cleanse their world of racial characteristics they thought unnecessary, and encourage those they thought needed preserving.  This marriage law forbidding licenses to unapproved persons was passed in 1904, and came into question during a 1925 push to ban interracial marriage.  Sterilization was a proposal included in cases such as these.

Sterilization and culling the herd using medical practices and procedures…proposed by conservatives?  Ohhhh, there are so many plot twists and twirling, swirling storylines in this Work in Progress most people refer to as the World.

Most of this nonsense was kicked around or ignored until it was repealed in a more sober moment.  Epilepsy was forgotten in the debate.  There has never been much of an Equal Rights for Injured Epileptics (ERIE) movement, and Che Guevara never made it far enough north to incite the social outrage and encourage the necessary civil disobedience that Henry David Thoreau did in his landmark work, Civil DisobedienceI guess Thoreau didn’t excite people the way Guevara did…or the CIA was too lax to murder him when they had the chance.  (I jest…there was no CIA back then – hence, Thoreau and his kind).

Speaking of a lack of sobriety, political screw-ups, and Ohio – which are three topics nearly anyone can gracefully incorporate into any sentence, and, I think, belong in a special knowledge-base tested for in the public school system since the No Child Left Behind disaster –  listen to this: Ohio was not truly a state until 1953 !  It was another governmental clerical error, one on a much larger scale than Costa Rican lawmakers could ever imagine.

Thomas Jefferson signed an act of Congress in February of 1803 that approved Ohio’s state boundaries and constitution.  The debate over the sensibility of statehood had been carried out in a tavern…whatever…more heinous crimes have been hatched in kitchens, garages, boardrooms and Senate chambers.  Any Way…Some How, Congress never passed a resolution formally admitting Ohio as the 17th state.  The paperwork was misplaced during the excitement over the Lousiana Purchase and the War of 1812.

The rules for such recognition changed in 1812, during that excitement over the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812, and the oversight was not discovered until 1953.  Ohio congressman George H. Bender frantically introduced a bill in Congress to admit Ohio to the Union, since the state was in the process of arranging for the 150 year anniversary of their statehood – or non-statehood, as was the official case.  Anticipating inquiries, outrage, and paperwork problems concerning taxes paid to the Federal Government, relatives killed in wars, prison sentences served, and other such rewards and/or penalties of statehood, Ohio’s formal admission to the Union was made retroactive to March 1, 1803.  The new petition for statehood was delivered to Washington D.C. on horseback.

(I have neighbors in Costa Rica who, until fifteen years ago, got their power bills delivered by horsemen).

President Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed his usual tee time on August 7, 1953, and scrawled his signature across the dotted line at the bottom of the bill…and Ohio’s anniversary plans went on as planned.

My answer to this sort of nonsense is, pour another cuppa coffee – Costa Rican only…light another Cowboy Killer, rearrange the sodden pages of the neighbors’ newspaper before I put it back into the plastic covering and replace it on their porch, and just carry on with the more mundane and managable aspects of life.  But, I hear rumblings from the locals…tales of sneaky legislation trying to regulate the pursuit if happiness, pertaining to others only, of course – others those regulators don’t know.  I hear Ohio is still a state, and I guess there’s nothing I can do about that.  So…I guess the boat floats, for the moment.  Be back soon….

Later….

Saving Women from the Abyss of Criminality

people breeding or how rats view us?

people breeding or how rats view us? (Photo credit: Ken Kindoku 菌毒)

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

This comes to you, from me, as quoted from the Equal Rights Amendment.  I was always fascinated by the “…on account of sex.” bit…as if my rights would be abridged or denied for participating.  Then I got educated.

In my Hall of Musty and Dusty Books Library I’ve become a bit more enlightened, and I’d like to share a bit of how Women have been separated from the fates of rats, cats, pigs and she-asses.

The E.P. Evans’ book, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals (1906), has been my starting point for animal criminality…my memories of Ronald Reagan and Pat Robertson – along with a bit of research on the Equal Rights Amendment – my re-education as to the criminal tendencies of women.  Let’s explore the dangers suggested by animals first.

Evans claims to know of 191 animal trials between 824 AD and the year his book was published.  Here’s a few Hi-Lites:

A she-ass condemned to death in France in 1750 was pardoned because of good character.  There’s not much information concerning this case, coming at the end of a paragraph about the Catholic Church’s reasoning for accusing, prosecuting, and punishing animals for crimes usually thought of as exclusively human transgressions.  Their reasoning – it that’s a proper term – was based on Plato’s assertion that animals are intelligent, and therefore responsible for their actions.  This doesn’t seem to follow traditional religious reasoning, but…you know…sometimes times get dull.  There’s got to be someone, or something, to keep the religious persecution business bumping along.

So a she-ass slipped through the legal system of the time by being interesting, or at least trustworthy.  Other cases were more fully documented.

Pig!

Pig! (Photo credit: timsackton)

A sow and her piglets were accused of murdering and partially eating a child in Lavegny, France, in 1457.  Hauled into court, the sow was sentenced to death.  Guess all that Plato-suggested intelligence wasn’t as deeply cynical as the situation called for, since any sow should know that justice is a business, and we all get as much “justice” as we can – or are willing to – afford.  The courts back then did have some mercy though.  The sow’s piglets were acquitted because of their youth, the bad example their mother had set, and a lack of evidence that they had took part in her crime.  Probably went on to terrorize in their later years…cull the bad apples while the culling is good, we all know now.  More nonsense?  Sure…there’s plenty to go around.

In another landmark case of French jurisprudence,  some rats were charged with feloniously eating and wantonly destroying the province’s barley crop.  This was in 1522…Autun, France.  When the rats failed to show, their attorney argued the summons was too specific, and the summonses should be read from a church pulpit.  They were.  Again, the rats failed to show.  This time their attorney argued his clients were afraid to leave their holes out of fear of their accuser’s cats.  A bit of legal maneuvering over bonds from cat owners guaranteeing their animals would not molest the rats left the court befuddled, and another court date was left up in the air, and eventually forgotten as a case of Black Death ravaged the lands about the time of the crimes.  Rat’s favor…they also were acquitted, and more power to them.  Now, speaking of rats, pigs, and asses, here’s a couple of appropriate quotes from some defenders of the common good of men, if not women:

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human beings are not animals,” Ronald Reagan said during the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment, adding “…I do not want to see sex and sexual differences treated as casually and amorally as dogs and other beasts treat them.  I believe this could happen under the ERA.”  Reagan supporter, popular televangelist, and one-time presidential candidate himself, Pat Robertson, made Reagan look like a moderate when he spewed the following:

“It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement,” he said, “that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”  As I often am when fully comprehending I share a common biology with such creatures, I am feeling a bit bedazzled by all this.  Do I need to repeat the full text of the Equal Rights Amendment?  Oh well…here goes a bit of it –

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any other state on account of sex.”

Thaaaaaaats All, Folks…. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

My Origin – A Mysterious Howl and Moonbeams

English: Coyote attempts to get persimmons fro...

English: Coyote attempts to get persimmons from Opossum in a traditional native American Caddo story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I received an e-mail from an online ancestry search site this morning.  It seems that I have little measurable genetic connection to any human gene series yet discovered.  Does this bit of information surprise me?  Not really.  Is it going to surprise my mother?  I think so…she has vivid, concrete memories of birthing me.  Is this going to make my life a bit more complicated?  Yes, definitely, and it’s already begun.

I was sitting on a porch in Washington state with a friend of mine last time I was in the United States, and she told me about the ancestry search she had begun using the same online site.  She is adopted and wanted to find out about her ethnic background.

The moon was full, we had finished off two bottles of Pinot Noir and were opening a third one.  A coyote was howling in the distance.  Nothing of this story so far is unusual, but somehow the combination gave me the urge to follow my friend’s lead and investigate my ancestry through the site, a service operated by the Mormon Church…and if you can’t trust the Mormons with genealogical research, who can you trust?

 

My first DNA submission was a blood sample.  I received a notice that testing had been inconclusive, and would I send in another sample.  I did.  The second was not only inconclusive, but confusing.  I was asked to send in more samples – hair, blood, and skin.  I did.  The e-mail I received today listed only one possible earthly connection, canis latrans, the common coyote.  But, after performing a process referred to as a “split” only 4,739 genetic markers could be found that would even connect me to a coyote.

 

The most famous of the Moon rocks recovered, t...

The most famous of the Moon rocks recovered, the Genesis Rock, returned from Apollo 15. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is where it gets really weird.

The e-mail also informed me that my DNA had been sent to a lab which tested fossil DNA sample, hoping for some reasonable place to start.  The lab workers had been frustrated, and one of them…must have been a real smart-ass type, tested my samples against the elemental make-up of a moon rock brought back from the second Apollo mission.  They informed me my connection to material from the moon rock sample was equal to that of canis latrans.

I have no idea what my mother is going to say when she hears this.

I do know what the governments of Washington state and the United States of America are going to say, because they’ve said it.

I received another e-mail from the state of Washington, not an hour later.  The message was a confusing bit of governmental nonsense about re-examing my birth certificate, driver’s license, and teaching certifications.  This didn’t really bother me too much.  My driver’s license has been either revoked or suspended for about as many years as it’s been active.  But, since I’m planning a trip to the states soon, I called my lawyer in San Jose to make sure I could get back in the country with only one form of photo ID, which they’re very uptight about here.  He was near apoplectic.

“Who you are…I am meaning, what you are?” he nearly screamed into the phone.  He’s only a generation down out of the hills, and has a grandmother who is a practicing curandera…a witch to most people.  He told me he had received a visit from an American Embassy official inquiring as to my whereabouts, since I’ve moved several times since registering with them.  “We no service dogs, or coyotes, or what you ever are,” he said, calming down a bit.  I heard a voice in the background.

“And we no take rocks, either, you demonio desde…”  He never swears…even the words ” demon from hell.”

I also have a grandmother who was a bit strange when it came to natural healing, one who claimed messages sent to her from “other” sources.  She was one of those “there’s one born every minute” people who bought a deed to a piece of property on the moon back in the 1970s…those fakey things that some enterprising American had made up during the excitement of the lunar landings.  I mean, seriously…is there a country where there are more hucksters, selling more useless junk, to a more gullible populace, than in the U.S.?  I own a piece of the moon.  And, now – at least according to the most reliable of ancestory specialists – I am descended from a piece of the moon.  I have no idea how this is all going to turn out…who would?

 

Coyote pup

Coyote pup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can I really be some sort of coyote and moon rock mix?  I found an odd photograph during a Google Image search, labeled simply “coyote pup” …but look at it.  It looks lunar to me.  Maybe I’m just being paranoid…but, paranoia is simply realizing how weird things CAN get, according to some people.  Is this my first baby picture?

I’ll have to get back to you all on this one…after I field a few frantic, dramatic, and disturbing e-mails and/or phone calls from my mother, no doubt.  I don’t fear governments, but mothers are a different story.

Later…

 

Internet Privacy and You…What’s Up With That?

privacy

privacy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

“People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither, and will lose both.”

I made a mistake and watched the news last night…I also received an e-mail.  As usual with life, it seems, these two events collided leaving me in some strange, uncharted territory.

First off, I saw a story on a brand-name cable news network about two previously secret government operations, one called PRISM, and the other BLARNEY.  PRISM, it seems, is an operation set up by the U.S. government to collect images and documents posted on internet sites such as Google, Yahoo, and FaceBook, to name the most popular.  BLARNEY does the same thing with the written word, such as e-mails.  I don’t watch news much any more, so I was surprised that the interviewee felt he was in for a bit of persecution, outing these two previously covert operations.  Would this be considered an illegal search under the U.S. Constitution and its amendments?

Second off, I received an e-mail from my friend in Pakistan telling me that she had been sending me two e-mails a day for two days, but FaceBook was not delivering them.  My friend said she had taken out any mention of religion (she’s a Muslim), drone strikes, and politics…that self-censored e-mail I got.  I know she is not guarenteed anything by the U.S. Constitution, but I am, and it seems I’ve read somewhere I had the right to privacy.  I was wrong, and I’m not just being snide…there is no specific right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution.

Constitution of the United States of America

Constitution of the United States of America (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

The fourth right, in whole, reads – “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the places to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Like all our “rights” in such old documents, they don’t translate well to the current world.  The right to bear arms in conjunction with an organized militia being the one that gets kicked around the most.  These vague and outdated “rights” need a serious bit of updating.  But, the U.S. Supreme Court is supposed to take care of that, and such interpretations have been proferred.  Pertaining to this presumed right to privacy, Justice Antonin Scalia‘s dissenting school of thought has been that searches must be “reasonable” and the warrant requirement has been overly emphasized.  Those italics are mine, the watering down of any rights, pure conservative blather, an asterisk followed by an invisible – “…unless we feel like it.”

Does the U.S. government and that most powerful of intelligence agencies, FaceBook, really need to protect me from a young women using Ishaa-Allah, god willing, following her hopes for sales of her new book of poetry?  I know she’s a Muslim.  Does the U.S. government need to censor the fact that drone strikes happen near where she lives?  I know they do…and probably more often than we are made aware of.  Do I need to be protected from the fact that politics is a dirty business where she lives?  It doesn’t seem so, since only a dolt wouldn’t know it’s a down and dirty business everywhere.

On my guitar I have a bumper sticker that says, “Ignore your rights, and they’ll go away.”  How true.  I really am not some sort of militia weirdo hiding out in the woods of Michigan or Idaho or Montana or Hoboken, New Jersey.  In fact, I think I’m in pretty good company in contemplating what rights I truly have, and how they’re being coerced.  A pretty famous guy who most Americans admire – if for no other reason his mug is on the $100 bill – is reported to have made similar statements when trying to rectify past infringements on rights he thought should not be infringed upon.  I’ve always seen one of his more famous quotes listed as –

“People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

Benjamin Franklin

As with many oft-quoted persons, this was not exactly how it was originally said.  Franklin was preparing some notes for the Pennsylvania Assembly, shortly before February 17, 1775, and wrote –

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

This was published in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, published in 1818.  But wait…as is often the case, he was probably doing a bit of word “libertion” since he, being a publisher, had occasion to produce a book – An Historical Review of the Constitution of and Government of Pennsylvania – by an author named Richard Jackson in 1759.  On the title page that same warning appears, with the word “purchase” instead of the “obtain” found in Franklin’s quote.  I do love the liberation of words !  But, no fear, Franklin lovers and respectors…seems that a few years before that, in 1738, the following appeard in Honest Ben’s Poor Richar’s Almanack

“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.” 

I know…in the writing and publishing games everything gets murky if you dig long and far enough.  The word “murky” seems stuck in my mind since the collision of the news that my government is obtaining information from and about me through what I mistakenly think are private correspondences.  I’m not that naive, really…I’m not.  I never expected privacy, but outright censorship of my private correspondence, and the covert skullduggery from a government that claims to be the bastion of freedom and individual liberty and rights?

I’m sure this little bit of dangerous writing will garner me some more un-warrented attention, unless your name is Antonin Scalia, you front the Fear Factor Gang, and consider warrants “overly emphasized.”  So, if you’re reading this, you’ve joined me on some kind of list that some clerk – whose salary we pay – is compiling in some Virginia basement – which we also pay for.

Weird World…truly Weird World.

 

The Victoria’s Secret Model, Dr. Bill, and a Kid Named Alberto

Viví el Victoria's Secret Fashion Show por TNT

Viví el Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show por TNT (Photo credit: sitemarca)

“I felt like a piece of meat,” was the complaint from a model after participating in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Yeah, this came off of Yahoo News, so you know it’s got to be suggestive, but did an experienced model really have come to this realization only after working her way up to the big time Show of Shows?  When they outfitted her in wings, squeezed her into revealing lingerie that left little to more to suggest, did she pause before high-heeling it onto the runway?  No.  She seems to have made sure the check was deposited first.

Nothing else to report from the world of non-news, at least of any interest…Prostitute ads, Pope wasting food…, Taco Bell firing coupled with FBI investigations – the usual stuff I’ve commented on before, the kind of information that has no value and calls for no action or reaction, other than offering the easy and empty, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” reaction.

I’m considering doing a few posts on some of the American, Canadian, and European ex-pats who call Costa Rica home.  They are an odd lot…mostly people who have left wrecked lives or open indictments behind in their country of origin.  These are risk-taking people, mostly, and they are as quirky a bunch as I’ve ran across in thirty years of traveling.  Few photos can be included with such posts, since many of these people seem very camera shy, and most of them go by names they’ve made up or have adopted since their arrival.

Costa Rica often reminds me of a pirate-era Tortuga.  There is little altruism here, as I’ve seen ex-pats involve themselves with in many other countries I’ve visited.  Some people are here for the eco-tourism biz, and there are some who volunteer for turtle, sloth, monkey, or parrot rescue projects.  But, on the whole, these people are here for their own economic advancement.  I’ve got a better example to draw from – one from when I lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I was walking down the beach my second day in town, trying to kill two days until an apartment opened up.  I had been sleeping in an abandoned restaurant near the beach, and came across Dr. William St. John on my way “home.”  A skinny man, appearing to be in his 70s, bright green bathing trunks that were too tight for comfort, and he was working away at a pile of beach junk, dock lumber, rusted cable and ropes – there had been a severe storm a few days before that had destroyed the city pier, and this was the remains.  I stopped, watched for a few minutes, he acknowledged me, then went back to pulling the mess apart.

“There’s a pelican in here,” he said.  I started helping him.  We eventually freed the pelican, and by that time he had found out I was homeless, and offered me a place to stay.  I spent the next two days living on the roof of the Hotel California – really, the Hotel California – under a corrugated tin roof, my only furniture was a full-sized Brazilian flag.  His name was Dr. William St. John, from White Plains, New York, and he smoothed over the rougher aspects of my life, asking for nothing in return besides my company.  We spent two evenings on his balcony talking over many topics, the broadest, the meaning of life…the narrowest, the value of one life.

Dr. Bill had been a successful physician in Boston, with houses, summer homes, cars, boats, a portfolio of investments, and a severe alcohol problem.  Putting down the bottle somehow brought him to question the lifestyle he had constructed around the endless drive for symbols of status.  He sold everything, gave much of the proceeds to charities, saving enough to travel the world comfortably for the rest of his life, which he refused to do.    He took public transportation, traveled across seas on cargo ships, hiked dirt roads, paid for passage on Arab trading boats, and generally lived like a bum.

When I met him he had visited 52 countries, and had been changing the world for the better, one life at a time.

In Puerto Vallarta Dr. Bill had made friends with a Catholic priest.  Dr. Bill was an atheist, convinced the best he could do in this world was serve his immediate community, and in turn, the world.  But, he also knew that in a Latin American country a local Catholic priest was probably his surest source to discovering a worthy project.  Through that priest he had identified a young man named Alberto who had shown promise, intelligence, a sense of family and community loyalty, but lived in a shack up on the hill without electricity, indoor plumbing, or any of the other conveniences most of us take for granted.

Dr. Bill moved Alberto’s family into an apartment with the basic amenities…nothing extravagant.  He up-graded their wardrobes, concentrating on Alberto, since the young man would need presentable clothing to attend the private Catholic school he was to be enrolled in, on Dr. Bill’s dime.  Alberto got a new computer, the beginning to a library worthy of a young man on his way to medical school, and reliable transportation to school every day.  The Catholic priest was put in charge of monitoring Alberto’s progress, and a local businessman of good repute was charged with monitoring the priest and his relationship and guidance of Alberto.  With all this in place, Dr. Bill backed his way out of the picture, asking only for bi-annual reports on Alberto and his family.

This was not the first such project the good doctor had undertaken.  He received many such reports from countries such as India, Bhutan, Vietnam, Ghana, Morocco, El Salvador, and Ecuador, to name but a few.  Besides the criteria perviously mentioned, the common denominator in Dr. Bill’s kids seemed to be they had ambitions toward a profession that would serve their community.  I lost contact with Dr. Bill after he moved on, while I stayed to become a diving guide, a waiter in a restaurant called Baby Jaws, checked in on Alberto and his family now and again.  One of Dr. Bill’s requests was after he had set a more manageable future in motion for this lad, strangers – like myself – should stay out of the way as much as possible and let the situation play out.

I can imagine I’ll have a hard time finding another Dr. Bill, but I am sure I’ll be able to come up with some unique modern-day pirates.  Will report soon.

It’s All in My Head – Elephants, The Sailor, and Bogus Gin

Elephant safari

Elephant safari (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

As  a teenager I read a book of teachings proffered by Hindu holy men.  One of them had to do with a student who had just taken in a lesson on how interconnected the word was…that he was one with the world and all living things.  Leaving the lesson, the student was walking down a trail and saw an elephant coming from the opposite direction.  Taking his recent lesson to heart, the student put a smile on his face and walked right at the elephant, which he was one with.  Later, after a bit of recovery time from his trampling, the student questioned his teacher about the practicality of such philosophy.  The teacher told him that, yes, he was one with the world, but the student should have stepped aside since elephants always have the right of way.  I think this stuck with me because it reminded me of one of my childhood heroes.

My grandfather was a boxing fan, and I often watched boxing matches with him.  One of our heroes, being from Washington state, with its large population of Scandinavians, was a heavyweight boxer named Ibar “The Sailor” Arrington.  Ibar was a local legend.  He had the seemingly suicidal habit of lowering his guard during boxing matches and challenging his foes to wail away at will on his Norwegian noggin.  It worked for him…for a while.  Most of the local meatballs he fought weren’t that good of fighters, and after they exhausted themselves wailing away on Ibar’s rock-like head, he would knock them out.  His final record was 27 wins (20 by knockout), 7 losses, and 2 draws.

Ibar’s retirement came after returning from Durban, South Africa, where he had fought a lightly regarded boxer named Gerrie Coetzee in a packed Kingsmead Stadium on December 15, 1978.  The Sailor had taken a severe beating – again – which left fans like my grandfather and I in a pitiful state.  It was featured on local news, and Ibar sat quietly, staring blankly at the microphone in front of him.  His manager did the talking, announcing The Sailor was leaving the ring due to medical reasons.  A reporter asked Ibar if he would have done anything differently during his career.

“I would have ducked more,” was all the wisdom he had to pass on to his disappointed fans.  I think Ibar would have understood the Hindu teaching about giving elephants the right of way.  After witnessing the Sailor’s demise, I have always given elephants the right of way.  My grandfather knew that giving elephants the right of way was not always a possibility.

My grandfather was another tough guy, and like most tough guys, rarely talked about the experiences which had made him so.  I always thought he was an average grandpa.  I only found out after his death that he had been sunk in the North Atlantic while serving on a convoy ship during World War I.  He spent what must have been the longest, most hellish night ever as he bobbed around in one of the most wicked patches of sea in the world, clinging to any flotation aid while his friends and crewmates screamed for help…drowning slowly…or quickly if sucked down with the ship…or succumbing to their burns and slowly slipping beneath the waves.  After being “in the water” sailors were routinely sent to the Pacific where there was little chance of deadly naval action.  He soon found himself put ashore, handed a rifle, and told he was infantry, when the United States sided with despotic Czar Nicholas’s White Army in their efforts to defend Vladivistok, the most important of Russian seaports.  He was shot in the leg, the bullet lodging close to an artery.  A veterinarian tried to take the bullet out, making a complete hash of the leg.  My grandfather refused further offers of help, fearing a future with one leg more than one complicated by a limp.

That man worked hard all his life, and I never knew what a mind over matter existence he lived, dealing with that buggered-up leg and the psychological scars of those two years.  He always preached mind over matter to me…that if things were going bad, or I was hurting, just ignore it and it will get better over time.  I always thought this was a fantastic rather than realistic approach to something as physical as the pain I suffered breaking several bones, getting burned, and even shot once.  Guess what folks…it isn’t, I received a sobering lesson in how fantastic this world really is after becoming so poor for a short time I offered myself up for medical experiments at the University of Washington.

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbin...

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

I started answering ads for test subjects during such a time of economic distress when I had moved to Seattle to become a rich rock and roll star.  One I answered – eagerly – promised $50 for an hour of my time, but I had to be over 21 years old, since the study involved drinking alcohol.  Quite a few people were lined up outside the advertised test site when I got there, but I was a frequent flyer, and got preference.  We chosen few were instructed to fill out a questionnaire concerning our attitudes toward sexual expectations following a dinner date, a movie, and various other similar situations.  We were then given three large glasses full of gin and tonic and instructed to drink them down within fifteen minutes.  My fellow test subjects seemed as eager as I was to comply, and an air of alcohol-relaxed sensibilities was soon evident.  People were more talkative, a bit more clumsy, bumping into tables and chairs, dropping pencils as we again filled out a similarly formulated questionnaire aimed at discovering the sexual expectations associated with various social situations.  There was quite a bit of cross-talking and plenty of innuendo-laced attempts at humor the second time through.  Then came the punchline  –

None of had to worry about driving home, and we need not be concerned about other safety issues…there had been no alcohol in the foul-tasting drinks.  It was a double-blind test.  We weren’t being tested on amorous expectations associated with dating, we were being tested to see if the suggestion we were drunk changed not only our answers, but our behavior.  We were all a bit stunned, and somewhat embarrassed, by the looks on the faces of my fellow lab rats.  I had wondered why the psychology department had chosen a drink like gin and tonic…something that seems more English Officers’ Club in Bombay from the era of the Raj than Rock Musician Decadence in Seattle during the Grunge Era.  They knew that none of us had probably ever had gin and tonic, and if we had, the drink is so sour it would be difficult to discern the gin-lessness of the drinks.

Since my introduction to the placebo effect, I not only understand the full-on power of suggestion, but have considered opening a bar that doesn’t  bother including alcohol in its drinks.  As long as it looked like a bar…and smelled like a bar…and the patrons seemed to be drunk – why not avoid the expense of alcohol?  After all, it’s a mental world…it’s all in my head.

Two Saints for Comic Debris

Human Writes

I must confess, I am not a Catholic.

The Philosopher Red:  “Do you realize what you’re writing?  Confess…you write like you’re really lost sometimes.   I think -”

I think I’m becoming irritated with the Philosopher Red…he’s always looking over my shoulder, making untoward and useless comments about everything from word choice to standing up straight when I write.  Anyway…

Even though I’m not Catholic, I’ve searched out a couple of saints, just in case I need some saving grace.  Without further interruption, I’ll introduce them and get to the Mercado Organico.

The Philosopher Red: “Interruption?  It’s more like the firm guidance your type needs to be relevant in this -”

Anyway…here they are in their glory.

Saint Mathurin (alias, Saint Maturinis) – A French exorcist and missionary – died c. 300 A.D.  Fathered  by a Christian exterminator named Marinus, and mothered by Euphemia – both pagans – he was secretly baptized…

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Our First Anniversary and a “Friend” Sighting, all in One Week !

This is an unusual post for me…all mushy stuff opening with a couple of questions, followed by a few statements of fact, and ending with a sigh of relief.

First – a year ago this June 1 my beautiful wife, shimmyshark to WordPress People…but forever Char mi amor to me, exchanged marriage vows with me.  That was something I never imagined happening again in my life…but some lifetimes a guy just gets lucky.  My first question is – what is the traditional anniversary gift for a one-year anniversary?  I know the various anniversaries all have some element or other symbolic substance associated with them.  Am I write in thinking it is paper?  I think I recall that from somewhere.  I could look it up in a minute on the internet, I guess, but I’m done looking stuff up on the internet for the week.

This leads to my second question – what in the world do I give the such a special woman as a gift that is made of paper, if my recollection is true?  She got me a bottle of Chilean wine…Pinot Noir…my favorite, which is hard to come by and expensive here since the climate is not conducive to growing those tiny grapes that are cultivated at a very limited range in altitude and under conditions that are rare in South and Central America.  I know about this bottle of Pinot because I’m a snoop, and I helped her unpack groceries after her shopping trip the other day, despite her protestations she didn’t need my help.  If it is paper, that leads me to a statement –

char framed BW

My wife, the budding photographer, is having her work published for the first time next week in a poetry collection created by my friend from Pakistan, Maryam Shahbaz.  There is also an exhibition of her work being planned within the next month.

After only a few months of taking photography seriously, and being limited by the fact that the only cameras we have are a cell phone and an ancient digital thing, I’m extremely proud of her.

This is a self portrait she did one morning on our balcony.  I repeat, how lucky can a guy get?

Our move from Seattle to Central America might have helped a bit, giving her a colorful and constantly changing palette of images to work with.  But, the eye is hers, so we’ll toast her eyes next Saturday, along with the rest of her.

And, speaking of Maryam Shahbaz…

 

20130402_123840A communique arrived from Pakistan.  Some tough times have been had by a young woman who deserves much better, but things work out.  Her first collection of poetry, The Light Behind the Veil, is in the final stages of incubation…a few alignment edits with the printer, a few other minor publishing issues, and she’s off and running as a new voice in Pakistani poetry, a country known for its storytellers and poets.

Maryam is a private person, not used to the spotlight or a lot of attention, so I promised her I would not air any of our communications other than the fact she was alright and will return to the world of WordPress once her poetry collection is out and things calm down for her and her family.

The recent elections in Pakistan, in which the conservative forces of Flat-World-ism won out, stomping on the face of any hopes for the Progressive movement toward a better world for all of that country’s citizens instead of the favored few.

I told her I know how she feels, having lived through a few of those Back-to-the-Past elections which brought a New World Order in name only to the United States.  I can empathize with her and her country’s disappointments.

Here’s hoping for the best for her and Pakistan.

Anyway…I’m off.  Still trying to figure out this anniversary thing.  And, if paper it is, I guess paper it will be.  What does one give to someone so special made of paper?  A book of poetry with her photos in it?

We’ll see.

Later….

The Mysterious Art of Speaking in Tongues

It was a dark, damp night when the Alchemist got off the bus in a small, Central American beach town.  He wore the garb of his arcane and mysterious profession – a dark suit of linear stripes, mirror-sharp footwear, and carried a black leather case full of flat, bleached wood pulp embossed with 44 mysterious black ink symbols arranged in linear rows.  It had been raining for three days, and the rutted dirt streets ran red with mud, blood, and liquid spirits.  His arrival from Cleve Land, an outpost in the Empire to the north, went unnoticed in the chaos of neon signs, weighted jungle foliage, and streets with no names or number associations.  No One was there to meet or aid him, and he wanted for no One here at the edge of the Western World.  His foreign sweat, mixed with jungle-steamed rainwater, ran in rivulets down skin that marked him as an outsider…an interloper…an emissary from the land of Commerce.  His cellphone rang…it was her.

Alright, enough playing around.  I’m here to discuss my personal experiences teaching ESL, English as a Second Language, and maybe relate a few experiences from trying to teach EFL, English as a First Language, if I feel like it.

wayra class 2First off – I had an interview to teach English at a Spanish Institute in the beach resort of Playa Tamarindo.  This is the dream gig of every teacher, and maybe some real people also.  What can be so hard about teaching English…especially if English is Your First Language?  And, who wouldn’t want to live in a resort community, getting paid to work in a place where people spend $400 a night or more just to have a place to sleep with an air conditioner?  And look at this classroom…open air, parrots flying about the campus, monkeys dropping in on class sessions, sloths sleeping in the roof supports – what could be better?

What could be better?  There are a few considerations to take into account.  Not everyone who knows how to speak English, even people with college or university degrees that imply they should know plenty about a specific subject, has the tools to pass that knowledge on to others.  Teaching is an art.  I know high school dropouts, surf bums, even criminals, who would make fine teachers.  And, in the same vein, I know highly intelligent people, or educated, people who suck at teaching.  I’ve met many of these people, enough of them as teachers in classrooms to make that statement with complete confidence.

So, just how should a language instructor prepare for such employment?  Here’s a short list.

 

1) Schooling – Most language schools will require instructors to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in some subject, and it need not be in the language they are to teach.  While negotiating for my job at this school I slowly became convinced the English classes weren’t going to be enough to support me.  I discovered they also needed a Social Studies tutor, an American History tutor, an Ancient History tutor, and a Science tutor.  I became those things.  Along with a basic degree, most language schools – and I mean most – will require an ESL, TEFL, TEOSL, or CELTA degree or certificate.  The Cambridge University CELTA is the gold standard.  They don’t come easy.  A simple internet word search will reveal dozens upon dozens of “online schools” offering cheap certificates with the other acronyms on them, or one can be found at the end of a short higher education course.  Easy enough.  The main point is paper.

 

English: An Italian immigrant makes an America...

English: An Italian immigrant makes an American breakfast aided by instructional materials from the YMCA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Paper, Paper, and More Paper – My ESL teaching experience came in Latin America, and Latin Americans love paper.  The general rule for resumes in the U.S. is keep it to one page, so the HR department people can make a snap decision as to hiring you or the 12,428 other candidates crowding to fill a position.  Not here, bucko…the more paper the better.

A three or four page resume, along with a photocopy of every degree, certificate, or good conduct award only adds luster to your qualifications.  I even included a “work well done” commendation from a library I worked in while I was suffering through grad school.  I would have discarded it long ago if I had recognized it for what it was.  It had a fake gold leaf border, and an official-looking stamp on it, so I mistakenly chucked it in with my other degrees…it was treated with reverence south of the Rio Grande.  I had no CELTA, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, or certificate of any other degree of competence attesting to my skill at teaching languages.

And, as any educated person knows, it’s impossible to perform even the smallest of tasks, such as boiling water, without large pieces of paper.

 

English: Jewish Children with their Teacher in...

English: Jewish Children with their Teacher in Samarkand. Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1909 to 1915. Français : Enfants juifs avec leur professeur à Samarcande. Une des premières photos en couleur de Russie. Prise par Sergueï Prokoudine-Gorski, c’est une partie de son travail d’un document sur l’empire Russe de 1909 à 1915. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3) Teaching Experience – This is stressed by most prospective employers in the language instruction field, but there’s a first time for everybody.  But, some type of teaching experience – any type – comes in handy.  Do you have the personality for such work?  Students can be difficult.  Are you a good public speaker?  Fewer people are than think they are.  Can you adjust to the learning styles of “unique” students without losing the attention of the rest of the class?

I had one young genius that would hum songs, doodle castles and dragons, nod his head rhythmically, make faces at other students behind their backs, and generally carry on like a lunatic.  He was driving me nuts…all my efforts and he was ignoring me.  I stopped my lecture and asked him a question about a point I had made a couple of ideas back.  He repeated what I had said word for word, adding his own interpretation of and thoughts on the subject.  I didn’t even remember what I had said.

But, he was setting a bad example for the rest of the class whose brains weren’t as compartmentalized as his…what would you do in such a situation?

Would you cramp his learning process, or let the rest of the students follow his example until the whole class ran off the rails?

Tough question.

 

4) Flexibility –  Besides dealing with unusual students, dysfunctional or non-existent classroom equipment, and dysfunctional or non-existent school staff or directors, can you adapt to often radically different climates, expectations, and local customs that may seem wasteful, useless, or at best, downright confusing?  How well would you deal with a job interview after slogging through knee-deep mud, a good drenching in a tropical downpour, with a stomach-cramping case of the you-know-whats?  Are you capable of restoring malfunctioning internet systems?  Can you eat something that makes you sick to look at, let alone eat?  Are you resourceful?

I was teaching creative writing for an at-risk-youth program, the kind where I had to disarm some students.  The classroom supplies – several broken pencils and a couple of run-dry magic markers – were handed to me in a Tupperware container.  I had to go to a local university, wander around the halls looking for un-guarded pens and pencils, and in the process found a packet of multi-colored binders, then discovered an unlocked supply room where I liberated several packages of computer paper, as well as four packages of lined-paper legal pads.  I took a trash bag out of a garbage can, emptied it, and tossed my school supplies into it as I made my escape, only stopping at the information desk, where I slipped a plastic container containing paper clips and thumb tacks into my Santa Sack of necessities.  Artful Dodger 101 is a pre-requisite for teaching in a Developing Nation.

 

Marie F.U.S.S.5) More Flexibility – So, let’s say your teaching gig is a flop…let’s say that you can’t handle the spoiled rich brats and their sense of entitlement, and their defensive parents who think their little darlings can do no wrong…and all their shortcomings and problematic behavior becomes YOUR problem…then what?  You’ve run your bank account dry moving to some shit hole of town in the middle of nowhere, and you’re getting hungry.  Can you talk your way into some alternative employment – at least enough to get bus fare back to a city, and air fare back to what you consider civilization?  Can you operate a boat?  Catch fish?  Guide Yak Tour Inc. customers up into the Himalayas?  Burn your resumes, degrees, and library service appreciation awards for heat or to cook Iguana over?  Handle an AK-47?  Sell your body on the dusty streets of an oil-boom town?

You might have to.

Ten Plagues Upon Playa Tamarindo

English: Second plague of Egypt. Frogs. Pictur...

English: Second plague of Egypt. Frogs. Picture from popular bible encyclopedia of archimandrite Nikiphor (1891 year). Русский: Вторая казнь Египетская – жабы. Иллюстрация из иллюстрированной библейской энциклопедии архимандрита Никифора (1891 год) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A wet season downpour drove me inside yesterday, and the usual internet problems left me with little to do besides…read books.

My latest acquisition is a Bible, courtesy of some Evangelicals who are trying to pester the loyal Catholic mobs to cast their culture aside, and slide into social anarchy before being redeemed by the Cult of Speaking in Tongues and Snake Handling.

I have read this book before, and know to skip Genesis…that first page always gets me, where God is a singular sky god for a while, then a plural land god when he says, “Let us make man in our image” before becoming a singular sky god again.

Bad editing and no consideration for continuity always drive me to close a book, or go directly to the end and find out what happened, allowing me to feel like I read it.  That’s been my approach in the past, go straight to Revelations, and read a few chapters in reverse order.

Now, if you’re looking for some tough talking, action-packed, tightly written words with the power of a literary locomotive, that’s a good place to start.  I usually get bored by Kings or where everyone is begatting, so I’ve never read Exodus.  I should have, since that book seems to hold the secret to the Wet Season torments that drove me inside in the first place…the Ten Plagues that Moses allegedly brought down on the Egyptians.  If I go over them one at a time you’ll see what I mean.  “Fasten your seatbelts – it’s going to be a bumpy night,” as Bette Davis advised her entourage in the film “All About Eve.”  (Another Biblical reference…hmmmm).  Don’t let me digress…here are the plagues I missed in Exodus, but am living out now:

1) Plague of Blood – when it rain here in Central America, it rains.  And, since the roads are not paved and there are no ditches or water channels, they become rivers of mud…in the case of western Costa Rica, where the earth has a red tint to it due to iron and other volcanic minerals, the rivers running by my front door are Red as Blood.  Torrents of knee-deep water come down the hill behind my place, carrying boulders the size of bean bag chairs.  A good friend of mine has scars on his shins from sliding down one of these roads a couple of years ago…a good reason to stay inside.

2) Plague of Frogs – I heard this trumpeting sound the other night.  The lonely little EMS vehicle always parked outside the main market, I thought.  I’d never heard it, since it hasn’t moved in the eight months I’ve lived here.  But it sounded like geese…big geese, the volume of their calls bringing to mind visions of madness.  But, as usual, I was wrong.  It is the rainy season infestation of frogs, a friend told me.  He also told me if I wanted to see them all I had to do was go down to our pool, which they take over for the month or so they’re in their rutting period.  So, I went.  Frogs were in the pool, and around the pool on lounge chairs, puffing up and emitting a terrifying sound from their froggy mouths to advertise their sexual potency.  But they were hand-sized creatures, hardly large enough to emit so much noise, but what do I know…I retreated to my apartment building, toweled off, and slammed the door in case any of the croakers followed me and tried to slip in after me.

3) Plague of Lice or Gnats – hasn’t happened yet…but I know where the EMS vehicle is now.

4) Plague of Flies or Wild Animals – Wet Season does bring on an unusual amount of flies, and the animals are coming back down out of the hills.  The Howler monkeys have set up shop across the street and in the patches of jungle beside and behind my apartment building.  I saw a juvenile yesterday, hanging by his tail, using a tree branch like a switch as he tormented the dogs howling beneath.  I felt better after that, knowing I wasn’t the only creature suffering these plagues.

5) Plague of Pestilence – I forgot what pestilence means…and, everyone has their own definition, so I’ll let this one sit.  I’ve got enough to deal with already with Rivers of Blood, Frog Gangs and Switch-wielding Howlers.

6) Plague of Boils – there is usually a boil alert when water starts washing the sewage and garbage down from where the Nicaraguan and Columbian illegals have set up their shanty towns.  I already knew this…not plague worthy in my book.

7) Plague of Hail – I haven’t seen any hail yet, but the rain is falling so hard that a piece of the roof fell in not long ago.  Not a large piece of roof…just enough to damage an iron railing, or bust a head if anyone had been walking beneath it.  Fell on the steps just outside my back bedroom window, where I was reading Exodus…I think I should have stuck with the wickedly fierce prose in Revelations.

6588) Plague of Locusts – Locusts, Schmocusts…I have grasshoppers the size of magic markers coming in and out of my place all the time.  They take over the coffee pot when they please, and licked the cream my wife spilled right off the floor.  They crunch under foot when I step on them on my way to empty the garbage…a sound similar to when tap dancers toss sand on a stage before they start their steel-bottom shoed shenanigans.

9) Plague of Darkness – hasn’t occurred as of yet, but it would be a relief.  The Howlers shut up, it never rains at night, and it would be convenient if those frogs got run over by the drunken, brain-dead surfers that race around on the mud-slickened roads after a hard day of Flor de Cana rum and the head-high, right-breaking waves I hear crashing against the shore.

10) Plague of the First-Born – being a first-born, I don’t even want to hear about this.  I’m definitely staying away from this Old Testament mayhem…going back to the ferocious idyll of Revelations, thank you.  I’ve learned my lesson for the day.  And, if I end up going to Hell for any perceived insolence, I’ll go with the words of Mark Twain on my lips –

“Heaven for climate, Hell for company.”

Later…

 

Baby Turtles, Bonnie and Clyde, and Outlawing the Semicolon

English: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, somet...

English: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, sometime between 1932 and 1934, when their exploits in Arkansas included murder, robbery, and kidnapping. Contrary to popular belief the two never married. They were in a long standing relationship. Posing in front of an early 1930s Ford V-8 automobile. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a week of missed opportunities, once again.  I found out too late it was World Turtle Day, and while internetting around to see what I had missed, I found I had also missed National Taffy Day, Chardonnay Day, and The Bonnie and Clyde Festival in Gibsland, Louisiana, where the whacky Dallas duo were ambushed and killed on May 23, 1934.  Bummer. And, then there’s the raging debate over semicolons.

Missing World Turtle Day blows. The worldwide celebration is observed in a variety of ways, from dressing up as turtles or wearing green summer dresses, to Turtle Day lesson plans and craft projects that encourage teaching about turtles in classrooms.  Founded in 1990, the American Tortoise Rescue is responsible for promoting the idea turtles need love too, and seems to practice what they preach, claiming to have placed 3,000 tortoises and turtles in caring homes.  Does this call for a re-reading of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species ?  In a Darwinian world where might makes right, human industry polluting these slow-moving, antique, and unproductive members of the food chain into extinction makes perfectly good sense when reviewing the bottom line…which is always the bottom line.

Taffy Day…Chardonnay Day…I can take or leave the taffy, but I’m open to housing any homeless bottles of decent Chardonnay.

A Bonnie and Clyde Festival though, and the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum in Louisiana in the Spring…I am making plans for next year and circling the dates on my American Tortoise Rescue calendar.  This does sound choice.  A group of actors from Denton, Texas, a town whose local bank was robbed twice by the B&C gang, show up annually to re-enact the ambush and squirt fake blood all over Ringgold Road where the real event took place.  Besides reenactments, tourists can meet some of Bonnie and Clyde’s relatives, such as Clyde’s nephew, Buddy Barrow, and his sister Marie Barrow.  And now and then some of Bonnie’s kin show up as well.  Then there’s “Boots” Hinton, whose father Ted was one of the six lawmen from the ambush.

English: L.J. "Boots" Hinton, curato...

English: L.J. “Boots” Hinton, curator of Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum in Gibsland, LA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Boots” must be a popular name to bear in the piny woods of Louisiana, since the undertaker who embalmed Bonnie and Clyde back in 1934 was C.F. “Boots” Bailey.  He was an attention-mad sniveler though, complaining to the press about what difficult clients the notorious outlaws had been.  Seems the two bodies were so full of bullet holes the embalming fluid leaked all over Boots’ boots.

Some lifetimes life just sucks.

To get a scholarly perspective, anyone attending the event can sit in on the Friday night historians meeting at which “they come and argue about stuff,” says Billie Gene Poland, one of the festival’s organizers and the curator of the Authentic Bonnie and Clyde Museum in Gibsland.

The Authentic Bonnie and Clyde Museum…or…The Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum.  It’s like deciding between the Louvre and the Paris Museum of Modern Art on your last sober day in Paris.

English: Bonnie_&_Clyde Ambush Museum (Revised...

English: Bonnie_&_Clyde Ambush Museum (Revised), Gibsland, LA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ambush Museum doesn’t have a budget, they depend on donations, which means the pickin’s here are pretty slim.  There are some gun displays and two female mannequins dressed to look like the gangsters.   Outside the museum, there are lots of vendors selling everything from commemorative T-shirts to small swatches of cloth torn from the pants Clyde was wearing when they were gunned down.  Seems authenticty might be an issue.

For those who prefer Broadway, you missed out too.  The musical “Bonnie and Clyde” was run off the road.  Premiering at the La Jolla Playhouse on November 20, 2009, the show idled around the country, eventually making it to Broadway on November 4 of last year.  It only lasted 69 shows, then died, which seems to be a connecting thread here.  There’s always the 1967 film by Arthur “Bloody Art” Penn, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  And Bonnie’s poem (figures she was a poet) “Trail’s End” has inspired songs by everyone, as in Brigette Bardot, Flatt and Scruggs, Mel Torme, Merle Haggard, Die Toten Hosen, a German punk band, and even weirder…in 2007, Belinda Carlysle, former head mistress of the all-girl pop band The Go-Gos.

And, if obsessive disorders interest you more than crappy music, you might look into Hybristophilia – Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome, big brother to Asphyxiophilia, Autassassinophilia, and Chremosistophilia.  Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome sufferers seem to be turned on by predatory types, becoming sexually aroused and more orgasm responsive when contemplating the careers of psychopathic killers, which is why Ted “Boots” Bundy,  Jeffrey “The Heel” Dahmer, and Charlie “Sole Man” Manson never knew a slow mail month while in prison.

Bonnie and Clyde Death Car at the National Mus...

Bonnie and Clyde Death Car at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily Trivia Tidbit:  Bonnie and Clyde’s death car is on display to the public at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment.  Who would have thought there would be such a place…and, who would have thought a country ever-teetering on the brink of fiscal disaster would fund such a museum…and, who would think this ramble would need another bit of useless trivia?

This has been a very trying post, and I feel a touch of Hybristophilia coming on, so I’m going to have to hold off on the semicolon question and write some letters.

Later…

The Confession of a Word Thief

"You brute! You coward!" from an ano...

“You brute! You coward!” from an anonymous artist’s illustrations to Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many things which I wish I had said, in real life and in other situations.  I often find these bits of compact wisdom when looking up quotes to head a short piece I’m working on, or to back up a point in a longer one.

Sometimes I am searching for a quote I can “liberate” to be used as dialogue for a character.  This is, I imagine, a practice that is employed by more authors than myself, but I’ve never heard any One admit to it, and chances are, I won’t.

Here’s my confession…and for a momentary bit of entertainment while readers of this confession form opinions about the degree of my transgressions, here are a few fun quotes I came across while looking for the source of a quote I wanted to “liberate” a couple days ago:

“If you look like your passport photo, you’re too ill to travel.”  – Will Kommen

“Tradition is what you resort to when you don’t have the time to do it right.” – Kurt Adler

“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” – Kenneth Boulding

  

“You have to choose where to look, and in making that choice you eliminate entire worlds.” – Barbara Bloom

All these were wonderful little bits, small amusements on the way to what I was looking for.  I needed a smart, memorable.  quick-hitting line I could put into the mouth of one character trying to calm another character who was worrying way too much about something nothing could be done about…except worrying.  Such liberations, if done properly, need to be from a source that is not famous, since recognition ruins the appearance of originality, for people attached to the idea that all their thoughts and writings are pure of intentional or unintentional borrowing.  I had remembered hearing a quote once about the “…unimportance of most things…”, and I had done a word search with as much of it as I remembered, and got lucky.

It turned out well.  I thought it had been Oscar Wilde…that kind of sarcastic and witty wordplay.  That would have ruined it though, since most people will recognize Wilde like they do Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln or other such iconic voices.  Like I said, I was lucky.  The quote was ascribed to someone named John Loque, a name that when I put it in a google search didn’t even draw a hit…John Locke, the economic theorist came up again and again.  Seems Loque hasn’t drawn any attention from any One except me.  Good.

Here’s the original quote:

“It’s almost impossible to overestimate the unimportance of most things.”

– John Loque

A truly unknown source – and to not have the name even come up on a google word search is about as close to a definition of anonymity as I can think of.  Do a word search on yourself…see if something doesn’t come up.  I’ve got a little short of a page full of hits.  I did a similar search using my mother’s name…again, hits.  Some of her hits even had photos.  Weird world.  Anyway…I needed to do a little re-working of this quote, like a guitarist taking a riff and playing around with it until it becomes theirs.  What had drawn me to this quote originally was the way it turns back on itself, using “overestimate” and “unimportance” together…over…under.  I was going to put these words in the mouth of my character – a witty guy who likes the way words can play off each other, pushing and pulling against each other like a line of boats moored together in a choppy sea, so the line would have to come off as ambiguous, over-stated, a thought stopper.  Here’s what I came up with:

“It really is impossible to overestimate the relative unimportance of most everything that actually happens.”

Now that worked perfectly.  It rolled off the tongue of my character with the elegant ease of one trying to reassure a friend, but maybe agitating them even more with all the push-and-pull, along with a few qualifying words that would truly make the character spoken to have to stop and slowly figure along the sentence to gauge exactly how the words were working together.  And, the bit at the end about “…everything that actually happens…” allowed me to not have to have my slippery character say something un-slippery like, “Don’t worry.  Things don’t usually turn out as bad as we make them out to be.”

Pooh Hamaca 2Besides all that, it’s just a good piece of advice.  It might even be showing up soon while doing a google word search.  I am truly standing on the shoulders of Giants…Giants such as John Loque.  If there really is a John Loque, and if he’s still alive – or if there’s a family member managing the fortune in royalties lost due to my liberation of this quote – here’s where to find me.  I remain, faithfully yours, and unconcerned.

Traditional…Independent, or – Don’t Publish at All?

Engraving for Thérèse philosophe (libertine no...

Engraving for Thérèse philosophe (libertine novel, 18th c.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting a rejection letter can be depressing, especially the form letters, or even worse – No Response.  Or, they can be uplifting to the author if there is a bit of writing on the rejection, and maybe even a bit of advice, a crumb on the path to publishing.  But, like an intelligent child focusing on the one time years before when he was stamped stupid by some teacher, parent, or other bully, some authors crumble and go for the strychnine.

 

Chuck Ross, a door-to-door salesman was an aspiring writer back in 1975 when he came up with the idea that the publishing industry couldn’t and wouldn’t recognize talented authors, and to prove it, he typed up 21 pages of Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – a book that had won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1969, and mailed it off to four major publishing houses and was rejected by them all, including Random House, the publisher of Steps.

Ross aired his un-scientific discovery, and left publishers sputtering – Kosinski himself said if the whole book had been submitted it would have received an offer to publish.

Ross was a true trickster, one that would make Old Man Coyote proud.

In 1979 he repeated his prank, this time typing up the whole manuscript, changing the “author’s name” to Erik Demos, and sent it to fourteen publishers.  Fourteen more rejections.  Good luck out there in Unknown Author Landia.  It’s probably easier to publish independently, or not publish at all if one wants to be the next big thing in literature.

That was Jean Shepherd’s take on the world of literary success.

Jean Shepherd was a radio deejay in New York City during the 1950s, and held down the plumb hours of midnight to 5 a.m.  Out of boredom he dumped the scripted format of the show and became Howard Stern before Howard Stern became Howard Stern, talking trash, delivering dark, satirical views of whatever was on his mind that day.  He developed a hardcore following of what he called Night People, making them feel special by professing, “night is the time people truly become individuals because all the familiar things are dark and done; all the restrictions are removed.”  Every clique or gang or country needs enemies, some good ‘ol bonding by fear or disdain.  Shepherd’s chosen enemy “others” were day people, creatures who fed on “creeping meatballism” and were responsible for all rules, red tape, and disturbing the daytime sleeping habits of Night People.

Shepherd was another vicious doubter of the wisdom of the book publishing establishment.  He decided to prove his point, suggesting that his followers all over the country go into bookstores and ask for a hot new book that didn’t exist.  Not existing is difficult, even for a book.  He came up with a title for his non-existent 18th century bodice-ripper of a book, I, Libertine, a non-existent author, Frederick R. Ewing, whose fictitious bio made him an Oxford graduate, retired Royal Navy Commander, and a scholar who delivered a series of BBC talks on “Erotica of the 18th century.”

I, Libertine

I, Libertine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first day of Shepherd’s experiment went alright – 27 requests placed at a 5th Avenue bookstore.  Many more followed in the following days, from all over the United States, England, and Scandinavia…the perks of having a steward on the Queen Mary as one of his followers.  Bookstore owners started contacting publishers, publishers were befuddled, but publishers know the merit of a buck, even if they may not always care to bother with the merits of an unknown book by an unknown author.  Ian Ballantine – publisher extraordinaire – sniffed along the trail until he discovered Shepherd, and knowing the merit of free publicity already in place, commissioned science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon – a Night Person follower of Shepherd’s – to write I. Libertine in a hurry.  Sturgeon did.  It sold approximately 130,000 copies, although critics panned it, some savagely.

There you go, hopeful writers…to toss pages upon pages over the transom, give up and independently publish, or not publish at all…buy the ticket, take the…

Trivia Extra for the Day:  Theodore Sturgeon was one of Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite science-fiction writers, and the Vonn’s alter-ego, fearful vision of his literary future and certain legacy, the character Kilgore Trout, was named in honor of  Sturgeon and the G.I. Kilgore of World War II fame…Kilgore Trout.

The Beat Goes On…The Beat Goes On…

Comment From an UnFollowed Blogger

Bertolt Brecht „The victory of the reason can ...

Bertolt Brecht „The victory of the reason can only win the sensibles” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a comment I received from probably the most un-followed blogger in the bloggosphere…in fact, I think I’m one of three or so “followers” listed on his blog site.  I find many of his posts to be as passionate, intelligent, and profound as I’ve seen on WordPress.

 

I’ve gotten to know a bit about him over the few months I’ve been blogging: he is a hospice nurse, a taxing occupation I can imagine; he served in the Peace Corps in Armenia, a country whose population has been nearly exterminated by its geographical neighbors, and whose infrastructure is still devastated by a killer earthquake from a few years back; and he is a highly intelligent, articulate, and talented poet, often writing in three languages – English, Spanish, and Armenian.  He fed refugees from his own food supplies, and continues to champion the cause of an abused, terrorized, and destitute people who have become road-kill under the wheels of history.  It all sounds so noble, and in my estimation is…but it is not hard for me to understand why he is probably the most un-followed blogger – he posts quite a bit of erotica.

When I first came across his blog it was one of those WTF moments.  There were images of what some people would deem pornographic.  There was a Supreme Court ruling which has become the common definition of pornography, and that is that art may be graphic, and it may contain adult-oriented material, but if it has artistic merit, it’s erotica, not pornography.  I’ve mentioned in comments that his wonderful poetry and other posts would draw quite an audience if he cut down on some of the more graphic imagery.  He has made it clear he couldn’t care less.  He creates his posts for himself and does not care about any mass readership.

I once mentioned a poet I followed on WordPress that could definitely benefit from reading his work, but she is a deeply religious Muslim, and would be offended by some of the material on his site.  He immediately replied that I should not refer her since the last thing he wanted to do was offend or shock anyone’s sensibilities.  I can respect that.  He recently commented on a post of mine, “Just Who am I Writing For?” with a bit of his usual sensible advice…advice which benefitted me, and, I thought, might be a bit of self analysis on his part, since like me he often posts politically charged material.

This is in no way an endorsement of ch3mical r3nt boy’s blog – I think he’s satisfied creating art for art’s sake…art he knows will evaporate into the ether of the cyberspace unseen, unappreciated by the masses, and completely satisfying to him.  So, here is his reply to my question about just who I write for and why:

I love this post of yours! You ask (and answer) so many question I’ve been struggling with too. You remind me of something I read by Bertolt Brecht, his essay about the difficulty of writing about the truth. For an artist to tell the truth, Brecht said, he or she needed:

1. courage to write the truth

2. the keenness to recognize the truth

3. the skill to manipulate the truth as a weapon

4. the judgment to select those in whose hands the truth will be effective

5. the cunning to spread the truth among many

 

For the most part the moment, it seems to me, 90% of artists who feel compelled to “speak the truth” (whatever that means to them) are very good at points 1 and 2 and then completely fail at 3,4 and 5. It’s why political poetry, say, tends to be less art and more preaching. Blogging is wonderful, I do it every day and am very proud of what I create, but the Internet is a gated community and only those who have the money and time to participate in it can benefit from the wisdom within. In a world were 3/4 of the population don’t even know where their next meal is to be found it’s hard to take blog activists as seriously as they take themselves.

This isn’t to say blogs and social media don’t serve their roles and play important parts for those who use them (we create families here, we make friends and fall in love and get a chance to send our desires and dreams out to an audience of like-minded people), but the Internet is still an echo chamber (granted, a very large echo chamber) and I think a lot of us forget that. In the end the Internet as a tool for spreading truth will never be the solution to Brecht’s five difficulties since those who need the truth the most have no access to it if we keep it on-line.

Cheers!

 

The Politics of Yertl the Turtle

Your Majesty please…I don’t like to complain,/ But down here below, we are feeling great pain./ I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,/ But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

 

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That quote is lines 65-68 from “Yertl the Turtel”, one of three stories from Yertl the Turtle and Other Stories by the rabble-rousing labor activist and raving anarchist, Theodor Suess Geisel, better known to you, me, and millions of other children as Dr. Seuss.  The famous children’s book was published by Random House Books on April 12, 1958, and Dr. Seuss’s demonic, socialistic thoughts, have been polluting minds – young and old – ever since.

But, like all instigators of class warfare, the good Dr. got called to account for his dangerous words a little over a year ago by Dave Stignant, acting director of the Prince Rupert School District in the sleepy little hamlet of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.

But, let’s start this from the beginning.  The photo of the turtle that heads this bit of pinko thinking was taken by my wife.  The turtle is at home in a pool outside of Auto-Mercado, an American-style supermarket between Tamarindo and Villareal in Costa Rica.

I commented at what a limited world-view this poor creature must have had, and a friend of mine replied that it probably wasn’t all that bad, since the turtle was king of all he surveyed.  I immediately thought of one of the first books I owned as a child, Yerlt the Turtle and Other Stories.

It’s a short piece -probably one of Dr. Seuss’s most famous – from this stanza:

Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
 I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it.  Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food.  We are starving!” groaned Mack.

 

Similar turtles were used in an editorial cart...

Similar turtles were used in an editorial cartoon published in PM on March 20, 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The gist of this story is that Yertl the Turtle is the King of the Pond on a “faraway island of Sala-ma-Sond, and wanting to be more powerful, he had ordered his turtle subjects to pile up so he could survey more to be King of.  Mack, a most common and plain little turtle, was on the bottom.  All was fine until the moon came up, and Yertl called for more turtles since there should be no higher than the highest authority…himself.

How this all became an issue in the Prince Rupert School system was that a elementary school teacher had introduced this book into her class plan.  She also seems to have had a t-shirt with “But down at the bottom, we too should have rights” on the chest.  She was a union member, and there was a bit of re-working to be done as far as contracts and pay-scales were concerned.  The indignant Stignant banned her from using the book in her classroom, wearing the t-shirt, and from even having any items concerning Yertl the Turtle on school grounds, or in open view inside her car.

“It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging,” the indignant Stignant said.  “I don’t consider it’s taking a stand on the dispute.  It’s a matter of legality and living up to our obligations to children and their families.”

 

YERTLE

I was digging farther into this, the results of the Yertl the Turtle controversy and book ban, and especially the fortunes, or misfortunes of the indignant Stignant…but the internet connection went south, I lost my original post, art, and settings, so I’m getting this off as fast as I can before it happens again.

Save it for another day.

I do know that the end of the tale has plain little turtle Mack burp (which was quite a rude thing to say in 1958) and the turtle tower collapsed, leaving King Yertl face in the mud of the pond.  Maybe the final stanza gives some indication of how the whole union brouhaha, as well as the indignant Stignant’s, fortunes fared:

And tosay the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
 As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

The Silence of the “Friends”

20130402_123957It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on him not understanding                        Upton Sinclair

 

To those of you have been following my blog for a while, you have probably seen a post or two about my friend Maryam Shahbaz, the Poet from Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets.  For those of you who haven’t there are other posts about her.  I don’t want to bore anyone with redundant exposition.

 

Anyway, It’s still odd in this new (to me) world of Social Media to have lost contact with her.  We have been working on a project together, Maryam’s first published poetry collection.  The silence lately has been deafening and a bit disconcerting considering her recent activities.

 

 

20130402_130441Maryam is a busy woman.  She’s in the final stages of editing and publishing her book, which is all fine.  She’s also been working on the political campaign of Imran Kahn, a reform candidate from Pakistan, which is all to the good also, except she lives in a dangerous neighborhood…Eastern Pakistan where the borders of India, Kashmir and Pakistan merge.  It’s also a bit dicey when a young women gets involved in trying to get elders and especially elder males to consider voting for a reform candidate when she often finds herself having to go through male relatives to communicate with those elderly, more conservative males.  These two gentlemen would be a good example of that attitude.  She told me that her cousin had to act as a go-between when communicating with them.  They don’t represent the modern, emerging Pakistan, but they are a reminder of the cultural and religious barriers which have been in place for longer than anyone can remember.

 

I’m hoping that all is well with her, and it’s just a case of my friend being busy, busy, busy. It’s as if a friend who lives next door got involved in a tense situation and no longe answers the door when I knock…in this case my “knocking” is in the form of e-mails and blog posts which in the past have been usually answered within a week.

 

There are other issues at play, of course.  The electricity situation where she lives is one of brown-outs, and sometimes black-outs.  Then, there’s the previous theft of her identity by a hacker who set up internet accounts using photographs and information from her previous social media site.  Her family is concerned over this, as she is, and seems to strongly support her regression from the world of social networking.  That would be a completely understandable reaction for parents and brothers to be protective of a beautiful, young daughter or sister who is exploring a world which they might not fully understand, and have been given reason to distrust.

A Shot of Maryam at WeddingThese photos above of Maryam paying homage at the graveyard where the shrine to Imam-ul-Haq is located is a reminder to me that she comes from a culture I know little of, but am learning about through our social media networking and concerted efforts on a book project.

The reverence that she shows for the holy men and poets of her culture must be mirrored by some reverence and understanding from me, as a novice to the world she lives in and will have to live with.  Her work for a candidate whose campaign gave hope to a changing culture in a changing area of a changing world, I admire.  The conservative, failed politicians of her countries recent history seem to be doing everything in their power to slow, halt, or even reverse that progress.  That can get ugly sometimes.

My well wishes for Maryam, along with my impatience may be conspiring to raise unfounded concerns.

I’m hoping so.

Is Rejection a Form of Success?

Portrait of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) by Gösta ...

Portrait of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) by Gösta Florman (1831–1900). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

There are many people on WordPress who have few followers, so few they can keep track of how many comments they have compared to how many page views they’ve received.  It seems there are a few dissatisfied customers out there in InterZone who get a bit pissy when they get “liked” but not read.

I know this because I’ve read their complainsts…as if they’re being robbed somehow.  Good gosh, people…I just wrote a post that got 28 views so far and only eleven “likes.”  That’s nearing a 67% rejection rate…67% ! ! !

 

I wouldn’t have even noticed unless I had seen these whiney posts before, criticizing social media surfers for “liking” pages without reading them…as if they had posted a Nobel Prize winning blog post and it had been slighted by fickle viewers desperate for a gratuitous return “like” as repayment.

 

Twenty-eight views with only eleven likes…take that, whiners.  I’ll give them all to you, para gratis.

The humble service I provide  writing a post that draws people’s attention, and then leaves them with the sour taste of not being properly entertained is more satisfying than 100 or 200 or 300 “likes” from people who feel obligated because, “…everybody else is liking it, so it’s got to be good…” or “…this so-called human has been posting for 23 years, and they’ve gotten 142 likes in eighteen minutes – If I ‘like’ them maybe they’ll ‘like’ me too…” click.  Que milagro !

In a world of miracles, Que Mi-la-gro !

English: Fats Waller, three-quarter length por...

English: Fats Waller, three-quarter length portrait, seated at piano, facing front. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Somebody shoot me while I’m happy, ” Fats Waller used to yell out when he was hitting his stride playing some of the most wicked boogie-woogie piano ever heard on this planet, or any other, I’m sure.   Why no Nobel Prize for Musical Mayhem, Fats?  Loser….

 

I just received a letter…and in a beach town in Costa Rica, that’s a miracle.  And, guess what…there are estimators and judges of true miracles at work here…I have been nominated for the first Nobel Prize in Blogosphere Literature.

 

Yes, my name will soon be mentioned along with the giants…the innovators of humankind…the pioneers who were spurned and denigrated.  (Not that I’ve been spurned or denigrated…I really am that literry light who got 142 “likes” in eighteen minutes…I just felt a bit embarrassed).

 

 

I’m thinking my portrait will fit right in with the other winners of Nobel Prizes…especially the Nobel Peace Prize, set up by the guy who invented dynamite…yeah, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite…putting that in my next blog, while I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, as Sir Isaac Newton said.  I am a humble human being though, and I have no foothold on the Newts giant shoulders.

English: Nobel Peace Prize 2008, Martti Ahtisaari

English: Nobel Peace Prize 2008, Martti Ahtisaari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I dined on bad pizza tonight, in a land of fresh vegetables and miracle fruits…yeah…make your own punch-lines.

“Hold on to your hats,” as Bette Davis said in “All About Eve” because sweet ioniamartin just “liked” my last post…she might even leave a kind, patronizing comment.  I do know she secretly hates me and my meteoric rise to the top of the blogging world, so she’s skewed my previous calculations on purpose.

But that kind of pandering is not going to sway the Nobel Prize judges.  They only award these valued chunks of metal to unknowns, branded lunatics, shut-in charlatans, and untelligible fools…and I’m not going to lower the tone of this prize, no matter what ioniamartin has to say about me or my mad ramblings.

I deserve my just rewards…and a free trip to Scaninavia, home of my Viking, Dyamite Developing ancestors…so give in, and give it up.

A Dengue Alley Muscle ShotI’m waiting…celebrting…

 

Just Who am I Writing For?

A trip HusbandHave I lost my way?  Have I found my way?  Am I busy being born instead of busy dying, to quote Bob Dylan?  A constant reader commented the other day I was a “softie” under my crusty exterior.  I had written a post about my wife and I rescuing an abandoned kitten.  How mushy is that?  And, I’ve been writing posts about joining in on clean-up projects promoted by a young boy in Florida, and worrying over the fate of people from the other side of the world…people I wouldn’t even know of without this social media connection I’ve fostered.

Where did my inner curmudgeon go?

Have I pawned all my angst, anger and attitude off on the Philosopher Red/alter-ego I seem to use more and more often for dirty work?

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading an old Kurt Vonnegut interview published in Playboy magazine in the early 1970s, post-Slaughterhouse Five, and he answered a question posed by the interviewer about why he writes with this:

Writers are specialized cells doing whatever we do, and we’re expressions of the entire society – just as the sensory cells of your body as a whole.  And when a society is in great danger, we’re likely to sound the alarms.”  Later in the interview he answers further questioning by saying that artist’s work reflects the society they are a part of, and if they’re good at their work, they offer comforting lies to make people feel good about being alive.

Sometimes I think I should be sounding the alarm.  I agree with megalomaniac dictators like Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler that artists should serve their state…I just disagree with them as to how I should serve my state.  But, to do this I need to define my state, just who it is I’m writing for.  I know the most common answer from artists is they create for themselves and the audience can buy the ticket and take the ride, or they can go jump in a volcano…but their work is still affecting their society, even if they reject that society and any approval from that society.  A question I used to pose to students…a writing prompt –

“What does ‘America’ mean?  Is it a geographical area…rivers and mountains and deserts and seashores?  Is it the people who live within those borders?  Is it an idea, started by a gang of rich Virginia planters and Massachusetts importer/exporters and interpreted by succeeding generations to fit their times and fashion?  When you pledge allegiance to the Flag, what does that piece of cloth symbolize?”

I got about as many answers as I had students, and none of them made much sense.  The one know-it-all I had write a screed about Communism’s faults and Democracy’s superiority…I told him he was comparing a method of organizing the commercial life of a group of people with a political one and he should sober up if he was going to preach.  The ones who answered it’s the American people…I asked them exactly who they were including: crack dealers…robber baron CEOs…lazy cretins who live off SSI or other taxpayer-supported programs intended for the truly needy, or people they perceived to be very much like themselves.  I wanted an answer for myself as much as I wanted them to think about something beside “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” or “American Idol” results.

I seem to be going in several directions…or, are they connected in some manner beyond my non-inquisitive intellect?  I guess I’m flailing around for a subject to write about, and I’ve written about one.

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1...

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1980 Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just now I was having an e-mail conversation with a writer, and I told him about the little comic books I saw in Mexico called “revistas.”  They’re turned out every week, and the government gave them away for free in the Mexico City subway, thinking that people who are reading don’t commit as much crime as those who aren’t.  These “revistas” are hyper-sexual, awfully written, and the cheapest form of “low art” imaginable…but they were being used to serve the “state” in a positive way.  Goofy entertainment to reduce the chance your grandmother won’t get beat up and mugged on the way home from her $12 a day job cleaning rich people’s toilets.

Big Joe Stalin, Benny Mussolini, Uncle Adolf, and The Dylan would all probably spit on revistas if they even thought it worth their while.

 

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie (Photo credit: Robert of Fairfax)

But I’m still at an impasse…do I serve my “state” better by promoting small, feel-good posts that make readers go, “Awwww…” or do I dredge up heavy-handed, loaded, and brain-straining issues that are not – and have never been – manageable to the average reader?  I think I’ll just shut up until someone more intelligent than I offers some sort of answer…or write for these three gals.

Later…

 

A Mother’s Day Visitor

Cats are not popular pets in Costa Rica.  Dogs are the most valuable, since they also serve as security systems.  Cats, such as this little kitten, are often killed or fed to dogs to get them comfortable and used to killing and attacking.  Cats usually have the fear in their eyes, if you even see one, and avoid most human contact.  This kitten was hyper-vigilant and in fight-or-flight mode for about half an hour, but soon calmed down once my wife got to feeding her…making bed spaces in every room…and crawling around on the floor with her.

 

Kitty Not SureCamping Out

 

 

We had nothing to feed her but cheese, bread, and finally a plate of scrambled eggs.  My wife, being allergic to cats, has never had a kitten, and surely wasn’t prepared for this one.  She knew she was going to suffer swollen ankles, watery eyes, and probably a whopper of a migraine headache, but she was full of Oxytocin – the mothering hormone – and she played the role of mama cat for a couple of days like a trooper.  But, we immediately started looking around for a home, and in a small, spread-out community like ours, looking for someone to take a kitten called for a bit of social media mining.  Tamarindo has two different websites for socializing…Tamarindo Social Network and Tamarindo Garage Sale.  She got going with both of them, posting photos and going on and on about how cute, spirited and playful she was.  It worked.  A family from Playa Langosta, a few kilometers south of here, called and said they wanted her.  Since cats aren’t very popular, kittens are rare…and they WANTED HER !

 

Kitty Trying to Nap

 

Meanwhile, she had discovered the couch.

Her belly was as full as it had probably been in a while.

She was relaxed and safe in the company of her rescuers.

She still had more to explore, and she got to it in no time.

 

 

 

Kitty LovesI was so worn out from our pet rescue operation that I went in the back bedroom to take a siesta while one of the first rain storms of the Wet Season was whipping down out of the hills…the perfect sound to go to sleep to.

But, our visitor had other plans.  She discovered me – I think it had something to do with my wife putting her food dishes next to the bed.

After the kitten cleaned up her cheese, bread, and scrambled eggs, she discovered the bed, and then what beds are for.

It was a fun few days.  I’ve had cats all my life…my wife had never been around the craziness that a little minx like this brings into the lives of their humans.

 

Purrrfect

I have, and I knew that once I let her up on that bed my rainy afternoon siesta was over…she would be dozing off, and I would be nothing more than a back-stroking and chin-scratching machine.  So be it.  Thanks to my wife’s efforts, and the power of social media, our three-day kitten’s new family came and picked her up yesterday.  After the family left with the kitten I heard a sniffling sound…my wife who was going to pay in allergic reactions was having a small case of separation anxiety and feelings of loss.  That’s what saving a kitten and giving it a couple of days of your life will get you…and a few pictures.

Road Tripping Down the Dead Road

I’ve got these back problems, you see.  When I was working as a tour guide in Mexico I broke my back.  It never gets better, but I got some advice from a local directing me to a “real chiropractor” out on the barren road to Langosta Beach.  And, this local said she was cheap.  We all have different standards.

My wife and I got lost, finding ourselves on a side road.  I asked a fisherman about a doctor for backs, and he pointed to a walled compound where a sign warned of dangerous dogs.  Walking around to the front of the chiropractor’s office I came across the dangerous dogs, asleep in the heat.

Chiropractor Dogs

A metal pad at the side of the doorway had an “Empuje” sign above it, so I impujed.  An elderly woman appeared, told me she was with a client for the next hour, and to come back later.  One dangerous dog opened an eye, the other raised his head, looked me over, then let his head loll back against the iron fence.  What to do?  The Tamarindo Municipal Park was across the street.

Manglar Parque

Turkey Vultures

I loved the name of the park…in gringo…Mangler Park.  The park was a desolate, dry, dead place, as every place is during the dry season.  The sign advertised a Fitness Course, and I’m always in need of some more fitnessing.  We wanders in to find the only two creatures in the park other than ourselves were two full-grown Turkey Buzzards.  They weren’t leaving, no matter how close we got to them, and I urged my wife forward with her camera…telling her they must have some carcass they were working over or they would have flown.  She got within ten feet of the pair before she started complaining of the smell.

 Female Turkey Vulture

The male had been standing guard…the female was busy mangling what was left of an Iguana.  The male flew up into a tree, but the female was not going to leave her small, smelly piece of the food chain.  She kept to her mangling.  We decided to wait outside on the dead, dusty road to Langosta and the Ghost Hotel.

 I began to have second thoughts about our little health excursion down the Dead Road, and suggested we walk back up the road to where I had spotted some ancient ruins…ancient for Costa Rica.

Yes, the remnants of a long-dead culture.  The ruins of the first building boom brought on by the gringo invasion of the 1970s, gone bust when the colonists abandoned their dreams, deciding that dry seasons, rainy seasons, high season for tourists, and low season for tourists were not the extreme variations they were looking for in their search for Paradise.  The strong – Los Brovos, survive here…the weak go home, if they have one to go to.  I don’t.  I’m thinking of changing addresses from the Ghost Hotel to the Ancient Ruins by the Beach.

Costa Rica Ruins

Crucifying My Inner Monkey

And a thousand thousand slimy things lived on; and so did I – Samuel Taylor Coleridge “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

I told a “friend” about an idea I had for a simple post.  He stole the idea, the photo, and who knows what else.  Got to love some people.

Social Media Maniacs, the Worst Book Ever, and a Birthday Bonfire

My internet connection went dead three days ago.  I felt as if all the color run from my life, as my world turned to black and white.  I felt alone, stranded on a rocky, desolate island surrounded by violent crashing waves.  My social media needs went un-fed, and I was feeling surly.  I jest…I went to the only bookstore in town and bought a new book.  It reminded me why I usually stick to authors I know – it was the worst piece of junk I’ve ever started to read.  I tried to return it, but the shop was closed.  I thought of propping it up against the door and sneaking away, but if an unsuspecting reader picked it up and tried to read it…they could be turned off to reading forever.  Going back to the beach I found some friends involved in some birthday bonfire mayhem.  I gave the stinker of a book to a local whose vinegar outlook on life I’ve come to dislike.  He should have known better…the Aztec calendar warned of the coming of Cortez, the publication of this book, and the Great Internet Crash that is so common it needs no powers of prediction.

 

Aztec Sun GodBefore my internet went down I had seen a post from a blogger that claimed they had only been posting for a month, had received 11,984 hits, and had been followed by 1,218 other bloggers.  What?  The math is astounding…que milagro, as they say in a world of miracles.  Why should I care about this?  These kinds of posts always amuse and amaze me.  It seems as though the greedy acquisition of view, likes, and follows is the end to some means, like spending days following, liking, and commenting once or twice on every post from every blog.  There will probably be a new disorder named in honor of people like this.  There will also be a pill developed soon to counteract this debilitating, unquenchable desire, I’m sure…if there isn’t one or a few already.

I am proud to announce I have 29 followers, 208 views, so few likes there should be a minus sign before the number, and not one award.  I have clicked the “follow” button on a few of these afflicted addicts…past tense, since I’ve just as quickly un-followed them.  Some of the best writing, most interesting bloggers, as well as the most inspired and inspiring posts I have come across have been from people with less than 100 followers, few likes, nearly no comments, and best of all…no sense that they’re a cyber-social failure.  I guess they create posts because they like the process of creating quality posts more than the racket of insincere approval.

Book Cover OhSo, what can a person do when they have no internet connection?  Buy a book.  I did.  This is not a book review…more a book warning.  Do not touch the book Tenochtitlan: The Last Battle of the Aztecs by an author I won’t name out of common decency.  It was a translation from Spanish to English, so I could forgive the non-lyrical prose, but it was still a misguided attempt at storytelling.  There was too much information about the cultural clash between the native Aztecs and conquest-mad Spanish invaders for the novice, and too little unique insight to hold the attention of the initiated.

The only reason I read 75 pages or so into this mess was the wealth of amusing spelling and syntax errors committed by the translator.  It might have helped if I had my machete to cut through this, and that might be a good sales ploy:

Free Machete with Every Copy ! 

I don’t know.  I found something else to do quick.

The beach is never far away, and in a small town of less than 500 inhabitants, there’s always someone or a group of someones there I know who are up to no good, or…lighting a bonfire for an night-long birthday party.  My good friends from Villareal – Francisco and Sylvia, his lively, lovely Cubana wife – were there with their collection of children and a few fellow revelers.  It was Sylvia’s birthday, or so they claimed…as if an excuse was necessary.  These people will light a fire and party all night to celebrate the sunset.

Fire Shot IIFire Shot IX

I tried to get a few photos.  I am an amateur.  There always seemed to be beer bottles blocking my view, not enough light, or both in this case.  My wife – the real photographer – told me I could PhotoShop my failed photos, but I kind of liked them the way they came out.  The dim glow of the fire provided just enough light for me to capture my wife, a professional bellydancer, showing Francisco a few moves, while at the same time protecting Francisco’s anonymity…even though his belly would suggest his attempts at belly-rolls and hip-drops should be captured and immortalized for the edification of all involved.

Fire Shot III

These are trying times, I know, but we who are still walking the walk are survivors.  The internet connection is back, so I won’t take any literary chances and be seduced by books with catchy, colorful cover art, and I’ll just have to force myself away from the “like” and “follow” buttons long enough to go to the beach and find myself involved in LIFE.  There will be updates on this experiment in living, since I’m sure ICE and RACSA, the Costa Rican communications providers, won’t be able to sustain such a dangerous level of internet access beyond sunset tomorrow.

A Book CoverTo my few followers and friends around the world…stay away from this book.  Anyone else dropping in for a cheap thrill – this is the book for you.

Later…

Beach Angel Blessing

This is a re-working of a Sand Art photo my wife took two weeks ago.  We thought it needed a little something, so she manipulated it with a few added touches of color.  The original is below.

 

A Sand Shot Fairy

 

 

Some difference.  This Sand Art thing is something we’ve been working on for a while.  The model is willing, and always available…the sea and sand and wind will never complain, show up late after a late night of partying, and no wages.  And the combination of sand, sea, and wind seems to leave us enough abstract drainage patterns every day, twice a day, we will never run out of subject matter.  And, the sweet little bonus…it’s a bit of the wife and husband activity thing that gives us something constructive and artistic we can do together.

Later…

Killer Teens, The Algebra of Addiction, and Ties to Terrorism

English: Teacher at top of mountain, inviting ...

English: Teacher at top of mountain, inviting student up to the top (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time I was a teenager.  I didn’t receive much of the necessary guidance needed to become a part of the society around me.  I am at an age now when too many people cluck their tongues at the thoughts, actions, and reactions of teenagers trying to establish themselves into a community.  News Flash – teenagers have always been confused and in need of guidance to become a productive part of their family, tribe, community, or society…Always.

I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, for about twelve years, and often in parts of the city where the ravages of the Rust Belt were most evident.  One of my students who lived near me told me this story during an informal student-teacher meeting concerning the declining quality, quantity, and timeliness of her work.

The block this student lived on had been home to a bit of a feud between two neighborhood mothers.  Mother-A had a daughter who was known as a witty, daring, charismatic, skipper of classes and was suffering the consequences of her action.  It seemed a perfectly normal story since several of her extended family members were ex-cons, small-time drug dealers, drop-outs, and all lorded over by a single mother on several assistance programs, descended from a welfare mother, descended from a…  You get the picture, I hope.

Mother-B’s daughter was a casual friend of my student.  Daughter-B was studious, ambitious, and conscious that an education was her only way out of her dangerous neighborhood.  My student told me that Mother-B’s daughter was a bit of an outcast…trying to be “too white” according to people like Mother-A’s daughter.  My take on this was daughter of Mother-A saw daughter of Mother-B as a threat…what if she succeeded in life?  This would invalidate all her excuses for not being studious, ambitious, and getting out of her dangerous neighborhood.  The feud was problematic, with daily insults, squabbles, vandalism, and physical altercations.  Mother-B decided that a change was called for, and moved her family a couple of blocks away to a new home.

English: Teacher and student at top of mountai...

English: Teacher and student at top of mountain, teacher pushing student off (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mother-A took this as very poor form…an insult to her daughter, and, I imagine, to her especially.  She informed her daughter that they were going to visit Mother-B and her daughter and “set things straight” in her own special way.  To make a long story shorter, Mother-A gave her daughter a straight razor, had a brother and a cousin stand guard at Mother-B’s gate  while she hustled her daughter into the yard and onto the porch where Mother-B was hustling her children indoors.  Not quickly enough.  Daughter-A proceeded to slash away at Daughter-B, with guidance and encouragement from Mother-A.

Daughter-B is scarred for life now, psychologically, physically, and sociologically.  Mother-A did a short stretch, while Daughter-A did her first piece of change in a juvenile detention program, and will eventually do some time.  Acculturation is an important part of being locked up, and it carries back to the street when offenders are released, becoming a Red Badge of Courage, so to speak…an initiation rite.

All groups, from a family to a nation, have certain requirements for members to move from one period of their life to another – the most important of these being the initiation rites of teenagers.  They are the future, people say so often, probably not really understanding the weight of that statement.  Roles change with age and accomplishment, and if those roles are rejected or neglected, the person in question would be abandoned, ostracized, exiled, or be so diminished they would wander away on their own, much to the groups advantage.

Where these rituals don’t exist, they will be invented or re-invented by those in need, or those who are looking to take advantage of that need.  This is often seen as an abomination of culture and propriety by those who have passed their group’s initiation rituals.  Recently in Boston two teenagers took part in an initiation rite proscribed by a group they wanted to earn favor with…or they were poorly used by their elders who understand the importance of initiation rituals to teenagers struggling for an identity.

Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsamaev were given an initiative education, I hear.  Word around the campfire is that they were both involved in the Sharia schooling offered by our friends the Saudi Arabians.  If this is true, this is the war of the future…not over border disputes, lust for land and resources, or a personal rivalry between leaders.  It’s a War of Ideas and Religious Philosophy started and urged on by religious fanatics from both sides.  We are as doomed as the Tsamaev Brothers.

How do these schools of intolerance and hatred operate?  The Saudi Arabian government is one of the main promoters.  How could a desolate country fund and promote such ideas of self-righteous, destructive and bloody mayhem?  The answer is simple…there is a lake of oil beneath their desert kingdom, and there are so many Petroleum Addicts in the world they will never run low on cash, and they will never suffer for their actions.  Who assisted Usama bin Laden‘s family out of the United States after 9-11?  You must know who…George W. Bush and his White House full of Oil Gang initiates.  And this ties a lot of people to terrorism…me, you, and just about everyone we know.

Our addiction to Petroleum has corrupted our government, brought rage, turmoil, death and destruction to areas of the world who serve as our dealers, and the last thing a junkie wants to do is piss off their dealer.  And, before anyone starts trying to deny or justify their addiction to Petroleum, try kicking that addiction to the gas pump.  I know…I know…we all live in a world where people live in one place, work in another place, drive their children across town to better schools, and find recreation a few dollars worth of Petroleum products away.  But, that’s all about convenience, the desire for upward mobility, and often signs and symbols of status.  We all have our priorities, wants and desires in mind when we undertake certain actions, and if those priorities, wants and desires run up against a cold, hard, and deadly reality…then rationalize…deny…just like any good addict has to learn to do to maintain self-righteous dignity.

None of us want to deny ourselves the life of convenience we have become accustomed to, so we’ll keep on using…and we will ignore the harsh and deadly actions of our dealers.  I am guilty, and I’m not going to deny it.  I am not going to join the Amish, and neither is anyone who reads this, so we PAY the dealer, FEED the addiction, and blame the consequences on the insanity of others.

I expect nothing but outraged indignation, stretched justifictions, and angry reaction to this post.  It’s how all addicts react when faced with the consequences of their addiction.  If you’ve read this far you are on your way to recovery, or are just looking for a box to leave a hate comment in.  Whatever…

Eight Secrets for Recovering Dumpees

Cover of "WHAT? (Diary of Forbidden Dream...

Cover via Amazon

I’m not sick very often, or ever, really.  I break a lot of bones, but I have rarely had the opportunity to sit around in bed bored to distraction, I mean like cruising the brackish backwaters of the internet.  I found some genius who made a series of videos on how to carry out simple home repairs, such as fixing a leaky sink, checking for faulty electrical connections in sparking light fixtures, or installing a new ceiling fan after a sparking ceiling fan has blown a hole in a ceiling, leaving a blackened void.  The demonstrators were all pert, young women – none of them truly symmetrical enough to be considered true Helen of Troy beauties, but WebMaster had these demonstrators dressed in crude, cliché bits of erotic clothing…like tube tops circa 1972, shorts, torn and shredded to the point they appeared ready to fall apart and expose the whorish fishnet stockings that truly set off the ensemble.

Brilliant.  The internet is a true wonder of modern culture, and I’m sure our era will be treated well in history books.  Then, there’s those who try to truly help with weighty topics, such as the end of relationships.

This one website I found seems a rich vein of such wisdom, so I thought I’d pass it on to all of you who have too many truly constructive matters to attend to.  Another of my Public Service-oriented style posts –

 

"Bubble Bath" Pink Punch

“Bubble Bath” Pink Punch (Photo credit: Javcon117*)

“Sometimes no matter how hard you try to fix your relationship it just doesn’t work out. 
When you are left with a broken heart and just don’t know how you are going to make it, hold your head up high and try a few of these ideas to help you get over your break up.”

 

  1. Join a Gym or start exercising, this not only takes up time but it will help you feel better about yourself and get you out of the house.
  (Nonsense…joining a gym will only give the dumped a view of all those hard-bodied fanatics who do the breaking up with their out of shape partners.  A horrible place to try reclaiming any dignity and sense of self esteem.  Also, I haven’t come across a gym yet that allows pitchers of Margaritas or doesn’t frown on crying jags from flabby dumpees wrapped up on sweaty floors in fetal positions.  Stay home for a year or two…lifting a medium-sized pitcher of Margies is a fine place to start any health reclamation project).
  2. Start a hobby. Try something you have never done before! Art, writing, or collecting are a few things to consider.
  (Again, nonsense.  Opening a world formerly free of risk-taking behaviors, or on pastimes as fickle as the arts is a sure way to increase despair algebraically.  Collecting things?  Wasn’t that the reason that the dumpee was kicked to the curb by the dumper in the first place?  Remember the course words and insulting arguments about the angel figurine collections, or the overflowing bowls of animal bones?  Do not start collecting anything, unless it is suggested by a very pricey lawyer).
  3. Volunteer someplace. Volunteering not only boost yourself esteem, it also gets you out and around people,
    Bubble Bath !

    Bubble Bath ! (Photo credit: Mark Philpott)

    opening up opportunities to meet somebody new.
  (Another “get out of the house” ploy…as if the people one meets on the street offering “opportunities” are of any value other than the entertainment value derived from their imminenet arrest for pandering shakes the cocunuts in your tree.  And, volunteering?  Volunteers do the work that no One in their right mind, or anything useful to do take part in.  The hours are usually rough, the pay is…well, volunteer says it all…but maybe I’m just jaded since Relationship Crisis Counseling was my first volunteer experience after such a breakup.  My second wasn’t much more inspiring, was at a rabbit shelter, giving bubble baths to recently dumped rodents).

  4. Pamper yourself. Get a new haircut and have your nails done. If you can’t afford to go have them done, do them yourself! Set up some nice music and treat yourself to a bubble bath followed by a nice manicure.
  (This strikes me as something the dumpee should have done before dumper got their headstart.  A bubble bath?  Why do people always wait until suicide is a consideration before deciding on a bubble bath?  This suggestion also forgot to mention the cliché tub of chocolate chip, pistachio mint ice cream….amateurs for sure.  Dead relationship experts like this are surely failed therapists).
  5. Reach out to your friends and family. Most of the time when we are involved in a major relationship we neglect our friends and family… They probably miss you and will welcome seeing you more often.
  (Yeah…that’s it…spread the misery around equally.  A sure-fire way to endear one’s Self to friends and relatives that have been avoided to the point of non-recognition for decades sometimes.  Finding a person offering “opportunities” on the street would present acceptable targets for any frantic tirades of how the dumper will never find another pre-dumpee to clean the hair out of the shower drain like the neo-dumpee did for the dumper).
  6. Break off all communications with the “ex” for a while. It is hard enough to forget them and move on, but when you are still in communications you are doing nothing more than prolonging it. Set up a “fake” number on your phone for when you feel the need to text them. When you feel like calling them, write a letter instead and then burn it. Do whatever you have to do, just do not contact them!
  (What?  What was that?  How about just taking a blunt object to the dumper’s communication enablers…starting with that cell phone, working through brittle digits, and finally, all that dental work that the dumpee financed?  There…problem solved…you’re welcome.  And forget all that nonsense about another fake number on a phone…it’s that kind of behavior that started the questions that led to the row that led to all this dumping and being dumped in the first place.  And burning things, like letters…who writes letters nowadays?  No self-respecting dumper cares about letters, so why should grieving dumpees have to deal with fire departments or irate neighbors following the smoke, as they say in the Despondant Dumpee Reaction Force biz).
  7. Start your own website. I know that seems kind of silly, but there are so many places to make free websites and they can take up a lot of your time. Start one about your favorite animal, or one that has you favorite recipes. Start a forum with your friends and have them post as well. It will take up your free time and give you something to look forward to.
  (Yeah…get in a dark room, all by your dumped Self, then write until you are staying up for days conniving new ways to insult, degrade, and defame the dumper…forget to sleep, or eat, and start considering a liquid diet as normal, as long as the garbage bags of empties go unnoticed, dumpees can get away with this for a bit.  Really, this is a calling, not something most dumpees just fall into, like getting law or medical degrees.  Any council including the words “free time” should be ignored…there is no such thing.  Another cliche reactionary reaction).
  8. Hiking – Exploring. This kind of falls in with exercising, but think of it as more of an adventure. Make a list of places you have always wanted to see and GO SEE THEM!
  (The encouragement to exercise again…while trying to rationalize it as “an adventure.”  I saw that movie about the guy who went hiking alone in the Utah desert, I think it was, and  fell, getting his dumpee arm caught between two boulders…remember that?  Yeah…how long is it going to take for the average dumpee to decide to chew off their arm to escape their Darwinian Death Sentence?  Just calm down….stay still…plot some kind of horrible, gruesome sort of adventure for the dumper…then, after a year or two – after the internet thing turns the dumpee into a photosensitive mole – do an internet word search for hangover remedies, or rehabilitation program, and venture out into the world.  And, next time, switch the role…do the dumping, and keep in touch with that quick-twitch response mechanism or prepare for a re-run of the despair of the dumpee).
margaritas on the rocks.

margaritas on the rocks. (Photo credit: ANOXLOU)

Now, for any One who has not read too many of my dosulute (Is that a word?  It should be), and despairing posts in the past, I’m not usually so dosulute and despairing.  I’m just baffled by the experts who ladle out advice like this… if they knew how to mix a decent Margie, they wouldn’t have the time or inclination to be offering it up for free on the internet, unless they’re just one of those kind Soles out to solve all the social problems of serial dumpees.

 

 

Little Secrets (song)

Little Secrets (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dengue Report:  The brain has to re-establish neurotransmitter contact between the positive ends of the synapses, and for a couple of months I might be a bit negative…a woman on the street told me this, right after she wrote the cyber address of this site down for me on the back of an ice cream container she was about to toss in a trash bin.  She walked away muttering about my lack of enthusiasm for her hard-won wisdom, and I can’t say I blame her. I’m too happily married to recall the feeling of being a dumpee, if I ever was…and with gunk like this transmitting from my neurotransmitters to my battered nervous system to my fingers to this screen, I’m sure I have at some time.

Good luck ladies and gentleman, and to all Ships at Sea.

Later…

When Adjunct Professors Drop Dead…My Career as a Canary

An electronics engineer uses visible lasers to...

An electronics engineer uses visible lasers to align various optical components. (Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery)

Margaret Mary Vojtka, an adjunct professor of French at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania dropped dead on her front yard earlier this month.  This reminds me of that tree falling in the forest question…did she make a sound when she died?  Did anyone really care if some part-time educator died due to university/corporate profit margins and sheer neglect?  Guess not much, if at all.  She wasn’t worth health insurance, one of the advantages of employing adjuncts to teach everything from 101 classes to PhD courses.  Her $10,000 per year “job” didn’t afford her enough excess moneys to pay for heat, and in Pittsburgh during the winter, no heat can kill.

Ms. Vojtka had other problems inconvenient to Duquesne also….she had been battling cancer.  She had been a bit of an embarrassment, sleeping in her office for the heat, and they felt firing her would be the best answer to the situation.  That’s what had happened before she dropped dead on her lawn of a heart attack.

Duquesne officials argued their side of the story, or course, insisting they pay adjuncts more than most schools do, but admitting those same adjuncts are underpaid.  (“The least that an adjunct professor could be paid is $3,500 per course, or $7,000 for a given semester,” Duquesne Provost Tim Austen told NPR Radio.  “Whether those are appropriate in a larger context is…a matter that the academic world has not yet found a decisive answer”).  I loved that quote…the Provost is a major part of the academic machine, and exactly what is the “larger” context?

Ronald E. Powaski has lectured at Cleveland St...

Ronald E. Powaski has lectured at Cleveland State University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new corporate/educational model of America is to hire part-time employees….don’t have to pay prevailing wages, or offer medical insurance, or any respect.  It’s kind of like being a tenant farmer.  The school owns the field, the adjunct works it for next to nothing, and the school reaps huge rewards.  The school may award another year, if the professor was tame enough, and the professor is eager to work, knowing there’s not much call in the real world for many of the subjects they teach…except in a well-rounded education.  Adjuncts make up 60 percent of the Duquesne faculty, and about 75 percent around the country.  I was one once.

Cleveland State University kept me, among many others, at one teaching credit below the level where they would have to pay us as full-tiime employees with benefits.  They were very good at this process, creating one or two credit classes to milk the most out of us while keeping us that one credit below the dividing line.  They never seem to quibble about paying athletics coaches $200,000 or 500,000 a year, or building multi-million dollar stadiums, but pay a teacher a living wage?

Before I left the “profession” the president of CSU was Michael J. Schwartz.  He had been the president of Kent State U. for a bit, and spent three years at CSU.  During that time he initiated a grandiose building binge that had the university tied up in warning tape and re-routes for the entire three years, spending millions and millions and millions of dollars.  I knew his secretary…we’d meet outside every now and again, where we adjuncts exchanged info on where to get low-cost medical care at teaching hospitals, or free coffee and donuts at homeless institutions set up for indigents.  We would see Schwartz leaving work in the early afternoon hours, dragging his fat ass out of his comfy president’s chair and waddling off to his status symbol of a car.  He always had a queer smile on his fat face.

Around this time I was using the financial angle to encourage a student to apply herself to her work a bit more diligently.  I asked her if she really felt her work was earning her an education worth around $750 a class, which is what most tuition had been when I was attending the same university.  She looked at me quizzically, then told me she was paying over $1,100 a class.  It seems tuition had been going up a bit.

When Schwartzy retired the same year I left, I found out he had gotten a $600,000 golden parachute.  One check, more than all the adjuncts at the university made for the whole year.  Then I understood why he had that smile, like the proverbial cat that ate the canary.

I was one of those canaries.

Now I have escaped a country where teachers are not worth a good point guard on the basketball team, or a president who sits in his tower office, in a chair that costs more than a student’s tuition for a semester-long class.  Imagine that…give me my Third World country.  Every time I think about my experience teaching the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave I want to puke…and I can’t believe any human being would not want to puke after hearing the story of Ms. Vojtka.  Thomas Hobbes, that great capitalist thinker who proposed that if we just ignore the poor, the non-winners in this great crap shoot of lucre, proposed that if we don’t feed or care for the poor they will just die off, then…the problem of poverty would be solved.

It seems to have worked for Duquesne University.

A Pre-Post, or Post-Post Apology, Depending on How You Read These

tamarindo estuary playa conchal atenas 409To my six dear, loyal readers.

I do apologize for the jumbled, discombobulated effort at an articulate post about my on-going bout with Dengue Fever, my Costa Rican Scam Artist of a Lawyer, and that Friggin‘ thief of a taxi driver whose window I had to crawl into to wrestle my change out of his grubby hands.

Anyone who reads my posts must know by now that I don’t re-read my posts before I post them, when it might be of some help…only after I post them, and then it’s usually my wife who tells me how badly written they are.

I have a completely valid excuse.

The mosquito that gave me this bout of Dengue Fever has given me a gift that keeps on giving, for a few months at least.  It seems that this more virulent strain I picked up this time causes such an internal buildup of heat on the brain that normal functions take two to six months to recover full operational mode….so, my last post contained even more misspellings, syntax problems, clarity trouble, and just downright nonsensical rambling.

I guess I should have given myself another couple of weeks before I subjected CyberLandia to the crap coming out of my over-cooked brain, but I wanted to see if I was back to my normal levels of poor writing now that I’ve passed though the hemorrhagic fever stage.

Guess not…..

Here’s to fully functioning brains…and to roasting that S.O.B. of a lawyer of mine…I’m coming for you, Pacheco !

Later….

Mosquitoes, Costa Rican Lawyers, Taxi Drivers to Huacas, and Other Blood Suckers

English: Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aeg...

English: Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mosquito biting a human. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just checked into my WordPress site and noticed I had not published anything in exactly three weeks.  I guess I have no real obligation to post anything, but my few followers have become somewhat of a social group – sort of.  I even saw a few comments from a week – or weeks ago – inquiring as to my health, or my degree of slow, degenerative demise.  How sweet.

About this Non-Posting thing.  It started out as a conscious choice – I Was Busy…with a Costa Rican residency lawyer who was backing out of a legal agreement when the going started getting rough.  The mosquito-borne Dengue Fever happened soon after, and the taxi driver thing…well…that’s been going on since the first gringo got off the plane in a Third World Country.  (Oh, yeah…the politically correct term now is Developing Nation, and since the Cold War was exposed for a colossal scam to fuel the ammunition and armaments biz…screw it – Developing Nation it is).

 

Costa Rica Arenol Hans Scott Char 226I am so pissed at my lawyer he is going to get his own post soon as I feel a bit more feisty, and it ain’t going to be pretty folks.  For now, though…let’s just hit the hi-lites.  There was a small glitch in our – my wife and mine – application for residency.  We put her down as the main name on everything.  Nothing much became of that during our initial proceedings, but when it came time to sign up for the socialized medicine aspect of our residency, our lawyer became one M.I.A. dodge of an S.O.B. – hanging out with his buddies in the pool at The Scamming Bastards Club in San Jose, no doubt.

The socialized medicine here is written into law, sometime around the new constitution of 1948 when Costa Rica abolished it’s military to focus on more important matters, such as education and free medical for all the citizens of this tiny, unimportant little Developing Nation.  But…something that hasn’t changed in this D.N. is that it is a patriarchal, Catholic-informed domain, and the man’s name should be on every document, application, or other such scraps of paper.  My wife and I were wondering why our lawyer had so expertly handled everything from our dealings with the American embassy to our finger-printing at the fortress-like San Jose police station.  All we got was an e-mail telling us to get hooked up with the CAJA (literally box, but an acronym for the Social Security here) for our medical, and a gentle demand for the rest of his legal fees.

Whoooooaaaaa, I thought.  Let’s see how all this plays out before we go depositing $1,200 in his account with no assurance of success in a land where anything legal moves glacially, and there’s always a hook or sixteen.  And why had he abandoned us at this seemingly simple (and final) step before we got our Cedulas which made us residents?  BECAUSE, grasshopper…with my wife’s name first on our application, and mine listed as a dependent, we had to get a letter from a Costa Rican accountant verifying that anyone would be silly enough to list a woman’s name first on their application.  After several trips to Manana-Land with our lawyer (we have no car, so we have to beg or borrow rides, paying for gas at around $6, or paying $50 taxi rides).

We finally got to an accountant in a small town down a muddy, rutted road to Huacas.  He wrote the letter out wrong, using one he had prepared for someone else.  The names were in the wrong places, and the occupation was wrong.  It took several rides to the Vientesiete de Abril CAJA office to get a human to talk to us (using up our goodwill and money each time) until we got a bitchy little man to laugh in our faces and tell me the accountant’s paper was useless.  (It was around this time I woke up one morning with a fever that had sweat dripping from me, my clothes as wet as if I had just got out of a swimming pool, and shaking from chills so bad I couldn’t push the buttons on my phone).

To make a long and painful story short, so I can get on to the next one, we had to make four trips to Vientesiete de Abril, two trips to the canton capital of Santa Cruz, and two to the provincial capital of Liberia trying to get someone to show up for the many appointments we made trying to rectify the bureaucratic problem of a woman’s name being on top of a man’s in the great paperwork pile of life.  $$$$$$$$ and GoodWill all gone, it was taxi time, folks.  The lawyer who dicked it up in the beginning…remember him?  The only replies to our e-mails for help was his Sincere disbelief that such things were happening to us, and calls for our final moneys to be deposited QUICKLY.  And, the accountant who could have repaired our application, but dicked it up worse?  He refused to answer his phone, and his beefy secretary blocked all attempts to enter his office.  And, you have to remember, each move costed…and costed…

A TEM micrograph showing Dengue virus virions ...

A TEM micrograph showing Dengue virus virions (the cluster of dark dots near the center). Español: Partículas maduras del virus del Dengue-2 replicándose en un cultivo tisular de cinco días. La magnificación original es de 123,000 veces. Deutsch: Eine TEM-Aufnahme, welche Dengue-2-Virus Virionen zeigt (schwarze Punkte in der Mitte). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, this Dengue Fever thing.  It just got worse and worse.  Dengue Fever is transmitted by several types of mosquito within the genus Aedes, principally Aedes Aegypti, from Africa.  It is pretty much confined to tropical areas, but has been reported as far north as Southern Florida.  The virus has four different types; infection with one type usually gives lifelong immunity to that type, but only short-term immunity to the others.  I got the least of the virulent type almost one year ago exactly when I was living in San Jose.  It was a week of one of the worst flues most people will ever get, and then it was gone.  No big deal.  This was a different bug altogether. Subsequent infection with a different type increases the risk of severe complications, so Wikipedia says…and that’s what I got.

Dengue Fever is also called Breakbone Fever, since the muscles get so constricted that it has been blamed for broken bones in the very young, or very old and brittle.  Every bone in my body hurt…every muscle in my body hurt…the headache settles in behind the eyes, like the worst hangover headache time 100…chills rattled my bones….sweat poured from every pore, soaking my bed nightly…it hurt to turn my head…my fingernails hurt…my hair hurt…any sustained thought is impossible.

Most people, with insurance or family to pay for hospitalization do it, since it kills off the white blood cells, and when they drop from @250,000 count to under 85,000, the patient is in serious danger of a life-threatening stroke after it hits the hemorrhagic fever stage. No one is paying my doctor’s bills, and the insurance thing…that’s where I started this little rant about Bloodsuckers.

My self-prescription was staying in my smelly, sweat-soaked bed, drinking pure grape juice (builds up the white blood cell count) and trying not to move my eyes or touch my hair.  But, every few days the wife and I had to venture out and try to get the medical insurance thing straightened out…and write my lawyer a quick “Piss Off and Die” e-mail.

English: A positive tourniquet test on the lef...

English: A positive tourniquet test on the left side of the image in a person with dengue fever. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m getting known in town a bit by now, but there are still a few taxi drivers who think every gringo can’t count when the colones get up into the tens of thousands.  One of these Bloodsuckers tried to take of with a few dollars of change after another ride back from another disappointing ride to a disappointing half-day spent in an non-air conditioned office where another gringo-hating hack laughed at me for having my wife’s name above mine on our application papers.  I guess the taxi driver was used to confused, passive gringos who think just because the money has lots of numbers on it, and pretty colors, and pictures of monkeys and toucans, that’s it’s not real.  WRONG !

Despite my debilitating disease, for which I should have been in the hospital for, under a doctor’s care, I climbed through his window, grabbed his skinny,

old wrist, and wrenched my money our of his hand…tossing him a few coins, before telling him to go and have sex with his mother in Spanish, which probably surprised him more than a man as sick as me doing what I had just done.  At least he had something to talk about that afternoon with the rest of the boys at the cab stand….and my standing as the craziest gringo on the streets of Tamarindo shot up like Apple stock after the release of the newest iPhone.

There’ll be more when I’m feeling a bit better…lot’s more…I promise.  Pacheco, you’re lawyering days are going to take a serious spike downward.  Don’t screw around with writers…they have audiences, and they’re articulate enough to cause a bit of a ruckus.

Later…

Monkey Business

Monkey Business

Becoming known as a local in a small town is a long process, even with the Howler monkeys. It takes more than a year, usually, and you’ve got to learn the language. My wife and I were out jungling around the other day looking for monkeys, and finally gave up and went to the beach. Something unusual happened. A troop of about twenty Howler monkeys were there, and they were on the move, not liking the wind, the approaching rain, and the people gathering at the beach bars for happy hour. They walked, one by one, down a fence we were standing next to, then jumped up into a tree right above us. I’ve learned to bark, hoot, and gutterly grunt like they do, so they stopped to check us out. I guess we’re gaining local standing, if only with the Howlers. Then the daily flood started and they went swinging off into the higher trees. This place is a miracle a day, if you stay awake, pay attention, and learn the language of the locals.
Aoooaaaghhhh – uugghhh – ugghhh…
Later…

Twerking Food Babies for Badassery Selfies with Anthony Wiener

Quotation slips

Quotation slips (Photo credit: addedentry)

Another ignorant Non-News flash blinded me today…srsly.  Folks…I just click and collect this stuff, but I’m entering digital detox in three days, so don’t supercut me out of your readership.  (Like it or not, these words symbolize our culture, so learn to love and use them correctly, or some may consider you as literate as a chimpanzee).

The Oxford Dictionaries Online has been at it again.  Just today they added their latest batch of words into their database.  Here’s a few of the more buzzworthy examples:

badassery (n.):  behavior, characteristics, or actions regarded as intimidatingly tough or impressive.

(This has become difficult with the rise of technologically mediated communications, giving rise to Anthony Wiener-like social networking activities)

buzzworthy (adj.):  anything likely to gain attention from or arouse interest from the public.

(Now, if that guy Wiener isn’t buzzworthy, I just can’t imagine who would be…anyone want to try and compete with a mayor even New York doesn’t deserve?)

food baby (n.):  this is the protruding stomach one gets after eating a large quantity of food, creating the semblance of the early stage of pregnancy…maybe enough to make a girl or woman appear with child, as some people still say.

(Don’t even get Wiener started with his food baby…the Tweets will never cease and sleep will become impossible)

jorts (n.):  denim shorts, like those old hippies used to wear instead of $125 designer shorts, or, in the South, a synonym for Daisy Dukes.

(Ohhhh, Daisy Duke…now there’s someone that geek could focus his Wienering ways upon)

Weiner Hangs It Up

Weiner Hangs It Up (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

omnishambles (n.):  a completely mismanaged situation, recognized by the string of blunders and miscalculations strung out behind the resultant disaster.

(Again, this brings a Mr. Anthony Wiener to mind…and I just wanted to throw his name around some more – first, because it’s just fun, and second, because it transitions well with just about any of these words, such as…

selfie (n.):  smartphones and other modern digital toys made brought us this word, meaning a photograph of oneself, then uploaded to a social media website.

(Anthony Wiener inspired, no doubt)

English: Miley Cyrus singing.

English: Miley Cyrus singing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

twerk (v.):  dancing in provocative, hip-thrusting manner – often done while squatting or lying on the floor while grinding away as if a sexual act is being portrayed.

(Attributed to Miley Cyrus’ recent performance at the MTV Music Awards, but did these people ever hear of Elvis…Jim Morrison…Jimi Hendrix…Tina Turner…Mick Jagger…or Anthony Wiener?)

There are more, but why go on.  These are just more examples of a disposable culture run amok, further exemplified by a few words added over past years for no good reason other than they were srsly buzzworthy for a minute.  Most of these are as cryptic – if not more craptic – than these new additions.  Try these out in your next literary workclick and collect, digital detox, emoji, supercut, phablet, srsly, apols, BYOD, FOMO, grats, and vom.

I think I’m done here for now…or maybe for good.  I’ll check back when I check out of the Word Addition Rehabilitation Project for the Evolutionarily Devoid   (WARPED, to you and me).

(Yes…spellcheck red-lined each of these new entries.  Guess the word(s) haven’t got out yet).

 

Killing Me Softly: Fun with Social Media

VicorianAs an instructor of English I have to make reading and writing interesting to students who often consider the internet and its many social networks the epitome of literature, needless to say, much more interesting.

A bit of creativity, and adapting my lesson plans to the world of these students is as important as understanding the meanings of words and concepts such as preterit, subjunctive, subjective, syntax, colloquialisms, first person, second person, or third person perfect tenses, and then hurriedly moving from the theoretical to the practical.  The theoretical has its place, but not as a method to get non English major students to put away their smart phones, or prop their eyes open and pay attention to in-class lectures.

I came across a news story about a Tweet on the Twitter network which I thought might stimulate the prankster in them as well as offer an amusing method of becoming literary nuisances.

FrigThe original Tweet was from someone associated at the ClemsonTigerNet.  It announced the sad death of William “The Refrigerator” Perry, a football player who had played his college football at Clemson University.

(William Perry, for those who couldn’t care less, became famous in the 1980s, a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears professional football team in 1985.  During his rookies season, the reportedly deceased footballer helped the Bears to a Super Bowl win.  Perry was a 350-pound defensive lineman, but was occasionally used in the backfield as a blocker for running backs, and even scored a touchdown once.  An unusual player, on a team of many unusual characters…a minor celebrity of the time).

A response was quickly issued by Adam Plotkin, Perry’s agent, insisting, “William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry is alive and fine.  (The italics are mine…I just thought it amusing Plotkin didn’t use the usual “…alive and well…” wording.  But, I guess fine is better than dead, though most of us would rather be well).  I presented this to my students, and brought them up to speed on who Perry was.  Then, in the finest Trojan Horse tradition, I introduced my literary angle…Jonathan Swift.  And I couldn’t think of a better literary figure to associate with Perry’s death hoax.

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Swift died on October 19, 1745…for real.  Being the satirical giant he was, Swift wrote in his last will and testament that he wished to leave funds to establish a hospital for “Idiots and Lunaticks” in Dublin, Ireland, because, “No nation needed it so much.”  Hoping to instill a sense of just how much fun they could have with social media, using the example of Swift, I then gave them a bit of background on one of England‘s most amusing death hoaxes.

Swift held “almanackers” and other predictors of future events in great disdain.  A fellow named John Partridge was one he disdained the more than any other.  Swift – taking on the pen name Bickerstaff, and presenting himself as an astrologer, issued several absurd predictions, the most unnerving, a prediction in a pamphlet distributed around London that Partridge would die at 11 p.m. on April 1st, April Fool’s Day.  A pamphlet entitled The Accomplishments of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff’s Predictions soon followed, declaring Bickerstaff’s prediction had come true, also noting an error on his part, announcing Partridge’s death occurring at 7:05, four hours different than Bickerstaff’s original claim…a nice touch, I thought.  This created the minor uproar Swift intended. 

Partridge – very much alive, and a bit outraged at the gall of his nemesis, Swift, was awakened by a sexton outside his window who wanted to know if there were any orders for his funeral sermon.  Condolences, floral arrangements, and well wishes for the bereaved family were offered by friends, family, and Partridge’s loyal audience.  As Partridge walked down the street several people he knew stared at him, some telling him to inform him how much he resembled a recently deceased acquaintance.

Partridge immediately started a pamphlet-based campaign to rectify the situation, insisting that he was alive and accusing Bickerstaff as a fraud.  Bickerstaff countered in a pamphlet of his own that Partridge was obviously dead, since the response was more poorly executed than Partridge’s best written work.  This went on for some time, amusing many Londoners, especially when Bickerstaff (Swift) noted that Partridge’s own wife had admitted that her husband had “…neither life nor soul…”

Pooh Hamaca 2Now this is the kind of stuff that makes literature come alive to young learners…English can be fun…it can be a sarcastic tool to annoy friends, relatives, enemies, and the public in general.  I am waiting to see if there will be any announcements in my small sea-side town of my untimely demise, or if I’ll have to start fielding complaints from parents about their children using the internet in what might be considered an abusive, embarrassing, or bothersome manner by responsible progenitors.

Yes…I wait, with the shadow of a pink slip announcing my imminent release from my teaching duties.  It’s near unbearable…and I have a hard time with unbearable.

Truly, the possibilities of plotting these sorts of hoaxes are limitless.  How much fun can one have with a lawyer, or a real estate agent, or any honery friend or associate?

I may have created a dozen or so monsters in what was previously a dry, boring investigation of one of the most difficult of subjects to make interesting to students who may have never opened – let alone finished – a single book, yet are so savvy when it comes to the internet and social media.