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…

 

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…. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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.

 

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….

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…

 

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…

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.

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…

Allama Iqbal and the City of Poets

Give to the youth my sighs of dawn;

Give wings to these eaglets again,

This dear Lord, is my only wish –

That my insights should be shared by all !

This poem is from the book Bal – e -Jibreel by Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan.  Dr. Iqbal was one of the foremost thinkers and doers of his land of Punjab, formerly India, now Pakistan.  Dr. Iqbal began his education at Scotch Mission College in his hometown of Sialkot,then did graduate work in Arabic and Philosophy at the Government College in Lahore.  He also studied in England, earning a degree in Philosophy from Cambridge University, qualified as a barrister in London, and finally earned his doctorate from the University of Munich before returning to his native land where he practiced law, became a professor of Philosophy and English Literature, and produced poetic and philosophical writings that not only inspired people in their everyday lives, but contributed to the independence of Pakistan from Indian control.

Besides being proclaimed the official poet of Pakistan, born in Sialkot, known in Southern Asia as the City of Poets, Dr. Iqbal collected a raft of titles along the way, a testament to his importance in the academic world as well as Pakistan’s struggle for independence.  He earned the title Dr. for his academic work…he was knighted, and became a Sir…he was one of the most revered leaders of his country’s independence movement, hence Sahib, and a towering figure in Asian literature, adding the respectful title of Allama to his credentials.

The picture above is my friend, the young Pakistani poet Maryam Shabaz, before a mural of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Muhammad Iqbal.  Maryam is a new voice in Pakistani and world literature, her first collection of poetry, The Light Behind the Veil from Multani Press, is due to be released soon.  Maryam is a young woman I met through a social media site, but has become much more than a cyber acquaintance…more than a friend – mi hermanita…my little sister.  I asked her to travel around her hometown of Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets – and take a few photographs so I could write a post or two about her life as a young woman living in Pakistan, and the history of poetry from an area of the world where poetry is not only beautiful words meant to entertain, but essential food for the soul.

“Allama Iqbal’s poetry takes us far beyond the materialistic aspects of this mortal life,” Maryam wrote me.  “The youth, whom he called eaglets, are the only segment of society he believed were able to bring about future change for the better so vital to all societies.”

I am going to be doing a series of posts on Allama Iqbal, Maryam, and Sialkot…the City of Poets.  Maryam made a pilgrimage to Allama Iqbal’s former home, now a shrine and museum.  Cameras are forbidden in the revered site, but Maryam explained to Mr. Riaz, the caretaker, what she planned to do with the photographs, and he gave her permission that is not afforded others out of respect for Iqbal and his towering contributions to education, literature, and his country’s independence.

 

 Maryam Museum VIV

This photograph of Allama Iqbal hangs in his former home and current shrine/museum.  It is one of the few informal images of him in his home. I’ll leave readers with another of Allama Iqbal’s sayings, one I had to have Maryam explain to me.

You despise one bowing down, It frees a man from many bowings down.

This confused me at first.  It seemed as though the poet was implying that not bowing down to “the Creator” would save people from the many supplications to the Creator expected in the future.  Maryam explained that what Iqbal meant by these words was that there are those who think bowing before the Creator is a chore they don’t need to follow, but that bowing down before the Creator gives the supplicant an inner peace and sense of empowerment that keeps them from having to bow down before mortal men in their everyday affairs.  Sometimes I feel so ignorant.  It’s good to have friends like Maryam, poets who are in tune with the power of words and their true meaning.

More of Maryam’s trip through Sialkot and visit to the shrine of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Muhammad Iqbal to follow…Inshaa-Allah, Dios quiere, God willing.

(Maryam Shabhaz’s poetry can be found on WordPress under the name Maryamshabhazmain)

Abraham Lincoln: Advice from the Ghost Hotel

So, here I am, crashed out in the Ghost Hotel, the empty shell of some developer’s dream, and the walls are beginning to glow whiter…the straight edges of doorways and windows are starting to waver like sinuous dancers.  I should never let the Philosopher Red cook…or at least, eat what he cooks.  I go to the concrete chunk and wood scrap pile we call the kitchen and look at the recipe he used.

1 bunch of spinach, chopped

1 1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

1 package vegetable soup mix

3 green onions, chopped

1 cup roasted chapulin (or other insects)

Squeeze spinach until dry.  Combine ingredients.  Refrigerate two hours.  Serve in hollowed bread.  Scoop using crackers of vegetables.

Now, Chapulin is a Spanish slang word for grasshopper, or a young thief or troublemaker.  A bag lying on the counter has a few of the large black ants which The Philosopher Red has discovered cause a slightly hallucinatory effect when dried and eaten.  He becomes a troublemaker when so intoxicated…I regress into my self – past the area where the Rude Red Dude rules.  A Chapulin, indeed.

A Lincoln penny on ground

I walk out onto our rubble of a patio, and find, of all things, an American penny.  The wind sounds like the hum of an audience waiting to be entertained.  “A much better image had he, before the weight of wisdom and responsibility brought him to un-sightly ends,” I pronounce in the best tragedian voice I can muster.  I would have flopped in Shakespeare’s Globe.  The wind seems like muffled applause.  These ants do the job.  Note to self: never eat anything The Philosopher Red –

“My father taught me to work, but not to love it,” came a deep-chested voice, world-weary and monotone.  “I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.”

“A talking penny,” I mumbled.  This was beginning to take on a religious feel…projecting words on to idols, although the smallest American idol – but one any Televangelist would worship.

“Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances,” the voice replied.

“But they all look so good while doing so much disservice to their faithful,” I said, feeling a bit silly talking to a penny, but so alone in the Ghost Hotel it didn’t matter.  And look at Lincoln’s image…not the skeletal mug of his photos during the war years, but the grand features of a born entertainer, a teller of stories, maybe.

“When a young man in Illinois I was riding through a wood and met a woman, also on horseback, who stopped and said; ‘Well for land sake you are the homeliest man I ever saw.’ ‘Yes, madam, but I can’t help it,’ I replied.  ‘No, I suppose not,’ she observed, ‘but you could stay at home.'”  The Lincoln voice sounded playful.

“Might have been a good idea, in your case,” I said to the image on the penny.  “Too late to learn from history though, or advice from friends.”

“All I have learned, I learned from books,” the voice answered.  “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

“Well, you know,” I started, thinking I might as well play along with my distorted senses.  “America hasn’t not done so well since people like you…last president raised in the Age of Reason, left before telling us how to clean the mess up.”

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it.  Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their Constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it…”

Now this fantastic voice seemed to be rising to the occasion…a little bit of good old stump oratory…some frontier wisdom.  I sat down.  The effects of eating these black ants might last a while.

“…America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

“I hope you wrote some of this down,” I said, flipping the penny aimlessly. “This common little copper disc reminds me of common people.  They serve a purpose for a while, but in the end   they’re expendable.”

“The Lord prefers common-looking people.  That is why he made so many of them,” the voice said, a light-hearted air starting to become apparent.  “And writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of  this world…enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.”

English: John Wilkes Booth.

English: John Wilkes Booth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Plain and not honest is too harsh a style,” a new voice echoed through the concrete walls of the Ghost Hotel.  I looked at a darkened corner where it seemed to have originated from, then back at the penny now lying head up in my palm.  I must have looked a bit baffled.

“That is the corner where presidential assassins seem to congregate,” the Lincoln voice said.  “That Booth – always quoting from Shakespeare…Richard the third.  A beast of a man when ignored.”

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.  But I know none, and therefore am no beast,” the assassin’s voice rang out.  A voice trained for the theater…projection.  Looking into the corner I see the spectral shapes of several people.  I look to the penny.

“John Wilkes Booth…but I suppose you knew that,” the Lincoln voice said.  “And…Giteau, Czolgosz, Oswald – claims to fame, presidential assassins.”

“Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him, and all their ministers attend him,” Booth’s voice boomed.

There were more than four spectral bodies in the corner.  A female voice began muttering, as if talking to herself:

“Am I sorry I tried?  Yes, and no.  Yes, because it accomplished little except to throw away the rest of my life.  And, no, I’m not sorry I tried, because at the time it seemed a correct expression of my anger…my thoughts of -”

I looked to the penny for an explanation.

Sandra Good, and her cohort Squeaky Fromme,” the Lincoln voice said.  “I hear they tried to assassinate a President Ford, and the joke around here is that he was stumbling down stairs and slipping on wet streets so often he was more of a danger to himself than these attempted assassins were…the management allows their failed company to mix with the successful, for reasons – ”

“Dispute not with her: she is a lunatic,” chimed the Booth voice.  Does he know anything except lines from Shakespeare?

I could hear a squeaky voice arguing with the surer voice of Sandra Good.  “Chapman, shut up…” they said in unison.

“This has to be harder on you than hallucinating on black ants,” I said to Lincoln’s profile on the penny.

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on,” it replied.

“Good advice,” I said, looking in at The Philosopher Red rifling through my shirt pockets…probably looking for more ant money, “Very good advice.”

 

The Philosopher Red Interrupts My Day with Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde

A Big Book Bus II

Catching a bus out of a Costa Rican beach town can be a trying experience.  No real schedule…as many people as I ask about the next bus is about how many different answers I will get.  One book just won’t do – I suggest taking two.  Feeling a slippage in my wit and wisdom meter the other day, I picked out The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain and The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde.  I think the text books for my self-taught course were wise choices.

I read when I’m walking…I read while I’m waiting for buses, horses, tides, and for the Philosopher Red to get out of his AA meeting.  Yes, the red-hooded one has finally realized that his insect eating habit has gotten out of control.  He has admitted he is powerless, and has decided to seek the help of a higher power.  Good for him…and really good for me.  Maybe meetings will help him identify a few other of the addictive problems he is overpowered by as well.

I thinks he’s feeling a little ashamed of himself.  He has told me that I should come along to meetings with him…that walking around reading two books at a time is an indication that I have a problem.  I don’t agree with that.  It’s a strategy I’ve developed over time, traveling or waiting or walking with two books, going back and forth between the two.  When the words and ideas begin to blend together they become a fuzzy blur…then they start to re-constitute in my imagination.  The wit and wisdom stay, but they start to come out my mouth in my own words, with little indication that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, two masters of biting, one-line social commentary.

A Book at PedroA bus did eventually come, and I hopped a ride down to Pedro’s Surf Shop, which is where the AA and NA meetings are held in this little sand box of a town, as The Philosopher Red likes to call my home for now.

So, I’m standing outside of the Pedro’s Surf Shop and Anonymous meeting complex, when an old friend, Maxie Khan, comes out of Pedro’s and tells me that the Anonymous group has invited The Philosopher Red to leave, and he’s obliged them with his absence.

I find this hard to believe, since my non-ordinary philosopher friend rarely obliges anyone, and usually breaks something if asked to leave anywhere.  Then Maxie tells me he’s here to fix a broken door, pick up some damaged furniture, and smooth things over with Pedro.  Maxie owns just about everything in this town.

Now I’m beginning to believe.

So, it’s off to find The Philosopher Red.  I might be able to calm him down enough to mitigate the damage he will inflict on my condo, if that’s where he’s headed.  Luckily, Maxie tells me that the insect addict was ranting about an ants’ nest he had seen on the way to the meeting, which gives me some relief…but how wild will he be once he gets a belly full of those ants?

I start up the road, skirting the horses of the cowboys still in the meeting.  Cowboys here  in Guanacaste work hard, they play hard, and they drink hard.  And they park their horses wherever they please.

 

A Big Book Horse

 

Hot, humid tropical countries are known for being laid back…for taking it easy…for going with the flow.  This is not how Maxie Kahn operates, and it’s certainly not how The Philosopher Red rolls.  I hope the two of them never get together, especially since the teenaged revolutionary Marie hijacked the red-robed philosopher’s revolution with her reincarnation of Feminists United to Suppress the Slaughter, or F.U.S.S., as they’re commonly referred to since last I reported on their activities.  People here are in fear…I can feel it in the air…I sensed it as I walked by the horses.  There seems to be no quarter or creature large or small that F.U.S.S. hasn’t thrown into a panic.  But I carry on, as I always do.  I figure if The Philosopher Red is down by the treeline rooting out a nest of ants, the easiest way to find him will be to sit down on a rock I know out by the tide line and wait…let him come to me.

 

A Big Book Beach Two

That’s the Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde effect kicking in…becoming wiser – wise enough to not go after the insect-eating maniac friend of mine.  And, hopefully I’ll be a little wittier when I do find him – witty enough to amuse him into not breaking up my condo, drinking and eating my refrigerator bare, or holding a F.U.S.S. action coordinating committee meeting on my porch while I’m trying to finish my books.  Good luck to me.

The giants whose shoulders I stand on are memorialized everywhere, in print, photographs, or statuary, or gravestone…

Cover of

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

I’m beginning to feel the breath of mortality…and my red-hooded maniac of a friend is the cause of this, I think.  His views on determinism are not very encouraging.  And, if I know Maxie Kahn, like I think I do, I’ll end up in a piece of ground that he holds the title to.  And, if I know The Philosopher Red, like I know I do, he’ll be standing on more than my shoulders.  And he’ll be munching on one of his insect specialties, spitting the hard, crunchy parts all over the place, making my final resting place as much of a mess as he’s made of my condo.

I should probably take a personal inventory of my positive thought process…

Pura Vida, as they say around here.