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.

“Your Mama…” – Breaking Non-News Events for Big Babies

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genetic ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ Uncovered – that was the headline.

This is an attention-grabbing lead, I guess…if you’ve been anxiously awaiting such clarification, or obfuscation, however this reads out for you.

The opening paragraph:

“Almost every man alive can trace his origins to one man who lived about 135,000 years ago, new research suggests. And that ancient man likely shared the planet with the mother of all women.”

Yes…”that ancient man likely shared the planet with the mother of all women.”  Well, there goes any idea of inter-planetary sex, and with it, a load of science fiction writing, as well as a boat load of basement-based believers that aliens had something to do with human beings populating the earth without any cosmic nudge.

Any Way…

The journal Science presented this in an article “The 10 Biggest Myths of the First Humans” in today’s issue (Aug 1).  And, it’s about time.

I was getting so frustrated with earlier research suggesting that men’s most common ancestor lived just 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.

I was feeling like a bit marginalized, feeling like a bit player who arrived late on the world stage, without a clue what my lines or cues were or are.

But, all is well, after meandering through this article by Tia Ghose, staff writer for LiveScience.com.

Research Team

Research Team (Photo credit: shareski)

These researchers, taking scientific stuff like mutation rates and archaeological events, such as migrating people and populations into account, have concluded all males in their global sample (69 men from seven racially and geographically separated ethnic groups) share a single male ancestor in Africa from roughly 125,000 to 156,000 years ago.

Now, that 33,000 year window may seem a lot to commoners like myself and others like me, but once the numbers get this long, it’s pretty much passed over with a shrug, if that.

These researchers also took women into account, which seems appropriate, since they’re discussing the origins of Man.  Women are easier, when it comes to this kind of research, due to the way their genetic lines die out when not directly passed on.  The research presented revealed – Revealed… – that from a sample group of 24 women, they all trace back to one mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa 99,000 to 148,000 years ago – “…almost the same time period during which the Y-chromosome Adam lived,” the article says.  See what I mean about 30,000 years here… 40,000 years there…it all adds, I guess, but adds up to what?

This is where religions come in handy…a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end…which, in the end, is all most readers are expecting.  Give me a bored god figure, a mud man, a companion conjured from bone fragment, and let the plot get fuzzy, since incest questions always make me queasy, and are best skirted.  And why not throw a talking snake, a magic tree, some tragic apples, and a few other fantastic plot devices in as well.  This sure simplifies things, if one considers that sort of story simple.

The author addresses the time issue as “…this small overlap in time…” before going on to say our ancient Adams and Eves “…probably didn’t even live near each other, let alone mate.”  Melissa Wilson Sayres, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkely, added – “Those two people didn’t know each other.”

playing in the captive whirlwind.jpg

playing in the captive whirlwind.jpg (Photo credit: opacity)

This is beginning to sound like human behavior hasn’t changed much in 200,000 years…people pro-creating on the fly, not living near each other, or knowing each other.  At least some of us wake up the next morning knowing we’ve mated, and maybe deposited some genes into that most crowded of pools.

But, that’s where things often start to get weird.

“It’s very exciting,” Wilson Sayres told LiveScience.com.  “As we get more populations across the world, we can start to understand exactly where we came from physically.”

Well, I know where I’m coming from physically…and it has to do with waking up and seeing this bit of jarring news.  So, I go for more coffee, a short pit-stop, tell my wife, “Yes…I’ll help with the laundry, as soon as I’m done with this monumentally important post,” and I come back to this:

“The Science Behind Delivering a 13.5 Pound Baby ” – a feed from The Week.

Whoaaaa ! ! !  And here I thought my mother was the champeen Big Baby deliverer.  Her first child – me – weighed in at a hefty 10 pounds 12 ounces.  And, that didn’t dissuade her from any follow-up attempts at Eve-ing her way around in our family tree.  My sister and brother, 10 pounds 8 ounces, and 10 pounds 2 respectively, followed not long afterward.  (If I’m not precise on the sibling weights, I’m close…the point being, three over 10 pounds.  I have no idea how women do it.  I certainly would have been dissuaded).

This 13.5 pound baby was delivered in Leipzig, and not by C-section.  Yes, folks…not by C-section.  Now, imagine our Mitochondrial Eve hurling something like that into the world.

I’m imagining a pregnant woman, loaded down with 50 or 60 pounds of camping gear, rotting food, and of course, the maps, trudging across a dry, frozen mountain pass somewhere in Eurasia.  She’s on her way to colonize and populate the world…she’s also following a group of men – who are carrying nothing but a few wood and stone weapons, which is important, you know.  The stomach cramps, nausea, and all the other joys of impending motherhood give way to the miracle of birth on some rocky, desolate, trail.  The group gets her stabilized as well as they know how, bundle up the squalling newborn, help her get her pack back on, and off they go.  Remember, I’m imagining this.

Happy Women's Day: in Tribute to Mitochondrial Eve

Happy Women’s Day: in Tribute to Mitochondrial Eve (Photo credit: garlandcannon)

Yes, we all owe a lot to that, and every other Mitochondrial Eve we can imagine, past and present.

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…. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

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.

 

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…

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…

Earth Rise – The Birth of Earth Day?

earth riseWould there be an Earth Day without the shots of the Earth rising above the horizon of the Moon?  Shots like these, taken by astronauts involved in the Apollo program‘s moon missions gave earthlings a whole new perspective.

I’ve had people who were around back in the early seventies and active in the environmental movement tell me that it was such a powerful image at the time, one that had never been seen before, it had a truly sobering effect on the collective conscience.  The visual proof that we all lived on a small blue planet in the middle of a vast universe that was extremely unforgiving to creatures attached to oxygen, water and such earthly delights…creatures such as human beings.

Various elements of the Flat Earth gangs had so embedded the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe into the thought processes of so many powerful humans that even after the blasphemers  Copernicus and Galileo had had their says it still had to be an underpinning of many people’s World Views.  The idea that there were limits involved with our temporary tenancy had been theoretical, and easily ignored before these photos, both beautiful in their unique point of view, and their stark contrast.  People who were already aware of the importance of taking care of the homestead were given a practical tool that could be used to instill a sense of total awe, and a sense of responsibility, into the thinking of people who had until then taken our Third Stone From the Sun for granted.  Good enough.  All that wealth, time, and energy focused on getting to the moon first did result in something useful.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” has to be one of the most interesting documentary films I’ve ever seen.  One of the aspects it mentioned up front was how white-bread homogenous the astronauts chosen to participate in the Apollo program were.  All white males with strong attachments to conventional family values and established religious dogma.  Alternative views of the universe or mankind’s role in that universe were not going to be acknowledged or encouraged.  It didn’t work out so well.

One of the first people interviewed for the documentary was Yuri Gagarin’s widow.  She told the interviewers something her husband had always been afraid to mention publicly or privately to anyone except her…that he had heard a humming sound when he was in outer space, as if there was a force of some kind at work “out there” that until then had only been imagined by artistic types, such as composers – Holst, The Planets, or the Sound of the Spheres, maybe.  This led into a where-are-they-now bit about the former Apollo astronauts.

One of the former astronauts interviewed had been so thrown out of his previously held world view that he had retreated to a remote area of Hawaii, if memory serves me, where he painted large murals of cosmic bodies using his moon boots and a rock pick instead of brushes or painter’s knives.  The footage of his interview showed him among a few of the paintings he had created using these unconventional tools, and they stunned me, a truly artistic statement of a feeling of separation from the familiar and “known” world.  Now there was a man whose world view had been changed by the experience of being propelled out of the comfort and assurity of his previously unquestioned belief system.

Another astronaut interviewed also seemed to be attempting to deal with this challenge to his sense of place in the universe.  He was filmed standing on Mt. Ararat, the wind blowing his hair in his face…and it was a serious face.  His eyes had a strange, haunted look to them, as if he was clinging onto a sinking life raft and he knew it.  And what was he doing on Mt. Ararat?  Why, looking for the ultimate life raft, Noah‘s Ark.  His voice was shaky, about as shaky as the “proof” he had come up with that this truly was the site where Noah and his Ark had made landfall…a few pieces of wood, most burned…fire refuse.  It didn’t appear as though his previously held idea of a life raft was doing much for him.  He too seemed like a soul detached, like the astronaut from Kubrick’s2001 A Space Odyssey” that was last seen spinning off into the dark depths of an unknown, forbidding, and assuredly deadly universe.  Instead of coming to terms with a new world view he was desperately back-pedaling…back to his roots, his core belief system, despite what he had seen, done, and possibly heard…if he had heard the same hum of the universe that Yuri Gagarin claimed to have heard.

Happy Earth Day, earthlings…tread softly.

Philosopher Red Proposes War on Mississippi, Elvis, and Blogistan

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

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

So I wake up on the cold, unforgiving concrete floor of the Ghost Hotel this morning, again, to a scream of rage, again.  The Philosopher Red was shaking me violently, the gargling, guttural sounds of a gut-shot animal rising in his throat.

“Have you seen this,” he said…way too loud for my throbbing head.  He helped me up off the floor and forced me over to my laptop computer.  He pointed at the screen.  “Read that !”

I read what was on the screen.  It was a page with a story I had pulled up the night before, not expecting the Philosopher Red to be searching through my search history, or even be interested in the news of the day.  The story was about the ricin-laced letters some nut job from Mississippi had sent President Barack Obama, some senator named Wycker, from somewhere, and a Justice Court judge in Mississippi.  A copy of the letters was prominently displayed.

No one wanted to listen to me before.

There are still ‘Missing Pieces’

Maybe I have your attention now

Even if that means someone must die

This must stop.

To see a wrong and not expose it,

Is to become a silent partner to its continuance

I am KC and I approve this message.

“What kind of people are we if we let these kinds of attacks go unanswered?” Red raged.  “We got to teach these terrorists a lesson – blow them all to hell,” he said, slamming one fisted hand into the palm of another.

“Like that’s going to scare him,” I said, looking to see if Red had left me any coffee in the pot, “The guy’s from Mississippi.”

“I’d say a couple of drone strikes would do them some good,” Red growled.  “And if a couple of surgical strikes don’t straighten them up, we’ll send in the Marines…or the Navy SEALS…then blow them all to hell…hell, I tell you…HELL !”

The Philosopher Red was working himself into a self-righteous rage, which is never very pretty.  I tried to calm him.  I told him that the letter-sender was a nut job, an Elvis impersonator.

09 TN State Fair #174: Elvis Impersonator

09 TN State Fair #174: Elvis Impersonator (Photo credit: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent))

“Another Elvis follower,” Red said.  “The last Elvis impersonator I saw looked like Saddam Hussein.  We got to start taking these kind of troublemakers out.  How do these people spread this crap around,” he nearly screamed, pointing at the computer screen.  I told him the suspect, a Kevin Curtis, was a blogger…a frustrated writer.

“A what?  A Blogger?  Who let’s these people in our country?” Red raged.  “We ought to send his ass back to Blogistan where he belongs.  Don’t these damn A-rabs get CNN in Blogistan…just what about Shock and Awe don’t they understand?  They just don’t get it ’til they’re swinging from the end of a rope.”

His outraged threats echoed through the empty concrete chambers and hallways of the Ghost Hotel.

“You could have left me some coffee,” I said, tossing some grounds into the pot…cowboy coffee again.  This was starting to seem like one of those Philosopher Red type of days.

 

Allama Iqbal, a Naat, and The Mystery Behind the Green Door

Maryam Museum VII

Maryam Shahbaz…young poet on the go…signed into the shrine honoring the life of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Iqbal, and hoping for the best.

 

She found herself caressing the carpet that a poetic icon and national hero tread on so casually in a past, commenting, “…it is hand woven and has a very desirable feel to it.”

 

 

 

Maryam Museum XIIIThe caretaker, Mr. Riaz, offered up the pen (qalam) and ink pot (dawat) that Allama Iqbal used to make words come off the page and dance for those listening to the music.  Words…words…words, such as –

You are the Sacred Tablet.  You are the Pen and the Book; 

This blue colored dome is a bubble in the sea that you are.

You are the lifeblood of the universe

You bestowed the illumination of a sun upon the particles of the desert dust.

The splendor of Sanjam and Selim; a mer hint of your majesty;

The faqar of Juniad and Bayazid; your beauty unveiled.

 

 

Maryam Museum XVIMr. Riaz seems to have his own sense of the dramatic – meant to tantalize the imagination of those sensitive to the mysteries of the universe, and of those chosen to interpret that universe for apprentices of the senses.

He led Maryam and a friend to a green door, telling her that it had been closed since Allama Iqbal passed on to the universal mystery nearly eighty years ago.

When asked why it was closed, he only offered that it had been used for a dressing room addition to the guest room.

Asked if it would ever be opened, he reserved his opinion and said it could be opened some day…some day.

 

Maryam Museum XXIVAn assistant to Mr. Riaz, offered a dramatic reading of a naat – a written epic honoring the master poet’s sense of his desired union with the eternal…the universal…the mysterious…the lines that moved me to think more deeply about my feeling of that eternal, universal, mystery:

It persuaded me with art, it pulled me by force;

Strange is Love at the beginning, strong in its perfection !

Separation is greater than union in the state of ecstasy;

For union is death to desire while separation brings the pleasure of longing…

 

Persuasion – Beginning – Perfection – Separation – Ecstasy – Union – Desire – Longing

 

And the final stanza of the naat, one that sunk into my hand-woven soul with a desirable feel to it that seeks out the magic left by those who have written my world into existence:

The world has become dark since the sun has set down;

Unveil your beauty to dawn upon this age.

You are a witness in on my life so far;

I did not know that Knowledge is a tree that bears no fruit.

 

To this I not only have nothing to add, but don’t even feel qualified to comment.

Later….

 

(Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be found on WordPress through Maryamshahbazmian.  Her poetry collection, The Light Behind the Veil is to be released soon through Multani Press.  Good luck to her…if the truly talented and deserving need luck).

A Young Poet’s Pilgrimage in the City of Poets

Maryam MarketI met the young poet on a social media site.  Over the past few months we’ve become friends – more than friends I guess.  She addresses me in Urdu, her native language, as big brother.  I address her in Spanish as my little sister.  Odd to me, having such a relationship with someone on almost the exact opposite side of the world…Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets.  I asked my little sister, the poet Maryam Shabhaz, if she would visit the shrine of Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan and another native of Sialkot, to give readers an idea of the importance of poets in her country.  She sent me these photos of her pilgrimage.

Maryam started with a photo of the bazaar, not an unusual place to start in a city with a history similar to Sialkot.  Alexander the great made Sialkot the eastern-most outpost of his empire.  Persians, Afghans, Sikhs, Turks, Mughal emperors, Brits, and Hindu Indians all took their turns trying to rule the Punjab, where Sialkot is located.  Cities that have often found themselves in the way of history tend to be market-oriented.  I’m going to let the national Poet of Pakistan, Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Iqbal take over for a while with an excerpt from his poem Age of Infancy –

 

Maryam Market IThe earth and sky were unknown worlds to me,

Only the expanse of a mother’s bosom was a world to me;

Every movement was a symbol of life’s pleasure to me,

My own speech was like a meaningless word to me.

During infancy’s pain if somebody made me cry,

The noise of the door chain would comfort me.

Oh! How I stared at the moon for long hours,

Staring at its silent journey among broken clouds;

I would ask repeatedly about its mountains and plains,

Maryam Market IIAnd how surprised would I be at that prudent lie.

My eye was devoted to seeing, my lip was prone to speak,

My heart was no less than inquisitiveness personified.

 

 

Maryam, it seems, stopped off in the market…did a little shopping around.  Here she photographed a dealer of essential oils, Ittar in Arabic…herbal scents distilled for perfume and home use.

 

 

Maryam Museum XThe next photo she sent me was of the exterior of Dr. Sahib Iqbal’s former home.  I think I’ll let an excerpt of Maryam’s poem The Departed Soul speak for the reverence Pakistanis have for a national hero, one so revered he has a national holiday named in his honor.

Giddily, stand at the light curve,

Wait to embrace the departed soul.

The trifle human remains

Are left of the life carefully mold,

After him, days keep unveiling to unroll

Not any tasks hold gild;

At last, men realize, memories aren’t sacred holes.

 

 

Maryam Museum XXVMr. Riaz, the caretaker of Allama Iqbal’s shrine, told Maryam that photographs were not allowed in deference to the memory the poet, scholar, and politician that had such an impact on Pakistani independence.  She told him about the project she was working on, and he agreed the photos were for a noble cause, giving her the unheard of permission to take photos.  The first photo inside the former home and current shrine to Dr. Sahib Iqbal is of Maryam signing the guest register.  Between 50 and 75 Pakastanis a day visit the shrine, with the number rising to 300 or so when a college or school arranges a visit.  The visitors who had signed the register before Maryam were from Rawalpindi, and Mr. Riaz pointed out a former Foreign Minister of Pakistan who had signed the register not long ago,misspelling Islamabad, the capital city in which he had exercised his official duties.  I guess politicians are the same everywhere.

The final entry to this introduction to Allama Muhhamad Iqbal, and to this introduction to Maryam Shahbas and her poetry, will contain photos taken in the former home and current shrine to Dr. Sahib Iqbal, and will be accompanied by one of his most famous naats, or religious praise poems.

Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be viewed on WordPress under the name Maryamshahbazmian.

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)

Social Media Rage, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Beheadings – Some Confusion

A "hack" poet desperate for money, f...

A “hack” poet desperate for money, from William Hogarth’s 1741 print, The Distrest Poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just twenty minutes ago I read a rant of a post by furious young poet.  It seems some person on WordPress left the young poet a comment to the effect that the WordPress Wonder was a better writer than the young poet could ever hope to be, that the young poet might as well cease all literary activities, and then go jump in a lake.  I read it twice, amazed that someone would be so frustrated as to bother writing such an Attack Comment…and I don’t use the word “amazed” lightly.  I left the young poet a comment that I tell my wife whenever she feels belittled or offended by someone’s words or actions – “You can’t be praised or insulted by someone you don’t respect.”  I’m pretty sure I came up with that.  It’s in one of my notebooks, and it has no ascription below it.

Whatever.

Anyway…I go about cleaning up my own blog, still thinking about the toxicity level of WordPress Wonder’s blood system, and I find a comment on my blog that said… “You may be the worst author ever.”  I busted out laughing.  It seemed almost like a piece of bait for a SPAM.  “You could be the worst author ever, but you’ll never know until you go to SadScribblers.com and pay $24.95 for an assessment test and placement in a Worst Author Ever Academy online class.  Hurry, classes fill fast.”

Now I’m even more amazed.  First off there’s the series of events, then, I had to take my own advice into account.  Then I thought, what if this commenter was some high-powered agent from the island of Manhattan….and had an office…and a secretary – and even a web university.  What if I am a hack, doomed to a life of frustration, hunger, and homelessness?  It’s not out of the question…all kinds of people live under the threat of becoming homeless nowadays.  Like…Zsa Zsa Gabor !

 

Cropped screenshot of Zsa Zsa Gabor from the t...

Cropped screenshot of Zsa Zsa Gabor from the trailer for the film Lili (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see this on Yahoo’s top hits for news the other day – Zsa Zsa Gabor is going to allowed to stay in her Beverly Hills mansion for three years, or as long as she lives.  (For all those too young to know who Zsa Zsa Gabor is, imagine Honey Boo Boo, Marilyn Monroe, and – aw, go google her)  Any Way…it seems that the 96 year-old Zsa Zsa has fallen on tough times living in one of Beverly Hills’ most desirable properties.  In 2010 Zsa Zsa broke her hip, and in 2011 had to have her leg amputated.  And with her Hollywood star having faded some 45 years ago or so, she’s broke…can’t pay the pool boys.  Her Ninth husband had sold their home, with the stipulations that the price would be doled out in payments and the couple be allowed to remain in their former home for three years or until Zsa Zsa dies

First off, this is one of those stupid news blurbs – Number Three on Hits ! – that has so little to do with almost anyone’s life, is something I can do nothing about one way or the other, and raises philosophical questions.  I can think –

A) Zsa Zsa Gabor does not deserve my attention or sympathy.  She lived the high life for so long off so little talent…camping out in Beverly Hills…popping the corks from $100,000 bottles of Champagne…limousines at her service – you know, all the trappings the celebrated enjoy without thought while so many in this world struggle to find shelter, safety, or their next meager meal.  And I’m not talking about some Third World dump, folks…I’m talking about good ‘ol working class Americans, so it is important.  She wasted a fortune on luxuries and now she’s going to get a taste of reality.  Or, I could feel –

B) Zsa Zsa Gabor or not, this is a human being who has fallen on some very hard times and is suffering through old age.  How far did she fall?  Who cares…she is a person like me, and I’ve had occasion to be hungry, have to sleep outside or in makeshift shelter, and been endangered by the rough forces of American economic twists.  She has drank from Bavarian crystal, and has been lowered to Sippy-Cups…having never had so far to fall, it’s probably a bigger blow to her sense of place in the world than I’ll ever know.  Why am I spending so much time on a dying old woman when there’s real news to share?  Here goes –

Saudi Arabia is a country in trouble.  It seems that they are running low on swordsmen trained and certified to behead condemned criminals.  How friggin’ odd is that?  And, how much training does one need to lop off a head?  I want to know.  And I’ve always found it kind of strange that western societies find beheading such a monstrous practice.  Must be some part of the anti-Muslim propaganda push.  Some western nations kill so many criminals to express the high value they put on Life that other western nations condemn them as Barbaric.  I think if I was condemned to death I would want it to be quick and painless, like getting my head whacked off, rather than be hung, shot, electrified, or chancing the grotesque scenes that happen in lethal injection facilities.  This is getting dark…I better go to the beach and lighten up.

Later…

The Philosopher Red Consoles Pluto

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

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

If there’s one thing that really gets under my skin it’s a whiney, petty god that sits around bitching all the time.  There are enough of them already.  The Philosopher Red knows this, but I come home to the Ghost Hotel last night and he’s got Pluto, the Roman god of the Underworld, and his snippy, primp of a wife Persephone, and another woman, out on the balcony chowing down on his psychedelic Black Ant Dip and sipping cocktails.  They were deep in conversation when I passed them, and oblivious of me.

“My planet,” Pluto said.  “How could they down-grade my planet, re-class it to dwarf status?  It’s a number now – 1343…something, something, Pluto.”

“They got a lot of nerve,” Persephone added.  “And now humans are sending some satellite called New Horizons to stick their noses where they don’t belong.  We’ve got workers there right now, cleaning up the place…landscaping…re-paving the road to Hades…and -”

“They’re going to have a time of it,” Pluto said.  “Cerberus is friendly when we get visitors, wagging his tail…but when anybody tries to leave the land of the dead, he turns as vicious as…he’ll devour them.  They should have read the small print.”

“That’s all he ever talks about…him and his three-headed dog,” the female voice said.  “Does he do anything when humans hold contests to name our moons?  And then one of your new gods, a William Shatner, wins, naming one of our moons Vulcan, after a pet of his, Spock or something…if we needed his help naming our moons we would have asked for it.”

“I guess you have to expect that sort of thing,” The Philosopher Red said, then a sigh.  “When you dwell in the dark, when you fear no mortal, when all succumb as they transform in states of agony…despair…having violated universal law.  I can sympathize with Shatner’s drive to name some small part of the fearsome mystery, to go where no man has – blah, blah, blah.”

“It’s not all that bad,” Pluto replied, defensively.  “The UnderWorld is not “hot as Hades” like the hell depicted by Christian tradition.  It’s a pastoral landscape, I think.  There are rivers – one, the River Lethe, or “Oblivion” – alongside which the most recent life can be forgotten.  The Elysian Fields, or the Fields of Asphodel…who could ask for better?”

“And New Horizons…all the remodeling…” The Philosopher Red said.  “I wonder if NASA knows who they’re getting into?”

“When have humans known what they’re getting into?”…a female voice said, an older-sounding voice…regal, almost.  “My Pluto has had so many names…Clymenus, notorious, The Hospitable One, Plydegmon, the Receiver of Many Guests, Plouton, the Rich One, and humans were afraid to invoke his real name.  Now they call his Kingdom a dwarf planet, and they -”

“I guess they’ll find out what they’ve done…down-sizing you to dwarf status,” the Philosopher Red said.  “They’ll be begging for mercy at your gates.  They’ll be -”

“It’s not like that,” Pluto said.  “Just ask Venetia here.”

Venetia?  I got up and walked to the doorway leading to the balcony.  Persephone was slumped back in a chair…eyes glazed over, another victim of The Philosopher Red’s psychedelic Black Ant Dip and probably too much alcohol.  An elderly woman with poor-fitting spectacles was sitting between Pluto and the Philosopher Red.  She was spectral…a ghost.

“Venetia?” the Philosopher Red said, echoing my inner question.

“The wonderful Venetia,” Pluto said with a grand sweep of his open hand, indicating the woman.

 

Pluto in rotation. Gif-animation

Pluto in rotation. Gif-animation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I had some respect…even then, at age eleven, I knew the weight of actions and the importance of names,” the spectral old woman said.  “I lived near Oxford, England, and was eating breakfast with my grandfather in the spring of 1930 when I heard about this new planet.  Astronomers were arguing over names.  I suggested the name Pluto, in honor of this great man,” she said, nodding her head towards Pluto.  “My grandfather had a friend, an astronomy professor who was part of the team trying to rig up a cosmic map.  They took my suggestion of Pluto and adopted it unanimously…first vote…unanimously !”

“And now look at what these heathens have done,” The Philosopher Red said.  “Another part of my childhood taken from me…no more nine planets…no more cute little Pluto…now just a number assigned to a so-called ice ball.”  He shook his head and swirled his cocktail. “I know my faith in science is not what it used to be…if you can’t count on your favorite planet, what can you count on?”

 

Persephone woke out of her intoxicated funk.  “And all the remodeling.  Do you know what’s it’s costing us to clean the Underworld up before that imbecilic space mission gets there and starts taking pictures?  Plenty, let me tell you…” She sagged back into the sagging material of her chair.  “Plenteeeee…we’re here to turn Venetia loose on them again.  I sense some earthly down-sizing in the futue of some of these so-called Astronomers.”

 

 

 

Dharma-Zen painting…red cloak          Dharma-Zen painting   red cloak            Dharma-Zen painting   red cloak