When Adjunct Professors Drop Dead…My Career as a Canary

An electronics engineer uses visible lasers to...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was one of those canaries.

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

It seems to have worked for Duquesne University.

Twerking Food Babies for Badassery Selfies with Anthony Wiener

Quotation slips

Quotation slips (Photo credit: addedentry)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weiner Hangs It Up

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

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

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

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

(Anthony Wiener inspired, no doubt)

English: Miley Cyrus singing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Killing Me Softly: Fun with Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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…