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

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

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

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

I have a completely valid excuse.

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

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

Guess not…..

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


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.

Blogging: When Only the Un-Dead Do It

Blog Machine

Blog Machine (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

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

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

The 25 Best Bloggers of 2013

This was the lead:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.”



The Confession of a Word Thief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Here’s the original quote:

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

– John Loque

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

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

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

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

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

Engraving for Thérèse philosophe (libertine no...

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I, Libertine

I, Libertine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

The Beat Goes On…The Beat Goes On…

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.



(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 and Friends?

tamarindo estuary playa conchal atenas 183

I never thought about friendships formed through social media, or any technologically mediated communications, as a possibility.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been critical of any claims of such friendships made by students or relatives young enough to never have known a world without such possibilities.  Now I’m going to have to re-evaluate a few established prejudices.  This is not easy after discounting the whole idea as being born from the isolation and desperation of shut-in computer nerds and people so socially inept they can’t form meaningful bonds with “real” friends.

She – a young woman from a medium-sized city located in the border area where India, Pakistan, and Kashmir have established imaginary lines defining their geographical claims.  Several of these imaginary lines are dotted lines, disputes that often result in social, political, and religious divides supported by prideful indignation and suspicion, which makes for a dangerous neighborhood.

Me – a White-looking male twice her age, an American ex-pat who lives in a Central American beach town with fewer inhabitants than some extended families.  The imaginary lines here are as well established and stable as can be expected.  A sleepy neighborhood where not many consider it worth their time to get excited about borders, or much of anything except too little or too much rain.

She – a devout Muslim from a devoutly Muslim family in a devoutly Muslim country.

Me – an agnostic some days, an atheist on others, from a country where formal religions often take the form of entertainment.

She – a poet with a poet’s soul and a degree in economics.

Me – a prose writer schooled and employed in academic environments where poets and prose writers often defined themselves with imaginary lines subliminally or overtly supported by prideful indignation and suspicion, which often made for a…never mind, that’s a pitiful comparison.

But this is exactly how we were introduced – she reading my prose on my WordPress blog, and me reading her poetry on her WordPress blog.  Comments brought replies…replies brought more replies…e-mails became more convenient, then longer… photos of each other and our neighborhoods on opposite sides of the world were exchanged.  She lives in an area that when viewed on a map appears to be the end of the line…massive mountains rise in Kashmir, then there’s not much of anything between spots on the map identified as Ngari on the western side and Nagqu to the East.  I live at the end of the line also, with the Pacific ocean on one side and a semi-arid and sparsely populated peninsula on the other.  We share the inconveniences of power outages, finicky internet connections, and the ever-present possibility of natural disasters that could at any time turn those inconveniences into serious problems.

She has a mother who inquires about my well-being, and a nephew that asks her if I’m coming to Pakistan to visit.  I have a few close friends who ask for updates on her progress with her poetic works and her personal well-being, and a wife who is raising the possibility of a trip to Pakistan…crunching the numbers, so it is said these days.  This all just seems to have happened as if our friendship was a foregone conclusion…organically…not meaning effortlessly, but despite the barriers posed by geography, history, governments, ethnicity, gender issues, current events, and the spotty technological ties that have made our friendship possible in the first place.

Can reading the writing of another, and their reading of my writing possibly be the basis for a meaningful friendship?

Have I become an isolated computer nerd, or so socially inept I have to search out friends from afar?  No, I don’t feel so.  She is nobody’s isolated computer nerd and her social skills are attested to by the many “real” friends she has in her life, the compassion and feeling of depth that comes through in her poetry, and an online presence that is enchanting despite an experience with identity theft on another, popular social media site.

I can’t say that I endorse the cultivation of frivolous friendships on social media sites, or any sharing of personal information with any “friend” made using similar methods.  But, I do know that when a recent round of power problems caused a break in our ability to communicate, the cyber silence made me concerned – deeply concerned.  I think that that is one of the most sincere signs of a friendship.  I also think it’s a sign that I need to re-evaluate my prejudices toward social media.

Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be found on her blog on WordPress – do yourself a favor.  I can’t be found by anyone who doesn’t frequent my beach, or read my posts on this blog.  I think we are friends…Inshaa-Allah…Dios quiere…

Steve Jobs Invitation to – Freedom, or Disaster?

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to have many books, and I made my own bookmarks out of found objects.  I came across one of those bookmarks today while reading a bit of The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain.  It was a quote – quite inspirational, I guess – by Steve Jobs.  I am not a techie, and I have never owned anything Steve Jobs invented, and I’ve never seen a Pixar movie.  I only know who he was because a lot of other people do.  But, this quote…it’s the kind that sound so grand when first heard, about enough to give a reader a word high, or at least a word rush.  I had to do a bit of research to see where it came from…what the context was.  It was from a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, after his big pancreatic cancer scare, and I guess he was feeling inspired by being told he wasn’t going to die in six months.  Reading the whole of the speech, I came across this bit also:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment of failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Well, isn’t that inspirational?  That’s what I thought when I started this.  Then, I thought how defeated it could make people feel, people who have never, or could never “…follow their heart” because of the grind that life present those of us who aren’t so wealthy.  It’s like he’s a tight-rope walker with a big net under him encouraging those who heard or read his words to step out onto a similar tight-rope, except they don’t have a net below them, or a small one at best.  But, any way…here’s the part of his speech I found written on my bookmarker –

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Now this is a little easier to handle.  There’s nothing about contemplating death when making daily or life decisions.  Most people fret over what they have to lose, don’t think of themselves naked – metaphorically or otherwise – and are way too timid to follow their “heart” or whatever they think is the seat of their emotional life.  How many of us make decisions without the echo of the dogma of their family,  friends, society, or sense of history ringing in our ears?  And how many are willing to toss away that dogma to discover what they truly want to become…to shun what is secondary?

To take this advice to heart – to truly let the inner voice decide action – is to take the ultimate gamble, seeking the ultimate reward, and how many people do you know who are willing to go all in on a game that is so heavily rigged against the player?

I’ve been criticized for not owning an automobile…for using public transportation, a true insult in some circles.

I had good input as a youth.  I spent most of my younger days with a grandfather and grandmother.  I drove the Alaska Highway many times with my grandfather, and 2,000 miles alone in the cab of his truck led to many discussions which were above my intellectual grasp at the time, but I know now they shaped my thinking as much as any other words I’ve heard.  He told me life was completely backwards…that when people are young, daring, healthy and vibrant they are consumed with raising families, working their way up some occupational ladder, satisfying the needs of others as much or more than themselves.  Then, when aged, with time on their hand, a little money – maybe, and often in ill health or psychologically beaten down by the grind, they decide to live a little.  Too late…the life lived was not a rehearsal…there is no starting over.

And what if everyone lived like today was the last day of life?  Who would keep the electricity flowing?  Who would operate the cash registers?  Who would not run their credit cards to the limit or beyond?  Who would bother writing garble like this…except for artists so greedy with their time that they would rather write than satisfy other people’s idea of what they SHOULD be dong.

Good luck, gamblers…

The Face of a Young Woman of the World

Maryam ShahbazI sent my friend Maryam an e-mail…wanted to make sure she didn’t mind me using her picture in this piece.  A female activist in her country was recently assassinated for audaciously using words to call attention to the suffering in her land.  There’s money and power in misery, and those who try to pull the plug on the money machine will pay…with their lives, if necessary.  I didn’t want to put my friend in any such danger.  She is a poet, and she has a voice, and she is a woman, and…she’s from the dangerous and demonized nation of Pakistan.

She didn’t answer for a few days, and I was concerned.  Finally, this came:

“Major electricity and internet problem ! Our government is striving to provide us with many options of ‘going out’.  Now, everyone is losing their hope for a brighter day.  Those who have means to go away are leaving for countries other than Pakistan.  It surely is getting catastrophic.  It sure does give unforgiving heartache to see your country being bled to death.”

I hear smug, self-righteous voices reciting records of slaughter as if their favorite sporting team had put one in the “win” column.  I sense satisfaction when news of more dead bodies to be piled – more coffins to built and filled – surgical strikes – collateral damage, is reported – oh well…they probably deserved it any way.  This disaster needs a face, and here’s one…the face of the “enemy”…and, the words of the “enemy” –

“My hope is that one day I will be able to travel the world, to meet people and relate the story of a land beautiful and green which has been polluted by the hands of us mortals.  I believe in the coming years, the people more than the government will be responsible for the change towards nations like us, especially when they get to see the human side of things politicized.”

Maryam Shahbaz and FriendsMaryam is a writer, a poet, from a city known for its poets.  She recently earned a degree in commerce, but her leg was broken, and she had to put further studies on hold for a while.  She and her friends like to dress in ways that might dismay her elders, like so many young women do all over the world.  She thinks her words and opinions have value, like so many young women do all over the world.  She likes shoes, a passion she and my wife share,like so many young women all over the world…just one more pair of shoes.

Maryam is publishing her first book, a collection of poetry currently in the final editing process.  She hopes to come to the United States and give readings of some of her works concerning the destruction of her country and the difficulties that come with being a young woman who thinks for herself, and thinks the world can be a better place for us all to live in.

I take pride in the fact that Maryam asked me to write a dedication for her poetry collection.

My wife is proud that Maryam asked her if she would allow a few of her photographs to grace the pages of her poetry collection.

Maryam is so gracious, thanking us again and again for our contributions, and I sit here thinking that I should be thankful that she wants me to contribute what little I can to her effort to improve the lives of the people of her country, and the lives of young women the world over.

I am humbled.

I do not believe in surgical strikes.

I am not stupid.

I watch the news now and again, too often, it seems, and I hear the wail of the world being slowly turned into a charnel pit.

I am not deaf…or sightless…or voiceless…and somtimes I feel so very alone.

Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your world, Maryam…I hope that during your lifetime you can write the world to a deeper understanding of just who the “enemy” is, and that those enemies of the world will not only read your words, but take them to heart.

Your burden is something most of us can’t even imagine.

Good luck to you, my friend.

The Philosopher Red and the Value of a Dollar

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

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

I had been considering The Philosopher Red’s absence from my life as a sort of vacation, but it has become a minor concern over the past few days.  There’s no telling what he could have gotten himself into, or, what kind of trouble he could be bringing to my doorstep.  Maria, La Negrita de los Muertos, and her band of so-called revolutionaries, Los Monos Locos, have taken over my apartment, and as far as I’m concerned, the Little Dark Lady of Death and The Crazy Monkeys can have it.  I have gotten my guitar, computer, flip-flops, t-shirts and books out, so no big loss.  The rent was due last week, I think…let them worry about that.

But The Rude Red Dude…he’s been with me for a long time, and one of my faults is loyalty, despite the distress or disruption it brings into my life. We could patch things up…maybe make some amends…or just duke it out in the street like a couple of drunken sailors on shore leave.  There’s no telling with him.  But, anyway, I won’t wax on about my problems and from whence they stem…they stem from me, I know.

A Walk SignSo, it was a bit of a relief to see his name on a handbill tacked to a telephone pole I passed on the way to the market this morning.  The handbill, just beneath another one announcing a performance of Aladdin at the amateur theatre, was promoting:

An Evening of Enlightened Release from the Mystical – The Tao of the Dollar

I found this a bit odd, considering Red’s chosen occupation as philosophical mystic.  And the handbill was of high quality, not some scrawl on the back of one of my manuscript pages, like I would expect from him.  A promise of professionalism.  Then I noticed where the Enlightened Release was to take place…a run-down restaurant operated by a family of Columbian refugees.  Everyone in town calls it “The Place With No Name” and…everyone also knows who owns it – Maxie Kahn, the largest gangster in Tamarindo.  A money-hungry thug financing a spiritual speech by a crazed monk?  Nothing surprises me around here.

Regardless of who was financing The Philosopher Red these days, I had to see if we could get our heads together, on the same page, to use an ugly cliché from Maxie’s vocabulary of deadly entrepreneurial opportunism.

So, I fluff and shake my cleanest t-shirt, buff the dust off my flip-flops, and set the clock on my microwave to make sure I’m aware of the time.  Once all is in order I take a siesta…this could be a rough night.

Marie F.U.S.S. III arrive at The Place With No Name early so as to get a prime seat.  My first surprise is finding Maria, La Negrita de los Muertos at the door taking “donations” and checking names against a list of about twenty VIPs.  I ask her about my apartment.  She asks me about a donation.  I ask her about her gang of revolutionaries, she tells me they’ve “found their peace in the jungle” and repeats her request for donations.  Being as she’s dressed in her best camouflage, and sporting an assault rifle, I find exactly the equivalent of one dollar in Costa Rican change.  She doesn’t seem pleased, but does give me a seat near the toilets, but downwind.  Small favors are appreciated, and I start telling her so when she bangs the butt of her rifle on my table and tells me to –

“Shut up, prole…the Great One is before us.”  She sits beside me, her rifle on the table.

And, there he is…hefting his Red way onto a makeshift stage in the center of the room.  Two of Maxie’s Columbian thugs sit off to the side.  Shiny brass bowls placed at the four corners of the stage emit coiling wisps of incense smoke that smell like….money?  No, not just money…Dirty Old Money.

“Thank you so much for joining me tonight,” Red begins, his voice a murmur.  “Let me remind every one of you in this room that each of us is full of energy.  Together we can change our worlds.  The first thing you must understand in order to utilize this energy is to understand that we are nothing…NO THING,” he says, modulating his voice like an evangelical preacher.  “You are temporal, mortal…a small black decimal point in a universal bottom line that defines the value of this life.  The second thing you must understand is that we exist in two systems of immortal accounting…either you are consonant with the universe as we know it, or you are dissonant…unacounted for.  How do you know which state you’re in?”  The Rude Red Dude stands up to his full height, shaking the wrinkles from his red robe, and smiles… “You just do.

“The modern world has given us a most detailed methodology of finding our place in it, a methodology which has been shattered in  hedonistic Tamarindo, and similar  shanty towns.  SHATTERED…FRAGMENTED…and, the results are bewilderment, estrangement.  This brush with nothingness…enumerated dispair, can only result in cynicism, empty gestures of defiance, anger, violence…you name it.  BUT – there is a way to get yourself on the right side of the ledger of life…MONEEEY,” he wailed, rubbing his thumbs and forefingers together.

“Dissonance is simply the lack of money…and the corollary…consanance, is the abundance of  money.”

I am in shock.  I can’t imagine what the past few days spent with Maxie Kahn have done to the fragile mind of The Philosopher Red, I need to…

“When we have money our pathways are lined with rose petals, our underwear smells lemony fresh, and we love everyone we meet, and wake to the sound of song birds…when we don’t have money we listen to heavy metal music, we smell like musty socks, have infrequent bowel movements, and awaken to sounds of alarm clocks.  The paradox of the rose-petaled path can only be solved by the Tao of the Dollar…to fully realize the multi-layered dividends offered unto you, you must enumerate the divine toll, then PAY !  The world offers an overflowing bounty of goods, services and status symbols to straighten out the most hopeless cases of uncapitalized constipation. Many are those that will lie to you…tell you that the good life is there for the taking – all you have to do is reach out and it will be handed to you.  No, my friends…that results in dissonance, penalties accruing on a descending scale of -”

I grab Maria by the collar, grab her assault rifle, force her head to the table, and point the barrel right between her eyes.

“Nobody move,” I shout, trying to sound like an actor in an action movie.

“Terminate,” Maxie Kahn says to the two thick-bodied thugs fronting the stage.  They both rise, bringing pistols out of the waistbands of their sweat-soaked leisure suits.

I let go of Maria and point the rifle toward Maxie’s prominent belly.  The Philosopher Red stands stiffly, eyes lizard-lidded.

Maxie lets out a heavy sigh.  “You’re forfeiting your admission fee, I hope you know.”

I move to the stage, grab The Philosopher Red by a baggy sleeve and pull him behind me, moving toward the door.  The Rude Red Dude pulls me to a stop, plucks a dollar from Maria’s pocket, and asks me exactly the question that’s been on my mind since I started this idiotic action:  “Do you think the busses are still running?”

I have so little experience with this sort of thing, but I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Haters Exposed: Cats Prepare for Revenge

Punch is one of the few relaxed cats I’ve seen in Costa Rica.  But, maybe she’s just intoxicated.  Word around town is Punch gets drunk off frozen Foo-Foo drinks, the specialty of the house at Chillerz, the restaurant and bar where she sort of lives.  Of all the regulars, she’s definitely my favorite.

If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.

–  Mark Twain

Cats are rare in Costa Rica.  This is a dog country, and there’s a couple of reasons for that.  Dogs are valuable here, serving as inexpensive security systems in a country where property theft is the most common of crimes.  There is almost no violent crime, so the dogs don’t have to be big, ferocious, or even scary looking.  All they have to be is loud, so yappy, obnoxious dogs are popular.  Cats don’t appreciate yappy, loud dogs…so cats are viewed as being anti-social and a nuisance.  All that being said, it made me to think over the past few months about cat haters.  Is there a history of cat hating?  Sure there is…there’s enough of a history of hating “the other” in this world that few animals or people need feel left out.  A brief review:

A depiction of Pope Gregory IX excommunicating.

A depiction of Pope Gregory IX excommunicating. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope Innocent VIII:  Innocent was known for condemning witches, and in the Papal Bull of 1484, he made sure to include that any cat consorting with a lady of the dark arts be burned along with said lady.  A fine example he was


Pope Gregory IX:  Gregory followed Innocent’s lead, declaring black cats to be “diabolical” and gave his official blessing to the worldwide persecution of cats in general, setting off five centuries of cat hating and torture.


King Henry III:  Henry tried to live up to his Pope’s cat hating ways, but the mere presence of a cat made him swoon, and on occasion, even faint.  To make up for his shortcomings, the king was “…a lion…” when it came to persecuting the Protestant minority in France.  Even the cowardly lion got a heart, why not King Henry III?


William Shakespeare:  “I could endure anything but a cat.  And now he’s a cat to me…” is a line from All’s Well That Ends Well.  And fans of the Bard probably aren’t surprised that his name comes up here, since he has no references to cats in other works that don’t qualify as vilifications.  O.K., it’s a small sample, and there’s no record of him actually doing any personal harm to a cat…so, he gets a pass, for now.


Empress Wu-Chao:  She had as good a reason as any One for hating cats.  It seems that a lady-in-waiting whom she condemned to death laid a curse on the Empress…in the afterlife, the condemned was to return as a cat, and the Empress, a rat.  All cats were rounded up from the palace and grounds, and disposed of.  Some people just can’t take a joke.


King Louis XIV:  As a bratty boy king, young Louis lit fires and then tossed cats…well, anyway, you get the idea.  It’s said that he later reformed from his horrific behavior.


Hillaire Belloc:  The owner of at least one cat himself, the French author once wrote, “I do not like them…when one hears them praised, it goads one to expressing one’s hatred and fear for them…”  Hypocrite, or self-loathing?

Isadora Duncan performing barefoot. Photo by A...

Isadora Duncan performing barefoot. Photo by Arnold Genthe during her 1915–18 American tour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Noah Webster:  He described cats as deceitful animals, “…and when enraged extremely spiteful”


Isadora Duncan:  Internationally known dancer, and celebrity, before it became an insult, Duncan lived next to a woman in Neuilly, France, who had enough cats that she would have been committed in a more organized society.  With cats invading her garden day and night, Duncan ordered that any cat captured on her property was to be captured and drowned.


Dwight D. Eisenhower:  A man used to power…the power of leading a conquering army…the power of being president of the United States at the height of its power…he feared and hated cats.  He gave orders to his staff that any cat seen on the grounds of his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was to be shot.  Shade of Eddie Slovak…


I could go on with examples, but, I think I’ve made my point…there seems to be a theme here:  Megalomaniacs, the power hungry, and the plain powerful don’t seem to like cats much.  Further examples would include:  Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Kahn, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, my grandmother, and John, my current landlord…all powerful Fascists…all cat haters.  I wanted to include LaToya Jackson here, but I have no idea of any association with Fascism.


Probably the worst example of cat hating and cat baiting was a Chicago banker by the name of Rockwell Syre.  In the early 1920s Syre started a campaign to rid the entire world of “filthy and useless” cats by 1925.  He offered various incentives, usually bounties, to cat killers, and is rumored to be responsible for the deaths of around seven million cats.  Who did the bookwork on this, I have no idea.


Trivia note for the day:  Ailurophobe is the technical term for the persistent and irrational fear of cats.

Trivia note for the day II:  Ailurus mean “tail waivers.”

I’ll leave off with a quote from an author who was a raving ailurophobe when young, but grew to like them so much he collected them on his retirement ranch in Lawrence, Kansas.

The cat does not offer services.  The cat offers itself.

                             –  William S. Burroughs