Sunday, December 31, 2006

Crystal Ball & The Deep White Pit of Sand

"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls..." -- Paul Simon

Yesterday, I used the word prescient when, in fact, I would have preferred to use the word prophetic.

The reason I didn't is that the word has been wounded, twisted and warped in the Word Wars so that people generally think it has something to do with "God" and "telling the future".

It is impossible to know the future, in fact, it is impossible to know the past unless one knows the present -- that is to say that which is presented to us now in this precious eternal moment of reality in which we have the pleasure and privilege to exist.

Prophecy is nothing more and nothing less than speaking truth to power.

In order to speak truth it should be obvious that one must know the truth and in order to know the truth one must love the truth -- and be willling to take the consequences.

That is why Martin Luther King is often called a prophet and, in his case, that
is why he was murdered.

The conclusion to what I am trying to put into words is that prophets are not special people whom the "finger of God" has touched or any weird metaphysical shit like that.

We all are prophets to the degree that we desire and really make an effort to see reality and communicate what we know in some way, whatever the consequence may be.

I looked into my crystal ball
but do I care to dare to speak of what I saw?
The sweet reflections on the screen
show monsters rising amid choking clouds of steam.

They fill the streets with mud and cream
and bodies floating softly down silent streams.

There was the time I saw a man,
between two rows of thrashing flails he ran and ran
& when he reached that wicked gauntlet's end,
he fell into a deep, white, pit, of sand.

Was it a film, some kind of crazy show?
I asked my Mom, and Dad, he said it wasn't so!
But as I go through rain and snow,
I wonder, perhaps they really didn't want to know?

When you've got a crystal ball,
you sometimes wish you didn't have a ball at all!


____________
I think I saw the "deep white pit of sand" when I was four or five years old in a newsreel. This would have been not long after WWII and before television -- when you went to the movies, you saw newsreels. I suppose this newsreel had something to do some form of retribution and revenge acted out in one of the liberated countries.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Of Green Pigs and Dead Dictators

It appears that Bilmon has pulled the plug -- no more of his often so prescient commentary for his hungry fans.

Perhaps it's not burn-out as some at Moon over Alabama have supposed, perhaps it's the prescience which got to him. It must be terrible to be so right so often about so many terrible things!

Perhaps in 2007, the Year of the Green Pig, we in the West will have to start living in the reality of what we have been snarking about and the nightmares we have been scaring ourselves with.

For the first time since early November, when she commented on the sentencing of the old dictator and just two days before he got his neck stretched this morning, Riverbend returned with a post about Iraq and 2006.

What she has to say is chilling -- absolute terror and despair oozes between the lines. Imagine, having to look back on the 8 years of war with Iran and 12 years of sanctions from the West as a "Golden Age"!

She then poses an exceptionally terrifying question:

"...why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along?" [my emphasis]

Indeed, "Why?"

Sadam has been hung and the Codpiece comments in a written note that this is an "Important Milestone" but will not in itself bring an end to the violence in Iraq. Now that is an insight you don't get every day!

The question is, will the ensuing chaos somehow be pinned on Iran as well as the Sunnis? Probably. Is the point of the charade to also destroy Iran? Possibly.

I don't know. It's insane, true -- but that is not necessarily a good argument when you consider the people running the show on our side!


We know that the Iraq invasion and occupation has always been about access to strategic oil reserves. In fact the same might be said about Afghanistan, the proxy wars in Somalia (although here it's minerals, not oil) and the upcoming struggle for Nigeria.

Therefore, breaking Iraq into bleeding pieces makes a certain mad Machiavellian sense. The Kurds can control the oil in the north as long as they "behave" while "we" withdraw to the south and concentrate on the oil there. The middle ground can bleed to death -- and the south too, as long as we can keep the oil -- the end result we can call democracy and the in-betweens birth pangs.

As for evil Iran, we bomb the shit out of them while seizing the most of their important oil and natural gas fields. Yeah, it's beyond crazy and insane, but it is being suggested in all seriousness as a wise and cool thing to do in a major neo-conservative magazine and people are neither puking or laughing -- they are nodding heads at such sage thinking.

I'm sorry, but 2007 looks like a bloody year, bloodier than 2006, and that's the truth.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Danish Winter

I had been waiting to post this little thing composed some twenty five years ago -- waiting for winter, actully. But it starting to look kind of silly to wait for what looks like it isn't going to come, that is, winter.

From September up to now it is the warmest it has ever been, that is since 1874, when they started keeping reliable records. We haven't even made a dent in our stash of firewood. I had planned to top up the fuel-oil tank before they idjits esculate the crisises in the middle east in some even more insane way. But the oil people won't deliver less than a thousand liters, and ther isn't room for that in my tank.

Ah, but those are nice problems to have. The picture is one I took outside a castle a couple of miles from my home.



"The wind in the trees
blows brown melodies,
Brushing bare branches
bald of all leaves..."

If a kiss is the sound of a tender caress,
And if love is the question: what else is there left
To give or demand from the strength of a man?

A request for directions, some hint of a plan?
Are angels in heaven so sure of their tasks?
Please, give me some answer -- that's all that I ask!

The flowers of springtime, they always grow;
They always do that -- what else do they know?
The seed has the power and knows no disgrace.

He stands in the winter with snow on his face.
Spring-time is greentime, winter is brown.
Dark beauty, she wears a white, wedding gown!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Mirror for Monsters

This little rant got its start in a comment I did to a piece of Jeff Cohen's which James posted at his PsychPatPad.

In my comment, I found myself calling the Codpiece a monster, and frankly folks, I was a bit shocked when I found myself referring in such manner to this great man who has done nothing but Serve his Country while defending Liberty, Freedom,
Democracy and the American Way and will continue to do so as long as he thinks he needs to.

The picture to the right was taken from the website of a store that actually sells mirrors that look like this!




Well, it looks like they really are going to hang him and just by coincidence, coincidentally just like the coincidence which brought his conviction just before our elections in November, just by coincidence life will be drug from his body most likely not long before the State of the Union speech in January.

Since he has this odd thing about executions, heads in a box and ex-dictator's pistols, the Codpiece will probably really get his rocks off on this one.

Fortunately he'll be standing behind a big podium so no one will be able to see if he gets a hard-on. As long as he doesn't cream in his jeans, every thing should be okay.

Seriously and all snark aside, it is disgusting and improper to take joy in or celebrate the death of anyone. It doesn't matter if they are a bloody dictator, a more common run of scoundrel or just collateral damage that got in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is a story in the Midrash, that, when Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea, choirs of angels in heaven began to sing praises of Ye-God. However, a Voice commanded silence -- a hundred thousand of my creatures have just perished and this is a time for singing?

The Osage priest Black Elk related that when his people returned from the war path, they painted their faces black, the reason being that they knew what they had done was wrong and they wanted to hide from Wankan Tanka, the Great Spirit.

Of course they knew that they could not "hide" from God. The point is that, however strongly you may believe in the necessity of going to war, a perceived necessity does not justify war.

St. Augustine had his head up his ass -- there are no "just" wars. The fact is, all the bombs are in the hands of terrorists.

There was this old fellow who died not so long ago -- he was the one who staged a coup on an earlier September 11 back in the '70s, murdering thousands, including a lawfully elected president, and had many more thousands tortured.

After he stopped breathing and they could see it was not yet another attempt to avoid trial because of poor health or mental incompetence, a letter was published where he said that what he had done was out of patriotism and love of his country and that he had prevented things far worse from happening.

The letter didn't mention the hundreds of millions of his country's funds he stashed away in bank accounts around the world. Ah, but it is a heavy burden one must bear as dictator and savior of one's country and I suppose he was only making sure that nothing worse happened to the money...

After Saddam gets his neck snapped in January and, assuming the two monsters get to meet up someplace, I suppose he and Pinochet will compare notes. They'll probably brag a bit, the one about being a martyr and the other about successfully managing to die in bed.

One thing that is certain is that they will both agree they were treated poorly, that they were misunderstood and that they were the ones with the "backbone", the "intestinal fortitude" and the vision to see what had to be done and did it, by golly!

Such is the way of monsters! They are incapable of seeing themselves as they really are.

I am glad when bleeders of mankind no longer wield power and wish that all such could face justice for their crimes. However, I take no pleasure in their death or execution.

My only wish is that they could be made to see themselves in that sort of mirror in which a monster is reflected in all its ugly reality.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Part of a Deep Mystery

Usually I can recall when and how a specific piece was composed, but this one is something of, uhm, a bit of a mystery. I think the first lines and the chorus came more or less spontaneously along with the melody. The rest took a while to get out. Some times putting stuff like this together is a bit like cracking hazelnuts -- a lot of hard work for just little bit of meat.

In any case, the themes in this text are ones often recurring in my work: the dreams of mankind belong to us all, they are not property of any religion or philosophy, any -ism, any pontiff or leader. They come from the heart of our common humanity and, although you might call them fables, they are not fables only.

I've been thinking about this for a long time,
It's not something I made up yesterday!
There must be a better answer,
There must be another way!

I've been dreaming of what we long the most for,
A world in deep harmony!
I see green fields rolling forever
Beyond all history!

And when they they tell you it's all just a fable,
Chimeras of mythology!
You must shout as loud as you're able,
"We're all part of a deep mystery!"

Everywhere I look, I see confusion
Spreading like some sad disease!
It's as if strong illusions
Were stealing the breath we breathe!

There are angels above us, I'm so sure,
Beings of light -- bright and pure!
Although they're part of the answer,
In themselves, they are not the cure!

And when they tell you it's nothing but fables,
Products of a sick fantasy!
You must shout as loud as you're able,
"We're all part of a deep mystery!"


Come, stand by the window here beside me,
Perhaps we can help each other see
That everything in this creation
Is a part of you and me!

Let us dream of what we long the most for,
A world in deep harmony
With green fields rolling forever
Beyond all history!

And when they they tell us it's all just a fable,
Chimeras of mythology!
We will shout as loud as we're able,
"We're all part of a deep mystery!"

And they tell us it's nothing but fables,
Products of a sick fantasy!
We will shout as loud as we're able,
"We're all part of a deep mystery!"


_____________________
The picture up at the top a snapshot of a picture I found on the web by searching "deep mystery". The guy who runs the site is selling dvds and videos of which this is but a still photo -- you might want to check out his samples, they're kind of spacy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In the Bad Old Days -- 2nd Take

[For some reason, the 2nd day of Christmas is celebrated as a holiday here in Denmark just like the first day.

Soooo, I suppose I can allow myself to do a 2nd take on yesterday's theme, "in the bad old days, when the mob ruled the world...."]


A "world without Christmas" would be a less then a dreary place with no Santa Claus, no presents and no turkey dinner.

The world is a cruel place. The strong do what pleases them. There is no justice in this world except that which grows out of a gun or a kick in the ass. "Justice is Mine" sayeth the Lord. I figure that means that there is no justice in the world, of itself. None except for the little that we bring into the world. In this way justice could be said to be a little like love

When I was in high school I was once had to write an essay on the subject of how the study of Latin had taught me that Julius Ceasar was a "great man".

My essay was short and to the point -- I wrote that I had never considered Julius Ceasar to be a great man and his "veni, vidi, vici" propaganda screed about his campaign against the tribes of Gaul had not changed my mind on the issue.

My conclusion was that if Julius was a great man, then Al Capone was a great man. As I recall, I got a "D" for that essay and was quite bitter about it, as only as a misunderstood sixteen-year old can be.

I still do not think he was great. As I say, if Julius was great, then Al Capone was great. I refuse to accede greatness to that which I despise: the prince of this world with his cloak of rot and his halo of lies.

There was another kid in our class who was even weirder than me. He had a very bad stammer. He didn't just stutter, he would go into a paroxysm, almost a fit.

We took biology together in the tenth grade.


In biology, there is an exercise where you dissect a living frog. Before you dissect the frog, you supposed to "pith" the poor creature. That means that you take a big needle which is almost an ice-pick and jam it into the base of the frog's brain. You twist the needle around and this is supposed to destroy the connection between the frog's brain and the frog's body.

I hope this is true, because, as far as I know, nobody ever bothered to ask the frogs about it.

The next step is to dissect the frog while it is still alive and, hopefully, without consciousness as you lay it on its back and slit the belly open with a sharp scalpel and observe the organs -- the heart beat, the breathing -- but, the frog doesn't feel pain, because the connection to it's brain is gone...

The question of course is, does a heart feel pain? Does a belly?

Richard, the guy with the stutter had an immediate answer. He ran down the school hallway screaming, "It's a sin! It's a sin! It's a sin!".

The rest of the class snickered and I kept my silence to myself.

The point is, even if we accept that the frog felt no pain, how do we explain the pain that Richard felt?


Something they forget to tell us in bible-school is that Jesus was a heretic, a blasphemer and an utter failure -- ah, but he failed so magnificently!

Monday, December 25, 2006

In the Bad Old Days...

"In the bad old days, when the Mob ruled the world, the capo de capo, who then was Ceasar Augustus, let it be known that all the world should pay protection money..."

Things went on from there until, today, just after the darkest day of the year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate Christmas and the birth -- the Gift -- of light in the world...

I remember one Christmas, hearing on the teevee news that the Pope had mentioned in his sermon that we really do not know exactly when Jesus was born. From an historical viewpoint, sometime in April would be a better guess, as it was the custom of the Roman rulers to levy taxes and do census in the late spring.

According to the teevee, some of the faithful were supposedly shocked.

Knowing that media creatures have a need to say things so people won't change the channel and that they sometimes come up with things like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, there's no way to know if anybody let alone any of the faithful was really shocked.

In any case, it is common knowledge that the December date for Christmas was chosen because most earlier cultures had a festival at that time of year.

For the Nordic tribes, it was "Jul". Of course, the date for Christmas was settled long before the Danes, the Swedes and the Norsemen ever heard of the "White Christ" or decided he was stronger than Thor.

The "Suffering Christ" has never had the appeal in the North as it has in the Mediterranean. The Northmen prefer the vision of "Christ-Triumphant". Also, the North was baptized in blood as much as in water. Perhaps that might shock some people?

My Norwegian forebears even have a saint, St. Olav, known as "Olav the Holy".

They might as well call him "Olav the Bloody".

When he was 17, Olav went viking and tried to capture London. Of course London was no where near the size it is today, but still he was a precocious fellow. Before he got religion, he was known as what I might translate as "Olav Squarepants". He was what they call "big-boned" and could throw two spears at once, a skill which impressed those who went viking with him.

Getting religion didn't change much in his behavior patterns. People he didn't like (= those who refused to be baptized) were treated...unkindly.

He ordered one chieftain, along with his sons, to be bound with their hands tied behind them and placed on a rock in the water -- at low tide. When the tide came in they drowned. Perhaps Olav thought this a sort of "baptism"?

He ordered others to have kettles with glowing coals placed on their tummies, or that they be thrown into pits full of poisonous snakes.

Um, and these are the tales told by those who are trying to praise him!

However, my intention was to speak of Christmas, the Birth of Christ and in that mood I want to speak of facts.

Not historical facts -- historical facts are almost trivial in this context. I'm not talking about facts like the price of a pound of butter.

Here is a real fact:

There is a light which shines in the heart of every human being. This is not true because it is writ there in John chapter one, verse blah-blah. This is a truth which is true only if you yourself have seen and understood it.

At the risk of being too specific, we could say that it is the light of conscious awareness.

That we have physical eyes, ears, tongue, nose and the feelings of the skin are, in my opinion, a consequence of or, so to speak, a reflection of that light, that is, there is an innate tendency of the universe as-we-see-it towards life and conscious awareness..

Is this light is in us, or does the human heart or essence somehow focus the light so that it can be revealed in the physical reality? I don't know and leave any answering to the experts.

In any case, without this light, without this tendency or drift towards conscious awareness -- such a loss!

In sum, there is a light which shines in the heart of every human being and here, at the darkest time of the year, we celebrate that that light is born into this world of struggle.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nuke Watcher Remembers Uncle Al

[Religionists usually have a put down on what they call "ancestor worship". This has always puzzled me, as the heart of religion is rememberance. Today is Christmas Eve and we remember the birth of the baby Jesus -- and, in so doing, whether we realize it or not, we celebrate the birthing of all babies. Today's post is taken from a comment by my cousin Nuke Watcher and is dedicated to the rememberance of our Uncle Al.]

There came a knock at my Mother's door.

It was in the summer of 1973 and there stood my Uncle Al. The look in his eyes and the suitcase in hand, was all one needed to see.

"Uncle Al, come in, come in…. Mom… Mom, Uncle Al is here!"

Mom came running in from the back yard and she took his hand, as I took his suitcase and we walked into the living room. He was bent over and sadden, by the events that were going on in his life. A man broken by the weight of losing those things he had worked so hard to build up.

I remembered that as we were growing up, having a father who was schizoid and abusive to his wife and children, a man who also left us high and dry on more than one occasion. Uncle Al would send Mom money for food and clothes, rent -- we were his church and his place of tithing.
When Grandmom Watson died in the summer of '57, we finally packed up and moved to our new home on the Westside of Poosah City, from the cold and intrepid main street of Epworth Iowa -- and even then, Uncle Al sent what he could to help us make ends meet.
When he showed up at the door, Mom was not really surprised, she just knew her home was now her big brother's home, for as long as it needed to be.

In time Aunt Ruth, Uncle Troy, all worked together and found Uncle Al a place of his own in the Riverside Area of Poosah City. He would join in on family get-togethers for Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas -- whenever the occasions would allow.

I had been dodging the draft through the help of the Army National Guard from 1966 to 1972 and was working to find work where ever I could in Poosah City. My wife was at the time pregnant with my first daughter Parrish -- it didn't leave me much time to spend around the family as much as I should/would have.

That war of the 60's took its toll even here, with disrupting lives. Watching kids die at Kent State, did not help the war effort, or myself either.

The one thing I could do was imitate his wonderful laugh. I'm blessed with perfect pitch and my imitations of singers and show biz personalities, always kept the family amused at the dinner table, so Uncle Al's laugh was easy for me… part of the Cliff gene made it a cinch to do. I still do it today and the current generation still remembers Al and his wonderful laugh.

Uncle Al died in 1976.

Aunt Ruth had stopped by to visit Al. "Ruth my neck is bothering me, would you mind giving it a rub", he asked. According to Aunt Ruth, she massaged his shoulders and the back of his neck and that's when Uncle Al left this life. Ruth did what she could for her brother, but he was gone and what had happened was a blood clot had left his neck and went to his brain.

When I walked into the funeral parlor where Uncle Al was laid out, he had on a nice brown suit, with a shirt and tie. Martha, my new wife saw Al and started to cry. I thought it strange, as she did not know him that well, but, like so many others, had an instant liking for him.

The service was the same that was used for my mother 9 years later and the song that was sung was, "I Come To The Garden Alone". Al was buried on the Westside of the city. I guess its time to stop by and sit awhile and have a laugh or two with Al.

Its also time for the kids to know who their great Uncle Al was.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Sadness Which Knows No Bounds

[It's a lousy time, here on what the Danes call "Little Christmas Eve", to once again trouble the patience of my readers with messages from the Third Galaxy. Frankly, I sometimes suspect that my unemployed angel is simply bored, being unemployed and all.

It claims this snippet was taken from the 21st Edition of the Absolute Truth, page 8686. Since a page of the Absolute Truth measures 12 x 7 kilometers, this really doesn't narrow it down as much as you might think!

There is some debate in the Third Galaxy as to who the author was. Some say Elmer Eggplant -- but his style tends to be more loquacious and this a bit too poetic to be from him. Ichabod Rain is also a possibility, but the despair expressed here is not typical and would also argue against the thesis some have that the Good Knight was an agent for the Alien Veggies...]


The sadness I feel knows no bounds.

I am hounded by visions which are driving me out of my mind – in fact, they are killing me as sure as a shot in the head.

The time is coming when strong men will faint and wise men will weep at the sight of what is coming to pass – not because of any punishment or "Will of God", rather because of the incorrigible inability of this collection of social apes to follow through on the realization of their common humanity which is the nitty gritty of what our prophets, sages and saviors have been trying to impress upon us with their heart's and, often as not, their life's blood.

Instead, we follow the nightmare dreams of insane, false prophets who tell us that, when we have turned the world into a pile of excrement, the very "angels of God" will come floating down on divine snowflakes to cool our fevered brow, kiss our bruised thumb and make everything right again.

If we only had one group of religious fumblebugs we might, we might have a chance to survive.

If it was just the brain-dead followers of the Great Potato and their inane babble about His Son the Holy Idaho and how all those who have not taken Him as their Personal Spud – but no, we also have the Mashers!

I hardly care to think of which is worse, but find it hard to avoid the necessity of doing so. Let it suffice that they are embraced in an unholy wedlock and the enormity of their perversions are beyond description.

It is said that the Masher read the Book of Eternity, shown to him by the archangel, Garb-El. It might be so – who can say? But even if true, the Masher read the Book some seven centuries ago – what does that have to do with us today?

The Book would it not give a different reading in each age and from the different angle of each culture? It is as if you tried to arrange your life according to train schedules published years ago for a city in a land far away which you have never seen!

If it were their lives only which they gave in following a fantasy – that would be bad enough! But no, they want the whole world to be in the Masher's "Bowl", with every one bowing down to a pat of butter in the middle.

The worshippers of the Great Potato, on the other hand, maintain that his Son, the Holy Idaho will Return in a Cloud of Rich Gravy and all who have accepted Him as their personal "Spud" will float upon the gravy, but all the rest, the Mashers, the Muddlers, the Junkers, the Window Dressers and other unbelievers will drown in the gravy and be flushed down the Great Toilet Bowl and suffer for ever in the Shit Tank which squirms with worms and other ugly things for all eternity.

True, there are some who say that the lost will only be french fried for only ten thousand years in enormous vats of boiling oil*

In truth and honesty, it must be said that many, perhaps even the majority of the followers of both the Holy Idaho and the Masher, not to mention the Muddlers, the Junkers and all the rest do not subscribe to such brain fart ideas.

However, having seen increasing regulation and restriction of themes and views which are allowed to be heard and seen in our mainstream media since the declaration of the First World Peace one must pause and wonder. It seems as if their influence is being marginalized, becoming less and less visible or of any real consequence or influence in Arrogant society.

Those are a few of the things which trouble me and is why the sadness comes upon me.
___________________
* For it is written, "Verily, verily, the Great Potato is a Spud of Great Compassion"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Al's Song -- have a good day, all day, today

[Yesterday's post was in part a lead in to this little song I composed as a memorial for my uncle Al, I some time after he died in 1976. As often happens with my work, it wasn't really finished until later, in the late 80's when the forth and last verse came to my mind from somewhere]


Al's Song

May your troubles be few, and your heart be true!
May everything turn out right before you lay down your head
on your pillow tonight!

And, to make it all complete:
may your dreams all be sweet!

Have a good day, today, all day, today!

From the thorns of despair we pluck the flower, hope!
The birds who dance on air,they seem to know
how to live without a care!

And, to make it all complete
they sing melodies so sweet!

Have a good day, today, all day, today!

To get water from a well, you need a long rope!
The seeds there in the ground they can hear the sound
of raindrops in the air!

Isn't it amazing how they seem
to reach up with fingers so green!

Have a good day, today, all day, today!

The power of the Sun is in everyone!
There's not much more to say but to live each passing day
as it comes your way!

and to make it all complete
you sing to everyone you meet!

Have a good day, today, all day, today!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Remembering My Uncle Al...

Albert Cliff, was my dad's elder brother, I knew him as Uncle Al.

Al was kind of funny, a caricature of the Cliff family somato type. Round shoulders tend to run in the family you see, and many of us cannot stretch the elbow joint out to a complete 180 degree angle. This gave me some static when I was in the army because, when you stand at attention, you are supposed to have your arms straight down, thumbs on the seams of your uniform trousers:
"Straighten your arms soldier!"

"Sir, they're as straight as they will go, Sir!"
Al walked bent over with his elbows at forty-five degree angle and hands hanging at an opposite forty-five degree angle. You might think he was imitating some goofy R. Crumb character.

I loved Al with all my heart, he had a funny laugh and a smile that could light up your day for a week.

Gerry-mum hated my uncle Al with something more than a purple passion.

Her reasons were many and she enumerated them often during my childhood years. Actually, she hated most of dad's and especially my mother's family.

I suppose she was afraid of my showing affection or bonding with them, but in Al's case I think she hated him mostly because she could not manipulate him. He was always his dum-dee-dum self, and the world, let alone his brother's wife, had little chance of changing him.

I was quite sick as a child and, so I've been told, close to death more than once. What I remember most is having to eat raw spinach and have wheat germ sprinkled on my breakfast cereal.

Because they were chronically infected, the doctors decided I needed to have my tonsils removed. However, whenever I was well enough that they could set a date for the operation, I got sick and it had to be postponed.

We went south for a while, where some of our extended family was already living. In less than six weeks, the tonsils were out, and I have had the good fortune of general good health ever since. The climate and the economic possibilities in the south appealed to dad and Gerry-mum, so the household moved to Poosah City.

After about a year they bought a house on the South Side where I lived the rest of my childhood. I was about nine, maybe ten years old and this was the first time in my life I lived continuously at one address for more than six months, except for the year I spent with Aunt Helen after my mother died when I was two.

I remember one time Gerry-mum and I for some reason had to wait for Al.

It seems to me we had to wait maybe a whole fifteen minutes. We had gone shopping, and the groceries were in the car and "the meat will spoil if Al doesn't come -- damn him!"

Finally, along comes Al without a trouble in the world. I realize now that he just might have been to a bar and had him a couple of beers. Jerry was sooo mad, but her tirade just bounced off him like water of off a duck's back. He just smiled and said, "I'm sorry, Jerry".

In later years, I tried to tell my dad why Al was my hero, but he would just get serious and say, "Your uncle Al, did a lot with the little he had..."

One story I heard was that Al had had polio. Another story was that he had been taken with forceps when he was birthed.

Young folks today don't know about polio, and forceps, thank God, or much about things like rheumatic fever and the other disabling and death dealing diseases of youth and birth. It's a blessing that they don't, but it's a shame that many seem not to appreciate what we can now take for granted.

It would be good if people in general -- in our culture anyway -- took life a bit more seriously. I figure we'd be better off.

There was a time when the nitty-gritty facts-of-life were more obvious and in-your-face than they are now. Today, if all you knew was what you saw on the media, you'd get the idea that everything can be fixed: by the doctors, the government, the police, the schools, the preacher, the President...

We are like kings and the media message to us is: "Whatever the problem -- it can be fixed, O Great One!" -- at least as long as Mighty Consumer pays his taxes and insurance premiums...

Al had a business in partnership with a friend of his. With plain hard work and good humor, he and his partner built their restaurant-bar up and had something good.

Then there came this woman into his life. She fulfilled whatever curses Jerry may later have heaped on him. She picked him for every dollar and penny he had scraped together. His partner refused to remain in business and Al had to buy him out. It took less than a year before the restaurant had to close and this woman left him. I don't think Al even bothered to get a divorce. She may well have been the only woman Al ever knew.

Over the years, Al had saved silver dollars. He had several jars full -- thousands of dollars. In desperation, he took the jars over to my cousin and begged him to take them. Not understanding what the problem was, Keith refused. It seems Al couldn't bring himself to tell him just what the problem was. Keith really regretted that he didn't hear what Al was trying to say between the lines of his plea -- because, she took the silver dollars also...

Al never talked about this experience and, as far as I know, nobody ever asked.

Al ended his days, still the chuckle-head, living with his youngest sister, in a small room he rented from her. And like I said, he never talked about his marriage -- at least not with anyone in or close to the family.

About six months before he died, he wrote a letter to me, his "little nephew", in which he told me about how he had been sick and in the hospital.

I quote from memory: he felt like he had "...fallen into a well and was trying to talk to the people up there, but they couldn't hear him..." Sort of a negative out of body experience, or something from Tolstoy.

I don't remember what I wrote him. I just answered him from the heart, with no "it's-gonna-be-ok-Al crap".

I told him: "It's gonna happen, Al, sooner or later, and I love you!" He wrote me a short letter of appreciation and six months later they wrote me that Al was dead. They sent me a picture of the bouquet of flowers at his memorial service.

Dear hearts, what else is there to say? When somebody asks for help, just listen and open your heart -- it won't tear you apart, although, at the start it may scare you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Peeing in Your Pants to Stay Warm...

From what I heard on Danish radio this morning, the news is finally reaching Denmark that President Codpiece is apparently getting ready to give in to the urge to surge -- that is, up the stakes in a desperate gamble.

The stakes are both American and Iraqi lives, a lot of money and perhaps even the tattered remains of world peace.

The gamble is that through Total War he can declare victory in Iraq, or maybe just a couple of neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Hearing him speak this morning on the radio was so surrealistic that I wondered if perhaps I was being transported to the Third Galaxy and was hearing Ronald Rexona who, after his initial debacle in Guanocow started the programs which brought him ascendancy to the position of Supreme Hole of Arrogance.

In a rather long sound-bite, even for Danish radio, I heard President Codpiece mumbling incomprehensibilities about how "the army is near the breaking point", "we need more troops" and, finally, "We're engaged in an ideological[!!!] war that is going to continue for a long time".

Uh, excuse me, what is an "ideological war"? What does ideology (the meaning of ideas) have to do with the war in Iraq, a war to obtain natural resources and establish global hegemony and empire?

As for the military being near the breaking point, that is no surprise.

Although media coverage has not been all that heavy, we have been told again and again by officers and retired generals that US military ground forces were near the breaking point.

Where are we supposed to get more troops and increase the size of the standing Army -- I'm eager to know how this how this could/would be accomplished.

Up to now, the only way the services have been able to meet their recruitment quotas is to lower the quotas and promise higher bonuses while lowering standards not only mentally but morally.

Morally? -- the Army used to keep shits like White Power racists out, but now they turn a blind eye to stuff like that as much as they think they can get away with.

The only place to get more troops is in a "surge". A "surge" is kind of like juggling the books, except that here we are talking about juggling flesh and blood.

Some troops are kept from going home and replacements are sent in before planned. All of a sudden you have thousands of more boots on the ground.

How many depends on whether you want to just break the military or destroy it completely. What do you bid, Codpiece? 20,000? 30,000 -- 40,000?

Did I hear 50,000? Going once, going twice, sold to the popinjay in the Commander in Chief suit.
They have a saying in Danish that "peeing in your pants to stay warm is not a long term solution".

In any case, it is pretty well established that the American people don't want Bush's war. In fact they even made this clear in the elections in November.

You know elections, where people express their political will in a democracy?

Well, there is a variant you might call "elective dictatorship" and that is where the Codpiece would like to go with this crapola about "unitary executive power". The thing is, he's just jealous of "Pootie Poot"


Enough of this ranting -- you can read things much better formulated material here, here and here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Running Away...

My honest observation is that almost everyone is running away from something.

The consequence is that we can never find peace or rest, we cannot come home until we come to terms with the thing or things we are running away from.

Those who appear to be running after things, reaching out and maybe even catching some of the brass rings dangled in front of us on life's merry-go-round, even they, perhaps more than most -- even they are running away.

We've been running ever since we were locked out of the gates to the Garden of Eden -- the story of Eden is a parable for how most of us die in our childhood.

What horrors we are running from? Do we run more from that which happened to us or from the horror that we ourselves may become the very horror from which we run?

By stopping up and turning to face these horrors, that is to say, our personal demons, that is the only chance we have to bring them down to a size we can handle. Intuitively, I doubt we can make them disappear completely, but we can bring them down to a size an ordinary man or woman can handle. That is to say: we can live our lives with some decency and dignity, and -- most important -- pass as little as possible of the horror on to our children and coming generations.

In my thinking back to childhood, I realized the monster I could have become.

Somehow it did not happen. The best things I've done in life were perhaps not what I did, but what I did not do -- things which rage and loneliness had primed me for. I suspect this is a more general or at least a common rule than the exception.

What I am saying is that many if not most are tempted by inner demons to surrender our being to an ugly evil. This is a general thesis of all the authoritative religions -- true it is often abused in order to control people, but this does not, in itself negate the validity of the intuitive insight.

For some reason, most do not do the ugly thing.

We win our spurs on lonely battle fields that no one ever sees, except perhaps our guardian angels and God. We grow up, our souls and spirit are perhaps maimed and crippled, but we have become, more or less, complete human beings. It is important to understand here that the demonic is not intrinsically evil -- generally speaking it is no more than life-force flowing incorrectly.

I am acquainted with a young boy, perhaps thirteen years old. I see him with the cap to the cathode ray tube of a television in his hand. I see him sizzling a little lizard with the twenty-thousand volt spark as it surges through the soft belly and the small body writhes in agony.

Suddenly -- the boy sees what he is doing to a living creature and never, ever did such a thing again. Do you understand?

It matters little whether somebody sizzled lizards or blew up frogs with firecrackers when they were boys. The axis on which evil turns is why they no longer sizzle lizards or blow up frogs!

Is it because it became boring? Or, is it because they realized the ugliness, that is the utter meaninglessness of what they were doing?.

I suspect that such experience is more common than we know, that young people and children, as well as adults, are, from time to time, faced with such choice and, for reasons the Eternal only knows, choose humanity instead of some numbing release of life unto a dark and nameless Absolute...

This is the added element to our anger when some little shit blows complete strangers away in a burger bar, or trashes a young girl and dumps her like a piece of garbage. No one does the ugly thing unless they somewhere along the line surrendered or lost their connection with our common humanity, or loses it in doing service to the ugly evil.

However, it is not a simple thing to judge when this break has actually and irreversibly happened.

Victor Frankl, in "Man and the Search for Meaning" tells of a doctor in the death camps who showed himself to be one of the few people whom Frankl said he would call truly satanic. And yet, Frankl has witness from other people that this same man, as a prisoner in the Soviet gulags, showed him himself to be kind, even a compassionate being, so much so that, although he himself perished, others through him did survive Stalin's horrible "university".

In his memories of the death camps Frankl repeatedly states, "The best did not survive...". He also observes many times that in order to survive as a human being, one must know the limits of what one will do to stay alive.

As I understand him, the survival of the human being is in the spirit and not the continued activity of the physical body alone.

The horror, the ugliness of the anti-god of the camps was the destroying the spirit of their victims, turning them into raw material for the industry of death -- Eli Weisel has refered to it "sucking soul from bone".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stories from the Holocaust


This Way to the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen. -- Tadeusz Borowski
The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. -- Victor Frankl, 1963
Lurch, over at Main and Central, put up a post about Anne Franck the other day and it set me thinking of things I have mulled over many times..

Everybody knows about Anne Franck and we drop a tear or two for her sad fate, imprisoned in a house where just a peek at a patch of blue sky would be a gift, then her young life sent to the camps and snuffed out like a cigarette butt.

Did I say a tear or two? That would hardly suffice!

Anne Franck is symbolic of the outrageousness of the Nazi regime.

In a similar way, Abeer Qasim is perhaps symbolic of the evil implicit in the terrible vision of the New Arrogant Century, where the Lady of Liberty and Enlightenment becomes something one could [and I have!] compare to the Whore of Babylon.

If you want to scratch beneath the surface -- and you should think twice before you do, because what you find there can sear your soul! -- there are two authors you should/must/need acquaint yourself with: Tadeusz Borowski and Victor Frankl.

Borowski, 1922-1951 was a poet and fought in the Polish Resistance against the Nazi occupation. He spent years in the camps, including the infamous Auschwitz. His book is "This Way to the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen"

Frankl, 1905-1997, was a Austrian psychiatrist who knew both Freud and Adler but devoloped his own theory of Logotherapy. He was also in the camps 1942-45 and also became acquainted with Auschwitz. His book here is "Man's Search for Meaning".

I'm almost at a loss as to how to give you in a few words the impression these two made on me and my thinking in general.

Borowski's book is a series of short snapshots of life/death in the camps, incredibly vivid and revealing. Unbelievably, there is even a form of humor -- and then, just as sudden, it cuts to the bone.

As an example, I'll give you a brief precis of one of his stories:

As they were herding them, naked, to the ovens, Sgt. S. saw this nice piece of ass in the line and thought he would fuck it. (As a matter of fact, she was a famous Polish ballerina and is mentioned in the Jewish Encyclopedia.)
Seargent S. grabbed her from out of the line to take her someplace to use her body. However, the girl bent down, grabbed some gravel and threw it in his face. While he was momentarily blinded, she pulled his pistol from its holster and shot him in in the stomach.

As the "bath brigade" took her and the others to their destination, Sgt. S moaned in his death throes, "My God, why must I suffer so?"

Frankl is even harder to give a picture of in a few words. His "Man's Search for Meaning" is a combination of his theory and observations from the time he was in the camps. In doing a little research for this post, I found this excellent quote:

"Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible."
[As I often refer to the "Question" in my writing you might think that this is where I picked up the idea -- the fact is, I got it from Jakob Needleman and his "The Search for Lost Christianity".]

I had the good fortune of hearing Dr. Frankl speak in Denmark. I don't recall the exact year, but must have been 1979-80. A common misconception is that Frankl discovered his theory of Logotherapy in the camps. He most emphatically said that he had already the theory before. However, I would venture to say that his theory was refined, developed and, in an odd and terrible way, tested in the lab, so to speak, through his experiences.

He repeatedly states in this book is: "The best do not survive".

There is a flip side to that: the worst do not survive either, that is, not as human beings. I don't have a quote from him on this, but I'm pretty sure I got it from his book as it has direct influence on the meaning of human existence. If you will do anything -- if you have no limits or don't know what your limits are -- in the extreme situation you will exceede those limits and, although your physical existence may continue, your humanity will become meaningless and therefore destroyed.

Frankl says that those who had something to live for survived or at least had the best chances of surviving. The reason is that having something to live for gives life meaning.

He noted bitter observations from that horrible laboratory which proved the point. For example, there were people of a kabalistic inclination who "discovered" that the camps would be liberated on such and such a date.

When the date came, and they still were not liberated, these soon died.

There are many more points of his which come to mind as I relate them, but I will suffice with one more.

Someone was looking at a picture of a group of the emaciated people in the camps and remarked to Frankl, how terrible they must have felt.

Frankl replied that there was no way to know such a thing, that is what their feelings were at the moment the picture was taken.

He then related an incident when there was a gorgeous sunset. His group of fellow prisoners were entranced by its beauty for perhaps a quarter hour. Although they were sitting much like those in the picture, they were, briefly, transported from the hell they found themselves in.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Joe Blow's Comedy -- Part Two

Yesterday, we followed Joe Blow who, having died, was trying to get into heacen, but was running into some difficulties whith the heavenly Immigration Authority. It seems that he was lacking something called a Passport to Eternity and was now required to fill out some forms appling for a visa. With that brief summary, we now return to story which, for reasons I hope will become apparent, I now title:
Joe Blow's Comedy
Dismissing Joe, the angel pushed a button, there was a soft chime and a new number appeared above its teller window...

Joe picked up the questionnaire and shuffled over to the desk to fill out the forms which now seemed to him to be a thick stack of papers. By the time he sat down and started leafing through the pages, it was as if the questionnaire had almost become a book...

"Looks like they practically expect me to write my entire life story..." he muttered to himself...

* * * * * *

The office of the Counseling Angel was a welcome change from the neutral style of the main reception center which resembled a cross between a fairly clean warehouse and the place at an international airport where new arrivals from abroad are welcomed. The office was done in various shades of sea shell pastel with the exception of the desk, which seemed to be cut from a single piece of blood red jaspis. There was a high-backed swivel chair of deep blue behind the desk. Joe could only see the back of the chair, therefore he could not see what embodied the voice which said in a soft voice, "Come in and sit down, Mr. Blow"

There was only one other, small chair in the room, so there was no question as to where he should sit. Once sitting in the chair he found it much more comfortable than it looked. As soon as he was settled in the chair, the blue office chair slowly swiveled around and he got his look as his Counseling Angel. It looked like a small, middle-aged, slightly balding office worker. The angel closed the book it had been reading and laid it carefully on the table. To his surprise it looked very much like the questionnaire form he had just finished filling out -- except that now it really was a book, a rather thick book with the title, "The Life of Joe Blow, Abridged".

"Well, Mr. Blow, as you can see, I've just been reading your life story."

"Bu-, but, I just finished it -- and it's lots more than I wrote," spluttered Joe, "and what's all this about a passport?"

"Passport? Ah, you must be thinking of the Passport to Eternity! It would have been much simpler if you had acquired one before you died -- we cannot issue you one now, that you're dead -- that would be most irregular!"

"So, Mr. Blow, we'll have to see if we can get you a visa -- that's why we had you fill out the forms -- you're wondering how it got to be such a big book on the basis of the few pages you just finished writing. Well, first of all, as you have already noticed, time doesn't really mean very much here in Heaven -- that's why it's called eternity! As to the other, you don't think we don't really know who Joe Blow is -- or was I should say? Of course, we know all about you -- even all the little things you forgot or didn't think to write about -- not that it matters. Most of the icky habits people have as mortals have no influence one way or the other. Nobody cares what people did with their boogers as mortal creatures.

The angel leaned forward in his chair and opened Joe's Book, "You're wondering why we had you go to the trouble of answering all those questions, when we already have all the information? It's quite simple really. The problem is that you never thought much about life while you were alive -- I mean you never seem to have considered the significance of the things you did and said and how they impacted on other people. Why is that important? Because, not having done so, you have no concept or understanding of who you are -- you just let yourself get born and die and come up here expecting us to let you in past the "Pearly Gates" with a drum roll and a sound of trumpets as we announce, 'Da! Da! Joe Blow is coming to Heaven!' -- that's kind of silly, if you think about it, don't you agree?"

Joe didn't quite get the logic of the argument, but he felt it prudent to nod his head in agreement.

"Well, who is Joe Blow? I mean, if Joe Blow himself doesn't know, never bothered to find out, why should anybody else care?" The angel paused to pour a glass of some liquid from a carafe standing on the jaspis table, "Pardon me for not offering you a refreshment, but if you're not really in Heaven, this would have an unfortunate effect on you as your soul is still in an Intermediate State."

"So, just who is Joe Blow? I've read all of this," it tapped the Book lightly, "and I still don't know! He was born and died -- lived a normal life, was baptized, went to church every now and then -- more then, than now, to tell the truth (and we do tell the truth here!). He did some good things, he did some bad things. None of which really has much bearing on the matter."

"For some reason, you seem to have never let yourself hear the Question life was asking of you every day of your life. With every heartbeat and with every breath life was asking 'What?(!)' -- but you never heard it whispering in your ear..."

"You didn't hear the Question and now you have no answers!"

"The Receiving Angel was asking you the Question, did you know that? No, of course not! You just heard questions about passports, name, place of last mortal residence -- to you it was all just some administrative rigmarole and run around!"

While the angel was speaking, it seemed to Joe as if it was changing -- it no longer looked like a middle aged office worker. Actually, he couldn't say what it looked like. One moment it looked like a young girl, then an old man, a child, a toothless hag, a hero, a sulky teenager with a purple punk hairdo and a ring in its nose...

"Soooo, our only recourse to get you into Heaven now is, of course, the Great Dispensation. What the Great Dispensation boils down to is this: does anybody in Heaven know you? Does anybody here remember Joe Blow? Is anybody in Heaven here, in some little part, because of something you did or said back there in, what was the name, Poosah City?

I'm afraid the answer is, no! I've already asked -- nobody here remembers you, Mr. Blow! Not even the Person Himself -- you'll get this officially of course, when we have the Final Analysis. As you know, or should know, nobody knows when that will be, not even the Person. We just thought it in the best interests of all concerned that you were informed of how things are now, considering the, uh, delicate condition you are in..."

The angel lifted its face and, for the first time, looked directly at him. Its eyes were dark, pupil-less pools, deeper than the darkest night...

They looked at him as if he wasn't even there (which if you think about it, was true -- he wasn't really anywhere!).

Joe's his heart nearly hopped up and stuck in his throat (figuratively speaking of course -- being dead, he didn't really have a throat, or heart, for that matter, to get stuck in the throat he didn't have).

"Mr. Blow, my friend, the reason nobody knows you is that you never shared the sorrows or burdens of your fellow human beings. Can you recall ever doing anything to alleviate their suffering? Or at the very least, was there ever a small deed or kind word to let them know that they were not alone in their hour of need? No, you don't recall -- but worse for you, neither does anybody else... that's where the shoe pinches!"

The angel leafed again through the pages and stopped at a passage written in bold letters and underlined in red -- it even looked like it was stained with tear drops -- the angel cleared its throat: "You wrote here that you went to see that movie, 'The Passion of Christ'. You 'cried a lot' and got a 'lump in your throat' when you saw them 'whip Jesus and pound nails in his hands and feet...'"

"Mr. Blow, we've got a couple of problems in Heaven with this. First, you say you feel sorry for what Jesus suffered, but where is the compassion for the fellows who were tortured beside Jesus? Don't you know that they were human beings also? And if not them, what of all the other people who have died in terrible loneliness in all the prisons, torture chambers and abattoirs of human history?"

"Finally, it was just a movie, Mr. Blow! You didn't see 'Jesus'. You just saw an actor in celluloid all smeared over with artificial blood.

"In short, Mr. Blow, you never knew or cared a fig for the sufferings of your fellow man. That is why, in the Final Analysis, the Person will say, 'I never knew you!"

"Salvation is no where to be found except in the context of your common humanity, Mr. Blow. Why? Because human suffering is real, you know the passion of others only by knowing them. It is only through knowing them that the Person can know you..."

"You saw a movie expressing somebody's ideas about what happened two thousand years ago and you cried. Big frigging deal! It was what was going on in Poosah City while you were alive that was important!"

Soooo, my friend, we've decided to give you the ten dollars back you paid for the ticket to the movie and send you down to hell...

In absolute horror, Joe watched as the angel pushed a button on the jaspis desk...

He heard a horrendous blaring of what seemed like horns blowing...
...and then I woke up in bed.

It seems some lovely person down in the parking lot couldn't figure out how to use their car keys and set off the burglar alarm, not once, but three times!

I tell you, nobody has ever been so glad to have been woken up at three o'clock in the morning...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Joe Blow's Passport to Eternity...

Dear hearts, today's post is a bit long so you will get the second half tomorrow -- I hope nobody dies in suspense...

The tale, or Terrible Parable if you will, is about this guy who dies and goes to heaven -- that is why, with a feeble attempt at a classical allusion, the original title was:

Joe Blow's Comedy

To make a rather long story [say,about 45 years] short, Joe Blow died.

He died and went to heaven -- I said went, I didn't say that he got in!

If you've seen the kind of movies and stuff which infect the popular imagination, you might think he stood outside the pearly gates banging an oversized brass knocker for while. Finally, St. Peter comes out, waggles a "no-no" finger at him, trapdoor opens and poor Joe slides down to the Alternative Destination which many assume to be the one more common for the ordinary, flabby human soul.

If you think about it for a while, you should come to the conclusion that, if Heaven is anything, it must be a "user-friendly" sort of place -- however, being a part of a large, in fact what must be an Infinite Organization, one must also conclude that it must be burdened with what, from our mortal point of view, we'd call a beauracracy. In the case of Heaven though, it would likely be known as "The Heavenly Hierarchy".

What it all boils down to is that when Joe got to heaven, he had to take a number and sit and wait like everybody else. Due to the fact that a day in Heaven can be a thousand years and a thousand years can be a day, this can be quite a long time. When Joe went to Heaven it seemed even longer because many of the lower echelon angels serving in Reception had gotten the day off to see the Cherub Races at one of the "Many Mansions".

To make the problem worse, not long before Joe Blow died there had been an earthquake in Iran, mudslides in Peru and an incident of lesser genocide in some third-world country the name of which I don't recall...

True, these "newly departed" were almost all "little brown people" -- however, unlike an earthly hypocritacy*, in Heaven there really are no color lines, so Joe had to wait his turn -- sorry, but no preferential treatment here for a nice, clean-cut Arrogant boy like Joe! Taking his situation into account (being dead), it didn't seem like the best move for him to make a fuss about it, so he waited.

When his number was finally called, he presented himself to the Receiving Angel above whose teller window his number was flashing. Each of the Receiving Angels sat behind one of those irritating teller counters with a glass window between clerk and customer. Well, it looked like glass. However, knowing how notorious Heaven is for extravagant trimmings such as streets of gold, floors of sapphire and kitsch of that order, for all anybody can know the "glass" could have been a thin sheet of crystallum or adamas.

Joe Blow of course was not much concerned with speculations of that sort, he just wanted to get into Heaven. As you may well imagine, dying and the trip to Heaven had been a rather stressful experience. He was looking forward to flaking out on a nice cloud somewhere; to just lay back and sip a cool glass of nectar, or whatever it is they serve in Heaven; listen to some soft harp music and let his soul rest in peace for a while.

Joe didn't know if the angel spoke or not, but he heard the question:
"Passport, please."

"Passport?"

"Passport -- your Passport to Eternity, please"

"What?"
The angel sighed, that is the angel did what an angel would do if it could sigh, mumbling to itself, "Lord, not another one -- why do I get all these cases?", then directed to Joe, "I suppose that means you don't have a passport?"
"Well, no, not really -- you mean, I need a passport to get into heaven?"

"It does make things simpler, there are other Ways, of course -- now let's see...what is your purpose in Heaven, how long do you plan to stay?

"Pur-, pur-, purpose?" Joe stammered, "PL-, please, I just died and I want to get into Heaven...I expect to stay forever."
"Hmmmn..." hemmed the angel, "planning on Eternal Bliss, a Permanent Visa and/or a Green Card -- well, let's see if we can find you on our Lists. Name?"
"J-, J-, J- Joe Blow"

"Last place of residence as a mortal being?"

"Uh, Poosah City."
The angel, reached up and pulled down from a shelf above its head what looked like a thick sheaf of computer printout stapled together on one side, then started to run a finger down the long lists, slowly turning the pages, while mumbling to itself, "Hmmmn...the people we get nowadays, thinking they can just walk into Heaven, if I had my way, I'd send them all to..."

The angel put the papers back up on the shelf, "Very sorry, Mr. Blow, but there are no "Joe Blows" in our list of souls who made pre-application for a Permanent Visa. You most likely didn't fill out your forms correctly while you were on the mortal plane, Mr. Blow -- well, you'll just have to fill them out now."

The angel reached under the counter, pulled out a questionnaire, dropped in the box and slid it under the teller window over to Joe, "If you'll be so kind Mr. Blow, you can fill out the forms at one of the tables over there. Please answer all the questions and print plainly in block letters. When you finished, drop it in the slot over there, then be so kind as to take your place where you were sitting before. When your number is called you will go into to have a talk with one of our Counseling Angels. Please don't worry, we usually work these things out, one way or the other..."

Dismissing Joe, the angel pushed a button, there was a soft chime and a new number appeared above its teller window...

[The conclusion of this comedy comes tomorrow]

_________________________________
* "hypocritacy" = a government which is called, for example a "democracy", but in fact is an oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy or other form of systematized injustice called by a feel-good name.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pictures -- Your a Child So Long...

When I was a child one of my pastimes was to draw pictures.

Actually, there were just two pictures and I drew them again and again, how many times I don't recall, but I must have drawn them often.

I recall that I was already drawing them when we still lived in Hobart. That was before we finally moved to Poosah City, so I must have been eight, max ten years old.

I suppose they were odd pictures for a child to draw, they were pictures of senseless mayhem and world wide destruction.

The one picture was of airplanes racing in a tunnel filled with terrible obstacles. The planes were of all sizes and shapes and most of them were either crashing into the spikes hanging from the ceiling, rising from the floor or crashing into each other in order to avoid impalement.

I think the picture was a symbol of what I already then saw as the inanity if not outright insanity of the adult world as I already perceived it, that is, as a terrible rat race after nothing of true value.

The other picture was the map of a strange world with continents and nations. Each nation had terrible war machines installed. These machines could cast searing rays which burned all in their path, scorching the earth down to the bedrock turning it into bubbling slag.

When the war started, as it always did, over nothing at all, I drew the lines of searing destruction emanating from the death beacons. They crisscrossed their world in an attempt to destroy the installations of their Enemies before they were themselves destroyed. The aim of these infernal devices was exceedingly poor, so the world was always destroyed. There were no winners and no survivors.

Whenever I recall this pastime, I wonder, "What was I doing -- and why?" Were they the first inklings of the tales I would later receive from the Third Galaxy or were they a child's understanding of the beginnings of the Cold War and meaninglessness of the building up to mass destruction -- or neither? or both?

This was meant as an introduction to the opening lines of my wife's rather long autobiographical poem, "Your a Child So Long..." in my translation from the Danish. The picture at the beginning of the post is one she took in Liberia around 1966. She used it on the cover when she published it in 1970.

I want so much
to make you understand
the cold and the fear
as the child
knows it,
knowing that it was born
NAKED & ALONE.

A chill floats over the open fields,
along with the fear of the gaunt, dark trees.

Have you never looked into
the eyes of the lonely child and
seen the great sadness there?

What have people done to the child?

How can it be that a child
can know there is no god?

The sad and lonely child knows it...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On the Obscenity of Ignorance, Part Two

To continue my rant about the obscenity of ignorance, let me say: it is not ignorance in itself which is obscene, but the habit of not caring to know.

Not caring to know, implies a lack of compassion, for how can one be compassionate without knowing?

Compassion is at the heart of all religion. Why? Because compassion is at the heart of our common humanity. If this were not so, then our common humanity would be dead and what would be left would be but a wild and ugly beast. After three billion years of evolution would this not be the height of obscenity.

To disregard, neglect, ignore and minimize, to misinform about the consequences of military industrial use of nuclear technologies and materials -- is that not an ugly and obscene thing to do? Yes, it is!

Yesterday, I wrote about the catastrophic effects of even a "small" nuclear exchange.

Today, I hope to clarify certain things about the deleterious effects of radioactive materials when they are disseminated into the environment. What matters is not whether the source is an atomic bomb, a "dirty" bomb, a Chernobyl or a "whatever". What matters is how finely divided the particles are -- the more finely divided the greater hazards they present.

The first way to bend the truth in these matters is to compare the radiation of the contaminant to background radiation and ignore whether the source or radiation people are being exposed to is from an external or internal source.

There are enormous differences in how you will be affected by walking past a dog turd on the pavement, by stepping on it or, yech, by eating it.

The same is true with radioactive material. As a rule of thumb, outside the body, no problem. Inside the body, big problem.

A kilo of uranium inside your neighbor's house is no problem in itself. A kilo of uranium on the tip of armor piecing munitions chopping into the neighborhood can be a big problem.

When shells penetrate concrete, armor plate -- whatever -- up to 50% and more of the metal is aerosolized. That means it is dissipated into very small particles which float in the air and can be inhaled or ingested along with food or water it has contaminated.

There are three different kinds of radiatio,.alpha, beta and gamma radiation.

Alpha radiation is a helium nucleus (two protons and two neutrons) ejected from the kernel of an unstable atom. The typical speed with which the particle is ejected is about 15,000 kms. It can't go far though. Outside the body, it will be stopped by the dead cells of the epidermis of the skin and thus no problem. Inside the body is a different story as the only thing it can collide with is living cells.

Beta radiation (with a few footnotes) is an electron ejected at high speed. An electron in itself is harmless, ít is its energy which can cause damage to living tissue. Inside the body, a beta particle can travel a bit farther than an alpha particle.

Gamma radiation is a photon, that is like light, although of a frequency comparable to that of X-rays.

Gamma radiation (which mainly originates in interstellar space) is a major part of what is called "background radiation". That is also why it is misleading to compare the radiation of local contaminants to the background radiation as the radiation of most radioactive material is mainly alpha and beta.

Radiation from small particles of radioactive material inside the body can kill individual cells, but it can also damage DNA. Cells are especially vulnerable when they are dividing and can become cancerous if damaged -- what can happen with a human fetus can be terrifying.

Why am I utterly convinced that Uranium Lite (aka Depleted Uranium) is deadly?

First of all, I am mainly concerned when it is used in ways that cause it to be aerosolized, as when it is used to tip rounds of munitions or to increase the penetrating power of bunker-buster bombs.

Secondly, Uranium Lite is not a single product -- it is not simply a by-product of refining U235 from virgin uranium, it can also be a product of refining used rods from nuclear power plants -- it which case it can be contaminated with other elements including isotopes of plutonium.

Finally, something hardly ever mentioned is that when an atom decays, the product is usually not stable -- far from it!

Unstable elements decay in a cascade to various elements which can be exponentially more radioactive then the parent atom -- it all depends on which isotope of which element you start with.

Summa summarum: radioactive material lodged inside the body is bad, period.

The military and the atomic power industries bend the truth so it screams when they tell us what they are doing is safe.

It isn't.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rant on the Obscenity of Ignorance


Digby had a post on Tuesday with observations on the ignorance of politicians, in particular senators and representatives responsible for national security, yes and even [especially?] the president.

Such ignorance is not only appalling but outright dangerous and in at least one case, apparently deliberate. This especially applies to the most basic knowledge about the Middle East, as revealed by their own statements. Many of this gaggle of klutzes still don't get the difference between Shia and Sunni -- and that in a place in the world which has a most critical bearing on our national security.

Jeeze, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, as he clapped his hands together and exclaimed, "Boy! This sure feels good!" just before he announced the start of the new TV show, "Iraq Cakewalk", Bush didn't even know there were such Sunnis and Shias!

Digby makes the point that if you have been reading newspapers over the years and have at least a passing interest in reality, some information ought to ooze into your awareness.

I'd like to take this a bit further and bet the knowledge of these same people about the consequences of even a "limited" nuclear war is also minimal. Furthermore I'll bet they are ignorant of why and what sort of danger radioactive material presents. Heck, the fact that they deny the obvious dangers of Uranium Lite (aka Depleted Uranium) proves they don't know, comprehend or understand -- either that or they are shape-changing alien lizard monsters...

A "moderate" exchange of nuclear weapons of, say, 50 atomic bombs between, say Pakistan and India, just to pick an example,would have immense, terrible and lasting effects on global climate -- so much so that, if I knew for certain that it was for certain to happen I might say let's go all out and emit as many greenhouse gasses as we can as fast as we can.

I don't really mean it, of course, but still, it might mitigate some of the consequences of a "small" nuclear war.

When I was growing up back in Poosah City and got up at 4 in the morning to see the televised broadcast of a atomic bomb test nothing happened to climate and there were, over the years, before testing was done underground, many tests -- so, how could an exchange of 50 bombs between two warring nations affect the whole world?

There is a difference between running a test with crash-car dummies and a busload of people driving off a mountain road.

Similarly, there is a difference between a hundred atomic tests over a couple of decades and fifty explosions over a few hours or days in a war.

In a war, cities are destroyed, there are firestorms and large amounts of dark particles are sent up into the atmosphere where they will remain for years, even a decade, blocking out sunlight and dramatically lowering the earth's temperature.

That sort of thing is common knowledge -- but not to our leaders, to whom is but a detail or a theory.

In any case, they know that if the balloon goes up and the shit comes down, they will go to shelters with underground swimming pools, movie theaters and, probably, even golf courses.

I'll return later and rant about how radioactive material can be described as both safe and a great danger to both health and life -- it all depends on whether you want to know the truth or just to be able to bend it to suit a purpose.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

In the Streets

"In the Streets" was composed around 1986 as a reaction to the cover story of an American weekly news magazine.

The cover pictured a young boy, a "soldier", maybe 10 years old, proudly adorned with a kalishnokov and belts of ammunition. Another article told how suicide bombers are recruited in another land -- they bury them for a day with only their holy book to comfort them.

The plaintive melody I used is related to one Pete Seeger used for "The American Land".



He has no name, he has no face.
He plays his games in the streets,
of the USA...and...Afghanistan!

He comes by night, he comes by day.
He comes to fight in the streets,
of the USA...and...Afghanistan!
Dirty old men in smoke-filled rooms
Give him weapons and the message of doom:

"Kill for love and kill for hate"
"Kill for 'God' and the 'Needs-of-the-State'"
"Kill for thrills and kill for crack"
"Kill just as long as the craziness lasts"

It's a fact: I could just as easily name almost any land
from the USA...to...Afghanistan!

He has no father, he has no mother.
And if he did, would it matter?
in the USA...and...Afghanistan?

Eyes full of pain, heart full of fear;
He'll blow you away in the streets
of the USA...and...Afghanistan!
He kills for the future, he kills for the past!
He'll just as long as the craziness lasts!

They put him in a box, buried in the ground.
If he doesn't cry out, if he doesn't make a sound,
They tell him that he's "holy" and, if he's ready to die,
he can go straight to heaven on a chariot of fire!

It's a fact: I could just as easily name almost any land
from the USA...to...Afghanistan!

The two pictures used in this post were taken from AmnestyUSA and were drawn by children who had been forced to give up their chidhood to war.

My wife, Sunflower Woman, in her autobiographical poem about growing up in an occupied country asks this question, "What have we done to the child, that it should know there is no God?

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Good Knight Ichabod Rain

[It's been some time since we've heard anything from our unemployed angel in the Third Galaxy and for once it's none of that depressing stuff about Ronald Rexona and the War Zones he established to Protect the First World Peace, thereby nearly destroying that poor world -- and would have had it not been for the intervention of the Alien Veggies. Instead we hear some more details about one of the legendary figures of that time, the Good Knight Ichabod Rain]

Everyone in the Third Galaxy has certainly heard about the Good Knight Ichabod Rain, but there are few reliable accounts.

Usually, those who claim to have met the Good Knight, have not realised it at the time. Then, years later, they think, "O, that must have been the Good Knight!"

But, this puts things almost on the level of "recovered" memories. Is it little wonder therefore, that many question that he ever existed and that he is made of the stuff of legend -- at best a composite picture, a collage of many individuals active during the Troubled Times of Terra.

I myself have my own story:

When I was ten, twelve years old, I was walking with my father in downtown Poosah City. It was a pleasant, early summer evening and the stores were closing or already closed.

Hearing music and song, I became aware of a man standing a ways back from the sidewalk in a storefront entrance. Somehow, he seemed both old and young at the same time. Held by a strap over his shoulders, a guitar rested on his chest, which he was playing it in a way I had never known.

He was singing a song, the words of which I did not grasp. It was the rich baritone of his song carried in the cool of the evening air which caught me -- that, and the twang of the brittle overtones of the guitar. I stopped for a moment, entranced by the garland of entwining tones coming from both human throat and the flesh of a tree.

Beyond the words of the song -- which, as I said before, I do not recall -- beyond the words, hidden in the timbre of his voice, there was another song. A song without words, a song of both sorrow and joy at the same time. A sad song, a mad song and a glad song all at the same time.

My dad though, almost embarrassed it seemed to me, took me by the arm and gently pulled me away -- but it was too late: in that brief moment I had learned that there was something more than the silly songs of the "pop" music which was all we heard on the radio in Poosah City.

It is told that the Buddha, having once seen a cripple, a beggar, a man crippled by age, a corpse silenced by death and, finally, a monk who had renounced the world -- his thirst for truth was awakened and he could no longer be satisfied by the comforting illusions of his father's Palace.

Likewise, once having known that music and song could reveal truth about the reality of life, I was lost. No longer could I enjoy the cleverly crafted, but empty phrases of the songs I had heard all my childhood, my ears glued to the radio, waiting in suspense to hear which "song" had now come to the top of the "top ten" or "top twenty".

I have long forgotten them, both the charts and the words of the silly songs and have spent my life trying to understand the music and magic of the Good Knight Ichabod Rain. I am convinced, that is who I met in that street singer so many years ago.
________________________________________
[Actually, when I think about it, I have to wonder if my unemployed angel isn't just pulling my leg somewhat. If you look at it close, the name Good Knight Ichabod Rain turns into Good Knight I. Rain -- and that morphs into "Good Night, Irene" a folk song I heard when I was a kid back in Poosah City!]

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Meeting the Dalai Lama

On Friday, 19 May 2000, Great Prayer Day [Store Bede Dag], H.H. Dalai Lama took part in a morning service at Christian's Kirke in Copenhagen, Denmark. The following text records my impressions of the day.

There were a lot of people outside the church, long before the doors were opened.

After a month of sunshine, the weather had changed, bringing chill winds, clouds and rain -- but this morning was beautiful, blue and golden.

Not everyone had tickets to get into the church. The tickets were free but, with only 700 seats, they were rationed out and you had to send self-stamped envelope to the church in order to get one.

However, there were a lot of people outside, without tickets, who had come in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Dalai.

After those who had tickets were inside, those who had none were also allowed in. The church was packed, but no one was left outside -- well, almost no one!

There were some people who came only to protest, eyes a-squint, with bibles crooked under thier arms like machine guns, "Don't you know you are letting Pestilence into the Church!"

They were denied admission by the pastor of the church, himself. "I am in charge here, and you are not getting in!", he said. Ah, that was a prophetic moment!

Who attended? Priests, pastors, rabbis, ministers, politicians, christians, buddhists, self-proclaimed atheists, and plain common slobs like me.

What did the Dalai say?

That only through dialogue, love and mutual respect can we solve the problems the world faces today.

I enjoyed very much hearing was his chuckle at a press conference the day before when a reporter threw him a politically-loaded question: "That's an [he he] un-easy question [he he], so I'll have to give you an [he he] un-easy answer [he he] ...

I know all this because I saw it on television.

I stayed at home, partly because it is not my way to run after people, however high and holy they may be, and partly because I knew there would be room for so few people and I didn't want to keep anybody out who really really felt they had to be there physically.

This is how my meeting with the Dalai went: During the time of the church service, I meditated on a verse I had found the day before:


"The man without love has no knowledge of God. For God is love."
-- 1 John
4, 8

I wrote it in my note book to help fix it in my feeble mind and after meditation, or contemplation, if you prefer, I wrote underneath:


And from where does love come?
Does it come from within,
or without
-- or from above?
God is love and love is being aware
and
being-aware is love,
so where is God and where is the man without love?

Does it really matter from where love comes
-- or how?
For when
love is
-- it was always there!
Still, I did feel a pang of regret when I heard they had let everybody into the church, that is everyone except those who held their bibles like machine guns!

On the other hand, I would have missed a missed lovely experience had I left home.

Shortly after the meeting, there was a brief hail storm in the village where I live, south of Copenhagen. For a few moments the ground was covered by a blanket of small, white pebbles. I [he he] laughed to see it -- partly because it was beautiful and partly because, if I had gone to Copenhagen, I would never had got home in time to see it [he he].

Love-being-aware,