lease on life and death (pix)

Anti-war protesters hold up signs as U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel takes his seat to testify at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 16, 2014.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A grave cleaner holds the mummified body of a woman during exhumation works at the Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City, April 17, 2013. If a lease on a grave has expired or not been paid, grave cleaners will break open the crypts to remove and rebury the bodies. Any remains that have not been claimed are packed into plastic bags, labelled and stored in mass graves. Bodies that have been stored in the upper crypt are exposed to dry and sunny conditions which means they do not decompose and instead become mummified.
REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez
Children are pictured on the hills on the outskirts of Kathmandu, September 16, 2014.
REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
A Syrian refugee child eats inside his family's tent at an informal settlement in Deir al-Ahmar, Bekaa valley, Lebanon, September 16, 2014.

gay-friendly mosque

A Muslim academic has opened a gay-friendly mosque in South Africa, despite receiving death threats and fierce criticism from parts of the local Muslim community.
Women will also be allowed to lead prayers at Taj Hargey's "Open Mosque" in Cape Town.
Whatever other difficulties the story may suggest, it makes me wonder:

If equality were the goal of any religious persuasion, and if that goal were somehow attained, would/could the religious persuasion any longer exist?

I have a hunch that's one of those questions you're not supposed to ask.

outfoxing a crocodile

Being attacked by an crocodile may not be everyone's idea of a nightmare, but for those afflicted, there is this consoling story of the "slightly tipsy" 20-year-old Australian who was dragged under by an crocodile and had the presence of mind to poke the reptile in the eye.

writing departs

Recent physical difficulties that demanded attention seem to have broken the back of what once was a through-and-through habit of writing ... and crediting it. In a literal sense, words and juxtapositions and frictions that might have formed the basis for one thought oasis or another have lost their pop and defeat the capacities that are left. I can opine and think about, but the writing part -- once convincing and occasionally beautiful and full of sass -- is limp as a used condom.

I kind of miss that verve and attention and excitement and verbiage, but, given circumstances of the present, I am forced into the widespread habit du jour -- too many people telling others what to do and how to do it and not enough people to heed or care about such 'sage' or 'amusing' counsel.

For example, a news story this morning asserts that the CIA has decided to stop spying on its America's allies. The story suggests the CIA was somehow embarrassed or felt that its effectiveness had been dented by the CIA's privacy intrusions. The source of this story is kept secret, but the Associated Press seems to see nothing collusive about printing it as if it were true. My reaction was, "Who makes this shit up and what media outlet is not ashamed to spread it around?!"

In earlier times, I can imagine writing a whole lot about the personal or political Joseph Goebbels program of lying repeatedly until someone believes it. And there always is someone to create the lies and someone willing to ingest them. Religion, politics, war, love, wondrous good and heinous evil. There is no imperative to tell them or deconstruct the scenario ... being alive means deconstructing various kinds of shit ... and/or believing it ... and one (wo)man cannot tell another.  Writing about it is .... what? ... sort of eh or needlessly intrusive, however 'caring' the tone of voice.

The writing has gone away. Maybe, like a $20 bill or a dog turd, someone will find it in the gutter and make use of it. But I sort of wish I were once again more convinced -- or anyway less unconvinced -- by the melodies and arabesques of writing.

Oh well, you can't unthink a purple cow.

“The Roosevelts…” sort of

Watching segments of documentarian Ken Burns' 14-hour "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," I am drawn in inconsequential ways into the past ... imagining things about other times and I might be right or I might be another inattentive fool.

Am I wrong, or did Burns forget to footnote the fact that the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919 killed 50-100 million people worldwide. News outlets in Germany, France and the United States were kept on a short leash when reporting a disease that affected one-fifth  of the world's 1.8 billion. World War I killed 16 million. Spain was allowed to report on the epidemic, which meant there was a sense that Spain was disproportionately affected and hence the name "Spanish flu" got traction.

It's not that the illness occurred on Teddy Roosevelt's watch and he might have done something, but as an historical fact that must have been affecting, I wonder why no notice (unless I missed it) was made of it. But as I say, my reactions were more associative and thin than focused and fair.

More inconsequential still was the effect the still photos of a time span from the late 1800's to the middle of the 1900's seemed to have:

Was I wrong or were those photographed in an earlier time skinnier on average than today's well-flabbed population? I really don't know, but they seemed to be leaner and tougher even in moments of great incapacity. No breasty, botoxed, chatter-box 'housewives.' Fat people were "fat" instead of somehow "challenged."

Perhaps people were skinnier because Sigmund Freud had yet to gain ascendancy. Dissimulation was as popular as ever, no doubt, but its popularity and the wealth required to display it were not so prevalent ... or am I making that up? Does a hungry man have time or energy for pretense? His hungry eyes are hungry, aren't they?

People wrote to the president (FDR) in the reasonable expectation that he might write back or lend a hand where he could.

But columnist George Will, one of the narrators, gets off a good one in Burns' documentary:
"Building on the work of the first Roosevelt, the second Roosevelt gave us the idea, the shimmering, glittering idea of the heroic presidency. And with it the hope that complex problems would yield to charisma. This," Will declares during one episode, "sets the country up for perpetual disappointment."
I can feel the liberals squirming under that lash, but I can also feel the appropriate aspects of the remark: The appropriateness touches the latter-day conservative as well ... no shits and giggles and wool pulled over the eyes, perhaps, but a grand and wafting display of pusillanimous that is stunning in its selfishness.

news snippets

Bits of news --

--  Scotland voted  Thursday not to secede from its union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. By a comparison I am probably not equipped to make, the Scots seemed both enthusiastic and civil in their electoral proceedings, as if they could honestly honor the disagreement of others. Maybe Americans who had political opinions could take a lesson from the Scots.

-- The police-state fervor seemed to gain ground Thursday when the Australians sicced 800 officers on  residents based on a rumor that there was a Islamic State plot afoot to behead Australians and put it on the Internet for propaganda purposes:

800 officers employed.
15 people detained: 
Two of the 15 people whom police had detained Thursday have been charged. Nine were freed before the day was over, and the rest released on Friday.... 
Hundreds of Muslims in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba protested the raids on Thursday night, with speakers accusing the government of exploiting public fear in a bid to get contentious counterterrorism laws through Parliament. (emphasis added).
Prime minister Tony Abbott described the raids as "a show of strength," not overkill.  The Aussies "thwarted a plot" that might occur. For some reason, I thought the Aussies might not fall for that politically efficacious ploy. Silly me.

Samier Dandan said police need to reveal
their evidence that led to counter-terrorism
raids. (ABC-TV)

The Muslim community said that the police should reveal the evidence that it used as the basis for its raids.

Silly Muslims.

800 officers; untold man-hours of work; 'thwarting' the terrorist that is part and parcel of every mind; and two suspects who might -- just might -- be guilty of something, if only thinking. The bang for the judicial buck seems dubious at best. The bang for the political buck is more compelling, however corrupt.

Perhaps as a means of proving that governmental action were crucial,
Security is being upgraded at the Australian parliament following "chatter" suggesting extremists could target it for attack.
PM Tony Abbot said Australian Federal Police would assume responsibility for security at the site in Canberra.
The move came a day after major anti-terrorism raids took place in Sydney.
"Chatter" suggests "extremists" "could" be plotting ... so beef up security and trim the rights package.

And isn't it nice to hear that France has joined the United States in its air strikes against IS in Iraq? It's dicey, of course, pretending that "boots on the ground" aren't in the offing, but the U.S. is manfully employed trying to thread that needle.

-- The p.r. has been pretty unrelenting and today, the Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba finally goes on sale at the New York Stock Exchange. I read the other day that Chinese investors looking to protect/enhance their money were not buying Chinese real estate. They preferred Manhattan, which is largely for sale.

It's a good rule of thumb, I think: Any time there is a sense of wealth and entitlement (stock market, economy, next-door neighbor), it pays to look around and see who's getting screwed and whether it's worth it to be party to that screwing.

Kyogen Carlson: A Brief Remembering of a Zen Master

I was shocked to learn that Kyogen Carlson suffered a massive heart attack and died today. Kyogen was, I wrote “is” at first, and had to correct myself, one of the senior Zen teachers in North America, respected and loved across the continent. And my friend. My history of Zen in the West, “Zen Master [Read More...]

literal and metaphorical beheadings

Clearly, you don't need a diploma to be an ignoramus, but that that doesn't make the achievement any less disheartening.

On the wider stage, Republicans, Democrats and whoever else can hoist a flag is clambering for a renewed military presence in the Middle East ... even after 10 and more years of failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Terrorism" is easy -- peace and jobs is hard. Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, Rick Perry ... roll out the red carpet for the neo-cons, whatever their diploma.

Of course there is an enemy du jour. Once it was "al Qaeda." Now it is the "Islamic State." Obama wants to eradicate this idiot-creep organization which, in essence, doesn't sound all that different from a number of righteous American organizations and individuals willing to see other parents' children interred. Literal beheadings are usually preceded by metaphorical ones ...

It's not always easy to trust the news media and their reporting (thank you Fox News, among others) but the Orlando News Examiner reported Thursday that ISIS has banned the teaching of math, social studies, sports and evolution.

Must these organizations, wherever they are, insist on equating "God" with the stupidity and knock-on cruelty of the human species?

Bad words

Did you ever feel like you will scream if you see that word one more time?  Vibrant, vibrant, 
Jesus, what adjectives did we use before that came along?  Everything vibrates now with life, everything is vivid, vital, everything pops. Vibrantly.  As if until now everything was dead, it was a zombie world until the word came to life and the word was -
People actually strive to be vibrant.  Why?  In my opinion, and I'm not alone in this, vibrant people are tiring to have around.  The more they accomplish, the more one hates them.

Please people.  Settle down.  Toss this striving for vibrancy.  Let's be ordinary and sit still.

While you're at it, toss awesome, too.  All that reverence wasted on praising the latest new this and new that.  What are you going to say when you visit Chartres if you've used up your awesome allotment for life?

But wait, there's worse.   As the Awesome Meter shows, we now have in common parlance the really tiresome word, meh, which means something a bit worse than "it bores me."  There's a condescension in it, as if to say This [thing, idea, entertainment option] does not move me at all.  It is dead to me, what is wrong with you, why did you drag it in here?  It implies that something is - not vibrant.

Well, this is what happens when you wander too long on the internet.  So I think I'll just go read a book.  You know, one of those things with a whole lot of pieces of paper . . .


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