Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Some of My 'Shark Tank' Ideas!!!

• Dog lipstick!  - dog nose bleaching!
• Cat nail polish!
• Feather curling /  waves & bobs / perms!
• Pig tanning booth, home spray-tan service! Treats vitiligo!   - Also pig electrolysis, expandable to other household pets! 
• Fishtank dye! (colored water)!
• Tail ribbons for ALL domestic, wild and feral animals!  - also nose-rings!


• Hyena meat - steaks, burgers, dogs, cutlets, briquette, loaf, shish kabob, bouillabaisse, tartar, bacon, jerky, etc.!  Exotic!  Trending (potentially)!  Perfect for the Foodie!
• Food truck, cart, stand, online, mail order, retail, franchise, promotional give-away, licensable!


• "Pedi-Kyur"!  Foot sanitizer (guaranteed to not sanitize hands)!
•  "Knobs 'n' Homs"!  Knee & elbow sanitizer (front & back!) (likewise, guaranteed NO hand sanitizing!)!


Amazing board game!  "The Filasufer King!"  Based on Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics"!  Provided: attractive corrugated cardboard playing surface; nine dodecahedral dice; ruler and colored pencil.   The only rule is, there are no rules?  Not here!  Over ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY fantastic rules ... plus that ruler, for a ruler!  Makes a great drinking game!  Ages 18 and over!


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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Go cry, emo kitty

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Unity, Freedom, Work


Anodiwa stood still, staring silently, almost rudely.  She started to tremble.  Her mouth opened as in grief, her eyes wide, and she broke into sobs.  She stumbled toward the doctor, grabbed her in a desperate embrace.  Dr. Washington held the joyful mother, silently.

Since his birth the little boy was a humiliation for his mother.  Even at age six he rarely spoke, and when he cried he always covered his nose and mouth to stifle the sound, its difference.  Anodiwa was ashamed of her shame, but mother-love is a duty as much as a feeling -- something that the doctor relied on.  Anodiwa had confided, "My boy, he something God forgot to fix in my belly."  She said, "Sometime I wish the ground swallow my little boy up."  And she burst into tears.  

Of all the surgeries Dr. Washington performed, these sorts, cleft palate and the like, were the most satisfying.  She sometimes said that saving a face was like saving a life.  

The surgery had no complications.  The little boy's lip had been reshaped, and now he looked like an unremarkable child with a sticking plaster on his face.  The doctor had preserved enough of her funds to stay in the region long enough to monitor the healing of all her patients.  Parents always had to be trained, warned about clean bandages, and infection, and opening scars.  That was a bigger job than the surgeries.  Do no harm.  

Until almost living memory, doctors had killed more of their patients than the diseases did.  George Washington was killed by his doctors -- they bled him to death.  The doctor kept this fact in the forefront of her mind, not because they shared the name, but as a reminder about how the world is: people think they're right, when they're not.

Later that evening, alone in her makeshift office, gazing out the window past her mobile surgery parked outside, the doctor saw Anodiwa walking alone at the other side of the village center, carrying water to her young family.  Faintly, a crooning song about answered prayers hung on the cooling twilight air.  



Idai had turned off the paved road from Nkayi hours ago, into the rough hill country, slow going on the dirt track.  A bus came shambling toward them, passed, children waving like bon voyage passengers from an ocean liner.  Flat-topped trees, dry gold grass, roan antelope placid in the distance.  The road bucked and swayed beneath the large van, unrestful across the hypnotic landscape.

They finally came to the crossroads.  A truck blocked the way, five men standing, holding or leaning on bolt-action rifles, waiting.

Idai rolled to a stop.  The officer approached, casual, arrogant.  He wore mismatched military insignia.  “Lieutenant Captain,” Itai said quietly to the doctor.  "Not so good for us.  And Budya.  They should be Tauara.  Not so good.” 

“Get out,” the officer said.  His face was burnished copper, dull with the grime of dust and ash, streaked with dried sweat.  A necklace hung outside his shirt, the teeth and claws of some big cat.  Not deigning to use English, he spoke rapidly in a dialect the doctor could not follow. 

Itai replied, round vowels and rolled consonants.   The officer looked angry, lines dug hard into his face.  Itai gestured broadly, swept his hands eastward, encompassing all of Zimbabwe, into Mozambique, perhaps to the ocean.  He smiled, his tone deep and melodic.  He was being convincing.  

The lieutenant captain stared at the doctor as Idai spoke.  He growled a few words, turned abruptly and went to his men.  They argued among themselves.  "He did not care to see our permits," Itai whispered.  "He knows who you are.  I told him we have only a little money."  Itai wiped a palm across his brow.  "They always must have something.  They must have everything."

The officer returned, snapped what had to be commands.  Itai hurried to the cab, pulled out a bag from behind the driver's seat.  Handed it over.  Papers, notebooks, and several hundred British pounds.  The officer took the money, went back to his truck and laid it out on the bonnet.  One of the men started dividing it.  The officer returned, pointed at the watch on the doctor's wrist.  She pulled it off and handed it over.  

A few more sharp orders, dismissive, and Itai and the doctor got into their vehicle.  Far down the road, Itai let out a bark of a laugh.  "You know why he let us go?  You heard him say it, 'Doctor Martha'.  Fifteen years ago you did an operation on one of his cousins.  He said he will give her your watch."



The large wall clock clacked off another minute.  The customs agent glanced up, down again at the transit papers, grunted disapproval.  He looked up and stared unsmilingly at the doctor.  He looked at the papers again, unblinking, not reading -- thinking rather, planning.  He smiled tightly.

"Wait," he commanded, and disappeared behind a door on the far wall.  She waited, knowing the game.  Unusually long, this time -- more than ten minutes.  A siren whined through the open window.  The window blinds clattered in the morning breeze.  The door opened abruptly and the agent gestured.  "Come."

In the office, the agent's superior sat at his broad desk, pretending to be engrossed studying her permits.  She had been in this office before, six, no seven years ago.  The same neglect, peeled paint, coffee stains -- the same dust and indifference.

The official was surprisingly old -- perhaps her own age.  He raised his eyes, sighed, remained seated, shook his head solemnly.  "So Dr. Washington.  You come again to our beautiful country.  I am Under-Sub Minister Siziba.  I think I have not had the pleasure of a previous meeting."  He did not wait for a reply.  "But I should think you would know by now the importance of Zimbabwe law.  We are a very lawful people.  Civilization cannot work without rules.  It is very serious to smuggle technology and drugs into our country, as surely you must know.  There are many fees and costs."

They had not met before.  She supposed he was reciting his usual speech, varied only slightly for her particulars.  So many men like this, over the years -- decades, really.  Uniforms with incomprehensible decorations, or shiny suits more expensive than an official income could account for.  Corruption and money.  Disease and medicine.  

Siziba tapped the stack of papers on his desk.  "Not in order.  No proper stamp.  You did not pay the proper fees.  I cannot allow your -- what are you calling it? -- your 'mobile surgery' to enter.  So sorry, but no entry.  It is not possible.” 

She looked into his bored, shrewd eyes.  Games have rules -- agreed upon, but open to interpretation.  She smiled, nodded, and sat down uninvited.  They interpreted.  

Money, money, money.



[applause]  Good evening.  I'm Martha, as some of you know.  Let me tell a story, of sorts.  Many years ago, when I was young, I was, yes, believe it, a Flower Child.  That dates me.  I called myself … 'Titania'. [laughter]  We believed in flower power.  [singing:] "Love, love, love."  "All you need is love..."  We'd save the world by painting our faces and dressing like carnival people.  

We were a fad, like love beads. [laughter]  The world did not cooperate, red in tooth and claw as it is.  You've seen the picture of the girl putting a flower in the rifle barrel?  I knew her.  She died of a drug overdose.  We were just children with flowers -- babes in the woods.  And victims not just of our own foolishness.  There were wolves among the sheep.  As there still are criminals, and predators.  Lions after goats.  

When commercials started singing songs about solving global problems with a soft drink, well how perfectly human.  A flower, a smile, a cola, and everyone is young and beautiful. [laughter]

Go ahead and smile, at who we were.  If you do, we were right, a little -- honest laughter makes the world better.  But we weren't right.  Smiles don't save the world -- they brighten a mood.  Sometimes that has to be enough.  But it's better to do more, if you can.  

I grew up a little, finished college, lost my Afro and went into the Peace Corps, to Botswana, a landlocked African country.  In those days, the average income was 20 cents a day.  They didn't need flower power, they needed clean drinking water.  Water power.  I came home and became a surgeon.  Once a year I'd take a few weeks off and do surgeries in Central African villages -- of course I'd need to follow up the next year or two.  When I retired, I took it up full time.  

Let me show you.  I carry this notebook, my little black book of photos.  I have many older ones, and this one's just about full up too.  I started with polaroids, and now it's digital, but I like the physical connection of paper.  I'm like a grandma, with pictures of my hundreds and hundreds of grandkids, and I don't mind making a nuisance of myself.   

You can see on the screen behind me, this little boy, with a cyst the size of a fist on his lip.  Yes, it is hard to look at it, isn't it.  I removed the cyst.  Here he is now.  How very, very, very beautiful he is -- utterly transformed, by a procedure of mere minutes.  Saving a face is like saving a life.  His name is Boitumelo.  It means 'Joy'.  Pardon me.  His smile blinds me.  Tears for joy.

Let me make a nuisance of myself.  There is an unspeakable need in Zimbabwe.  Twenty thousand will cover the peculiar costs of this trip.  I don't expect it, but the very last thing that came out of Pandora's box was hope, otherwise full of pain.  American dollars, of course.  Twenty thousand Zimbabwe dollars are about fifty US.  It's among the very most corrupt countries.  

There's a breakdown of projected expenses on my website.  I doubt you'll ever find a budget that's so fascinating.  Twenty thousand is a lot of money.  It's like, twenty thousand soda pops. [laughter]  You and I, we can smile.  Not everyone can.  This is what money is for.

I don't want just my little shelf -- I want a bookcase, no, a library of these books, full of these beautiful people, my flower children.  I want a garden of children of all ages, that stretches farther than human vision can reach. [pause]

We weren't wrong.  We just didn't understand, that money is needed too.  Money power.  It really does help.  Because there's "No one you can save that can't be saved." [long pause]

 [singing:] "Love, love, love.  Love, love, love.  Love, love, love."  

Thank you. [applause]


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

First Draft

I say there are only two religions.  But there is only one, of works. "True religion is visiting the sick etc".  What then is false, or at least not-true, religion?  Selfishness?  Rituals?  Self-advancement, including meditation unto enlightenment?  These are certainly not "visiting the sick".  The other religion  is not of works, but grace, and isn't a religion.  It has nothing to do with psychology, psuche, soul, enlightenment, nirvana.

I say there are two religions, but there's really only one: the advancement of the soul (psuche, nephesh, animus, prana, chi -- not  exact cognates, but all referring to that perfectible essence that concerns mystics, ascetics, monks, religionists).  By this meaning, there are true and false religions, in that some methods advance and some  inhibit soulish growth: religion as an edification to the world, or as a means of power and selfishness.  Inward or outward, selfish or selfless.  It's still all pretty much the same -- all about gaining advantage in the world.  Moslem and Hindu and Buddhist -- well, fill in the list.  Shinto. Christian. Orthodox/Roman Catholic/Protestant.  Calvinism.  Methodism.   Just ways of acting or thinking that affect the soul.  Methods and beliefs that are personal to the individual, and which  differ only in efficaciousness.

Then there's the religion that is not a religion, because it is not about the advancement of the soul.  It's the only one that is not about works and goals, and self. It has nothing to do with the world.  It is entirely about a relationship with God, the only means of transcending, extending out of the universe.  That relationship is spiritual, not soulish.  Soulish enlightenment may come with the relationship, but it may not. 

Enlightenment -- a process, a goal, a relationship with the world -- is not the point; rather, reviving a dead spirit -- salvation, as Jesus taught it.  Saved not from a benighted soul, false ideas, an excess of desire,  bad breathing habits.  Saved from a cut-off, a dead spirit.  Separated not from the timeless sea of nonbeing, the eternal cloud of unknowing, but from the transcendent source of life, rather than the natural physics of life. 

So, there are only two religions, of soul, and of spirit.  Soul is about works and experience in the universe -- a process, and all religions are true.  Spirit is not about anything -- it's a relationship that reaches God, by grace.  No one saves themselves by believing and keeping the laws of Moses, the Pillars of Islam, the Paths of Buddhism, the credos of Christendom.  There is no way to save yourself.  Again, two religions, of saving yourself, or of not being able to save yourself. 


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Metamorphosis, Part Two

Copyright © 1919 Franz Kafka
Translation copyright © 2020 Jack H

Gregor Samsa had drunk poison the night before.  For eight days the bottle went untouched under his pillow, and every night Gregor could feel it through the linen and the feathers, hard as a stone on his cheek or the back of his head.  When making up the bed his mother had not found it, or did not move it.  He died in the morning after hours of dull fever-dreams.  Having died he awoke in his bed to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect.  Being alive, he supposed the poisoning to be a vivid part of the night’s delirium.  Time, he thought, answers no master in dreams.  He put the matter from his mind and considered the day before him, how his employer would upbraid him for being late.  Because of his change even the most habitual act was difficult, and in fact he would never again return to work or even set foot outside the front door -- although in truth none of his many legs had feet.

His first attempts to communicate with his family were met with loathing and violence.  Gregor understood their reaction, unaccustomed as they were to insects the size of -- a large hog?  Not as weighty though.  He supposed he was mostly hollow, or full of foam.  His father hurled a number of apples at him, one of which lodged painfully in his carapace where for several months it rotted, bringing an infection which resulted in yet another death, this time without distress, quietly in the night. 

When Gregor woke again he had transfigured into a violin.  He lay on his soundboard, tilted to the left off his bridge, uncomfortable but utterly without the power of motion.  He was on a tumbled heap of rubbish among shabby ash cans.  This is a fine state of affairs, he thought.  Being a monstrous beetle was inconvenient enough, if I even was a beetle.  I never thought to count my legs -- perhaps I was a spider or a scorpion, an exotic arachnid of some sort, certainly an arthropod.  But now, a, a, -- he cast his senses about to verify his intuition -- yes, a violin, and not even in bed.  I am sure I was just on the floor of my room.  This is a fine way to treat a violin, face down in garbage in a back alley.  Doesn’t moisture damage violins?  It could rain at any moment.  Who would be so careless?  I did not bring myself here.  My health used to be so fine -- in five years I was never sick a single day and now I don’t even know myself.  In another five years I might have paid off my parents’ debt and been completely free.  I would have met a woman and married her and had two children, a boy and a girl.

He could not move or make any sound by his own effort, but his senses were not extinguished by the transformation.  His sight -- it could not be called eyesight -- projected from the frontis of his volutes, and while he was unable to change his view, he found he could focus on any object within his field of vision with as much facility as if he had eyes to move.  He would later think of it as sliding a game piece across a playing board.  He heard as a vibration within his body, as if the f-holes were ears.  His entire surface had a sense of touch, most sensitively along the length of his strings.  Smell was dim and diffused, like the feel of air on skin when he had lungs to breathe.  After he searched himself for a sense of taste, he settled on the impression of a tongue in an empty mouth.

Several times during the morning he heard people passing along the alley, always the sound of feet, sometimes conversation, mostly men, but no one noticed him.  I am the color of dirt and rags, Gregor thought.  Soon more litter will cover me, or I will be crushed beneath the boot of the ashman.  Being face down he could see only the ground, stones and gravel, dirt, dung, the lower part of barrels and at the edge of his vision the brick wall of a building.  A column of ants moved endlessly from beneath a crumple of butchers paper toward the wall, into some minute crack no doubt, to a nest within the building’s foundation, feeding their queen and protecting her infinite eggs.

Late in the day he heard feet approach and then a cry of delight.  A hand snatched him up by his long neck and held him before the face of the charwoman who worked for his father and mother.  “Well my word,” she said, “look at this.  Isn’t this a fine violin.  Here I brought you to see a giant disgusting flat dead bug as a treat, and right there we find a valuable treasure like this.  It is a strange world.”  A young boy reached out quickly and took Gregor from the woman’s hand.  “Look at me!” he exclaimed, “I’m playing the violin!” and he plucked at Gregor’s strings as if pulling weeds.  The strings were untuned and held no pure notes.  “Not any music I would dance to,” said the charwoman merrily, shaking her skirts, “and I don’t think you’ll be working in a cafe playing for the toffs.  We’ll take it to the junkman and sell it.”  The boy now began to flail Gregor around like an axe.  “I’ll smash it!” he shouted.  “I’m a red indian!”  He whooped and hopped in a circle on one leg.  “Now you stop that,” the woman snapped -- Gregor thought she was the boy’s mother, although she might have been his grandmother.  “Knock over those ash cans if you must break something.  This here violin is money to us.”  So saying, she snatched Gregor away from the boy and dropped him into a large pocket sewn into her skirt.

From the dark Gregor heard the boy complaining: “We were going to see a giant bug, so where is it?  Was it there and somebody stole it?”  His tone grew sulky: “I bet stinky gypsies stole it.”  The charwoman scoffed: “Nobody wants that filthy thing.  I tried to squash it with a chair, but it was a cowardly thing.  I would have poisoned it but I couldn’t find the bottle.  It finally died and I dragged it here.  Disgusting. ”  They walked for some time, out of the alley and onto the high street, the charwoman’s large feet sounding purposeful on the paving stones.  She had dropped Gregor into the pocket upside-down, and with every step he was jostled about until his scrolls were wedged blindingly into a linty corner and his chinrest slapped against the woman’s slack belly like an impatient palm.  Even though he knew he did not breathe, he felt suffocated.  Yes, he had a sense of smell -- the sour of unwashed linen, of turning milk, and something of uncooked sausage left in the sun.  I had an appetite when I was an insect, he thought, but not for what they left me.  So I shrank, I flattened, dry and flat.  I am flat now.  An insect should always be hungry for anything.  I wish I could tell someone it is otherwise.  No one knows this except me.  I would be a scientific expert -- that would make my employer take notice.  Gregor Samsa, renowned for his discoveries about insect appetite, world’s greatest entomologist.  I didn’t know I knew that word.  Perhaps if I could eat I would grow into a viola, then a cello and then into a contrabass.  Let her put me in her oversized pouch then!  But that’s like supposing a dachshund could grow into a great dane.  Things do not change their natures.

At last they stopped and Gregor heard a door open and the ring of a shop bell.  “Now you wait outside, it’s not cold,” the charwoman said, entering and closing the door behind her.  “Hello junkman,” she called out, pulling Gregor from the pocket.  “Have I brought something special for you today.”  They were in a cluttered shop, nearly overflowing with oddments, stacked chairs, piles of gazettes, tilting bookcases crowded with candlesticks and dusty figurines, hinged boxes and mismatched china plates -- rack upon rack of men's hats, top coats and jackets, innumerable boots and shoes piled beneath, most kept in pairs by tied strings.

From a corner a wizened man in a skull cap the color of wet ashes blinked over pince-nez glasses at the charwoman.  He blew out air from his long thin nose in a show of disapproval: “So it’s you with your usual rubbish I pray to God not, more bits of thrown-out furniture all creaking and scratched.  I cannot sell it for firewood.”  Drawing near, he said, “Here, this, give it to me.”  He took hold of Gregor and thrust him into the light that leaked through the shop’s grimed window panes.  The little man plucked at Gregor’s strings, and with swift fingers twisted the pegs.  In a moment Gregor was in tune, which gave him a strange exhilaration, almost the first joy he could remember having.  “Where is the bow?” snapped the shopkeeper, holding out an impatient hand.  “A violin is not an American banjo in a minstrel show, to smack at like a drum.  It is the instrument of genius, and you pull it from your apron like a loaf of bread.”  The charwoman shook her head angrily.  “Now you just remember what’s what.  None of your high hat, just tell me what you’ll pay, bow or no.”  With a humph the old man turned and bent behind the long shop counter.  He straightened holding a violin bow, and positioning Gregor between his chin and shoulder he ran his deft touch along the fingerboard, bowing with practiced ease the tune of a popular waltz, merry with spiccato.

“Not bad,” he nodded.  “Not good but not bad.  I do not recognize the maker, which surprises me, but it has the timbre of a better-made student violin.  Six kronen, it should be five without the bow but I am a fool.”  A gleam shone in the charwoman’s eye, but she said, “The one on Linden Street offered me ten not 30 minutes ago.”  The shopkeeper closed his eyes knowingly.  “The one on Linden Street went out of business 15 minutes ago and was so blessed to die in his bed.  I’ll give you seven, and that is all or do not waste my time.”  The bargain was made and the charwoman departed.  Through the shop window Gregor watched the woman and the child walk off, almost instantly out of sight -- he felt as if he were sailing out of a port city beneath a smoking volcano.  Goodbye forever, and thankful for it.

The shopkeeper went again behind the counter, stooped and placed a violin case on the surface next to Gregor.  He took a cloth from the case and began to rub Gregor thoroughly.  “Very nice -- not great but nice enough,” he said.  “The tone is a bit thready, but this is the strings -- old and never of good quality.  And the body is sound enough -- a dent in the back plate, but small.  Always only what is important matters.”  He continued to polish Gregor, moving the clean soft rag in tight light circles.  After a time he went through the door into the rear of his shop, returning with a second violin case, empty.  The old man placed Gregor into the case and latched the lid shut.  When blackness enveloped him Gregor felt no unease -- calm rather, like a child again in his own bed, asleep or partly so and the dark night no different than the dark of sleep, lying flat, unmoving, armless, legless, no need at all to move.  He thought back to when he could walk on his many skittering footless legs -- how was that even possible?  He supposed the legs could have ended with toes, or five toes connected end to end like knuckles.  Horses he recalled had legs with only a single toe, running on the nail, a hoof -- but which one, he wondered, the big toe, or thumb, or maybe the middle finger?  When I was an insect did I walk on my pinkies?  Did the top limbs have thumbs and the bottom toes?  And all the nails on a single finger, as claws.  I did not look to see, but they were unpleasant, those ugly waving thready legs, like algae growing up from the bottom of a pond.  Now it is fingers alone that give purpose to my being.

He must have slept, for when the case was next opened Gregor saw that the high street through the window was bright with morning sunlight.  “New strings,” the little man said, “and we will see what bargain we truly made.”  The old strings were quickly replaced, the new were tuned, fine tuned, and Gregor was raised to the old man’s chin.  A rich and mellow tone issued from Gregor’s body, the melody an uninspired popular ditty, but played with a sprightly humor that could justify a rehearing.  “Yes, this will do nicely,” the old man said after a time.  He placed Gregor back into the case and snapped shut the lid.  How many days then passed Gregor could not say.  It did not matter.  He would be taken out and tuned and played, ten minutes or twenty, then put away, and so on, many times.

Time had no meaning because Gregor had no needs.  To make music, to rest in darkness -- it was enough.  Now I am a musical instrument, he thought.  Before I was an insect.  Before that I was a man, and a boy, and a babe that lived in the womb.  I do not know what, before that.  I do not know why any of these things, or how.  I never wondered why I was a beetle and not a bee or an ant, a single ant marching in a long line stretching from deep in a mound all the way to some store of food, spilled and sweet or dead flesh drying into earth.  I was an industrious man, but beetles do nothing meaningful, only scuttling and eating.  The scarab was a beetle, a sacred dung beetle, pushing balls of manure around like Sisyphus.  The Egyptians supposed something like this made the sun move across the sky.  Phaethon.  Prometheus.  Tantalus.  I should have read more.  I sold cloth, without which people would be uncovered.  Cloth is what civilization is made out of, like a fence makes a paddock -- cloth, not stone or dried mud, or wood or paper.  Now I am wood -- will I be rock or dust?  There is so little difference.  If I were a book, would I know my story?  I can make music when someone plays me.  Could I have made music as a beetle?  Like a cricket, my own music, but my legs could not touch.  I rustled as I scrabbled across the floor.  My sister said the sound made her skin crawl.  I did not have skin -- just a shell, not even wings.  Do all beetles have wings?  I was just a bug, undefined the way a child would draw.

One morning Gregor was taken from his case by the shopkeeper and handed to a bearded man standing with a young woman.  They were not in the junk shop -- the parlor rather of a private residence.  The bearded man took Gregor by the neck and inspected him closely with an air of judgement and assumed expertise, making small assessing noises with throat and nose.  He paused a moment at the dent in Gregor’s back -- scratched a critical nail at Gregor’s chinrest, but nodded a grudging dismissal of some complaint.  After further searching, the bearded man handed Gregor to the young woman, saying, “Give it a play, my dear, and see if it has as fine a tone as we have been told.”  The young woman took and rosined the bow, placed Gregor to her chin and played the strong deep opening strains of the third movement of Brahms’s violin concerto.  “Oh yes, quite lovely.  Thank you darling, it is a lovely gift.  My old violin was a child’s instrument and I am to be a married woman,” she said with a demure smile.  The bearded man removed a folding wallet from his coat and counted out a number of notes.  The shopkeeper bowed and said, “So nice, thank you good sir.  Your lovely fiancée plays so nicely.  A fine student.  I loathe to give up such an instrument but it is in the business of the world.  We part from what we hold dear.”  The bearded man gave a curt nod.  “You hold the money dear enough,” he said stiffly.  “That will be all, Herr Shopkeeper.  Good day.”  The old man donned his overcoat and bowed himself to the door.  He placed his hat upon his head and departed unnoticed as the young woman placed Gregor back into the case and latched down the lid.  The bearded man said a few words but they were indiscernible.

Gregor felt himself being moved and set down, and heard the closing of a door, perhaps a cupboard or closet.  In the silence Gregor could not recall the sound of the music he had just made.  Time passed in stillness.  He did not think of music -- he knew it as a dream one wakes from and cannot remember, as people do not think of breathing.  I do not breathe, Gregor thought, and I am a person.  What do I think about.  Do I dream?  Do I sleep?  He let his mind grow still, as listening, as waiting without expectation.  Am I asleep now?  How can I know?  Is time passing?  Do I want it to?  Does it matter?  I was not curious as an insect.  As a man I despaired.  Now I am an instrument, a thing deliberately constructed.  If I do not make music do I have a purpose?  Fingers, hands, handle me, manipulate, men and women, two of each, and a boy -- this far have I lived as I am now, simple and shaped, balanced, sanded, varnished, somehow alive, alone and resonant.  Her hand, her fingers, the bow strokes on my strings, the breath from her nostrils blowing across my lower bout, beardless jaw and slight shoulder pinching the dimension of my ribs.  She was my sister.  That is who she is.  Gregor felt no surprise that he only now thought to recognize her.  She is my sister.

From inside his case Gregor heard the music of a small wedding orchestra.  He thought he must have been asleep.  His case opened and he was lifted out, and a man in formal dress quickly plucked each string, making slight turns of Gregor’s fine tuners.  Then the man stepped onto the small stage at the side of the reception hall and joined the other musicians.  In the open case by his chair was another violin, the E string broken.  Gregor was played for another half hour or so as part of the ensemble, then the musicians stepped away to refresh themselves.  The violinist lingered a moment, staring distractedly after one of the musicians, then placed Gregor on the seat of his chair and followed after.  Gregor could see the wedding party, the bride who was his sister, the bearded man she had just married, and there too were his father and mother.  His father moved with a lightness of foot Gregor had never before seen in him.  He looks so young, Gregor thought, like me as I was, taller now and larger, very large in fact, like a wrestler -- and even my mother looks younger, and both are smiling and calm, happy in the blessings of the day.

His father went and embraced the bride, kissing each cheek and smiling into her eyes.  They strode as a couple toward the small stage where Gregor was.  “In a moment I will make a speech,” Gregor’s father said.  “I will welcome my new son into our family, as a blessing to me and your mother in our old age.  Now I know we will have grandchildren.  You do not know yet that worry, what a worry that has been to me, the thought that my name and line would wither and waste away like something starved of vitality.  We cannot live alone and be human.  So many generations behind me, and any continuation into the future depends entirely on you, my dearest child.”  Gregor’s sister nodded and smiled, and said, “It is so strange, like a jump into a river.  I will have a boy and a girl.”  His father chuckled agreement, and asked, “What will you name the boy?” The bride smiled knowingly and said, “Just you wait and see.”  He chuckled again and sat down heavily into the chair where Gregor lay.  Gregor’s neck, his fingerboard, his front and back plate, his ribs smashed and snapped and flattened like cracking teeth and shattering glass.  Gregor’s entire body was possessed by brilliant pain more shocking than ice, his mind like a hiding child able only to observe the savage ravening of wolves, slashing ripping claws and fangs and a bloodless splatter dry like hunger at the moment of death.  The pain ended however as quickly as it came, and Gregor thought, yes, he has broken me, my neck and every part.  There’s another sense I had not thought about, pain with its sheer and its brevity.  If I were human flesh and bone I would be paralysed.  Now only my strings hold my head to my body.  I will never be played again.

Gregor’s father had risen, now standing with the bride staring at the wreckage.  “Oh father,” she said, “you great oaf.  I was going to perform.  My husband paid twenty-four kronen for that violin.  It had a fine sound.  It was cheap because we do not know the maker.”  The father replied, “No matter, do not worry.  I am so sorry but honestly it is not hard to replace.  We will celebrate with a truly noble violin that I myself shall buy for you.”  At which the bridegroom approached, smiling thinly.  “Well father, you did not approve of my little gift I see, or should I say I heard, as did we all, with that loud crunching.  But as you say, it is an accident easily fixed.”  With that he gathered up the pieces, brought them to the fireplace and dropped Gregor into the flames.  Gregor felt again yet another kind of pain, but only a moment and he was beyond agony and he could once more think and his mind was still with a subsumming calm.  Touch is more than one sense, he thought.  Flames do not caress.  And as the fire snapped and sizzled through his blistering varnish, his shards and splinters, he thought his final thought.

The bridegroom had turned away from the fire as soon as he dropped the pieces in.  The flames blazed briefly, then fell down to glowing embers.  It was early summer but the day was brisk -- the fire had been built more for cheer than warmth.  The wedding party ended and the hall emptied, guests to their homes, the newlyweds to their marriage bed.  Toward evening a charwoman entered and tidied up, resetting chairs, bundling linen, sweeping the buffed bare floor.  She brushed the fireplace ashes into a pan and spilled them into a small tin pail.  Later she carried the trash down the stairs to the back alley, where she dumped the ashes into an ash can.


When Gregor Samsa wakes again he finds no sense of duration or dimension or warm or dim or of himself in a breathless space, distant silence, deep.  Time passes because there must be time, and change is like the rolling of a world, and then always the sound of pervading rain, of far-off waterfalls, of lake waves filtered through a hedge of willow, slow wind in long rye.  He feels sight now as an effortless red blackness, less than lunar light through closed eyelids.  He does not remember music, or hunger, or movement.  If he has flesh, it is weightless as a sleeper aware of a body.  He floats nameless in a void like a star before God makes light, suffused by a tuneless hum, meaningless as time, sufficient as death, infinite as dreams, as hope.


Monday, September 23, 2019


It has been TWO YEARS since I posted here.  I forgot my password, changed phones, blew up a computer, switched providers.   Could it be ... I'm stupid?  Imfathomable. 

My father died.  All my rage went with him.  I wish I had been able to show love.  Very painful.  My mother is old, and I am impatient with her.  Yes, I am stupid. 


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Atlas Shrugged

Last week or so I blasted through ”The Fountainhead”. Ayn Rand. Is that her real name? Uh, Wikipedia… hm, something about Rosenbaum being like Rand in Cyrillic. Whatever. This week I went through “Atlas Shrugged.” I say went through, because audiobooks can be played at double speed. Where have you been all my life, audiobooks at double speed? I’ve looked online for triple, but can’t find an app. VLC can play at 4x, but there’s too much distortion. Light fiction is good at up to 3.5x – but you do have to pay closer attention. Depends on the reader. Man. Do. They. Ever. Read. Slooooooooooooooooooooow. I looked it up. The publishers want it read at a speed that 90% of the public can understand. I hope they mean, of the reading public. I wish they meant it. I think they are seeking to include the genuinely retarded. That’s very PC and all, but appreciate the irony – Atlas Shrugged read slowly. Prsnlly, I wld jst prfr tht t b spd p, frm th pbllshr. snt thr ny wy t ll t rd t fstr? Wsh thr wr – myb a lttr wrtng cmpgn?

 It’s my expectation that languages that have shorter words must make people think faster. That’s the case with Japanese – shorter names of numbers make calculations faster. I am an Esperantisto, but that’s cuz it takes about a day to learn the language. If it were practical, which it isn’t, an artificial language with short words and precise grammar would be heavenly. Bloqxch gla*ck kreg ug qEarthp schmer a'g luthe #epg. Klingon for I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he shall stand upon the earth. That may not seem so very much shorter, but it includes the exact galactic coordinates and weight in metric tonnes for Earth, and the date of the Crucifixion and of the Second Coming, and the genealogy of Jesus, and the current location of the Ark of the Covenant, and a refutation of the gnostic idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and went to live in Glastonbury. Oh, what a tool is mood and inflection.

 John Galt, Rand’s Doc Savage superman, is just a libertarian Jesus. Of course, Jesus was libertarian. Speak the truth, have integrity, make your destiny by your choices, etc. Rand, an atheist ideologue, is clear about the antagonism between justice and mercy. I expect she had no capacity for apprehending grace. That’s why her work is a utopian fantasy, rather than mere polemic or satire. What, you say dystopian? Potato potato.

 Rand had no capacity for blue-pencil editing, whatsoever. 1200 pages. Should be about 400 max. She never wrote a scene that didn’t include every thought that could be thought. She said the same things over and over and over again, just using different words. She’s a very good writer. But she had no characters, only voicers of positions. Everyone is perfectly articulate. This in itself is inauthentic, but she wasn’t really an artist. An ideologue. I kid you not, she has a chapter toward the end – oh, page eight- or nine-hundred – in which John Galt give a three hour radio speech, of which all three hours are recorded. People, it seems, in her world, do not converse, but exchange declarations.

 I’ve done quite a bit of non-fiction writing. I have several gifts, one of which is organization. When I’m revising formal writing (not these little occasional things), I’ll bring two paragraphs together (hm, now where does this belong) and sometimes they say exactly the same thing, with different words. Since I’m not writing for children, once is enough. Sometimes a single word from a sentence is all that needs salvaging. Or the better of several examples. Point is, not every way of saying every thing.

Pick the best, most clear, lucid, appropriate, illustrative, apt, edifying, articulate, instructive, appropriate, explanatory, apt way, and say it. (Weird how such words love to start with vowels.) Rand has her mouthpiece characters demonstrate their passion by mounting up synonyms, as if too caught up in their brilliance to pick the right word, so they repeat a bunch of approximations. That would be fine, as a trait of one, or two, characters. Any more, and it’s the seams of her craftsmanship being obvious. The effect of such thesaurus writing is to trace out a silhouette, and never delve to the heart of the matter. Like a balloon – all surface, no weight, afraid of a point.  The word is, incisive. I’d be making too much of a style issue, except the dang book is a half million words long. My longest book was only a quarter million. On Evolutionism.

 Very good. Funny. Smart. Right. Right, as a corrective. I suspect she and I have similar styles. I know I’ve been saying her sort of thing for decades. We have arrived at similar conclusions. I was no doubt influence by her, indirectly – she does after all precede me by half a century. But a smart severe abridgment would make Atlas Shrugged a much better work of art. As with Moby Dick. Which is one-third as long. Whuh-huh?

 Have you missed me?


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An email to my father

I have always taken pride in my son. He has always been a blessing to me. On the day he was born, I remember seeing, like the revelation of joy, that the sky had never been so blue. So simple a thing. But I had been given what I’d always known I needed. Someone to love, and to value as much as they are worth. For a number of weeks after he was born, it puzzled my why I loved him so much. Then I figured out that it was because he was mine, and that this love is just instinct, common to every normal person. Then I understood that as he grew, he would show the individual he was, more than just my own offspring, and I would love that person, even more. This is normal, but not really common.

When he was little I took joy in his innocence and sweet temperament. When he was a teenager I respected his independence and self-confidence. I watched him grow into integrity, and there was not one single time when I was ashamed of him, or fretful for his future. I have watched him mature out of his teenage arrogance, and now, as always, when I think of him I smile.

No one else’s negative judgments mattered to me. Ignoramuses are to be ignored. I remember a friend asked me about some behavior I allowed little N to do, and I only then realized that it wasn’t appropriate, and I learned from it. We don’t learn from preaching, but from repentance. I am secure enough in all this to be amused at the memory of anyone who disagreed with how I was raising my son. Time has of course proven me right, but that was a foregone conclusion. This is not arrogance on my part, but contentment.

I listened to his opinions. I had earplugs for when there was shrill childish yammering, and if there was more than a little whining, I shut it down. There was very little, and very mild, punishment, because there was self-control. I never had to spank him. I would have, but it was never necessary, because he was never incorrigible. Mistakes were fine – that’s how people grow.

As a teenager there were only a very few times when he overstepped himself, and even then he did not break the one single rule that I had always had. No disrespect, ever, for any reason. This was fair, because I never gave him cause for disrespect. I made mistakes, but I’m sure that almost always I recognized and apologized for them. ‘When I said such and such, I was impatient. I’m sorry, N.” This is integrity. I never lied to him, or tricked him, or used him to meet some selfish need of my own. That would be disrespect, and what is valuable should be valued.

My reward for my very easy truthfulness was that, to my knowledge, he never lied to me either. Because he was smart, he might several times have attempted to use words to create a misleading assumption. I did not press him, because another of my traits as a father was to allow disagreement. N was too valuable to be used as a tool or a puppet or a clone. That he is very like me in many ways is only natural. It was never demanded or forced. It gives me great pride to recognize his independent intellect. It is very like my own. Good.

I know N, and he knows me, because we trust each other, because a lifetime of observation and experience has taught us that it is appropriate. Love is a cheap and easy word. Trust is dangerous and expensive. Love, it is true, never dies. But trust can be destroyed, completely, and never repaired. There comes a point when time is up, and there are no more chances, for all that there may be forgiveness. To me, it is infinitely more meaningful that I trust N, than that I love him. People love dogs – trust doesn’t apply, since dogs are not capable of betrayal. If N were a trashy or disappointing person, I’d love him just as much. Love isn’t earned. Trust is.

Because I am such a strange man, I had to give birth to my best friend. Because I am strange, I see him rarely, and don’t need more. Although it’s nice. I don’t need him, but I’m grateful to have him. Our conversations are virtually never about the past. We like information. I always respected his privacy, and he certainly didn’t need to be burdened with my painful and stupid unresolved details from long ago. If he were interested, he could ask. No need – the past exists to teach, not to control. N knows me because he knows my character. Anything else is just gossip.

What I am deeply gratified for is that from the day of his birth I had the common sense to recognize him, for himself, as a worthwhile person. More meaningful than loving him, I liked him. He was never just an extension of myself. What I believe is that it was my, frankly, admiration of him that made him admirable. He lived up to my expectation. He has my sense of humor. He has my love of truth and honesty, of facts, of integrity, of organization and efficiency, of reality. Like me he has no patience for delusions or manipulation. He is kind in a practical way.

A story that I tell is how, when he was a young teenager, we were having a conversation, and he said of one of his schoolfellows, “There’s nothing … honorable about him.” I said, “Hm, that’s too bad.” Inside I was screaming with pride. He didn’t say this because he was trying to impress me. I did not preach and lecture about honor. He had learned to recognize good character, or its absence.

I joke, but I mean it, when I say that his excellence is my excellence. I can say this because my honesty is his honesty, learned by example, and my patience is his diligence. The blessing that I was to him, blessed him. I did that. On purpose. Not only as a plan, but because there could never be anything more important. An infant comes fresh from God. God says, ‘Here, I’m entrusting you with one of my babies for a time. Take care of him for me.’ I did. When I stand before God on the day of my judgement, it will be as one through fire. But for this one thing at least, the father that I was, I will hear the only thing I want to hear. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Very few people live up to their potential. So much emotional clutter – negativity, regret, self-pity, blame, unforgiveness. It’s ugly, of course, and destructive, and hard to cure, like leprosy. I avoid ugliness as much as I can. Some people believe in curses. I blessed my son, and he is blessed. One of the several things that I am deeply proud of in myself is that N is actually making himself worthy of his gifts. Nobody is free of pain or of shoddy behaviors. But N more than any man I know is working actively to be the man I raised him to be. He is a better man than I am. No father could ever ask for more.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Starting My First Novel

It was a dark and stormy night.


The night was dark, so very dark, and quite stormy. ... It -- by which is meant the night -- was stormy and dark. ... The darkness of the night was so dark, and the storminess made the darkness seem that much darker and more nightlike.

[Yikes. It just gets worse.]

Dark and stormy, the night screamed like a ravished virgin. ... The dark, stormy night ranted madly in a barometric tantrum.


It was an ebonic nocturnal tempest. ... The stygian typhoon of eventide...

[No, no, no.] 

Prosopopeic fuliginous Nyx, enceinte as it were with lachrymal lamia farouche as Hecate, disbosomed upon her terrene demiorb an empyreal borasque.


Dark storm roiled through the night, stirring up ghosts untroubled since pagan times

[Pagans?! At least it isn't pirates.]

Dark the night was, and stormy -- aye.


O Thou, Night of Dark Storm, whither goest? -- whence cometh thine exudations of witching Strife?


It all started on a dark night that was stormy.

[Um ... no.]

I never would, or could, have dreamed, or believed, that anything like it could ever have had happened, to somebody, anybody at all, really, such as myself, but, man, oh, man, believe you me, it really, truly, did happen, and not too very long ago, either, and, not only that, but, also, what’s more, it happened to me, too, one dark, and stormy, night!


"Take me! Take me now, you big man!" moaned Stormie Knight darkly as she threw herself panting and naked onto the hot wet sand.

[Hmm. I'll deal with this later.]

The night swayed into my office on dark clouds like your mother never wanted you to see. A lacy froth of storm just barely held back the thrusting silky light of the soft, full moon. Brother, could I feel the wind rising, and how.

[How ... noir.]

Dark, stormy night rolled madding over the wuthering moor, heedless of the heather blooms.

[Yeah, great -- and here’s Heathcliff wending soulfully through the tuffets.]

Darkness muffled the stormy night, damping dreams as well as earth.

[...and breeding lilacs out of the dead land.]

It was the best of dark and stormy nights, it was the worst of dark and stormy nights.

Once upon a dark and stormy night dreary, while I pondered weak...

To be a dark and stormy night, or not to be a dark...

Let us go then, you and I, when the dark and stormy night is spread out against the sky... 

Call me a dark and stormy night.

Mother died today, or maybe last dark and stormy night -- I can't be sure.

These are the dark and stormy nights that try men’s souls.

In the beginning, it was a dark and stormy night.


It hadn’t rained for months, and the hard bright sunlight streaming all day through the window was harsh enough finally to kill the fat angry fly that clattered around in the dry air like a broken shopping cart. But now the sun had fallen, and night with it. Somewhere out of the Pacific, storm clouds crept through the darkness and laid hold of the sky.

Rain was falling.

It was almost comical, slopping down in a deliberate drench. I could picture the dark fairies hidden just above the backdrop of the clouds, giggling and snorting to each other, gleeful with malice, scooping out great wooden bucketfulls from the waters of the firmament. You just don’t expect government workers to try so hard. A light mist, a drizzle, maybe even a few scattered showers. The minimum, just to meet the quota. Certainly nothing as exuberant as this.

I smiled. Odd, how we smile outloud. Even when a man's so sick of himself he can barely breathe, he still acts out his little pantomimes. No one’s there, no one watching, no audience. Yet he talks to himself, smiles when he's alone. His inner life spills out, overflows, too much to be contained. Witness me, O Creation! I’m so interesting!

No one’s watching. No flies, no peeping toms, no fairies or angels or demons or ghosts. I didn’t see any. Well, maybe ghosts.

And still the rain falls.

I was in my office. I’d just wrapped up the Svenson case, and for the past few days I found myself with nothing to do. I was out of whiskey. I lit another cigarette. It was a dark and stormy night.

A knock sounded at the door. Goodness, who can it be at this late hour? ...


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The T Word

So today there was yet another terror attack in London.  I only caught the end of the news report, but no mystery about filling in the blanks.  Mere details.  Only four dead -- not sure if the mystery person is counted among them.  Yes, it is a mystery.  Who, who, who could it be?  A middle-aged female dental hygienist?  A rogue Eagle Scout from Texas?  Only time will tell.

The official-sounding statement from the government referenced rule of law and tolerance and never succumbing and never being totally wiped out.  All very fine.  But it set a train of thought rolling.

An easy point, but I have a good example.  There is no place  for a mention of tolerance in a situation like this.  Tolerance can only refer to something that is obnoxious.  Nothing neutral can be tolerated.  So where exactly, here, would tolerance fit?  Nowhere.  Regardless of how merely annoying we find something, terrorism is of a different order.  The good example is this:  we do not tolerate the fact that one cloud, this one, has a different shape than another, that one. There may be a preference, somehow -- but how could there be any aversion? We tolerate that someone is kicking the back of our chair, or speaking in a loud rude voice.

We tolerate the fact that abortionists kill human fetuses legally.  Ah, the wacky irony -- destroy a bald eagle egg and you go to the penitentiary.  Truth is funnier than fiction.

So far, as with eagle eggs, we do not tolerate the actual exploits of terrorists.  We do tolerate their presence, in obvious potential.   We tolerate the individuals on our watch lists.

We somehow didn't die from our staple diet of poison.  I wonder if we will recover?


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Reminder:

[And because I seem to be in a mood to reminisce, remember Beslan?  Which earned its place of honor in the Annals of the Heroes of Islamism by virtue of its convenient and easy accessibility?]


Beslan. As a tourist spot it makes a great train station.

But people of a certain description looked upon it as a marvelous land of opportunity. Here's what they did with the school's gym:
That's an explosive charge hanging between the hoops. Hope nothing happens.

Oops. Hope it wasn't on purpose.

Well, maybe she's crying about her job?


How we cling to each other.

And to God.

Does it do any good?



Such passion is normal, and stirs the
blood like wine – think of it as exercise.
And yes that is blood, but after all, death is just
a part of the great circle anyway.
And it’s an interesting anatomy
lesson – look at the ears, look at the spine.
And look at the foolishness in the fingers of his right hand.

Well, no matter: because there is no evil,

never happened.



Sometimes I do go a little mad.

Forgive me for that, will you?


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"I think never killed."

[I wrote this 10 years ago.  Does it hold up?  Is the world very much changed?] 


We saw it almost 20 years ago with Tiananmen Square. A spontaneous groundswell, a great yearning for freedom. Sometimes Asians yearn to be free.

And why not? There is such a thing in the world. We have it. We are an example. A beacon.

It is our heritage.

We are an inspiration.

It was over 18 years ago now, so I can talk about it. Because words have meaning, and actions have consequences. Because sometimes things don't go according to plan. Sometimes life seems more important than liberty.

Hm. Why are these young men hiding from those soldiers?

A student. In the process of being beaten to death.

A grad student.

It has the rough beauty of skewed symmetry.

When the tanks start rolling.

This is a human body.

This is grief. And courage.

Between 200 and 10,000 killed. Sort of a big margin of error, but it wasn't quite yet the internet age. Well, no matter. If there's one thing the world has plenty of, it's chinamen. If they don't value their own people, why should we.

Maybe I'm young, but I'm sorta sick of all the meaningless governmental protests. We are aware of the situation.... We are concerned.... We are monitoring events.... We are busy feeling up pageboys....

So we have the talkers.

Then we have this young man. This man.

We've seen what tank treads can do.

Let's look at him.
What's that in his hand? A clarinet case?

And this, in his right hand --
--his shopping? No, a jacket.

Let's study him. Because it's not so often that we get to see a hero. Maybe we'll learn something.

Ah. That's what heroes do. Know what he's saying? "Go away. My city is in chaos because of you. Stop killing my people."

Some claim his name is or was Wang Weilin, a student, age 19. Some reports have him as shot within weeks of this event. Some have him hiding in China or Taiwan. When asked of his fate by Barbara Walters in 1990, Jiang Zemin, CCP General Secretary -- that's like what Stalin was -- said, "I think never killed."

Anonymity swallows him like death.

Before the tanks really started to roll, the art students built a 30-foot plaster statue. The Goddess of Democracy.
She needs both hands to carry the torch. Liberty doesn't start out strong.

Those poor naive children. It was ground to rubble by the tanks.

If I had the computer and graphic skills, I would put this picture in the banner of Forgotten Prophets. Forlorn Idealists.  But I have only words. Like the rest of the world.

And now Burma. Maybe I'll have something to say about Burma, in 18 years.


[Well, the specifics are dated.  Even the event -- almost 30 years ago now.  Doesn't seem so long.  We're not hearing so much about congressmen wanting to date pageboys.  And what the hell ever happened to Burma? I have nothing to say, after 10 years.  Now, though, we can switch the word for, say, Aleppo.  And we can be sure that some sexy scandal will be revealed, by the bigoted  media, against you-know-who.  Ah well.  Every day provides ample inspiration, for those who would profit by it.  Or we could quibble about trivialities.  Whatever.]


Sunday, January 29, 2017


[I was given cause to recall various recent-history monsters, recently.  A little stroll down memory lane, then, from five years ago.]


Why is it always Hitler? Stalin was worse. So was Mao. But those are just the big names. I thought of Idi Amin, whom you probably don't even remember.

Maybe from SNL sketches.

He did love the medals, that Idi. I think I see a Vlasics Pickles jarlid over on his mid lower chest area. No, lower. Lower. At the bottom. We'll call it chest. Perhaps half a million killed. Hard to keep track. He died in 2003, in Jeddah. He was demented even back when he was in power, but he died utterly insane, from syphilitic degeneration.

There's Che. What, you thought he was heroic?

You shouldn't let your political opinions be formed by teeshirts. This is how I like to remember him:

But Che doesn't really rank up there with the big monsters. Not enough power. Sufficient evil, but not enough time.

The one I latched onto though was Pol Pot, whose face you wouldn't even recognize.

Not a bad looking man. An air of confidence will do that. You didn't know the face, but you'd heard the name. And you loved the movie. The Killing Fields. Pol Pot was the author, or rather the inspiration.

Allow me to introduce you to some of the denizens, if that's the right word ... no, it isn't. But here are some of the people whose bones cluttered those fields.

Look again. Look close. Closer. Make eye-contact. Linger.

I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. They're from the '70s, but the circumstances must have been a tad constrained. All of these children were tortured to death.

What a world.


Friday, January 27, 2017


Even when he's wrong, Charles Krauthammer is worth reading.  As with Trump.  I disengaged for several presidential cycles, not wishing to witness the ongoing sodomistic gangbanging of America.  Now this leftist ritual occurs only in the inner city and on uni campuses and on CNN and MSNBC and the NYT and the Post and, and, you know, those sorts of places.  It's not coming from the Executive Mansion, is my point.  Krauthammer should be doing backflips.  Oh.  Well, in an ideal world he should be.  But that is also the point.  It's not an ideal world, and we must must must be grovel-grateful for those blessing that harm us but do not kill us.

These  sausage-skinned commissars who have hacked their way to legislative preeminence  are to be excused.  They are evil and stupid, and irredeemably given over to their hatreds. It's understandable, and to be overlooked.  They must have been abused as children.  Obama could not help it.  He came from a broken home, abandoned by his father and brainwashed in a madras -- you'd be crazy too.  And after all, pernicious parasites and toxic bacilli do have their place in the scheme of things.  We have to die of something.  Overpopulation is as great a hazard as Climatechange, and never truer words were spoken than these, that humanity is a carbon-generating virus.  So fire fights fire.  Hantavirus to counter Humavirus.  Obviously.

Therefore it's not completely crazy to hate America and humanity, and love welfare queens and drug dealers and abortionists.  There is a non-Aristotelian logic to it, dispensing with observation and evidence and organization, and trusting in the heart and the innate goodness of all people who are minorities or liberals.  (I realize that I'm being self-contradictory, but only a denier would have a problem with that.)

Krauthammer, on the other hand, doesn't have the excuse of being irrational.  So he must have other reasons for being, to my eye, resolvedly against Trump.  He does not couch his criticism in emotional terms.  From what I've read and seen, he objects to Trump's character.  Well, so do I.  Trump's character is a caricature -- equivalent to a stump-fingered cigar-chomping plutocrat in a top hat.  Not that, but equivalent.  He's a vulgarian who actually paid his own money for a gold-plated toilet seat in his jet.  To which I reply, so what.  Not my concern.  I can see better uses for the money, but he earned it.  Is he an adulterer?  I don't know.  The question is moot, thanks to bill clinton.  Does he lie, or hyperbolize, or whatever the word may be?  That's how he is, and it will not change.  The response to that objection is well-known by now: Trump-deniers take him literally but not seriously, realists take him seriously but not literally.

Where is Krauthammer, here?  He makes a point of objecting to Trump's 'America First' trope -- the objection being, primarily I suppose, the historical implications of that term.  Lindbergh and the American isolationists of the Hitler era.  What is that, nearly 80 years ago?  Too soon?  Someone pointed out that a Hillary slogan was 'Stronger Together' -- which was Mussolini's fascist motto.  (Literally: the bundled sticks of the fasces gave fascism its very name -- they are, you see, forti insieme.)  The rePress didn't condescend to endlessly echo that coincidence -- too diligently  emphasizing how deplorable were and remain a  largest minority of the American voting population.

What ever shall the World think of us, with our yellow-comb-overed commantweeter-in-chief, with his long red ties and his flapping lapels?   I imagine, Dr. Krauthammer, that they will think what they always have: America is gauche and callow and careless and wasteful, and to be resented for our history and our wealth and our arrogance -- and to be relied on when there is need.  Trump is implying, sometimes, that such a need may not be answered, next time.  Gratitude and actual tokens of friendship may be required, first or concomitantly.  You know, as if there were negotiations and treaties and mechanisms of enforcement and accountability for deceit.

I don't have a problem with this.  I don't care if Trump brags about the size of his hands (and by implication of his penis).  I don't care if it is a comb-over or just an incredible simulation.  I don't care if Mexico pays for a wall or not.  I do care that just laws be enforced, and that the Constitution be the supreme law of the land, and that those whom we have privileged with elective office jealously guard the letter and meaning of that document.

It is my belief, based not on campaign hyperbole -- best understood as opening negotiation bids -- but upon the spate of lawful exercises of power via executive order, undoing the extremities of the preceding antinomian regime, that Trump has the makings of a truly great president.

Odd.  Odd.  I never would have thought so.  We are only a week in.  Far too soon for anything but careful observation and assessment.  Not trust, yet.  Not hope.  But, yes, most definitely, change.

I've already thanked God for not-Hillary.  Now, tentatively, thank God for change.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The wind blows, clouds flow, rain falls, sunshine, moonlight, wind, rain, hot, cold. We blink through it like coming out of solitary confinement, or stare it down like a mad dog, or find a hand to hold and stand side by side, for a moment or through the decades.

Yes, time is a fire. We don't want to put it out or slow it down though -- time is what life is made of. We burn through it, understanding there will be pain, and scars. There are caresses and embraces and quiet smiles and rollicking laughter and the swelling of our hearts with love and pride and tenderness.  So it's more than worth it, the pain, if we do it right. Wait long enough and everything is calm.

More pearls from the clam of my wisdom.


Monday, January 9, 2017

What My True Name Might Be

I've taken pains to keep my actual identity private, as my many frustrated admirers frequently complain via email. Oh Jack H, please tell us more about yourself, like your full name and where you live. But I have good reason -- very good reason indeed -- to attempt to preserve my anonymity. As far as I've been able to find, my name appears on the internet only once, and just recently, in its complete and true form. It was rather distressing to me to find even this single slip. I am, you see, a hunted man.

It's a long story. Once, back in the 1930s, I was lynched by a mob of racists. I was a Negro woman in those days, and I spilled boiling water on a white baby farmed out to me. It was an accident, but no matter. They hanged me naked from an old elm tree. There's no record of it. It was a backwoods affair. I've hardly ever been important. Anyhow it's behind me. I miss my own little babies, though. They're all dead now too.

Then the next time, as a teenager in the fifties, I was abducted by sexual sadists -- my body was buried off an interstate highway. It's never been found. What was I, boy or girl? It hardly matters. Sometime I make the trip out into that desert and weep for myself over my bones.

This time, in these current decades, I've had a longer life than in the past several hundred years. Nearly everyone has died young, though, if you average it all together. This time I've passed the half-century mark. Maybe I'll make it to a subsequent decade. Odd, how we cling. We'd clutch even at razors, lest we fall. I usually die violently. I've never killed myself. It seems some instinct instructs us that life is better than death -- even if life waits on the other side. I do not trouble myself with paradoxes, anymore.

I don't know what dharmic violation I committed, but it's been this way for millennia. I don't go in for this past-life regression nonsense -- just a bunch of flakes as far as I can see -- but I personally really do remember it all, and not as some mere intuition, however powerful. My memory precedes the pyramids. Why? Why? I have not been told. No higher being, if there be such things, has ever revealed a truth to me. If the gods have voices, they do not speak to me. I believe in a higher order only through inductive reasoning.

I do know I was involved in the destruction of Atlantis, but there was no court of condemnation to make it clear that this was a crime and I was condemned. I simply started remembering. I never did it on purpose, that unloosing of such primal forces -- but the Wheel of Incarnation rolls inexorably along, and those caught up in its treads must suffer the indignity of continuing if intermittent existence. So inductive reasoning informs me.

It isn't my own deaths that bother me so, as much as those of the ones I love. Sometimes I've tried to love no one, to have no family. But we're born into families. And even when I did not start my own, I couldn't help but love, even strangers. How many lifetimes I have spent in the wilderness -- not lost, simply dreading the bonds that attach to us when we touch each other.

Being old is hardest, and I watch them all drop away -- my parents, my wives and husbands, even my children. I've had so many, by now. I've never counted. It must be thousands, many thousands. What a massacre, and no less terrifying because it stretches across the eons. I've seen towers built of skulls. I've seen rivers of blood. No place you can put your foot, that isn't an unmarked grave.

I don't recognize them again, my lost loved ones. Sometimes a smile or a tilt of the head in one generation reminds me of some soul I knew in a century past. The baby in Troy is like that maiden in Rome, who is like a boy in Gaul. But it blurs together, and it's as if the resemblances are only family traits. I never know if this one now is the same as that one from ancient days. I just know that these days too will someday be ancient. And those I love now will return into the earth, and emerge, if they do, unrecognized. That's the cruelest punishment of all, that the Lords of Karma have pronounced on me. I remember, and everyone else forgets.

Maybe I’m unique, though. Maybe I’m like beloved John was thought to be, to live until the Lord’s return – or like the Wandering Jew, cursed Ahasuerus, likewise bound to life, cursed for cursing the Lord in His Passion. Perhaps like the shade of Samuel, released from Sheol to pronounce one final judgment, upon Saul, I too eternally slip the chains of Hades and rise somnambular to take on other chains, of flesh. And all humanity slumbers on one or the other side of a great abyss, biding time until a harsher disposition, or one of mercy. While I alone tread some middle way, dividing the difference by partaking both of life and of death. Perhaps. I do not know. I speak sometimes of faith, but I think in terms of theory. Some traditions seem less suited to my case than others.

How weary my soul has grown. Hardly anything remains of that haughty prince who delved too deeply into the secret underpinnings of reality. How long before I am forgiven? What fire might I find, to match those that burned my world down, and now might burn away the last of my pride, my crime? I don't know. I trudge on toward an ever-receding goal, every myth of damnation woven into my shadow, weighing as much as eternity and its substance. I've seen the ice roll in and I've seen the sun grow hot, forests supplant plains and cities return to clay. The ages mount up on me like a sexual sadist, and I am buried and I return to the grave time and again only to mourn.

What is my true name? Well, I've had so many. H is for Happy, and H is for Hell. It is for Hunter and for Hatred, for Hubris and for Humility. H is for Holiday and Horror, for sacred and profane. It is for compassion and rage and desperation and forgiveness. H is for a man who wants to love and to be loved. He wants to love himself, but an unremembered crime, some unwitting sin has made him Eternity's vagabond and what invocation can turn aside the pursuing Furies? It must be this way for everyone. Not everyone is aware of it though. Forgetting is how forgiveness shows itself.

What is my name? I suppose it's the same as yours. H is for Human.