Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Story Teller

 

                                                       [a short story—by Sha’Tara]

So, as I was saying, I crewed with Abraham, on the old Windsong, you know, and as luck would have it…

“Hey, wait a minute, did you say Abraham? I thought the Wandering Jew died when his ship’s hull was breached by a meteor and the computers failed to sound the warning in time.  They found the records in the wreckage.”

Well, obviously he hadn’t yet eh?  Can I get on with this? As I was saying, the Old Man called his commanders to his cabin one day, that is, those of us temporarily out of fugue, and he said, “You dogs listen, and listen good.   I don’t have a lot of time left, no matter how much fugue I take, and with rats like this crew to command, not much of that allowed me or I’ll find my ship boosted and me shackled in the hole or looking at the stars without a face visor. Here’s the deal, and it will explain why I felt the need to hire a pack of criminals like you for this trip. Our manifest states we are hauling arka-brite to the smelters on Ita. You know this. What you don’t know is, we’re going renegade. Are you hearing me?”

We all nodded silently, looking at the floor, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“What, no argument from you pirates?   Fine. A couple of sleeps ago, I had a dream. There was an ancestor of mine with the same name I have. He too was a wanderer. Seems he was looking for his home and his god, so the dream said, spoke to him and promised him this home if he would do whatever he was told to do.   Fugue dreams can get very detailed, and often very boring, since you can’t get out of them. This one was interesting. This Abraham turned from his ways and began to follow the directions given him by his god and messengers, or angels or whatever you call them.   We’ve seen enough of these in our travels, not a problem to accept this possibility is it?  Still no comments?  Very well.  

“What I found interesting is that my ancestor stopped questioning everything. He basically did as he was told and he had a pretty good and interesting life all around. Women, battles, hobnobbing with some king in a place they called “Egypt” or so it sounded.   Then he had cattle that grazed on rolling green lands—I saw these in the dream—and he lived in tents that billowed in the wind. It’s my understanding that the god wanted Abraham to have children who would inherit the world they were on at the time and didn’t much care how those kids were “begotten” as the saying went, if you get my drift.”  

Old scar-face actually winked as he said that. Must’ve been a pretty exciting dream for him to demonstrate feelings!  He continued:  

“I couldn’t make out whether these people had ships, but it seems they actually didn’t. I know, sounds far-fetched but who knows the kinds of events that happen to worlds over time? In fact, if I understand the dream, they walked, yes, with their own legs, from place to place. They didn’t even use exoskeletons. Gravity must’ve been pretty low to be able to do that. Didn’t mention equipment either, so best guess, they were able to survive on it without suits. What else… oh, yes, in what I saw of it, this world had biological life all over it: things like live animals, plants, and open water, lots of open water in some places. I saw the sky: it was colored a light-blue. Now that makes for an interesting kind of world.  Best guess, I had a dream about Old Earth.”

Somebody chuckled a bit too loud.  Old scarface looked around until everbody stood rigidly at attention, stone-faced.

“Well, you rats, I have a mind to find that ancient world of my ancestors and if I can black-market our manifest to my smuggler friend Hino the Zealous for a half-decent payoff, we head out.”

I remember then saying, “Uh, cap’n, apart from the fact that if we’re arrested after high-jacking a load of arka-brite from Arka Corp we’ll all hang so to speak, do you have coordinates for this planet of yours?”

“I will have. I intend to do exactly what my ancestor did. Not for nothing they sneeringly label me the Wandering Jew. I am Jewish, not that it means anything anymore, but it did in those times, apparently.   My plan is simple: I intend to enter into fugue shortly and return to the dream. I intend to contact that god and get the coordinates from him. Since the planet was given to my ancestors, then it’s also mine.   Logical. If my people are already on it, then I’ll retire there and you can have the old Windsong. Lots of parsecs left in her yet. We’ll give her a facelift, change her name, registration, and off you’ll go boys.”

“Sorry to interrupt cap’n,” our computer analyst and programmer Bryxt cut in, “but you intend to enter fugue while connected to a brain scan?”

And as you space dogs know, it’s the only way to reconnect to the dream sequence, and totally illegal because in most cases, it induces what has come to be known as “gap” sickness, an incurable condition of acute paranoia caused by jumps.  Jumps is the only way to get around in space unless you want to spend eternity looking at the same stars.

“That’s what I mean to do, damn space admin’s rules or the consequences. If I come out addled, the ship is yours that much sooner, so what’s the worry? Toss my body out and we’ll be square.”

So, to make a long story short, the cap’n entered fugue connected; came out apparently sane and sound with a smile on his scarred leathery face that spread from ear to ear.

“All right you useless worms, contact Hino. The coordinates are in the computer. As soon as we’re cleaned-out and paid, we head out. A little adventure, that’s what a man needs at the end of his journey.   Space can get so damned boring after a while.”

We sold our cargo to the smugglers and entered worm hole TF-068 using a pirated ship’s signature from one of the smuggler’s barges and after some unexpected and bone-jarring jolting came out among the weirdest groupings of solar bodies I’d ever seen. Our computations had wiped out in the boost—hell, old Windsong was never meant for that kind of torture: she was a freighter, for Ajax sake! Of course we should have realized our cap’n had lost it when he gave us his plan, but you know, the captain is the man and if you want to survive space, there is but one rule: do what the man says once you’ve had your say.

We scoured that area with what was left of the ship’s computers working, found nothing, nothing at all. We were years looking, scanning, probing, sending surface craft to promising worlds until enough didn’t come back we couldn’t risk that anymore. We used up all our surface probes, most of which never responded. Those that did only increased our despair. This system we had tumbled into refused to make the least allowances for biological life, let alone human life.

Sanity was the first and greatest victim in our situation. We argued and fought with what little energy we had left. Most wanted to mass-launch the last jumpers and sling-boost equipment or crash land WindSong even to take their chances upon a particular world that seemed quasi-adequate for some sort of survival. Radioactivity was high but they argued they could beat it. Anything to get off what had become our prison on dying Windsong.   Anything to get away from the totally mad Wandering Jew who now spent his days hooked up to the brain scan that didn’t work, trying to recall his stupid dream. When he disconnected to walk among us, he had tears in his eyes, but they weren’t for us, for having stranded us. He didn’t see us, or hear us either. His tears were for his damnable dream. He began to talk to his ancestor’s god out loud and we shuddered, giving him wide berth whenever we heard him pleading, demanding, cursing, sighing. Off the chart, he was, poor bastard. We even felt sorry enough for him not to boost him out the air-lock.

From a healthy and happy crew of 68 men, we were whittled down to 31 emaciated ghosts wandering through the ship’s corridors when the damned angels appeared.  

“So that’s how you got back?”

That’s what’s so sick about the whole thing. I woke up here, right here, in this pub. Alone. No crew, no ship, nothing to my name, just old memories.

“What did space admin have to say about your story, man?”

Just a story, home boy. Bar tender, did that earn me another round before I return to the Heritage II?

“You from the Heritage? Hell’s bells, I should’ve known! We’ve been had, he’s one of those story tellers.   “

And all of you so sure you could spot a storyteller, eh? And also a shape-shifter, friends. That old man you made your little bets with before I joined your group was none other than myself and it’s time to pay up.   Better luck next time boys.

I could have been anything.  I could captain my own cruiser.  I came out of the Academy with top ratings, family money, prospects, offers, the works. Space is infinite. The number of ships that move through this one universe alone would be considered infinite. Possibilities endless. But despite the less than glamorous conditions of spacing around from galaxy to galaxy as a story-teller, you can’t beat it. It’s not only that we exist as double-agents, spying for corporations or this and that tin pot dictator or emperor searching for traitors, princes hunting for concubines and wives belonging to opponents; even indulging in sleuthing on the side—you know, to relieve the boredom between gigs—but there are other compensations.

I even had me a date with a blue-skinned Andromedan dancer last time through there and it didn’t cost me anything but a little story I made up on the spot. It would have been worth it just to watch her purple eyes dilate and hear that universally renowned laughter. I might tell you about that sometimes, but not this trip. My feelings are still too closely associated with it, especially the part where I was caught with her “in fragrante delicto” and trying to explain to the *Genoba that I had imbibed a bit too much Andy beer and was under the delusion she was an Andy goddess I had come to propitiate. He almost bought it… almost.  

Anyway, next time is next time. I have to board now, before my pub acquaintances discover the old man I claimed to have shape-shifted into was an old wino I found outside the bar and bought for a bottle of cheap rot-gut. So, I live my life on the edge. Why not? I’m young, not even 150 years old, galactic standard time, with a whole life, and more if I play my cards right, ahead of me begging for adventure.  Crazy?  Maybe, but if I stayed out of all the illegal, banned or dangerous places, where would I get my stories, and my money?  My very first commander, Light Leeta, would remind us at each enemy encounter, “OK people, remember, move to kill, move to win.  Live hard, live fast, live to live another day.  Go!” As the last surviving member of that motley crew, I can say this: it worked for me.

*Genoba, for those of you not familiar with the two or more dozen major Andromedan lexicons is the owner of a very high class, very exclusive Andy brothel, the kind that unless you’re royalty, or a member of the Family, you want to be sure you steer clear of.  The name itself isn’t originally Andromedan but followed an ancient family from Old Earth.  I know, nobody believes such a place did exist once upon a time but I have stories about it.  Another time.  I’ve got to board my ship, my actual destination to be given while in fugue.   They never give your destination until secured on board in case you get scanned and your coordinates lifted from your brain – everybody knows that, right?  OK wild and weird, here I come ready to live another day!   

 

 

The Word You are Seeking is Equality

With all the talk about “fake news” and Russian “interference” in US politics, or even talk about democracy or whatever main stream media happens to be pushing to further the neocon agenda, we need to exercise our own rational mind. We need to buck the wind of disinformation and stop letting “them” treat us as if we were stupid, childish, brain-dead morons. But then, we must be if we still turn on a TV, listen to a radio or read main stream press. It’s not even entertaining anymore, it’s rank abuse. So, we need to be our own independent investigative researcher and journalist and philosopher. Everybody else that’s selling something these days is selling a pig in a poke. Let me tell you something about “fake news.” Every single corporate ad is fake news. There, now you know. One more little jab: who built civilization? Slaves. Who was it built for? The 1%. Who then should own and control it? Slaves. Who does? A 1% clique of lying useless thieves, one of which just got himself elected president of the USA. And why is it that way? I think Shakespeare said it best: “The problem dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” In other words we just let them and after letting them for so long we came to believe there is no other choice; no other way. As the video says, “The show must go on.” But remember this: it cannot go on without us. We give it to them, they don’t have to take it from us.

Journalism as Art

romantrade-1

The age of Empire ended with the decline of the Roman Empire between 400 to 700 C.E. (Common Era)

The vast trade routes of Rome extended to China, India, Africa and Europe. An Empire expands into unknown territories and the Roman Empire did so over more than a 1500 years.

There was but one Rome: no other city,  either of ancient or modern times, has ever rivaled this astonishing metropolis in the grandeur of magnitude; and not many—if we except the cities of Greece, none at all—in the grandeur of architectural display.

Among empires: the Persians,  the Spanish, French and British cannot but be admired as prodigious growths out of so small a stem. There was but one Rome: no other city, as we are satisfied by the collation of many facts, either of ancient or modern times, has ever rivaled Rome. The earth had its prerogative…

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Sudden Death Overtime and New Year Wishes

                                [thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

People say “It’s a new year” and the good wishes come a-flying from every direction.  I don’t mind, I’m all but immune from, and inured to, any good wish.  For me, a “new year” (if I acknowledged such a thing as valid) would mean something as at the end of “V for Vendetta”.  Basically, the idea expressed by “V” is,  “the world until today belonged to me and it ends with me tonight.  Tomorrow a new world is born, and you, “Evey” will nurture that new world.” 

You see, it’s a truism, like it or not, that for something new to begin, something old must die.  If all that “dies” is a number on a man-made calendar or the passing of a certain point in a planet’s orbit around the sun, that is not a death but an illusion.  People don’t change, nor do their systems and societies, just by changing a year number, from 2016 to 2017.  I think the farce has gone on long enough.  I think it’s high time for would-be adults to take responsibility for their words and “do” something instead of just “saying” something because it feels good to say it, or worse, it’s traditional.

Life isn’t about feeling good.  Am I saying something anyone hasn’t figured out yet?  Life is a series of challenges, and some of those are quite heavy.  Sometimes it’s a horrendous event beyond anyone’s control, and sometimes it’s a change that may bring good things, or bad things.  Life is a struggle.  Those who do not struggle are not living: alive, yes, but not living.

But back to my favourite subject: death.  For me, a new year has always been about death because death implies renewal: no death, no renewal.  So each year I die and each year, hopefully, if I take responsibility for my own life, I renew myself.  Dying is an interesting process.  We’re all dying, all the time, but we spend our time denying it instead of teasing meaning out of it. 

Some quotes about being dead, the dead, dying:

“Being dead filled her beyond fulfillment.
Like a fruit
 suffused with its own mystery and sweetness,
she was filled with her vast death, which was so new,
she could not understand that it had happened.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke.

“I have my dead, and I have let them go,
and was amazed to see them so contented,
so soon at home in being dead, so cheerful,
so unlike their reputation.
Only you return; brush past me, loiter, try to knock
against something, so that the sound reveals your presence.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Requiem for a Friend.

All of life is a symphony of successive losses.  You lose your youth, your parents, your loves, your friends, your comforts, your health, and finally your life.  To deny loss is to lose it all anyway and to lose, in addition, your self-possession and your peace of mind. (Isaac Asimov – “Nemesis”)

What a solemn thing is this infinity which every man bears within him, and which he measures with despair against the caprices of his brain and the actions of his life!
(Victor Hugo, Les Miserables)

We can die by degrees (while hiding the truth from ourselves with drugs, work or play) or we can die suddenly.  Sudden death is cheap: it doesn’t teach much and perhaps that is why so many would choose it.  “Eat, drink and be merry” then “dead!”  There’s death by slow-kill disease and that one is a monster though some manage to harness it, learn and teach from it.  Still, it wouldn’t be my choice because I hate pain and consider it to be an unnatural effect of a twisted and tortured world.

The best kind of death, for me, is the one I’m on.  I call it, “sudden death overtime” only it isn’t sudden death at all since I’ve been in it for 20 years now.  I had set a date for myself to shed this body and go on vacation throughout the cosmos for a while.  20 years later I’m still contemplating that final separation sequence but this body isn’t showing much sign of letting go or slowing down.  It’s like a combination of the Energizer bunny and the Timex watch that takes a licking and keeps on ticking. 

Nota bene: I’m NOT complaining!  But here’s the difference:  I am dying, not by accident of birth, but by choice.  Each dying day brings me closer to the last one and in each, as I look towards the finish line, I learn something new about myself, something that only my contemplation of death could reveal.  

Now try to see the effect of a New Year’s good wish for me: “May you experience your good death this coming year!”  For most people, that wouldn’t go over so well.  For me, I’d have a positive response to such a wish.  What does that say of my mindset; my philosophy about life?  Certifiable… or expanded awareness?

In “V for Vendetta” “V” sets “Evey” up with a fake arrest, incarceration, interrogation, torture and constant threat of death if she doesn’t reveal “to the authorities” what she knows about “V.”  She refuses, and at the end is condemned to be excuted by firing squad.  Convinced it was her last few minutes alive, when questioned one last time she gives a resounding “No!” to the promise of total freedom if she reveals what she knows about “V.”  At that moment she earned her freedom; she had conquered her fear of death.  Her life changed.  From a frightened mouse in a horrid world she became a change agent, resilient and fearless.   

Somewhere deep in the subconscious we’re all “V” and “Evey” cocooned away, hidden.  I am convinced that what enslaves us more than anything else is our constant fear of “death” – that nebulous, unknown factor; that terrible thief  that hounds every minute of our physical life, whether we are conscious of it or not.  We hunt happiness and haunt the pleasure principle trying to get the most out of every minute. 

There are people who harbour such a great fear of death that they have to indulge in “extreme” sports and other death defying nonsense to try to prove to themselves that they don’t fear it.  It is those people who fear death the most though they are seen as the opposite.  That is how the fear of death brainwashing works. 

Try to ignore it, or spend your time challenging it: the first “effort” is a waste since the company of death has much to teach particularly on detachment and self-empowerment; the bravado of the second is a congruence of twisted cowardice and pride, nothing more.    

Perhaps one has to reach a certain age before one is comfortable in death’s company.  Or perhaps it’s a question of greater awareness; of a mind set free from the shackles of organized religion, spiritually dead scientism or ignorant hedonism.  A day came for me long ago when I was sure death had taken me.  I was relieved, so much so that when I found myself physically alive again I was not at all happy until I realized I had gained a new friend: death would walk with me the rest of the way – and I found her to be very, very wise. 

So next time you hear, “we are not alone”  know that you have one constant, steadfast companion who will walk with you every step of the way to your last breath and beyond.  She’ll show you the way, and she will help you change if you want to put in the effort.

My Friend, the Lady in Black

I walked uncertain, so dead tired
Lost in a grey shattered landscape
Of crumbling hills and broken trees,
Eroded gullies and clumps of dried grass.
I walked under a leaden sky
With the sun a deadly copper disc
Fixed overhead as if never to set;
I staggered until I could go no further

Falling and sliding against a rounded stone
That had witnessed many a season
Under such a day as this.
I fell asleep, or I died, not sure which
But when I awoke
There was the Lady in Black
Standing still beside my wrecked body.
She gestured for me to stand
I did, much to my surprise
For the body did not stir, nor eyes blink.

“Come” she said beckoning
And we walked around the hill
Into a garden to provide pleasures
Not to be found on the world I’d left.
“Enjoy” she said and vanished:
I felt terribly alone once again.

 

 

Disparate Quotes

 While I’m thinking about stuff with nothing actually sticking in the mind as particularly worthy of another difficult “essay” that says what I want to say but produces little except frustration and dissatisfaction, I thought I’d throw out some disparate quotes from other stuff I’ve read, or some I’ve pretended to read.  Let’s have a look… 

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Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations. —  Alan Watts

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence. – Sylvia Plath,  The Bell Jar

The great fallacy of childhood is the belief that grownups must know what they are doing. There is no evidence for this in the historical record. You would do better by grabbing a government at random from the denizens of a rural high school. Democracy brings us twerps, psychopaths, ambitious ciphers, short men, and well-born drones. They are what they are. They can’t change any more than a leper can change his spots. I need some really strong drugs or someone to hit me on the head with a rubber mallet. Opium is the religion of the masses.   Let us pray. – Fred Reed

 What comes after capitalism in its final crisis, now under way, is, I suggest, not socialism or some other defined social order, but a lasting interregnum – no new world system equilibrium…but a prolonged period of social entropy or disorder –  Wolfgang Streeck

 If Trump’s rise represented an actual substantive rebellion, that at least would suggest a revolution in consciousness. But it’s not that serious. There’s no content behind it. Trump is just a symbol of negation, a big middle finger to the establishment. He’s a TV show for a country transfixed by spectacle. (Sean Illing – Vox)

America was a dictatorship of ideas, a consumerist ethos that propelled the machinery of capitalism through the instrumentalization of popular culture (http://www.vox.com/conversations/2016/12/27/14038406/donald-trump-frankfurt-school-stuart-jeffries-marxism-critical-theory)

They’d never been lovers, of course, not in the physical sense. But they’d been lovers as most of us manage, loving through expressions and gestures and the palm set softly upon the bruise at the necessary moment. Lovers by inclination rather than by lust. Lovers, that is, by love. — Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz.

Resistance starts with plain speaking.
Fake news is propaganda.
The powerful demanding apologies from artists is censorship.
Business dealings while in office are corruption.
Threatening protesters and petitioners is authoritarianism.
Declaring a minority an internal enemy and calling for militarized unity is fascism.
Everything starts with naming these things in public.
                                (from Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess)

I am reading the book of human sins.  When I’m done I’ll cast it into the fire and all their sins will be gone. (“The Island” – movie)

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. – Noam Chomsky

Conventions go a long way to validating superiority. If we were all guided by truth alone, none of us could accept anything on face value. We would each become investigative journalist, historian and detective wrapped as one. – Exo-politician, WordPress

It is better to be alone than to become a person that loses his soul to the fear of loneliness. ― Shannon L. Alder

 You have to understand that most of the people out there are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so helplessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. (Morpheus, The Matrix)

When love is not madness, it is not love. — Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Not a single star will be left in the night. / The night will not be left.  /  I will die and, with me,  /  the weight of the intolerable universe.   / I shall erase the pyramids, the medallions,  /  the continents and faces.  /  I shall erase the accumulated past. / I shall make dust of history, dust of dust.  /  Now I am looking on the final sunset.  /  I am hearing the last bird. / I bequeath nothingness to no one  — Jorge Luis Borges, “The Suicide”

God’s only excuse is that he does not exist. — Stendhal

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods, / They kill us for their sport. — William Shakespeare

You have to be ready to be anyone in moments of danger or love.  — Lidia Yuknavitch

[…] there is a human capacity called imagination. It’s the wild card in the deck. It’s the greatest wild card ever known. It is, in fact, the cutting edge of consciousness. It invents new realities. It releases gigantic amounts of buried energy. And it’s entirely an individual proposition. – Jon Rappoport

What could be more free, more independent, more unique, more creative than individual consciousness that has a non-material basis? – Jon Rappoport

…there’ll always be money and whores and drunkards / down to the last bomb, / but as God said, / crossing his legs, / I see where I have made plenty of poets  /  but not so very much  /  poetry.   — Charles Bukowski

We can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But […] our discreditable secret is that we don’t know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don’t care that we don’t. — Dylan Thomas

The Kindergarten Art Class

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

From my current level of awareness and observation, I see mankind as a bunch of unruly kindergarten kids crammed together and told they’re having an “art” day.  To get them started, there’s a pile of paper sheets on the floor, and next, a big bowl full of crayons of every conceivable colour.  The kids are sat on the floor and more or less arranged around the items.  Predictably things don’t go as planned, or even as unplanned.  Some kids just lie back on the floor sucking their thumbs, trying to fall asleep.  Some just grab paper and fistfuls of crayons and begin to draw wildly across their papers.  Some quietly and dutifully wait for some sort of instruction.  Some look at the ceiling and smile at something.  Some start to argue over the items, a fight erupts and a couple of kids start to cry.  Pandemonium reigns supreme. 

So far I’ve described our general interaction as social communities through academic, scientific, religious, political, business and financial processes.  Basic Earthian interaction. 

But I missed something, didn’t I.  I forgot to add that there is here at least one adult, one supervisor, someone with presumably superior knowledge and wisdom to bring these children together for a purpose that will bear some fruit.  At the end of the exercise, each child will have a piece of paper with something drawn on it to take home. 

Obviously, the Teacher aspect is missing in earth’s kindergarten art class.  There is no one to bring the kiddies to stop fighting and to cooperate together and share the items offered on the floor.  So you have an entire planet running on a  pre-interventionist-teacher anarchic condition. 

We already know why the kiddies act the way they do: it’s how they were raised, what they’d already observed at home; what they’d seen on TV or what they’d already experienced on playgrounds, in doctors’ offices and daycare.  Also, it’s something locked in their DNA.  It’s what they are.  It’s their nature running its course and without the teacher intervention, that will be the course of their entire lives.  Nothing will ever fundamentally change for any of them.  That last line is worth repeating because it is a truism if there ever was one:  nothing will ever fundamentally change for any of them.   

We’re not short of groups and organizations trying to shove the teacher aspect in our face.  Put your faith in science and all will be well.  Believe in Jesus and you will be saved.  Convert to Islam and Allah will bless you.  Vote for the Democrats.  Join the army.  Join this, join that; support this, protest that; love this, hate that.  There’s stacks of papers and bowls of crayons and anybody can draw lines in any sort of colours they want. Or can they? 

It’s complicated.  Someone’s sitting in the wrong place and they won’t move.  Someone’s using the wrong colours and they won’t stop using those colours.  Someone’s got paper they didn’t pay for which they took from someone else’s stack; they stole from them and now the “victims” want them punished for their crime.  There are threats: if they’re not punished we’ll get some friends (allies) together and we’ll beat them up ’cause we’re better than they are.  

Earthian civilization, in a nutshell. 

Faced with this incurable condition, what do you, as an intelligent person do?  Basically you can do whatever you want.  You can choose to become one of the bullies, or one of their victims.  Or you can choose not to participate in the art class as long as there is no consensus on how it should proceed. 

The Art Class:

               No matter where you sit, it’s anarchy all around and you’re expected to share a space with people who fear and hate other people in the class.  “Look at her: she’s black.  She shouldn’t be allowed in here!”  “Look at him, he’s got no shoes, that’s gross!”  “Look at those two with their ragged clothes munching on a couple of pieces of stale bread: that’s disgusting!”  “Him?  Don’t even think of being friends with him, he’s a Jew and we hate Jews.”  “Look, she wearing a hijab, she’s a Muslim and flaunting it; she needs to be taught a lesson.  Those kids in the corner?  Their parents are commies.”

               We may not be able to have them thrown out of the class but at least we won’t associate with them and when we get the chance we’ll gang up on them and beat the hell out of them.  That’ll scare them and they won’t come back.  We don’t want them here.  This is our place and this is our stuff now.

Let’s say you are a reasonably intelligent person and you realize it’s not possible to participate in the class without compromises.  No matter what, if you choose to sit with the two eating the stale bread, you find out they hate the black girl.  If you sit with the black girl she tells you she hates the kid in bare feet ’cause he’s Catholic.  If you sit with the Muslim girl you discover that she has been taught to hate Jews and Christians and she tells you that as the enemies of Allah they must die.  If you choose to sit with the bullies who by now have most of the paper and crayons, maybe they’ll let you borrow some paper and maybe one crayon but the deal is, you swear to join them in the bullying later. 

Fortunately there is one more choice.  You can turn your back on all of them and walk away, alone.  No paper, no crayons, no personal space on the floor, just yourself and the wilderness: thorns and hail, flowers and butterflies, blizzards and loneliness, gently flowing streams and renewal.  More chaos, surely, but this time it isn’t deliberately ignorant or evil.  It accepts you without throwing a mantle of exclusivity around you. You swim or sink – nobody cares, it’s all up to you.

But what about that programming?  What about that Earthian DNA shit?  Well, that is a thorny problem ‘cause you can’t blame that on anyone else, you have to face it.  You need to get rid of your Earthian programming, or at the very least you need to cancel its inimical effects on your mind. 

That’s when you say, hey, I’m me!  I’m not what I was born to be; I’m not white, French, doctor, politician, student, taxi-driver, female, male, mother, leader, young, old, voter, entertainer: I’m me.  Just me. 

Everything up to and until I left the kindergarten class was me according to society. Society had designed the pigeon holes and I could only choose to function as an adjunct of society from one of those holes.  Not anymore.  Now, I can be me, according to my own choices.  To hell with society and civilization. 

I am about to reinvent myself as something completely new.  Everything I am from this point on is the chosen me; chosen and designed by myself, no one and nothing else.  I will never again return to the kindergarten art class; not for love, not for money, not for reputation, not for salvation.  Being in collusion with the denizens of the kindergarten class is something I will no longer do until the day when I can no longer do it. 

 

Ah well, why not some Fred Reed?

Now don’t go quoting and saying that Sha’Tara indorses (the dictionary claims that’s a variant, but I think it’s an indoor form of endorsement) Fred Reed.  I just think that he’s sometimes a Good Read.  But I do think the following is pretty accurate.  Enjoy, and please, don’t go posting it as if it came from me. It does not, did not, will not.  I just copied and pasted.  Last and final disclaimer.  Ok I did add a couple of comments.  It’s what I do, comment.  I think my entire life is a comment… or a series of comments.   

Also, and for good measure, this was written in 2010, which is like saying, Oh boy, ancient history already!  You think so?  You could write the same article today, about today’s situation wherever in the world and come up with the same conclusions and reactions. Even the tapeworm-brained senator Lindsey Graham is still at it, in fact even worse.  Now he wants the ethics committee done away with.  Well, I’m sure he’s got a good reason, if a tapeworm brain could reason, which it cannot since, as Fred remarks, a tapeworm doesn’t have a brain. Also note that Israel’s “Bibi Nut-and-Yahoo” is also still at it, and much, much worse than in 2010.  His bad everything days are coming closer and closer together.  

Back when in prehistory, my history teacher would say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  If I were in his class today, I’d venture a correction: “Uh, Mr. Andres?  Shouldn’t it be, ‘The more things change, the worse they get’?”  Predictably he’d give me “the look” and I’d be telling myself why can’t I just shut up, just shut the hell up?  

Brain as an App-start using it-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Let’s Attack Iran!     by Fred Reed

Senator Graham has the brains of a tapeworm, making him eminently qualified for the senate. Tapeworms, I note, do not have brains. It is characteristic of warlike innocents, to include the Pentagon, to believe that if you destroy navies and air forces, you win wars. This worked well in Vietnam, you will recall, and as soon as we destroy the Taliban’s navy, Afghanistan will be a cakewalk.  Oh good. I see that Senator Lindsey Graham wants to attack Iran. The US, he says, should “sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard.”

Now, I understand that practicality and realism are alien concepts in American politics, to be approached with trepidation, but maybe, just once, we should think before sticking our private parts into a wood-chipper. Just once. I do not propose consistent rationality, forethought, or intelligent behavior. I profoundly respect my country’s traditions.

However, folk wisdom from West Virginia: Before you say, “I can whip any man in the bar!” it is well to scout the bar.

Some will find the thought of American martial incapacity outrageous. Can’t beat Iran? Buncha towel monkeys? Among grrr-bowwow-woof patriots, there exists a heady delusion of American potency, that the US has “the greatest military power the world has ever seen.” Ah. And when did it last win a war? In Afghanistan, for ten years the gloriousest military ever known, the expensivist, and whoosh-bangiest, hasn’t managed to defeat a bunch of pissed-off illiterates with AKs and RPGs.  Note that the United States cannot defeat Iran militarily, short of using nuclear weapons. It is easy to start a war. Finishing one is harder. I could punch out Mike Tyson. Things thereafter might not go as well as hoped.

At this point Lindsey of Persia will doubtless allude to the wonders of air power, of “precision-guided weapons,” of smart bombs that presumably read Kant on the way down. Those pitiable Iranians would have no hope of stopping our mighty bombers. True.

Implicit in this Thomistic fantasy (Clancy, I mean, not Aquinas) is that Iran wouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t dare fight back without a navy, etc. Lindsey had better be very sure that Iran couldn’t block the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation. Enough of the world’s petroleum comes from the Gulf that the price would rise drastically if the Straits were blocked. Some economies would simply stop.

How many supertankers going up in flames would be tolerated before operators of tankers refused to risk it?

The Air Force, to include Naval Air, may be confident that it can destroy all of Iran’s missiles. The Air Force always believes that air power can do anything and everything – make coffee, win at marbles, everything. After all, don’t its airplanes say “Vrooom!” and “Swoosh!”? Don’t cockpits have lots of portentous buttons and spiffy little screens? Unfortunately the Air Force is regularly wrong. Iran recently began serial production of the Nasr 1, an anti-ship cruise missile. Tankers are thin-skinned and highly flammable. The Nasr 1 can be fired from the back of a truck. Trucks by their nature are mobile. They are easy to hide.

In fact the entire military is regularly wrong about the ease and duration of its adventures. For example, it had no idea that Viet Nam would turn into an endless war ending in defeat (if that makes sense). Iraq notoriously was going to be a walk in the park. That the war on Afghanistan would last ten years with a distinct possibility of defeat…this never occurred to the soldiers.

It is barely conceivable that the Five-Sided Wind Box could do what Field Marshal Graham thinks it could do. The unexpected is always a possibility. But, the stakes being what they would be in Hormuz, hoo-boy….

Another possibility is that Israel will attack Iran, as it has threatened. I would like to think that even Bibi Nut-and-Yahoo has better sense but, if the US can produce gibbering wingnuts, why not Israel? The practical effects of an Israeli attack would be indistinguishable from those of an American attack: America would have to solve the problem. Which it probably couldn’t. Israel can bomb Iran’s nuclear codpieces, but it can’t defeat Iran. And if the Strait were blocked after an Israeli attack, the entire globe would holler, “Israel did it!” which would be true.

The distance from “Israel did it” to “The Jews did it,” though logically great, is emotionally short. People think in collective terms. Remember that after some Saudis dropped the Towers, the alleged war on terror morphed almost instantly into intense hostility for Moslems. It doesn’t make sense, but what has that got to do with anything?

Congress doesn’t support Israel because it likes Israel, but from political expediency. If the wind blows the other way, so will Congress. Gasoline at twelve dollars is a lot of wind in a commuting country.I know a lot of Jews, who are all over the place politically and intellectually. They have in common a complete lack of resemblance to the scheming, hand-rubbing, heh-heh-heh Jews of Neo-nazi imagination. Few sacrifice Christian children (a temptation strongest, I can attest, among Christian parents). But…people think collectively.

Things worsen for America, yet we really don’t know where the country is going or how it will react. The last domestic catastrophe was the Great Depression, when America was a very different place. How bad can things get, economically, politically, internationally? How does a pampered population incapable of planting a garden respond to genuinely hard times? “It can’t happen here,” one hears. What can’t? I suspect that all sorts of things could happen, given sufficiently hard times.

The United States is today an edgy, unhappy country, sliding toward poverty, increasingly dictatorial, inchoately angry, hostile to blacks, the French, Mexicans, Moslems and, creepingly, the Chinese.  (Jews, perhaps to their surprise, don’t make the enemies list.) Americans don’t do cosmopolitan. The federal pressure for diversity exists because otherwise no one would associate with anyone else. The Persian Gulf is one of few places that plausibly might wreck the industrial world. There would have to be someone to blame. And Israel can’t survive without American support.

Maybe I’m crazy. But if I were an Israeli, I’d find a nice café on Diesengoff and enjoy a double cappuccino, watch the girls, and keep my bombs in my pocket. Let somebody else take the fall.

{OK, so he forgot to include the Russians in the list of hostiles but then in 2010 they were relatively quiet, watching the latest Pentagon production in wide screen: “Our Troops Conquer Afghanistan” – a sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Iraq” which was a late sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Grenada” which was a sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Vietnam” which was a sequel to “Our Troops Conquer Korea” … OK, so it’s a bit redundant but as long as the sheeple keep watching and paying, just keep the reels spinning, and keep ’em coming. My comment here}

November 9, 2010

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.

Copyright © 2010 Fred Reed

The Best of Fred Reed

Dallas

 

[a short story – by Sha’Tara]

          Dallas was a week from her 15th birthday when she disappeared.   I am her older brother by almost 2 years. My name is Greg, or for some, Gregory, 3rd oldest of five siblings.   Home is Hope, a small town at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley, if you will. The house is in an older subdivision on the way to Kawkawa lake.     Not much ever happens in Hope and Dallas’ disappearance created quite a stir for the next year, until nothing was discovered or found and like so many, Dallas’ fate entered the missing persons’ growing police files.

          Needless to say, the family was not the same after that. Mom was disconsolate but adamant that Dallas was just “lost” as she put it, that nothing had happened to her. She managed to communicate this feeling to me and upon graduating from Hope Secondary, I decided to go in search of Dallas.

          There wasn’t much to go by, but I knew Dallas intimately – we were more than siblings, we were close friends, and I knew a lot of things about Dallas that obviously no one else knew. I knew that she was restless, not close to anyone and tired of being “mom’s girl” at home.   Dallas had grown wings prematurely and wanted to try them out. She had talked to me about leaving home many times but it was always something in the future, when she was “of age” so to speak. But youth is fed by impatience and Dallas added impetuosity to the volatile mix. Hope and home were much too constricting for someone like her. I could remember her flashing dark brown eyes and black pony tail swinging back and forth when she entered into an argument about something she felt deeply about, and Dallas felt deeply about everything.

          So, with only mom knowing my plans, and a little over 2 years since Dallas had gone missing; with some money from an uncle’s inheritance, I set out after her.  

          I naturally went west, towards Vancouver, and learned to do research on teens running away from home. I did a lot of work to create a working pattern. I rented cheap accommodations where I set up my wi-fi computer and cordless pocket printer. I transcribed my notes from the day’s search into computer files and printed pictures of Dallas to put on posts, bulletin boards or pass around. I got to know a few detectives in charge of missing kids and everyday was a new learning experience. I won’t bore you with the endless false leads, and the people trying to cash-in on leading me to Dallas. I learned to smell them out pretty quickly. And all the while, I discovered the City itself.

          I knew that anything was possible now. I interacted with prostitutes, pimps and massage parlours, any sort of place or business that might provide a haven for underage female runaways. I didn’t think Dallas would go that route but desperation narrows choices. On the other side, I frequented movie sets where a young girl’s ID might not be checked too closely when an extra was needed in a hurry. I checked the Internet for ads and agencies that placed babysitters or nannies.

          It was a strange time. The more I came up blank, the more convinced I became that I was on Dallas’ trail and would find her. I dreamt about her sometimes, and every dream showed me this: that she was not only all right, but had found herself and was happy with her new life. Sometimes I met her in a restaurant where she waitressed, or in a rich household where she worked as a nanny. There was always that mischievous look in her eyes, the twinkling that said, “I have a secret and I won’t tell you what it is until and unless you discover it for yourself.” Then she would laugh and the dream would end.

          I emailed mom fairly regularly, skipping many details but reassuring her that I was not only still looking, but increasingly sure that I would find Dallas and that she would be well. Often I would get a simple reply: “Thank you, Gregory, thank you. – Mom”

          It occurred to me, after over a year, and a third of my funds gone, to combine my search with some practical course on private investigating and journalism. Within a few months I felt confident that I had enough horse sense and street smarts to try working. I answered an ad from a family looking for their disappeared son. I visited the people and explained what I was doing in Vancouver and convinced them that I knew enough to be of value to them. We settled on a fee and I added 14 year old “William” to my search query, creating a new set of patterns. Not surprising (to me) I found William with a group of Lost Boys downtown, trying to earn some money washing windshields at intersections. Once I was sure of him, I waited for a chance and approached him as casually as I knew how, offering him a small amount of money if he would run an errand for me.   He was hungry and broke and completed the errand in record time. Before I paid him, I told him his name and asked him if he ever thought about returning home.

          “You a f…king cop?” he snarled and almost bolted from the outdoor table I had chosen for the exchange. I gently but firmly put my hand on his arm.

          “Oh, don’t be stupid, Will. A cop wouldn’t ask you to run an errand. I wanted you to have that to think about before I talked to you.”

          “So what’s the deal? Why do you care about me?”

          “Should be obvious – I’m a private investigator hired to find you, and I found you. I can have you home within the hour… if you’ll let me. Hey, it’s no skin off my nose if you run, I get paid regardless.   I report that I found you, the location, and that you took off. Doesn’t sound too smart to me, though. Whatever caused you to run in the first place couldn’t have been that serious, and it’s been 6 months. I think it’s time for you to go home, finish school, then think about leaving with your head high this time, with a job or a degree at least. You’re not a poor homeless kid, William. You’re a spoiled Yuppie brat who may just have learned a valuable lesson now. You can take advantage of that. You know what gets you the farthest in life? Self-discipline. You can do it to wash windshields, surely you can do it to a greater end than that.”

         So I returned a subdued William to his grateful parents. And I found other jobs; learned to collaborate with some of the undercover cops and my life slowly changed, but my purpose remained steadfastly the same: to find Dallas. Another year went by and most people would have given up by now. But something was inextricably linked in my mind: Dallas and the City. Dallas and I. All three of us were drawing together, I could sense this.  

          The City, as ugly and frightening as it had appeared at first, was definitely growing on me. I saw her gross sins and could forgive many of them. I interacted with her victims, the rich and the poor, and found out they didn’t mind being victims and I learned to accept that. And I wrote all of that down in my notes and began to feed some of my impressions to the borderline underground press that proliferated in the City. I deliberately used my real name to sign my articles and made sure it appeared frequently.   I made a couple of “appearances” on radio talk shows about my work on the street, and what I had learned in interaction with the “Wendy’s” and the “Lost Boys,” as I called the runaways; their pimps, employers, lovers, and mentors.

          And as I somehow knew it would, it happened: I found Dallas. She did investigating for a couple of Internet news blogs between other jobs, and she saw my name on an article, found the radio program on the Internet and contacted me by email. My heart soared as old Chief Dan George would have said. We chose to meet in a Starbucks, neutral grounds.   I was there early because I wanted to watch her walk in; wondering how much she’d changed; if I would recognize her.

          I had no trouble recognizing her face. Her hair was no longer in a pony tail but allowed to flow freely and thick over her shoulders. She appeared a bit taller, slimmer certainly, and much older.   She wore a brown fake leather jacket and a short blue skirt and knee-length high heeled black boots. But that dark brown-eyed twinkle was as bright as ever.

          “Dallas!” I couldn’t help calling as she looked over the crowd and line-ups. She saw me and smiled. It was still that special smile she used on me when we were “kids” it seemed so long ago.   She came over, hugged me and went to get an espresso. I watched her, the poise, the certainty, the assurance. I should not have been surprised, but I was regardless. I couldn’t help but remember that she had not yet turned 15 when she left home and Hope to find herself. And I though it uncanny how right both mom and I had been about her. Except that she was never lost: she had her own map, her own destination and her own destiny to fulfill. And as I watched that young woman interacting with the guy behind the counter, I realized what her mind had told her, those eventful years ago: “It’s time Dallas.   Leave – now, or forfeit your purpose.   They will take you, when you come of age; when you have graduated, or earned a degree, and they will file you, pigeon-hole you, and you will become the living dead, just like your parents, your teachers, the adults you see on TV and meet in the stores. They will make you fit in. You’ll get married, get a house and stuff, have kids, part-time brain dead job, and walk the treadmill until you die. Walk away now, Dallas. You can do it.”

          And, she had.

          We didn’t talk very long that morning. I was on a case and she had reports to file, so we decided to meet at my place. Hers she said, was a bit crowded; she lived with two other women, one of whom was her lover – for the time being – she added with that twinkle. “Neither one of us is ready to settle, and I don’t think I want a serious relationship, at least not for a long time.”  I was going to ask, “Define a long time” but I passed on that.

          She came to my place and having settled my case that afternoon and gotten paid, I got the goodies and wine and we talked, basically all through the night.   And although the question was burning on my tongue, I never asked her why she hadn’t contacted mom, nor whether she would now. It didn’t seem appropriate and besides, she was the one asking the questions.

          “OK, so I can see mom would try to put you up to this, but why did you come looking for me, Greg? Why didn’t you just let it go? Huh?   She got up abruptly from the chair, sending it flying ass over tea kettle, turned, grabbed it and threw it back on its feet. She turned her back to me and talked: “I’ll tell you why you came to find me. You didn’t believe, as mom does, that I was lost. I became an opportunity for you, didn’t I. An excuse to leave also. Romance, excitement, feelings, emotions, so many things that tend to get bottled up in a small town stuck against a mountain and a river, things that can be let loose and expressed in countless ways, good and bad, here in the metro. You wanted what I had discovered. And you wanted to find me to prove to yourself that you had found it too. You followed me, not to find me, though that was your intent, but to find yourself.   You were the one who was lost, Gregory.   You were never going to find yourself in Hope, or in whatever institution you ended up working for. You sensed it, and you found my map in your mind, where I left you a copy. So, have you found yourself, Greg?”

          She turned just as abruptly, leaned down with both hands flat on the small table and literally stared into my soul. She smiled thinly and sat down to sip some more wine. She waited for my answer.

          “You are right, Dallas. The commitment, the gallantry, the chivalry, call it whatever you will, that was the cover story. The underlying motive was romance. I would do something different, and I had you to light my way. And Dallas?”

          “Yes?”

          “What a light you turned out to be!” She smiled again, and her eyes were wet, as were mine. We finished the wine and I called a taxi to take her home. We hugged once more just before she got in the car. She picked up the dragging edge of the long trench coat she was wearing and I closed the door, watching her disappear in the early morning mist and smog.  

          And the City stood surrounding us, neither smiling nor frowning, withholding comment and judgment.