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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shards Of Glass And Whatnot

photo: " broken mirror"

My nephews had circled from afar; I saw them come to earth upon my driveway this Sunday morning. It was snowing, so they came in to be "de-iced", as they put it. It was a bald-faced maneuver to read my paper, eat my food, and drink my tea, along with whatever other mischief they could hatch.

I sensed this called for strong measures on my part, so I scurried like a vole into the kitchen, chivvied some Earl Grey (courtesy Grace Tea Company, NY, NY) from its canister, and made a mighty pot of mighty, in fact, that I began to sing in German and hum "Ein fester Berg ist unser Gott".

"Have you..."
"...something a bit..."
"...stronger than tea?"
"...something noch fester, bitte?"
I heard a mighty chorus mutter.
"You don't want tea?" I asked, incredulously.
I looked at them, snow covered little ragamuffins. My heart melted.
"I picked up some Cointreau at the Duty Free coming back from T.O. (Toronto to all you unfortunate enough to live far, far away from the fairest border in the world!) in January." I pointed to the cabinet where I kept the real stuff. The cabinet was filled with a series of bottles of booze in various stages of deconstruction.
"And there 's some beer..."

As an aside:

 I have finally found the proper usage for the word "deconstruction". I came across this usage in Foucault's seminal work "The Real As LCBO", where  the LCBO is the Liquour Control Board of Ontario. Bryan, my wife's cousin, gave me a cherished copy of the work from the vaults of the LCBO in Kingston.
Now continuing in this vein, let me observe that maintaining a wine cellar and a liquor cabinet - I use the expression Licker Locker...actually Licka Locka!- is a iffy proposition when one does not drink.
She-who-must-be-obeyed has a friend in Cleveland who thinks I am quite a pestilence. She - the pestilence thinking female - drinks beer. Her tastes seem to be various and untutored.
Every time she comes to town, I have to check and see whether we have a stock of her brew of choice. Since she only drinks 1 or two cans of the six pack- without benefit of glass or tumbler, I might add-this leaves a balance of 4 to 5 cans with nowhere to go.
Recently when she blew in like the Swine Flu, I was sent to the cheap fermented products cellar to see what was up. I distinctly remember some major-domo-ish character telling me that we had better started laying in the '07 malt liquors soon, and that things were not at all like back in the old days when His Lordship was still alive.
In the fridge, there were 4 cans of beer, all the same brand, all of the same provenance, buried way in the back, hiding under an overturned wicker tumbrel of mottled lettuce leaves and various salad greens that had gone through Falluja - both battles.
There was no light beer...and I hadn't laid in the '08 "lites"! And this was indeed a problem, and I should be taken to ask for not being on top of it. I had been quite recently informed - as recent as at least 20 minutes ago -  that her nibs drank light beer nowadays, it being the style. Not only did she do so now, but it seems that she always had done so, at least in the recollection of the intelligentsia standing around in the kitchen. Of course, since I buy the suds, and do so once a year, I knew better.
"If she always drank "lite" beer, where did these four cans of regular beer come from, then?" I asked when I returned to the upstairs, bringing beer to be drunk and beer to be forensic evidence with me. "She drank regular beer last time." I said. "Q.E.D." I added, with Euclidean finality.
I have often found that imbibers of the grain and the grape do not really have any notion of what they are drinking. I suggested that we serve the regular stuff, and she would never know the difference, only to be rewarded for what I considered my brainy little economy with an icy glare of the Wisconsin Glaciation type.

Back to the story:

"And there's some the ice box."
My three nephews glanced at each other and guffawed. Ice box! I had a sudden lonely feeling, as if I were to be the object of cartoon justice: utter an archaic word, and then get an anvil dropped on one's head! Ice box, victrola, Polaroid; the list goes on.
They bypassed the Kelvinator ( ??!! an ice box named after Lord Kelvin- rather cold indeed!) passing by the Food-A-Rama, et allaient directement a la bouteille de Cointreau.

A small crystalline Steuben holding the Cointreau, a dish of shavings of Trapper Joe's dark chocolate, a Villeroy and Bosch Botanica tea cup filled with the delightful odor of black tea and bergamot, and in the cup a stick of cinnamon from my Pakistani epicerie.
Outside, the snow was blowing and settled upon their three SUVs.
"Eco-observation number 20." I said.
They looked up from my copy of The Times and smiled vaguely. Number 20 on the list of "Eco-Observations" is something like why drive 3 separate cars when 1 will suffice?
"Number 3." I added, this being a slur without benefit of the Reverend Bowdler. It was like saying they were Nero, and they had a certain relationship with Agrippina. I really can't be more specific than that. Have a go at Google, if you actually care.
They looked up, smiled, and hoisted their tea cups in unison as if to drink to my health, pinkie fingers up, and, although unsaid, indicated that I should be hoist upon a triple pinkie petard.
I had to admit that they had a nice touch to their riposture.

"You know,..."
"...sometimes...not often, but sometimes..."
" do come up with something rather good."
I smiled. "Glad you like the tea."
They shook their heads.
"...the chocolate?" I wondered.
"No, no."
"This is all great, of course."
"We meant the Blog."
I gave me comfort that someone other than the Gestapo, KGB,  and Thought Police read the bloody thing. However, these three in front of me were not known for various and sundy kindnesses.
I hedged. " par-tic-u-lar?" I gave the room a quick once around, looking for the quickest exit. It appeared that a quick leap to the left, over the side table, then a down and roll to the pantry door just might be in the cards.
"That old posting 'In The Nightlands' ."
"We liked it."
I waited.
"We were shocked."
O.K. An insult in a velvet glove, or a compliment in a furze-laden glove. I'll take whatever is remotely related to a compliment. My mother is an expert in this field of the ontology of compliments: the velvet glove, the velveteen glove, the crack in the wise of the universe, the give with the left and take with the runs in the family.

Austin said, "The power of God is shattered like a mirror. God is broken up into shards, sharp pieces that reflect His power, but no longer unified. That's what was interesting.
We see it in the world. People always moan why the news always dwells on the negative..."
Aiden continued, "Well, there's so much of it, and it presents a unified face to the world, and it is so very captivating.
But God, God is scattered around. You look and look for pieces of that mirror that once was God, then you find a piece, but you can only see so much..."
I sat wordlessly.
Aloysius added, "Yes, you see that there are so many views of God, for example, an endless list of religions and such, but there's only one Genocide, isn't there? I mean, there may be many occurences, but it is still pretty much the same slash and shoot."

I did not know. These cute little metaphors that pop out of my writing are just my way of getting through another tedious session at the old keyboard.
They actually have meaning???

The sky was greyer than the tea. The snow was making a determined effort to white-out the world.


reprinted and actually edited and re-drafted and so on...hopefully better, but one never knows.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Historian's Long Range View...

The above is a chart showing the effective Federal Funds Rate from 1954 to the present. It came from the Federal Reserve, and essentially shows not the rate the Fed was aiming for, but the actual rate that was effective. You may think of it as the rate banks borrowed from the Fed in order to do their job of "creating money".

50+ years is a long time, lots of things happen, lots of people come and go, lots of opinions and ideologies are born or sink into desuetude...yet the chart is very much an inverted "V": it slopes to a maximum, then slopes back down. It is not random, or - rather - it has randomicity within the basic pattern of an inverted bowl.
I invite you to gather all the explanations of all the learned economists, diligently gather them: articles, opionions, and video interviews; put them in a sack, drive out 50 miles into the county, throw the sack into a field, and I'll bet you those explanations will get back home before you do!

The chart illustrates my Narrative of America and The Depression and World War II: the enormous impetus of the end of the War required to be reined in up until the 1980s; after that, it was a different story.

The War did not end the Depression; the way the War ended ensured the end of the Depression.
It was not the spending in the War; it was the set of particular circumstances at the end of hostilities:

The Depression and War created a group of people who were uniquely bred under the threat of deprivation, and the threat of death or enslavement to tyranny. They weren't perfect, but they were fighters.

The War lasted just long enough; it created a certain set of attitudes, and it did not drag on to mutually exhaust the combatants. If it had exhausted even the victors, quite a different history would have played out.

The War devastated just thoroughly enough that the victors could embark on massive rebuilding of the devastated areas, thus creating a enormous economic boom of real goods.

The War engendered a dangerous stand-off called the Cold War, which called for sustained levels of investment in weapons, infrastructure ( the inmterstate highway system, for example ) , education ( the response to Sputnik ), the exploration of space, and other areas seen essential to endure in and "win" in this Cold War. Yet, this Cold War never did turn into a nuclear holocaust. The participants remained essentially loyal to Humanity, and they did not destroy the plant - one of the greatest moral victories of mankind.

This boom peaked in the inflation of the early Reagan years: this was the acme of the effects of WW II. Ever since then, we are declining. Even the Electronic Boom of the 1990s called forth only enough heated inflation to warrant a relatively minor Fed correction...but by this time, we were all about creating asset booms anyway, even though we didn't call them that.

Ever since Reagan - whose Vice President, George H.W. Bush was a WW II veteran and would be the last of the WW II era to be president -  we have been acting in a role that did not suit us, and was beyond our means. We always draw parallels between us and Rome, but infallibly we draw the wrong parallels, for the period of time of which we speak we should speak of Rome in the wars with Carthage, and Rome thereafter, as we  read in Polybius

...when a state, after having passed with safety through many and great dangers, arrives at the highest degree of power, and possesses an entire and undisputed sovereignty; it is manifest that the long continuance of prosperity must give birth to costly and luxurious manners, and that the minds of men will be heated with ambitious contest, and become too eager and aspiring in the pursuit of dignities. And as these evils are continually increased, the desire of power and rule, and the imagined ignominy of remaining in a subject state, will first begin to work the ruin of the republic; arrogance and luxury will afterwards advance it: ...
For then, being with rage, and following only the dictates of their passions, they no longer will submit to any control, or be contented with an equal share of the administration, in conjunction with their rulers; but will draw to themselves the entire sovereignty and supreme direction of all affairs.

Dido Builds Carthage

Pop Quiz Question for Baysage:  the period of time from 1954 to the maximum at approximately 1984 is 30 years, give or take 2 years. What is the date 30 years forward from the maximum? Give your answer +/- 2 years.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

FOX News Most Trusted

There has been a poll somewhere taken among some group of people who watch and listen to cable TV, and it seems that the poll had to do with which of the Big Media News : of people who watch news shows, which show do viewers say they trust the most?
The answer of the FOX viewers seems to indicate a deep trust in FOX news.
(If you are really interested in this stuff, look it up, because I don't watch cable news and really think it's a waste of time.)

This to me is not surprising.
The reason is that FOX does not really report news; it spins its story and narrative of the world.

I personally always trust implicitly people and corporations and, well, you name it....anything, that already agrees with my view of the world. I always disgaree with things that fly in the face of my beliefs. Trust - thy name is sycophancy!

Why I Love My Nephews

She-who-must-be-obeyed and I had some light-hearted stationery made up, and it featured the drawings of a man, under whom was my name, a woman, under which was her name, and so on. You get the idea.

The last picture was a dog and under the dog was the name Carl.

This was my idea of a joke.

At the time, I did not own a dog: this was before the days when saints Cymbalta and Zoloft came to town on pilgrimage...and never left. I thought that I was allergic to the great, floppy well as their small, diminutive, yappy cousins. When we visited people who did own dogs, and the great brute mastiffs jumped up on us,  or did that leg thingey, we did not gleam with delight.
When the owners said, "Rover, come on. So-and-so doesn't want you jumping all over him.", we did not contradict this observation. Sometimes I gave one of those sickly smiles and said, "Indeed. Indeed, Rover." Sometimes I frowned mightily, and said - as Ahab did to Stubb - "Down, dog, and kennel!"

When conversation turned to Antiquity, I would say things like  "You probably do know more about mediaeval Europe, living with the animals in the house as you do..."

Well, I had the dog placed on the stationery because I liked comic books.
When someone were to ask me (they never did ... which demonstrates the obstinate lack of interest of most people in the accoutrements and emblems that we bedeck our own lives with...unless we are certified celebrities) why we had a dog on the stationery, I would say, " Carl barks."
This, of course,  meant the Disney comic book artist of the 1940s and 1950s, Carl Barks.

My nephews did not ask. They saw the letter and drawings and went into gales of laughter. We indeed are kindred spirits.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The $500 Million Man

 The American Defense Budget is just as high as it was when we were squared off against the entire Soviet Union. Mr. Dara', pictured above, is a member of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan. It costs about $500 million to try to render Mr. Dara' hors de combat these days.

Pack Rat-itis

Many of us know people who are hoarders. True hoarding is considered to be a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I was reading of some food hoarders; the story said that people that hoard food between wars are not really hoarders, since it is hard to get food in wartime.
(That was a lot like reading books from the future - a Orwellian 1984 touch about constant wars and what goes on between wars. I tried to find out more about who wrote it, but there didn't seem to be a lot of information.)

Were a hoarder to throw something out, they would feel a deep, personal loss tearing at them; that's why they can't do it: their self has extended out into the object world, and their surrounding objects have taken on part of the aura of their Intimacy ..."Intimacy" being defined as the set of intimately felt things, whether a body part or a loved one.
So it is with creativity. When we create, we extend ourselves out to the world.
When we have social relations, we extend ourselves out.
Even the smallest interaction is an "intimacy"...that's why our ancestors used to call "interpersonal actions" by the name of "intercourse". Nowadays, we are overwhelmed by the "intimacy" suggested by the word "intercourse", and we have pretty much abandoned it to health care professionals.

In this post-AIDS age, we have been turning against intimacy, as evidenced by the rage of texting and messaging: others call it instant contact, I call it lots of contact, but at a safe distance; it tries to make up in quickness and frequency  what it lacks in intimacy. One of the reasons that our public discourse is so vindictive and hateful is our rage to protect our Intimacy against intrusion from outsiders. On a national level, speaking of national communications using the large media, we display a profound distrust, which does in no way reflect the true intimacies which exist on the local levels, in small groups and families, where people do reach out and converse.
Our national media are dysfunctional, and they are exhibiting hoarding behavior: they extend a communication and an invitation to intimacy, but their message never actually makes it out into the sunlight; they remain constipated within their own nest of hoarded objects and ideas. Their objective has become more and more to take rather than to give, and what they do give is coldly calculated to increase the odds of their taking...that's the goal of all their advertising.

Hoarders are artists thwarted in their art: singers who have no voice, painters who lack co-ordination, chess players without a least in their minds, they think they are so lacking. So they latch on the the bits and pieces of real life as it has been lived, and store it in a depository of their Life: the examples of their creativity.
They wish to extend themselves out, but instead of relating to humanity, they create the prostheses of belongings wrapped in plastic bags, and piles of newspapers stored on the stairs to the basement, and the garages bursting at the seams...all museums of their peculiar art.

All men have been designed in the image of God, and therefore it is their destiny to be free to create, for as God is creator, so must mankind be.
We actively work to help individuals afflicted by hoarding. We must also work on the national level.

The  problems of our national political discourse demonstrates that - at least on the national level - we cannot function as a creative nation any more.
We must act to free ourselves on the national level. When we go to visit Uncle Sam, we don't want to have to climb over all the tanks on the front stoop anymore; we don't want to have space programs going nowhere in particular taking up the dining room; we don't want to have to duck out of the way of drones; we particularly don't want to watch while he goes out back and yells at another neighbor and threatens to invade his backyard.
All our creativity in fighting for freedom has been lost, and this process has been summed up in the Afghanistan War:  go to war, fight, win, give it away over the next 8 years, fight again...
It is dysfunctional, it is no way to interact with other peoples, and all of our genius has been turned into bodies stuffed in bags, and dubious headlines in the newspapers which form the labyrinth of our Living Room.

Creative metamorphoses of hoarded objects:

Watts Towers

Detroit's Heidelberg Project

Pet Med

In certain areas of South Eastern Michigan, an area that covers economically devastated Detroit as well as some of the wealthiest suburbs in the nation, there are more pets with medical insurance than human beings with it.

Pets have a more effective lobby.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen To People?

A Triptych of Recovery

Somebody asked me this recently, regarding the earthquake in Haiti and its aftermath.

I thought about it briefly, perplexed as usual by such a question. I mean, this question is no more than one of our usual and daily prayers..., but in reverse: instead of the usual whining or frantic petition for something to happen, it's a 180 degrees reversal and a flight from something that has happened. They both seem childish to me, but that's what we were taught; that's how we were taught how to pray: whine, beg, kneel, throw yourself down on the ground, promise tithes and candles. And when something bad happens, we were taught to ask why? - under the guise that this was some sort of metaphysics.

Since I do not "believe"  in God - no more than I "believe" in my right arm...I really have no metaphysical hook to hang these notions of God's omnipotence and God's all-goodiness and why God allowed the earth to tremble; my mind is no longer a cloakroom for kids' coats, boots, and ways of thinking.

I expect God. My time of doubting has passed. I don't ask those things about why God did this, and whether there is an intelligent or stupid designer of the universe, and whether God loves me. I know what I have to do and try to do it.

This is a perspective closer to the Indian approach of the Lord Buddha: there is no question as to the existence or non-existence of God; there is only the way.
It is also the perspective of Jesus, but it has been so long that we have been studying pseudo-philosophy about the Holy, that we have quite forgotten it. That's why I have to jump over to the Lord Buddha: it surprises some conservative religious types...but it also criticizes them for what I believe is the incredible waste of spiritual energy of our age...trying to put religion on the same footing as sciences. In Religion, perpetual asking is nothing but perpetual dodging one's responsibilities.
If you wish to sit by the side of the road and ask whether God exists, or why God designed the earth to have earthquakes, you will sit there a long time.

About Pat Robertson and his opinion on Haiti:
I have studied Vodoun - or Voodoo - for a couple of years, trying to understand the human urge to connect to the Holy. It has never once occurred to me to dismiss Haitian religion as devil worship.'
What Mr. Robertson is doing is actually condemning freedom, for his implicit premise is that things were better and holier under Slavery than Freedom; only the Devil can give Freedom; hence, Freedom is the work of the Devil.
Typical of much of American religiosity in these times.

Welcome New Friends

I had an unusual feeling of balance in the periphery of my visual field; there was another friend added to the right-hand column, an area which Blogger likes to term "Followers"...which strikes me as a bit much...Blogger might as well say "Apostle" and let my egomania rage. "Friend" is good. "Friend" is a term that pretty well sums things up, and does not strain things to some greater issue.
Welcome, Friend John.

The Rubicon Club January 26 2010

Go to the site and read the entire article.

Tomgram: William Astore, Going Rogue in Combat Boots
By William Astore
Posted on January 19, 2010, Printed on January 24, 2010

Here’s a bit of cheery news: Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with the nation's top defense company executives, including the CEOs of those mega-military-industrial combines Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and called for a “closer partnership.” He also made them a promise. He pledged, according to his spokesman, “to work with the White House to secure steady growth in the Pentagon's budgets over time.”

Let’s put that pledge in context. Last week, President Obama did something common in the Bush years, something he swore never to do; he requested a supplemental $33 billion over and above the fiscal year 2011 defense budget, mainly for his Afghan surge. That sum, when appropriated by Congress, will bring the total official Pentagon budget to $708 billion dollars ($159 billion of which will be directly slated for Afghan and Iraq war costs). To put that sum in context, it’s close to what the rest of the world combined spends on military matters. And you can be guaranteed of one thing: this won’t be the last supplemental request of 2011.

By the way, if you were to add up the real “defense” budget, including funds for the Department of Homeland Security, the Energy Department (which handles the U.S. nuclear arsenal), veterans' care, the State Department’s planned near-billion-dollar expansion of its embassy in Pakistan into a mega-command post for the region and the planned doubling of the number of personnel in its already monstrous embassy in Baghdad for a similar purpose, and many other relevant things, you would be closing in on $1 trillion per year.

Meanwhile, in December 2009, the total funds Congress has so far appropriated since 2001 only for our two wars topped $1 trillion dollars, with no end in sight, and that figure doesn’t include projected future costs ranging from care for soldiers wounded in those wars to the cost of replenishing worn out military equipment. At the war-fighting level, the Congressional Budget Office has already projected direct war costs over the next decade at $867 billion.

The Pentagon’s 2011 budget is already the highest since World War II, according to defense analyst Winslow T. Wheeler. Now, consider that the secretary of defense has just “pledged” more of the same for years to come. And note that none of this -- with the possible exception of that $33 billion supplemental request -- is considered particularly controversial by anyone who matters in Washington, or worth much front-page news attention. Sums that put health-care reform in the shade cause barely a stir....
A Very American Coup
Coming Soon to a Hometown Near You
By William J. Astore

The wars in distant lands were always going to come home, but not this way.

It’s September 2016, year 15 of America’s “Long War” against terror. As weary troops return to the homeland, a bitter reality assails them: despite their sacrifices, America is losing.........
As long as we continue to live in perpetual fear in an increasingly militarized state, we establish the preconditions under which Americans will be nailed to, and crucified on, a cross of iron.

William J. Astore teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology ( A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), he has also taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism.

Copyright 2010 William J. Astore
© 2010 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

View this story online at:
formerly The Club of Arminium and Caesena

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Training For The Future: Bloggers

Fortunately, the screaming heads of cable TV will not last forever: they cannot. It is impossible that such an artificial, ungainly, misbegotten construct could last for any length of time.

In the future - proximate & dark - we shall together observe the breakdown of the corporate Media system, changing the Slavery of Information into a chaotic Anarchy of Information.
If you think we have problems now with conspiracy theories and political nonsense, just wait: every mad man will be on every corner, proclaiming a new dispensation.

That's where the Bloggers will come in, having trained in their craft; good or bad, corrupt or saintly, it will be their time to tell their story. (...and once more, we hope that it is one of the good stories...)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Appliances Of The Future

A Borg Gizmo from 2226 AD.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court Avenue

Go Directly to the Supreme Court. Do not pass "GO", but you may collect $200.

FDR had problems with the Court. Now the entire country will. There is nothing sacred about the Court. If 5 old men want to raffle off the government to the highest bidders, get rid of the Court. The Founding Fathers were deists...they did not mean to turn their work into some pagan idol we have to pray to.

Justice Stevens dissents and states that corporations "are not human beings" and "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires." He insists that "they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."
Alito et ali. believe in the essential humanness of mindless structures...which is a telling characteristic.

Take back the country.

The Spirit of Winter

And this is from my friend, Ruth's, site. It reminds of the woodsy places where the faeries of snow and winter hide.


The Spirit of Christmas

I know I'm late, but I came across this, and I love it. It is like a medieval diptych behind the altar: the spiritual as symbolized by the brightly burning tree of the left, the things of mankind on the right, ever striving upward - at least as excelsior as possible to get the star in place.

I like it.


The Club of Ariminium and Caesena ( or The Rubicon Club )

Anciently, Ariminium and Caesena were considered to be on or within the drainage basin of the Rubicon River, the Rubicon being the river which Julius Caesar crossed in defiance of Roman custom and usage and in defiance of the Roman Senate, as he continued on his way to the eventual destruction of the Republic and the establishment of the Roman Empire under his nephew, Octavian, later known as Augustus.

Just like The Club of Rome which keeps track of mankind's perilous pirouette on the brink of nuclear destruction, The Club of Ariminium and Caesena keeps track of the loss of freedom in the USA.

Many people see parallels with ancient Rome. Unfortunately, they are the parallels which appeal to them, which agree with their prejudices, and confirm them in their inability to see clearly - being mostly derived by others and given to us as opinion.

Looking at more continuing fighting, ideology, and inability to govern...seeing parallels with the times of Sulla and Marius and the Gracchi...we set the Clock of the Club of Arminium and Caesena perilously close to midnight - the time when the people of the USA will demand a dictator to get things make the trains run on time, at least.

let me know which name you prefer: Rubicon Club or the Club of Ariminium & Caesena

The End Of Utilitarian Materialism (finished)

Facing death and annihilation of the psyche, he ( a character in Blade Runner ) realises that life is an amazing glorious, wonderful thing. Perhaps this is the reason we dwell on the idea of the apocalypse and try to envision it within the arts?

I did not know how to signify the philosophy of Materialism that has held sway from the 20th century to the present, so taking an inspiration from Avatar, I called it Utilitarian Materialism: a crude, crass,  what's-in-it-for-me type of materialism, which denies its roots and calls itself "religious"...but whose religion is based on material gain. It is crude, it is selfish, it is hypocritical, and it has been ruthless.
And its time is up.

What we call "The World" has at least two main components: that which we call factual, and that which we call narrative. The factual may be thought of as bed, slippers, cups of coffee, car, traffic, job, work, car, traffic, dinner, tv, bed. The narrative is the web we stick these different nouns on to give them the structure we call "Our Lives".

There is a hierarchy of narratives: there are stories and fables, and then there are mythologies of quests, heroes, and divinity.
The highest narrative is the most dynamic. In our world, we would think of this as stating that the most powerful story we can tell if that of God, Karma, Creation, and where we are going.
Thus, the great mythology of a society draws the lesser stories towards itself, and is essentially the absolute center of tension of the web of narrative we call "Our Lives".

When the center is destroyed, then it cannot hold.

Enough of Philosophy!
When the center is destroyed...!
Whatever is our notion of the "Higher Power", be it God, or the Nation State, or the Commonwealth, or the City, Urbs, or Polis, when it no longer has the power to attract our moral and ethical longings, mankind creates new stories and narratives in a fevered attempt to fill the void at the center.

Superman was born in the Depression, an era when the commonwealth had broken down, and it was becoming obvious that the system of American Capitalism had many severe problems. In the breakdown of the notions of the democracy of welfare and well-being for all men, the popular mind turned to Superheroes, who were almost demi-gods. It was a popular mythology, in which Justice and Equality were enforced and overseen by Superheroes, in the wake of the catastrophe of the normal governmental system: all in an era when the forces of disunion and disintegration overwhelmed the business-as-usual of the State - which more often than not was a subterfuge to conceal the depredations of those above and outside the laws; the fabulously rich on the one hand, and the criminal class on the other.

The  Scenarios of Doomsday...and After  started earlier than this, just after World War I - a war whose massive disregard for life and civilization destroyed most of the societies that entered into it, destroying quickly or slowly, its toxins spread throughout the world.
World War I was the great Irony: the fall from what people thought was an ever onward progress to bigger and better things, into a cauldron where human flesh was mixed with carrion meat...
(At his point, it would be well to point out that heroes and doomsday scenarios have always existed in literature and the popular consciousness. It seems to me, however, that the Present has an unusually lage number of them.)

The incredible Irony of the Nobility of Man as seen in the trenches and the massively destructive and wantonly wasteful fighting permanently scarred those who were not killed outright. There was the Lost Generation in Paris, swept loose from their domestic moorings; there was the substance abuse of all kinds in the 1920s; there was the popularization of crime and the criminal in the popular press.

While sitting in the theater waiting for Avatar to begin, I saw previews for The Book of Eli.
Mythologies of redemption paired with mythologies of destruction once again: from Shape of Things To Come, 1984, Clockwork Orange, Mad Max, Terminator...
balanced by Fahrenheit 451, Star Wars, Avatar...

...and there is a special place for things like the "Left Behind" series, wherein the "religious" indulge in their penchant for war and destruction, lovingly describing Hell on earth, mixing Damnation and Redemption. Even a cursory review of the written and the filmed shows that the Danse Macabre of Death trumps salvation and redemption most of the time - even in the time of God, there is no place for the Good until the end of the story...God as a literary or filmic device.
And we bring it in like a deus ex machina to tidy things up.
We cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear; we cannot take Evil and call it Good, love the special effects of Evil though we do.

We are beating the drums of our own demise.
It is evident everywhere one looks. When nothing really works, we need bigger and greater Superheroes and Powers to meet the threat of bigger and more evil Villains.

An enormous portion of the Creative Library of Imagination of our society is devoted to the Mythology of Destruction and The Denying Spirit. This calls forth the large section devoted to the Mythology of Salvation.
These are new creations, flooding in ceaselessly. The old stories and narratives have been thrown out.

This reflects the coming destruction of our Philosophy of  Utilitarian Materialism. The process of this destruction is active and going forward, and pieces of our society fall by the wayside as we walk forward on a Bataan death march.
The end of  Utilitariam Materialism has created a vacuum at the center of our lives, and the old myths are not efficient, and we desperately search for new ones: myths in films, myths of Self-Improvement on Oprah, myths of riches and Rich Dads...
We feel ourselves beset on all sides, and feverishly create new idols to still our fears.
But there's always less balm than there are wounded...that's a fact, even in the end of the technological age. We never quite ever make it to that point where everyone has health care, where families have their own commuter airplanes, where traffic is intelligently controlled, where world peace is the normal...

...never quite all the way to Norman Bel Geddes Futurama - that vision of the future still steeped in optimism...
technology never quite makes it to that robust status of answering the needs of mankind.

Springing up around a planned traffic system - still looked on in 1939 as the guarantee of future happiness - the metropolis of 1960 was seen to be free of slums and blight, full of parks and civic centers. Energy sources would apparently be abundant, climate perfect.
The New York's World's Fair, 1939/1940      Selection, Arranged, and Text by Stanley Appelbaum
The spirit cries out in fear: the images of death and war!
The spirit cries out in hope: the image of heroes and redemption!
We know Society is mortally wounded, and all the uses of governments no longer work.

Our struggles today are clear indications not only of the break-down of the mechanics of Markets and Education - it was the educated class that destroyed the financial system, after all - they are indicators of our spiritual morass.

People think I put too much emphasis on Language, and Images, and Icons, and all the Narratives and Mythologies...they're just stories, after all, and mankind always spun tales and told stories seated around the fire.
But I have held that stories are not some by-product, they are the prime constituent of life: we chose the world by choosing the stories and narratives of our world.

Consider that the hijackers of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania all came from affluent backgrounds. Matt Frei of the BBC interviewed Michael Chertoff, the director of Homeland Security under Bush, and he said:

"What these people find attractive is that al-Qaeda offers them a coherent world view, an ideology."

Others say:

A friend of mine in British intelligence called it "an alternative family"
They have become nomads and al-Quaeda offers them a tent and a cause."

The Structure is everything. Our souls exists as the tension and the vectors between the nodes of the structure. That is the definition of the Ideal: the relationships between the Material, and the constructions of the Material...the ideal is that which exists between the things of the world and those things the world creates, just as the Material derives from the constructs of the Ideal...existing together.
Romeo and Juliet are the material nexus of a love story, the tension from which blasts open in a creation of gifts: the physical acts of kissing  and love - and more, the spiritual states of attraction and enduring love and fidelity and loyalty......and the Shakespearean play which has lasted - and will last - for a time far longer than the age span of the quick and the dead.
We create the World. If the World sucks, it is our doing.
We created Utilitarian Materialism, and it is falling apart.
From the ashes of Materialism, the Idealism of the future is being conceived.

We see and Intuit the Future, just as we see and Remember the Past, and just as we see and Experience the Present.
Did you actually think George Lucas made the Star Wars script read the way it does because he loves to recreate stories of ancient Rome? Is that all you think there is in creativity? take a blast from the past, gaudy it up, throw it into the future...
All the anti-utopian films and novels...what horrible dynamo feeds the creative vision of despair?
And what feeds the great vision of Good triumphing over Evil?
In our day, Good triumphing over Evil only exists in the movies. In real life, we actually do steal from widows and orphans...then we give ourselves bonuses for having done it. What do we lack?

We no longer have faith. We do not even have faith in the poor substitute-gods that are ourselves. We have faith in nothing.
That's why all these artists - including yourselves, idiots! if you have not lost your savor, you are creating! - are yelling and screaming; some depict our awful lack of faith in the future, the others try desperately to remind us to hope. And we...? We just sit there and do our Consumer-Stupid-Dog trick over and over again.

The End.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Africa Cup Of Nations

How's your local coverage of the Africa Cup? You are probably sick of hearing about it on all the sports channels.

Anyway, make a feeble attempt to integrate ourselves into a world-wide community and check it out:

( In keeping with all things Avatar, we could pretend to be inhabiting soccer-avatars and actually taking part.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Saw Avatar and loved it.
I practiced willing suspension of being-pissed-off at various places, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

1) I did not much care for the religious ceremonies at the Tree of Life; they reminded too much of ceremonies calling Kong in the original King Kong, and maybe something else I can't quite put my finger on.

2) I did not like the fact that there was an enveloping story with Sigourney Weaver which ended up on the editing room floor, except for a number of scenes which made me wonder what was going on.
The original story - as we may recreate it - apparently was something like exploratory spaceship comes across inhabited moon of gas giant planet ( more of that later ). Happily, they name it Pandora, which means literally "All Giving" in Greek and was a name for the Great Mother, even though they did not know too much about the web of life on this planet at the time.
They open a school for the aboriginals, teaching them English among other things, which explains why the Na'vi speak English so well. Weaver's character is banished from Na'vi society and the school is closed for reasons not clear. Mining operations commence, and Blackwater is employed to destroy the aboriginals in the way of progress.

I loved it, even though its all been done before.
There is a science fiction short story called "Call Me Joe" written in 1957 by Poul Anderson about a human-artificial life link on Jupiter. The hero of the story operates on a moon of Jupiter and is linked to a massive, squat life form which can withstand the gravity and pressure of Jupiter. I have read this story probably five times in my life.

The hero of Anderson's story is confined to a wheelchair in his human life, as is the hero in Avatar.
There is a shot in the film of Pandora against the background of its planet: the planet is bluish and not the color of Jupiter, but it is as massive as a gas giant - such as Jupiter - and it has an obvious atmospheric disturbance similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot ( see it on the left upper of the above illustration ). I think it was at this point in the film that my mind began to create a link with "Call Me Joe". I also get the impression that the estate of Poul Anderson will be heard from shortly.

Wiki "Call Me Joe", if you want to know more.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Alex's Dad

Alex's Dad is an absolute Master of the History of Black Music. I mean, his knowledge is intimidating. I was talking to Alex, chit-chat about hip-hop, and happened to mention that it was Little T that did Shaniqua Don't Live Here No Mo'.
His father asked if that was my favorite hip-hop song based on the name Shaniqua. I acknowledged that it was, and demurred, saying that I had thought it was the only song based on Shaniqua, or Shaniqwa - how many were there?
"To be precise, there are five." he said, and proceeded to list them with their artists, labels, producers, and sound studio.


If you ever read my poems over in the other site, you would know at one time I wrote a poem about a micro-cemetery by the side of the road. It was inspired by memorial to Saint Ronny of the Semi: a cross of flowers with the name "Ronny", and upon a blanket of bows and boughs, little things - statues? toy soldiers?
A truck, too. Definitely a truck.

I think "Ronny" was "Ron". He had served in the army, and he was a truck driver. He died in a truck crash on that road I rarely travelled. And here was the memorial and micro-cemetery; it wasn't really a cemetery in any sense, I mean, no one was buried there. Even the last breaths may have been gasped on the way to the hospital...but the shadow of trauma and loss most definitely covers the area.

He had a loving family and friends, because every time I've seen the micro-memorial in the micro-cemetery, it was always looking ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

A while ago, the State government was pondering the idea of forbidding the micro-cemeteries by the side of the road. No more micro-memorials. I think people told them to go off somewhere and propagate, because no such law outrageous to the sensitivity of the bereaved was ever passed.

Qaf, Head Of Section Q

There has been a lot of chatter on the Arabic channels about Qāf, the head of the Q Section of al Qai'da, specifically about the fiasco on Christmas, caused by the inability of a young man to maneuver properly in the underwear area.
This might be a problem specific to young terrorists, particularly those into al Qai'da's brand of jihad, where jihad need not be in the time of the Theocratic Succession ( khilaafat an nubuuwa: the Prophet [saw], abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali...), but can be proclaimed by kings and dynasts, and - so it seems - by every person so inclined...I have seen children issuing fatwa, so perhaps they will also proclaim jihad from the mal'ab ( playground ) .

There is a certain prudishness about them. Look how many of the 9/11 crowd not only wished to see virgins in paradise, but were virgins themselves.

Qāf erred in thinking that young suicide bombers could do a Michael Jackson crotch-grab and twist to mix the binaries of the bomb. I mean, I think the washroom on the airplane was occupied for some 20 minutes or so...unheard of for any such similar activities among young fellows of Western society.

Done In By The Cyrillic Alphabet

I used the Cyrillic alphabet in the title of the post about 'Umm Khaita, and now I have Cyrillic Mechs after me:

...видео эротику avi
порно видео...
" erotiki AVI, porno video..."

So far, no Mechs writing in Arabic....which may indicate that it is better to write something out yourself, scan it and use it, rather than using a font the Mechs can read.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Infinite Museum Of Entymology: 3

The "notorious" - almost infamous -  addition on Futuna Avenue.
The government changed its mind just about 1/4 into the job, and switched to a more modern architectural style.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Infinite Museum Of Entymology: 2

The old underpass to the parking lots in July, 2009, before cleaning. It forked off to two different lots, and became known as the Road of Forking Graffitti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Infinite Museum of Entymology

pic: Arieh Singer

Wherein I Speak Clearly

Paradox seems to me to be the very basis of religion.
And this is one of the more profound paradoxes of Christianity: to give up everything and follow.

We can't do it. We resist it, because it is too radical; it is so radical that even our priests and pastors nod their heads and agree: yes, it is to radical...perhaps a fairy-tale-like parable...perhaps Jesus was having his little joke.
We have to embrace the paradox.
If we fear the paradox, we never approach. That is why life forces us to it; that is why we know that evil forces us to "rock bottom" before we can climb out of evil. We know it. We all know it; we just think "rock bottom" is a stop on the subway line of "Other People" - not ours.
( "rock bottom" and death are the same phenomenon...the basis of St. Paul's statement that we shall all be changed...the radical change that wrenches us from childhood and acquisition to adulthood of giving and creating: where would we be if God - rather than creating - had decided to spend His time acquiring?!)

Once we give up everything - or everything is taken from us -  and we believe, we shall discover that everything is exactly as it was before, except for one thing: we are no longer slaves to our past, our histories, our belongings; we are enslaved to nothing...not even our images and prophecies of the future!!
We have not lost our belongings and desires; rather, our belongings and desires have lost their power over us.

There is no necessity for any external change. Just as people who think riches are a sign of God's blessing are misled, so also those who think giving all to God requires some sort of external affirmation  - such as a total change of life - are foolish.
The seal of our covenant is within our hearts; we see evidence in our good actions, nothing else. We need not wear haloes and scapulars; we need not go around with begging bowls nor riches.
We shall not all be changed, however, when even our religious leaders secretly - or openly - believe that the profound truths of religion are beyond the grasp of mankind.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Misspellings And Homeland Security

عبد المطلب‎

I have seen and heard it said that Mr. Abdulmuttalib from Nigeria was not hindered in flying into the USA because of an error in spelling his name.

( ...pause... )

I have seen the name spelled a lot of different ways, so at Sunday January 10, 2010, there was no obvious way to spell his name that everyone agreed one. This morning I saw "mutallab".

First, it is probably  " muttalib" using the emphatic "t", derived from the eighth form of the Arabic verb: 'ittalaba. Precisely, it is the present participle of that verb form.
This is the name of the Prophet's [saw] grandfather, Abdulmuttalib:   عبد المطلب‎

"abdulmuttalab" is the past participle, and doesn't seem likely, and no one uses it that I've seen.
"adulmutallab" - mentioned above - is the past participle of the second verb form, and
"abdulmutallib" is the present participle of the second form.

Again, the most likely form - to me - is the name of the grandfather of the Prophet [saw] : Abdulmuttalib.

The root verb is Talaba, the same root that gives us Taliban, and has the notion of search, quest, seek earnestly, learn, to be a student of. The second form, tallaba, is an intensive form, meaning to search, seek assiduously.
The eighth form is not common, but would probably have the idea of a large scale quest, or a polymathic study...I can't really locate a use of the eighth form!- other than in the proper name Muttalib. And there is no other way to get that double "t" unless it is the present participle of 'ittalaba,  where the two types of "t" come togther and become a doubled emphatic "t".

So please do not - repeat: do not - say that anything at all was due to the inability to spell the darn name, because you are going to have to find a way around that problem; it is going to be months before the media comes to grips with one spelling; we can't interview everyone's family to determine how to spell their name.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What Word Follows "Yemenee"?

How does one spell or say the adjective for Yemen in English? I guess I would say "yamanEE" with the emphasis on the last syllable in capital letters, approximating the name Al Yaman, which indeed is the name of the country: al jumhuurEEyatu'l yamanEEya, the Republic of Yemen.
Mostly I hear Yemenee with the emphasis on the first syllable and a short "e" sound: YE - me - nee.

The only word that should follow YE-me-nee is another YE-me-nee, giving us YEmenee, YEmeneee, ...and that's all folks.

Tough Winter...

...for the people who say Climate Change is a lie. Tough break for Climate Change deniers...and the Homeless.

Sharp Centre

Sharp Centre Cross Section

In December, 2009, we were in Toronto, and other than going to Daiter's Delicatessen to get the cream cheese, and to Levy's Bakery next door to get the lightest, sweetest Challa bread in the world, and to West Bloor Village to get fresh pierogi and strudel and doughnuts and chocolates, we were spending a dab of time hanging around the Art Gallery of Ontario for laughs.
The King Tut exhibit was there at the time, but we didn't attend that. Tickets had been bought decades ahead; grandparents bought them for their descendants about the time of MacKenzie King, and the descendants were finally cashing them in. It was packed.
We went to see something else really cool, but I forget what it was... is how cool it was!
Anyway, traffic was a bear: schools were, schools were in. Definitely IN. If schools were out, all those little people in uniform would have been home playing video games. But they weren't. They were at the Art Gallery of Ontario in long lines, wearing checks and tartans, and playing tag around Henry Moore nudes. So schools were definitely in session, and they were having a trip to the Art Gallery that day.
Parking was difficult. I happened to chance upon a World of Zelda type of parking lot, which seemed to stretch the entire length of McCaul Street; it was dark, narrow and had signs and meta-signs: a meta-sign is a sign which adds the information "exit - left " immediately in the vicinity of the basic primary sign which conveyed the information "exit - right". It wasn't a contradiction, it was a higher level commentary, all of which I came to appreciate after about 20 minutes of driving back and forth through the same parking lanes.

Exasperating ordeal. Park. Slam door. Lock doors. Curse. Curse all foreigners! For some reason, I had assumed the lot was owned by foreigners for whom English was a second or third - maybe even further back - language. And this all based on a contrarian approach to the word "Exit".
I felt ashamed. I did a stutter walk of sorts: Damn foreigners!! - skip - oops, shouldn't say that...damn foreigners and their damn parking garages!!! - stumble - oops, that's a bit harsh...damn Pakistanis!! - skip, turn, dance around - say, there's a lot of people from Pakistan I admire....
And so - interminably - on did I do this bi-polar two-step all the way to the exit on McCaul Street.
The exit door was well hidden behind a corner and bushes and shadows, so having exited, I studied it thoroughly. I walked backwards to the street, looking all around, making sure I could find this devilish door in the wall of the unenchanted garden again, marking down street numbers, making sure I didn't stumble into people - damn foreigners probably!!!
And I exhaled, turned around, and for the first time in my life, I saw the Sharp Centre for Design almost directly across the street from me.

I did a real triple-take, and slowly looked up from street level to the top of the building.
I was just about exactly at the spot the illustration was taken. I first thought of an alien invasion...sort of New Orleans Mardi Gras alien invasion...sort of alien invasion of the House of Extravanganza-Crossword Puzzle-Kleenex Box voguing down the run-way on caran d'ache legs with intent to kill.

I had never heard of the Sharp Centre before, nor had I ever seen a picture of it.
I spent at least another 20 minutes approaching it from various angles, wondering if I had indeed gone through some Lewis Carroll looking glass.
It was one of the coolest surprises I ever had.

Die Hard With A Vengeance, 1995

Starring two of my favorties, Bruce Willis and Samual Jackson. It also villain-starred Jeremy Irons as the bad guy. ( "Villain-star" means to star as the villain...formula pictures get formulaic language.)
What is particularly interesting is that the film features one of the first references to Binary Explosives, Jeremy Irons' character having left a suitcase behind in the first hero-villain encounter of the movie - it may help you to recall if I mention that they were playing a deadly game of "Simon says" - and the suitcase had  binary explosives in it.

As explained in the film, the binary consists of two parts, usually liquid - such as some epoxy glues - each part being harmless and innocuous, but being lethal once they are mixed together. Boom!@*^*!

This was the threat behind the ban on carry-on liquids a few years ago...everything is "a few years ago"  in this story...2001 was but "a few years ago".

The extra villainous quirk of the Xmas Day 2009 bomber was that it was being carried in one's underwear. So the entire process of opening 2 containers, forcing the liquids together, AND mixing them had to be undertaken within one's underpants, much to the bewilderment of the people sitting nearby. I mean, I know some undergarments that have seen horrible carnage, but this must have been an unusual sight.

This means that Al Qai'da's equivalent of " Q "  - Lieutenant Qaf - will have to back to the laboratory ( pronounced " lah- BORE-ah-t'ry" with a slight Dubai-Oxford accent ) and come up with a better way to mix binaries. In fact, I think Qaf  and his section have already come up with something I spotted, and which looks like the perfect way to deliver binaries.

If you are flying on commercial airliner around Super Bowl Sunday, beware of this new and improved binary delivery system:

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Artist And The End Of Times

"Nude Descending A Staircase" by Marcel Duchamp
(being ever-the-optimist, I refer to it as "Nude Ascending A Staircase...
 Walking Backwards, and having a Bit of a Tough Go.")

Asia Times
Wallis & Futuna edition
Front Page

" It's not the end of the world - it's the end of you. "

I have told a story here somewhere about a young man who had become very interested in End of Times and the Book of Revelations, and was quite sure of the imminent demise of all things; within the space of the next five years his wife had suffered a stroke, he struggled with their three young kids, and after rehabilitation, his wife divorced him:  end of his world, his old world.

So it goes. It's hard to get the detail right, even though many, many of us are so spot on with the overall perspective of catastrophe...but the details! the time - the exact time! the place, the cast of characters...tough to do.

From some unknown place, an urge arises to create.
We could just sit there with a vague feeling of unease, forbodings, and anxieties. However, some of us feel the urge to create a large-scale epic with a cast of millions or billions. We order a re-write, we increase the budget of the imagination, we hire thousands of extras, and we set about to create a C.B. DeMille epic of whatever it was that arose into our consciousness. (In the young man mentioned above, it was end of times.)

We test market the idea by discussing it with our friends, and with people at the bar. We fine tune it.
We are fixated on this creative endeavour.

This is the urge not just to create, but it is the urge to be immortal!
Not satisfied with being tortured by our anxieties, we respond to the ancient impulse to create a memorous creation: a memorial to ourselves - the artist who created it - that we may not be forgotten...that we may live on forever...evidenced by the twin streams of progeny: our children and our mental creation!
Thus do we place our bets of immortality within both realms: the material and the immaterial.

Immortality is only possible to the Ideal. And it is the Ideal which was the plan of the artist.
The individual painting may burn, the statue may break, the novel may turn to dust, but the immortal structure of the Artisitic Idea that conceived and created those works of art is imperishable.
And is is not just Art as defined by the privileged elite of "Art", but it is the creations of all mankind, from the most sublime to the most untutored; they are the mouthings of the inarticulate striving to be heard, thus becoming immortal and one with the angels.

To live is to create; to create is to become immortal.
To become one with God in immortality is to create with Goals defined by a lifetime of struggling to be a moral person.

Therefore, if we desire immortality, our lives are the Moral quest and struggle; everything else is secondary.

Jihad And Mulk

The problem with Jihad is that it is quite clearly a war to increase the border of Dar al Islam - the territory of Islam - at the expense of the unbelievers by pushing into Dar al Harb - the territory of War, that which has not yet made the profession of faith.
It is quite clear, all the talk about internal struggles of conscience to the contrary.

Our friend, Imam Musa Abu Tariq, has struggled with it for years.
Suddenly, as of last week, he has an answer:
Jihad as defined by God and Religion only lasted as long as Islam was governed by  khilaafat al nubuuwa

or the prophetic successorship. This line of succession started at the Prophet [saw] and ran through the Four Orthodox Caliphs: Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali.
It is not clear whether it ran through the times of the sons of 'Ali, Al Hasan and Al Hussein - opinions differ - but clearly the time of the theocracy ended when the Mulk,

or kingship, began with the Umayyid Dynasty, when Mu'awiya assumed power as the first Umayyaid ruler.
At this point, the government of Islam became a Mulk, or a kingship.

Once the caliphate turned to a mulk, according to Imam Musa abu Tariq, Jihad was just war - plain, old vanilla war.
A king could make war, but a king could not make Jihad. That could only be done in the lifetime of the Prophet [saw], and those who had been the closest and the most influenced by the Prophet [saw].
Certain countries maybe theocracies, but this merely means they are under the rule of religious leaders: there are none such as Abu Bakr, nor 'Umar, nor 'Uthman among them.

Therefore, Jihad as a religious war ended when Dar al Islam became a Mulk, according to the Imam, our friend. However, not too many agree with him, not because this idea is heretical, but because it is so new apparently.
I am no expert on such matters. They will argue it out among themselves.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Tamm-inator

Tammi Petrocelli hangs out at Hanaan's Diner. She is only a girl in her mid 30's, so the only thing she has to say to the Greybeards at the table in the southwestern corner - where the afternoon sun spills over the window sill to warm us - is things like "Would youse mind passing me the salt?", or "Would ya's please pass the pepper?", or "Is somebody using this chair?"
We don't mind passing the spices, but the chair business is annoying. Usually the chair has just been vacated by one of the TYBALTs, The Young Bucks At Lunch Together...mortal enemies of the ROMEOs, Retired Old Men Eating Out. As I said, the chair was recently vacated, and the man who had been sitting there was usually just taking a jaunt to the Mens' Room. So it seems a bit premature to ask whether the chair had become superfluous. Unless there was some sort of infarction in the washroom, the old fellow should be back very soon. That's what we don't like about it: the implication of infarctions.

Infarction. Funny word. Sounds like something to do with flatulence, only more nasty: heart fart.  Hank Jacobowski spent one afternoon making similes between the TV and flatulence, sort of how loud some of the cable shows were, and how some of them were right in your face, and some were inflammatory - a references to BIC lighters and seat of the pants operations back in middle school; in short, a perfect symmetry between cable TV news shows and intestinal gas.
That's how we met Tammi. She liked the symmetry. Every time some one switched on FOX now, she said "Who cut tha cheese?" We laughed. She was cute, what can I say? She said other things for other shows:
Glenn Beck was Silent but Deadly, Anderson Cooper was One Cheek Sneak, various financial reports were Baaroooom, Squeak, Blitttt, and a whole variety of onomatopoetic names.
We still laughed, even though now we caught each others' eyes and rolled them heavenwards. She was a cutie. We admitted it was a shame that the only thing she had to talk about with men of our age and wisdom was potty humor, but people have settled for worse in their lives.

Tammi sells real estate. Rather, she sold real estate. Nowadays you give it away, as she says. The 7% of nothing is nothing, she adds. Wise beyond her years, we think, and nod our heads.

So the other day, she says "Ya know what the problem with people is?"
We look up, and by our looks, invite her response. It's like our eyes did not say "No. And we don't care! Buzz off!" with inverted daggers for exclamation points, rather they formed limpid pools of reflecting waters and softly said "We could not think of anything more precious than hearing you answer your own question."
She said "Religion."
She looks around. We sit there somewhat blankly. I mean, this may not be the first time we've heard this observation; we may have heard it once or twice before in our lives. How could such an innocent little tyke sell real estate? I suppose that explains her attempts at seeming a "tough guy"...or "tough broad", as the case may be.  She chewed gum...aggressively at times. She often seemed as if she had just come in from a date with Nathan Detroit.
On her business cards, she spelled her name:  Tammi  " the Tamm-inator " Petrocelli.
We supposed that she had spent a good deal of time agonizing over the choice between that or "Petro-zilla".
Then she pipes up "Ya know what the problem with religion today is?"
Again, brand new stuff. We were silent with stupefaction.
She extended her pause. Then, "I know you think I'm just a ditz..."
We were old and wise, and the one thing the old and wise owe to the young is that they should always tell them the truth...always! I mean, if you didn't tell them the truth, you may as well turn the whole country into a gigantic Ponzi scheme.
Hanaan sensed blood, and she was smiling as she stood perched like a buzzard next to the apple pies, a large knife dripping raisin and apple filling.
"Nawwww...!" we said as one. Each one of us made his own articulation of sincerity and his belief that she was a sharp cookie, best thing since slice bread, and out of the mouths of babes. Giant Ponzi scheme. Bunch of schnorrers!
She smiled, not a business-Hi-how-ya-doin'? smile, not a Pleased-ta-meetcha smile, but one of those smiles when you sense that all the tension of concealment, hiding, and subterfuge has left a person's body, allowing the most brilliant nova of a smile to burst forth, and you think it is the most beautiful smile that ever illuminated the most holy sanctuary of history.
She said "Religion today thinks the world is science and hard fact, and God is a choice..."
We stared...we stared like people stare just before something explosive happens; we were in that breezeway leading from Blessed Hum-Drum Elementary to the church of Saint-Blow-Us-Away...we stared with an anticipation that began to make our armpits moisten.
She went on "Actually, God is the hard reality, and the world is a choice..."

Everything was sort of hazy after that. She got incoming on her cellular, Hanaan told us to order something or get lost. When I was standing outside on the street with Levine, I began to come out of my fugue state.
"Levine! What was that all about?"
He shrugged. "Would you believe such a shikse sells real estate?"
I stared at him in unbelief, for he had said it  שיקסע
And he just meant she wasn't Jewish...and I think he meant that all of a sudden, he realized she was smart and intuitive, and he would have liked to have been able to tell people he had been at her Bas Mitvah...and something like why should a girl named The Tammi-nator sound like a rebbe? Levine was a businessman - owned the fish market - and there was an underlying motif of discord between what the modern world was, and what Levine used to think it was...or should be.
I'd heard all of it reverberating in my head, like he was Isaac Bashevis Singer...singing a tune, no less,  in the morning shower, and like I was Isaac Singer's echo...even though I felt more like Mr. Singer in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.
Infarction, I thought. Clearly an infarction of the rules.