Sunday, November 19, 2017

Beasts of the Forest

Those of us who may or may not be that interested in current events, but for some reason or other still aimlessly seek a silver lining somewhere in the news could well have come across reference to a 1999 study from social psychology titled The Kruger Dunning Effect, a misreading of which might well have tempted some to produce an explanation for our current predicament. A careless reading of the study would suggest that "The less competent a person, the more competent they think they are, and this confluence can make a person irredeemably obnoxious." This is actually Fake News that bristles a little on the boardwalks of an academia that has long been chastised for lack of relevance in a new age of communication that depends for it's income upon brevity in its passion to appeal to the least and most wretched part of each of us. Should you be tempted by the misreading, and are short of time, best to recall that a more accurate reading of the study and its criticisms might go this way "A jackass, like a rose, is a jackass no matter how competent or incompetent he or she might be." Certainly a Eureka sprang from my lips, but not knowing whether or not I am competent or incompetent, I have come to the conclusion that to avoid being a jackass I must endeavor to improve my grammar, my sentence structure, my punctuation. Spelling will rightly remain one of the holy mysteries, but call the entire exercise a come to Jesus moment between myself and the English Language as it is written.

And I fully intend to begin lesson one with an understanding of the Colon, not talking the digestive aid, we're talking the two full stops, one on top of the other, and we're talking the full stop on top of a comma, or the Semi-Colon. Both mysterious little punctuation marks that figure quite large, not only in literature, you can find them in lists, tables and a whole bunch of things including my imagination were they lurk in the corridors along with memories of detention and wholly obnoxious jackass type statements such as "In future you will...."  Fortunately there is no shortage of information about the Colon and the Semi-Colon, their ubiquity as a totally confusing punctuation marks draw considerable attention from millions of people who quite clearly have nothing better to do. Sadly if I'm to begin to understand either one of them, I have first to grasp the meaning of a Clause its relationship to an Independent Clause, and Connections between Independent Clauses or boring old Clauses provided by either Conjunctive Adverbs or Transitional Phrases. And while I probably have a couple of years remaining to me during which I might make the journey into a comprehension of these weighty issues, so long as there is food on the table I am tempted by Job's uncontrollable Bellowing Behemoth, to remain ignorant and dismissive, a farewell to curiosity. Yes indeed, the Psalms of David were written by a repentant king; broken by his sins; tears in his eyes: a warning to the power hungry, not a road map to a seat in the US Senate. Amen. And if you're interested in the Behemoth it's Job 40 15-24:  Job 40 15 through 24



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Isis

Many years ago, long before the Kitten emerged from under the front seat of a beaten up red pickup truck and long before the Girl Cat arrived in a nicely appointed hand crafted cat carrying basket, there was a big to-do that revolved around Compost Piles. There were seven of them, and it's a well known fact that some gardeners can be very picky about what goes on what pile, and they can go on a bit about the indolence and slothful behavior if other gardeners who do things like put the stalks of Iris blooms on the wrong pile, and they can get close to having a nervous break down if they find something like a bit of nylon string on the end of their compost turning fork. So in a vague attempt to maintain harmony the GICOCP, or Gardener In Charge of Compost Piles, decided to ceremoniously name his seven Compost Piles, and when asked on which pile to put something like a wind damaged Bush Bean he'd be able to sensibly and promptly reply "Ann of Boleyn." A majority might consider this a simple answer to the question of what pile to put what on. But the other thing about all gardeners, and I think it has something to do with the fresh air, as they achieve their less sentient years they struggle with memory. And while the naming of Compost Piles might have seemed like an obvious solution to a simple problem, it quickly fell foul of the GICOCP's inability to remember the names of his Compost Piles.

I do however remember the name of one of those Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It was called Isis, after the Egyptian Goddess, friend to slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden. Not in the least a mystical child, she was the first daughter of Geb, who was god of the earth and of Nut who was goddess of the Ancient Egyptian sky. And indeed Isis was the go to Compost Pile, not just for those wretched fronds of faux Pampas Grass that linger for month after thatched month, but any and everything from woody tree cuttings to the endless roots of Creeping Grass. And today, many years later, someone, more saint than sinner, out there in the gusty southern drafts with the perfect excuse of rain in the forecast, did for some unaccountable reason chose to find out what lay inside the golden heart of Isis.  She was well covered by dry leaves that had fallen over the more recent contributions to her girth, the trees around her had gown in stature, the roots of Grapevine, Virginia Creeper and poison Ivy reached into her for nourishment. It's Pessoa, the Portuguese Poet, who's happy to remind the ambitious that no matter how hard you try, your descriptions fall flat when placed beside the reality of experience. And what lay inside Isis is right up there with that kind of Joy a Compost Maker might share with himself only once or perhaps twice in a lifetime. I had to close my eyes and remind myself that Isis had married her brother, which returned both of us to a more settled frame in which we might plot the future. Being a mortal, I gave consideration to a statue marking her presence, then thought Potato, maybe Asparagus, possibly Strawberry, giant pots of Tomato and I then fetched the wheel barrow.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Yellow Roof Hotel

It was a pretty day in Saint Barbara, not too warm, nor too cold, sunshine, a light breeze from the west kept aromas from the River Styx at bay. Peepers had emerged from their winter to fill the late evenings with the high trebles that can get on people's nerves, drive them to both drink and distraction. There'd been a Barn Dance to celebrate these signs of spring, Alejandra had made large quantities of her famous Peeper Broth, a sort of nourishing froggy soup with tiny little eyeballs flavored with wild garlic and ginger root, and the Dutchman might have had one helping too many. That morning he wasn't feeling very well as he went about the work of a ticket collector for Saint Barbara's Halt. But, at the Barn Dance while enjoying a whirling boot scoot, it occurred to him that if Rome was going to send emissaries who could read and write to Saint Barbara these emissaries would more likely be high end characters accustomed to the creature comforts, good beds to sleep in, familiar food with proper matching plates, knives and forks, bathing and toilet facilities, as well as things like souvenirs to hang on their mantel pieces at home. None of which were really available in Saint Barbara. And the other thing that occurred to the Dutchman was that high end characters who could read and write were usually accustomed to paying good money for knickknacks and creature comforts. The Dutchman himself was more of an Episcopalian in his choice of God, so he had no clue what a Carmelite might be, rather it was the Emissaries ability to read and write, use really nice stationary, and travelling all the way from Rome that informed the Dutchman's assumptions which as the day progressed melded into a brilliant plan. Rather than sit around waiting for trains and passengers with tickets, he set about building an Inn. And it so happened that the first person to ever earn a wage in Saint Barbara became curious about the comings and goings on the level ground to the east of Saint Barbara's Halt.

When the Dutchman explained the plan, Young Pudesduckle saw dollar signs and he began to salivate in a most entrepreneurial manner. "I'm all in!" Young Pudesduckle slapped the heel of his shoe in that aggravating way of his, and being effectively the richest person in the county he offered financial assistance. The Dutchman accepted and this was the beginning of the long often difficult relationship of Beek, Pudesduckle and Slattery LLC. The business went on to dominate the hotel and catering trade with it's chain of Yellow Roof Hotels which popped up like poisonous mushrooms all over pioneer country, it struggled a little with the advent of hot and cold running water, flushing toilets and finally went bankrupt with the arrival of things like the electrical grid, coin operated laundries and ice machines. Very fortunately the visitor to Saint Barbara is still able to rediscover the wonders of those early and much happier times, get the flavor, the local color, good times and reasonable rates by spending a weekend in the only existent Yellow Roof Hotel. It's within easy stumbling distance of both Saint Barbara's Halt and Owl's Bar. For those interested, the Slattery in Beek, Pudesduckle and Slattery, was more of an invisible partner. In her book "My Life as a Pioneer" Bronwyn explains in great detail the sin of vainglory and goes on to give as her down to earth example of this mysterious sin how the Dutchman and Young Pudesduckle added Slattery to the partnership because neither could tolerate the idea of their name being the last name on business paraphernalia such as advertizing, stationary and business cards. But I think if there is a point, when Brother Ryan and his two accomplices finally arrived in Saint Barbara, and The Dutchman was finally able to inspect a railway ticket, the county had scented beeswax candles, dried sweetmeats, scrimshawed rosary beads of various kinds, other local crafts for sale, and there were rooms available for rent by the day or week in a Charming Rustic Inn with a freshly painted yellow roof. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Letters from Rome

Carmelites have never been much on that sort of evangelism that goes round knocking on doors handing out pamphlets, but at the same time there's always a branding issue, you can't just wake up one day have a vision and call yourself a Carmelite or even a Barefoot Carmelite. Just doesn't work that way, never has. And soon enough news reached Carmelite Headquarters in far away Rome that there could be some kind of heretical activity that was using the good name and reputation of the Carmelite order without permission. And indeed in the wider perspective the Church of Rome had had a certain sensitivity around Carmelites ever since the Heretic Martin Luther had briefly found sanctuary amongst German Carmelites. Nor had this suspect reputation been in anyway ameliorated by Saint Teresa who had created a bit of a schism in the Carmelite order when she and John of the Cross went all mendicant and discalced on what had been an otherwise fairly relaxing life choice in the painful path to a comfortable retirement in the afterlife. It's also the case that your N scale enthusiast, like a good majority of N scale enthusiasts are devotees of the relativist calling and grains of salt should be liberally sprinkled on our interpretations. However, one thing you can put in the bank is the fact that soon after the first Steam Engine pulled a single passenger carriage to a gliding stop at Saint Barbara's Halt there was an umbrage in Carmelite Headquarters that resulted in a genuine, highly qualified, boy Carmelite of excellent reputation being sent to Saint Barbara. His name was Brother Ryan, he had the outfit and everything, and he was accompanied by a couple of youthful novitiates, Paul and Davis, to help with stuff like luggage.

Bronwyn the Seamstress had received several cease and desist letters via Georges Papadopoulos of the Pony Express, but she along with her sisters couldn't yet read, so the whole thing was rather sinister and Papadopoulos wasn't much help because apparently according to his terms of employment he wasn't permitted to read other people's letters or make any kind of comment about them. "Thou art a sweet boy Poppy," Bronwyn still had her Omani accent. "Canst thou place an origin upon the source of these missives?" Georges, who was a stickler, agreed there was nothing in his rule book forbidding that sort of thing and not only did he read the return address out loud he knew where Rome was and he did go on a bit in an incomprehensible way about boot heels and Elba, none of which made any sense to Bronwyn. Nor was Bronwyn the sort of Carmelite who just gave up, left things to the gods. She'd heard that Saeed's former translator, the Dutchman, had found work with the railway line as a ticket collector, and she guessed that the Dutchman would be able to help resolve at least some of the confusion. The Dutchman was struggling with his new job. In those days timetables were a little random, there weren't that many trains, and people travelling on trains that did stop at Saint Barbara's Halt so the engineer might refresh the boilers never even got out of the carriages to stretch their legs, so what with one thing and another The Dutchman became very excited as he read the letter from Rome to Bronwyn the Seamstress' Sisterhood of Barefoot Carmelites. "What does this mean, Honorable One?" Bronwyn offered. "It means," the Dutchman beamed, "I'll soon be collecting my very first ticket!" 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Early Days

The founder of Saint Barbara's branch of the Carmelite calling didn't learn to read or write until she was well into her seventies. And more likely Bronwyn's first vision of Saint Teresa was an insight unadulterated by anything like Sunday School, or Saturday School, or any kind of sacred text, or word from an Imam, or cowled priest, or sandal wearing country music singer with cross around his scrawny neck. In her uncomfortably honest book "My Life as Pioneer" she describes her defining vision as being that of a young, impressionable, cloistered seamstress, and the sad fact is that when eventually she did learn how to read she found it necessary to first exorcise then burn her copy of Admiral Flynn's "Lives of the Medieval Saints." Which she recalls "was a beautifully written and illustrated work of smut." And she goes on a bit about God moving in very mysterious ways, and that while Admiral Flynn was a horrible person he was mostly accurate in his description of Saint Teresa who as a young gal did indeed run away from home to fight what she thought was a crusade, turned out to be an attempt to discourage Hapsburg ambitions in Spain. And Bronwyn goes on to explain why even though Admiral Flynn might have been yet another casualty of the Lutheran Reformation, he'd definitely missed out on any chance at purgatory and was sent directly to the lowest regions of hell, where in one of her dreams she'd seen him being eternally boiled by stick wielding lobsters. Some recent, possibly flippant, analysts of Bronwyn the Seamstress' defining vision have suggested she was moved entirely by a singular idea of style that would have made fashion houses of the world utterly redundant.

It's also the case that had it not been for a devotee of Diana, Saint Barbara's branch of the Carmelite calling might never have broken ground and they could easily have succumbed to the vicissitudes of an environment and climate Saeed's royal seamstresses had never been properly prepared for. The first structure was built from hand crafted, gathered materials, which included bits and pieces, a couple of big pillows, camp beds, sheets, blankets, some very nice carpets, and tenting materials from Saeed bin Saeed's camp site. "We did pine a little for our warm, sweetly scented homeland," Bronwyn admits. "But we had youth, enthusiasm, God and the sturdy Alejandra's poorly cured and lice infest assortment of animal pelts on our side." These days the visitor to Saint Barbara can peer through the locked gates that prevent the idle from wandering aimlessly from the railway station of Teresa's Halt into the private convent grounds, and if they stand on tip toes, crane their necks they are able to see the remains of a rough hewn stone chimney which through the course of that first miserable winter was built with local advice by Bronwyn and her sisters. "At last we were able to gather kindling," Bronwyn recalls after digressing a little on flues and chimney drafts. "We lit our fire, warmed ourselves, thanked our god, ate a hot stew of unidentifiable animal parts and carrots and suddenly the sun returned to our new world, temperatures soared, humidity returned and I was attacked by a crowd of our saviors blood sucking insects. This I realized was heaven on earth and we Carmelite sisters sang the only Christian song Alejandra could remember. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pale of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown, and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't but Jack together again."

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Carmelites of Saint Barbara

One of the many, many, many questions that haunt Saint Barbara is "Why on earth did Saeed's Seamstresses choose the Carmelite Calling." An excellent question, the answer to which is incredibly long and filled with detailed and life altering insights, so those who have useful things to do like leaf raking, gutter cleaning and the list is horribly long, should avoid these pages for at least five days, possibly longer. But anyone who might once long ago have heard the older Elvis Presley say "It will fascinate you" and found themselves curious, then the answer to the above mentioned question is the stuff for you. It all began with a book, not just an ordinary book with long Bronte-esque sentences that went on and on endlessly before achieving a moon landing on a full stop. This book followed the poetic styling's of the very ancient Sumerians, three, or four thousand years ago, the sentence structure kind of looks like the Arab poet Al Qamar from the seventh or eighth century who wrote things like "They  crouched by the artebrakes, the hunters, in order to achieve a safe prey, but she outran their spears and pursing hounds." A love poem by the way and I'm sure there's a semicolon or a line break in there somewhere. This book that so inspired Bronwyn Applegate was written by a man called Jackson Lee Flynn who gave up on the whole business of being an admiral for the Spanish Navy and rather than do the traditional thing which was to sell his soul to a number of foreign fascist dictatorships decided to devote the remainder of his days to investigating the life and times of the Medieval Saints.

It's also the case that while many scholars don't cleave to the idea that the founder of the Carmelites was a Medieval Saint, Jackson Lee Flynn had been an Admiral for goodness sake, and he didn't mess around with the minor details like whether Saint Teresa of Avila was Medieval or not. And the thing about it was, and I don't know what it's like now, but in those days when Bronwyn found the admiral's beautifully written and illustrated book, royal seamstresses weren't really allowed to know how to read. It was bad for them apparently. All the same on page 69 of Flynn's book there was a wonderful illustration of Teresa. She looked incredibly happy, not a care in the world, her skin flawless, not a wrinkle on her face, and indeed she was barefoot, dressed in a simple, uncomplicated dress, a small, very calm woolly creature in her arms, which could have been a curly haired kitten, but she was surrounded by what could have been pigeons none of which looked at all nervous. Worth mentioning that in those days images of human beings were rather frowned upon in Oman, and according to the rules a person found with an image of a female human being, could have their leg, or their arm chopped off.  All of which is a long, long way from the traditions of the ancient Sumerians, where if I recall, the goddess of Gilgamesh's city was a very beautiful woman for whom anything remotely associated with fidelity or modesty was really very low on her list of priorities. Either way, Bronwyn was so struck by the image of Teresa in Flynn's book, she had a vision.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tunnel Collapse Aftermath

It wasn't so much that the Sultan of Oman was heart broken at the news of his youngest son's departure from this earth, rather it was the disappearance of his youngest son's six valuable seamstresses that put an ire into the old man's eye. "A seamstress is a seamstress is a seamstress!" he riled at his advisors. And indeed the very idea of a royal seamstress being ordered to labor in the dirt by his reprobate youngest son for the sake of a couple of old bones was a disgrace the Sultan's pride was unable to tolerate, and he determined to find out exactly what had happened in that corner of a foreign field that would forever remain Muscat and Oman. He chose his baldest and ugliest eunuch, and he issued a royal command, "Henceforth thy name shall be Keith Schiller! Thou whilst adopt the mannerisms and accent of a New Yorker of Germanic ancestry, voyage to the land of the Barbarian and thou shalt discover the truth, and if the truth darest not meet with royal approval I shalt order thine head removed by a blind executioner." A cruel and unusual punishment the Sultan was rather fond of. Nor was it easy for Keith to reach Saint Barbara. Muscat was having a problem with Elphinstone, something to do with Zanzibar, sea travel was a tricky and the overland route was dogged by brigandage and the wretched Ottomans. Luckily for Keith he had a few connections in the lower decks of the British Navy and was able to reach Saint Barbara with an astonishing degree of promptness, which is just as well because otherwise an objective reader on a sensible planet like Jupiter might begin to doubt the veracity of this account of how Said's Cutting got its name, and just go for some totally joyless and completely wacky, ridiculous theory about out of control behaviors from spoilt rotten domestic pets chasing spiders and leaping onto badly thought out landscapes before plaster of Paris has properly set, and how there was indeed some very unchristian calling from the minaret beseeching Allah to bring down something like a Long Eared Owl to relieve an N scale enthusiast from his burden.

In Bronwyn Applegate's "My Life as a Pioneer" she recalls how her sisterhood had grasped the very real possibility of an adverse reaction in Oman. "The old lecher had very fixed ideas about who did what. But we gals were determined to follow in the footsteps of Saint Teresa. We would become Barefoot Carmelites or be martyred in the process. And anyway I'd already had a vision of the ideal site for our convent in the wild barbarian countryside, so there could be no retreat from our dream of simplicity in this extraordinarily backward part of the world." The minute the seamstresses knew that Saeed bin Saeed would never come out of the dinosaur tunnel, they kicked off their shoes and after a short, possibly unseemly pause they reminded Alejandra Pachis of the time she'd lifted the prince onto her shoulders intending to throw him into her unfinished duck pond. Alejandra recalled the moment well and she remembered the sets of heavy necklaces the young prince wore around his neck. "Never took them off," Bronwyn sighed. "Pure gold, worth a fortune!" This news spread like wildfire from one corner of Saint Barbara to the other. And when Keith Schiller arrived in Saint Barbara every last bit of rubble had been removed from Said's Cutting, it was so clean and tidy it was almost dust free, an N scale enthusiast's idea of perfection. The Industrial Magnet and investors who'd been made a little gloomy about their prospects after the tunnel collapse, were now delighted with the progress on their railway line. The new batch of young, mainly obnoxious Industrial Magnet representatives were all given fancy titles, and were strutting around getting their photographs taken. In his diligent hunt for the earthly remains of Saeed and his entourage Keith did find what could have been a bone from a seamstress' thumb in the rail line ballast of a poorly designed tight curve a little west of Saint Barbara's Halt. He didn't dare tell his master and instead he gave the Sultan of Oman a long, gory story about cannibalism amongst the infidel.

Friday, November 3, 2017

RIP Said

The bits and bobs of rubble that had been deemed dinosaur bones by Saeed and his enthusiastic team of fossil hunters, along with the paid assistance of young George Pudesduckle, had been safely gathered on the small plateau that would one day be dominated by Saint Barbara's very stylish and constantly changing Central Railway Station, or Glavni Kolodvar as it came to be called. Barbarians were inevitably curious around the idea of dinosaur bones and at the same time back in those days it was very much the same as the current era, no one really took the scientific community seriously, gave them derogatory names and went on a bit about fever swamps, political correctness and mumbo-jumbo. Those Barbarians who might have been tempted by the verity of scientific investigation soon lost their appetite when the fossil hunters started arranging the bits and bobs of rubble into what they announced were the skeletal remains of a prehistoric creature. First of all the creature seemed to be enormous and secondly the creature was obviously totally made up, it had a huge head with enormous teeth, tiny little hands, the hind legs of a giant rabbit and it had a long tail. The idea of such an impossible creature wandering around Saint Barbara was pretty terrifying and was quickly dismissed as a product of a Delirium Tremens, a not unpleasant experience that often followed consumption of improperly boiled fresh water whelks from the river Styx that wound a graceful arc through the north eastern region of the county. Of interest, this particular species of fresh water whelk might have become extinct had a pharmaceutical chemist not patented a synthetic and perfectly non-addictive, entirely safe version of the whelk's active ingredient. But for those who might be tempted, Saint Barbara's Annual Whelk Fest makes an excellent Halloween getaway, special group rates available from the locally owned Yellow Roof Hotel.

In many ways it was wonderful for Saeed bin Saeed, his spirit was high as he and his fossil hunters made their way back into the tunnel, his mind entirely engrossed by the possibility of finding one or maybe two more big claws, and there was something that looked like a possible eyelash, Pudesduckle insisted he'd seen. Had Saeed looked up at his hillside audience he might have noticed a small group of fashionably dressed Barbarians seated with Alejandra Pachis on an interesting collection of rustic chairs with cushions, enjoying the entertainment below, sampling local beverages, laughing and chatting, not a care in the world. But Saeed had a mission, he urged his fellow fossil hunters on, who as they disappeared into the tunnel yelled at Pudesduckle to hurry up. And too there was much discussion then and there has been since, but what with one thing and another it must have been some sort of lapse from the explosive engineers rather than an untoward activity from a local population who apparently wouldn't have known the difference between sticks of dynamite and a crate of cold beer. The explosion when it came was greeted with the traditional cheer from observers, and it took a little while for everyone to give up on the idea of going into the tunnel to check on the fossil hunters when it became very apparent that the explosion had caused the tunnel to lose its integrity. With a very impressive rumble it collapsed in on itself sending clouds of dust high into the air. Fortunately George Pudesduckle had been loitering in his employment, so he was saved. The Dutchman had been struggling with some kind Ladybird allergy and hadn't participated in fossil hunting that day, he'd gone fishing. Saeed's religious advisor, his hostler, his oaf and his cook had been engaged in the almost impossible work of trying to achieve an acceptable lifelike pen and ink drawing of their prince's find. However, there was absolutely no sign of Saeed's seamstresses, a detail that infuriated the Sultan of Oman.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Prelude to Disaster

The first frosts had been and gone, Garlic had been planted, Ladybird Hibernation Season was in full swing, the little beauties were everywhere when the railhead finally reached the mouth of Saeed bin Saeed's dinosaur bone and bat cave. The seasonable chill meant that all the bats that were able to, had wisely flown south and under no circumstances did any of them suffer a horrible or cruel death at the hands of Railway Workers, explosives experts or engineers. In those days tunneling was pick, shovel and wheelbarrow work interrupted occasionally by loud bangs and ominous rumblings. Barbarians loved it, the whole thing was the best entertainment ever, especially when explosive experts came scurrying out of the tunnel mouth, diving for cover. In a way I guess as an entertainment it was kind of like car racing, mostly incredibly boring, but no one could ever be certain when someone might get badly hurt or mangled to death. The steam locomotive, an 0-6-0 Shunter, hadn't yet arrived in Saint Barbara, apparently it had broken down or had got itself derailed somewhere, or had got lost by FedEx because the driver couldn't be bothered to find the somewhat isolated delivery address, and there was hell to pay, so in the meanwhile rubble or tunnel tailings were loaded onto railway wagons which were pulled along the railway lines by mules and horses. These tailings were then distributed as ballast to help stabilize rail line sleepers against rain storms and other pests. Saeed and his fossil hunters had full run of the work site and at least five of six times a day they'd convince themselves they'd spotted a bit of rubble that looked like a dinosaur bone, a femur, a part of skull, or a finger bone and no shortage of teeth.

But Saeed's seamstresses had been forbidden to go anywhere near the site, not even when railway workers were having their one day off a week, which, despite dire warnings from the new batch of Industrial Magnet representatives about sin and going blind, they mostly spent at Owl's Bar. Nor had any of their prince's recent decisions fallen easily upon seamstress shoulders. The whole travel thing had been stressful, foreign climates and environments were unimaginably awful, but being asked to stay inside the tents swatting at Ladybirds all day to keep them out of the nooks, crannies and bedding was the needle that popped the balloon for the traditional relationship Omani seamstresses had with royalty. A seamstress, who would later go by the name Bronwyn Applegate, happened to spot Alejandra Pachis having another go at digging her duck pond. Bronwyn sneaked across the field and after the niceties asked Alejandra whether she knew of a local clothier or milliner who might supply her with more local type outfits and failing that maybe supply her with more local type materials out of which she might sew something elegant and at the same time more in keeping with the Barbarian sense of fashion. "You want a disguise?" Alejandra, like so many Barbarians, was often underestimated by outsiders. "Yes, I'd like six of them, please," Bronwyn answered and then as she grew in confidence, Bronwyn added, "A bit of variety would be appreciated."  And in her memoir, "My Life as a Pioneer," Bronwyn recalls, "it was probably just as well that none of us seamstresses knew the rather fun Barbarian fall headgear was made from musk rat pelts. We all thought it was an ermine of some kind."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Owl's

When the railhead reached the borders of Saint Barbara, engineers soon realized that Barbarians were unsuited to the regular hours and seamless teamwork Industrial Magnets and their Investors expect from work crews. The other Saint Barbara tradition that ran contrary to industrial sense was this whole business of six days of diligence, followed by just the one day of rest. Barbarians considered this totally absurd, the diametric opposite of sacred, an entirely primitive notion and they wanted nothing to do with it. It was also the case that the residents of Saint Barbara were by nature curious and inquisitive, some shyer than others, but not that good at minding their own business and ever ready to express an opinion. In those days of course there was nothing like television or the radio, or newspapers, or cable news, or face book. Entertainment on a winter night was basically story telling, or drinking, or singing songs, the occasional potluck feast. In summer there was barn dancing, and for the more competitive, Saint Barbara had several clog-dancing leagues, people would lay bets as cloggers battled each other for the Clogger's Cup, it wasn't a big cup, it had a broken handle but it was very precious and highly revered. It's true also that the arrival of Saeed's tents and his fossil hunting were a prime source of entertainment, Barbarians didn't want to be too obvious about it, but a great deal of time was spent staring at the Prince of Oman and his entourage from a polite distance and reporting back to friends and neighbors so that everyone might have a good giggle. All of which meant the railway had to pack-in outside labor who had to be fed, watered and housed.

Saeed's religious advisor smelled a worm when Industrial Magnet representatives slyly announced that for reasons of security, it would probably be best if the Railway Workers temporary camp was located right next to Saeed's Camp. Saeed, who'd observed railway workers reckoned they were a pretty rough lot with appalling bathroom habits and were inclined to leer at his seamstresses. On the advice of his religious advisor the young prince instructed the Dutchman to inform Industrial Magnet representatives that this was out of the question, the Railway Workers camp was to be located at least four miles away from his own camp, he had no desire to either smell or hear them. Reluctantly Industrial Magnet representatives agreed and two things resulted from this decision. The first involved a fraternization between Railway Workers and Barbarians that resulted in what these days Industrial Magnet representatives might call an "HR Issue." In short, railway workers started turning up to work badly hung-over, sometimes didn't even bother to show up on Mondays or Tuesday, often got "sick" on Fridays and they started moaning about their pay scales being entirely inadequate to the tasks expected from them. Progress on the railway line slowed dramatically and as a result there was rumbling from investors which aggravated the Industrial Magnate who proceeded to dismiss his representatives in Saint Barbara and sent out a new batch of keen young men with briefcases all of whom were devoted to a whole bunch of new ideas. The second thing that resulted from Saeed's reluctance to have any kind of contact with Railway Workers was Owl's Bar which is still located on the bluff within easy walking distance of Saint Barbara's Halt where hand-made organic jugs of quality Home Crafted Gut-Rot can still be purchased at very reasonable prices.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Breakfast

"Beloved," Saeed was able to read before his eyes began to glaze over. Fortunately his religious advisor understood legalese and after carefully reading the letter from Oman all the way through to the Defender of the Faith, Hammer of Elphinstone, the advisor looked up at his prince and announced, "Thou hast royal permission to offer the infidel resources sufficient for tunneling not to exceed a distance of one hundred haths." Saeed was thrilled and over breakfast he asked the Dutchman to translate the good news to the Industrial Magnet representatives, who having expressed their delight admitted they were unfamiliar with the "hath" as a unit of measurement. The Dutchman who was extraordinarily wise in these matters chose not to enlighten the Industrial Magnet representatives on the nature of a hath. Nor was the hath a particularly generous unit of measurement, when compared to the kind of magnificent tunnel building Saeed in his hunt for dinosaur fossils had hoped to contribute to the railway line. Which meant there followed something of a heart to heart between Saeed and his religious advisor on the extent to which Allah frowned upon out right lying to the infidel.

 Saeed, who had pretended not to notice that Alejandra Pachis had invited herself to the royal breakfast and was consuming vast numbers of poached eggs and breakfast buns, chatting with the seamstresses about the engrossing characteristics of the Pachis embroidery stitch which indeed may have found its way from the Indian Subcontinent to the Greek Islands from which her own name had its origins, now saw his chance to push the limits of his relationship with his god. "A hath," the  Dutchman translated, "Is the distance between the end of a person's little finger to their elbow, and that includes girls."  Industrial Magnet representatives were naturally disappointed, they'd been hoping that a hath was a mile or maybe something like kilometer, but in their world one thing could always lead to another, and almost in unison they pointed to the Devotee of Diana and said "How about her hath?"  Saeed, who could be a tricky customer when he chose to be, pursed a lip, became briefly uncertain around the fate of his immortal soul and then he said "Why not." And while Alejandra became the second Barbarian ever to turn an hourly wage, the Pachis Hath as a unit of measurement is to this day considered standard practice amongst Saint Barbara's more traditional carpenters, it's kind of like a baker's dozen only instead of a half baked thirteen, it's more like an exuberant Baker's seventeen, almost thirty thumb widths if you're using the Celtic System.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How Tunnel Funds Arrived

For those who may be curious, and tempting though it might be, there is no suggestion of collusion drawn by your N scale enthusiast between the pure hearted Devotee of Diana, Alejandra Pachis and the young political weasel, or foreign policy advisor, Georges Papadopoulos. The Greek names are purely coincidental, a happy accident if you prefer. The whole point about N scale is to get as far away from the impasse between reason and passion as possible and dwell mightily upon simpler things. The answer to the question why? It's a fairly straight forward attempt to avoid becoming one of those who convert a chlorotic condition of old age into something other than pointlessly shouting at the frosts of change over which he has no control. Call it constructive fantasy or dementia, I don't care which. Sadly the world beyond has a habit of framing the details of the present and who knows why the beautifully named Georges Papadopoulos was riding the Pony Express with a letter from Oman for the young prince Saeed bin Saeed.

The horseman had taken the shortcut, an old rarely used ox drawn wagon route through the wilderness. Convinced he was lost to the world and would soon be set upon by fierce beasts, he pressed his unfortunate horse onward, both of them desperate to find signs of human habitat. It was a great relief to see Saeed's tents in the distance, a rising sun sparkling on the pennants of Muscat and Oman. He galloped through the valley, up the hill and in true Pony Express fashion he leapt from his moving horse and came skidding to a dusty halt inches from Alejandra and Saeed, who appeared to be engaged in some sort of pioneer head patting and silk pajama coming of age ceremony. Georges however was a busy man, and without messing about with anything like niceties he lifted a letter from his pouch, read the label and he announced "Anyone know where Mr. Said bin Said might be?" The youngest son of the Sultan of Oman had no great interest in learning the English language, and Alejandra had never heard of anyone called Said. Indeed this critical letter may well have gone astray had it not been for one of Saeed's seamstresses who boldly emerged from the seamstresses tent, and pointing at her prince in an accent that contained a hint of Wales she said "That's him. That's your man. He's right there. The rotter!"

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Alejandra Pachis

The first Barbarian to actually see a locomotive was a devotee of Diana who went by the name Alejandra Pachis.  Who when returning from a ten week communion with the beasts of the forest and elves of the woodlands had observed the railhead from a safe distance, heard a great iron creature hissing at work crews, a clattering and a banging, all of which to Alejandra was an absurd vision of sweat and tears that had no apparent reason and briefly she'd wondered whether she'd eaten something that had disagreed with her capacity to comprehend. Her mood again soured when she got home to discover a bunch of tent dwellers on what she reckoned was her own bit of Eden. And it's also the case that there are many often suspicious and obviously self serving accounts of Alejandra's first meeting with Saeed bin Saeed, but the story your N scale enthusiast prefers, suggests that Alejandra's return coincided with sunrise, and having relieved her mule of its burden of bear and assorted musk rat pelts, proceeded to loosen the guide ropes of the nearest tent.

As it happened the tent was occupied by Saeed bin Saeed. Saeed's practice when in fear for his own safety was to give others in his entourage an opportunity to demonstrate their devotion to his being. But after nearly four days of enduring exhaustingly primitive conditions, many in Saeed's entourage found themselves reluctant to leap to the defense of their prince, and when Alejandra began to pull the canvass from the tent poles, fold it neatly, save it for later use, she discovered Saeed alone in a comfortable cot, dressed in his nighttime silks. Alejandra said "come here pumpkin," she picked Saeed up, slung him across her shoulder and such was her mood she had every intention of throwing him into a watery ditch which one day would become her duck pond. However, Alejandra Pachis wasn't made entirely of steel, when Saeed begin to whimper in a plaintive, pathetic way her heart turned maternal and she gently lowered the youngest son of the Sultan of Oman to the ground, she stood him up, gave him a shake and patted him on the head. While the males in Saeed's entourage had pretended to be fast asleep, Saeed's seamstresses through the peep holes in their tent, had witnessed the entire episode. And here, worth noting one of the less doting definitions of epiphany, "a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Rumblings of Discontent.

As a general rule a royal personage comes in two basic categories. The one variety knows everything there is to be known and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The other variety is vaguely aware that knowledge, like a picnic lunch, is something of a moving feast. Saeed bin Saeed, being a fossil hunter of high repute, fell into the latter category. And when the Industrial Magnet's representative advised him that the railway line through Saint Barbara would require several tunnels Saeed perked up a little bit, he finished his hard boiled egg, dabbed his mouth with his napkin and he casually asked the Industrial Magnet's representative whether the railway company planned to dig a tunnel anywhere near the cave in which a young Barbarian claimed he'd seen fossilized dinosaur bones. The Industrial Magnet's representative went on a bit about tunnels being expensive and how railway line builders didn't just go around putting tunnels in willy-nilly, but being a man of influence and given a little encouragement he himself could look into the possibilities and come up with a solution to the problem of a prince's desire to personally discover fossilized dinosaur bones without entering a foul smelling, bat infested cave and without too much assistance from his entourage and no credit at all being given to some little foreign boy. Saeed nodded wisely, and he offered the Industrial Magnet's representative the last chocolate and date macaroon from the tray of desserts.

Saeed's seamstresses had never really felt that carting picnic lunch hampers around in the heat of the day was a part of their job description. They'd had to put up with it because apparently it was a traditional seamstress roll to traipse around carrying cutlery, china plates, napkins and foodstuffs through incredibly inclement conditions. It wasn't so bad back home, which was mostly sand, the odd palm tree, seaside and cool ocean breezes, but Saint Barbara was a whole new set of environmental fish, not to mention the blood sucking insects, creatures that slithered and vast numbers of bats issuing from the mouths of caves. Nor had it escaped their attention that the local female Barbarians never had to do things like carrying heavily laden picnic hampers around for male Barbarians. Indeed male Barbarians when they left their rude dwellings to go off and do boy stuff like fishing or weeding their vegetable gardens had to damn well go home if they wanted to eat anything. Saeed's cook and his oaf were increasingly aware of this rumbling amongst the seamstresses, and it just seemed to both of them that the sooner this whole overseas travel thing came to end and everyone went home to the civilization of Oman the better for everyone. Saeed's oaf, who traditionally got the last chocolate and date macaroon, agreed that in the interest of common sense and reason something dramatic had to be done. And for anyone who might still be concentrating, please note the correct spelling of desserts.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Said's Error

George Pudesduckle wasn't by nature a dishonest or deceitful person, he wouldn't have known what a fossilized dinosaur bone looked like if it jumped out from behind a bush and said hello, so you can imagine his concerns as he led Saeed and his entourage along with a couple of the more agile Industrial Magnet representatives through hot, tic infested undergrowth toward the entrance of the cave in which he'd claimed to have seen dinosaur bones. The cave was foul smelling and impressive, it reached into a dripping darkness, none of it remotely inviting and at the cave entrance there was much trepidation from Saeed's seamstresses. The other thing to recall is that back then it was tallow or whale oil that granted light to darkness, the flashlight had yet to be invented, and in all of Saint Barbara there was neither tallow or whale oil to be had, which meant that navigating darkness had it's problems. George  Pudesduckle, who was probably about ten years old, realized that some kind of a heavenly hand must have reached down to release him from the stress of having told lies. He marched confidently into the dark cave and when he was completely out of sight he clapped his hands.

 There has been debate around which species of bat emerged from the cave's entrance, whether it was the Great Northern Bat or the Eastern Small footed Myotis remains a mystery, but whatever these bats were called a considerable number of them poured through the mouth of the cave, they looked very bad tempered and basically the sight of them put the fear of god into Saeed and his entourage. And there must have been something about one of the Industrial Magnet representatives because the bats seemed to blame him for the disturbance to their sleepy time, they attacked his top hat and chased him until he fainted from exhaustion, heat and primitive conditions none of which he was in any one accustomed to. Saeed with all the aplomb of royal birth made an appraisal of the circumstance and he directed his hostler to locate an alternative site for the picnic lunch. During lunch, the remaining Industrial Magnet representative was able to persuade Saeed that according to one of his uncles who was a keen fossil hunter, bats in caves were a sure sign of dinosaur fossils, and he'd gone further. With a bit of wink he'd advised Saeed that the railway line through Saint Barbara would require several tunnels. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Saint Barbara's Dinosaur

There are very few accurate records of those early days in Saint Barbara, they weren't that big on taking notes or keeping diaries, so while this time two years ago Saeed bin Saeed's entourage might well have numbered ten or twenty loyal followers, and again this time last year both that number and his name might have changed, the general opinion in the waning days 2017 is that Saeed had an entourage of eighteen. He had a cook, a food taster, a wardrobe master, half a dozen seamstresses, an hostler, a religious advisor, an oaf, a falconer and a group of fellow fossil hunting enthusiasts one of whom happened to be a Dutchman who apparently spoke English. After a long, very difficult journey Saeed, his entourage and whole gang of well dressed non-tee-shirt wearing Industrial Magnet representatives arrived in Saint Barbara. For the local Barbarians this influx of outsiders was exciting for a couple of hours but their constant questions and criticisms quickly became exhausting. The better centered Barbarians decided that rather than make fuss, the best thing to do was to take no notice, let the outsiders get on with whatever it was they had to do and soon enough they'd go away. The less peaceful Barbarians chose to put a sneer on the outsiders and would say things like "Do make an effort to clearly annunciate," which in those days was the rude way of answering a stupid question.

Travel had broadened Saeed's mind. He'd seen steam trains, he'd sat in the window seat of a moving railway carriage, and with the consent of Industrial Magnet representatives he'd ignored the advice of his religious advisor and his oaf, and he'd dressed up as locomotive engineer so that he could pull the cord that sounded a steam engine whistle. By the time Saeed had reached Saint Barbara he was full blown on the idea of steam trains and he was ready to start the difficult process of writing letters to his father imploring him to take the family money out of slave trading and put it directly into railway lines. Sadly his oaf and his religious advisor hadn't taken to the steam train, they thought it a general all round disruption, they thought it dirty, loud, a menace to the order of things, and along with the hostler they started tut-tutting which in the end is the only way to effect the psyche of a royal personage. Naturally there's dispute about who in Saeed's entourage fermented the rumor, but I am of the opinion that it was the Dutchman who in due course would settle down with a local Barbarian maid, and who as the first station master of Saint Barbara's Halt would become a pillar of Saint Barbara society. Either way, the first wage ever paid to anyone in Saint Barbara was to George Pudesduckle, nor was it a real honest wage. His job was to claim that he'd seen what looked like large fossilized dinosaur bones in a cave

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Said's Tunnel

OK chaps, Saint Barbara! What is it, where is it, why is it? All very good questions, some answers to which will of course be lost to time and a degenerating memory. Other answers will be far too crack-pot to even begin to take seriously. So, while there is a possibility that in due course your N scale enthusiast might remember where the name Saint Barbara came from, probably better to try to recall why on earth the County has a very, very difficult to clean and incredible awkward railway cutting called, The Said Tunnel. Years and years ago, when things like carbon emissions, belching chimneys and unnecessarily loud noises were given the title progress the youngest son of a Sultan of Oman chose to forsake his duties as royal thorn in the underbelly of Expanding Foreign Empires so that he and his entourage could engage in very important things like eating different kinds of picnic lunches and collecting fossils. He'd heard through the fossil collecting grapevine, that one of the hallmarks of progress was earth moving, reshaping the land and whole bunch of activities that often dragged extraordinarily rare fossils out of the earth. Nor was the Sultan, his father, that interested in doing anything as radical as sending teams of laborers into Omani territories to do anything that even sounded like progress. And it's also the case that just like today, the world back then was full of shady characters many of whom had a strong understanding of how profit and political advantage could be had from the more gullible by setting grapevines on fire with innuendo and down right lies.

Meanwhile, a small, less hardy group of pioneering types had lost their enthusiasm for this whole bossy-boots and cowboy hat  organized effort of "go west young man" and they'd settled for life in a pretty if somewhat rocky, middle of nowhere, isolated, part of the Eastern Appalachians where they fully intended to do all kinds of stuff without being bogged down by rules, regulations and peer pressure. It was like Eden in those early days, everyone was happy, there was good fishing, a couple of cows, barn dances in the evenings, poetry readings, all kinds of beverages, pot-luck lunches, hand crafts, it was the whole heaven on earth thing. And then on a brisk winter morning, as if out of nowhere, a man with a briefcase and technical looking devices appeared and he started taking notes. Turned out he'd been sent by what in the old days was given the title Industrial Magnet, none of this insipid modern day spotty faced, tee-shirt wearing through geriatric billionaire nonsense, who wanted to build a railway line. One of the potential major investors in the railway line project was the Sultan of Oman who was looking to move his dwindling wealth out of slave trading and into something more progress related. The Sultan really had far too many enemies to leave his gated community, so in order to get a reliable sense of what a railway line was, what it did, how it might behave, he directed his youngest and least important son to "Go seartheth thou the railway in Eastern Appalachia, and reporteth back." Or words to that effect. It took a while for young Saeed bin Saeed, who was quite used to being cursed out by his father, to realize that Eastern Appalachia, however dreadful it sounded, was actual a place that engaged in progress, and the old man was serious.

Monday, October 23, 2017

N scale

For a creature unblessed by a capacity to enter a state of suspended animation through the darker months, successful survival strategies in the pursuit of balance include avoiding any kind of contact with what's loosely referred to as News until sometime in March. The question, is not so much whether this is responsible behavior or makes civic sense, rather the question is when does a person enter this condition of news-less-ness? For some this might be a difficult question to answer, it touches upon commitment to the fate of our world, but for those of us who have failed to comprehend how to change the time on our digital alarm clock, the answer is what they call a no-brainer.

The entryway to the Grocery and Hardware Store are now cluttered by devil worship and are totally unwelcoming, keen Sabean instincts can sense the allergens of brown sugar and cinnamon, which suggests sometime very soon harmony will return, the stars will align and my 7 O'clockish in the morning will be the same as everyone else in the county's 7 a.m. and we all know what that means. There'll be no more absurd Bannon-esque references to the ancient Poets, Historians or Philosophers in an attempt to secure veritas and I will become one with little electric trains and the Medieval Saints. Saint Teresa will have her Convent, Saint Barbara will have her Windowless Tower, Glavni Kolodvar will make it's Station Master proud, and the County Militia might even get their Unterseeboot, which would certainly shut them up for a bit.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dour is The Garden

Long before the current iteration of lunacy I took an interest in Jainism. Some might think this odd from a person who can readily produce an uncharitable sneer whenever the "I" part of being is referred to as a soul that belongs to eternity. It was the renunciation part, the surrender part, of the Jainist that appealed to me, rather than anything that might liberate "soul" from the chains of being in the world by promising somewhere else, more perfect and nowhere near here. Nor was it my opinion that renouncing had an association with what the wack-a-doodles have over the years framed and then piously dismissed as "earthly pleasures." I saw this as yet one more tired attempt to define earth as an acceptance of misery and hardship, and as a creature of my time I chose instead to categorize "earthly pleasures" under a series of derogatory general titles that ranged from "Cancun" through "dish washing machines," "Pindar and the Olympiads" and all the way into the dystopian fever swamps of "Madison Avenue."

Astonishingly there are bits of me that are still sufficiently present in the world to grasp that sometime, the end of February, maybe into late March of next year, I will yet again take a venerable shovel to the vegetable beds and after a silent contemplation of the extent of the daunting task, I will hopefully find the will to proceed to work that I'll describe without humility as up there with Hercules. If and when that task is accomplished, I will experience an "earthly pleasure" that falls into a category I would have to find a name for that has nothing to do with simple or homeward wending a weary way. Currently my suspicion is that this name will have more to do with a sense of belonging than the "earthly pleasures" Pindar or Madison Avenue or Cancun or dishwashing machines have been able to illicit from my own understanding of existence. So yes indeed, I plan by the early April frosts of next year to have endured misery and hardship, aching bones, the hell of wing, elegant wrist and aging back in order to lay claim on an "earthly pleasure" before dourly distributing barrow loads of compost. Mind you, the ordeal of yet another Festive Season could well be the end of me, which would certainly be an eternal solution.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dialogue

Rather than mentioning the fierce academic online debate your correspondent is having with unnervingly sympathetic Soviet Bots about whether we'd be better off with a Chimpanzee or a Gerbil as out next president here in the USA, I'm going to brag a little about a huge personal victory, and here we're not talking one of these A for effort victories but a genuine leather handbag victory.

A diligent reader might know there are three chairs in the room where I sleep. They might also know there has been a recent dialogue between your correspondent and two domestic pets about who has title to the most comfortable of these three chairs. Well, there's been some foot stamping, loud words, a few unnecessary references to the afterlife, and some order has been returned to my universe. Either way I support the Gerbil theory for 2020.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Hearts and Minds

Hearts and minds are part of winning. You can't turn up with a bandoleer and a couple of anti tank missiles, that sort of neo-liberal behavior makes you look both scary and scared.

The other thing about hearts and minds is that both the mind and the heart occupy different places. The mind might be persuaded to agree but what if the heart doesn't want to.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oats and Wheat

I've been informed that the difference between Winter Oats and Winter Wheat as a winter ground cover which one dry spring day might be turned into green manure, is this. Winter Oats are less cold tolerant than Winter Wheat.

In the grand scheme this small snippet of information is probably meaningless, unimportant, a long way from earth shattering, totally devoid of 'stun' factor but is a big relief for your often delusional gardener.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sun

In the search for good news, a positive attitude and a sense of confidence in the future for those who may have the misfortune to have to endure it, passive solar is the secret for us attic dwellers endeavoring to get some sort of assistance from our fingers when temperatures sink into the unbearable levels. It's a sheet of Luan, a quarter inch plywood culled from  remaining stands of tropical hardwoods and sold in hardware stores, which the attic dweller then paints a matt black and hangs in his sun facing window.

The painted finish absorbs sunrays, converts them to heat that rises and as it rises pulls in colder air from the floor. The cycle becomes increasingly enthusiastic and by about noon, non-daylight saving time, the fingers begin to suspect that something is being done to improve their life experience and they cautiously respond. The alternative to this sort of Happy Harry search for finger functionality, is to open the box of winter clothes, pull out core warming vests, heavy shirts and jumpers. And in due course I might well recall where I stowed that box, but I'm just not prepared to hunt it down at the moment.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Socks

Fall-bed-preparation-wise your gardener is hitting a bit of snag. Nor is this snag in anyway unique or unusual, indeed an objective observer on Mars would have seen it coming months ago. In the end it's a character flaw, a weakness, a lily-livered frailty of mind, a peculiar blob-like quality exemplified by a single celled sea dwelling organism.

On the bright side, in this particular part of the world, by this time next week temperatures could be well up there in the high 70's low 80's Fahrenheit with tornado and straight line winds with rain in the forecast. Which would mean plenty of opportunity for ground cover seed to germinate. But that's really and truly beside the point, absolutely frigidly woolly hat and socks fresh in the outdoors this morning.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Caesar et al

Can't help but suspect that both Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco would have very sensibly issued an arrest warrant for anyone who cheated at golf. The other area of deep concern for those of us who are still attempting to grasp current events is this whole Steve Bannon, Caesar, Brutus, Cassius analogy type thing. Caesar was murdered because he'd lost patience with the complexities of "advise and consent" and had decided he wanted to be a 'dictator for life,' the one and only Top Cat, the holder of the big feather.

The heroes of the play were Brutus and Cassius. Not Caesar. Dante was, and Bannon still is, quite wrong in their view of Caesar as central to anything remotely resembling civilization. It wasn't the Roman Republic that forced Latin upon us, it was the bloody Roman Emperors. And by the way, in the historical account there were two people with the name Brutus engaged in the back stabbing. So "Et Tu Brute" sounds grammatically incorrect which suggests Caesar might not have have spent enough time in detention, and all his books were definitely written by someone else. Nor are rights God given, unless you're a mental patient in need of an opioid. And if you want to quarrel, we'll tee off with forked sticks at dawn, my friend.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jobbing Gardener

Probably best to think of Gardens Past, do away with the nail biting tensions of tomorrow when I'll attempt to daintily broadcast ground cover seeds ready for what could be an afternoon rain shower, possibly a thunder storm ahead of a cold front. When I think of the gardens I have worked in, they mostly belonged to three categories of property owner. You got the New Rich, the Old Rich, and the Little Old Lady. The New Rich, in my view, should never be permitted to go anywhere near a garden picture book or magazine. It's not good for them, gives them unnatural ideas, and as a gardener you'll come away deeply disappointed in any definition that gives a relationship between success and brain matter, and this is especially the case if there is a dramatic difference between the ages of the male and female sides of the pair. I remember the hours and hours and hours I spent installing a garden, only to be told by my employer that she didn't like to see earth or mulch between her plants. The idea that her plants would in due course grow together, become as one, in a glorious passion of color, shape and form failed to impress her or the Adonis with a tennis racket at her side.

The Old Rich, and by Old Rich I mean the often eccentric grandchildren of long ago titled or diligent money grubbers, they don't like to pay their bills and have what I can only think of as the Mollusk's view of our planet. I remember once digging up and transplanting English Boxwood for the younger daughter of  a somewhat tyrannical propertied gentleman who'd been on his death bed for getting on ten years. There seemed no rhyme or reason to it, and because of the age of the plants their chances of surviving the transplant were next to none. It was explained to me that once Daddy was gone and the will read, the older brother wouldn't let his younger sister have the Boxwoods. Nor did she really care if all the Boxwoods died, which they did, slowly over time. Little Old Ladies are the darlings of a gardener's world, they have less to prove I guess. They had a fondness for remembering how much they'd forgotten and often had an intimate knowledge of their garden plants which but for old age and frailty they would have attended to themselves, so woe betide a gardener with any kind of newfangled notion of how things might be done. My favorite, I remember her name, would tell me to add two hours a visit to the bill, not because I was special, but because her son actually paid the bill and he'd committed the crime of marrying an "Unsuitable Gal."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fizzy Drinks

A little difficult to avoid a jokes about the relationship the Mango seems to have developed with Atom Bombs attached to the end of large missiles, but in the interest of mental health best to remember Pessoa who said something like, without delusions there'd never be Statesmen, the real, he suggested, can only ever be seen through the eyes of philosophers and poets. So instead of wondering exactly where he might have said something like that and exactly what he might have meant by something like it, I'm going to talk about Coca-Cola. And here,The Artist returned from a recent adventure steeped in an understanding she'd gained from creative comrades that Coca-Cola not only cleans rusty bolts it also cleans wood without hurting plants.

The thing about Coca-Cola is that I have been a big fan of the drink, but following my nut-eater awakening, which is like being born again without the alleluias or the pervading sense of everlasting smugness, I have taken on some serious views around the menace of soft drink manufacturers, all of whom I believe are evil and in league with the nut-eater's Satan. You can imagine, I hope, the internal struggle when I saw Coca-Cola on the list for my trip into town. It was one of those head down, eyebrows raised moments in the kitchen rather than nuclear exchange, and there was a little part of me that did relished the idea a porch sit at sunset with cigarettes and a warm can of Coca-Cola.  Like sweetened condensed milk, no one in their right mind drinks it cold, I recalled. I came home with a twelve pack rather than those Seagull killing plastic bottles  But one of the problems, wood cleaning with Coca-Cola does consume rather more Coca-Cola than I'd imagined.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chlorotic

Great sympathy for the word Chlorotic. Strictly speaking the word is used to explain the condition of plants that are struggling to find the bits and pieces they need to photosynthesize. The leaves become more yellow than green, and there's a general sense of ennui deep within the plant's being, it's kind of like a sigh of exhaustion from the effort of trying and trying again to climb an impossible hill.

Suffice to say that even though I am not a plant, my roots are more like history, experienced and read about, I can move from one place to another, I have a complexity of eating parts that include knives, forks, vitamin supplements and Grocery Stores,  yet I've often felt chlorotic. It  could well be a moment that comes to a mind when it suddenly decides to have a shower and a shave. Or when a mind decides to ruthlessly sweep a kitten off the comfortable chair. But I suspect it runs deeper.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Local Gossip

The Artist collected the Kitten from an ashen faced Veterinary Assistant. Our young four legged comrade could apparently be heard loud and clear in the Reception Area, which is that part of a veterinarian's office that's always supposed to give every appearance of a smooth oiled, well run machine, and to The Artist's question, "Is that her?" The answer I'm told was the kind of "No" one might expect from a president's press secretary. The Artist, who is keenly attuned to the Kitten's vocal range, raised an eyebrow, but she knew better than to quarrel with anyone who looks like a Head Nurse and she nodded wisely as she listened to the aftercare instructions, which included advice about recuperating creatures being Not Allowed to leap around, climb curtains or trouser legs, chase after an older cat, get wet, certainly not allowed to go outside to climb trees for at least ten days and so on.

When the Kitten finally emerged from the back rooms, she was in her cage, and it was very obvious to everyone that her mood wasn't good. I guess too that in terms of being a future patient, the quality of a veterinarian's attention are well on display to those waiting for their turn when someone else's pet emerges through the swing doors that lead to the inner workings of a small business devoted to the health and well being of domesticated creatures. The other thing about the Kitten, is that I don't believe she has any sense of humility, and she's certainly not shy of expressing her opinions in public, she'd make a wonderful Running Hyena. "He's quite wild!" the assistant suggested. "He's a she!" The Artist promptly replied. Nor was the trip home uneventful. So far, things are going quite well, no question of being able to follow the letter of the Head Nurse's detailed instructions, the best we can really hope to do is prevent the Kitten from going outside, and that's pretty much full time work for us caregivers. On the bright side the question of when to gather up the Cypress Vines that bloom happily along a fence in the vegetable garden as a late feed for the Southward bound Hummingbirds, is solved. I think it would be something the Kitten would very much like to help me with. Next week maybe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

WW III

Whichever way you look at it, the First World War was more of an accident than a well thought out plan. The Great Powers had their perennial quarrels. Territory, Empire, Trade. The business class had strong ties to a government's ability to secure raw materials, political advantage and entrepreneurial opportunities. Everyone thought their own military was the best in the world, couldn't possibly be defeated, so anything like a war would only last for a couple of months at most. One threat led to another and Bang it was kind of too late to even think about saying something like "I'm sorry I behaved like a moron, why don't we all have a cigarette break, a cup of tea and start again." Instead, four years later when stalemate was achieved at the cost of millions of lives, the Armistice pretty much set the conditions for the Second World War.

The point is, had I been alive and of age and more sociable and living in Vienna on Sunday June 28th 1914 I might well have been enjoying a glass of wine, chatting to friends when news came that an heir to the thrown of a minor royal family had been shot in some godforsaken part of the Balkans. No doubt one or other of my friends might have been able to give me some boring gossip about Archduke Ferdinand, and I might have made some incredibly witty joke about the difference between archdukes and archangels, entirely unaware that six months later I'd be up to my neck in mud somewhere in France being shot at and being expected to shoot back, or maybe I'd have been sent south to serve my country by killing off one quarter of the population of Serbia. The Third World War isn't going to be like that, there'll be no Biggles, there'll be no Bulldog Drummond, instead those of us who aren't instantaneously vaporized will have to hang around watching our hair fall out, our skin blister into suppurating sores, waiting for our body organs to fail while our leaders shout and scream at each other over the last cup cake in the fading light of their underground bunkers.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Vets

The Kitten is spending the night at the Vets. For the Girl Cat it's far too quite, she's nervous, she's tip-toeing around, there's definitely a hot brick somewhere. But where? Who knows.

The Primary Care giver is confident, she understands we're doing the right thing. In the attic, I've got my chair back, it's very wonderful but for some reason it doesn't seem right to be sitting on it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Tests and Stuff

Very difficult to get away from the idea that our Secretary of State could be absolutely correct about our President. In psychology, the word moron, from the Greek for stupid or foolish, was first used in a 1910 system of classifying degrees of intelligence. An idiot, according to the system, had a measurable IQ of between 0 to 25, an imbecile had an IQ of between 26 to 50 and a moron had an IQ that ranges in that tricky, confusing area of between 51-70, a category that could well be further divided into general purpose morons and effing morons. The IQ test was originally a French idea devised by a man called Alfred Binet, the main purpose being not to give a population a pie chart idea of their own self importance but to try and determine a more industrial distinction between someone who should be sent directly to the rubber rooms of the tax payer's asylum without wasting anymore time, and someone who could be made to function in society given proper training, a little patience, adequate attention and resources, all of which probably required someone like a moron to be reasonably forced into spending extended periods of time in Latin Detention while someone like an idiot or an imbecile was allowed to run around in the outdoors kicking a football.

It's also the case that I have personal experience of this whole IQ test phenomenon. As a schoolboy, while others were enduring the bitter chill of a summer afternoon outdoor period in Rural East Sussex I was on many occasions dragged into the head master's study to spend time with an older woman who had the twitching eye of an Eagle and who would ask me to perform a number of tasks that involved matching patterns, fitting blocks together, telling her which way a door or a window opened, a whole bunch of things, and each time I visited her the tasks seemed to get more and more ridiculous. Nor did anyone tell me that my mental aptitude was being tested for a place in civil society, so I kind of came to the conclusion that the Eagle eyed women was one of the world's unfortunates, probably the head master's cousin who if she wasn't entertained became unruly, or outraged, and in all that bleak and bitter place the head master's study was well heated, so I did my bit for solace and solidarity. In the end, wherever the cards might fall, I do know this much, we morons should under no circumstances ever be allowed to become something like the president of a large country. The entertainment value just isn't worth it and it could well justify trust in Meade's recent predictions about Planet X or Nibiru, as it's called. And here, for the Sunday Crowd, Meade's prediction for October 15th 2017 is not about rapture, he's all about tribulation, so best to kneel for the National Anthem before Flags are flown at half mast.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rain

The hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico might give us rain. It'll come up through Alabama and soon enough we'll be on the West side of the storm. Warm tropical air will mingle with some kind of colder clump type thing heading our way from somewhere near Chicago which gives us a chance at three to four inches of precipitation, and possible thunder storms, over the next couple of days, and this same clump type thing will persuade the storm to take a more easterly course toward New York State. At least that's my understanding of the Local Forecast Discussion on the NOAA page. Indeed it's so much easier just to look at the pictures, or graphics as they're called, instead of spending hours trying to get a better understanding of the bold explorations of science and new ways of imagining something that's always changing, like a restless poet it's a something that never stands still.

Take for example Theta-E Advection. What does this mean? I'd hope to get a c- for effort on the test, but Theta-E is a prediction of the future temperature of air after it has been lifted from the ground toward the sky where the water vapor contained within it might have condensed, releasing heat and has fallen back toward sea level. Advection means a bit of air that's moved by wind rather than by changes in atmospheric pressure. So next time it's cool after a rain shower, if I can remember to, I will wax lyrical upon Theta-E predictions, and should there be anything like a hint of a chilly breeze after a rain shower on a distant horizon I'm going to go on a bit about Theta-E Advection. And no doubt there'll be those who raise the issue of "Telling it Like it Is" rather than this wishy-washy pompous liberal intellectual stuff.  But I won't care, I'll do my bit for Convective Inhibition, or quantifiable potential for a Thunderstorm, that always seems to define the political mood. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Outdoor Sorts and Tackle

 It was pure luck, rather than a moment of lateral thinking.  Nor was this one of those Convenience Stores where the wages of employees afford a shopper who might have been hit by a confusion the luxury of being able to run down a knowledgeable or even friendly store Associate. The guiding light in such places is more of a hunter-gatherer theory of the shopping experience. And probably just as well, it's aisles after aisle of nonsensical purchasing possibilities, anything from diapers, through kitty-litter to Frozen Pizza, interspersed with the occasional gleam of disappointment. Your gardener was almost ready to surrender to the inevitability of a planet aligned against him when he decided to take what looked like a short cut to the exit sign and found himself surrounded by large, very well fed, intense, oddly scented, manly men, none of them with shopping carts and all of them wearing magnificent boots and dressed in what could have been Militia outfits, one of whom looked very much as though he was in the process of getting married to what could have been a Kalashnikov. I was in what's loosely referred to as Outdoor Sports and Tackle.

More likely with us gardeners it's a mistrust of any kind of labor saving that makes us stubborn around mechanical devices no matter the purpose, and nothing to do with sensitiveness to what in Outdoor Sports and Tackle would have been regarded as dainty, minimalist type footwear well suited to pushing a shopping cart. Quite why the Groom chose to look at my feet instead of concentrating on his wedding vows, I don't know. Either way I had a poor reaction, no clue what gets into me, I blame the contribution of a Viking from generations ago who gave me freckles and a wholly irrational streak. "Looked all over! Can't find Oats or Legumes," I chose to answer in a manner that suggested both frustration with and disappointment in the current state of Western Civilization. But, in Outdoor Sports and Tackle, Oats, Legumes and Brassicas are common topics of conversation. Seeds of these grains and vegetables are planted in woodland glades to provide winter fodder for the Deer and the Antelope. I swaggered out of there with my shopping cart pushing a ten pound bag that had a splendid picture of a very fine creature with terrifying looking horns printed upon it, and hope to God that the Deer and the Antelope don't start leaping fences to get at the green manure for next year's vegetables.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A More Perfect Union

Sadly the indoors during the hours prior to high noon are somewhat dominated by Feline political maneuvering, so an exhausted gardener such as myself does best to bravely endure the more onerous outdoor routines in appallingly dry and phlegm driven conditions until the afternoon respite. The current quarrel between the Girl Cat, myself and the Kitten, revolves around a chair in the room where I sleep. The room is my safe place, a haven from the rattle of life, and until recently it was a sanctuary pretty much devoid of fellow beings except the wintering Ladybirds, there are those fascinating little Spiders that spin chaotic webs around which rhyme or reason cannot be found and I'm graced by a visit from an occasional hornet. And for the smart apple, it's no good closing the door to my own little piece of heaven, it just causes loud unrelenting caterwauling, which puts a whole other nuance on who might get access to the nicer part of the afterlife.

There are actually three chairs in my room. The more splendid and most comfortable, it has contemplative arms, a high head rest, the throne if you prefer, and is the subject of the current dispute. All three of us lust after it. The next chair is a little small, perfectly adequate for a boney bottom, it has a soft cushion seat and like the throne it has little wheels so you can float it across the floor without having to go to the effort of lifting it up. The third chair is one of those chairs you'd expect to find in the attic of a dead relative. It has no single redeeming feature, it's rickety, it creaks when sat upon, the wicker seat is in the process of disintegrating, it has no wheels, and yet as a result of domestic politicking it's the chair I have been reduced to sitting upon while delving into the great mysteries. And it's no wonder that in sixty odd years of declining consciousness I have yet to find anything resembling a lasting solution. But on the positive side, unlike the current Secretary of State of the USA, I'm quite unable to assign the title "Moron" to either occupant of my room's other two chairs.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Again and Again

Try as a person does to grasp the world in which he or she lives there are always layers upon layers and when the Butterfly lands upon the Lotus bloom and the Frog leaps from the pond to take a bite the rest of us do not remain unaffected.

Then when it happens to you it always comes as a bit of surprise. So if you'd rather be the Frog, your welcome, but I've always rooted for the Butterfly, as I root for the Antelope crossing Crocodile infested rivers. Call it good and evil if it cheers you up, but that would be a dumb excuse.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Agriculture

A good percentage of English Speakers might assume that a Bush Hog was some kind of wild and totally out of control Boar. It's the case also that the uncastrated male Guinea Pig is called a Boar, and a male Beaver is called a Boar. But the Hog part of Bush Hog is a Madison Avenue-esque description for something that gobbles stuff up in a less than polite manner. And here we're not talking the poetry and grace of the scythe, we're talking the rotating blade of a mowing machine that's powered and pulled by a noisy and foul smelling tractor across land that's doing it's very best to achieve a harmony and meaning all by itself. The result is manicured acres above which Vulture peer down from the sky smelling out the corpses of meaty morsels. At this time of year it's usually a snake of some sort, in the early year it can be nest of Turkey eggs or even a little spotted doe eyed Bambi, which does give Eden an additional nuance.

In our own pair, it's The Artist who has traditionally spent a portion of her time upon earth Bush-hogging. There's a Zen to it, I'm told. Mowed lines that snugly follow the contours, patterns gained in a slow motion, care taken to minimize messy turn arounds.  It's great fun, it's not hard and when it's all done there's a neatness, ready for the frost, the snow and the toboggan or whatever. Not really certain why, but this Autumnal Season it was my turn to Bush-Hog. I had my lesson, and what with the hi-revs, medium-revs, low-revs on the steeper inclines, and except for "brakes are adrenalin so don't go near neutral on a slope otherwise you'll end up in Central Time," most of it went completely over my head. Now I have been a here and there, done this and that, I've worked some really mind blowingly boring jobs, and I'd just like to say that Bush-Hogging is down there in the seventh circle of hell along with shelling Peas, shaving and enduring the company and opinions of Bloated Plutocrats.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Uncharacteristic Feline

The Girl Cat is an athletic Madonna, she's graceful, light on her feet, inscrutable after the manner of a Buddha who can leap, climb trees, drift through the air. She dislikes unnecessary noise and has no interest whatsoever in mechanical things. In every way she's pretty much of an Empress when put beside The Kitten.

The Kitten has all the delicacy of a Bull in something like a Wal-Mart. She's a charger, she thunders heavy footed through the domicile knocking things over, she's taken an interest in mechanical devices, has a passion for the differential gear on any and everybody's pick-up truck and while the quality of fearlessness in the Trenches of World War One might be an asset, it's very, very un-feline.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Narrative

Pretty much guarantee there'll be three sides to a story. Boiled down, one side blames the victim, another side blames the intolerance of others, the third side, or the hero, will seek to promote the anguish in the interest of political or financial gain.

It's the way of the world, it's God's plan, and not much is likely to change in a hurry. Depressed, well there's hope and change to be found in Mathieu Jean-Marc Joseph Rodrigue, who on his Facebook page uses The Periodic Tables and a US Dollar Bill to mathematically demonstrate that June 24th 2018 is definitely the End Times for all of us...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Values, Morals and Hazards

I read the expression "Moral Hazard" and unless I have lost my ability to comprehend the written language, which could well be possible, it would seem that a vocal faction within the United States is inclined to assign "Moral Hazard" to the suggestion that Health Care in the United States should be considered an issue of Public Health rather than an endless and ever expanding income stream from the injured, the slightly sick, the very sick, and the dying. Nor is being buried without having to pay someone a small fortune allowed.

A "Moral Hazard" is sometimes described as a risk to an insurance company due to suspicions about the honesty of the insured. But a person could be excused from assuming that when "Moral Hazard" is applied to Health Care it refers to the idea that health care is a an earned benefit, and those who don't earn enough are undeserving. Then there's the business of keeping us safe from foreigners and their pesky ideas no matter the cost. Either way the Graham Cassidy debacle is yet another answer, and here where I live there'll be fresh muffins with a slither or two of ice cream tonight.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cover Crops

End of last year into the early months of this year, Winter Oats grew green and pleasant, rich and full as a ground cover in several of the garden beds. Their happiness through the nightmare of Winter was a joy to behold, not even a sign amongst them of wintering pests, they shrugged off cruel frosts, they contained a quality of unblemished usually reserved for the more invasive species of plant. Then, when the weather turned, digging over the Winter Oats wasn't so damaging to a mind and body anxious for sustenance, purpose, and a little exercise, after months of sitting around, mumbling about this and that. And the thing is, through this year, Vegetables in those beds that had given a brief home to delightful flocks of Winter Oats and which had witnessed the barbarity of rendering a perfectly happy Oat into green manure before ever it reached maturity, did noticeably better.

Technically the Winter Oat has active, deep, fibrous roots, its leaf can maintain photosynthesis at low temperatures, it's a cold weather annual plant. Last fall was dry, last winter was no more bleak than usual, relatively stable in the mild range, moist with no extended extreme periods of something like minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit and if there was anything resembling one of those Polar Vortexes then I've completely blanked it out. As some may be aware September is almost gone, October is one of those funny months, kind of the opposite of March into April. In every respect October has a delinquent capacity that can never be trusted, it's an obnoxious rain gutter jammed month, and this means I basically have a couple of weeks to secure Winter Oat seeds, otherwise ground cover is down to Turnips, Mustard and those Korean Radishes, all of which can contribute to winter diet but which I strongly suspect are prized by end of season Stinkbugs, which as everyone knows are the sneakiest Stinkbugs of all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sweet Potato

In the grand scheme it's of no importance but entirely possible I'm not a kitten person. She's vicious, demanding, manipulative, she could well be struggling with some sort of mental anomaly, she's clearly an insomniac, she has no sense of self preservation, and if it moves she has strong desire to leap upon it and torture it or tickle it to death. Sweet Potatoes have vines that travel and rustle when they're pulled up before the Potatoes are dug, so I guess Sweet Potato harvesting and the Sweet Potato Harvester become kind of like Valhalla for a kitten.

 The other thing about the Vegetable Garden is that despite diligence on my part patches of Cat-Nip persist. The Kitten has a nose for hunting down these patches of Cat-Nip and in a very sneaky way chewing on them when I'm not looking.  In short today's physical activity was something of a nightmare, and there's one more row of Sweet Potato to dig. I'm now locked in my room, and have no intention of responding to the pathetic mewing and scrabbling that's going on outside my door.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cockle Burrs

 One of the consequences of surplus was the development of methods that rearranged our ability to define our world. They were posited as cures, but some might be inclined to think of them as languages, the language of Science, Math, Physics and so on. And here you'd have to think that the language of Art has a more distant place, more closely related to the flow and often random connections between words and sentences that make expressions of both hope and misery, as well as outreach toward wonder, purpose and other magical substances. Much of it spinning around varied attempts to identify the "thing that is me." The thing that exists in the experience of it and nowhere else. An answerless question, ripe for imagination, as well as containing an emptiness that some find difficult. Much easier to think you know than not to know, turn to loudness and bombast for solace when challenged rather than bursting into tears.

I can however, take it for granted that the twenty third Pope John who in his Journal of a Soul, sixty eight years of his diary, on many occasions and in many different ways claimed "I do not Belong to myself" had a better handle on "the thing that is me" by finding a solution to it. Wasn't easy for him as he climbed from priest, to papal legate and all the way up to the title of Pope. Sounds like a twelve step program, but through long years during which there was whole bunch of very unholy things going on it gave him serenity despite moments of temptation. And it's funny how an allegiance, whether you're religious, an atheist or a bit of both, whether you worship yourself in the language of math, or art or wealth or food or mass murder or whatever you can think of, will always demand this giving-ness that requires a person to think in terms of "I do not Belong to myself."  In this way our being is more like cockle burrs than we'd like to think. And here the idea that we are "sticky stuff" fills me with a certain confidence around the possibilities for the longevity of our species..

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Golden Calf

When Charlton Heston came down from his break on the mountain he had with him a few basic yet central notes on how his people might effectively organize themselves. Naturally, in a perfectly normal way the boys and girls were enjoying their freedom from servitude to the whips of Pharaoh, for whom they'd made vast quantities of bricks and were probably looking around for an easier and less arduous lifestyle. And some of them might even have been experimenting with new ways of doing things, might even have been thinking about the two day work week, instead of this 24/7 nonsense. Charlton Heston, for his part, had had a more interesting origin, by some extraordinary fluke he'd been raised in such a way that instead of learning how to make bricks he'd spent his young adulthood doing things like learning how to be a Prince and at the same time wondering about the extent to which he had a genetic claim to the title of Prince. Then when the waters parted and he found himself the leader of a rabble, it must have been stressful especially because he had no paramilitary police force. Fortunately the Sinai is a fairly barren and unpopulated part of the world and without some sort of cooperating set of principles even the most libertarian minded realize that survival is almost impossible, and this particularly so for a people who where accustomed to the conveniences and dubious benefits of regular work that required them to not think too hard, or concern themselves with whether the work they were doing made any sense.

One of the things on Charlton Heston's list was the idea that stability did depend upon not coveting your neighbors stuff, whether it be his Ox, his bank account, his manservant or his fashionable tennis shoes. And amongst the other probably less important Shalt Not's there was an injunction against stealing, manna was fair game I guess, killing each other was quite wrong and so on. The point about coveting was that it meant, according to Charlton Heston, the emotions of envy were an error, they had nothing to do with ensuring harmony, they were divisive and not conducive to progress in the search for a Promised Land. It was a transformational moment in social organization, a group was directed to set aside a passion innate in our species, the punishment for which was eternal damnation, much worse than Latin Detention, and they were directed to praise, even worship, rather than denigrate the successful hunter. Jealousy was not only self-destructive it was socially destructive, it was a waste of energy, it served no purpose, and the One God heartily disapproved of it, so none of this worshipping Golden Calves. By the time Thomas Aquinas put his mind to envy, he was thinking in terms of it as destructive to hierarchies, to the division of labor, to the order of things, and he went so far as to claim that even the Angels who had want of nothing took great delight in their own perfect and shinning hierarchies. In Dante's time the emotion of envy was defined as hoping something horrible would happen to anyone who owned a better tunic than his. These days we have the Billionaires of Silicon Valley and the avarice of Corporations plotting our future experiences of servitude. So if ever it comes time to again seek out The Promised Land, part the waters, it might make sense to have another look at the "sin" of envy. Treat it with a little more respect, give it a more useful definition within the tapestry of our emotions. Do to it, what we did to the "sin" of Greed.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Progress

Were I a Hunter-Gatherer who slept for 100,000 years and woke up to discover himself in the year 2017, I'd find it very hard to observe the traditions of my ancient heritage, one of which was denigrating the successful hunter, which in today's world would be anyone rich or powerful or famous. If anyone bothered to ask me why, I'd probably do my best to explain that the successful hunter begins to think they are better than everyone else and no good comes from it. 100,000 years ago we lived very much day to day, kind of like Kittens, but we tolerated each other because to get by, raise a child we had to live in a small close knit, sometimes claustrophobic, cooperative group, and it was difficult for anyone to labor under the illusion they were in anyway special or different. "Claude occasionally might put very poor quality meat on the table, but what do you expect he picks his nose and when he was little he was afraid of spiders." That sort of no nonsense tearing down of anything that remotely resembled hubris, the hallmark of cohesion in the more competent units, and always worth remembering the Duke of Wellington was terrified of his own soldiers. In those Hunter-Gatherer days, we were far too sensible to indulge an anthropomorphic understanding of stars that result in things like Dukedoms, and we certainly wouldn't have wasted resources on things like fireworks, flu shots and saviors.

One of the great pleasures of getting old is the inclination to look upon new fangled contraptions and ideas as the products of a degenerating imagination that lashes around, pointlessly seeking self aggrandizement rather than doing something useful, completely understand why Rock and Roll was the devil's invention.. And there's a reason why saying something like "Window's Ten sucks" or "what happened to real bread" tickles the pleasure gland in the older mind. The reality is we can't help it, because as we get old we revert to more ancient understandings of being us, and it becomes a responsibility entrusted by our aging genetic codes to preserve the idea that individual success, power, wealth are little more than passing, unimportant and youthful fantasies. Have no doubt that this responsibility in us old people is vitally important to the long term wellbeing of the whole. Nor does it really help the future of our species when old people make these ridiculous attempts to appear younger. In my view it's a total sell out and for the more Sunday observant, I have it on excellent authority that a forgiving, or nut-eating God rather frowns on it. And Mother Nature, who's been around considerably longer and who has a Kim Jong-un attitude toward visiting the iniquities of the father upon offspring, considers it a High Treason the punishment for which is extinction. So be warned, we're talking the real world, not some fancy-dandy hula hoop and tiki torch party on a hurricane prone desert island.