Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tax and Stuff

John Maynard Keynes who's up there with Larry Summers as a mind that's grappled reasonably with the art and craft of Economics once claimed those engaged in the stock markets were essentially irrational actors, subject to the whims of fancy and prone to leap where others might at least have a cup of tea and think about it before jumping off the cliff.  To me at least Mnunchin or Mnonkin or whatever name the current Treasury Secretary goes by does seem like a person who might not be a rational actor and is likely to just make things up as he goes along. The other thing about stock markets is the temptation that exists for short term gain which falls in love with and marries risk and soon enough there's some kind of bubble bursting event that at one time resulted in the rather healthy disciplining effect of stock brokers jumping out of windows. Now days of course when that bubble bursts tax payers go into debt so that stock brokers might avoid the penalties of their sins. Instead they are presented with a bunch of rules and regulations designed to curb their appetite for risk, and we all know what happens to those rules. Capitalism died a long time ago, welcome to Plutocracy.

 One of the arguments of Capitalism against slavery in the years leading up to the US Civil War was this.  Slaves are expensive, they had to be purchased or inherited, they had to be housed and fed year round, and some of them kept trying to run away. Much better, Capital argued, to have a pool of freemen who didn't have to be housed and fed year round and who could be hired at an hourly rate whenever the market required labor, what freemen did or ate, or where they lived when they weren't needed by capital was up to them.  The current Canadian Foreign Minister wrote a book in which she claimed that you don't have to define Plutocrats as cigar smoking conspirators chuckling around the port as they dream of world domination, better to think of them as people who have persuaded themselves that "what's best for me is best for everybody else." The other point I'd like to make is this: Gretchen Carlson's lawyer, a person called Nancy Erica Smith, shares my view that the male hubristic capacity to compound errors suggests that it might be a good idea to hand over the reins of power to the females of our species, see if they can't do a better job of it. Mind you, the girls aren't all perfect, I can think of the Duchess of Sutherland who played a role in clearing the Scottish Highlands of people so that her family could grow sheep.

Monday, November 27, 2017

De-Gentrification

The de-gentrification of Kapital is underway in Washington DC, and we're well on our way to the joys of nature raw in both tooth and claw. Traditionally our species has been slow to respond as the beady eyed Marmots amongst us seek out simple and increasingly half-baked solutions, it's one of the tribulations which once lead to the first cities suddenly disappearing and for a while everyone just went back to the more steadfast life of Hunter-Gathering. There's a new book out about it, written by a man called James Scott. A man of learning in the areas of Political Science and Anthropology. And in terms of work, I can tell you from some experience that being an itinerant rather than a wage slave is an infinitely more satisfying existence until you get old and broken, which is probably the time to do the right thing, follow Oats, "Just nipping out and might be gone for sometime."

 I guess too it's worth categorizing the Hunter-Gatherer. Two basic kinds, the old fashioned and the newfangled. The old fashioned wandered the Savannahs searching for what you call basic sustenance, the occasional meat product, gathered fruits and vegetables and wonderful stories about mountains and trees and how to find water when you're dying of thirst. The newfangled are to be found flying around in private jets, venture capitaling, "managing" hedge funds, bribing the political class, owning newspapers, interpreting scripture, there's a whole list of abominable efficiencies that enable a would be itinerate to ask questions about the meaning of existence. And there's the matter of "What is Progress?" Best not to seek answers from a Hunter Gatherer, old fashioned or newfangled. They'll just tell you "Lizard Tails and Corporations are delicious when eaten raw."

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Rules

Broke the rules yesterday. I started a bonfire at five fifteen in the pm instead of six o'clock in the pm. I did feel a little guilty, but it was a guilt more laden with the prospect of being spotted by something like a pot-chopper or the Fish and wild life fellow who lives across the hill than anything that could be an assault upon my being that might have resulted in a haunting existential crisis that would follow me to my death, place me firmly in purgatory.

I realize too that it's this sort of cavalier attitude toward the rules that leads a person toward doing things like breaking the speed limit or laundering money for fascist states and criminal oligarchs so they can build ridiculous things like three hundred a dollar a night hotel rooms so that they and other thieves and near-do-wells might feel better cuddled by the world they've invented for themselves. Narratives change of course, mine would have had something to do with confusion over the meaning of Day Light Savings Time as I watched the woodlands burn.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sufi

For those who might not know it, once long ago, a Sufi Saint called Pir Mangho escaped the Mongol invasion of Iraq and he travelled to a place near what is now the Port Town of Karachi. Weary from his journey he settled near a small lake which was fed by hot and cold springs. The lake was a soothing sight and he decided to take a bath, wash his clothes, tidy himself up. As he was undressing he found lice upon his person. One by one he picked off the lice and tossed them into the lake and when the lice touched the water they turned into Crocodiles. Pir Mangho decst these Crocodiles and share his food with them.

 Today the current generation of Pir Mangho's Crocodiles are still there, they belong to a shrine dedicated to the Saint and they have for generations been fed by hand. The Crocodiles eat pretty much anything from candy bars through rice cakes to whole chickens. Sufi Saints gentle, Sufi poets are remembered;
"A moon whose stature was straight like a cypress,
held a mirror in her hand and adorned her face.
When I presented her a handkerchief she then said:
‘You seek union with me? You have quite some imagination!’"

Friday, November 24, 2017

Mullets, Kilts and Selfies

There's a reexamination of winter policy in these parts. Traditionally in the winter time your correspondent would begin his day by acquainting himself with current events, raise an eyebrow and then as the day warmed he'd go on about his business. Unfortunately, the acquainting with current events part of this tradition has recently produced far too many irrational outbursts that kind of linger on through the noon hour into the supper time and late into a night, turning what could have been a perfectly respectable day into a series of random and often loud utterances that upset the cats and I suspect have begun to persuade The Artist that it could be time to hunt around for a padded room in a secure location in which to lodge the other half of the pairing.

I guess when a person not only achieves that "Get off my lawn" condition but begins to relish it as an entirely reasonable approach to the problem of others, it's time to make an attempt to recapture the more egalitarian enthusiasms of youth. When I look into the past, I mostly see a variously employed long haired drunk who had an interest in books and typewriters, not much to work on in our brave new world. Yet the lessons are there, and more than likely the secret to the cure has less to do with shaking the walking stick and more to do with becoming one with the recent explosion of behaviors and attitudes less informed by anything remotely associated with wisdom or experience. Dispatching a naked selfie into the ether might be just a little extreme, but I am giving serious consideration to growing a mullet, wearing flowing robes, or perhaps a kilt, and learning how to yodel.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

OMG

OK Chaps! We need to talk. It's not going to be one of those quiche recipe sharing talks, there'll be no book club here, nor will we be discussing the difference between a cartridge and round, or whether Freddie Truman was a disaster for the game of cricket. We're going to talk about girls! And worth mentioning that the great majority of us boys appear to have some very, very strange ideas about girls. First of all God is mostly silent and yet boys have this habit of interpreting God's thoughts in such a manner as to suit them best and one of the assumptions we boys have made is that God is a boy and when God was pottering around creating stuff we boys were God's initial thought and girls were some kind of entertaining leftover rib. Anyone who thinks this needs a great deal more than serious help from a spell in the laughing stocks, followed by ten years in jail, especially if it leads to things like inviting girls half your age to take notes and then expect them to watch you xxxbbxx. No one thinks that's cute or clever, even if you are seventy years old, what's the matter with you! And if you find yourself still tempted to behave in such a disgusting manner there are places you can go, pay good money to a professional to watch you do something like wrap your xxx in silver foil and bbb it with wooden spoon. Disgraceful? Of course it's disgraceful and it's pathetic, as well being a total embarrassment. God very obviously didn't make us first and if God did then it was a major error, we don't even have wombs for goodness sake.

The other thing to remember is this. The only reason we have boys and girls is so that our species might cram seven billion people into a small planet and in the process proceed to destroy it on the understanding that someone somewhere in a garage might someday invent a device that will enable us to travel faster than the speed of light and allow us to populate the universe with an abundance of face book accounts. An absolutely tragic fate for a species that occasionally has a bright shining moment of inspiration such as the poems of Pessoa, but mostly just beats it's head against a brick wall. So my advice is to look at yourself in the mirror and instead of seeing Rock Hudson staring back at you and go on about a War on Men and how much simpler things were when Christmas was called Christmas and your mommy still washed your underwear, get with the program and stop being so afraid of a bold future that will include black girls and white girls and all kinds of girls doing things like running governments, small businesses and multi-national corporations. I do realize that this might be very difficult for some of us less secure boys, and as the festive season begins with Thanksgiving or for the rest of the world Just Another Thursday, try to remember the immortal words of Enoch 3 42-205 "And it came to pass on the sixth day God shrugged and picketh up a snail, a leftover puppy dog tail and showeth them unto Eve. Eve raised her eyes unto the heavens and said 'yuk.'  And while Eve ate an apple God was mightily amused by the possibilities of a creation she would have called The Pro-Oligarchic Xenophon had the snake not suggested Adam." For the scripture buffs, much of Enoch was expunged from the scared texts by bearded men and maybe a couple of nuns at the Council of Nicaea in 325 BCE.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hobbes, Locke and Christmas

Rambling around the titles of the great works might not be for everyone. But take for example John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government." A total empiricist yawn-fest of a title when put beside something like Hobbes' "Behemoth: the history of the causes of the civil wars of England, and the counsels and artifices by which they were carried on from the year 1640 to the year 1660." And yet generally Hobbes and Locke are both seen as huge influences on the development of thinking patterns sometimes referred to as Liberalism. Oddly, in the course of internet discussion I have yet to be called a Hobb-tard or a Locke-tard, but I guess when it comes to arguments around the details of the Virgin Birth, it's sort of understandable. And here Hobbes made a good point about one of the causes of the English Civil Wars in his references to schisms in religion that had emerged in society following the English King Henry's inability to produce a properly born male heir. Back then Anabaptists were a bit of a nuisance with their insistence that a person should wait until such time as they had a achieved a degree of understanding before being dunked into the Christian faith. There were hard Puritans, gentle Quakers and a whole bunch of people some of whom still reckoned the Pope in Rome was God's true vicar upon earth.

It's always the case that a reader sees things that might not be there, and yet you have to think that Hobbes missed the old days, and was struggling to reinvent a more perfect past in his understanding of matters ecclesiastic and civil. And in the end you just have to look at Kneller's portrait of Locke to realize that he might have been well pleased to see a disestablishment of any kind of religion enshrined in the US Constitution which Liberalism and Republicanism had so influenced. Wear the hat if you want, carry the authentic semi-automatic musket if you wish, but if you were a revolutionary, instead of carpet bagger, and it was April 1775 you might have sought God's assistance while under the fire of English cannon but you'd have seen John Locke, the Empiricist, in your banners.  Hard to forget, Washington at the head of his victorious army, wasn't able to or didn't choose to be an Emperor. Nor did Hobbes have much good to say about carpet baggers. He didn't call them carpet baggers, they were more like lost souls seeking possibilities from the chaos of a new frontier, kind of like the internet explorers today, monetizing likes on face book no matter the content so long as it's visceral rather than honest. At the same time Hobbes reckoned on the ecclesiastic playing a tune of cohesion in civil society, and in some ways to an old wishy-washy relativistic existentialist like me he was correct. Otherwise I just have to say it, "You got to be drunk to make sense of Christmas in Alabama."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hobbes, Behemoths and Leviathans

I was now-casting the frost this frigid morning when the Mockingbird had a bit of a go at a Downy, then followed up by doing battle with a Sapsucker who'd settled on the trunk of the ornamental Apple. It's a well known fact that woodpeckers of all kinds tend to struggle a little with being told what to do, but amongst woodpeckers, Sapsuckers are probably the most stubborn and the Downy is the cutest and the sneakiest of all. For some reason, as I watched, I wondered why Hobbes chose to call his first and most remembered book Leviathan rather than Behemoth. It's also the case that one of the Victorian poets, probably of high birth and perverse morals, wrote a poem about the Leviathan. And as I uttered the two names aloud it struck me that Leviathan sounds nicer than Behemoth. Back in those days of course there was a lot of sitting around in the company of others chatting about this and that, and otherwise demonstrating knowledgeableness around mythical beasts mentioned in the scriptures. There might even have been arguments through the cigar smoke, across the bottle of port, as to whether the Behemoth was an Elephant and the Leviathan was a Whale. I can just picture Hobbes saying, "I don't give a hoot, I'm calling it 'Leviathan: or the matter, forme and power of a commonwealth ecclesiastical and civil.'" The other thing about Hobbes' book, it was written in Latin, it called for a social contract between a populace and an All Powerful Sovereign. In context, when the book was written the Brits were engaged in a civil war, Parliament against the Monarchy, Roundheads and Cavaliers, the brute of nature let loose across the green and pleasant land, and yes, you could call it a Culture War. But you'd be wise to remember that even in the clip notes an All Powerful Sovereign isn't always a King or Queen, sovereign comes from the Latin for "above."

Descriptions of the Behemoth include the idea that it was incredibly loud. One account suggests that on Midsummer the creature would roar in a manner so fierce that all other creatures would tremble, and for the remainder of the year they would tip-toe around just in case they happened upon the Behemoth who no doubt would eat them up. And too the Behemoth's roar would remind other creatures that they were far from invincible and wholly mortal, so creatures didn't just go around being beastly to other creatures by doing things like poking them with sticks for no good reason. Job himself reckoned the Behemoth, despite the beast being a few crayons short of a coloring book, was totally uncontrollable, and in some interpretations of Job's description the Behemoth was driven more by the size of his gonads than anything remotely associated with a rational mental process. I think in terms of Mockingbirds and their relationship with the community of Woodpeckers, the Behemoth would be a Pileated Woodpecker, quite insane, entirely unstable and from personal observation I have noticed that Mockingbirds generally become polite when a Pileated Woodpecker is out there in front of everybody pointlessly destroying a brand new treated fence post. But whichever way you look at it, none of these Behemoth behaviors are really something a person looks for at the other end of a Social Contract. No doubt in my mind that Hobbes felt the same way about the Behemoth, which is why as a rational being in the struggle for a commonwealth ecclesiastical and civic Hobbes chose an enormous sea creature for the title of his book. Leviathan could have been a dragon, some argue for Crocodile, but the thing about sea creatures in those simpler days before Twitter and chaps like Cousteau had National Geographic specials, sea creatures were usually just underwater, and no one really knew what they got up to or how unbalanced or obnoxious they might have been. Hobbes' second book, published after his death, was a history, more of a dialogue on the causes of the English Civil Wars and this book in all its gory down to earth detail he gave the title Behemoth.

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.