Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


(In the flurry of the last post's comments, Deb seemed to be indicating some nihilism. She described some family health history and her subsequent decision to pass up some examinations and lab work. So she will now be yelled at; resignation will not be tolerated.)

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?!?!?!?!?!? You call the mammography clinic tout suite and set up an appointment today. NOW! You tell them your concerns that you're at high risk. If the current Majesties are considering treason, send them to the guillotine (they can always be succeeded by silicon Pretenders).

You will also call a cardiologist. The Ticker can commit treason in many ways. What could be more annoying than dying from something avoidable (or delayable)? Maybe you didn't inherit any heart issues and you're making yourself terrified for no reason. Maybe you need to get a pacemaker installed or carry some nitro; very tolerable compared to fearing the unknown.

HONESTLY! What is this hiding away like a scared rodent business about? Fight like a bad-tempered badger!! Even if you have to pay out of pocket, get the best science there is to prolong your existance. Make this your QUEST, dammit!

(Lord, its exhausting making people see reason. Luckily its my Quest ;) )

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Rats, rats, and triple rats, I have to resurrect from memory this post which I ALMOST finished but it disappeared in my search for the link... GRRRRRR....
SS, your recent poetry job was honourable, but I feel the need to make a return to the classics, as usual. Y'all will probably remember an incident from the Dale Carnegie bible of management involving a man unwittingly shut up in a disconnected refrigerator car who dies of the cold after managing to inform posterity of his tragic fate in a scribble on the boxcar walls. All about the "power of positive thinking", you know.
At least two hundred years before Dale's prosaic, and oh so unpoetic prose hit the best seller charts, Goethe came up with the following poem which was popularized throughout the Romantic revolution, set to music on several occasions, and immortalized by... you guessed it, once again, dear Franz, that consummate disciple of wanderlust.
Here goes :

Who rides so late through night and wind ?
It is the father with his child.
He has the youth fast in his arms,
He holds him safe, he keeps him warm.

"My son, why hide your face so anxiously ?"
"Father, don't you see the Elfking ?
The Elfking with crown and tail ?"
"My son, it is a wisp of fog."

"You lovely child, come, go with me !
Many a beautiful game I'll play with you ;
Many beautiful flowers are on the strand,
My mother has many golden garments."

"My Father, my father, and can't you hear ?
What the Elfking is quietly promising me ?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child ;
In the dry leaves the wind is rustling."

"Do you want to come with me, dear boy ?
My daughters will wait on you fine ;
My daughters lead the nightly dances
and will rock and dance, and sing you to sleep."

"My father, my father, and don't you see there,
The Elfking's daughters in that gloomy place ?"
"My son, my son, I see it well enough.
The old willows are shining grey."

"I love you, your lovely form entices me,
and if you are not willing, I will take you by force."
"My father, my father, he is clutching at me !
The Elfking has struck me sorely !"

The father shudders ; he rides swiftly,
He holds the moaning child in his arms
Reaches the farm exhausted and in dread ;
In his arms the child was dead.

Now, that's ten million times better than Dale Carnegie, isn't it ??? And in the original German, it's even BETTER.
(And by the way, the power of positive thinking, is it as... potent as the power of negative thinking ? That one is open to debate, my friends...)
Goethe was another prophet for his time, and ours, if we care to listen to him now.
You can doubtless tell that the father espouses a dry, magicless, "objective", and scientifically materialist vision (a dog is a dog is a dog) of the world around him while his son...
His son has access to the magic, and poetry which infuse the world with... meaning, albeit DANGEROUS meaning.
Is there a "right" way to see things ? An "objective" one ?
In any case, Goethe's poetry, and the rhyme manage to suggest the interpenetration of father and son's world, although we MIGHT think that they are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
And at the close, the father's "objective" certainty and reassurance fall apart in the face of his apprehension and ultimate panic.
Octave Mannoni said this years ago, in a book which is a sort of Bible to me : common sense rationalizations are the last resort in the face of the overwhelming deluge that loss of faith will bring down. Yep, my own personal experience will verify that observation.
No suggestions for interpretations of Erlkönig. Maybe... Hans Hötter, whose voice I particularly like.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009



the lummox brought their guns to bare
and shot them in the air

they shouted to intimidate
that really wasn't fair.

But shoot or shout
we sat unfazed
and passed it in the end.

Health care reform
let's celebrate
for all of god's invertebrate!

For grandma there is paneled care
While Jose gets a share
For little Nell an evenings slip
Will leave no one to tell!

The really fat
No longer seen
we've got them on the mill
They're turning calories to green
For uncle sam no bill!

The preconditioned
you left out
we've got them on a cure
10 cents a joint
they seem content
the marijuna's pure.

health care for all
it really works
the right can scream and shout
for in the end
our god is great
it's called a "liberal" cure!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Fight For Health Care

I am going to start off easy. We are in an epic fight to secure basic health care rights for all Americans.

I will start off with President Obama's opening speech in Colorado:

President Obama is too nice. He wants to find some "middle ground" on health insurance reform, rather than seeking to guarantee health care for all Americans. I know why he is doing it. For some reason, a "Medicare for All" national healthcare system is apparently unachievable because the public won't accept it due to the threat of "socialism." I would want to abolish for-profit health insurance for all basic care and only allow it for supplemental care (care which provide benefits that are not provided by government funding for basic care). For instance, allowing private insurance to provide elective surgeries or "pampered" care that are not affordable by basic medicine, or for quicker treatment that may available under the public system. (One of the complaints about public care is that needed, but non-emergency care takes too long -- such as knee or hip replacement surgery.) But then, that's probably why I will never be president.

In the next video, Lawrence O'Donnell is too nice. In the process of interviewing Representative John Culberson (R-TX), O'Donnell kept interrupting by repeating his question trying to get Culberson to answer his question regarding his position on abolishing Medicare and Social Security. I would have shouted "ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION!" at the congressman. But, of course, that is probably why I could never be a good talkshow host.

While I understand Lawrence O'Donnell's point in conceding the argument that Social Security and Medicare are forms of "socialism," it technically is not correct. Socialism is actually defined as the "collective (government) ownership of the means of production and distribution." It is not socialism for governments to tax its citizens and use the revenue to alleviate social problems, injustices and inequality; that is called "welfare." However, most people don't have degrees in Political Science and therefore cannot distinguish between them.

However, the exchange still did a good job of showing the "cognitive dissonance" of the Republicans' argument regarding their opposition to expansion of Social Security and Medicare as "socialism" and their unwillingness to propose or vote to repeal the same.

Hardball With Rep. Culberson

By the way, I thought I should point out that many of the "newbie" political activists aren't new at all. Someone pointed out that the lady at the Arlen Specter town hall has a Facebook page which has information showing that she has been involved in politics for some time. What this proves is that a lot of what is passing for "public outrage" is actually nothing more than "astroturfing."

It is the increasing power of paid corporate shills (astroturfing) which is the real reason we are having difficulty passing real health care reform.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Exposure: Typhoons, Virginity, and Home Schooling

( These subjects belong together. If we tackled them individually we'd tangent ourselves to all sorts of other manifolds on the fractal map.)

1) The island of Taiwan just got slammed by over 7 feet of rain. They're scrambling to recover. This natural disaster furrows my brow more than most because I really like islands. I've always wanted one so that I could build the perfect culture. A hidden utopia that obnoxious people couldn't physically locate and invade. Of course, with global eco-destruction and satellite communication my dreams of isolation (along with fantastic waterslides) are absurd.

2) Deb (the site's resident pornographer) brought up virginity a while back. Recently at a hotel I found the Bible (ubiquitiously stuffed next to the local phone book in a desk drawer by the Gideons) and flipped through it. Honestly, the number of references to punishing non-virgins was terrifying. These people were obsessed with virginity. In the evolutionary morality book I mentioned a while back it spoke of "honor killings". This concept is huge amongst herding cultures. Not agressively defending your herd against thieves could literally result in starvation. Its not as big of a deal amongst farmers (thieving some of the harvest was rude, but the land would still be there to grow more). So the author insinuated that the herders who wrote the Bible considered women their sexual flock; thus honor killings.

3) The concept of home-schooling makes me nauseous (full disclosure of bias, yes?). Will it always fail? No. Does public schooling always succeed? No. But I still feel the group is better off with public schooling.

Its a heuristic error to take an anecdotal example and over-extrapolate. But its fun and it feels good. So. My parents wanted educated children. They themselves had education to transmit. Seems good so far. It would have been a disaster. Even in our relatively emotionally-functional family there would have been rebellion, treachery, bribery, etc. In short, drama.

Many parents sadly don't care about education and just send the kids to school everyday to be rid of them. Many vain parents would vastly overestimate their knowledge and ability to logically transmit the knowledge. In an already emotionally dysfunctional family adding education to the mix would result in murder-suicides.

In summary, items 1,2, and 3 have similar lures and almost inherent self-destruction.
The dream: In sterile isolation, perfection can be created. No exposure to other people, bodies, or thoughts which may cause questions and exploration.
The reality: Most likely, your isolation will fail and resentment will flow. If you succeed in isolation, you're creation will be too vulnerable to survive on planet Earth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To stop running away at the bit

Over there on Hell's blog, I kind of got carried away, mea culpa...
(It's all OKIE'S fault, for sticking in that really interesting link, and OKIE should be over here playing instead of sticking in great links like that to get me all worked up ; I told him this because he is posting on a really good blog of his own, but what good is it to post on your own blog if nobody reads you ? I think that OKIE has realized this and is sticking his most interesting links on Sudden Debt. IS THERE A SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM without turning into one of those creatures in the old Star Trek series who no longer had any bodies, but were just brains, because they were THINKING so much ????)
So, we can discuss Okie's link over here without having to muck my MY really beautiful post underneath, right ?
I am reading Regine Pernoud's little book about popular misconceptions and prejudice about the "Middle Ages". Many of our prejudices are the direct result of the bias of the extremely "classical" age which is drawing to a close now, and was hastened into its demise with the Romantic episode at the end of the 19th century.
"Classical" culture is taking a long time to die, though...
When I say classical, I'm talking about... Aristotelian world view, seen through the lenses of Descartes, for example. (Of course, I'm grossly oversimplifying...even more than Régine herself. )
Let's dig in on the home-schooling, Thai, I still don't understand. I can be SO thick, you know, and totally lacking in a sense of humor, of course...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

She moved through the fair

Along the line of poetry, here is an old English folksong which I heard recently on a record by Loreena McKennitt, Nights from the Alhambra, a live performance.
I recommend, however ; that you listen to it performed by Alfred Deller, the man behind the resurrection of the counter-tenor voice. No-one sings this music like Deller, who has his faults, but whose voice can translate instantly the most subtle, changeable nuances of emotion into song.

"My young love said to me, my mother won't mind,
And my father won't smite you for your lack of kind.
And she stepped away from me, and then she did say,
It will not be long, love, 'til our wedding day.

She stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there,
And then she went homeward, with one star awake,
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

Last night she came to me, she came softly in,
So softly she came that her feet made no din,
And she laid her hand on me, and this she did say,
It will not be long, love 'til our wedding day."

This song is pretty straightforward, isn't it ?
But... do you UNDERSTAND it ?

When my mother married my father in 1952 she was a virgin. I know because she told me so, and knowing her the way I did, I know that she wasn't lying...
My father was an Ivy League military man who had fooled around with the Ivy League girls at school, but when he married, he wanted a virgin. He didn't really respect a woman (Ivy League or not...) who had slept around before her wedding. And both of them warned ME to be careful about sleeping around. They didn't approve of it at all. Basically, because they wanted to protect ME. Because they felt that in these circumstances, the WOMAN ends up getting hurt more often than the man. Biology oblige, as the French say.

The above is to indicate just how fast things have changed. The idea that I would be a virgin at my wedding was already unthinkable for me at 18.

But when I hear the song, I get a wistful feeling, thinking about how much I, WE have lost with our new sexual "freedom". I can hear, taste the desire between man and woman in the song. And their desire is not that cheap, tawdry ersatz that sells cars on the billboards, you can be sure of that...

And when I hear the song, I also understand, or think I understand just WHY some of the Muslim women are picking up the veil to hide their hair. Did you know that in Western Europe the women during the Middle Ages wore a form of veil ? The Middle Ages, when women in many cases enjoyed a freedom that they STILL have not attained in modern western society (re Regine Pernoud, a French historian who began dusting off the Middle Ages for us in France in the 1970's). And, ironically, Dink, the Catholic church was an institution that guaranteed women this freedom. It was not necessarily the oppressor that our one dimensional understanding of history, reduced to propaganda disseminated "en masse" by the history manuals, has led us to believe...

With any luck, you might be able to find Alfred Deller singing this song on youtube, where apparently you can find everything. If not, Harmonia Mundi has issued a coffret with most of his recordings. Enjoy !

Tuesday, August 4, 2009



They'll be building tent cities on the greens,
seventh and ninth fairways are already crowded.
The're nearer the Lakes
where the tent dwellers go to drink and defecate.

They put the polo ponies out to graze
And turned their manure to victory garden patches
Celebrating the defeat of the tomato beetle,
No nuclear weapons this time.

For money they trade memorabilia,
especially framed in silver or tin
Each has a picture now meaning nothing,
As it is a neighbors loved one
Departed for the price of some make do necessity
matches, soap or paper, finding its way into the lake.

They're are no more heroes in Hollywood's America
No movies about the great migration to the greens.
It's a scrappy place
Filled with rape, vandalism and especially the death of promise.

For promise was the girl next door, the house with the picket fence,
Before it was foreclosed
Before it was turned to firewood.

Oh, mount the polo ponies ride,
There is one more gallop in these aging beasts
Toward the wind and hope
But leave behind the ghosts
The ones that promised so much
But only after you signed on the dotted line.

Leave behind the competition and the hate
Of immigrants both new and late
Of black and brown and in between;
The Colleges and Ivy gates,
The reservations and downtowns
the tombs of people free and proud
And reach the plain and shout out loud.

This is the America I knew and loved
The grass, the wind so wild and sweet
Bury now her sins and start anew with people bold, unbeaten, true.

And in this place amarking stone
We had once failed
But now we've grown.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Stuff and Culture Shock

We are getting ready to do major redecorating in our house.
That means... tidying up, putting things away, taking things apart, etc.
In recent years, I have slowly come to the realization that the 30 glorious years, as they are called over here, resulted in, and are still resulting in, a phenomenal amount of accumulation of all kinds.
Objects, both cheap and expensive.
Mementos. Photographs, old ones, most often stuffed into a shoe box and passed on with little or no identification or explanation.
Our ancestors didn't have to worry about these kinds of problems because they just didn't have all of our STUFF. Most of their clothes fit into ONE armoire ; maybe two or three dresses for everyday, and Sunday best, that was it.
A physical law, Thai : the MORE stuff you have, the MORE time you have to spend finding a place for it, and putting it away.
And we are faced with... our parents' considerable accumulation (mine are both dead, so I have accumulated inheritance, which has advantages and disadvantages...) in addition to our own.
When I landed over here, in Froggy country, I took a cold shower : I had to condense all of my already too considerable STUFF into dimensions that were much more reduced than American ones. This was, and still IS, incredibly painful.
Americans spread out. Europeans... can't, you know. Not even really in the country, where things are nevertheless easier.
Another cold shower. When you move into a French house, generally speaking, it is EMPTY. Like, I mean empty. No cabinets, no appliances, no convenience, no nothing. And since the French STILL do not move around the way the Americans do, I took another cold shower realizing that my parents' moves every six years or so ensured that major repairs NEVER needed to be done, so... I never learned how to do them.
Well, these days "décroissance" is looking better and better. Fewer things.
That's not going to do the spendthrift economy any good, is it ? LOL

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Any right to life has to be weighed with some notion of viable life, whether as a patient on life sustaining apparatus or a fetus. I do not wish to enter this debate, clearly a complex and emotional one.

But if there is a right to life which forbids the taking of human life than there is certainly in a regime of private property a right to work at a "living" wage for how else is that life to sustain itself? As private property has shorn the earth of its natural ability to sustain the individual whose unfortunate circumstances of birth leaves him or her dispossessed their ability to hunt, gather, farm or otherwise access the bounties of the earth, water, food and all except the air, how is he to live. Society gives him the possibility to reclaim a right on these resources only through work. But if society can not offer this alternative because of unemployment or other conditions the right to life is usurped. It would not be excessive to call those who oppose employment programs for the unemployed as "murderers," certainly passive if not active for they withhold the essentials of life to the same degree as a warden who refuses food to his prisoner, a doctor who withholds care or a parent who neglects his children.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How I'm spending my summer vacation

As I said elsewhere, Bacchus is back from Tournon, on the Rhone, just above Valence, and in the Massif Central.
We stayed in the municipal campsite right next to the river. (I hate hotels ; they are so... PROVINCIAL, and I am a cheapskate and an orang outang : I need much space between me and my neighbor, with a tad of green thrown in. Like many other French people, by the way. French camping is much more laid back than American. In many places, you drive in, find a spot, (not materialized with concrete, or anything like that..., and pitch the tent. Where there's room.)
Tournon is a very interesting place. On the economic line, it is a corridor for mucho fluvial transportation, and we were somewhat put out by the American, Dutch, or German cruise ships that travel up the Rhone from Marseille or Arles, continuing on the Saone when the Rhone becomes unnavigable. (By the way, Thai, you should consider one of those tempting cruises for your next medical convention ; they are pie in the sky, and a very nice way to visit France. Very expensive, surely, but VERY VERY nice, and original...)
There is a castle that dates from the 1400's, and there has been a religious presence (essentially Catholic) in Tournon dating from before, and extending to this day. Religious revival is in full swing in Tournon, by the way...
Tournon is home to the Valrhona chocolate factory where they are incredibly generous with their samples, and you can get an excellent idea just how really SHITTY American chocolate is (sorry you guys, the U.S. has good wine now, but good chocolate, the country has light years in front of it to catch up with France...) We came away with some of the most original stuff I've ever seen : 70 % cocoa chocolate flavored with spices like pepper (remember, like the Incas used to do it, or was it the Aztecs ? I've always been hopeless with history, get it all mixed up.)
And for the wine : four grands crus, as we say : Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St Joseph, and Cornas.
The white wine is nothing to get excited about in my book, but the red wines, MIAMMMMMMM.
We were served by a wine taster who was very generous and helpful, and I must say that I am getting much better all the time at sticking representations on what I'm drinking, and believe you me, it's not a piece of cake.
By the way, that's a real challenge : finding the words to talk about tastes and odors. Not so easy, heh ?

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits