Sunday, 11 September 2011

Outlier - beyond the pale.

Change is not only inevitable, it is possible.
(I've fallen for a tawny Moor ... away boys, away boys, heave away.)

Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

Tim DeChristopher.Watch this first: Tim DeChristopher speaking at Power Shift 2011.

And then you may care to carry on into my mewling & pathetic whinge, beginning with goodbye music from Tom Waits: Singapore & Time & Ol' 55; & from Lennie Cone (not as much of a non sequitur as it might be) Closing Time; & Bob (of course) It's All Right, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) ... And yes, I did put it into a playlist (for your easy background listening pleasure) ... or not.

The fuckin' playlist editor (be dammed forever you purveyors of correctitude!) will not permit Bob in a playlist! Doh!? So ... no more playlists then, that makes life simpler.

¡Ya basta!Some follow-up on the Washington action: A video which came to me from Duncan Meisel, and lots more videos here.

(Here is the Tar Sands Action website and the Flickr archive in case you need the links.)

Washington was just the beginning! Dig it!

Coming up: a Sit-in in Ottawa on Monday September 26 (training Sunday 25th).

And back in Washington on October 7th or 8th - visit the Tar Sands Action website for details as they are determined.

I met Gitz in Washington - eloquent, passionate and controlled - this exchange with Ezra Levant is revealing.

Safia Adem.Safia Adem.Aden Madow carries Hamza Ali Faysal.Safia Adem mourns her son Hamza Ali Faysal who died in the ex-cathedral of Mogadishu, aged three years.

(That first photograph is already becoming an icon. It was taken by John Moore.)

The cathedral was built in 1928 as part of an Italian colonial effort. Is it really any wonder that the 'Muslim fundamentalists' destroyed it?

Mogadishu cathedral.Mogadishu cathedral.Mogadishu cathedral (by Seamus Murphy).Mogadishu cathedral (by Seamus Murphy).UNHCR map of MogadishuMogadishu cathedral.I am assuming that the ruin of the remaining tower was left as a parody of a mosque.

The UNHCR map is interesting - the red triangles are IDP settlements - there seem to be lots of them. I cannot find the cathedral on the map though I know it is there somewhere - even the UN recognizing I guess, in its stolid bureaucratic way, that at least the name must be disappeared.

And on the other side I can imagine a grim & brutal ideological satisfaction in someone's mind that this child and his mother did not find the help they were hoping for there - unless of some deeply spiritual and transcendental kind.

Despair?Despair?Despair?Three screen-grabs from a movie version of On the Beach - of a message which turns out to be part of somthing from before ... cultural swamp gas ... What could Hollywood film-makers of 2000 possibly know about despair? (Though I admit Requiem for a Dream comes pretty close.)

(Some of the images above come from Seamus Murphy.)

'Beyond the pale' is an appealing phrase - I always imagined that 'the Pale' was some geographical place-name, like Pall Mall. But it comes from the same root as a word I am familiar with - paling, as in a fence-paling. So it means - outside the fence. Simple really. Outside of the territory and naturally beyond any concern or protection.

Toxic k-k-Canada.Daniel Dancer.Not everything in k-k-Canada has decayed & worn out & become toxic - just most of the official stuff.

This guy, Daniel Dancer, is from Oregon, but the video: An Alevin Sky; was made in collaboration with the Fraser Riverkeeper Society at the Hastings Elementary School in Vancouver - and it certainly does hum. His website seems to be down (?) but you can look at a few images I lifted from it a few days ago and maybe get an idea:

An Alevin Sky.Ganesha's Warning.Earth Mother.Sky Griz.Walela.The last one uses Cherokee Walela / Hummingbird - carrying on nicely from Betinho's story a few weeks ago.

Fitting in here to the (relatively rare) positive vibrations I come across is Aung San Suu Kyi delivering the BBC Radio 4 Reith lectures in July: 1: Liberty and 2: Dissent (each about an hour) - note that the second one is poorly edited and begins with some two minutes of nonsense about football, the slider will set you right.

It's not the economy, stupid!The cartoonist at the Globe, Brian Gable, is sometimes close-but-no-cigar. This one misses because - It's not the economy that's burning (stupid!), it's the environment. It's our home that's burning. And it is too much work for me to cobble 'Environment' or 'Ecology' or something into his artwork. I am never quite sure if he get's it wrong on purpose (when he does) just to keep his job, which is a plum I suppose, and to stay below the Globe's correctitude radar, or what?

To hell in a handbasket.Out of the panhandle and into the fire.In this case it doesn't matter. My trusty OED gives me: economy, adapted from the Latin œconomia, in turn adapted from the Greek οἰκονοµία, being a composite of οἶκος (house) and νόµος (manage).

So, a bit tortured - but all roads lead home. And Thomas Wolfe be damned - you can go there again.

This may be the last one reported (but not the last one stumbled upon I don't think), here's Alzheimer's
'Vantage #7: Reading a headline, "Vermont Turns Out for Its Dairies as They Take Stock and Dig Out," but this crumbling infrastructure turned it into 'diaries' - and I thought ...Gotta love it! :-)
One of the head boys ... Timothy Leary? (dearie?), Skinner? Pavlov? ... Richard Alpert was it? ... said that perceiving multiple levels of meaning in common speech is a measure of some kind of IQ? Who would have thought it would trickle down from metaphor (or was it metonymy?) to physiological mechanics?

99% biology, 1% intellect (mostly gone astray and at odds), and some infinitesimal fraction of something else; which, whatever it is, will not save us. If it wasn't so funny it would be ridiculous (a certain redundancy there which I also have to smile at) ... Hail Bokonon!

(Re: "may be the last one reported" - every time I think I may finally end this stupid blog, something comes along to keep me at it - maybe after the Ottawa sit-in then ...)

Toxic k-k-Canada.More around not-everything-in-k-k-Canada-is-toxic:

Ikram Syed.Ikram Syed.Shazia Malik.A medical team from Islamic Relief Canada, comprising nurse Hodan Ali, Dr. Shazia Malik and Dr. Ikram Syed are(were?) in Somalia working at a clinic.

This short video of some of their activities.

Hodan Ali.Hodan Ali.Hodan Ali.Hodan Ali.Hodan Ali happens to live in Hamilton (which is why she came across my screen I guess), and she wants to go back to Somalia (has gone back?). There are several reports in the Hamilton Spectator but the upshot is not clear to me ... that is, beyond the (very clear) fact that they need donations which can be made here.

This is a story, as simply put as I can put it:

I was on a bus from New York to Toronto, returning home from Washington last week, an all-nighter. In the second row of seats, just a few rows ahead of me, were a beautiful young black woman, about six months pregnant, on one side of the aisle, and on the other side, across the aisle, a black man, maybe about 40. And they talked! I could not make out what they said but it went on hour after hour until I wondered what there could be left to talk about?

My seat was a torture. I could not sleep. So I listened though I could not hear. I began to think that he must be hustling her somehow? Or vice versa?

Then we got to Buffalo for a short stop. The man she had been talking to got off. One of the other bus drivers in the station, was having a conversation with her, an intimate conversation, they were hugging. It turns out he's her husband.

Our driver changed in Buffalo. A young man got on, a trainee, a 'penguin' as she later explained, who said, "Just sit back and relax folks and we'll soon be in Toronto." But we were hardly out of the station when he asked over the PA, "I've made a wrong turn - does anyone know where we are?"

Uh oh (!)

And up stepped the young woman, "Yes, I think I know," and she moved into the front row of seats. She got her husband on her cell phone, carefully verified the landmarks and exactly where we were, and proceeded to guide the bus to the Rainbow Bridge border-crossing in Niagara Falls.

I managed to fall afoul of the first border guard who saw me. He was explaining that we should not have gotten off the bus yet - so I asked if he wanted us to get back on again and he blew up at me. It was a straight question - at 4AM. I said so. He got even madder. Eventually I grovelled and apologized enough for him to let us go ahead.

Then there was a period when we were not allowed to get back onto the bus. Then the little waiting area became too obviously full and we were told to get back on.

We were hung up though for several hours because apparently one Chinese woman on the bus did not have the proper paperwork (although I suspect the border guards of making entertainment for themselves - who can say?) and she did not speak English, or very little. Luckily one of the men on board could translate. The negotiations went on and on - the entire cadre of border guards, eight of them, versus the woman and the translator and the bus driver.

It was against the law to keep the bus running and the humidity and temperature were intense - so we were soon all outside chatting.

I said to her, "Certainly all of us on this bus will be asking for blessings on your child." Later on I overheard her telling the story of my run-in with the guard to someone, referring to me as 'the white man'.

Finally, the Chinese woman was left behind, weeping, and in another hour or so we got to Toronto and everyone disappeared into the crowd. I asked the driver if he thought there would be problems coming out of the night's adventure and that I could think of several positive things to say about him if he needed me to - but he thought not.

I was tired. I got into a taxi.

That's it. Simply put maybe, but not simple ...

Did I say that neither the driver nor the young woman were obviously stressed at all? That nevermind not raising their voices, they were calm as calm as could be from start to finish? Of course I was impressed by her 'infinite resource and sagacity' and by his cool head ... but that's not it - something changed in me, not sure what yet exactly. I feel the tectonic plates shifting ever since - the furniture is being rearranged in here and I'm not sure who is in charge?

Ah, I think, change is not only inevitable ... but possible.

A question.A question.
(These photographs come from Thorsten Jankowski . The model is unnamed - but if I were casting for Ariel she would be it. There is obviously some kind of real communication going on there to get the curves & lines so perfectly.)

Come unto these yellow sands, and then take hands: courtsied when you have and kiss'd the wild waves whist, foot it featly here and there; and, sweet sprites, the burthen bear. Hark, hark! [Bow-wow] The watch-dogs bark! [Bow-wow] Hark, hark! I hear the strain of strutting chanticleer cry, cock-a-diddle-dow.

(The Tempest Act 1, scene 2)

Lean back.Lean back.

Full fathom five thy father lies; of his bones are coral made; those are pearls that were his eyes: nothing of him that doth fade but doth suffer a sea-change into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell. [Ding-dong] Hark! Now I hear them, —ding-dong, bell.

(The Tempest Act 1, scene 2)

Where the bee sucks, there suck I: in a cowslip's bell I lie; there I couch when owls do cry. On the bat's back I do fly after summer merrily. Merrily, merrily shall I live now, under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

(The Tempest Act 5, scene 1)

Meanwhile, back upon the divine fulcrum of uncertainty: hardly a word from new friends made in Washington (yet); limited and mostly qualified approbation on what happened there (except from my children); no response to offers of support made to the organizers of the Ottawa sit-in (maybe I will have to offer again). Still and all, sittin' here humming Home Home on the Range.

An outlier. A singleton nutbar.

Did I somehow imply that I am the kind of self-realized being who walks the border-country asking for no dime and no quarter? I never meant to. Or if I did it must'a bin ... uh ... uh ... a momentary slip-up? the Alzheimer's kickin' in?

(Wat a fuckin' asshole eh? Beats up on the pore string-bean McKibben fer braggin' an' then brags hisself! He's no better! Damm self-right-e-us ol' hippie!)

So, falling back, retreating in the dark and feeling about with my toe for firm footing ... to the shopworn sentimental & maudlin standards: "Because their words had forked no lightning ... ," and so on. Awake in the middle of the night and up at 3AM with music running through my head: "The gates of love they budged an inch; I can't say much has happened since," and "I loved you when our love was best, I love you now there's nothing left."

And wondering on one of the very few ultimates that count - public humiliation: Riding the 501 car at rush hour, forced to stand and sweat, wondering if I have shat myself? But still able to consider laughing if I have. Do farts have lumps?

It could be worse gentle reader - I could be going on about bourgeois role-models like Don Quixote.

Who's in charge here! I wanna speak to the manager! :-)Just a spectator here - having to wait and see if I will make it to Ottawa on the 26th or not ... stay tuned folks, and,

Be well.

9/11 Tribute in Light.Postscript:

It is 10 years since 9/11: "Peace work is done at a micro level, one to one," says Peter Schweitzer, a New York rabbi - he certainly got that right - read this.

Every week, about the time that I am publishing and tidying-up this blog, I get an email from Dicionário inFormal with half a dozen new words. Learning to speak Portuguese was one of those times when my mind really expanded into new realms - this is standard experience when you are learning a new language. There are spaces between what you can say in one language and what you can say in another. As Leonard Cohen says, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

You may have noticed that my posts often end with something in Brazilian. This is the reason. And the emails are well crafted - you see the word, a definition, and an example. That a good number of them are scurrilous is another attraction.

This week it's:

montar no porco - Ir embora, puxar o carro. / Monteiro não aguentou a encheção de saco do Bruno e resolveu montar no porco e sair batido.

beleléu - 1. sm. Lugar distante, além; 2. (Ir para o) Morrer, falecer; 3. Desaparecer, sumir; / 1. Maluco, o cara deu um bico tão forte na bola que ela foi parar lá no beleléu. 2. Sabe aquele cachaceiro do boteco da esquina? Foi pro beleléu, o funeral vai ser hoje. 3. Se você esqueceu a bolsa no banheiro e alguém pegou, a essas alturas já deve estar no beleléu!

boa pinta - Pessoa com boa aparência, apresentável. Usado quando um homem quer dizer que outro homem não é tão feio assim. / Ele só conseguiu ficar com a garota porque até que é boa pinta, senão ela daria um fora nele.

curuba - Escabiose, Sarna. Bicheira, ferida feia que se espalha pelo corpo. / Janaina esta com uma curuba na cabeça.

independência - s.f. Ausência de dependência; liberdade. Condição de uma pessoa, de uma coletividade, que não se submete a outra autoridade e se governa por suas próprias leis / Dom Pedro I proclamou a independência do Brasil no dia 7 de setembro de 1822. "Independência ou Morte!"

olho grosso - Uzurento, invejoso / É bom não espalhar que ganhei na mega-sena, pois tem muito olho grosso por aí.

kuduro - O kuduro é um gênero musical e sobretudo um gênero de dança surgido em Angola. Hoje em dia é praticada nos subúrbios de Lisboa (Portugal) e das cidades do Rio de Janeiro e Salvador. As letras são caracterizadas por sua simplicidade e humor; são escritas em português, mas usam têrmos da língua angolana, por exemplo o quimbundo, que é uma das línguas mais faladas em Angola (do grupo linguístico banto). / O estilo da dança kuduro pressupõe que o quadril fique duro, não se mova.

No, they don't give the English - it would be better for me if they did since I am a beginner and most of the words do not make sense to Google Translate. BUT, if you have lots of time, you can plug the definitions and examples into the Google machine, and eventually a dim light may emerge.

The words this week, especially the last one, kuduro which is a kind of dance originating in Angola (and maybe a dance that my Ariel, above, might know), fill my brain with things to say around today's ruminations ... too many thoughts to put down ... Beleléu, something far distant, like the New Jerusalem that some Christians think they are building; the second meaning defined with falecer, to get sick and die, brings to mind my friend Bilica, who died in the infamous chacina/massacre of Nova Iguaçu/Queimados in 2005 (see here: English BBC and here, a more complete: reporting in Portuguese (but with some of the links gone dead, and here: in Portuguese).

It just goes on and on ...


1. In the Land of Denial, NYT Editorial, September 6 2011.

2. A Boy’s Bar Mitzvah Lessons Bridge a Cultural Chasm, Samuel Freedman, September 9 2011.

In the Land of Denial, NYT Editorial, September 6 2011.

The Republican presidential contenders regard global warming as a hoax or, at best, underplay its importance. The most vocal denier is Rick Perry, the Texas governor and longtime friend of the oil industry, who insists that climate change is an unproven theory created by “a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.”

Never mind that nearly all the world’s scientists regard global warming as a serious threat to the planet, with human activities like the burning of fossil fuels a major cause. Never mind that multiple investigations have found no evidence of scientific manipulation. Never mind that America needs a national policy. Mr. Perry has a big soapbox, and what he says, however fallacious, reaches a bigger audience than any scientist can command.

With one exception — make that one-and-one-half — the rest of the Republican presidential field also rejects the scientific consensus. The exception is Jon Huntsman Jr., a former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah, who recently wrote on Twitter: “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” The one-half exception is Mitt Romney, who accepted the science when he was governor of Massachusetts and argued for reducing emissions. Lately, he’s retreated into mush: “Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that, but I think that it is.” As for the human contribution: “It could be a little. It could be a lot.”

The others flatly repudiate the science. Ron Paul of Texas calls global warming “the greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years.” Michele Bachmann of Minnesota once said that carbon dioxide was nothing to fear because it is a “natural byproduct of nature” and has complained of “manufactured science.” Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, has called climate change “a beautifully concocted scheme” that is “just an excuse for more government control of your life.”

Newt Gingrich’s full record on climate change has been a series of epic flip-flops. In 2008, he appeared on television with Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, to say that “our country must take action to address climate change.” He now says the appearance was a mistake.

None of the candidates endorse a mandatory limit on emissions or, for that matter, a truly robust clean energy program. This includes Mr. Huntsman. In 2007, as Utah governor, he joined with Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the governor of California, in creating the Western Climate Initiative, a market-based cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing emissions in Western states. Cap-and-trade has since acquired a toxic political reputation, especially among Republicans, and Mr. Huntsman has backed away.

The economic downturn has made addressing climate change less urgent for voters. But the issue is not going away. The nation badly needs a candidate with a coherent, disciplined national strategy. So far, there is no Republican who fits that description.

A Boy’s Bar Mitzvah Lessons Bridge a Cultural Chasm, Samuel Freedman, September 9 2011.

Right on time for his 3 p.m. appointment, Sam Botwin climbed the stairs of Dave Hall’s row house in Brooklyn, making his way to the rehearsal room on the second floor. There he stood at a makeshift lectern in his baggy shorts and floppy shirt and mop-top hair, a boy of 13, and began to read from a speech about the Jewish martyrs of Masada.

Sam was practicing for his bar mitzvah on Oct. 15, the ritual that elevates him to Jewish manhood. Over a period of three months, it has been and will be Dave Hall’s job to train him to speak with the best possible cadence, projection and pronunciation. Just now, Mr. Hall sat on a piano bench following the text and reminding Sam, not for the first time or the last, to slow down.

Mr. Hall was working with Sam Botwin in part because, as a musician and composer, he had developed a sideline over the years of helping Jewish children chant the Torah portion and haftara passage for their bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies. He was working with Sam because he was a friend of his parents and had instructed Sam’s younger brother, Sasha, on the piano for several years.

One floor beneath the rehearsal room, a family photograph rested atop the living-room piano. It showed a middle-aged man with the same black hair and olive skin of Mr. Hall. The man was his grandfather and immigrant ancestor, Yusef Lahoud, an Arab Christian from Lebanon.

Ten years after the Al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, amid a climate of suspicion of Arab and Muslim Americans, the partnership between Mr. Hall and Sam Botwin serves as a gleaming, redemptive example — an anomaly, to be sure, but one that shows that ethnic and religious chasms can be breached.

“I personally refuse to be the Other to anyone else, and I refuse to see anyone else as the Other,” Mr. Hall, 50, said after a recent session. “We’re all in the same path. As proud as I am of my heritage, I never want us to think of ourselves as so different that we can’t all appreciate the bounty and sacredness of the earth.”

Peter H. Schweitzer, Sam’s rabbi at the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, has noted the process with particular satisfaction. Several weeks before Sam’s ceremony, in fact, the congregation will mark the bat mitzvah of a girl with a Jewish mother and Muslim father.

“There’s so much rancor and mistrust and anxiety out there, and I’m sure it goes in both directions,” Rabbi Schweitzer said of the national mood. “Fanatical voices tend to get heard the most, and they squelch or silence those that are looking for a way to come together. But peace work is done at a micro level, one to one. When a boy like Sam can meet a man like Dave, it goes a long way.”

For much of his life, Mr. Hall had not identified so deeply with the Arab side of his ancestry. Growing up in vanilla Vermont, carrying the surname and lineage of English forebears who reached America in 1630, he put no special energy into either affirming or denying his maternal roots. Only once during college in Burlington did two graduate students from Kuwait ask, “Are you Lebanese?”

Moving to New York as a young musician, curiosity began to displace indifference. Mr. Hall picked up Arabic working in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Greenwich Village. He sought out a Lebanese Maronite church in Brooklyn Heights. He traveled several times to the Levant.

Meanwhile, he built a freelancer’s life — writing music for cabaret shows and children’s theater, developing a choir in a public-housing project, teaching voice in an after-school program at a private school in Park Slope. In the late 1990s, two of the girls he instructed there became his first bat mitzvah students.

While Mr. Hall knew no Hebrew, he readily grasped the similarities between the liturgical music of the synagogue and of Arab Christian churches, most of which use a cantor as a remnant of Jewish tradition. In the Torah and haftara portions, he could hear the musical foundations of the Gregorian chants he knew from a part-time job with a Roman Catholic congregation in Westchester.

His quirky little sideline remained his quirky little sideline until a Tuesday morning 10 years ago. He walked out the door of his home in Boerum Hill to vote in the primary election but couldn’t get down the block through all the dust. Driven back indoors, he turned on the television and saw why. Later that day, borne on the wind from ground zero, a page from a legal pad, charred at its edges, landed in his front yard.

Ten years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a special report on the decade’s costs and consequences, measured in thousands of lives, trillions of dollars and countless challenges to the human spirit.

When Mr. Hall ventured out, he noticed that the Arab-American stores along Atlantic Avenue were deserted. Police officers were standing guard outside a nearby Arab-American social-service center. Mr. Hall went inside to volunteer on the phones, continuing for several days, each evening jotting down the most vivid comments.

One caller told him, “Death to all Arabs now.” Another caller asked him, “Do you love America?” A third caller offered to help frightened Arab-Americans shop for groceries, promising, “I’ve got a car, I’ll drive you, no matter how far.”

The supportive words heartened him, and the rest made him yearn for Sept. 10, when he was still an unhyphenated American. “People who look like me, or who had visa stamps like mine, were liable to be profiled,” Mr. Hall said. “It was unsettling to hear people questioning the loyalty of people like me.”

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Sam Botwin was 3 years old and enjoying Grandparents’ Day at his preschool. Only in third or fourth grade, upon seeing a photograph of the Twin Towers aflame, did he ask his parents what happened. At some point, he learned that his father, Neil, had lost a friend in the attack.

Then, about the time of the Sept. 11 commemorations last year, Sam began paying attention to all the outrage about the “ground zero mosque.” When he recalls the rallies against it, he uses the word “riot,” which is accurate in describing the opponents’ rhetoric if not their physical acts.

Against such hate, he and Mr. Hall hold their weekly lessons, and Sam tries to slow down, and to not stumble on tricky words like “Pharisees,” and to nearly shout out the passage he’s quoting from the Jewish leader at Masada, saying death as free people is better than life as slaves.

“This is why your parents engaged me,” Mr. Hall told him. “You’re delivering important stories — not only historically but in a spiritual way. These are stories that bind people together. And it’s your honored role to be the one who expresses them. Your bar mitzvah should be a holy thing.”


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