Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.
This tune is originally by Sueli Costa & Abel Silva, you can find it on YouTube if you are curious - the changes Virginia Rodrigues brings to it make more sense to me; haunting, realistic; here she is: Alma / Soul.
A trifle strange perhaps for an old white guy to be singing from his brown feminine soul. So it goes. That's anima for ya'!
And both of us are fat; though she was clever enough to learn to read music and play the piano (which makes me envious).
I remember noticing when I first arrived in Brasil that women's voices seemed higher pitched, almost shrill; and this song has a few rough edges that way. I tried to ask someone about it, whose opinions I value on such matters, but she's not telling. So.
Virginia Rodrigues has made four albums I know of: Sol Negro / Black Sun, 1998; Nós / Us, 2000; Mares Profundos / Deep Oceans, 2004; and Recomeço / I Begin Again, 2008 (which I have just discovered) - any one of them worth learning Portuguese just in order to understand a part of.
Sátántangó, a seven-hour film; black & white, and in Hungarian yet! by Béla Tarr. The left-lib critics deploy the vocabulary of politely reserved contempt: 'nihilistic', 'despairing', 'unrelentingly serious', 'somnolent', and so on, even the relatively honest 'boring' (though it is a clue for me when they misspell 'somber'); but all of this misses the mark because the problem seems to me to be an artistic laziness and dishonesty - too much of it simply does not add up - a false fiction.
I thought at first it was a boy's face on the DVD cover with his ears sticking out - but if the dress (in the image below) is an indication then it is a little girl; it was the ears that caught my attention - and sent my febrile imagination off (natürlich) into Ezekiel & Jeremiah:
Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not.I began to watch, that is I 'looked at', two of his films: this Sátántangó, 1994, (at Demonoid); and A Torinói Ló / The Turin Horse, 2011, (also at Demonoid); for two reasons: one, the image of this kid with big ears; and, two, a line in the NYT review, "... it is hard to imagine a more thorough and systematic statement of intellectual despair."
But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
I (for one) find it easy to imagine a more ... &etc.
Another recent false fiction comes from Gerardo Naranjo, a devotee of our Godard apparently: Miss Bala (I found it at Demonoid but it has been taken down already); and two others of his: Drama/Mex & Voy A Explotar - both forgettable; all forgettable except that it is difficult if not impossible to forget crap once you have let it in, Alzheimer's or not.
PNG - Persona Non Grata: "An unwelcome person," says the definition; or, taking it another step, Homo sacer.
I had a letter from an architecture school in 1976 or so - I meant to hang onto it but lost it instead. They were accepting my application and told me they thought I would be successful. I was on the Sparks Street mall in Ottawa at the time - and went the entire length of it 'on air' as they say.
Approval. Not approval as approbation; not recognition as any sort of honour; just for anyone to say 'point taken' or 'yes, I hear you'. Air.
Almost a decade (b-but really a mere 8 years) later, I was sitting more-or-less drunk on a bench on Bank Street waiting for the bus and reading this article (below) in the Sally Ann's War Cry which I had bought from the kind uniformed lady in the Carleton Tavern.
I had been there with a good friend (I thought) trying to see what to do about having been removed by the police from my home for domestic violence. He said, "You're fucked!" True. Then he 'had to leave' and as I sat having a few more along came this woman selling copies of War Cry.
I had to go the long way round to learn that tragedy & unhappiness are not 'mental illness' (no more than stupidity & incontinence) - but if you can step around that then this description by the nameless Australian social worker is good - demarcates the landscape.
I rarely go out these days, but on the night of the last full moon I did the hour-and-a-half trek by TTC over to The Royal to see Inside Lara Roxx, a documentary by Mia Donovan (her web presence seems to be fraying - this could be for the best).
"I'm sorry," says Lara Roxx's mother, "Je m'excuse!" The reflexive is particularly appropriate.
'The Royal' has become the '...al' according to the neon marquee over the box-office outside. "No money," says the combination ticket-seller ticket-taker at the refreshments counter inside. I will go back and get a snap of it maybe since it may (I guess) soon be gone. "You have to give 'em what they want - tits & ass," says Lara as she flashes her plastic heart-shaped 3D pasties.
For one reason or another this film is a window; a channel to the bedrooms of the poor; well worth a long trek to and fro in unheated streetcars.
I meant to go out again to see the other one, Pink Ribbons, Inc., but didn't make it - anyway, I think I know what it's about.
Valentine's Day, I: There were two dependable take-out joints on the Copacabana strip: Help (pronounced 'Helpee') discotheque, and the Balcony bar. Help eventually got closed down and was turned into a museum of some kind; I guess the Balcony is still going. As desperate grungy sleaze goes, it is ... an epitome - but I know there are worse.
The Geordies didn't like the place - "Slappers!," they said (and given what they meant by that term it was true) - but I did (and yet, nothing is as you imagine).
Valentine's Day, II: The OED gives us "senicide: the killing of the old men of a tribe, etc." (which leaves me wondering, "Are there no old women in the tribe?" and, exactly what behaviours may be included in that 'etc'?). Wikipedia is a bit more forthcoming with senicide: abandonment to death, suicide or killing of the elderly.
A-and some red herrings scattered here and there - 'senilicide' & 'geronticide' - which do not appear in the OED (and when the pundits make up words then I do question their insights).
So, there is a rumour, a cliché, that the Inuit/Esquimaux 'put away' their elderly on ice floes and what not. Who knows if it's true? It could be. It's plausible. No one seems to know for sure. Then there's the related question of arctic life-span; some say 35 years, some say 50-60 years - either way it is less than the threescore years and ten (70) advertised in Psalms.
I knew someone who knew - but didn't think to ask him about it before he died; which happened in a damned hospital. I believe, I know, that he was terrified and lonely - he told me that much on the telephone.
For the boomers the writing is on the wall.
I will be more than satisfied if I can just stay clear of the quacks when my time comes. At the very end of his last book, Double Vision, Northrop Frye says, "There is nothing so unique about death as such, where we may be too distracted by illness or sunk in senility to have much identity at all." But if some identity does persist, some coherence, and if I can still walk, then a quart of single-malt and a cold night will do me just fine.
[Northrop Frye and Bob Dylan are the only ones permitted to put a modifer on 'unique'. A-and, oops, there goes my anima acting out again.]
Baltasar Garzón has had his tongue pulled out, figuratively speaking. When I think of Spanish conservatism I think of Un Chien Andalou, and Goya's sketches of the Inquisition and Picasso's Guernica (not that such things are not happening everywhere).
He has found some work apparently, over at the ICC with Luis Moreno Ocampo (whose term as prosecutor expires this summer). Comfort of a kind I suppose. Better than it could have been ... whatever. Cold comfort though I bet.
Decade after decade, ever since Nixon set the example in 1972, k-k-Canadian prime-ministers troop over to China with their cabinets and their lackeys; always carrying the message that they want trade which will 'surely and inevitably' lead to an improvement in human rights there.
A litany of nonsense myths, especially considering that the reverse is true - human rights in Canada get worse - witness the 2010 G20 in Toronto &etc.
One could say that Stephen Harper is less hypocritical than some of his predecessors - if that makes any difference.
Pierre Trudeau visited China on his own nickle the first few times he went there (1948 & 1959) and scooped Nixon by recognizing China in 1970 - not that that makes any difference either.
Maldives: The coup took place on Tuesday the 7th, and on the 8th I noticed reports like this one at BBC: Fall from grace for Maldives' democratic crusader. Except that the article I have cut & pasted below is not the one I read (at the same url) as events unfolded - it has been 'updated'. The initial report only talked about Nasheed's 'resignation'.
Then I got an email from Bill McKibben calling it a 'coup' and I found Mark Lynas' rantings at the Guardian. Unfortunately, for a variety of good reasons, neither of these gents is the least bit credible to me.
The upshot is that I am confused and can't make sense of it. No hurry. I am hoping Gwynne Dyer will eventually write something.
There is the Tragedy of the Commons; and then there is the Tragedy of the Little Boy Who Cried 'Wolf'.
Bahia: The BBC reports it like this - Striking Brazilian police leave occupied building. If the liberal press could just report the facts then their distortions would not be so distracting. Replete with fnords. Something about the claim of a crime-wave in the absence of the police is suspicious, let's say.
When I worked in Rio's Centro district I noticed that the police had no shoelaces in their boots. I wondered if it might be some kind of concession to the temperature (easier to get them off during breaks?); but learned that at that time, early oughts, the cop-on-a-beat in Rio made less than 1,000R$ (about $300US) per month, and that they were expected to supply their own shoelaces. And Centro is the big financial & business zone in Rio y'unnerstan' ...
Two versions of Sylvia's Mother: one by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show, and the other by Bobby Bare - hits from the early 70's. It was written by Shel Silverstein who has figured here before in meditations upon mermaids.
The worst of being PNG, of being shunned, is the isolation. Language is at least a two-way street; there is no meaning without dialectic; ... and so on. "For want of a nail the shoe was lost ..." goes the old nursery rhyme; which I like to stretch and distort to cover the cultural situation in which no one any longer either speaks clearly or listens carefully. (We are not entirely there yet - but we are heading that way and getting close.)
Whatever nail it is that is missing, wanting, whatever glue ... well, I wish I knew exactly how to describe it; I am very sorry it is lost (and also to be losing it); very sorry indeed.
I get the message - from Charles Taylor, Simon Critchley, Kurt Vonnegut, many others - that it is unreasonable to aspire either to goodness or faith. All good. But gentle reader, even without any gen-u-ine authenticity there may yet be coherence.
Yes, I would say this is coherent. And no, it is not whingeing complaint & self-pity - if you think so, if it appears that way to you, then you are not paying attention. I am here singing, "Feliz esta alma que vive comigo que vai onde eu sigo o meu coração."
PS: Cleaning Toilets - A Long Story With No Point.
1. I have always preferred out-houses to shit in. Not the awful chemical kind installed at road-side stops and campgrounds in the 60's and now long replaced by Port-A-Potty's (which no one in their right mind would ever enter for any reason short of dire emergency), no; a bench with a hole over a pit with a bit of a roof if you are lucky and a roll of tissue on a spike, or an old catalog - hopefully newsprint not glossy paper - and possibly a view.
I have been lucky enough that several times I have lived in places that indulged my preferences.
A friend with a farm tells me that these days even the appearance of an outhouse, a profile seen from a distance, is enough to bring on the thought police.
2. I spent a year or so working in a big American city. Through an agent I rented an unfurnished one-bedroom in a small two-storey complex, 10 units, U-shaped around a courtyard with a fountain and palm trees. Adequate.
I made exactly two friends there; not exactly friends since their livelihoods depended upon people like me; let's say I met exactly two people in that city: a big black cab-driver, ex-con, hustler, who sometimes answered his phone and often didn't; and a golden-eyed woman from Guatemala who washed and folded my laundry and ironed my shirts at a laundromat walking-distance away from the apartment.
Mostly I spent my time (when I was 'working' and when I was not) blogging and smoking cigarettes, as now. It was the beginning of this blogging thing (which I cannot seem to find my way out of). At work I had to go outside to smoke, a long elevator/escalator ride to a small but snug niche at the corner of the building which just protected me from the wind and rain. At 'home' I smoked where I sat - in front of the sacred screen poring over the book of the Internet. There was a ceiling fan overhead; air-conditioning too but I didn't like to turn it on.
I had gotten used to having someone else clean my house, but a few feeble forays found no candidates - so, I didn't clean. There were ants in the building. A few weeks after I moved in a pest-control guy showed up (not called by me) and squirted tiny clear dots of something at strategic locations and I didn't see any more ants.
There was one of those plastic brushes beside the toilet which I used occasionally to remove the worst.
I left quite suddenly. A friend from Brazil had just moved into town but he and his wife didn't want any of the furniture. It was good furniture too: a king-size bed (never slept on, I used the sofa), the sofa, a recliner, colour TV, a glass-topped table, a few sturdy chairs; everything you need and all of it solid and expensive - so, I left it there; telephone, dishes, sheets & towels, the works.
My friend the taxi driver took me to the airport. I laid most of my remaining American cash on him - a small stack of 50's & 100's - and asked him to divide it with the woman at the laundromat. I have often wondered if he did.
Eventually I got a very nasty email from the agent - complete with photographs of the overhead fan and the toilet. The overhead fan was covered in black dust which had accumulated in some kind of synergy with the smoke from my cigarettes into perceptible ridges. The toilet was dirty (but not crusted). So much for my security deposit. I didn't care, but I suspected the vehemence of the email had to do with more than just dirt - there was no mention of the furniture and he wanted a couple of hundred more for 'the cleaning'. I told him to fuck off and I guess he did.
3. Being made of fired porcelain I imagined that toilet fixtures were essentially impervious. I now suspect a gradual reduction in quality by the manufacturers - a designed-in porosity developing with time to ensure that the thing must eventually be replaced - just guessing. Because although I initially scrubbed the bowl here energetically with the plastic brush provided (not wanting a repeat of what happened in America), the part of it covered with water would not, will not, come clean (without, I presume, application of some chemical designed for the purpose, which chemical I refuse to purchase). So I stopped scrubbing (except to remove, as I said before, the worst).
There is that much chlorine in the water here that I am astounded anything can grow - resilient creatures those bacteria.
4. There is a woman engineer at the University of Toronto, on Bill Gates' payroll, who is designing a low-impact toilet for the third world - I mentioned her here before (and if Google were not so useless I would find the reference and provide a link).
Forty years ago, someone from Canada developed a community toilet connected to a digestor to produce methane. One of the design features I remember is a floating concrete 'lid' on the digestor which provides the pressure to distribute the methane about the community for use in cooking.
I wish there were such a thing in the park next door. I would use it - happily, gladly, in all weathers. Maybe a thunder mug for those days when I am ill or hung up with arthritis.
As it is I live in dread of the day when the landlord discovers the state of my toilet.
5. Oh well. Ridiculous I know.
The story goes on and on. What about adenosine triphosphate and the Phosphorus Cycle? And such like, but I will end it here.
1. War Cry, February 1984.
2. Striking Brazilian police leave occupied building, 9 February 2012.
3. Fall from grace for Maldives' democratic crusader, Olivia Lang, 8 February 2012.
War Cry, February 1984.
Many of us assume that public education regarding the facts about mental illness and health will stimulate action to bring about desired reforms in the way society views its mentally ill.
The simple truth is that while we do see some signs of progress, public education does not move mountains. Another simple truth is that past efforts have significantly failed. The stigma of mental illness remains.
The treatment of the mentally ill has been the subject of scandalized public attack many times. The care received by the mentally ill in this country and most others is the product of two great human forces: the drives to punish and to pity or, more broadly, to drive out evil and to personify goodness.
The first approach (the drive to punish) has underwritten every extreme in inhuman disposal of the insane. The second (the drive to pity) has been the basis for both emotional and rational approaches, finding their well-spring in feelings of mercy. A review of history will show that, of the two forces, punishment has exerted a greater effect than pity.
Why is it that society still does not react desirably to the mentally ill? It is sad, but true, to say that one reason is that the mentally ill lack appeal. They eventually become a nuisance to other people and are generally treated as such. Certainly people do feel sorry for them, but, in balance, they do not feel as sorry as they do relieved to have persons whose behavior disturbs and offends out of the way.
R.S. DeRopp made the point with I force: "Madness severs the strongest bonds that hold human beings together. It separates husband from wife, mother from child. It is death without death's finality and without death's dignity."
Perhaps that sounds too simple. The skeptic will remain unconvinced. However, it is true that whether we examine the public or, professional approach, and whether we examine the historical past or the topical present, rejection has pervaded every line of attack on major mental illnesses.
Rejection is a well-established characteristic of social groups. Society uses rejection as a threat to exact individual compliance with the expectations of the group. The nonconformist (whether he be an "odd ball," genius, individualist, radical, drop-out or mentally abnormal) pays a penalty for being different — some more so than others, depending upon the place and period.
The signs or thoughts of mental illness continue to stimulate fear — fear of what an irrational person might do, fear of what we might do if we acted out our impulses in a similar manner, and fear arising from the power of suggestion that we, too, might suffer a similar fate.
The social stigma of mental illness is, therefore, a real and still persistent problem, despite innumerable efforts to combat it. And the stigma hurdle contrasts with what we have witnessed in modern times in relation to other health problems.
Of course, none of us is wholly immune from the rejection phenomenon. But there are some people who perceive the problem clearly enough to be challenged by it and are stimulated to seek its solution.
We can approach this all encompassing dilemma from the inner circle — the perspective of the patient, the mentally ill person — or from the outermost circle — people in general.
The first thing which needs to be said about the mentally ill is that they commonly manifest rejecting attitudes toward themselves — in anger turned inward, in fear of their own acts, in self-destructive tendencies, in self-denunciation and in frank contempt toward themselves.
The second point is that the result of public attitude research studies in many countries, confirm what most of us have every reason to suspect — the general public regards the mentally ill with fear, distrust and dislike.
The same studies show that the public has moderately positive attitudes toward psychologists and psychiatrists it regards those who treat "physical problems" with much higher favor. Apparently any word containing "psych" or "psycho" to some extent stigmatizes the professional as well as the patient.
Two summary points remain to be made:
1. People find it difficult to think about and recognize psychological illness as illness, or to see sickness as having psychological forms.
2. The mentally ill, as a class, lack the capacity to evoke sympathy, which is to say that they are overburdened with liabilities as persons and as patients.
As to this second point, we can see a full circle of explanations of why people reject the mentally ill. The mental patient often presents himself as "stubbornly ill" — a final dimension of the phenomena resulting in rejection, even by mental health workers themselves.
Often the mentally ill tend to require other people to adjust to them at every point in their illness, from outset to recovery. They resist change for the better, often, and are difficult to work with in a systematic or efficient manner.
So we have the impasse of public and professional attitudes, joined with the attitude of the mentally ill themselves. While education programs have tended to produce limited results in finding a way around that impasse, we still need to emphasize that persons with major mental illnesses are in certain ways different from the ordinary sick.
Information embodying this emphasis requires an explanation of why they are different, and also an explanation of why society behaves as it does toward the mentally ill.
With such information we might be able to break the rejection circle and adopt more helpful attitudes toward the mentally ill in our own society.
By courtesy of Mental health news, Australia.
Striking Brazilian police leave occupied building, 9 February 2012.
Brazilian police officers have ended their 10-day occupation of the state assembly in the state of Bahia. But strikers said they and fellow officers would continue their stoppage over pay.
More than 200 military police had been in a stand-off with troops and federal police who surrounded the building in the state capital, Salvador.
The strike unleashed a crime wave, fuelling fears over next week's massive street carnival in Salvador.
The officers who had been inside the state assembly began leaving the building early on Thursday. Marco Prisco, seen as the strike leader, and another officer were arrested. They have been accused of inciting other officers to commit vandalism. A lawyer for the striking workers told the Folha newspaper that they had decided to give themselves up amid worsening conditions, with electricity and water supplies cut off. But police and their supporters said that the stoppage was still on.
The strike, ruled illegal by the courts, came just days before Salvador is set to welcome tens of thousands of tourists for carnival celebrations.
Local businesses say their takings have already been affected. The Bahia government said about a third of the 30,000 state police officers were involved in the industrial action. Crime has risen and Salvador has seen some 137 murders over the past 10 days, authorities say.
The officers, who say they are underpaid and facing rising crime, are seeking big pay rises.
Brazilian soldiers patrol the historic centre of Salvador Salvador is a popular tourist destination
Bahia Governor Jacques Wagner says he has a limited budget but pay rises could be phased in over three years. He has insisted that striking officers who commit crimes will be punished.
Police forces in other states have also been complaining about pay levels. Analysts say one of the problems is the failure to agree a national basic salary for police officers and firefighters. leading to wide discrepancies. A military police officer in Brasilia starts on the equivalent of some $2,300 (£1,450) a month, nearly double the salary of an officer in Bahia.
In Rio de Janeiro, the state assembly is due to vote later in the day on proposals to increase the wages of police and firefighters.
Police officers have warned they could begin industrial action from Friday, with carnival just a week away, if the increase is not approved.
Fall from grace for Maldives' democratic crusader, Olivia Lang, 8 February 2012.
Just over three years ago, supporters of then President Mohamed Nasheed lined up along the seawall in the capital, Male, waving flags to usher in what they called the "dawn of democracy".
It was the country's first-ever multiparty election, and the 41-year-old former political prisoner had won out against an incumbent who had ruled autocratically for three decades.
But in a dramatic fall from power, Mr Nasheed - known as Anni to his supporters - on Tuesday stepped down after what his party described as a "coup against a constitutionally-elected government". Galvanised by the opposition, protesters had taken to the streets to demand his resignation and were joined by rebel police officers and several dozen unarmed soldiers.
Mr Nasheed, declaring that he did not want to see any bloodshed, announced he was stepping down.
It was a startling turn of events for a man heralded as the harbinger of change who pledged to complete the archipelago's transition to democracy. In recent years, Mr Nasheed had also attracted worldwide attention for his campaign for action on climate change, even holding an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight his cause. But domestically, he appeared to lose his footing as a series of crises shook his government, while elements of the former government grappled to regain power.
Early this year, Mr Nasheed came up against religious groups, who demanded more conservative policies in the Sunni Muslim nation.
Scores of people rallied in the capital after a visit by the UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, who said the Maldives should hold a debate on the flogging of women accused of extra-marital sex. Ms Pillay's comments were seen by some as an assault on Islam. Opposition parties jumped on the cause, accusing Mr Nasheed - regarded as a liberal - of being un-Islamic.
Meanwhile, Maldivians expressed anger over soaring prices, which they said were a result of economic policies imposed by the government to tackle a huge budget deficit.
It was, however, Mr Nasheed's intervention in the judicial branch which brought his term to an unexpected end. Last month he asked the army to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, the chief judge of the Criminal Court, in a move condemned by critics as unconstitutional.
The judge had ordered the release of a government critic he said had been illegally detained. Aides to the president said the judge was obstructing allies of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom facing justice.
But opposition parties, the Supreme Court and the Judicial Services Commission said the detention of Judge Mohamed was unlawful and called for his release. Protests were organised in which demonstrators accused Mr Nasheed of being a dictator. As tensions mounted, the rhetoric became increasingly toxic, with senior opposition figures calling for a mutiny.
On Monday night, a group of police defectors attacked a rallying point used by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in Male. The following day, soldiers fired teargas at police mutineers and demonstrators at the Maldives National Defence Force headquarters in Republic Square. The army later said they advised Mr Nasheed to give up power; Mr Nasheed later said he was forced "at gunpoint".
Some regard the unrest as a war between Mr Nasheed and Mr Gayoom's proxies, some of whom have faced allegations of corruption.
Earlier this week, a big fraud case against Mr Gayoom's half-brother, Abdullah Yameen, was forwarded to prosecutors by the presidential commission, an investigative body set up by Mr Nasheed.
Mr Nasheed, who was heavily persecuted under Mr Gayoom, has accused the new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, formerly vice-president, of being part of a conspiracy with the opposition to oust him. Mr Waheed has denied the claim, saying he only wants to bring stability to the country.
It remains unclear how this crisis will lay the ground for presidential elections expected in 2013. Judge Mohamed has since been released under the orders of the new president. Mr Waheed is expected to govern until the polls, but the situation remains volatile.
Events of the last 24 hours have stunned the usually peaceful nation.