Thursday, May 24, 2012

What a Way to Wake Up!

Imagine!  Adam Levine! … and it goes like this:

“I’ve got the moves like Jaggar! I’ve got the moves like Jaggar! I’ve got the moo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooves like Jaggar!”  and I think I might have even been dancing in my bed.

So, I hopped out of bed and fed the dog, the cat and the fish; made me a pot of kaghwa. It is Arabic: the original word for coffee – we have quite a number of “English” words that originated in Arabia, but the Arabic Numerals that we were taught in school are all wrong!  

Years ago in Khartoum I couldn’t understand why our 3 in Arabic looked more like a backward 7 if we used Arabic Numerals in the west.  None of the numerals matched our numbers: our the zero was a dot; their 0 meant 5.The answer is, I found out a quarter century later is that our numerical system is descended from the Hindu “Arabic” System!  Who knew?  Apparently not our teachers.   It gets worse from there:  Hindu Arabic uses V both right side up and upside down which in my book makes a big fat plate of spaghetti  out of the Roman Numeral System, I tell you.

Those were the days, though, in Khartoum.  Who would have guessed I would end up there.  It is a far cry from my wine country with carpets of green vineyards which turned impossibly impudent reds in fall.   There, in my valley, yellow mustard grass grows taller than an eight-year-old child beneath what must be the bluest skies in the world. 

Khartoum shocked me.  My first immediate impression was of a world lacking in color.  I saw variations on shades of yellows and tans: thick, dirty and glowing yellow above me, air I could taste on my tongue.  I saw never saw sun against a blue sky there.  We had no shadows.  The sun tried hard to send light through pulverized sand in the air, and failed.    Buildings loomed in shadowy shades of mottled tans, and in the tradition of poor countries like the Sudan of the 20th Century,  awkwardly constructed, beat by the desert winds, and without d├ęcor. 

The only brilliance I saw during those first days were the occasional red and white Marlboro cigarette shacks.   I was new to international travel, and was dismayed that my country’s representative in the Sudan was cigarettes.

Against all that desert yellow, I learned a hunger for my home.  The valley that stayed alive with color throughout all seasons, even the stark patterns of winter were inspirational.  I learned that indigenous art is relative to nature’s bounty:  when one sees color and pattern, one repeats it in creative design.  We create what we see, and the art I found in the Sudanese souks was testament to those who by sheer creative determination produced pieces of cloth and carvings of wood or ivory no visual inspiration.  Did they create from memories past?  Did they hear stories handed down from ancestors?  Artists will always produce, and so in Khartoum it was in monotones of their personal surroundings.   I learned to throw away my criteria, judge less, and appreciate the artful effort on its own terms.  That dingy sand and rock was the world I learned to walk in, learned to respect, and grew to love.

Learning, walking, respecting, growing and loving are desert gifts. Thoughts came easily of  spiritual men who went to the desert for 40 days.  Clarity comes when there are no distractions, and it is easy to meditate in the desert. 

Adam Levine, you certainly took me for a ride this morning, with those moves like Jaggar.  Thanks!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jamie & the Dimond Merchants

My Dear Sarah,

Remember, I’m using your collective name again, when you inspire me to go off on a flippin’ tangent.  I do try to keep my feathers as unruffled as possible, but Sarah, Glass Steagall and Brooksley Born are painfully near and dear to my heart. We need to keep important information near our frontal lobes so we can make better decisions!

When it all went over the Pali, in September, 2008, I was sitting in the wee hours of England watching BBC and thinking “Oh my God. The US market is asleep!   They have no idea!  And the hoard of clappers “open up the market” by clapping mindlessly… gosh, they would be better off by pushing prayer wheels & praying!”
Jamie Dimond and his team of Gems have had a real rip, haven’t they!  Like many, I’ve reviewed “how could this possibly have happened???” and believe me, Sarah: it started decades ago.  

President Eisenhower saw the dangers and warned us about the military/corporate complex in 1961: don’t use war to support our economy ever again.

But, shoot, we already had “advisors” in Nam, with plans for more.  I was in it too, at the age of seventeen:  my boss printed arms catalogues for the Army: made millions on the war in exchange for having his son shot down three times and developing a heroin habit.

I’d gone to school since kindergarten with his son, and used to write him while he was in Viet Nam.  When he came home for the final time, heroin won his personal war, so he went to prison for a while.  I used to write him in prison, Sarah, then our lives took other directions and all of a sudden more than twenty years passed.  

Then one day when my own children were teenagers I ran into him in our home town, with his adorable little “Curley Head” toddler.  Here he was, clean, self-employed, a wonderful wife and was simply gaga over his little girl.

He said he had to thank me for writing him while he was in prison, and for turning his life around.  I was clueless and wondered how could I have helped him. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and showed me a tattered and worn Monopoly card, reading “Get Out of Jail Free”.  I was aghast – I didn’t even remember sending that to him!    

But my friend hugged me and said when he opened my letter and saw the card he laughed for the first time since he went to prison.  He laughed until he cried.  When he stopped laughing and crying, he made the decision that if he could laugh like this while in prison, he was certainly going to make it outside prison.

His father wasn’t the only one who profited hugely from the war: I was earning enough money to support myself and my mother off my job. I was part of it too.   

I suspect the company continued on doing armaments catalogues through the next series of wars, making more money off killing.  Defense contracters to take care of  food, clothing, medicines and guns become billionaires.  War, if it's won or lost by the taxpayer's money always makes billionaires out of contractors.  It's a business proposal, a mission statement they provide our military decision makers, our MDS as they no doubt refer to themselves in the Alphabet Society of American Government (A-SAG).

Back to the story now, Sarah:  a Hollywood Cowboy came into office and things started to change with his dream about trickle-down theory of taxation.  Some people say today they think it really was a "tinkle on"theory, not real good...Everything was about unsound economics and selling the myth of The American Dream: which was simply cheap credit and fast living.  The dream worked until it was killed.  And so here we sit, all of us, whether we lived fast or not.

I developed a private “dossier” on the regulations that “disappeared” over the decades to make this economy what it became.  Sorry to say, it was Clinton’s last minute deregulation of the Glass Steagall Act of 1933 that threw us into the fire.  But, you remember, don’t you Sarah:  we were so distracted by news updates about that young girl and her stained dress we were not paying attention. If we Americans would have been adults, we would have realized the repealing that act, would allow big banks, investment companies and insurance companies (Jamie and the Boys) would be enabled to build their false economy based on basically as they call it:  Betting.  They deliberately and skillfully manipulated the markets in order to max their profits.  While we Americans diddled ourselves with granite, en suites, exotic vacations, gas-hog cars, Miki Dees & stainless steel they gambled on our economy for personal profit.  Why not: nobody cared, for the first few decades, anyway.

Brooksley Born warned us in the ‘90s and no body believed her. She could have saved our country, but I guess we weren’t ready yet.  All is not lost Sarah! You can sign the petition for the “new” Glass Steagall Act if you like and hopefully prevent this from ever happening again!  

And by the way, Sarah, please know who your Representatives are and please keep their phone numbers handy.  They need to hear from you if you want them to behave!  You probably have kids, Sarah, think of our congress as our children:  supervise them at all times!

I have to say, I was tweaked when I found that much of Jamie’s “gambling” was done by computer algorithms!  In other words, when a stock or bond hit a certain number, computers were set to automatically buy/sell immediately. Jamie and the Boys weren’t watching of the market at all!  They just set up some computer guidelines then went down to the bar and let the computers do their work. Kind of like me and my crock pot!

Some people are concerned that what Big Business did to our economy, (which The Suits still believe is pretty hot-dam wonderful) is also being applied globally to drinking water, agriculture and other commodities.  (Have you heard about Pink Slime?  Beef Glue? )  You may have guessed, I’m one of the concerned.

So: here we are, and the tear-down is starting.  I’m seeing way too much fear out there over something we really never did have:  WE JUST CHARGED IT, SARAH!  That’s all we did…

It won’t be scary once we get a grip that the last half of the 20th C and the first two decades of 21st C were just smoke in the first place.  The dream really was a dream: one with quite a price tag hidden.

I just had a flash of the first half of the 19th C in America:  the endless bounty of this country: resources, agricultural land and abundances all for the taking; followed by a hideous Civil War over economics.  Then in the first half of the 20th C, we repeated the blood spilling in 3 more wars.  Some people became mercenaries and found wars being fought by others to join in.  

We busied ourselves with the plundering of natural resources for profit and continuing our warring in the last half of the 20th C, then took ourselves into a whole ‘notha level of war:  war on our environment.

Is it possible, Sarah, that Jamie and The Boys showed up for a real purpose?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Roar Firemouth, Write That Book

I decided I needed a break from the book the last couple of days, and  this morning it woke me up in the middle of a dream.  I mean I saw my book in my dream.  It was laying down, not filed, on a wooden bookcase, wearing a nice dust-cover, glossy bright yellow.  Instead of a proper title, there was an image of a piece of 3-hole binder paper with book titles scrawled in heavy black ink then lined out.  They were scribbly notes, some on lines, others almost vertical, a visual mess:  

Now That They Are All Dead (I have carried with me for decades while I waited for my elders to pass on)
Hand Me Down Rage  I became aware of the anger both my parents (must have) lived, and how it affected we kids. 

Circles of a Life I became aware of completions:  people appearing, unexpected connections, and resulting in unusual, sometimes spontaneous, always benevolent situations.  

A Nightmare in Bali, 1983:  I suffered my first adult episode of PTSD. 

 Bob Geldof got me Arrested!: for taking photos in a refugee camp with a news journalist. A description of our rollicking escape from gunfire in  the Sahara Desert.  (The Geldof connection made it happen!)   Oh oh - maybe it should be called Bob Made Me Do It!

Abu Dhabi Airport: 1985: an unforgettable child  lives in my heart today. 

Last day in Riyadh: an emotional final day in our home in Riyadh.

A Hole in Her Heart: Where I came from: my mother's history makes a good beginning.

Roar, Firemouth!   It too woke me up from sleep last summer.  At first I thought it was another book title knocking at my dormer door. I sat up in bed then knew I had to get to the computer immediately.  I now have a lovely sign posted on the wall that I first see when I wake up.  Roar Firemouth!.  It is my personal get-to-work call and it gets me out of bed and doing the necessaries before sitting down to create what I always hope will be an eloquent passage.

A Hole in Her Heart  may be the title I will choose.  I came into an understanding of my poor deceased mother thanks to my genealogical investigations of her family, which revealed  a sad and lonely story.  She was a toddler when things went awry and never was able to make sense out of it.  What does a baby know about what's going on?  They can only feel.

Through my search sites I found her sister's son, who kindly sent me his original family photos so I could scan them and share with my family.  He told me about my mother's life from a different perspective, a very different perspective, proving that little was known about her and how she was (not) cared for as a child. I  found more about this from newspaper articles around the turn of last century.  

Fortunately the discord between Mom and me  was sorted out . That's really a  candy-coated way to describe our violent history and the final moment of violence. I was sixteen and she broke a heavy wooden coat hanger over my head.   I grabbed her by her elbows and I threw her across the room.  Shortly after we began a brief but remarkable relationship.  This part seems to be what I most want to write about:  how bad things happen and how they can be righted but it is not always done in your time frame, your lifetime.


Monday, May 14, 2012

La Triviata: a Melange of Thoughts

I have been up and writing for several hours this morning, then I finally took a break and read my on-line newspapers. During the Bush Murdock Years I developed the habit of not relying on our local no-news, I checked out first the Sydney Morning Herald (they are almost one full day ahead of us) then of course BBC and The Guardian; lastly American news. In recent years I check for balanced reporting. Besides, they have views of the globe and the various temperatures spinning around between shows and I'm getting very good at my geography AND, I can now tell temperatures in Celsius! See: RT saves money by not having a staff of show-boats and very infrequently runs commercials. Now that I think about it, years ago when we lived in Africa, we were advised by the "spooks" in town to not rely on VOA, but to tune our shortwave into BBC for more accurate reporting.

France has an interesting approach to TV. All commercials run for a half hour after the program ends.
It is so pleasant to watch a full show and just leave the room when the commercials are running.
They also have some pretty strange commercials, too. I can't forget this one and didn't understand the language, so it was truly perplexing! A lovely woman is waits for an elevator. It opens, and a man in a suit is standing and nods to her. She walks in, tears off all her clothes, throws them at him and gets off on the next floor. Well. I sure wasn't going to buy any of what ever they were selling.

Generally speaking, the US no longer has honest news. Not that it's really dis-honest! It just is no longer straightforward. Instead it's five minutes each of weather-traffic-sports or blab interspersed with fifteen minutes of sales pitches, then a tease about some horrific wreck/abduction/murder to be seen later that day. As if! The screen is full of women, thank you Women's Rights movement, but now they act like giggly comediennes, and mug the camera like wannabe models at a casting call. So to save my blood pressure I do mostly my news-ing online.

The Huffington Post they covered Jamie Dimond and his JP Morgan Hustle today. It 's a worthwhile read, and touches on some subjects near and dear to me as well as some truly tender spots that make me want to cry, no - bellow "what?????" I'm confident we'll work it all out. I'm also quite confident we are in for a very interesting ride.

Long ago I made a conscious decision to the effect that if I can't "do something" about "something" then I will find something I can about.... like rehashing my Sunday so here goes:

I went to services at the Center for Spiritual Living and came out refreshed, renewed, even singing. Then I headed north to meet my college roommate from the 1960s for a few hours.

We reunited two years ago after me "nudging" her for over 40 years. She was going through a bad time, like many of us do and it took her a while to be in the mood - over 40 years, actually. Sometimes relationships just go that way with friends, and with family. And, it usually isn't about you, or about me or anyone else. We all need space to sort things out in our own time framework. No one can give the signal until they are ready. Well, neither can I for that matter. I just keep nudging, cards, letters, phone calls every 3 or four months to let them know I'm thinking good stuff for them. I'm here to tell ya IT WORKS! Yes, I've had more than one beloved in my life who needed to "go it alone" for a while. A long, long while.

After several hours, my roomie headed North and we promised we'd get together soon. When I came home, my husband and our dog Lulu went over to my daughter's home and picked up Roscoe. Roscoe is also an adopted pooch. He doesn't get "out" to play much, so I like to take him to the dog park We keep this a secret from his family!

And, now, I'm off to work a little on Ancestry! Through this endeavor I am re-learning history, gaining insights regarding human behavior, and, of course genealogy! I found a bucket full of cousins and shirt-tail relatives, even people I meet in stores and restaurants who are closet genealogists too! It could be the red eyes that tip strangers off: "Oh, hi, I say, are you by chance a genealogist?"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

UGH.  I had a whole blog started about my adventures in Ancestry Searching and how I became fascinated by the plagues that struck Europe and why my eldest of all elder ancestors, a Swiss/German man by the name of Clewi became my end man in 1350 .  I went back to check a fact and Windows snuck in and started "fahting about" as my Best-Brit friend used to say,  and shut me down!  Never had a chance to save the blog.  Darn. it really was fabulous, too.

Anyway, so my searching for 15xGG FatherClewi kind of got me interested in the Middle Ages, maybe because I'm reading Thomas Cahill's book:
Mysteries of the Middle Ages, the Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the cults of Catholic Europe. 

My husband made a comment that he believed  that the Dark Ages were the religion related ones.  Well. What can one say about that?  He is solidly planted in the 1950s and the Beat Generations brand of Atheism.  He did give up smoking in the 1970s, which proves that he can have an open mind now and again.

Anyway, I decided to see if he was right and looked it up in my 30-year-old Time Life Series book on Ancient Civilizations and found the Barbarian's story which absolutely floored me.

Let me tell you about this raggedy band of ten or fifteen thousand Scandinavian villagers who on December 31, 406 were fed up with freezing-ass-cold dark and nasty weather, packed up the wives, kids and farm animals and were on the move in a Southward direction.  That New Years Eve permanently rocked our world!

It was so cold that the Rhine River was rock solid that night and they crossed it on foot!  They carried on, for the better part of a century plundering and pillaging the  villages along the way  until they stumbled upon a bankrupt and crumbling Roman Empire.  They saw an opportunity and over a few hundred years pretty much sacked it  These were the Dark ages, and the people who brought it on are dubbed the Barbarians.  Brutal outlaws: whole families of them.  And their outlaw cows, too!

But it was about toppling the rather corrupt Western Roman State, and it did interfere with the classical culture they had built.  The Western Roman State made themselves vulnerable to persons looking for an opportunity in my opinion!

It happens that these crude and brutal Barbarians were filled with uncommon ideas such as sexual fidelity, individual rights, law, and traditional democracy.  And their gift for organization was spread throughout Europe.  It does appear to me that we might see some rough weather regarding the Barbaric Organization in Europe at the moment..

My brain is popping with thoughts about this idea of sexual fidelity which today seems to be little more than a  lapel button some people wear to pretend who they really are.  I figure it was much easier and more fun to stay home with the mate and have a jolly good time than to quietly dig your way out of ten feet of snow to go have a date with that hot momma ten miles away!

Twenty-First Century taste for a Smorgasbord 'O' Love Partners seems very crass when compared to Barbarians.  I wonder what they would think of modern humans.  The only real difference is that.. hmmm, Religion happened  on the way to Western Civilization!

So.  Could my husband have a point? And........will I tell him??

NOTE:  regarding Mr. Cahill, I've read several of his books.  They are  fast reads considering the abundance of factual information they contain.  He is foremost a lively,  entertaining writer and I solidly recommend him.  Understand:  if  Cahill can get Melanie so turned on to history, he's doing something right.