Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Right to Life (Pt 2)

Note (1:34 EST): This post and the previous one were not meant to be quite so topical. For those grieving the death of the actual Pope, please note that the character in this post is not intended to represent the real Pope, nor is any politcal message implied. But that should hopefully be obvious to the reasonably astute by the end of Pt 3.


On the morning of his audience Christophe brought together the various pieces of his gun, each made out of hardened plastic and each made to look like an innocuous, every day item: a cigarette lighter, a pen, a ring and so on. Christophe scattered the pieces amongst his possessions and person and then prayed with an intensity that could have only emanated from the Holy Spirit.

Christophe passed through Vatican metal detectors with little problem. The fact that he had been given an audience under these circumstances meant that his background had been checked extensively and, as expected, he was found to be a high-ranking, high-donating member of Opus Dei. He was ushered in and guided by a staff priest who walked him through the marvelous marble corridors, past sculptures, tapestries and frescos created by some of history's greatest artists...how he wish he had time to examine many of these in detail! Extending the courtesy of smalltalk, the staff priest accompanying him spoke: "The Holy Father receives very few visitors these days. He must consider your work very important." Christophe hid his suprise at the comment and merely replied, "God willing, it is very important."

Eventually he reached the Holy Father's chambers and his guide left him at the large double doorways. Inside was something looking like an altar: it had a stool for kneeling placed in front of a rosewood conical horn and an old fashioned capsule-shaped microphone. Beyond was a large wooden door to the Holy Father's inner chamber flanked by two discreetly dressed though obviously armed guards.

Stepping into the room he was joined by another priest in black robes who motioned him to the stool. For a moment he stood looking at the microphone and horn. And then, emanating from the horn was the Holy Father's old, tired and benevolent voice: "Draw near to the microphone, my son."

Discomfitted, Christophe quickly kneeled and muttered, "Bless me Father", and he could hear the blessing: "...Espiritu Sancto...", which gave him a small measure of courage. After a quick prayer he began, "Father, I must admit that I am greatly troubled these days for the Church." "Yes son? What is the problem as you see it?"

This was the Holy Father! How silly it seemed all of a sudden to go before him with a personal issue or complaint. But nevertheless, he had been granted the audience so the Holy Father must somehow consider it of importance as well. "Father, I don't know how to say this, I feel so inadequate."

"Don't worry my son. I am here to hear you."

"Thank you, Father." A moments hesitation, and then: "But Father, you recently said that the sacraments are mere symbols. Does this not violate the doctrine of transubstatiation?"

For a moment the cone seemed to emanate silence. Was the Holy Father insulted, or merely considering the issue? And then, in careful measured tones, "Yes son, it would appear to violate the Church's teaching on transubstatiation. Does this upset you?"

Christophe didn't fully understand the question and for a moment allowed his voice to raise a bit: "Well...Yes! Yes, Father it contradicts what we know and what the church has taught for so long."

Again, a long pause. Christophe wished he could see the Holy Father's face and try to assess what he was thinking, or what his mood was. Christophe quietly felt for the cigarette lighter/gun handle.

And then, "Go on, my son, what else bothers you?"

"The ressurrection, Father. You have indicated that the resurrection of our Lord was not of His flesh but of an 'Astral Body'...this completely overthrows the teaching of the church."

Again, for a moment silence emanated from the rosewood cone. And then came the Holy Father's reassuring voice: "Why does this bother you, my son?"

Christophe was flabbergasted: "Because this is a Gnostic teaching father! Without the bodily ressurrection of our Lord the Gospel is merely another philosophy, its powerless...meaningless. This overthrows the central tenet of the church, and without any thought or debate!"

No pause this time. The Holy Father responded promptly: "Yes, my Son, it would appear to do that."

More silence. Christophe didn't understand: The Holy Father was confirming everything, denying nothing, but giving no reasons.

Christophe found the pen/gun barrel and snapped it into place.

And then, "So, my Son. These new teachings upset you. So...what would you do?"

Was the Holy Father reading his mind? For some reason, Christophe felt he could speak plainly: "What would I do, Father? What would I do? I would stop it if I could." Christophe snapped in the trigger with a barely audible click...a quick glance at the gaurds indicated that they had not heard its sound.

The Horn seemed to vibrate with the slow, aged and benevolent sound of His Holiness's response: "So. You are a learned man. You know what the basic foundations of the church and its teachings are. And now you see that the head of the Holy Church is undermining its very existence and all that we have believed in. And you would seek to stop this. You would seek to stop me. Is this true, my son?"

For some reason, Christophe felt no reason to attempt to lie to the Holy Father. The Holy Father seemed to radiate understanding, like he was an old, dear friend. This was not what Chrisophe expected. He replied:

"Yes, Father. This is true."

A long pause. And then, still calm and benevolent, the Holy Father spoke:
"Do as you have planned in your heart, my son. Go with God." And then, a blessing in Latin, followed by a small burst of noise from the horn, indicating that the line had been closed.

Christophe was confused: The audience was over. Had the Holy Father read his mind? What was he saying? Did the Holy Father realize that he had just commanded Christophe to kill him?

Christophe reached for his rosary and plucked several beads off, discretely loading them into his gun between his legs. Christophe then bowed his head, crossed himself, and then rose.

Firing off three quick shots he dropped both gaurds with hopefully non-fatal wounds. He heard a rush of feet behind him and then ducked to the right, swirling and catching one of the attendants in the shoulder, who yelped and then rolled away from Christophe across the floor. The other two attendants ran out, shouting for help.

Christophe moved to the large doorway and went through. Inside was another gaurd, standing next to the Holy Father who was in bed and, apparently, asleep. The gaurd held a gun on Christophe who, for a moment, did not know what to do. And then, the Gaurd motioned with his gun for Christophe to approach the Pontiff.

Christophe approached, and looked down at the Holy Father. Outside the window he could see Saint Peter's sqaure...sunlight was streaming in the window past billowing gauzy curtains.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The "Right to Life" (Pt 1)

A member of Opus Dei, Christophe had never considered himself a fanatic. And even as the plan took shape in his head he recognized the externally fanatical aspects to it but believed also that there was really something that needed to be done. Christophe was not a loner: He had 2 daughters, a devoted wife, and lived in a decent-sized home in Los Gatos Hills in Silicon Valley. He had everything to live for, and he knew it.

But something was wrong. Deeply wrong. The Holy Father had not been seen by the public in more than two decades, placing his age in the low hundreds. Pronouncements and blessings had all been by video, or else made in the presence of one of his trusted advisors. And starting perhaps 7 years ago, there had been a steady stream of...heresies? Corruptions? Clear but small deviations from the established truths of the Holy Church. And although the Holy Father certainly had the authority to override previous statements of doctrine, for most of his reign (prior to dissappearence from public visibility) he had done so sparingly, and only after a long process of engagement and debate. But this stream of small heresies, probably not obvious to any but well-trained priests and the extremely pious, these came without any apparent debate or interaction of pronouncement. Statements, for instance, calling the sacraments mere symbols and thus overthrowing the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation.

But the final and decisive indicator was, for Christophe, when a statement came forth indicating that Jesus had been raised in a "astral" body, with the clear implication that he hadn't been raised in a physical body. This was absolutely heretical doctrine, and it was issuing forth from a Holy Father that no one had seen for decades. There were murmurs, of course, but they were rapidly silenced. The few outspoken priests were unceremoniously removed from their office and excommunicated. Even the Jesuits were officially silenced, and they complied.

Christophe knew there were few who could perform the necessary task, and he knew that he was one of those that could. He also had a rare form of access to Vatican Medical records, which indicated a steady stream of life-sustaining supplies, including advanced dialysis machines, respirators and so on. So it appeared that the Holy Father was indeed alive, but in what state it was impossible to tell. And as a high-ranking power-weilder inside Opus Dei, he could work getting granted the closest thing possible to an audience with the Holy Father these days. Christophe made preparations, creating a living will and leaving a record of what had caused him to attempt to do what he was about to do.

Christophe knew there were few who could perform the necessary task, and he knew that he was one of those that could. He also had a rare form of access to Vatican Medical records, which indicated a steady stream of life-sustaining supplies, including advanced dialysis machines, respirators and so on. So it appeared that the Holy Father was indeed alive, but in what state it was impossible to tell. And as a high-ranking power-weilder inside Opus Dei, he could work getting granted the closest thing possible to an audience with the Holy Father these days.

Christophe made preparations, creating a living will and leaving a record of what had caused him to attempt to do what he was about to do. Kissing his wife and children at the airport, he bid them a teary farewell, knowing that he would most likely never see them again.

Arriving in Rome, Christophe spent some time meeting with various other members of Opus Dei and intelligensia attempting one more time to assess the situation. Many were reluctant to discuss the peculiarities involved, few still the theology. But there was were some of the faithful who were bold in their belief that the Holy Father was either likely dead, or perhaps somehow deranged, and the steady stream of heresies a clear deviation from not only church teaching but church operation as well. The Holy Father was out of control.

Scuba & York

Had my first Scuba class last night. Aside from the instructor (an ex-Army instructor who acted like an ex-Army instructor) we had a funny mix of four students:

1. An orthodox Jewish helicopter pilot
2. Cute Eurasian female lawyer
3. Standard-issue smart white guy, apparently finishing his GP residency
4. Gruff crypto-Psychedelic ex-Physicist working on Wall Street

While doing the official 5 minute float I was looking up at the high roof of the facility (way over East on 91st and York Avenue) and had that funny feeling, "Well, this is life on this planet."

Odd neighborhood. It shares some of that upscale feeling common to the Uppser East side, but it's far more laid back, and kind of off the beaten path. On the other hand, Gracie Mansion (the official city-owned residence for the mayor) is nearby.

The lesson itself was, for the most part, fun, though rather tiring with the weight belt, air tank, and other Stuff (official paraphenalia of a hobby is capital 'Stuff'). When you get out of the pool with all that stuff you can really feel the weight. Breathing underwater actually feels rather natural to me, though it took me a whle to realize that the loud breathing sounds were coming from me and my regulator.

Between the classes and book+video work and then 4 "open water dives" when I'm on vacation, we're talking about a large amount of work! Had I realized what was involved I probabaly wouldn't have bothered. On the other hand, since I'm living in a big puddle of "What's the point" these days, I find it's best to just push yourself through some of these things irregardless of any feelings or lack thereof....you sometimes just trip on into a new regime of being, etc...



OK, this cute post was just a setup for the next one. Brace yourself...

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Mundane and Banal

The guy in the cubical next to me is by all measures a Regular Guy...Born, raised, educated and still living in Brooklyn he's got corny little nicknacks decorting his cubicle, like a small statuette of a golf Leprauchan, a baby shark in a bottle of formaldehyde, a small alligator head with a golfball in it's mouth, and so on. He's short, chubby, and has a thin little mustache. He's a family guy, and talks about how to squeeze more tax-free dollars out of some of our benefits, how to save for his kids' college, and so on. He spends a few nights each week drinking with his buddies down at the Knights of Columbus lodge. His wife is a substitute teacher. He has zero interest in "Ashes and Snow", and skipped The Gates. He's everything you're not supposed to like, but I actually admire the guy: he's well adjusted and happy, and all of this is really and truly enough for him. He doesn't need big bursts of drama in his life to motivate him. He doesn't need to feel like he's changing the world or making it a better place, etc...just getting by, putting away a few bucks and providing for his family...that's enough for him.

Why isn't that enough for me?
I used to think it was because I was more 'aware' and more capable and more attune to the realities of the world and its contradictions and difficulties. And that may be true. But there's another part of me that seems to need and feed itself on some kind of drama, some sense of importance. In the late 90s we'd get the latest DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexed) optical networking systems from various vendors to evaluate their suitability for the public telephone network. I started off with stand-alone optical amplifiers and then as the technology progressed went to 4 wavelength systems (supporting 10 Gigabits/sec) to 8 wavelength to 16 to 23 to 40 wavelength systems supporting 400 Gig/sec and allowing for dynamic optical add drop of wavelengths and other sci-fi-ish features. It felt like we were rapidly moving into a new era of technology and communications where the price per bit was next to nothing. And we were. We DID move into such an era.

But so what? What's the point?
That's the feeling I have all the time now, about just about everything: "What's the point?" I feel it as an almost distancing of myself from myself, like the real me "What's the Point?" is hoovering about an inch or two above and to the side of the actual flesh-and-blood me, which carries on like it always did, putting on a good show and pretending to give a crap. meanwhile I look at the guy in the cube next to me who carries on like most of humanity and is fully content just existing and planning for retirement and providing for his family and getting some spots of enjoyment in here and there. Why isn't that good enough for me? Why can't I just be here now and find the motivation to do things that isn't tied to some grand and glorious future or some angelic unveiling of my true calling in life?

Well, maybe I can but it'll take some time to learn to appreciate the smaller things in life...to learn to live in the banal, real world. To fully incarnate into this mortal coil of flesh and blood and not look to somewhere else. That's what I really need, but it seems like my deeper self rejects the simple life. Do I continue to fight it? Is needing drama my true nature or just deeply-set baggage? Guess I'm finding out.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Work, Italians, Atlantis, and Kevin Costner's Voice.

OK, a goblet of Chimay in my hand and I'm comin' UP...

Sometimes I have so much to say I've got nothing to say. It all gets stuck in the door fighting to get through, the "Three Stooges Syndrome" as mentioned on the Simpsons.

Work sucks. I got passed up for a promotion, though I suppose in the nicest way possible. "And not getting promoted is important because...." because I don't have enough to fuckin' DO at work, that's because. This job would have not only felt kinda big and important, it would have really 'unleashed' me in a way I've wanted to be unleashed. And oddly, our local BIG shot pushed for me to get the job, but the guy I'd be working for fought him off. And, funny enough, some of the folks in this group want to work for me, believe it or not.

You say, "why Em, why would anyone want to work for YOU? It's pretty obvious that you are completely out of your mind" Why? Because first of all I actually listen. Listening is an art that takes lots of time to develop, and that's one art I have to some extent mastered. (Hell, relative to 99.999% of the population I have definitely mastered it.) For instance, how often do YOU just sit there and listen to music...you're not doing something, you're not eating, you're not cleaning or whatever...you're sitting on the couch and the music is not in the background but floating there, betweeen the speakers, the TV off. ALL of your attention is right there, and nowhere else.

Likewise in a relationship, or in business. We never fucking listen anymore...for one, there's too much going on internally, "no time to listen". Second (and here's the important thing, so LISTEN goddammit), hearing someone else's point of view, and really getting it doesn't mean you have to agree with it. I think we think that hearing someone of necessity means agreeing with them. So one thing that makes me effective is getting people to elucidate their opinion, even if it's a disagreement, and then working with that. When people sense that you actually hear them, they are much less resistant.

Tomorrow we'll have Italians here, and they will be eating my Pannini! And I don't mean Italian Americans, nor Sicilians (which are not even Italian according to Northern Italians) but bonified, died-in-the-wool Northern Italians. I'll ply them with alchohol (sorry Muslim readers) to lower their standards and then make and then serve the best friggin' Panini this poor backward American can muster. Hopefully they will politely declare my Panini to be passable.

In one week we'll be flying off to vacation at Atlantis in the Bahamas. God I love that place! I hate to admit it because it's so 'touristy' on one level. But it is REALLY well done. The world's largest acquarium is there, and any time of the day or night you can go visit. It's styled like a big archeological dig, which sounds corny but they put so much into it (like faux sunken ruins) you really say "wow"! And there's lots of other stuff that's really, really wonderful (like a Mayan Step pyramid with many water slides, including the "Leap of faith"...a 60 foot vertical drop into and through a shark tank.) If I can I'll try to upload some photos.

And finally, I hope to complete my Scuba license there (I've been studying and will complete my preparatory pool dives this week).

That should shake over the foreboding sense of ennui I've been feeling of late, at least for a while.


By the way, I had a realization: Kevin Costner's voice (slow, grainy and relaxed) is a very excellent laxative.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Homework Assignment #7: The Missing Limb

(Actually, I've lost count so I just made up a plausible sounding number.)

OK, choose an extremity, preferably an upper one such as your hand, forearm, or even your arm.

Imagine that it was removed a long, long time ago but now the technology exists to make you whole again, and so you have your limb back.

Try to feel it: After a long, long time you are now whole again. Doesn't that feel great? Try it with all of your other limbs now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Seige of Angliaterra (Pt 3)

In a small, woodpaneled chamber talks between the outer city council and 3 representatives of the inner city occurred. The inner city angliaterrans were small and of unclear ethnic mix. All of them wore tunics of light green, sandals, and what appeared to be a small blue hexagonal crystal or possibly a lens, hanging from a sliver chain around each of their necks. They spoke infrequently, struggling with French, and never raised their voices nor addressed each other. When councilmembers spoke the inner city dwellers merely observed them with wide eyes...it was unclear how much they understood. They appeared otherworldly and almost monsastic. In addition, after the meeting the council members disagreed as to which had been male and which had been female.

As the meeting proceeded, the council members presented the inner city dwellers with all sorts of documents, arguments and diagrams indicating why only a small opening could be made at the base of one of the buildings. This opening would still prevent large numbers of visitors and it would completely prevent any sort of movement of the advanced equipment the inner city people had been asking for. In short, it would ensure that access control would remain in the hands of the council.

Questions from the inner city angliaterrans came forth, and with each question one or more council members would launch into a diatribe or heated oratory, which the inner city dwellers would repond to with the same unwavering stare. Arguments broke out among the council members, anticipating possible rebuttals and counterarguments. It was almost as if the inner city dwellers were not even present.

Eventually, the council members noticed that the 3 inner city dwellers were standing up and silent. Arguments and discussions died down and eventually there was silence. After a moment, the 3 angliaterrans bowed slowly and slightly, took a few steps backward, and filed out. The meeting was over. The council members understood this reaction as acquiesence. But they were wrong.

Three days later a group of inner city dwellers emerged and began construction on one of the border buildings on the inner wall (actually, the inner wall itself is cleverly hidden via incorporation into contiguous architectural features of other structures in the city). The small angliaterrans brought forth an odd assortment of unusual tools and levers and began dismantling part of the face of the buiding. Quickly, a very large number of outer city dwellers gathered to watch the unusual people, and when it became apparent what they were doing a knife was produced and one of the little people stabbed to death. When the others calmly, with little evident emotion determined that the angliaterran was in fact dead, they quietly filed back into the building and re-entered the inner city.

After a few weeks a sort of tower could seen to be rising up in the inner city. This immediately caused more council meetings which in turn led to the call for another meeting with the inner city dwellers to discuss the matter. But their was no response from the inner city, and as the tower was constructed with a series of wooden beams, it appeared to be temporary. Outer city dwellers frequently gathered in high places to attempt to glimpse the inner city dwellers and their activities, which were regarded as mysterious and largely incomprehensible.

Over the next several weeks a few more towers appeared, followed by silence. And then, three weeks ago, came the sound of what is often described as a horn, but a horn unlike any other: It was a horn with multiple tunes that alternated in dominance. It appeared to be a minor chord, and the player of the horn could in turn emphasis any one of the consituent notes.

And then came the stone. The stone was an 800 pound block attached to then end of a long tether and launched by a "tower" which was apparently a very large siege engine after all, nominally a "mangonel" or counterweighted 'catapult'. The stone arced up high and then reached the end of the tether. The tether caused the stone to swing outward, into the outer city, and then smash back into the same building along the inner wall, where it lodged itself in the 2nd floor. This was followed by another stone from another tower, and then another and another until the most of the building had been largely demolished. The portion that was part of the inner city wall remained, however, so that the outer city dwellers could still not enter.

Weapons were fired and aimed, but they seemed to have little effect on the inner city dwellers, who were not visible first of all and hiding within their own stone buildings. At the sound of gunshots "construction" ceased. For a time.

That night much of the outer city was awaken by the sound of what could only be more more construction on the part of the iner city dwellers. Awakening to inspect the damage, it became clea that the outer city dwellers had launched more blocks at the portion of the outer city wall directly across from the now-demolished building. As the sun rose, the inner city dwellers gathered around the new gap, finding that the gap now directly faced the rising sun, and that the red-orange rays now penetrated their once dark city and lit up the facing inner city wall.

Looking at the wall, the form of a large archway, perhaps 30 feet tall, could now be seen incorporated into the brickwork. A sense of awe spread through the crowd as it became evident that there had once been a large archway linking the outer city with the inner, and that the actions of the inner city Angliaterrans targeting that border building had been far from capricious.

And then, as the sun grew brighter, a muffled thud was heard, and the wall was thought to shake. This was followed by another thud, and then another, and soon pieces of the blocked archway were falling out. Reports were made indicating that the inner city mangonels were swinging once again, but apparently they were smashing open the gateway from the inside.

Council members started shouting and gesticulating, telling the crowd to obtain whatever weapons they hain their homes, but the crowd quickly recognized the pointlessness of this and grew resistant. At this point, the members of the outer city council were grabbed and shuffled away, and most of the rest of the crowd waited to greet whoever would be coming through that arch.

Subway Prophecy

Sorry to interrupt the latest information about Angliaterra, but this deserves mention.

I was on the subway last night when I heard a woman start making an announcement at the other end of the car. I immediately started tuning it out, assuming it to be someone asking for money. But she continued speaking, saying: "Ladies and Gentlemen I need your attention for a minute please! The Lord gave me a word for someone here right now...I'm sorry, but there are a lot of people here and I don't know who it's for. The Lord told me to tell you that he is aware of your difficult situation right now and he's going to see you through it! Trust in the Lord and he's going to be there for you! Thanks you!"

Whereupon, the lady sat back down in her seat. Contrary to my assumption, she had not been walking from car to car but had been riding along when something zapped her, and she stood up and said it.

Sorry, I think that's cool. Actually, it came at a time when I am facing a "symbolic" issue for me at work, that reflects a repeating pattern I have experienced for years. So internally I grabbed this prophecy as "mine".

Now of course you can say, "Well, there's no proof this was 'for you' nor even that it had anything to do with God" but that's kind of irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. A human being is precisely that which weaves together various events and happenings into a unique story...you don't really need whys or wherefores or cause-and-effect or proof. These things can happen in your world if you allow yourself to live in a world where they happen.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Seige of Angliaterra (Pt 2)

As mentioned yesterday, due to the need for contact with the outside world, the inhabitants of inner-city Angliaterra began discussions with the council of the outer city about possible modifications of both inner as well as outer city walls. Readers familiar with the relationship between the inner and outer city dwellers might correctly guess that such discussions would easily get bogged down.

As the culture, mores, and even economics of the outer city dwellers evolved to nominally protect and conceal the existence of the inner city and its inhabitants from the outside world, the notion of a future without any ostensible need for them created a large number of conflicts and tensions. These conflicts rapidly confused the access issue, causing talks to break down. Specifically, the inner city dwellers were 'requesting' that a portion of the outer city wall be removed and extensive modifications be made to certain structures along the inner city wall to faciliate the easy access to the inner city by both persons as well as, in certain cases, vehicles delivering goods and equipment (though how the inner city dwellers planned on acquiring advanced equipment in the absence of money is unknown, though clearly the inner city dwellers are aware of the existence and function of money). The surly outer city dwellers performed a perfunctory examination of this 'request' by the inner city dwellers and then rejected it out of hand, citing numerous bylaws in their own charter. In addition, they rallied the local french provincal authorities who prohibited the alteration of Angliaterra, which has historic monument status in France.

Complicating matters extensively is the fact that both inner city as well as outer city Angliaterrans seem to believe that they are the true 'owners' of the city. In the case of the inner city Angliaterrans, they view entire culture of the outer city dwellers as existing for the sole purpose of concealing and sustaining the people and the culture of the inner city. And indeed, at the founding of Angliaterra this appears to have been true, by design. However, over the ages, the outer city dwellers have developed certain aspects of lifestyle and culture that are much like other similar towns or smal cities: Most people go about their lives in a way that has no relationship to the dwellers of the inner city. The idea that their city somehow 'belongs' to a people they may have never even heard of (knowledge of the inner city people was kept to a select few) is of course, a source of tension and dismissed by most inhabitants of the outer city.

And then, of course, there's the more delicate matter relating to the tourist trade and special historic status accorded to angliaterra by the French government. many people in the city derive their incomes by selling handcrafts, the most exquisite components of which are apparently made by the inner city dwellers. Some of these crafts are unique and beautiful, and highly sought after in some markets. For instance, image projectors ostensibly made for children allow images of magical faeries and other creatures to be juxtaposed on a real image from the child's environment and projected on a wall or ceiling. Some of the more elaborate of these toys even allow the magical creature to appear to move or fly.

Because the much of the livelihood of the outer city dwellers relies upon the special relationship between the outer city and the inner city, one can see that there would be vested interests in maintaining the ancient status quo. But for whatever reason, it would appear that the inner city dwellers made a central decision to change their relationship to the world, and were not going to accept no for an answer.

Tomorrow we'll discuss the actual conflict that broke out at Angliaterra.

The Siege of Angliaterra (Pt 1)

As reported previously, Angliaterra is a walled city dating from the medieval era, located on a broad plain at the base of the Pyrannees in Southern France. As also reported, the astonishing discovery was recently made that within Angliaterra is another city, the inhabitants of which have had practically no contact with the outer world for somewhere between 800 to 1000 years, relying upon a system of secret barter with the inhabitants of the outer city. These inner city inhabitants have their own culture, language and even genetic makeup. They also have developed certain technologies (such as glass making and, apparently, image manipulation) to a degree that in some cases seems to excel that of the modern, outer world. Scholars have only recently made direct contact with the inner city Angliaterrans, an exchange that appears to have been triggered by the inner city dwellers themsleves, through fairly obscure means.

There have been some dramatic developments recently, however, that can alternatively be described as a battle of a city with itself or as a seige in reverse; in either case, such a form of warfare is perhaps without precedent in human history, as the outer city angliaterrans have apparently sought to control or perhaps eliminate contact between the outer world and the inhabitants of the inner city.

As reported previously, the artist David Hockney recently 'discovered' the inner city of Angliaterra along with its' unusual inhabitants, through a series of events that appear to have been triggered by direct and conscious effort on the part of the inner city Angliaterrans. A small number of scholars have been allowed to visit the inner city and even, under special circumstances, take photos. So without a doubt the inhabitants of the inner city have decided that the time for their isolation was over; direct contact with the outside world has been initiated, bypassing the normal indirect channels through the outer city dwellers.

Several months ago, however, it appears that the inner city dwellers decided that they needed a more direct route from their city-within-a-city to the outside world, and began discussions with the council of the outer city about how and, most important, where to do this. Currently, travel into the inner city is still a difficult process, requiring passing through numerous odd and small secret passages in several of the buildings that comprise the wall between the inner and out cities. Indeed, in order to ensure that members of the outer city could never surreptitiously enter the inner city, there are innumerable ingenious mechanical devices that require operation from within and that also do not permit more than one entry at a time. As a result, starting from the room that serve as portals between the inner and outer cities (rooms that are not particularly accessible even from the outer city) it can take as long as 90 minutes to complete the transit into the inner city. As a result, certain types of exchange become extremely dificult, if not impossible within that context.

And indeed, the inner city dwellers are already attempting to acquire a large number of items from the outer world, the most important of which are books. And then, advanced art and medical supplies, optical components such as lenses, mirrors, and various other types of obscure components, medical supplies and so on. The inner city angliaterrans have also requested various pieces of equipment requiring electrical power, but they seem to be unaware of what is required to generate electrical power. Since the inner city has not utilized money of any sort, they also seem to be unaware of the cost and complexity involved in some of the items they have become aware of and are attempting to acquire, such as electron microscopes as well as advanced optical metrology systems and machine tools. Indeed, attempting to translate the desires of the inner city dwellers into modern French has required teams of experts to pass into the inner city, and this alone has motivated the angliaterrans to make passage easier.

In our next segment we'll describe the events leading up to the Siege of Angliaterra.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Panini Hit!

Using store-bought Panini bread, plus...

Asiago cheese
Home made pesto sauce
Proscuitto San Daniele
Olive Oil

Brush the olive oil onto the cut Panini bread, then spread a layer of pesto sauce. Put strips of the Asiago cheese and then several layers of Prosciutto. Grill in a Panini press until golden brown, and then serve to adults and six-year-olds to bathe in high acclaim.

Upgrade: Add a bottle of Brunello d'Montalcino
Upgrade 2: "Spiritchaser" by Dead Can Dance, then bask in the sensual pleasures.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Ashes and Snow

Wonderful. Ashes and Snow is a mobile exhibit/museum moving around the US and, eventually the world. Here in New York, it's showing in a giant temporary structure built out of stacked shipping containers atop pier 54, near west 14th street and the meatpacking district. (In the meatpacking district blood can still be seen on the sidewalks leftover from the morning's meat processing. In the late 70s and early 80s, sides of beef could be seen hanging from hooks and overhead tracks...intermixed with prostitutes. It was quite a sight...dead meat and prostitutes. One can only imagine that, occasionally, the working girls must have ocasionally leveraged the hanging slabs as a cover as well as a brace for their activities. Somewhere out there are a number of johns with some really odd memories. Now, it's a fashionable play district where very expensive shops are mixed in with galleries and fancy restaurants.)

Speaking of which, we hit Jean George's "Spice Market" and it was excellent. Actually, I've felt that a lot of Jean George's food was quite bland, but this isn't. It's nuevo south east asian cusine in a very exotic setting.

Afterwards we walked over to ashes and snow, where I took some analog photos (funny how I have to qualify the word 'photo' these days) which I may scan and post here later. The exhibit itself is multimedia, focusing on photos (and a film) of humans with animals. And despite the fact that the photos are clearly "staged", they are really wonderful. The photos seem to integrate humans with the rest of the earth's creatures...it eliminates the "us vs animals" dichotomy that all humans believe on a certain level, showing local folks in places like SE Asia, India and Africa hanging out or interacting with the local fauna in a surrealistic setting. The photos themselves are sometimes 10 feet tall, and printed on Japanese "raw" paper, suspended from the high ceiling and lit from above, with appropriate ambient music pervading. It's fairly dark, though some light radiates in from between the container walls.

While transfixed by one particular photo (of an elephant and a child lying together on their sides in shallow water), it occurred to me what great art does. Great art, like this, reminds you of the powerlessness of words. "Why is that a good thing?", you might ask...because we know that our thoughts are really just the smashing together of words, and on some level we recognize there's not a lot of power in mere words, very little transcendence (except for the Magic Lantern, of course!). Great art re-validates wordless experience and reminds us that life is much more than mere empty thoughts and words.

See this thing if you can. Yes, they could have shown these same photos in a gallery somewhere, and they'd still be great. But in this setting it really becomes special. Oh, and I hear say that Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance did at least some of the music. It sure sounded like it.

Wonderful photos in a wonderful setting.

Oh, more news about Angliaterra coming!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Em's Words of Wisdom #1

Thou shalt not disparage the "delightfully cheesy"...it's the antidote to postmodern malaise.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Quick

Don't think, make a decision:

A thousand people are being held hostage by a madman in a church rigged with explosives. He's placed a big, fat handgun in your hand and told you to aim it point blank at a child's head who is standing there. And now he's given you an ultimatum: "Shoot the child or I blow these people to smithereens."

What do you do? The child's wide eyes are looking up at you and beginning to tear, the black barrel of the gun is pressed to his forehead. He's trying to be brave but on some level he understands that this is serious. You know also that when you pull this trigger the little boys brains are going to fly all over the place. It's a memory that's going to haunt you for the rest of your life.

What do you do?







You shoot the madman if you can.


And if you miss you grab the child and run. Any other decision is mind over matter, pure philosphy and, in the end, complete bullshit. Welcome to the illustrious corridors of Stalin, Hitler, and others.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Freezer Geezer, and a Dream

As the bus pulls away from the curb this morning, Freezer Geezer runs along side it for a bit, and one or two others are waving to him. He looks through the window at me and I yell, "Freezer Geezer, Yeah!" and show him an empowering fist in support, to which Freezer Geezer responds by happily pounding on the window with his fist. Freezer Geezer is actually dressed a little more warmly than usual, with a pair of gloves in addition to his usual red T-shirt.



Last night an odd dream. I am not, in general, a big believer in the notion of dreams portending anything...most of the time our brains maps internal tensions onto our surroundings and, sometimes, current events. This one was no different, I think, but I have no idea what it could mean. In the dream I was in a hotel pool in Saudi Arabia. The pool was actually in the smallish back yard of the hotel and not particulaly lavish or anything, but it was well-attended by other foreign families on vacation or on long-term work assignments. I seemed to be somewhere in the middle, and I think my son was with me in the pool.

Someone points to the sky and I see two planes glance off each other in a mid-air collision. At first, it's not clear what the impact has been, but then I see one of the planes heading directly for us, and indeed it crash-lands and is sliding at us. I'm actually wondering whether or not it's going to hit us, but it doesn't, coming to a stop perhaps 30 feet away. It's a big plane, and the cockpit has been ripped off, so I see a cross section with hurt passengers and whatnot in front of me.

I get out of the pool and go back to my father's hotel, which is several blocks away. I ask him if he's seen any coverage yet on TV and indeed I wonder if they'll supress coverage, but eventually it comes on and there's already a known casualty toll of 5 people. At this point I know on some level that it was a terrorist act of some sort, and they had tried to take out a resort frequented by foreigners.


Terrorism, where I am sitting right now, is a constant fact of life. If I stand up in my cube (like right now!) and look out that window, I see the New York Stock Exchange. Downstairs, police armed with machine guns stalk the streets and in-the-street metal barricades have installed making this area a veritable fortress. On the way home on the bus tonight I will pass the "Hole of Death" as a friend dubbed it, which is 3 blocks away and which I pass every evening. And oh yeah, on that fateful day 11 people in this company lost their lives. Don't forget these facts when I start to mouth off about certain US foreign policies these days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A morning image

This morning, opening the door to start walking to work, I catch a dove in the process of landing in front of my house, morning sunshine streaming in from the right. As doves tend to be rather skittish, his landing turned into a low swoop over the sidewalk which then arced back upward, all the while making that dove trilling acceleration noise.

As I walked up the block he flew around and landed in a tree as I passed, and began making that dove sound.

One hopes this event portends something or other, but certainly it had numinous aspects in my mind's eye, so perhaps there's something relatively peaceful awakening in the dim cahcols (how DO you spell that word) of my minds' eye.


On the bus this morning, Poison-->Vessel, Shleppy Dragin, Tojo and Ms Thang, who wedges her wide hips into the seat next to me. Also, there's an hispanic gal who is shortish and dressed unassumingly. But her face is central American, practically lifted from pre-Columbian art: a broad, flat nose, flat face and prominent cheekbones. I am sure she's not considered particularly beautiful by many men accustomed to more Euro-centered standards of beauty. But it is absolutely clear to me that, were she living in a Mayan or Peruvian community pre-Columbus/Cortez, she'd be considered gorgeous.

Last night on the bus a triple assault from Tor Johnson. We were on the other bus, with large seats and stainless steel stuff rack up top. Tor Johnson sits down behind me and his knees immediately begin moving against the seat back. He pulls out a newspaper and periodically pokes me in the back of the head with it. And towards the end, he's putting the used sections of newspapers on the rack above, creating quite a mess, as well as crinkling sounds all around and above me. I imagining him doing one more thing, just a little more obvious, and then I'm turning around and punching Tor Johnson in that massive white head, his eyes wide with suprise and his arms windmilling backwards...blood spurts from Tor's nose as I bum-rush him off the bus and the doors close, leaving him on the side of the LIE somewhere.

Monday, March 14, 2005

"I have come to wound the autumnal city"

At lunch, a node. A node is a stillpoint amidst the local historic eddies. A node can be small or it can be large. Most people can feel the presence of a node, even just almost consciously.

The node appeared to me as I walked to the Halal chicken truck on Wall and Water. Sunlight poured down through the cracks between tall buildings, shining on the old stone or bricks that have seen so many people come and go here over the years. Naive blue skies support lazy white fluffy clouds.

The node manifested itself as first of all an odd sort of calm, like "this is just a regular day", not a day after an event, nor a day leading up to something expected in the future, but just a day like any day that may have occurred a long, long time ago. And in the node everything felt like it could have happened "a long long time ago", this day will be a long long time ago one day. And knowing this, feeling it, is an odd form of comfort and peace. Sounds and noise lose their insistence, and become merely necessary background sounds. But they don't dominate the scene: within the node it is actually silent and timeless.

It's my turn to order at the Truck. As the guy scoops the chicken and saffron rice into the styrofoam container, I see it on his face too. He can feel it. To my right I see out over the East River to Brooklyn, and there I see buildings in which I used to, for instance, visit my dentist as a teenager.

I turn to go, and catch up with the pace of things again. The mode begins to dissolve, but it s a big one and, I think, complete dissolution of this node will take the better part of the afternoon.




(Title a quote by Delaney from Dhalgren.)

Sundry Sundries

Made Panini yesterday, though I won't ever do it again. Well, not from scratch...not making the bread itself. It's just too much work, and you're left with a HUGE mess. Of course, the Panini tasted fantastic, but I really need to find a place to buy the bread. I worked all day, and we gobbled the Panini down in no time flat.

Funny enough, by my house there's a small, obscure outcropping of stores, and a nice wine store opened up recently, so my brothers and I walked over to get a bottle or two to go with the Panini. Turned out they were in the middle of an open tasting, so we shot the breeze with the owner, trading stories about Italy (where he met his wife, who was also present), and obtained a "Free Buzz" (as brother Sean stated).

Actually, he also told his infamous college tale of the Brooklyn College jazz band borrowing the football team van...the drums didn't fit so they pulled out the rows of passenger seats. Sean was sick and puked out the window, leaving a bright pinkish stripe of chunks along the side of the van. Pot seeds also eventually filled many of the busfloor's corrugations, and as they were pulling into a parking spot at the end of the day the van ran out of gas.

It is said that, after that incident, the football team's policy has always been never to lend out the van, ever.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Friday's Menu


Friday's Menu
The wife and I went to Babbo for my birthday Friday evening. It's right by Washington Square Park and NYU, where I went to college.
The food, by any measure, is absolutely fantistic. Oddly, I find I sometimes come away with a 'tude after such a meal: I feel like one of the blindfold captives in Plato's cave, who has just emerged into sunlight. I've been held ignorant of how good food can taste, having been hoodwinked by shitty quality of American shippable, "big" food.
And, for just a moment, I don't feel like as much of a loser when I'm in a place this good.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Aviator

And so years later they found him, in a seedy motel in Manitoba. A small retinue of dwarfs attended to him, dressed as children. On his right hand a white glove, though provision had been made for his eight-inch-long fingernails. His hair, died jet black, fell around a skeletal face, now covered perpetually with a red surgical mask, and then plunged below his waist.

After those bad years he had left and just driven. He drove and drove and drove away from the world that didn't understand, didn't realize that his special soul needed, -no- deserved what it wanted. That bad world had interfered with his world, and it had no right to do that, no right to judge what he had done, nor paint his needs as dark or terrible. If only he could just shut out that world, then his world would be pure once again. So he sought a new world, and found it on a dismal tree-lined road in Manitoba.

The motel had been used by loggers in the area, but most of the logging business in the area had dried up. So the motel was purchased and a perpetual "No Vacancy" sign placed outside. Sometimes, inuit runaways might stumble across the property and they were taken in and trained in the ways of his world. If by chance they grew more than perhaps 5 feet tall, they had to leave and find their own way in the world. But the others, and the children, they could stay, because they were pure...he would keep them pure.

Eventually the farm behind the motel was purchased, and cows and horses brought in. Sometimes, his urine or feces was mixed in with the food of the animals, to keep them pure, keep them a part of his essence. On Saturday nights was the feast, which he attended, and a sort of communion presented at the end, consisting of purified versions of that fed to the animals. Dancing then occured, and singing and games, including hide-and-seek, which was played with masks, each mask made to look just like him.

At night he and a small retinue would go around and tuck everybody in.

Eventually he had a dream. When he awoke he knew immediately that he was supposed to make this dream come true. When he awoke he ran and woke everybody else up, laughing and leaping and cheering and telling them that he had a wonderful project for them, and that he now knew what they were all there for. They would build a dirigible airship and bring all the children to the North Pole, which was pure and white and untouched...even the animals were beautiful and white and huggable and friendly, such as the Polar Bears. And there, they could truly begin again, and he would become the real giver of gifts to children.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

orbital support platform (pt3)

With the destruction of Gansu province safety officials along with US reaction and raised tarriffs, the o.s.p. came into the international spotlight. Basically, reaction to the o.s.p was fairly predicatable, with the o.s.p gaining huge numbers of supports while many governments regarding the o.s.p. with a careful mix of anxiety, distance, and a sort of awe. The incident at Gansu showed that the osp certainly had the capability and willingness, under certain circumstances, to attack governmental officials.

In Washington the CIA and other agencies began initiating an intense search for the operator(s) of the osp, while recommending the President and congress to begin to take very special safety precautions, particularly where large gatherings were concerned. Due to the finite nature of the o.s.p.'s ammunition, it was clear that the osp could not afford to strike whenever or wherever it pleased, nor did it seem to have the kind of sophisticated targeting capabilities necessary to kill single ground-based individuals without expending large amounts of ammunition. Nevertheless, it seemed quite conceivable that if a high-profile target became available, and that had performed actions deemed unacceptable and beyond legal retribution, the operators of the osp might indeed choose to act. As a result, US and other government officials enacted elaborate safety protocols that would make it almost impossible for the osp to target the president. Similar protocols were enacted in China, Russia, the UK, and numerous smaller nation states through Africa and the middle east.

The UN reacted by strongly condemming the osp, stating that it's interference constituted a very serious breach of national soveriegnty. Small protests, both for and against the osp, broke out throughout the world, though most of these protests really utilized the notion of the osp as a prop for internal issues. And during all of the earthbound controversy the operators remained completely silent.

However, an incident in the Congo last year marked a very serious step in activities of the o.s.p. Apparently, local militia had engaged certain ethnic populations with a campaign of terror, backed with clear support from the Congo's president. After destruction of the president and his cabinet, Congo elected a replacement government that effectively signed a sort of peace treaty with the osp.

By that time, the operator of the osp continued to communicate soley through news agencies, using email through a system of anonymous remailers. Through this system the new government of the Congo proposed that all proceedings be audited by and made visible to the operators of the osp. In exchange, the government could call upon the services of the osp through an encrypted "black net" channel which disguised the location of the operator to support it's good-will efforts to bring order to the countryside. This fact was highly publicized within the Congo so that only a single application of force from the osp was needed. The guerilla and largely gangster-like insurgency dissappeared practically overnight.

Of course, there are still many problems in the Congo and justice is administered in a highly skewed fashion. But the problem of their being multiple Generalissimos running around was effectively ended, allowing the local populace to focus on more mundane matters related to brining properity to their impoverished nation.

Because of the powerful wave of change enabled by the osp, the osp came to be to be associated with a certain diety in the local Yoruba religion, Abezha Mbungu. Of course, local adherents of the religion are aware that the osp consists of a high technology platform orbiting the earth along with at least one human operator, but this seems to be relatively unimportant. The osp has been largely equated to Abezha Mbungu, who has now been said to turn his face towards the world of human affairs. Government soliders and officers in interior regions of the congo are now said to wear uniforms with a red star-burst-like insignia, indicating the osp. In other words, they see themselves as servants of the osp, which is in turn a Yoruba diety, or at least channels the energy of this diety.

Currently, the US and other governments are intensely worried about an actual nation state that has become closely associated with the osp. With orbital support from the osp, this nation might decide to become arbiter of the world's affairs, or perhaps merely a haven for operators seeking justice on rouge governments throughout the world. And although the vast majority of the actions of the osp could be argued to have been on a certain level "just", it is extremely unlikely that the human operators of the osp will be to determine 'right" and "wrong" across a huge variety of world cultures and circumstances. Moreover, an osp nation-state represents a destabilising factor in the affiars of world governments. On the other hand, human individuals seem to have singularly benefitted from the actions of the osp which seems to step in precisely when governments fail.

The next year will be very interesting when it comes to determining the osp's role in world affairs. Will it become the mere tool of a megalomaniac, accreting power and worldly control (or at least accreting influence), or will the osp end up acting as a reminder to individuals in governments throughout the world that the time has come for them to take their jobs seriously, as servants of their local populations? Over and above this would appear to be the philosophical question of whether an individual (or small group of individuals) can actually accomplish any form of good through the excerisize of their will over others, given perhaps the best of intentions coupled with unassailable force.

Monday, March 07, 2005

orbital support platform, pt 2

Although initial application of the orbital support platform (or "o.s.p.", using the lower-case convention of it's operator) seems to have been for purely "humanitarian" causes and other clear cases of unrequited justice, over the last few years a subtle pattern has become discernable. Or rather, it is becoming apparent that the operator(s) of the o.s.p. have an agenda that transcends the merely "humanitarian" (if you are willing to describe it's operation as humanitarian).

The application in Pakistan is a good example, as are other cases in the US (for instance, the destruction of a Ku Klux Clan chapter that was responsible for the beating deaths of 3 black young man), in Rawanda (a local militia was actually terminated after massacreing a small town) and in Germany (a Neo-Nazi group that had layed siege to a compound containing Turkish immigrant workers was annhialated). In all of these cases the crimes has already occurred, and the o.s.p. was merely doling out a form of justice as it is perceived by its operator.

Prior to widespread knowledge of the existence of the o.s.p., such activities would appear to be somewhat pointless: Justice, as it is traditionally administered, has as its primary function a deterrent. In other words, knowledge of the possibility of consequences and punishment is supposed to prevent crime and make society safe. The o.s.p. was at first apparently pursuing a course that is much closer to "revenge" insofar as its activities (and potential application) were unknown to the general populace, thereby incapable of generating any sort of deterrence. Of course, some have argued that the operators of the o.s.p. were slowly trying to make the world a better place by reducing the number of criminals that would apparently go unpunished by local governments, but the size of group destroyed (or apparently destroyable) by the o.s.p. would appear to make that a particularly impractical solution to the worlds' issues.

Eventually, however, the operator(s) of the o.s.p. indeed contacted the press and were able to provide unequivocal proof of their identity as operator of the o.s.p. In their first press release from 2 years ago, the o.s.p. announced:

NEWSIRE - orbital support platform
Conditions for coalminers in many parts of rural China have remained unacceptable, with over 3500 miners killed this year alone. The orbital support platform has discovered that provincial authorities in Gansu province have received payment from mining organizations in order to maintain the status quo. Those officials have decided to do nothing to improve safety conditions for miners despite being presented on 4 different occasions (on 3/7, 6/8, 9/19 and 10/17) with unequivocal information about conditions and dangers. Therefore, the orbital support platform is giving provincial officials 17 days to revamp safety codes and laws and to enforce any applicable laws concerning safety and mining conditions. Failure to do so within the allotted time will most likely result in application of the o.s.p.'s ground-directed tactical capabilities.

Although the release received a large amount of attention from press agencies (who were now 'officially' notified of the existence of the o.s.p.), the directive was ignored in China and regarded as some form of political gamesmanship on the part of a hostile foreign government (the US was indirectly implicated). Within a week after the deadline, all Gansu officials that might be connected with safety legislation in the Provice were exterminated, via two separate space-based volleys.

This application of the osp, combined with the press release, brought awareness of the osp to the general public, most of whom supported the actions of the osp. More than that, however, it had another affect that has deeper implications for world affairs. In the US, which imports several million tons of Chinese coal annually, organized labor joined with local coal lobbies to press for high tarriffs in Chinese coal. The argument, which many Americans found themselves agreeing with, was that there was no way an American worker could compete with the low cost of Chinese labor, particularly given that the Chinese coal industry spent practically nothing on worker safety and regarded coalminers as essentially disposable. Eventually, politicians succumbed to the mounting and unified pressure and raised tarriffs, revitalizing US coal.

Needless to say, this episode has made government officials worldwide quite nervous. First of all, seeing any kind of tarriffs go up due to labor or other pressures has made US officials intensely nervous. More than this, however, was the fact that a small, pinpoint attack by the osp caused it.
In other words, whether intentional or not, the operator of the osp was beginning to affect international trade policy.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

orbital support platform (pt 1)

An interesting situation has arisen in world affairs, inconceivable a decade or two ago. A single, anonymous individual has become a player in international politics. This individual does not represent the interests of any nation but, apparently, himself alone, yet in certain matters consideration must be given to this person as if he/she were a nation.

Of course, this has been a sensitive issue for some time, as the existence of the individual has been known to the US government and it's allies for several years now. Actions perfomed by this individual have been known to various governments throughout the world for at least eight years, however, though attributed to various governments or terrorist organizations.

Basically, what this individual (who may actually be male, female, or even a group of individuals) has done was surreptitiously place into orbit an unknown number of weapon platforms, each able to deliver enough fire power to kill perhaps as many as 20 ground-based individuals during any one volley. This capability has been used relatively sparingly over the years, in part because of what is obviously a finite amount of ammunition as well as the relative rarity with which such activities could further the possible goals of this individual.

How this occurred is pretty well undertood, however, though told by officials with a mixture of embarrasment, awe, and just plain anger at the incompetence of all agencies involved. Apparently, the individual disguised the weapons platforms as commercial satellites, purchasing launches with French, US, and Chinese space agencies.

In retrospect, the mistakes by all of these agencies would appear almost stupid, as none of the agencies even conceived of the possibility that private individuals might actually try to "smuggle" offensive weapons into space through a government agency. And though on-board weapons systems were fairly cleverly disguised as propulsion/adjustment systems, a thorough battery of tests could have certainly detected the satellites for what they actually were. Indeed, the kinds of checks and balances that should have been put in place to prevent just such an occurrence weren't there, basically due to the lack of imagination and bureaucratic lethargy. The o.s.p. (as it's often referred to--small case letters as utilized by the operator) was later routinely described by officials and state spokesmen as "inconceviable", "unimaginable", and an act of "sheer supergenius", created by a "mastermind". However, those terms can probably be characterized as a subtle form of spin, and an attempt to convince the public that officials were not merely asleep at the switch. In retrospect, however, the operation was probably not all that difficult, given enough funds. Most (if not all) of the satellites' components were purchased "off the shelf", so to speak, from American, European, as well as Chinese agencies. So the only real "genius" (if the term can be applied at all) is in recognizing the lack of preparedness of the various agencies to prevent just such a potentiality.

The one aspect of the deployment of the o.s.p. that does come close to meriting any of the terms, however, is in the actual deployment. In order to prevent the o.s.p from being taken down, hundreds of "dummy" satellites were deployed in a large variety of orbits. The dummy satellites are very low-cost minimally functional satellites that perhaps offer some telemetry and relay services to the osp, but otherwise are nearly empty and very low cost. This makes the task of identifying the actually equipped osp satellites difficult, particularly with their obfscuration strategies. Ground-directed actions taken by any satellite of the o.s.p. seem to only occur when there are a number of "candidate" satellites overhead, so that it's extremely difficult to determine which satellite (ie, "real" or "dummy") was responsible, thus preventing space-based removal (or, more accurately, making the potential cost of space-based retrieval of hundreds of satellites prohibitive). And as yet, ground-based weapons systems do not have the capability to remove space-based satellites.


Another thing to note was that the individual did not attempt a "take over the world" scenario as in movies, etc..., and indeed did not even announce their existence for the first few years of operation of the o.s.p.. Local application of the orbital weapons were in very specialized circumstances, with few or no witnesses, so that the results were normally attributed to local opposing politcal factions. Indeed, this fact made international relations significantly more difficult in certain cases, as shall be discussed. Eventual supporters of the o.s.p. claim that all operations of the o.s.p. were for completely justifiable causes. For instance, the o.s.p. seems to have killed the tribal chiefs in a villiage in Northern Pakistan for the decison several years ago to allow for a punishment of rape to be applied to a divorced woman of the town. After the verdict (which was carried out by 6 individuals) the woman proceeded to press for justice against both the elders as well as the rapists, and though her case was actually heard by several provincial courts, the original deciision by the chiefs was sustained. When it became clear that the case had pretty much died, the operator of the o.s.p. seems to have decided to inflict his own judgement and killed most of the chiefs as well as most of the rapists, during a meeting they were having to discuss the case. The o.s.p. shot straight through a roof of a one-story building, collapsing it onto the group. No "innocent" parties were apparently killed.

For the first few years of operation of the o.s.p, the operator(s) seem to have pursued a special form of "vigilante justice", though the instances seem to have been very carefully selected. All of the documented cases seem to occur when local justice has broken down, and when there is a very high degree of certainty of guilt of the targeted parties (or more often when the perpetrators do not deny guilt but claim the actions were no crime). In addition, in all of the cases the local "guilt" of targeted parties seems to hold irregardless of the local moral code in place. For instance, even in Pakistan the decisions by the tribal chiefs was derided as unquestionably un-Islamic. Thus, it was said that the o.s.p. operators seem to be extremely careful from a public relations point of view. Politcal motivations were often ascribed to the operators of the o.s.p, and bitter complaints about interference and destabilization were levied, but the actual "moral" judgement that seems to have been made in the application of force by the o.s.p. was almost never debated.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Pannini Class

Sorry. There won't be much about the actual class in this post. I'm also continuing my fairly mundane post streak here. Ah well. Ya gotta work through these dry spells. If there's any momentum whatsoever, go with it and see where it takes you. If there's just one step to take, you take it. Anyway, got on the E train in Forest Hills. When I entered, there was a strong smell of wet dog, so I looked around for a homeless guy. Finding one, sleeping, I moved down the car a bit and sat down. Still some wet dog smell, but less. Looking across from me I see an old black woman with a small head and dentureless jaw. She wore a greenish jacket that was pretty dirty and at her feet were 4 plastic shopping bags, stuffed with clothes and other survival items. A classic "bag lady". When I blew my nose she quickly reached out and grabbed the germs in her right fist, and then shook the germs, apparently, to kill them. Then she flung the germs away from her. She did this a couple of times. Some people are somewhat functional and homeless, this lady was not.

Up by 42nd street a quartet of black folks gets on and announces that they will be entertaining us by singing the 12th song from their CD, whereupon they break into a really fine rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". They are probably unaware of the fact that portions of that song were directly lifted from a traditional African song. There's the possibility, then, they are singing a song that some of their ancestors sang.

Getting off at 23rd street on Saturday morning I got that same odd feeling I get in some parts of Manhattan, particularly ones that gentrification has not made over yet. There's a peculiar quiet that only empty streets in NYC can radiate, and that out-of-towners are probably completely unaware of (the only movie that has ever portrayed this quiet is "Do The Right Thing"). I get out by the flat iron building and walk over.

The class is fine and dandy but a bit overwhelming for this non-cooker. On the other hand, there's something very powerful about getting down-and-dirty with any set of physical materials. With anything you must do with skill with your hands, there's a certain power, I think, to learning that. Materials don't lie, they don't tell you you're doing just great when you're not...materials burn, materials break, or materials blindly begin to yield to your master plan, but only if you understand their "Tao" or essential character. And you only come to understand that essential character through dealing with them a lot, and making plenty of mistakes.

For me, cooking is a whole new world, so it was very satisfying eating a Pannini that I had grilled, using bread I had made with a Pesto sauce I had blended to taste (with some brie and Sopressata). Actually, I had handled all of these ingredients individually before, so there was something empowering in moving beyond merely buying and consuming raw materials. It was completely new territory for me. I have the basics, yes, but it's time to move on to a new stage.

Friday, March 04, 2005

New York Wildlife

This morning on the news the newschopper was hoovering over a beached seal on the coast of the Bronx. Oddly, seals and (apparently) the occasional sea lion are now periodically seen in the East River or up in the Bronx.

Funny, but a few years ago a Hyena somehow made it's way down into the Bronx and scurried around for a few days in some of the big parks up there. Local kids reported seeing a really odd looking dog-like think skulking about, but they were ignored until a cop happened to see it.

Tomorrow I'll take my day-long Pannini class on 23rd street...I've never liked cooking, but I've taken little tiny baby steps along directions that felt "natural" and fun. First it was making cappucinos, then learning about wines, and now I'll throw Panninis into the mix.

Next week (or possibly the week after) Scuba diving lessons!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Car Alarm

Ugh. Lost a couple of hours of sleep last night due to a car alarm across the street.

Actually, my sleeping brain put up a good fight, I think, as the alarm was not super-loud and after it's full sequence it seemed to shut down. But then it would start all over again.

After about half an hour of waiting for it to go away on its own, I turned on the lights and called the cops. Oddly, the alarm stopped going off permanently at the point, so I suspect we have some car thieves percolating into the neighborhood: They deliberately set off the car alarms multiple times getting people to ignore them while they hot-wire them and circumvent the alarm. A light going on means someone's calling the cops so they leave.

So trying to get back to sleep I read some more "Dance Dance Dance" my Murakami, one of my favorite authors these days. Actually, he more or less writes the same book over and over again, but it's so friggin' far out and amusing that it's hard to get tired of the recycled themes and ideas.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Kirstie Alley Invention

Advertisements featuring that horrible Kirstie Alley have been showing up all around town. As one went by on a bus I had a great idea.

What I need is a stack of giant stickers that I can apply to the surface of such advertisements. The stickers should look like realistic vomit, complete with pinkinsh chunks. That way, from a distance, it'll look as if someone threw up on Kirstie Alley's picture, or any other marketing image one feels like 'modifying'.

My Career in Music

Actually, any possibility of an actual career in music probably died when I was about 5 or 6 years old. Over the last year or two all this different "facts" kind of came together and I was finally able to understand some things.

For me, the moment I now point to as precisely when as precisely when I would not become a professional musician is the famous "There's nothing left but a packet of instant mashed potatos" incident in Chicago, which occurred while my father was on the road with Sy Zidner and his pink suit. This sounds like it's about being poor, and avoiding pverty, but not really. But let me back up and tell the story properly.

My mother and father met at the Eastman School of Music, which is part of the University of Rochester. It's a well-known music conservatory here in the states, focusing more on high-end orchestral players rather than soloists (which is more the Juliard thing). My mother had actually been a sort of prodigy or at least an oddity as a young female trumpet player (look at an orchestra today and you still will see almost no female brass players), performing as a trumpet soloist with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra when she was like 14.

She had grown up under less than auspicious circumstances, however. She grew up in Worcester Mass and was conceived out of wedlock, and was about to be born out of wedlock when my Grandfather (who I discovered in my adult years I am not a blood relative of) married my Grandmother, who died about 2 months ago. In their community of Lithuanian immigrants, people would cluck their tongues at my grandmother and her bastard child. This story gets far more dark and complicated, but it's not yet time to speak of those things.

Suffice it to say, the Trumpet and music were a major self-esteem-saver for my mother. Their removal from her life would have deep consequences.

Meanwhile my father had been from Galveston Texas, and there's a long story that could be told there that includes teenage sex with Janis Joplin and going to HS with the Winter Brothers. Oh, and "working in the oil fields", which I have found out recently only amounted to a single summer. But for some reason my father emerged from Texas with decidedly left-wing ideas and a refusal to worry about the consequences of speaking out about one's belief.

So at Eastman he "fought the power" and, as a result, experienced the vestiges of the Blacklist system. An offer from the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra was withdrawn all of a sudden and so on (this story ends happily, I guess you'd say, with my father doing a 20 year stint at the Metropolitan Opera as well as working with Pops, Ellington, Ella, Ray Charles, and many other of his musical heroes).

So after graduating from Eastman we first of all hit the road as a family, and then my father hit the road with various Jump Jazz bands, sometimes for months at a time. (Eg, Sy Zidner, with his big pink zoot suit, who would get on the bus intercom and berate the band: "Just remember! They don't come to hear you play they come to look at my suit!") Towards the end of our time in Chicago he came back with a broken leg, the tour bus having gotten into a head-on collision, killing 6. The need to pay bills, however, mean he shortly had to resume touring, however, with a broken leg (and same van driver, BTW).

Now don't worry...all of these are relevant details...we're coming to a point here.

As for timing, I was born in March, almost exactly 9 months after my parents graduated from Eastman (in fact, they had their wedding the day after graduation...Chuck Mangione was their best man, by the way, and that could lead us into another long story...). So this was either a marriage of necessity, or I was conceived during a honeymoon.

Flash forward to Chicago in the late 1960s, and there's my mother effectively "stranded" with kids while her husband was on the road for months and months, sending money back. Was this what all of her trumpet playing had been leading up to? And this one thing she was really good at, the one thing people would applaud her for and that was holding up her self-esteem, this I took away from her by being born.

And then of course one morning I got up early and dug around in the cupboards looking for food. All that was left was a packet of instant mashed potatos and, when my mother saw this, she kind of chuckled in disbelief saying, "Huh huh...oh my God, oh my God..." I said, "what's the problem, mom? We can just buy some more food." And this might have been true. But symbolically, at least, it meant something far deeper to my mother and is, in my mind, the trigger that basically sent her inside herself for many years after that. And I think the power of this event was not so much as a symbol of poverty per se but rather, as a symbol of unpredictability, loneliness and anonymity. In fact that is, perhaps, what poverty itself ultimately can be in the US.


More than that, even as a child I wondered why she seemed to resent me, and now I understand. By being born, I was in effect 'responsible' for my mother not being able to pursue her trumpet playing and the subsequent collapse of her self-esteem. A career in music, therefore, was associated in my mind with not just poverty, but instability, loneliness, and the ultimate potential disintegration of a family.

Hum. Maybe one more thing...in the mid 70s I actually started playing trombone for a while, and my father gave me a trombone he had been saving for just that possibility. One day, however, he asked to borrow that trombone, as it had some sort of feature that was needed to play a new off-broadway show. "Don't worry, I'll give this horn right back to you...this show's pretty dumb. No way it's going to survive." But it turned out to be a Chorus Line, which ran for something like 13 years (my father played the entire run). So I never got that horn back. I did study tabla for a while, after having seen Allah Rakha and his son Zakkir Hussein play with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, but it never occurred to me to consider doing that professionally, or even playing in a group.

As for me I grew up loving music, and was exposed to more than you could imagine. The first live piece I clearly remember was The Right of Spring played at the New York Philarmonic (with my dad in the orchestra). By age 17 I had seen Wozzeck's Lulu twice at the Met. And that's just scratching the surface. Despite my love for music (which continues unabated till today), I have never even seriously thought about trying to support myself through music. In other words, I knew full well the consequences of a career in music, because I had lived those consequences, and even been those consequences, and there's no way I could have ever considered it. And in my family, there's no such thing as a "hobby" in music...you're either practicing a few hours a day or you're wasting your time.

There's lots of other stories I could tell, but I think my fate was sealed early on. As it turned out, I was inspired by the moon race era and fell in love with science and math. That served me well, for a while, and the things I saw and discovered over there (eg, femtosecond pulses) were wondrous. On the other hand, I do wonder what my life would have become if things had been different. Oh, I know I would have become a musician, just like my brothers. But what kind of music? Would it have been unique and powerful, or would the Punk era have left me a corpse with a needle in my arm? I really don't know.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Queens in the Snow


Snow 2
Originally uploaded by The Magic Lantern.
Yes, Queens can actually look beautiful in the Snow. Can you believe this is a mere 4 blocks to the E/F trains?

The Power of Music?

OK...gotta "go there".

I know some readers of this Blog are musicians. Some of you do quite well economically, some of you don't. Some of you are able to live with your circumstances, humble though they may be, and rejoice that you have largely escaped from the realm of power and mere dead things, and I salute you. You are the astronauts of humanity, daring to live where few of us are able to reside...if you are a good musician you can SEE the reality of your situation but you also know that's not all there is to things. We pedestrians on the giant conveyor belt of life can sense the world you live in, but we don't have the courage to live there or believe it can sustain us.

On the other hand, the music business ain't exactly a wonderful thing either. There are those that live in the realm of power that have made their nests over there, dwelling on the fringes of that world. They will sometimes feast on those that sometimes pop up out of that world for a bit. And when you encounter one of these, it makes you doubt whether the world you thought you lived in was real, or instead just a dreamy figment of your imagination. It's a tough situation because the world of POWER can exert power over you at times, and that, in a sense, feeds belief in the world of power, and would appear to weaken the world you live in. You, on the other hand, are at a distinct disadvantage becuase your world is not centered on power, and not accustomed to wielding it. That is why you remain of vital importance to the rest of us...your music reminds us that there are in actuality many different worlds. In a higher sense then, the world of power is not any more real or valid than your world, but it's able to put up enough drama and trouble and struggle to certainly make it seem that way. But music from that world sucks and you know it. So do the rest of us.

A few years ago I had a dream, and I didn't understand it at the time, but perhaps I'm starting to. In the dream some of us were periodically shuttling over to a parallel world that was just like this world, building for building (in my dream it looked like parts of Astoria Queens), but the population was very small...the "natives" of that world were basically zombies. No, not flesh-eating zombies, but walking dead autonomous robots basically that wandered around in vague resemblance of the activities of the living.

Some of us from our world performed tasks or traded goods over there. Sometimes we would meet up like expats and have small dinner parties and whatnot. But we tended to keep the noise levels down, as sometimes the dead would be drawn to the activities of the living, and if you went out your apartment door you would find one of the dead just hanging out in the hallway near your door, drawn to the sounds and laughter associated with life. They couldn't/wouldn't hurt you as far as we knew, but it was always pretty unnerving having one of them around so you tended to avoid them whenever possible.
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