TRANSFORMATIONS

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I have not been a consistent church goer but once had a conversation about Institutional Churches with my beloved grandfather, who was a mentor, and a very active minister for more than 60 years until the moment of his death at age 94. I once suggested to him that powerful Christian Institutions did not seem as Christian as I would hope, so I hoped therefore to rely on the Gospel. He understood, but stressed that without institutions, the gospels could be lost or ignored. I could not refute that, and continue to be the best Christian I can, while gratefully and respectfully remaining outside the institutional structures of Christiantity as a follower of Christ and the Gospel.

I consider that stance to be the essence of the protestantism, and the Reformation, predating even Martin Luther. Protest, protestism and protestantism, passed through many transformations. Methodist, Hugenot, Puritain, and, many more. Who can yet say, perhaps the quasi religious activism seen world wide today, which claims that no life is more worthy than any other based on race, wealth, education, nationalty, gender or lack of it, political affiliation or any spurious measure.

It seems to me that Black Lives Matter, for example, is only one aspect of 2020 Transformations where there is a fervor… a fever …that is quasi religious. Christianity, while not at the center of 2020 Transformation, seems conflicted. In the South America a world I know best other than the USA, what many call sects affect the lives of people far more immediately, and significantly, than established religion. Maybe that is one reason I admire the fringes of Christianity. That is where the fervor is, where the life lives, and where there are living Tranformations.

The Animal Bite

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It was a typical overnight in the Emergency Department; busy, but routine. I picked up the chart of my next patient, which was labeled, ‘Animal Bite’. I thought “ Animal? What Animal!?”

I considered thethe rabies prevention routine, a subject dear to me because I had done the original study for Cutter Labs to determine the dose of Human Rabies Immune Golbulin, RIGH.

But the patient was a young woman who was disrobed and gowned, and sat primly on the exam table. She confirmed that she had been bitten. “Where where you bitten?” I asked.

“ Sam’s Bar and Grill. On Auburn Boulevard.”

“ I mean, Where is the bite?

“ There” she said, pointing to her vagina…

“ How did that happen?”

“I was picking up a Fifty from this SOB when the bastard bit me!”

“ You mean, like a fifty dollar bill from his mouth?”

“ I wouldn’t do that for a twenty!”

“Where is the bite?” I asked again, a bit stupidly.

She immediately laid back and opened her legs, placing a finger on her left labia majora… the lips of the vagina.

There was a shallow bite with no active bleeding or separation of the edges that would need sutures. Three times a day ten minute compress with soap and water would allow it to heal quickly. She had no significant health risk for infection, took no medication excepting birth control pills, and her last tetanus immunization had been two years ago.

I couldn’t help reflecting wryly: Son of a Bitch, means dog. I should ask about the last rabies shots, or quarantine him at the pound for two weeks! But I asked instead,

“Do you work at the bar?”

“ I do. Wait tables; serve food and drinks.”

“ And were working when injured?”

“Yep!”

“ Then this could be considered a Workers’ Compensation case and I need to report it.”

“ No! It was my own business; not the Bar’s”

“ Did you report the injury to the owner?”

“ Of course not! My insurance will cover it.”

Technically it could be interpreted either way. But I saw no reason to reject the gentle lady’s decision; no reason to shackle her with an arbitrary law without her approval. I gave her the instructions, and said:

“ OK; please use the warm soapy packs three times a day, ask your doctor to look at the bite in a week, and return here anytime if needed. And of course:

“Stay away from that Animal!” She smiled demurely and said:

“ Yes, next time, I suppose I’d need a C note!”

Book Review: The Great Events Of Famous Historians

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Publisher: The National Alumni limited edtion

Set #13 prepared in for the original purchaser. 20 Volumes:  5867 B.C to 1902 A.D. Published in 1904. Each volume 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.3, inches; weight: 1.6 pounds. Certification is signed by the editor and secretary, Rossiter Johnson, with an embossed seal of The National Alumni. Originals or translations from original documents with commentary by historians, philosophers, and writers.

Like the one pictured above, all volumes are bound with a different facsimile of binder’s art drawn from the great libraries and museums of Europe, gold stamped on the front, and blind stamped on back. The spines are also gold stamped: title, volume number, and dates coverered. All volumes include engraved illustrations with captions. The top edge is gilt. The front and bottom edges are feathered, or rough cut.

These elegant and beautifully written books are more than one hundred and fifteen years old, so it is somehow dissapointing that no one had ever opened any volume until now.

Some pages in my set were originally incompletely cut at the bottom or side page edge, so were separated later. All volumes are in very good condition, without markings. No pages are loose or missing. The bindings are intact, with rare minor incomplete separations. There is faint fraying at the top of the spine in some volumes. The covers, in various colors, are very well preserved.

They are not easy reads. Language is the sine qua non of humanity: always alive, changing, growing, replacing and renewing its skin like a snake. Therefore, centuries old documents, letters, codes, laws, or first hand reports like those of Fernando Colon, Cristobal’s brother, are translated and debated by those who are often themselves late in their own lives. The 2020 reader must be willing to sometimes browse up words or crack a good dictionary. At least I had to.

I felt a little guilty about opening these original books for the first time; on line they seem to be valuable; my set was perhaps moreso before I broke it open. Yet to invade these beautiful volumes is well worth some guilt, time, and effort, no matter what they are allegedly worth untouched. Half way through the set, I still find each one so thick, and myself so dense, as to forget or not understand a great deal.

I suppose I will read them again, some far day, provided my eyes last that long. In any event they are available on line. I reccommend them to people who enjoy history; it is a treat to hear the voice, read original letters or essays of those who otherwise have come to us indrectly in the words of others.

Chaos of e.Technology

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Great technological development precipitates societal chaos which—in a generation or so– can lead to constructive cultural and societal change. A specific example was the time when the new technology of cheap paper and printing replaced parchement and hand-scripting. Afterward access to information, or knowledge and debate could no longer be controlled by the Church/ Monarchy cabal.

Printing and pamhlets appeared everywhere despite attempts to restrict them; they were uncntrolled, inaccurate, and dangerous to the unschooled masses. Perhaps, but also liberating. John Milton’s Aereopagitica is instructive in regard to the ‘dangers of the ‘net’. The British State had claimed the uneducated would be greatly harmed by the lies, inaccuracies, and deceptions of unapproved pamphlets and wildcat printers. It was, as always , about ‘protecting the people!’ ( Those ignorant clots!)

Yet the Age of the Pamphlet was unstoppable. Within a few decades came the death of State/Church power, the writings of Locke and Hume, the pamplets and writings by founders of the USA; the US Revolution; the Bill of Rights; the US Constitution, and a vast expansion of representative democracy.

This Century, perhaps better called the Cybercentury begins with the vast expansion of disruptive technology. The resulting world wide chaos is only one result; but– if the past is credible– will pass in a generation or so and civilization will survive and thrive.

We can expect chatotic change as a given resulting from technologic change. It is seen and felt in it’s excesses: The paucity of frank, respectful, discourse is an unintended consequence of our very liberating e.era.

Anyone with an iphone can bite the apple like Eve in Eden, and thereby threaten God, because knowledge is at least superficially, Power. The power to send and recieve knowledge,or, tweety opinions with the majority of the world’s people, likewise makes the Media/ State cabal tremble.

The cabal, like a 13th century church/state, had controlled information. But there is now almost no secret. Individuals all over the world hold the power of the press and video in their hands. It allows us all to witness police brutality, and hypocracy clothed in the robes of Office. Perhaps, in a more general sense, all privacy is virtually dead, or subject to assault by e.informants, e.whistleblowers, or supposed unworthy, untitled, private people. There is no way to flee, to entirely escape, the e.world, and give up its seductrive advangages of freedom of information and expression, mobility, information, speech and even action.

The State and Media are bought and sold, and owned by Wealth thatm fears loss of control; they envelop themselves in the robes of deep but self serving concern, and express apocalyptic predictions and expressions of fear for the ‘people’…average defenseless, (read free) persons. Nonetheless, those persons are not stupid, even when misled or misinformed. They are wise to those tired deceptions. They react on their own, as implied by James Surowiecki in his book, The Widsom of Crowds. Yet that is only the tip of that iceberg. We can see beneath the water’s surface!

Chaos! Acting out! Blocking streets and highways; Marching (only theoretically) peacefully! Looting; trashing of stores and streets by mobs including the priveleged youth and elite of universities. Communication in the form of sentient dialogue is rare and inonsequential. Tolerance is rare on the net, in the street, in government, and academia.

What to do? I believe it is wise, personally, to do nothing. Step aside, watch the parade if you can. ( Considering history and the human condition, somebuy shotguns of course!) Voltaire stirred up the world for much of his life but after age 90 advised it was best to ‘Tend your Garden’. But I can’t do that. So when trolled, even by people I know, respect, and admire, I respond this way:

Dear FRIENDS

I admire and, trust you, delight in being with you and hearing from you. Ours is among the finest relationships people ever have. When we have disagree, we discuss our differences honestly, even fiercely, without offense. We are friends, not merely e.friends because so many e.friendships are faux friendship; diffuse, anonymous; impersonal; yet as your entry today is addressed to an individual person, in this case, to Me from You, my Friend, I respectfully reply:

Yes: e.messaging, e.broadcasting to a wide range of e.friends is easy, efficient, It is satisfying to forward a message, even not one of our own, whenever we agree and it is strong, impactful. Yet it’s also, please forgive me, cowardly, because it does not genuinely invite interpersonal dialogue.

For those reasons e.broadcasting tends to become insensitive, abusive, offensive, and irrational. It is is not specifically addressed to real people, let alone friends , but to an inanimate list. That list is made up of real people, among them true friends. Yet all are invisible, like cowards who riot with hood covered faces. Logically therefore they are non existent, carry no bite, no sting, no meaning. But when rioters or looters are publicized for profit by media, or an abusive e.broadcast comes from a flesh and blood friend, it becomes rude, crude, and offensive.

When I receive such a an abusive, dismissive, or rude message from you I try to remember it is not from you to me personally. But because it comes to me from, or through, you, it affects me, hurts me more than I can deny.

I have not ‘unfriended’ you; I hope to easily share little pleasures, photos, thoughts, observations, or experiences with you but with a few others. I can delete a message but can’t yet bring myslef to delete You. In fact I’m not sure how, to delete you…I don’t want to learn. (What a blood chill term!.) .. So, my friend, please understand I try to not re- send, forward messages that may be bigoted, demeaning, dismissive, or insulting; that seems to me to be unworthy of either me or you. Worse, it fails to address the recipient of my forward as a sentient person. I believe you and I both are able to reject demeaning and abusive missives, but I feel that if I myself send or forward them, you would be as hurt, as I am when you do that sort of thing.Therefore, I want to ask you a favor. It may sound strange but here it is:

Could you please ‘unfriend’ or remove me from your electronic e.broadcasting media accounts?. Right– I don’t know what that actually means, but you surely get the picture! Just continue to write to me personally, freely, even if you want to express a strong opinion you know I may disagree with. I cherish that.

Love, from Me,

Your In the Flesh Friend

The Great Events By Famous Historians

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Review, Volume III p 209-210 Pliny: The Destruction of Pompeii;

with comments on a volcanic eruption, and earthquakes in Chile

During the Great Sequester of 2020, I have been deep into The Great Events By Famous Historians , twenty volumes rescued from a long ago garage sale whose details escape me. The frontispage of Volume I states the set is number13 of 100 prepared for Frederick E. Starnes, attested by the signature of Rossiter Johnson, Secretary of the National Alumni, Copywrite 1904. The page has a black and white etching of a castle with yellow lighted windows under a yellow moon and the shadow of a bat. The set is a limited edition registered in the name of the owner.

The binding is a facsimile of an original at the British Museum executed for Jaques August de Thou. All the other bindings are also unique… for exmple, vol VI is from the Bibliotique Nationale, Paris, presented to Geoffrey Tory Printer to King Francis I. The contents of each volume include essays or translations of original material. It seems clear that much thought and preparation was involved. But enough; one must read these remarkable volumes to enjoy them; for me, there was a learning curve.

Despite the impressive presentation, and organization, my particular set seems much less professionally printed than I expected by comparison to other books I have from the same time. In the first place the paper is of poor quality, , and poorly put together. The pages are thick, and brittle, yellowing as if they had been in the heat of a Sacramento Valley garage for more than 100 years. Moreover, about 10% of the page edges are incompletely separated; the cut edges are not uniform. It may that is intentional, an artful presentation, but I had to complete the separations. But I wouldn’ t part with them and am determined to read them all.

Among the first entries of Volume I is the Code of Hammurabi. It consists of some three hundred laws, about property including slaves, and children; offenses or assaults, the famous ‘an eye for an eye ‘, life for a life, and hand for a hand. A physician who attempts to cut and heal a hand and fails, loses a hand.

Volume III, A.D. 13-409….The destruction of Pompeii and Heraculinium . By Pliny The Younger, appears on p 209-210. It is a letter to a historian, by Pliny who had gone by ship with his uncle, Pliny the Elder, in A.D., 79 to rescue friends at Pompei.

When they prepare to depart, a great pyroclastic surge interferes: (hot gas and volcanic matter, tephra, blowing down at between 100 and 700 kph ) It is impossible for Pliny’s ship to leave port. His letter is graphic: firey flashes, noise; rolling descent of blackness; raining pieces of lava, panic, people fleeing, trampling one another, being struck with falling material, falling down to gasp and die without apparent injury. ( likely due to volcanic gasses like carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbonyl sulfide (COS), carbon disulfide (CS2), hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), hydrogen flouride (HF), hydrogen bromine (HBr), and boron or mercury.)  The dead include Pliny’s uncle, the Elder.

I think of Chile, the long narrow volcanic country thrust up between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean by tectonic plates. From north to south, it extends 2,653 mi, but averages only110 mi across.

For more than forty years we have visited during their summer, and it is not surprising to experience temblores (tremors) or an occasional terremoto (earthquake). A chilean poet speaks of loca geografia: crazy geography.

A list of chile eaarthquakes during five centuries appears below:**The San Francisco quake of 1906 has been rated as 7.9. Often there are more than 100 quakes in a month but many are minor.Recent quakes can be seen here:https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/earthquakes/chile.html

  • ** The table below lists 76 Chile earthquakes over 7.0 grade, during the last century, and those so far in the 21st..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Chile

CenturyNumber with
M ≥ 7.0
Average per
decade
1501–16003
1601–17006
1701–18004
1801–190019
1901–2000767.6
2001–present157.5
Total123

May 22, 1960, was the most deadly earthquake recorded in Chile, with 1655 deaths mostly due to tsunamis but the most famous was in the case of a river whose course was changed, drounding a town.

Some information on a recent grade 8.8 Chile quake is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Chile_earthquake

The very first night I was in Chile, there was a temblor, noisy and prolonged for a long minute. I was in an upstairs bedroom and crept to a corner until it was over. Everone else went outside. That is usual in family homes. But in high rises people tend to stay put, avoiding the street and falling material. The reinforced concrete high rise tends to crack on the surface but never fall; they are quickly repaired. There is, I feel, no country that is better built to withstand earthquakes.

My son Fred and I were once at a rural asado (barbecue) near Chillan, the town by that name near Chillan volcano. We were sitting at a long table when a grade 5 quake occurred. No one moved, and in less than a minute, it was over. Driving down the Pan American Highway near Chillan, we had seen and heard periodic eruptions to the East, with tall plumes about every half hour. We couldn’t resist the call, and made our way to the base, camping there, watching and listening to the explosions; each sent a plume of ash and steam more than 2000 feet into the air with a sound like a nearby jet plane taking off. In the still air we could see a long line of eruption clouds marching over the Argentine border to the East.

In the morining at about 10 AM we hurriedly cimbed the lava pocked snowy slopes in silence. Arriving at the top, we waited for the next eruption to announce itself. We rested about 50 ft from the rocky berm of the volcanic mouth. It was hot and we had rushed up foolishly without taking water, because it was less than an hour climb. Suddnely, without any warning at all, Chillan erutpted. Time stopped. We stood, paralyzed. Fine ash, and small pieces of hot black rock, and lava rained on us. A smell of burning wool came from one of Fred’s socks.

Then it was over; complete silence returned. Being sobered by the experience, a little frightened, hot, and thirsty because we had left in a hurry without water to catch the next blowoff, we hurried down the slope to our camp. That night was uneventful during recurring eruptions.

The next day we climbed Chillan’s snowy southern ridge and descended into a huge snow covered valley streaked with snowmelt streams pocked with sulpherous fumaroles. We descended and and crossed hot rivers where snowy banks were lined by tropical nalca plants with leaves so big they might be used as umbrellas. *

We followed the main stream and in a few hours reached a quiet valley to camp for the night. The eruptions we experienced were, of course, nothing at by comparison to Pliny’s experience, or even to other Chile eruptions, but they are memborable for us. Years later I flew a Cessna 210 to Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile; on the way, looking down into the volcano’s throat, it was erupting, but very quietly by comparison. Chillan had chilled.

Chile is also a land of poets, and song and volcanos. Yet they do not fear the earthquakes much, having learned what they are and how to deal with them.

*

nalca leaf (from the ‘net…)

**Earthquake Magnitude Scale

MagnitudeEarthquake EffectsEstimated Number
Each Year
2.5 or lessUsually not felt, but can be recorded by seismograph.900,000
2.5 to 5.4Often felt, but only causes minor damage.30,000
5.5 to 6.0Slight damage to buildings and other structures.500
6.1 to 6.9May cause a lot of damage in very populated areas.100
7.0 to 7.9Major earthquake. Serious damage.20
8.0 or greaterGreat earthquake. Can totally destroy communities near the epicenter.One every 5 to 10 years

Thank you Mr. Pliny. Thank you CVD19 sequester. Thank You Historians even though
each volume weighs about 2 1/2 pounds and will require me that many months to read.

Homo Mutatis

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Was born H bipoda, on two legs

and ran with incomparable skill;

But now needs a third support;

And becomes Homo tripoda.

To get out of bed’s tripodal,

with a hand for support.

And a wall or a railing

when walking down stairs.

In his tripodal condition.

still as tenacious, and fierce,

as he was sure footed and fluid;

He’s angered by his condition,

Takes the beast by the throat;

Though the culptit is DNA.

The third leg becomes a cane,

And proud tripoda,

Is not that three point shooter,

making most long shots,

Early every morning,

From the three point line;

Yet if his shot won’t score,

He will take some more.

Tripoda finds his spot

scores his first long shot,

And asks the unanswerable:

“From birth as H tripoda,

and now as H mortis,

Can I reject Homo nihil?”

Or am I here this once,

But Never forever again,

At the three point line,

Under a dusty moon,

On a watery whirling rock,

In this little slice of life,

And would I do it again,

if it weren’t for Latin?”

Homo Mortis laughs aloud:

“ Worth a try, my sapient friend!

But, for here; for now;

We all speak ‘Mercan.”

I Promessi Sposi

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Alessandro Manzoni 1827

During the Sequestration of the 2020 Corona virus pandemic, I recalled Manzoni’s fine description of Plague pandemic in mid 17th century Milan. It is included in The Harvard Classics… a beautifully exectuted series, studded with reproductions of the original works, like the first draft page of I Promessi Sposi, hand written with crossouts. I am astonished to think that such fine writing was done by hand as it appears there; before word processing and browsers that make any author powerful, facile, and omniscient, if not ashamed. To think of the detail, the hours, the devotion of time it required to write back when, is humbiling.

My old Harvard Series is a bit weathered but almost unmarked. It is not only a fine collection, but a work of art. I found in I Promessi Sposi an early exemplar of the great novel, with a great description of the Milano plague.

It is written in the manner of the time… dense, long sentences, words out of coomon use. like comfit, that a browser suggests are sugar coated nuts like almonds or walnuts. Today I am still buried in the Plague, and, fascinated.

  I Promessi Sposi is considered an early masterpiece of world literature and a basis for teaching of the modern Italian, widely studied in Italian secondary schools. Many expressions, quotes and names from the novel are still common, such as Perpetua (meaning a priest’s house maid or worker) or Questo matrimonio non s’ha da fare (“This marriage is not to be performed”), used ironically.

The novel is about love and power, and the great questions about evil. Innocent suffering is the underlying theme of the book. Manzoni does not offer answers; he leaves that for the reader to meditate. A central idea is that the powerless or poor must suffer in their lives, and can only hope, at best, in divine justice, which can be expected in its entirety only in the afterlife: thereforelife should be lived with faith and endurance, and what joy can be found.

But I wanted to focus on Chapters 31-34 describing the great Milano famine and plague, of 1630 in a powerful picture of material and moral devastation.

Set in Northern Italy, or Lombardy,  in 1628, during the oppressive years of direct Spanish rule, it is seen as a veiled attack on the Austrian Empire, which controlled the region at the time. .

Lorenzo Tramaglino, or in short form Renzo, is a young silk-weaver of humble origins, engaged to Lucia, whom he loves deeply. Initially rather naïve, he becomes more cunning during the story as he is confronted with many difficulties: he is separated from Lucia and then unjustly accused of being a criminal. Renzo is somewhat short-tempered, but also gentle and honest.

  • Lucia Mondella is a kind young woman who loves Renzo; she is pious and devoted, but also very shy and demure. She is forced to flee from her village to escape from Don Rodrigo in one of the most famous scenes of Italian literature, the Addio ai Monti or “Farewell to the mountains“.
  • Don Abbondio is the priest who refuses to marry Renzo and Lucia because he has been threatened by Don Rodrigo’s men; he meets the two protagonists several times during the novel. Cowardly, and unprincipled, Don Abbondio provides most of the book’s faint comic relief; his failings are portrayed by Manzoni with a mixture of irony, sadness and pity.
  • Fra Cristoforo is a wealthy young man who kills a man in a duel, and in horror, becomes a Capuchin Friar who helps Renzo and Lucia, as a counselor; he, and the heroine are the moral compass of the novel.
  • Don Rodrigo is L’Innominato, the unamed. He is powerful, cruel and heartless, but is changed by Luci’s firm and brave rejection in the face of his aggression. He decides to forcibly prevent the marriage of Renzo and Lucia, threatens to kill Don Abbondio if he marries the two, siezes and imprisons Lucia to have his way with her.But he is rebuffed but with Christian tenderness and resolve.
  • Humbled, he converts to Christrianity, although he is the novel’s worst villain. It is, some say, a reference to the foreign domination and oppression of Lombardy, by Spain and later by the Austrian Empire.

L’Innominato

  • L’Innominato ( the Unnamed) is probably the novel’s most complex character, a powerful and feared villain of very high family, who becomes torn between his ferocious past and the increasing shame that he begins to feel for his life. It may be a reference to the historical character of Francesco Bernardino Visconti,] who was really converted by a visit of Federigo Borromeo.
  • Agnese Mondella is Lucia’s wise mother.
  • Federico Borromeo, Federigo in the book, is a virtuous and zealous cardinal; a historical character, he is a cousin of Saint Charles.
  • Perpetua is Don Abbondio’s loquacious servant who constantly calls him out.
  • La monaca di Monza  ( The Nun od Monza), is an angry,
  • bitter, sexually deprived and woman. She befriends Lucia and becomes genuinely fond of her, but her dark past haunts her. Her character is based on an actual nun, , Marianna de Leyva.
  • Griso is one of Don Rodrigo’s henchmen, a silent and treacherous man.
  • Dr. Azzeccagarbugli (“Quibbleweaver”) is a corrupt lawyer.
  • Count Attilio is Don Rodrigo’s malevolent cousin.
  • Nibbio (Kite – the bird) is the Innominato’s right-hand man, who precedes and then happily follows his master’s path of redemption.
  • Don Ferrante is a faux intellectual scholar who charges for advice that is foolish and flawed, but delivered in a cloud of words.
  • Donna Prassede is Don Ferrante’s wife, who is willing to help Lucia but is an opinionated busybody.
  • As to the plague pandemic, it has to be read to be ejoyed fully; read Chapters 31-34!

Spring

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Under inconstant skies and rain,

Bare branches  bud and swell.

Precocious blossoms

Break out in  anticipation

Of  warmth and sun

In fruitful months to come.

Petals  fall soft to earth;

And migrant birds  fly South

 With no instruction sheet,

800 number , or  tweet,

To find another tree,

And  dark  night’s sleep.

They  feel the pulse of earth

  Hear its rhythmic music

  And the  inborn song

  Of a pterosaur long gone.

After my night-long fast           

I ingest Breaking News

Iterated  words

Predicting  weather.

When day is done

And another night is gone 

We  wake up the sun

And move on  again;

Birds fly tree to tree;

From Dark to Dark again;

We from here to there,

And from now to then;

Neither birds nor I

Can see a reason why

Our species should survive

If we  are not alive.

Diary of a Wayward Dog

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I am needy; dependent on others to thrive– family, friends and associations; yet it is liberating to periodically stray off alone for a few weeks. Frankly, I read a book once written by a dog. And so I begsn to travel as a dog, either alone in the wild—nature’s home—or in the crowds of a great city. It’s probably because I have xenophilia, love of the Other…

As an American mongrel I have no pedigree, and no limits. I want to connect with everyone, but tail wagging, butt wiggling, smiling and eye contact aren’t enough. To travel in this hemisphere I need the three main American languages. My weakest American language is Brazilian, or Brazileiro. While there is some overlap with both English and Spanish, the similarities are deceptive, and the phonetic differences are: Huge–12 or 13 Brazilian vowels, and some consonants, are modified by adjacent letters and word position. What better way to learn than through total immersion!

So I went to Brazil. First I ran around rural Minas Gerais. After almost four weeks, and watching TV, I understand about 80 % if the subject is quite clear: assault, murder, robbery, ads, art shows, news, etc. But out on the street I was still almost deaf… not dumb, but no one speaks Dawg. To immerse myself more fully I moved on to the vibrant, rough, tough, raucous streets of Sao Paulo. It is 21 million people, a huge, historic, and cultured city. If Rio is the beautiful face of Brazil, Sao Paulo is its body, head, guts, and heart. It is the repository of history and culture. It features solid and functional architecture, parks, museums, art galleries, shcools, and stores. It is the industral powerhouse of the nation. Trafffic is incredible…streets sometimes 12 lanes wide in each direction!

I got to Sao Paulo on a Tuesday afternoon, terça feira (third day of the week, the first being Sunday – domingo- and the second, segunda feira— Monday.) Thick still air threw down a tropical storm, washing the air but spoiling the view.

After a few weeks I began to feel at home. At 2030 one February Summer evening the fading day was trying to hold on to the city; it almost succeeded because the place was soon all lit up bright as day. A satellite view of the earth at night suggests a planet on fire with electric lights; Sao Paulo is one of those big lighted places seen from space.

 As night comes on I like to go down Bela Cintra to slip in under the table at my favorite Paulista restaurant. The place is called Segredos do Mineiro…like ‘Secrets of Miners’. But in fact the restaurant has little to do with mines, except it refers to the character of people in Minas Gerais, called mineiros. Minas Gerais was the original Brazilian mining state an early center of Brazilian culture, industry and politics. I have seen a painting showing the drawing and quartering quartering a famous Minas dentist who was influential in the secession of Brazil from the Portuguese monarchy.

Usually I arrive at Segredo das Minas restaruant early and unnoticed, before the supper crowd appears, to lie under a dark corner table. The smell of food is tantalizing, and I know a little will drop down to me now and then or someone will feed me a bit. The air turns soft an cool. I enjoy the street view from the open veranda, at the corner of Luis Coelho and Bela Cintra. I hear the occasional rodo dos rodos, (I think that means the wheeling of car wheels).The passing footsteps and talk move along relatively quietly, by contrast with the very busy Rua Agustinas or Rua Paulista a few blocks away.

The same people often sit at my table… or I sit under their table. They are meat lovers: the menu has two pages of meats of all sorts; and feijao, (a bean stew), mandioca, (manioc), sweet potato fries, and hot soups that come boiling in big clay pots with a ladle to spoon it into a bowl. They drink beer, or wine or water sem gas (no gas) and often, after dessert, take an espresso or cortado–coffee with hot milk.

Vin studied Biology at USF for a year, on a scholarship; then came home and graduated. But, deciding he didn’t like the field, took up technical drawing, and now works for an advertising agency. Dani was a lawyer who made friends with the owner of an Italian restaurant, and quite unreasonably decided to become a chef. She got a six- month scholarship in Italy with a big time restaurant.

Dani and Vin live together, marginally by some measures, in a rental apartment. No car, use public transportation, preferring to save and spend on dreams, big Ideas, but not big Things. No marriage, no kids, no pets. They are not drug oriented, or escapist; their parents worry, What else! They watch a lot of TV, and are currrent with most TV series, like Orange is the New Black, Mad Men, and Orphan Black… where one actress plays 6 or more clones. They like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and claim it is a timeless classic. I listen to long dissertations about the crafting of the show, the use of metaphor, the significance of changing colors, clothing. At times, in typical millennial fashion pull out phones to send texts. When they are silent I wonder if they text each other!

As a stray dog, I don’t think people in relatively free if imperfect countries,– or even the most educated dogs—understand how the cyber world may change life here. It’s an old happening that technological inventions change the world in ways never expected. The printing press radically affected kingdoms and religions, and led to representative government. The e.world will lead to that sort of change now!

The people at the next table are going on loudly about world news, how sensationalist and error filled it is; how inane. They think News is not about what happens, but what sells and entertains, what is easy and profitable; what fills up empty space on the news or a talk show even when real news should be told; like now when 15 million Sao Paulo people may be forced to abandon the city for lack of water. Nothing will be said about that until the last drop of clear chlorinated water from people’s faucets is gone.

It seems millennials here are like their peers all over the world.  They celebrate diversity, are individualistic, rewrite rules, reject institutions, limits and borders, live in the internet, feed on technology, multitask, and create ‘connections’ easily. In time they will probably connect with humankind.

My dog take is that most of the ‘News’ is not evil by intent, but merely degenerate; it is often toxic, because once people are imprinted with false or very selected facts, factoids, or lies, the deception works. But what does any dog know? What I know right now is that Segredo restaurant is closing, and I’m still salivating over the sounds and smells of delicious food; all I’ve had are crumbs. Whataboutme? I dare not beg. After all, I know some fine left-overs will be in the curbside garbage after midnight. So I leave before it’s gone; otherwise the garbage collectors will take early pickings. This dog will be there first!

It seems to me Brazilians are almost reliably tolerant of dogs, and children. They seem to be considerate, even in crowds. On escalators almost always move to the right to allow people in a hurry to pass, (like the sign says!)  People are willing to answer questions, even when they aren’t clear about the question or the answer! No one seems to not know the answer to a question or not guess. They usually ignore dogs. Conversation is very animated, tonal, and hyper emotional. That doesn’t imply offense or anger; it is just the braziliero way.

Often during the daytime I travel all on the subway by making friends with children here and there… Ther’s no charge to a dog with a child in charge. The subway offers me almost unlimted access to the city:


It is said that every dog has his day, and mine suddeny is over. A pair of policia realize I am in the subway unattended. I have a Minneapolis dog licence. I realize my time has come and it is the time to run. I know the way to the airport. In a couple of hours I am safely tucked in with a capybara; like a giant water rat. He is on his way to a Minneapolis zoo. I recall that the Mall Of America is the biggest indoor mall in the USA, a perfect place for a dog in a Northern hemisphere Winter. Ciao Ciao Sao Paulo, Hello Twin Cities, Minnesota!

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*Carlos Alberto Libânio ChristoO.P., better known as Frei Betto[1] (born August 25, 1944) is a Brazilian writer, political activist, liberation theologist and Dominican friar, born in Belo Horizonte. At the age of 20, when he was a student of journalism, he entered the Dominican Order. He was later imprisoned for four years by the military dictatorship for smuggling people out of country. He is also a fine writer, for which he is forgivenn most of his political sins . This is a poem from the restaurant menu, I’ve translated it crudely losing it’s cadence, corrupting its imagery, misinterpreting its more subtle meaning: but that is what translation does!

To be Mineiro is not to say what you do, but what you will do; to pretend not to know what you know; to speak little and listen much; to let people think you a fool, to sell cheese, and have a big bank account.

A good Mineiro isn’t a drunkard, doesn’t reap the wind, doesn’t walk in the dark, or in the damp, doesn’t fear speaking with strangers.

Only believes in smoke when he sees fire, only risks when certain, never gives up a bird in the hand for two in the air.

To be Mineiro is to say ‘UAI’. To be different. To have a registered trade mark. To have a History.

To be Mineiro is to be pure and simple, humble, and modest, courageous and brave, faithful and elegant; to be Mineiro is to see the sunrise and the moon’s bright light, to hear birdsong, and the purring of cats; it is to feel the awakening of time and the dawn of life.

To be Mineiro is to be religious, and conservative; to cultivate letters and arts; to be poetic and literate; to like politics and love liberty; to live in the mountains, to have an inner life; it is to be decent.

WORD

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In the Book of Word

Chapters are Epitaphs

To honor the death

Of some immortal Truth,

Killed by the Word,

Or it’s child, Science,

Who are magicians

That survive forever.

By Word and Language

We see the unseen,

Say the unspoken

And listen to silence;

To write is to speak

With people not here,

Beyond place or time,

In both present and past.

Clay tablets, Parchament,

Papyrus, and paper,

And printing, felled

Annointed monarchs.

An electro-magnetic spectrum

breeds tele speech, and sight,

and a limitless, inter net

of wilful social media,

Free from the bonds

of place, and space,

language, culture,

credo, and race.

This e.Chapter honors

yet another death

of a timeless truth:

“ It is what it is!”

But in the words of Peggy Lee:

“If that’s all there is my friend,

Let’s Keep on Dancing

If that’s all there is.”

And if it is what it is,

when the music stops

We turn the page

To find the next Word;

Where the most enduring

Inventions of humankind

Are words and language

That outlive the mind.

In the Beginning

It was the Word;

And we can be certain

It’s Word at the end.