Thursday, August 25, 2016


I think of it as Wal-Mart English -- the over-popular use of the word "so" when anyone these days responds to a question.

Crotch itch?
So, it started about a week ago....

Do you believe in God?
So, I think....

Donald Trump for president?
So, he's crazy and all, but....

Will the Fed raise interest rates?
So, Janet Yellen has played both sides of the fence in the past....

Did you get falling-down drunk last night?
So, you know, my car wouldn't start and....

It reminds me of the proper teachers who once counseled up-and-coming garbage-mouthes like me that "swearing is an indication of someone who lacks a command of the language."

But this is not just some lower-class foible. Walk around a university campus or a convention of policy wonks. "So" is good for all occasions ... sort of like "uhhhh."

Weak. Unimaginative. Flavorless.

Did I mention I dislike it? But if it weren't "so," it would be something else no doubt.

the beautiful women

Amaal Said is a Danish-born Somali poet and photographer, living just outside London. She is 20 and a politics student at SOAS, University of London. Like many people her age, she spends a lot of time in her bedroom, listening to pop music and browsing YouTube. While she does all that, though, she is quietly revolutionising the way Muslim women and women of colour are portrayed in our culture. Her photography, and the Instagram account where she features it, has started garnering her international attention.

familial harmonies

-- Once, on public television, a nut-brown man with four or five wives, was asked what the key was to maintaining a semblance of familial harmony in his Middle Eastern home. He considered the question for a moment and then replied simply:
It helps if you have a sense of humor.
-- Sensing my anxiety when my first-born was about to arrive, my sister, who at the time had two children of her own, sought to allay my anxieties. What worried me was, of course, that I had never been a parent before and ... well, what the hell were you supposed to do? How could I be a good parent? Was there a magic bullet? My sister was supremely assured:
Adam, you can either read every book that was ever written about child-rearing or you can read none at all. Either way, you won't know shit.
-- On public television again, and interviewer was quizzing Anne Morrow Lindbergh, perhaps about her latest book. Lindbergh, the widow of trans-Atlantic flier Charles Lindbergh, was a pilot, author and adventurish spirit whose 20-month-old son was kidnapped in 1932 and later, presumably, found dead. There was simply no way the latter-day interviewer could not ask her, "How does it feel to have a child kidnapped?" Lindbergh didn't flinch. She sat still. She was wearing, if I recall, one of those obligatory single-strand pearl necklaces that WASPs can affect. She was still and then began her answer by saying
I think everyone has suffered a tragedy....
 Each of these small answers to big questions seems to share at least one characteristic: It's not the answer that is likely to solve anything. It is the experience that prompted the answer that matters. Answers are clues. They aren't answers. Saying "abracadabra" is not the point. Living it is.

That and getting used to the fact that I still don't know shit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

pecker power in Texas

To protest a new state law that makes the carrying of concealed handguns legal in college classrooms, students at the University of Texas on Wednesday openly displayed sex toys, an act considered illegal under local indecency laws. [Reuters]

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

40 knives removed from man's stomach

With the slaughter in Syria or the disproportionate response Israelis can visit on Palestinians, it's a little hard to label this man "crazy," though it is enough to make your belly hurt:
Doctors in the northern Indian city of Amritsar say they have surgically removed 40 knives from a man's stomach.
The man, 42, had swallowed the knives over a period of three months.
Dr Jatinder Malholtra told the BBC that the man met him last week after suffering severe pain in his stomach.
He said the man did not tell doctors that he had been swallowing knives.

sexual abuse payout at Catholic school

God knows Kobutsu has put a lot of effort into this endeavor. Some people may excoriate his sometimes brash approach. I say, look at the results and applaud.
[N.Y. Daily News] Bergen Catholic High School has agreed to pay $1.9 million to 21 men who say they were molested by 11 teachers during the 1960s and 1970s, but the former student who sparked the settlement talks is not part of the deal because he has refused to take down a website detailing sexual and physical abuse at the school.

hypothesizer at work

It's not often that I get called back so specifically to topics already touched on, but the above photo has been playing in my mind since I posted it a couple of days ago. It kicks my story-maker and hypothesizer into high gear somehow. The photo says "gruesome" and "sad" in one small breath. It asks me if there is anyone in this world who has not been betrayed by the class s/he aspired to or longed to escape. I wonder -- assuming these girls are related -- who and what kind of mom they had/have.

And it makes me think of Kentucky or West Virginia or one of those Appalachian places back in the hills where inbreeding is never spoken but remains a fact. What is the difference between the British royal family and the Smiths and Joneses who care for a still and seldom ask for help because no one ever gave them any. "Sallow" was a word created for them. The pride -- or is it arrogance -- is written across the faces of those forced to bear an elegant or demeaning cross. And yet if cross is all you've known, is it any longer a cross? I'd say yes, judging by the eyes and the uprightness above and the multitude below ... and quiet nights that all may know.
Oh well ... just my story times.

Monday, August 22, 2016

daring to declare their affection

[BBC] The Olympics really were no match.
There was only one show in town, sorry, in the nation on Saturday night.
Canada's national broadcaster CBC broke from Rio to air the whole of The Tragically Hip's final gig live. They advertised it as "A National Celebration", and they weren't wrong.
Only about 7,000 fans had actually managed to cram into the K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario.
Kingston - the home town of Gordon Edgar "Gord" Downie, whose announcement in May that he had terminal brain cancer had caused shock across the nation.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Two of a Kind"

A couple of pix from a pretty neat photo collection/eye:

Sandrine Kerfante has had a fascination with “doubles” ever since meeting her mother’s twin as a child. In 2012, this lifelong captivation inspired her to create a blog called twin-niwt, which celebrates photographs of doubles in all their forms. “I’m fascinated by the idea of the duo, repetition, symmetry, reflection, mirror games and all the symbolism associated with it,” she says. “I think it’s a topic often present in photography, more or less consciously.” A selection of Kerfante’s photographs is available in her book, Two of a Kind (Chronicle £10.99), published on 23 August. “It is a collection of photographs that celebrates doubles in all shapes, sizes and sorts,” she says.

Photograph: Jouk Oosterhof

the book no one can read

Maybe it's like understanding God ....

If you knew, what would you actually know?

If you didn't know, what would you actually NOT know?

If you say the answers are the same, that's not exactly right. If you say the answers are different, that's not exactly right either. Different day, same answer. If parallel lines meet in infinity, are you better informed by reaching that place? Reaching or not reaching -- which is more delicious, more informative, more transformational?

Whatever the case:
[The Guardian] It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one has cracked.
Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers.
The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale university’s Beinecke library, emerging only occasionally.
In the 15th century volume:
The plants drawn have never been identified, the astronomical charts don’t reveal much. The women also offer few clues.
Scores have tried to decode the Voynich, including top cryptologists such as William Friedman who helped break Japan’s “Purple” cipher during the second world war.
Given Yale's influx of mail on the topic (not to mention the credentials of those interested ... the "Purple" code was very serious stuff during WWII), obviously people are dying to know. Is it true? Is it false? Is it an elaborate ruse? Is it the keys to the kingdom?

What would you know if you knew

PS. One interpretation puts the book in the 16th century and -- far from Europe -- in Mexico.