“When you die, the first thing you lose is your life. The next thing is your illusions.”
Pratchett, Terry. Pyramids (Discworld). Harper Collins.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:
The rains of the past few weeks have prompted the foothills to blush green. Every day I do pretty much the same few things at about the same time. As a result I have begun to lose track of time. I, for example, no longer know how long it has been between calls to people with whom I have previously been in regular contact. Everything seems the same day after day except for the clouds. I like the clouds here at the edge of the foothills. They are gloriously variegated from cottony white to pearlescent, sometimes grey and searing black as well as red, pink, orange and even yellow (see Today’s Photograph below).
The “Mothers” rugby team played two games today. The first was against the team that beat them 95 to 5. This time they only lost 30 to 15. The second game however was a different story. They played the team made up of South Sea Islander kids, half of whom were girls. After less than three minutes the Mothers were down 30 to 0 so the coach halted the slaughter and requested the Islanders play with only the smallest and youngest (8 and under) members of the team. They fielded 6 members and the Mothers “loaned” them six of their worst scrubs to make up the difference. While the Mothers scrubs wandered around the playing field in semi oblivion, the remaining six Islanders continued to run up the score by another 30 points in 10 minutes before the game was called to save our team from further embarrassment. HRM was however voted by the refs as the Best Tackler of the Game, primarily for a thunderous last second tackle on an opponent running free toward the goal-line to the cheers, ohs and applause of the bloody minded parents watching the game.
I am sick again and have been forced to lie in bed for about a week oozing bodily fluids while I wait for antibiotics and other various medicines to kill off those little buggers who have found my body an ideal place in which to vacation.
When once or twice a day I stumble out on the deck for a bit of sun and fresh air I notice that not only was this a year without winter here at the edge of the foothills but one without spring as well. We seem to have sprung directly into Summer. The grasses and trees starved for water have, in response to the feeble rains a week or so ago, panicky thrust their seeds and pollen into the air in order to propagate themselves before they brown and die as the drought regains control. Alas, the resulting hay fever and allergies have added to whatever miseries the vacationing bacteria and viruses have brought me.
The rugby season has ended with the expected thundering defeats for the Mothers at the regional tournament. Swimming season now begins. I sit at the edge of the pool, along with a group of proud mothers encouraging our charges to ever greater efforts while we fiddle with our smart phones.
B. POOKIE’S DREAMS:
I am what is referred to by some as a vivid dreamer. That is, my dreams are in color, I know that I am dreaming and I can alter them as they go along. I also can wake myself up if things get too stressful. Moreover, I generally remember a lot of them in their entirety. Sometimes, those dreams become as real in my memory as any other experience. Periodically I used to analyze which of my memories were real and which were dreams in order to purge those not real. I no longer do that. I now believe, if it is there it is as real as any memory.
I prefer sleep to being awake because on the whole my dreams are far more interesting and exciting than my waking life is. I guess that goes for most of us.
Perhaps a little over a score of years ago I dreamt I was flying in a plane. We passed from the ocean over the land somewhere in Africa where we landed. I then took a small jitney bus that drove directly from the airport into the desert. The desert was not the sandy dune desert of Lawrence of Arabia, but barren, dusty and rocky like parts of West Texas. After a day or two we arrived at a small city of mud-walled buildings. In the center of the city was a large dirt plaza filled with men with guns, shooting them into the air and shouting at people in cars or busses and stopping them as they tried to make their way through the plaza. The men seemed to be grouped into gangs with no one group in charge. They appeared mediterranean in complexion with large bushy mustaches. They wore dark pants and vests over their shirts. I assumed they were Muslims since most of them wore ragged turbans on their heads.
They would not allow our bus to continue, so I disembarked and walked into the city to search for some distant relatives whom I knew lived in the town. The relatives strangely were Armenian shopkeepers. I found their shop. I never learned what they sold there. The relatives lived above the shop. After I explained who I was, they welcomed me in. The father, a man of about 60, was relatively short statured, clean-shaven with a round face topped by a mostly bald head with a few long black hairs combed over. He had two grown sons, they were much taller than he, broad-shouldered and moustached. Strapped to their backs were guns of some sort. Their sister was a slender dark girl of about 14, I guess. She wore a light-colored dress imprinted with small pink flowers. The mother was thin like the daughter with more grey hair than the father. I told them I had been stopped by the gunmen in the plaza and I wanted to continue on to the jungle beyond the desert. He said that it would be difficult under the current chaotic circumstances to secure permission to travel beyond the City. He said he would have to think about it and promised to do his best. In the meantime, they prepared a dinner in my honor attended by the father’s brother and his family. After the dinner the brothers spoke with each other in a corner of the room out of my hearing. Eventually the father came over to me and told me that the leader of one of the strongest militia was a friend of his and he thought he could arrange passage for me.
Early the next morning after saying good-bye and thanking everyone I, accompanied the older son, returned to the plaza and after enduring several threats and insults from the militia leader, was put into an old Range Rover and allowed to continue on my way.
We drove on across that stoney dusty desert well into the early afternoon when the landscape began to change, first into scrub lands and then into a grassy savannah. Small copse of trees dotted the terrain here and there. Near to sunset we topped a small ridge and saw a little valley beyond. The savannah continued across the valley along with the dirt track we had been following until along the smaller ridge on the opposite side the green expanse of the forest began abruptly. Where the road disappeared into the trees, I could see a small village of conical mud-walled houses nestled in the shade of the trees stretched out along the road.
At sundown we arrived at the village. I got out of the vehicle at the edge of the village. About 10 or so adults and innumerable children assembled around the vehicle as I disembarked. One man approached. He seemed to be in his late twenties or early thirties. I guess he was Somali or other Cushite speaker, thin, light brown complexion and a straight narrow nose. He greeted me and asked what had brought me to the village. I answered that I had heard about what they had accomplished in creating their vast environmental and ethnological preserve and I wanted to see it for myself. This was the first time in the dream that I had become aware of what I was doing here.
He contemplated me for a moment then said, “Mama discourages casual visitors to the reserve.” At first I thought MAMA was an acronym for the NGO operating the place. I was soon disabused of that assumption when he glanced to a large woman standing off to the side surrounded by passel of young children.
She was a large woman, large indeed, about an inch or two taller than me and at least 50 pounds heavier. Her skin was a deep chocolate color and a thick dark tangled ring of hair floated around her head like Medusa’s snakes. She wore a deep blue tent like dress that fell from her shoulders almost all the way to the ground. Thick red stripes containing faint yellow pinstripes broke up the wall of blue.
“Perhaps I can persuade her to let me stay,” I said. “I don’t think so,” he responded quickly. “But it is too late in the day to send you back, so you can stay the night as our guest and if she is not too busy perhaps you can try to persuade her tomorrow.”
With that he led me into the town past several of the huts to one a little back from the road. “This is my house,” he said. “You can stay here for the evening. There is a cot in the back. You can leave your backpack there. I will show you where to wash up and you can join my family and others for dinner.”
The hut was nicely sized containing a single room. It seemed to be used only for sleeping. I found a small cot at the back and with both relief and trepidation dropped my backpack on it and rejoined my host.
He showed me to a surprisingly comfortable bathhouse with both hot and cold tubs and showers. It seemed to be available to both sexes.
After my bath he led me to a clearing a little way from the village. Here there were benches and a few sturdy wooden tables. Several modern grill type cookers and other tables containing copious amounts of food surrounded a large campfire around which on a variety of strange tripod like contraptions other pots and viands hung over the flames.
I met my host’s wife and their two small children. She was young and quite attractive. I am sorry to say, I no longer remember their names even though they became some of the closest friends I had even known. That’s the way it is with dreams.
The clearing filled up with what appeared to be at least a hundred adults and even more children running about. The others seemed to be a mixture of ethnicities and races, predominately African but I could see some Europeans and Asians also among the crowd.
Although I remember the food was delicious and the feeling that I enjoyed myself immensely I recall little more about the evening other than that whenever I glanced across the campfire through the flames I saw Mama on the other side staring at me with what appeared to me to be hard cold angry eyes.
After the dinner I returned to the hut, laid down on the cot and fell immediately asleep.
(to be continued)
C. MOPEY’S BOOK REPORTS:
“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”
Logan Pearsall Smith
1. The Ripper
At Ruth’s suggestion, I read Isabel Allende’s new novel. Unlike her previous novels, this time she tries the mystery genre. Her husband William C. Gordon, an attorney in SF, writes mystery novels set in The City during the sixties. Allende’s novel, The Ripper, is also set in the City but takes place currently, more or less. Nevertheless, much of the novel revolves around a shard of the sixties that lasted to the present day – the occupants and clients of a holistic medicine clinic in North Beach several of whom I could comfortably associate with some of the denizens of the counter-culture I met during those fabled if somewhat blurred times.
Pookie says check it out.
“…no one gets rich working,”
Allende, Isabel. Ripper (p. 152). Harper Collins.
Sir Terry Pratchett the beloved author of the innumerable “Discworld” novels was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year or so ago. “Discworld,” for those who do not know, is a flat world on a disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants standing on the shell of an enormous tortoise slowly making its way across the galaxy. The denizens of “Discworld” are delightfully human (even the humans), and humanly delightful. “Steam” is his most recent book. Although it is not as madly surprising and bizarrely inventive as his previous works, it still overflows with Sir Terry’s special brand of humor and insight.
To Sir Terry, captains of industry, commerce and banking are inevitably criminals, hucksters and scoundrels but they seem to do as good a job as anyone would do under the circumstances. Of course it helps, if the government is run by a highly trained assassin instead of a mass murderer. Sir Terry believes that is the best of all political arrangements. He thinks magic is a good thing because it is very funny when its spells go wrong, which they inevitably do. He also believes that goblins, golems, vampires, trolls, werewolves, and various other species of sentient being, more or less, are quite amusingly human and often even more so than humans themselves once you get to know them, even McFeegles.
Pookie says check it out.
“It is now known to science that there are many more dimensions than the classical four. Scientists say that these don’t normally impinge on the world because the extra dimensions are very small and curve in on themselves, and that since reality is fractal most of it is tucked inside itself. This means either that the universe is more full of wonders than we can hope to understand or, more probably, that scientists make things up as they go along.”
Pratchett, Terry. Pyramids (Discworld) (p. 313). Harper Collins.
Note: I also read Pyramids published several years ago in which Sir Terry reveals that the greatest mathematicians in the universe are camels who, alas have found no one within that same universe they deem worthy enough to share that knowledge with.
Pookie says check that out also. In fact read all or Pratchett’s books. There are so many of them you could read them for the rest of your life and still be happy.
Sometime about the middle of the century or during the latter half of it, those of us still alive will experience a day not experienced by humankind since the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries when Genghis Kahn slaughtered about 10% of humanity living at that time and the following Plague carried by fleas riding along on those sturdy Mongolian ponies offed another 10%.
On that day in the near future according to several demographic studies there will be fewer humans living on the planet then the day before. This will occur not because some new Genghis or Plague will ravage us (although that remains a real possibility), but because of the education and liberation of women, increasing living standards and urbanization will have resulted in not enough babies born to offset the death rate among oldies.
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
1. The Great Gatsby Curve
For those who consider those nordic countries as small and homogenous and thereby not applicable to the situation in the USA, note that their combined population is slightly less than that of Canada and their percentage of foreign-born residents is greater than that of the USA and most other industrialized nations (Although it does beg the question of whether anything in Canada is applicable to the US). On the other hand, in terms of sheer numbers the US leads the world in foreign-born residents as it has more or less from its beginning.
2. Study by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:
A new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilization could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
“By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources ”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over ‘the last five thousand years.’”
B. A bit more Twain*:
“When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad. To mention only a few: The Atheist, The Theosophists, The Infidel, The Swedenborgians, The Agnostic, The Shakers, The Baptist, The Millerites, The Methodist, The Mormons, The Christian Scientist, The Laurence Oliphant Harrisites, The Catholic, and the 115 Christian sects ( the Presbyterian excepted), The Grand Lama’s people, The Monarchists, The Imperialists, The 72 Mohammedan sects, The Democrats, The Republicans (but not the Mugwumps!), The Buddhist, The Blavatsky-Buddhist, The Mind-Curists, The Faith-Curists, The Nationalist, The Mental Scientists, The Confucian, The Spiritualist, The Allopaths, The 2000 East Indian sects, The Homeopaths, The Electropaths, The Peculiar People, The–
“But there’s no end to the list; there are millions of them! And all insane; each in his own way; insane as to his pet fad or opinion, but otherwise sane and rational. This should move us to be charitable towards one another’s lunacies.”
Mark Twain, Christian Science
* we need more twains and fewer singularities.
“Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”
~ J. Garcia
“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Always assume everyone is an idiot. This saves time.”
Burke, Declan. Absolute Zero Cool. Liberties Press.
Sunset over El Dorado Hills