Walking on the edge of the universe

Walking south, oh April fool

Flings sudden, sharp, flakes of snow,

No, more like hurling disks,

Horizontally, they attack me.

I am a starship light-traveling through the cosmos

Shields up, lunge forward, engage the stinging gale.

Here at the edge of the universe,

Setting course to the western sun

Ends of days, thoughts bleak with the onslaught,

Stalking the borders of being and nothingness

And then a turn to the north,

The route familiar, leading home

And lo’ the sun appears,

The sky an azure blue

The meteors have gone, all

The darkness dispelled

I am returned to lightness.



Picasso’s Barnyard and Iran

The recent Pablo Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario featured an interesting work titled, The Farmer’s Wife. Painted in 1938 just prior to the outbreak of World War II, it is one of Picasso’s darker works. Though impressionistic, the farmer’s wife languidly reclines across the bottom of the canvas, with a crowing rooster in the upper left hand corner. According to the curator’s notes, the nude wife is ignoring the rooster’s crowing. But the crowing is an alarm, a wake-up call of war. Specifically, the farmer’s wife, “self-absorbed Europe,” is indifferent to the fascist takeover of Spain by General Franco.  

Only a few years later came the news reports about Germany’s growing army and munitions capability. Maybe the rooster read Mein Kampf, in which Hitler outlined exactly what he planned to do to the world and to the Jews, because there was a whole barnyard of roosters crowing madly across Europe and England, but the farmer’s wife remained indolent. Only when the Nazis invaded Poland did she hear the rooster, or perhaps finally admit to it, with England declaring war on Germany to launch WW ll.

And now, only 3/4 of a century later, the Dynamic Duo of the Iranian Ayatollah and the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad are ably taking up where the furor left off: mad rantings and threats to destroy the world, specifically The Great Satan, and of course, the Jews and their homeland, Israel. Taking Iran hostage, these Muslim fanatics and their presidential henchman have become the leading exporter of state sponsored terrorism. Iran is ably abetted by a Jihadist Islamic movement seeking to reconquer lost lands. Even the deaf can hear the Iranian threats and boasts as they drive to develop nuclear weapons. They already have developed the rocketry required to deliver their Armageddon-payload capable of striking and destroying Israel, as well as any other location in the Middle east.

Iran’s theocracy has recently been caught plotting to kill a Saudi diplomat in New York, as well bombing the Israeli embassy there. Iran is also trying to form ties with Mexican drug cartels and several South American dictators as it works to export terror closer to the American heartland. Maybe they’ll do a reprise of the old USSR – Cuba dance, and ship some of those rockets and warheads to their South American buddies where they’ll be in striking range of the United States. Maybe then, threatened as Israel is now, the present U.S. administration, American cousin to The Farmer’s Wife, might wake up. But for now, Europe sleeps again and America has relegated the unhappy and terrifying memory of 9/11 as a ‘one of,’ languidly appeasing the Mullahs, a la Neville Chamberlain.

There is no Picasso to paint anew his canvas, the UN is pretty much the manure pile in the corner, and no one seems to be aware of the collision course that the world is on,  except possibly Israel, given that it is the country being targeted. 

And still, the rooster shrieks!






Moxie and PETA

An animal trainer and advocate turned pet photographer gave advice for successfully capturing winning pet pictures. The trick is to get the dog to ‘cock’ its head in a questioning or puzzled look. To get a dog to do this, the trainer-turned-photog suggests getting the owners to stand behind your camera position and to talk to the dog or use whatever trick works for them. So far, fine.
But the point that is interesting is her use of the word, ‘human.’ As in, “Ask the dog’s human to stand behind you to get the dog’s attention.”
This is a language choice I’ve come across before. It is part of the politically correct sensibility of animal rights activist groups such as PETA. To use “owner” is demeaning in their philosophy, because it sets up a master/slave relationship. In their view this is akin to American black slavery, and it puts human and animal life on an equal playing field. Make no mistake, many of the policies of such groups and much of their activism is geared to accomplish just that. This is moral relativism in action. They have already influenced the circus, zoos and lab testing of animals. And now they are branching out into the field of pets, and one of their thrusts now is to change our vocabularies and hence our thinking about our relationships to animals. Owner is out: equal buddies is in.
But if I am not an owner, then a morning stroll meeting another dog with its human partner might go like this:
“Hello, this is my animal, ….”
“Hello, this is my human…”
Sounds strange to me.
But, if we are going to have a relationship of equality, between human and pet …oops, that’s  out also, for the same reason: let me correct that to “…if we are going to have a relationship between equals, human and animal alike, then I have a few complaints with things as they currently are practiced:
1. Dog License: I no longer will pay the city $50.00 for a dog license, nor will I get one. It’s demeaning to Moxie. I don’t pay a fee to have a human companion, do I?
2. Inequality: Although I love Moxie, I’m beginning to resent her freeloading ways. She makes no financial contribution to the household, and at the equivalent age of 35 years, it’s time she did so. I pay for her veterinarian visits, buy her food, her treats and her toys. This gets  expensive.
3. Responsibility: Am I my animal’s keeper? I am held responsible for Moxie’s indiscretions – if she runs off or bites someone that should not be my fault. I’m just her human and she’s my dog. We are partners, but she is a free being, no? And walking her on a leash? What kind of unenlightened city ordinance is that? A leash is the moral equivalent of shackling her in chains, demeaning, humiliating and controlling, limiting her freedom to explore her world. The leash is colonialism at its worst.
Oh, and one other thing, Moxie. I don’t mean to be indelicate here, but from now on you can bloody well pick up your own pooh!
I’m done with that!

Moxie, Part 2

Sitting outside with Moxie parked about five feet in front of me where, in her lionesque pose, she can keep a close watch on the street activities, as well as check for any errant squirrels. There is the sudden clatter and roar of construction equipment, the tanks and half-tracks of peaceful urban North American cities being off-loaded down metal ramps to pave several neighborhood driveways. Startled, Moxie jumps vertically, and repositions herself closer to my legs. She might be protecting me, but I think it more likely that she is seeking safety from what she doesn’t understand and which, therefore, threatens her. She seeks safety from the master, the one she has come to acknowledge on some level, as having power over her and therefore more powerful. That would be me. I am the one with the leash and the control; I provide food and care for her.
That I could not protect her from a bulldozer is beyond Moxie’s ability to know, perhaps a good thing because such knowledge of my limitations would cause Moxie to lose faith. Perhaps she might sing, “Nearer my god to thee,” or utter the WW1 cliché that there are no atheists in foxholes. So, similarly, when I don’t understand my world, when it threatens, when I am assaulted by disease, disaster, violence, and a host of little understood events, I too jump up; my human bravado shattered; I too try to reposition myself closer to The Master.

Insanity Rules

I just read an article by a journalist named Diana West. If what she writes is correct, and there’s no reason to think it isn’t, then America’s insanity continues unabated, even to the highest military courts.

Ms. West details the ruling against a U.S. soldier, by a military tribunal that says he had no right to defend himself against an attack by an Al-Qaeda “operative” who was suspected of using IEDs which killed two US soldiers. Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was driving the naked Al-Qaeda soldier somewhere to release him after Army interrogation failed to get him to confess. Behenna apparently stopped the car to try for one more interrogation, but because it was “unauthorized,” he was deemed the aggressor, and so, according to three of five military geniuses who rule in military courts, as the aggressor, he lost the right to defend himself when the Al-Qaeda soldier threw a piece of concrete at him and then jumped Behenna, trying to grab his pistol. The logical conclusion, it would seem, is that Behenna should have not defended himself, and instead of shooting and killing his attacker, allowed his attacker to grab the gun and kill him.

Now, because of his war crime of defending himself in battle when he shouldn’t have because he was the aggressor, he will serve 12 years in prison. Had he been of a higher moral fiber, the one that seems to infect all of the ruling elites and academics, and now apparently military judges as well, although Behenna would be dead, he would have been cleared by the court of any wrong doing, and could a’ been buried with an unblemished record.

This should look great on an Army recruiting poster.

By the way, Diana West is the author of a book titled, The Death of the Grown Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization. Haven’t read it, but think it might be a good idea to do so. If she’s right, a lot of people 40 an under in the US of A will agree with the high military court’s ruling and get angry with West (and my) point of view, scarier still.

Go Hard into that GoodNight

GoHard into that GoodNight

So much is made these days of the signs of aging, of dementia. (What an ugly word!) And of course, the first sign everyone latches on to is that of forgetfulness. Beyond a certain age threshold, people begin to look for its signs, joking, while secretly terrified, if they suspect that they themselves are beginning to show such indications.

“Can’t remember where I put my keys…”

“I know I came down here for something…”

“How does this work, anyway?”

I notice I tend to forget a set of instructions even after I’ve laboured to figure out the sequence to do something, like set my stove to ‘autoclean.’ Seems to me that I used to figure something out, or follow the manual, and it was imprinted, like Braille letters, somewhere in my neurons and synapses, ready for instant retrieval. Not so anymore. Each time I clean the stove, I have to get out the instruction manual. Granted, I only do this a few times a year, so repetition doesn’t have a chance to do its work, but it is frustrating nevertheless.

Yet, I think the problem might not be so much diminishing gray matter as it is modern technology and design. Stoves and ovens, for example, used to have maybe 7 or 8 controls: four for the burners, one for the oven, one for the bake/broil cycles, another for the temperature, and – if you had the self-cleaning feature – one for that too. And the controls were obvious: want to turn on a burner? The knob is right there. Grab it and twist. Want to open the oven door – so go ahead an open it.

In contrast, the glass, flat top stove I bought several years ago has no controls. At least no physical controls. You have to swipe your hand on the control panel glass and then they suddenly glow like the consol of the good Starship Enterprise. Touch the Upper panel area, and a row of 10 symbols suddenly light up, one like a snowflake, another like a bulb, a third with a rectangle and a line at the bottom, and so on, symbols that don’t relate strongly to any real-world object. Brush the Bottom control panel and a similar row lights up for another ten controls. In the console center is the clock and timer, and finally, to the right, the controls for the five burners, with settings and variable rings to control the heat and the diameter of the cooking surface. In all, probably about 45 touch controls as compared to the 7 or 8 physical knobs and buttons on a stove from the previous decades. Hit the control surface and suddenly the oven is on lock. You can’t open it, unless you hold the same button down for five seconds. Where does it say that? On page 43 of the manual. Certainly not on the stove. And that’s why I spend time referring to the manual. So maybe it’s not just me and fading grey matter after all.

Ever call for tech help lately? There are a lot of people younger than I am, paid to be expert in their narrow fields, working the call centres who at times seem to know even less than I do. They either don’t know, or they give wrong advice. I asked five different people working for my phone provider if using a hotspot adaptor on my laptop would incur roaming charges if I was out of the country. It was a 2to2 tie until the last person said that of course it would: just like using the phone on the 3G network uses data, so would the hotspot. Put that way, it made perfect sense and so I didn’t activate it. But why didn’t the other two know this? And why are they giving incorrect advice?

I just bought a new monitor and called to ask three questions. The tech representative could not answer any of them. One was quite simple: a video on the company website shows that when the monitor is changed from horizontal to vertical, the screen will automatically change with it. Mine, however, does not. He didn’t have a clue. He guided me to a website to download the manual and read it. Some help! I already had the manual, and it not only didn’t have the answer, it didn’t even explain that you could actually change the monitor and picture to vertical. It took me an hour to conclude that a) the video on the web is not correct, which begs me to ask the question as to just how legal that is – and b) because I was left to my own devices, to figure how to do it manually.

So if I’m “losin’ it,” there are a whole lot of younger people “out there,” who are going into an early retirement in Shady Acres with me. And just maybe, the lightning pace and depth of technological changes is reaching a saturation point, making it hard for people to cope. It is relentless: every product and each update all require new skills and time to master. The navigation system on my car has a 200 page manual for it alone, in addition to the one for the rest of the car.

Maybe we need a little humane engineering built in, and maybe a little more training for the so-called tech experts.

Now, if I can just remember how to upload this to my blog….