John & Poe

October & the City Link
the Walrus & the Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct. 7, 1849, Boston) and John Lennon (b. Oct.9, 1940, Liverpool) would’ve likely enjoyed each other’s company. One could even picture them sharing a coffee in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from where they both lived briefly in New York.
Sharing a certain sensibility, they’ve twisted rules and noses with their talent and non-conformism. While Poe’s genius was acknowledged mostly after death, Lennon’s was still shaping his own times when life was brutally taken away from him. Despite their enormous sway over our era, they’ve both died at 40.
Their status as two of the world’s most recognized pop icons often obscures the depth of their art and endurance of their legacy. And maybe their irresistible appeal owes more to a contemporary deficit of revolutionary artists than to their particular take on human expression.
Or it may be that we’re so desperate to find paradigms upon which to pile our frustration about the world, that a walking wound such as Poe, or a talking head like Lennon, may offer the conduit we seek to connect and placate our own shortcomings. Just like it ever was.
They couldn’t help it but being such tragic heroes, either, with terrible upbringings and disturbing deaths to boot. But that’s when shallow similarities between the two begin to falter, and no longer serve us to rescue their relevance out of the amber it’s been encased.
Poe, who lived in three separate places in Greenwich Village, New York City, before moving to a farmhouse uptown where he wrote The Raven at age 36, is the only American writer routinely mentioned along the French poètes maudits.
The Paul Verlaine-concocted term encapsulated the romantic ideal of the artist as a tragic hero, not suited to this world, who inevitably self-immolates. We won’t get into how flawed and self-indulgent it is such notion, but the literature the group produced transcended it all.
Perhaps the best known among those poets was Charles Baudelaire, who championed, translated and wrote essays about Poe, (more)
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* Murder & Unkindness
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Curtain Raiser

Beyond Borders & Wars, Colltalers

In a week that has had its fare share of breaking news, to pick the U.S. tragic bombing of a hospital run by the volunteer organization Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan as the one with the most resonance and implications may be at least highly arguable.
But neither the Russian strikes in Syria, whether against ISIL or, as the U.S. charges, forces fighting president Bashar al-Assad, nor yet another massacre by a gun-lover maniac at an American school, have as many layers to unpack than what happened in Kunduz.
For it’s frightening but predictable the fact that President Vladimir Putin apparently thinks that taking a more active role in an already messy civil war will, somehow, change its course. Most likely, it’ll reposition his country as another formidable foe to peace.
And there’s been expected dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s course of action till now. Which doesn’t mean that a switch from preaching non involvement while arming a network of rogue activists behind the scenes will necessarily bring home the bacon.
The world is in fact astonished to realize that once again the stage is set for another dangerous Russia-U.S. confrontation, with no role, or foreseeable benefits, left to anyone else. And that both are clearly focused on accomplishing their own goals rather than Syria’s.
Even if one sees the former as having more at stake in that particular quagmire, and that the latter could apply a more humanitarian and less militaristic view of the situation, their involvement does look like as if driven out of self-interest and old imperialistic ideas.
Similar dismal reaction came from the brutal killing of eight students plus a teacher and the shooter at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. Once again, the most obvious answers are quickly discarded in favor of a strange rhetoric that mixes hypocritical claims of rationality (it’s people, not guns, etc), phony sentimentality Continue reading

Silly Males

Gary Drinks Gas, Georgio Loves
Rugs, But Huug, He Just Laughs

Pardon our Sanskrit, but here’s another stream of WTF stories. Our files are always bursting with these little gems of human drama we often know not how to dispose of them, and easily grow attached to what they’re about. So let us skip the obvious, the cheap shots and the mean spirited, lest not be us, someday, the object of similarly deflating jeer.
One thing is for sure: we’ve never heard of a 12-step program for gasoline drinkers, a habit made even more lethal if one smokes. Then again, the nefarious Cigarette Man of X-Files fame, is actually a devout waterskiing champ. Who knew? If you like to be stepped on, why not bring your own, favorite rug to help others do the job? Just don’t laugh at that Dutch man: he can’t help it if the joke’s on him.
Perhaps it’s Fall’s arrival, which always catches us off-guard, or the foolishness of pondering about water in another planet. Both concepts are as difficult for us to grasp as climate change: we know both are facts of life, and yet we’re not ready to book a trip to Mars, nor are we prepared to say anything inspiring about winter around the corner.
We hear that some people drink too much. That’s a club we got expelled out a long time ago, and are still sore about. Not in our wildest (more)
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* Red Shift

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Curtain Raiser

The U.N. Steps Into Relevance, Colltalers

As dignitaries of 193 nations leave New York, after the U.N. Summit on global goals for sustainable development, we’re once again ambivalent as whether such an agenda has any teeth, or the U.N. itself remains relevant on the year of its 70th anniversary.
Partially due to the staggering power acquired by multinational corporations in the past few decades, or if you’re based in the U.S., because of open hostility by the radical right, the first impulse is to believe that the organization may have run its course.
After all, despite annual summits, conferences, and resolutions, the U.N. has been often either ignored by the world powers’ military pragmatism, hopeless to prevent armed conflicts, or merely behind the curve, as with the current mass refugee crisis in Europe.
Also, given its formidable mandate and historical significance, it’s constantly strapped for funding and its gargantuan bureaucratic apparatus is often an obstacle to quick action and effective intervention. On the same token, having to physically be present in far corners of the world requires it to count on and cooperate with local armed forces, a strategy fraught with opportunities for failure.
Episodes of abuse of power and incompetence handling conflict are common, as are even more serious instances of sexual abuse and slavery conducted by troops credentialed by the U.N., which is supposed to represent and defend high moral standards.
Whereas the former are a consequence of a simple fact – the U.N. is not a military or police institution, and has no expertise of its own on the matter – the latter is much more disturbing, since it’s a result of bad management and poor oversight of human resources.
For the U.N. is, by definition, a non-ideological, non-politically biased structure, dedicated exactly to the management of decisions taken by its nation-members. When it fails militarily, that may be credited to the specific country or countries that are in charge of that particular mission. But when it fails to manage its operations appropriately, then it has no one but itself to blame.
Without going too deep into the corollary of sins that the U.N., as an organization created to set standards of diplomacy and to abide by the world’s best possible aspirations for peaceful coexistence among nations, may be arguably guilty of there’s its very own power sharing structure, which can be frustratingly ineffective and at times seriously unjust. But that seems to be the nature of the game.
There wouldn’t be any need for such an institution if it wasn’t to give a space to even the most undemocratic regimes, and at least ideally, have them be heard and accountable in the concert Continue reading

It Blogs the Mind

Conversations Across the World
& the Comfort of Fellow Bloggers

No wonder blogging is on its way out; it’s something I do. No surprise that yet another little pleasure of mine is about to be retired; it’s happened before. Till then though, let me partake with some of my fellow travelers on this mostly thankless endeavor.
I’ve known none of them in person, enjoying their company from afar: they sit at their desks in faraway lands and I don’t even get up to greet them. Ah, the cyberage: sharing most inner feelings but not our own collective breath. But I digress.
Blogging is a necessity to some, an escape valve to others. An open line with the world or a rescue rope amid inclement waves. It’s all but a hobby, or it wouldn’t last. More like distant voices that ebb and flow and add their own colors to an increasingly grey and noisy world.
Thus some stay and persevere, posting with the consistency of someone who’s chained to a dialogue with invisible foreigners they could never invite to dinner. Others walk away, stolen by life’s petty urgencies, or lost to the realization that it simply can’t be done.
I’ve found much solace from across the ocean, and meaningful feedback from someone living in a tent in Africa or a prairie in Australia. Which is more than all my loved ones combined, who mostly ignore that I even have a blog, could provide me if I’d asked them. At the end of the day, however, I blog to appease myself.

At this point, I’ve promise myself to quit it a few times already, just like an addict lies to himself just enough to get to the next hit. Right after one more post sent out there to fight the good fight, I feel the same comforting relief junkies must feel with dope running in their veins.
But I get sick with angst, I doubt myself, and roll on the littered ground of crappy sentences and too easy ways out of my almost unbearable urge to write these posts, ignoring and in despite of my best judgment which always yells at me: what for?
In fact, I’m aware that it’s partly this lack of self-awareness that allows me to cut myself a break and write just this one, before (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Popping Questions to the Pope, Colltalers

Pope Francis I will do this week what Jorge ​Mario Bergoglio could never attempt in 78-odd years: visit the U.S.. The nation Francis will land on tomorrow, however, coming from Cuba, is several degrees of separation from the country padre Jorge once avoided.
In fact, it’ll be curious to see him facing this disconnect in the U.S. between those more or less admiring of his recent liberating statements, and those who claim being deeply Catholics but have shown signs that they don’t care much about what’s he has to say.
Something to do with supporting same-sex marriage, or women who’ve had abortions, or some mambo jumbo about the poor and climate change, no doubt. But this selective ignorance will mean less by the time he returns to the Vatican than whether he’s proven by then to be a galvanizing force behind a new church, or merely the bearer of a message hopelessly loss among the religious right.
The now minority among 72 million Catholics in this country paying attention to the first Latin American pope – trying to gauge his impact on church’s doctrine and global influence – have their job cut out to them, for sure. But it’ll take them time before any discernible conclusion is reached. Most likely, at least the entire length of his papacy, which is not too say much, considering his age.
What’s already clear now is that, as a religious leader of an one-billion strong flock, Francis is a skillful politician, touching once taboo subjects just enough to awaken heated discussions, but without leaving many prints that could trace it all back to him.
Also, despite the explosive nature and reach of some of his statements in the two years he’s been the Vatican’s chief executive, there’s been little in way of structural reforms that would allow, for instance, his encyclicals to pierce the inner membrane of church bureaucracy and become actionable policy. Thus, like most CEOs, the pope is but a figurehead of a ruling, and opaque, organization.
If in the outside, Catholicism has been shaken by his controversial appeal and ostensive displays of personal humbleness, the way denser waters of the church structure remain relatively undisturbed, and away from prying eyes as far as anyone can tell.
There remains staunch strongholds of conservatism inside the Vatican, and the shadowy doctrine keepers at the Holy See, Continue reading

The Hypothesis

Suicidal Monks & Life
Coaches Get No Respect

There used to be a constant applied to death and suicides in the U.S.: No one wanted to hear about them. That now may be changing, and it’s not because people are no longer dying or offing themselves. More likely, the Big Sleep itself has now joined the conversation.
Take the increasingly popular Death Cafes, for instance. Or the Order of the Good Death, led by a mortician. Some may have finally found the guts to at least talk about it. But what when professional optimists choose to do it? And what should we write before we go?
Paraphrasing a quote attributed to French playwright, and brilliant madman, Antonin Artaud, suicide is not a solution but a hypothesis. Great, but tell that to someone literally on the edge, and see how it works out. Fortunately, it’s not something taught to suicide helpline volunteers.
On the other hand, the whole death-as-a-subject avoidance has turned modern societies into pools of denial. It’s either changing the subject or outsourcing an answer. That’s when religion, as it happens, picks up the tab, in exchange for no small contribution. Thus, it’s not death but faith that’s a booming business.
It may be easier to delegate our fears to the embrace of a ready-made storyline than having to create our own plot about them. But there’s a price to pay for that. We freak out to the sight of a corpse because we’re so unfamiliar with our own mortality, at least, for most of our lives.
On top of that, sits the Robin Williams, Who Wouldn't Take It (Peggy Sirota)taboo of suicide, which is often regarded as an abomination, when it’s at the most, an act of profound individualism, taken when it seems the only option left. Despite the brutality of the act itself, the worst is usually inflicted on those closer to the one who’s gone.
While they’re left to agonize over somebody’s moment for the rest of their lives, studies have shown that suicide also impacts their own descendants. It is a curse to those left behind, a fact hardly ever considered when someone inches closer to their own murder. In the end, though, there’s no particular glory on dying or being born.
It’s what happens in between that counts. Then again, the zeal with which many insist that everyone must be happy, no matter what, can drive frail souls to the brink. Such a sunny outlook has its own dark (more)
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* Epitaphs
* In Their Own Rites
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