Grace Ushers

They Care When You Cease
To, After Your Last Breath

In matters of death, we’re pretty much inexperienced. That’s good; we want to keep it that way. And when it strikes, it’s always breaking news, at least to those close by. We all get there and being distracted is no excuse. While some ponder, others keep on walking.
The business of death, though, demands timing and compassion. Just ask Peter Stefan, who’s been burying the undesired for ages. Or the Thompson sisters, whose funeral home doubles as a black history vault. And Isaiah Owen, cosmetologist for the deceased.
What they do takes precedence over your latest tweet and holds more meaning than your life-coaching lessons. So, bid your time before your autopsy but pay respects to those who move in when others avert their eyes. For they do so with the dignity death rarely grants anyone.
Who plans to expire amid a crime scene? Or dictates their own obituary? But we’re always a few degrees away from each other’s last breath. Even as we won’t care one way or another, our loved ones have the right to first pick over our final picture. May they choose wisely.
To many, it’s an unsavory topic, unworthy talking about. Too morbid, or pointless, they say. But to those left standing, making sure those laying on their backs still got their good looks may be a debt paid forward. And that’s when Peter, Lynda and Vicki, and Isaiah work their magic.

THE UNDERTAKER OF THE REJECTED
Peter Stefan went to work, eight years ago this April, as always: ready for anything. For over four decades, he hosts mourners at his Worcester funeral home and prepares bodies to be buried. On that particular day, the corpse had a name: Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
It was the eldest of the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon, the one who died in a rain of police bullets. A tragic and hated young man, perpetrator of a despicable act, his body was torn into pieces. And yet, Stefan made sure he was well put back together before interment.
Why? Because that’s what he does. Because everyone is equal at birth and death. Because he’d do the same for much worse and much better people, with the same dedication. Not for being a musician, which he is, but to serve an undervalued human sentiment: compassion.

BROOKLYN’S SISTERS OF MERCY
Lynda Thompson-Lindsay and Vicki Thompson-Simmons‘ funeral parlor (why this term sounds like an oxymoron?) does everything that most are supposed to, including the combo embalming-the-deceased-and-producing-their family-wake. But it also does something that few can: serve as vault to black history.
For the almost century old home has borne witness to a heartbreaking chapter of American memory which would be, well, forgotten, hadn’t been for its carefully kept records of burials. Many (more)
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Read Also:
* Before Afterlife
* Kicking Ash
* Wake Up
Continue reading

Bad Dads

When Poor Parenting
Gets Its Own Holiday

By all accounts, he could’ve lived his life as the son of a king, away from this mad world and having the whole universe as his playing pen. Instead, and for little reason, he was stripped of all privileges and sent to do his dad’s bidding in a hostile place where he got killed.
Sunday, 1.7 billion followers will celebrate Jesus’ life, in what looks, but no one admits it, like spite to his dad. But blatant lack of parenting skills is not a God’s monopoly, however. It just follows a long, ancient line of cruelty and child abuse powerful fathers have adopted to advance their own agenda for the world.
Not to pile up on God in such an important week, but doing it anyway, when his son called out for him, while being tortured and about to agonize to death, he was too busy to help. What father wouldn’t take his son’s phone calls in a time of need? Actually, don’t answer that.
Anyway, Jesus wasn’t even the only ‘son’ God had a problem with; remember Abraham? Leaving his own dad to serve the almighty was not good enough: to really prove his absolutely devotion, he had to get rid of his only son, Isaac. And the thing is, Abe almost did it.
There wouldn’t be a Bible today if he’d gone through it. Was God concerned about that when he stopped Abe from committing such an ignominious act? Nah. And despite claiming to love his first born, at the countdown, Abe was ready to plunge that shiny blade into his heart.
For god forbid to disappoint God. When suddenly he changed his mind, he didn’t bother telling the would-be murder; he sent an angel and a lamb to do his bidding. See the pattern? The angel broke the news, while the lamb, well, no lamb ever survived a biblical tale.

SETTING TRAPS ON JUNIOR’S WAY
Some fathers slave through life so to spare their children the misery, but see their legacy treated like an old shoe. Others, either by example or tyranny, turn their kids into duplicates. And the rich and famous are known for spawning spoiled brats, good only to suck up resources.
A few hide what and who they were, to allow their children a chance to find a path of their own. Often after kicking them out, or walking away themselves. These are but a sample of the myriad of experiences for bringing up a child into this world, father and son division.
And yet humankind usually takes their cue from particularly nasty progenitors, who enjoyed throwing son against son, took multiple wives, and demanded total dedication. Pity those closest to them, made to feel less important than the flock at large, easily swayed by arresting sermons and principled lectures.
This is not about dissing out your old man, which surely did the best he could to protect your hide. Most fathers go out of their way to assure their kids’ survival, not because they want to raise a clone, but because they see in them the fragile, vulnerable little boy they once were.

A TEMPLATE FOR MOST RELIGIONS
And yet, it seems almost inevitable that parents will crush their children’s spirit, prevent them for being what they really are, and make sure they’ll remain frightened and emotionally crippled as adults. It’s really a miracle anyone would survive what passes for parenthood.
God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only as a gift to it, said St. John, with misguided awe. Yeah, right. As if this valley of bloody tears was a garden of delights. For if he loved it so much, why couldn’t he come over himself? Or make it a lot better to begin with?
There are many altruistic stories about fathers and sons, tales of heroism, life-affirming accounts of benevolence and love. Myths that sourced most religions, however, are not about them. But given billions of believers, it’s undeniable that something about them clicks.
The myth of Christianity, for instance, from the humble birth to a virgin, in the manger, to becoming a living god, to martyrdom and resurrection, is not even original. There are several accounts of divinities that predated Jesus, born in the same circumstances, and even day of the year.
THE BOY THAT COULDN’T LIVE
Which means originality is overrated; the same idea had been tried before, apparently to public acclaim. Henry and John, another father and son account, seems to have much less takers. The fact that it appeals to us may explain why it’s a good thing we didn’t get into the business of founding a religion: no one would follow it.
In 1606, while searching for the Northwest passage, British navigator Henry Hudson discovered Manhattan, ‘the island at the center of the world‘ that birthed New York. To accompany him, he brought one of his sons, John, and left behind brothers Richard and Oliver.
It was a fateful decision that may’ve caused a ruckus among the boys, and followed the same pattern referred to above. Parents do play favorites, and no platitudes about fairness prevail when it comes down to it. And it did come down. Badly.
The discovery is celebrated as pivotal to the Enlightenment Era and all that came after. But it was the end to Henry and John. (more)
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Read Also:
* Invisible Beings
* The 2000-Year Old
* Founding Fathers

Continue reading

Everything Must Go

Houdini, Who Was Not a Believer,
Died on the Day of the Living Dead

Harry Houdini once made a promise that he was sure not to honor: if there’s life after death, he said, I’ll let you know. If he could pull that trick, it’d be a treat. But since that Halloween, 90 years ago, he’s sent no message, denying validation to many a believer.
The irony is that the great illusionist was a debunker of mediums, and left a coded message with his wife to unmask fraudsters. He knew the Big Sleep pulls no bluffs. Just don’t tell that to pilgrims who every year flock to his grave at New York Machpelah Cemetery, in Queens.
It must have taken guts. And those he had, until they literally burst out by blows, administered with his consent, by an admirer. When he died of acute Peritonitis, hundreds of new cults had flooded the world to claim ownership over the ‘supernatural’ phenomena and challenge organized religion.
The dominant figure of the so called Occult Movement, Helena Blavatsky, had died less than 30 years before, but not before inspiring a lot of deranged minds into believing that they too, had something different about them. And they did, alright, although not exactly what they believe they had.

NO RESPECT TO BELLS & WHISTLES
At the turn of the 19th century, backwater America was festering too with the roots of these messianic cults, led by an assortment of lunatics, snake oil salesmen, and plain mentally ill visionaries, many of which turned later into some of the tax-exempted religious faiths we have today.
A crucial difference between those who time forgot and say, a Joseph Smith, who went on to ‘invent’ Mormonism, was arguably sheer survival skill. And maybe an absurdly non-sensical ‘origins’ story, to rival any of the astonishingly fantastic tales upon which all three major religions of our time stake their claims.
In many ways, Hungarian-born Erik Weisz, whose ‘Harry Houdini‘ stage name topped a string of less known aliases, was ahead of his time in two main ways: he worked really hard to perfect (more)
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Read Also:
* Hallowed Ground
* A Tale of Two Cities
Continue reading

Grace Ushers

They Care When You Cease
To: After Your Last Breath

In matters of death, we’re pretty much inexperienced. That’s good; we want to keep it that way. And when it strikes, it’s always breaking news, at least to those close by. We all get there and being distracted is no excuse. While some ponder; others keep on walking.
The business of death, though, demands timing and compassion. Just ask Peter Stefan, who’s been burying the undesired for ages. Or the Thompson sisters, whose funeral home doubles as a black history vault. And Isaiah Owen, cosmetologist for the deceased.
What they do takes precedence over your latest tweet and holds more meaning than your life-coaching lessons. So, bid your time before your autopsy but pay respects to those who move in when others avert their eyes. For they do so with the dignity death rarely grants anyone.
Who plans to expire amid a crime scene? Or dictates their own obituary? But we’re always a few degrees away from each other’s last breath. Even as we won’t care one way or another, our loved ones have the right to first pick over our final picture. May they choose wisely.
To many, it’s an unsavory topic, unworthy talking about. Too morbid, or pointless, they say. But to those left standing, making sure those laying on their backs still got their good looks may be a debt paid forward. And that’s when Peter, Lynda and Vicki, and Isaiah work their magic.

THE UNDERTAKER OF THE REJECTED
Peter Stefan went to work, eight years ago this April, as always: ready for anything. For over four decades, he hosts mourners at his Worcester funeral home and prepares bodies to be buried. On that particular day, the corpse had a name: Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
It was the eldest of the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon, the one who died in a rain of police bullets. A tragic and hated young man, perpetrator of a despicable act, his body was torn into pieces. And yet, Stefan made sure he was well put back together before interment.
Why? Because that’s what he does. Because everyone is equal at birth and death. Because he’d do the same for much worse and much better people, with the same dedication. Not for being a musician, which he is, but to serve an undervalued human sentiment: compassion.

BROOKLYN’S SISTERS OF MERCY
Lynda Thompson-Lindsay and Vicki Thompson-Simmons‘ funeral parlor (why this term sounds like an oxymoron?) does everything that most are supposed to, including the combo embalming-the-deceased-and-producing-their family-wake. But it also does something that few can: serve as vault to black history.
For the almost century old home has borne witness to a heartbreaking chapter of American memory which would be, well, forgotten, hadn’t been for its carefully kept records of burials. Many (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Before Afterlife
* Kicking Ash
* Wake Up
Continue reading

Rooms to Grow

Storm-Bred Magic Mushrooms
Can Improve Your Personality

Unlike what almost 100% of politicians, celebrities, and people way more famous than you may believe, there is a living organism that’s much bigger than them all: it’s a 2.4 miles across mushroom and it resides in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.
But maybe because it’s over 2,600 years old, and despite being called honey fungus, there’s nothing sweet or mushy about this creature. It’s still expanding, killing every plant on its path, and it’s covered by the carcasses of hundreds of dead trees.
Then again, it’s a mushroom. You know, that very peculiar life form that can feed you, get you high, or poison you to death, and whose multitude of varieties are freaky enough to sprout from soil (or a cow’s pie), or grow on the very flesh (or nail surface) of your body.
But not that humongous creature, which tests showed that it’s a single individual, and that seems happy to preside over a national park in Oregon. Maybe being simply the earth’s largest living being is enough, thank you very much.
But as a plant species, fungi are not always so scarily dominant, and research is being conducted about the ability of some varieties to break down heavy pollutants, and even clean up dirty diapers, no matter how powerful the digestive track of your absolutely adorable baby may be.
In fact, they’ve been adapted for use in almost as wide a range of applications as there are species, from a Mushroom Death Suit, suitable to usher the body decaying process at burial, to a compost for packaging and furniture that could one day replace plastic and other non-degradable materials, to future uses in the auto industry.
Thus, it was almost inevitable to learn about two relatively surprising properties these at times beautiful organisms may have in store for all of us, free for the taking and all related to that special kind, so dear to so many, the magic mushrooms: they are abundant after storms and they may be actually good for you.

FRESH AFTER THE HURRICANE
As it turns out, then, hurricanes like to leave something else on their wake, besides mayhem and destruction: plenty of psychedelic mushrooms.  Of course, to many people, that particular kind of hongos is exactly what the definition of mayhem and destruction is meant to be. Perhaps.
Or it’s just a freakish way of nature to compensate those living in high-risk areas: to give them a break in the form of a trip to their own mind. As long as they can come back sane and sound, they most likely would appreciate the gift, if given a taste. Philosophically speaking, maybe.
The phenomenon was first observed after Hurricane Irene‘s passage in the New York metropolitan area, in 2011. What was then a rare and mildly intense storm – not nearly as lethal and devastating as the following year’s Hurricane Sandy – did seem to have made some folks wide-eyed happy afterwards, according to unconfirmed reports.
It gets better. As it goes, the magic kind also improves your general well being, according to research conducted (more)
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Read Also:
* Mushroom Car
* Nothing’s Wasted
Continue reading

Aurora in New York

Lorca, the Voice of Spain
That Franco Could Not Kill

‘I realized they had murdered me. They ransacked the cafés, the graveyards, the churches… But they never found me? No. They never found me.’ This eerie Federico Garcia Lorca (mis)quote accurately describes what has actually happened for over half a century.
Until the early 2000s, when rumors were finally confirmed that he’d been shot and buried in a mass grave by a Spanish right-wing falange, 80 years ago this Friday, the mystery of Lorca’s demise only compounded to his allure. And his body still remains undiscovered.
In the meantime, the fascist regime that killed him, and ruled Spain until dictator Francisco Franco was finally dead in 1975, lasted too long but not nearly as long as will both Lorca‘s legacy and the world’s acknowledgement of his greatness. His stature has actually increased.
Before we pat each other’s back, though, on the assumption that poets always win over despots, let’s not forget the grim fate of thousands of Spaniard republicans, who were also murdered, but unlike Lorca, were buried along their names, personal history, and ideal of a free world.
While Franco, and so many others, died ‘peacefully’ in their sleep, the tormented lives of those they killed or sent to the gallows left plenty of grief to spare for generations. Luckily for Lorca, who was far from being a political animal, something else was going on for him.

THE GENTILHOMBRE OF ANDALUSIA
Already well known in Spain for his folk-inflected poetry and popular plays, his disappearance spiked interest on his work abroad, and his collection Poet en Nueva York, of poems written during his 10-month-long U.S. visit, in 1929-30, granted him critical acclaim.
Slowly too, the acknowledgment of his homosexuality has taken a front role in the appreciation of his work. Salvador Dali, who’s believed to have been his lover, had no qualms admitting it, although typically adding that their relation had been ‘very painful.’
In the end, though, regardless of his sexual orientation, it’s on his 20-odd years body of work where answers about the endurance of his legacy may lay. That’s what happens when a life is cut short, but in the case of Lorca, much remains to be savored and subjected to wider exposure.
A DARK PAST MAY PAY A VISIT
As for his death, many are ambivalent about the renewed search for his body. Ironically, it’s the kin of those who fought and perished in the Spanish Civil War that may have at least part of their (more)
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Read Also:
* Gypsy King
Continue reading

The 29

The Day I’ve Landed & the One
Question I’ve Been Always Asked

People like round numbers and big ‘Os’ are all the rage. Birthdays and anniversaries seem much louder if the date ends with a zero. But not me, I like fractured numbers. Evens are fine, but the odd ones hold a special slot on my book. Like 29, for instance.
It’s been that many years since I’ve arrived in Manhattan, in what was supposed to be a short season at the center of the world, and turned into the skin of a lifetime. 29 was also my roll call in grade school, before a classmate whose initial was ‘Y’. 
Just don’t ask about primes. For this special relationship with digits may be also why two major areas of the human experience have always been hostile to me: Math and lotto. Neither did me any favors, despite the fact that it’d love to be their pets. Numbers are cold that way.
While that’ll likely to remain the same, the New York where I’ve landed has changed many times over, though. And so have I, who lived, died, and reincarnated into so many different lives, none of which I’ve ever thought I’d pick, inherit, own. There may be some stats for those odds.
Here I’ve fell out of love, and fell right back in again; had a few changes of heart, and had it broken many times too, twice over losing my cats, all the while switching my tongue and aging into a cranky old man.
Departed parents, and a brother, and a few friends, could not inform the transformation taking place outside my sore eyes. But all it takes is a glance of that shrinking face staring back at me to see I was not spared: soon enough, my number too will be up.
I got to say, all these pretty pics of Rio and its games, being shown nightly, have made me jealous. A life can be crammed into a few strokes; any body can be stuffed into a piece of luggage. It’s what seeps through and stains the pavement that attracts notice.
I’ve always thought that my footprints were going to lead me all the way back to the Marvelous City. But now it’s another place oblivious to my run. In the end, 29 may number the things I did good while calculating the odds. I can’t think of a single one right now, though.
Why did I leave? I was asked over and over. When I was done dismissing it, I tried to settle the matter. At some point, I wrote a short essay about it. That’s what I’m sharing with you today. Hey, happy anniversary of my trip across the ocean. I have no regrets.

WHY LEAVE?

I left Brazil because I used to feel like a foreigner. Born in Rio but raised in the South, my accent sounds alien. A friend defined it for me, ‘you speak like someone who’s on the go.’ Years of living abroad have certainly not improved my situation. Most likely, I’m forgotten to all but a few, and to most, I never even existed. I left Brazil because we did not speak the same language.

I left Brazil, in part, because my name triggered jokes and personal grief. It’s not Brazilian enough, and people looked funny at me pronouncing it. Spelling mistakes plagued me whenever it there was a form to fill. Worse, some would size me up, suspicious that it was a ploy. As if Dad — an Episcopalian Reverend in a mostly Catholic country — had committed an act of sedition by calling us Norton, Norris, Wesley, and Joyce Mag. And I had to pay for his treason. I had to leave Brazil before someone accused me of unbrazilian activities.

I also left my country because, while most Brazilians are of mixed race, no one likes to admit it. Hot-iron treatment remains a staple of inner city beauty parlors. Living in the South didn’t help it either. Down there, the majority is of European heritage — have you heard of someone named Giselle something? For my blond, blue-eyed class, I was neither white nor black. ‘With a foot in Africa’, they would add, heavy on the innuendo. That I’ve been proud of my black blood was never the case. I had to leave Brazil after one too many, ‘Go back to Africa!’

I had to leave Brazil because Brazilian music is seldom heard on the radio. The country’s exquisite music tradition is today unfashionable. This may sound like whining. Whether contemporary music in Brazil is in a regressive mode or I am the one getting older and cranky, is irrelevant. As an experiment, round up a group of jazz players and question them about their favorite music. I assure you, four out of five will pick Brazilian. Do the same in Brazil and chances are, Justin and Eminem or Kanye will top the list. Not offense but I forced myself to leave Brazil so to enjoy and play Brazilian music.

Finally, I had to leave Brazil because I was unhappy. Simply put, I had a good job but had no money. I was close to family and friends but getting farther and farther from my dreams, which I sill have plenty, thanks for asking. Traveling and living abroad was in one of my first to-do lists, compiled while still in school. I had acquaintances telling me, ‘you lucky bastard, got a good job and a good woman; you’re set for life. Why leave?’ I’ve given myself the right to disagree. I left the job but kept the woman. Most come to America to find themselves. I had to leave Brazil to get lost.

Hit Parade

Hey, Hello There.
Nice of You to Stop By

Dear readers: Thank you. For some crazy reason, Colltales’ readership hits are kissing the sky today. Since I haven’t done anything to spike the stats, I assume it’s some kind of fluke, some search engine going awry and drawing people to come and visit. So, welcome you all.
Still, if you have any idea, feel free to speak up. I see that our dear people in Turkey are leading the way, so perhaps something in Istanbul or Ankara is driving attention to our humble site. Well, now that you’re all here, make yourselves comfortable and take a good look around.
Let me tell you a little bit about ourselves. We’ve been on for four years, give or take, and our posts, as you can see, cover a wide variety of subjects. So, after scrolling down for a little bit, perhaps you may want to look up favorite themes through our own search engine (middle bottom left).
Our guess is that among, say, five choices of issues you’re interested in, we have at least one post about or related to one of them. That’s because there are over 1,300 hundred articles on this site, including news stories, curiosities, current affairs, and even non fiction.
Try Children, or Space, for instance. Maybe Brazil, or Poverty, Cats, even Religion. There are headlined stories and opinion pieces, as the Curtain Raiser series. Hope you enjoy it. We put a lot of effort on this space, which you probably noticed, is independent and ad free.
Of course, we could never compete with a giant such as the Huffington Post. Or Justin Bieber. Compared to them, over 600 hits in a single day is no big deal. But as we say, if this blog were about people taking the NYC subway F line at 10am, everyday, it’d be a smash hit.
Then again, how would we be writing about the Amazon Rainforest? or the mysteries of space and time? Even the NYC subway F line. To each, its own, then. We hope you make stopping by here a daily habit; there’ll be always something new to be discovered in these pages.
Thanks again for the nice feeling you’ve given us. Specially you, Turkey. It’s almost like having a warm meal in your belly after going hungry for so long. Almost like an early Thanksgiving, without the family fights. Feel free to tell your loved ones about this friend you now have in New York. Hey, we may even hit the 1000 mark today. And leave your comments, so we know you’re there. All the best to everyone. WC

Sinking In

Something Else the Titanic Took
Down That We’re Still to Recover

When the world closed in on over 1,500 souls, at 2:20 a.m. a hundred years ago, and the R.M.S. Titanic started its final trek towards its watery grave, those who survived were left to face a brand new century, one where the deafening silent that reigned over that darkest of the hours would hardly have any chance to ring again in their ears.
They were about to board a world getting increasingly busy and much noisier, full of rambling planes and automobiles, of burning light bulbs and ringing telephones. Of talking movies and blabbering tabloids. Of a soaring Caruso singing through the airwaves, and the sound of massive crowds celebrating their sports teams.
A world where people would start taking elevators to go to work in big, tall buildings. A time where some would have everything but time, and most would dream about selling their own in exchange for money and power. An era when the stock market would hold more weight than the labor and sweat of millions, and only when it crashed would restore a temporary balance of fortunes.
The 705 people picked up by the Carpathia from the Atlantic’s frigid waters, would carry within them that ominous silence to their very last breath. A silence made even more taxing and disturbing because it Continue reading

On the Cheap

Getting Married? a Coin in the
Machine & a Toilet Paper Dress

Since we’ve borrowed and read Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, we keep seeing signs everywhere. But despite the crisis, people are still getting married, bless their souls, so at least some of us are hopeful things will improve.
Things are already improving (knock on wood) for at least one demographics: gay couples, who’re finally, and ever so slowing, gaining the right to share in the miseries (and benefits) heterosexuals have been abusing for years.
In New York City, for example, some lucky LGBT lovers will get married free of charge on July 30th, in a big, collective ceremony sponsored by Pop Up Chapel. It’ll be a gift for them, to mark the state’s recently approved same-sex legislation.
For everybody else, there’s the AutoWed, a “wedding vending machine that will get you two hitched in minutes for just $1.” Continue reading

You Belong to Me

The Branding of Young
Girls By Sex Traffickers

For millennia, the art of tattoo has served to ritualistic beautify the body, make statements about deeply personal or communally shared beliefs, and as a powerful element of mystical identification.
As purely an art form, the practice of covering the body with tattoos is also a way of wearing a particularly transcendental vision, which can transform the skin into a malleable canvas of abstract or realistic depictions of deities, realities and narratives.
They can be illustrations telling fantastic stories about that person’s inner life, his or her ancestors, places they belong to or aim to reach at the end of their journeys.
But along the years, the practice also became an unmistakable sign of ownership, a synonymous of proprietary rights over that individual, a warning that such body belongs to someone else. Just like animals being branded with the logo of their masters.
Today, tattooing and branding are virtually indistinguishable. Continue reading

Members Only

Berlusconi’s Gift to Mars, King
Tut’s Loss & Iran’s Penis Cemetery

Italian billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not the only politician, or rich person, who believes the world is his playground. But you’ve got to give it to him: he’s astonishingly oblivious to the horror that usually greets his decisions, mostly guided by the pursuit of fun, candy and more power. As for us, we just happen to be camping around, mostly annoying the hell out of him.
So when the 1800-year old classical Roman statue of Venus and Mars was loaned to his office, Berlusconi immediately made plans to fix it.
As it turned out, the likeness of the ruler of war had his penis chipped off circa 175 C.E., and the goddess of love was missing a hand too. Never mind that it’s been exhibited that way at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome for years.
The other day, the work was completed and delivered to his door, and Berlusconi was beside himself. After all, a man known Continue reading

Almost Got Away

Asian Refugee and Crab
Share a Common Dream

The elderly man on the right boarded a Vancouver-bound plane in Hong Kong. The young man on the left inhabited the man on the right’s face and neck mask disguise. They both, er, the man on the left got caught after slipping way too soon into something more comfortable, while still on the plane.
Confused yet? Let’s start it over. The Asian man did almost everything right to get to Canada, reasons unknown. Had he waited just a bit longer, he would’ve been successful, what with an American passport and a legit-looking boarding pass in his pocket and all. But maybe it was too hot under that movie-quality rubber mask, so he didn’t. And got caught big time.
Afterwards, the plane crew claimed that it had indeed suspected his “young looking” hands (Haven’t they ever heard about the wonders of Pond’s?), and that he claimed two suitcases too short. When he said he had just one, they instantly produced the other two, one of them with the discarded disguise inside. Which, mind us saying, looks like that of an old sailor man, doesn’t it? Whatever.
Of course, everyone is hyperventilating about the obvious implications to security screening at airports and all. Would those new X-rated HD screeners be able to spot the mask, besides his genitals? Who cares? We’re kind of sympathetic with the poor guy. And, like the terminal staff, impressed with his acting skills; apparently his body language was pitch-perfect with that of an old man (from the sea).
No second chance for the stray crab, though. Spotted Thursday in New York, the doomed sea creature was desperately trying to flee his crowded tank at one of Chinatown’s live seafood stores. It made as far as half a block away, before a fast-thinking (albeit indifferent) man scooped it up with a discarded coffee cup and kept walking. Snack time, perhaps? Truly disgusting. Needless to say, we’re kind of sympathetic with the poor crab, etc, etc.

Pet Offender

Suffolk to Track
Animal Abusers

Here’s a national registry that couldn’t have come any time sooner. Just like sex offenders are required by law to disclose their whereabouts to a nationwide database, so will people convicted of offenses against animals, at least in this Long Island, New York, county.
It’s the equivalent to the Megan’s Law, which was finally established after one too many brutal atrocities against children were committed by convicted criminals at large. Continue reading

Finding Hopper

Artist Created Iconic Diner
for Nighthawks of New York

Many searched for the place in the winding streets of Greenwich Village. Some looked for years for signs of its faded glory. But in the end, as in many works of art, what they were all after existed only in Edward Hopper‘s imagination.
That’s what Jeremiah Moss, the blogger behind the “Vanishing Continue reading

Drowning Nations

Global Warming May Claim
Its First Micronesian Nation

The 29 low-lying coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean that make up the Republic of the Marshall Islands have a history that goes back four thousand years. This Micronesian nation was named after an English captain, hosted U.S. WWII battles against the Japanese and nuclear tests, and was ruled by a succession of European powers. It finally became a self-governing country in 1979.
It’s now the first one risking to disappear for good, under the threat of rising sea levels. Its 60 thousand plus inhabitants are running against the clock so it can also be declared the first Continue reading

Chelsea Hotel

New York Landmark
Seeks a New Owner

Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen slept there. So did Andy Warhol. Robert Mapplethorpe and Quentin Crisp had a few loud arguments. Arthur Miller was once heard screaming on the first floor, while Eugene O’Neill and Charles Bukosvski used to get drunk but kept to themselves. Unlike Sid Vicious, who stabbed his girlfriend to death in his room, and passed out waiting for a drug delivery.
Now the Hotel Chelsea, as those who know little about it call it, is up for sale, squeezed by the new realities of stratospheric real estate values Continue reading

Coexisting

A Liberty Street Message
for Peace at Ground Zero

An idea, brainstormed by Russell Simmons, Sean Bonner and Glen E. Friedman, turned Simmons’s home windows into a statement to tolerance and a call for peaceful coexistence among all New York faiths.
It should be obvious to all but we’re glad some would still take the time to come up with fresh ways to remind us. So if you walk on by it, take a picture and send it to your friends, to show that you care too.

Unbelievable

Battle for Your Heart (and
Wallet) Reaches Fever Pitch

JUST IN: The Fort Worth Transportation Authority banned religious or atheist advertisements on city buses, which means the latter group won this battle. While the atheists will have to take down their ads from the buses, the religious van will go on.
It may be the season. It may be the times. It may be that those who don’t care far outnumber those who do. It may be a number of things but one thing it is not: a meaningful fight.
It used to be a factor only for lands laying beyond the Hudson River. Armies of increasingly belligerent believers fighting growing hordes of dismissive rationalists over who should own a stake on that trivial but potentially explosive question: what’s your religion? A quiz that has been fading from pretty much any Continue reading

Fading HIV

Good News May Point
to World Without Aids

The Obama administration’s formulation of a new Aids/HIV policy in the past weeks coincided with a cluster of good news that may be pointing to another turning point in the fight to control and eradicate this epidemic worldwide. At the same time, social factors continue to represent the most serious obstacle to achieve such lofty goals.

With about 37 million people living with the infection in the world today, one million of them in the U.S., plus the over 24 million who already died of the disease since 1981, including half-million Americans, Aids has definitely not gone away, despite the appearances that the worst is over. Continue reading

NY State of Never Mind

Governor Race Trades Fresh
Ideas for Predictable Outcome

The race for governor of New York may unofficially be between Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the state’s Attorney General, and Buffalo real estate developer Carl Paladino. But for the equally willing five other candidates, the position is a perfect fit to no one but them.
Anti-Prohibition’s Kristin Davis and Rent is Too Damn High’s Jimmy McMillan, in special, really seem to live up to their self-assigned billing. No offense but Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Warren Redlich and Freedom Party’s Charles Barron just lack that certain je nes sais quoi quality these two have plenty of.
Remember Ms. Davis (no, not that Kristin Davis)? This one is the madam convicted for providing “Client #9,”aka former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, with a G-string of sex professionals that ultimately caused his political crash and burn. As a motto, she’d take a pair of handcuffs upstate to teach a thing or two to any nasty lawbreaker – and quite possibly, any naughty lawmaker too. After all, well, you know.
– “Most politicians wait until they get elected to get indicted. I’m saving voters time and money.
And McMillan is the long time serial candidate who’s vowed to employ his lethal Karate skills to deal with the intricacies of Albany politics. At Monday night’s governor race debate, he also sported a pair of menacing black gloves, which he explained had Continue reading

Leonids

Meteor Showers May Again Be
Obscured by the Raining Kind

This morning, early dawn, the Leonids annual meteor shower arrives again. Although historically known to be the most active of the various of its kind throughout the year, this time around astronomers expect the show to be of the modest kind, because the moon will be almost full. But if you live in New York, you wound’t know it either way.
After a few unusually warm nights, fall in the Eastern Seaboard remains as unpredictable as a meteor count, and a cloud-covered Continue reading

Of Birds & Beams

Migratory Birds Get Lost
Within 9/11 Twin Beams

From a distance, it looked like silver confetti. Or shredded paper from a ticker tape parade. But it turned out to be 10,000 trapped birds that momentarily had lost their sense of direction. The “Tribute of Light,” those two beams of light that are lit every Continue reading

Dr. Winston O’Boogie

It’s Johnny’s Birthday,
Would You Care to Join Us? (*)

* John Lennon would’ve been 70 Saturday and New York – where his widow Yoko Ono and son Sean live, and where he was assassinated in 1980 – led the celebrations, along with his birth city Liverpool. Screenings, shows, exhibitions, the relaunching of his and the couple’s albums, and a variety of events marked the former Beatle’s life and times around the world.
Yoko herself went to Reykjavik, Iceland, to perform with the Plastic Ono Band at a peace concert and, as she’s been doing for some time every Oct. 9, light the Imagine Peace Tower ceremony. And pretty much every Beatle fan and Lennon’s relative turned the day into a special occasion one way or another.
* Media coverage in almost every tongue known to man has reached saturation levels and, with all the above plus analysis, interviews, articles, critical portrayals and adulatory tributes going on in the past few weeks, there’s no need to add anything else, except to share something short, exclusive and, most likely, obvious.
What were you doing when you heard that John Lennon had been shot?
By now, few doubt that this was one of those events powerful enough to disrupt the fabric of the plausible reality and immediately bend it, wrapping everything else around it.
Some memories turned quickly into oblivion, while others got a hold of all recollections of that moment when, suddenly, there was a world without John Lennon out there.
* Our band had a busy week ahead. Before Continue reading

Thirsty Future

Water Supplies and Access
To Define Mankind Survival

Human Rights Now Include Access to Clean Water
____________________

The U.N. General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right last month, in a Bolivia-drafted resolution approved by 124 nations. The vote was considered unanimous, even though 41 countries, including Canada, abstained from voting. The fact that there even were abstentions at all is nothing short of surprising. For within or very near the Canadian borders, for example, sit some of the world’s greatest glaciers, but never mind about that for now.
It is an unrestricted victory for an increasing number of scientists who for years have been calling attention to the serious issue water, or its lack thereof, may represent to the future of this planet. In fact, it’s one of those threats that’s grave enough to end civilization, and it’s safe to say, it’s way more likely to happen than the catastrophic collision with an asteroid we all rightfully fear.
According to the UN, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion are without basic sanitation. Every eight seconds a child dies of a waterborne disease, in every case preventable if their parents had money to pay for water. In fact, more lives have been lost after World War II due to contaminated water than from all forms of violence and war. And a World Bank report says that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by more than 40%.
But let’s not get too wrapped up Continue reading

Runner of Mine

From Chilean   Miner #12
to New York Marathoner

Edison Peña, the miner who used to run underground while still trapped with 32 others in a Chilean mine for 69 days, is one of the attractions of this year’s marathon, along with your usual lot of African fast runners, fitness go-getters and wheel-chair bound devils. And, regardless of when and how he’ll to reach the finish line today, Peña’s sweet 15 minutes in the New York glare already marked at least one zeitgeist moment: his pitch-perfect – pronunciation, not so much – partial rendition of an Elvis Presley song during a talk show.

Syrup Junkies

Red Bees Mystery
Is Solved in Brooklyn

Over the summer, beekeepers in Brooklyn noticed a scary, disturbing trend, one that wouldn’t look out of place in a nightmarish sci-fi novel: their bees were turning red. Worst, instead of honey, they began producing an overly sweet, metallic tasting red concoction. Keepers were at loss to explain the new phenomenon, but then again, their world is no stranger to weird Continue reading