Tuesday, October 16, 2007

309. Karl of the Corporation

circular arguments
bedazzle rigid minds

I was reinforced in my dominion
by ignorance and by stubborn pride,
by a belief in only one opinion.
Stand out of my way, sir,
if you know what is good for you.

I lied,
because I could not tell the truth.
Bare facts, an abomination,
lacked the salt of imagination.
I tried
to explain things always in a way
that would meet some expectation.
Unwelcome possibilities
got themselves shot down
like darkies in a cornfield,
like wetbacks in a river.
The bosses didn’t care:
never shouldn’ta oughta bin there.
Mow them down, rat-a-tat-tat
jump in the car and hit the town,
then talk of Rembrandt and Cezanne
and try to fondle Sally Anne.
Do the same old thing tomorrow,
a well-dressed man of constant sorrow.

Many versts across the barren fields
from the shining palaces of Petersburg,
a girl with snow-white arms upraised:
O Bog, she says (their word for God),
O Bog, get me out of here!

As an unwanted child,
lonely, destructive, anti-social,
I had no trouble believing
that God was indeed a special friend.
Little then did I know
what I've come to know in the end.
The Church, as ever, opened its arms
and welcomed my delusion;
it prays and preys upon
adolescence and confusion.
My son, do you have a vocation?
Get away to fuck.
(Get away to fuck, Father ).
I was not in the habit of talking to strangers,
unless, of course, idiot tourists,
eager and uncertain,
looking for a place to spend hard cash.
A furry masculine moustache
began with the hairs around my groin,
it would join in the fortunes of those parts,
the intricate lies, the broken hearts,
the additions, loans, debentures,
the many cold-eyed cheap adventures.
I held one truth to be self-evident,
that all men procreated
pretty much continuously,
so in order to stand out
one had to be a bit of a bastard.
In fact, I mastered the mechanics
at about the age of six,
an enlightening heady mix
of bluff and certain knowledge,
so that all the blows and cuffs and kicks
of the ambient adult world
became a poor boy’s college.
I’ll tell you one thing,
you can forget the rest:
those to whom evil is done
do certain evil in return.
They burn
with righteous and amoral wrath
they cleave a hard and frightening path
between the innocent and the innocent.
Stand out of my way, sir,
if you know what is good for you.

The guilty they leave well alone
(those boys can be dangerous).
I never really fell in love
until seven years ago.
I had a carapace of immunity,
ready-made, form-fitting,
born of the arrogant impunity
of treating people as things.
But I find love brings
little happiness, less relief.
It is my sad and certain belief
that love can never be learned
nor earned
when a loveless child becomes a man.
My plan
was to rule the world
or at least my little bit of it.
Then the whiskey got in the way.
God bless the whiskey;
pity it wasn’t tears instead.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

308. Ritter's Quiz

Scott Ritter, an intelligence specialist with a 12-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, joined the United Nations weapons inspections team, or UNSCOM in 1991. He participated in 34 inspection missions in Iraq, 14 of them as chief inspector. Ritter resigned from UNSCOM in August 1998, citing US interference in the work of the inspections. Since then he has become a vociferous and outspoken critic of US Middle East policy, in particular the "selling" of the Second Iraq War to the American public. Recently he has been trying to warn that similar falsifications and misrepresentations will be employed by the Bush administration to justify an assault on Iran. Two of the main themes in his articles and public appearances are that the American public does not understand its own Constitution and has allowed the current administration to undermine it seriously if not fatally under the rubric of the Global War on Terror, and that the US public has little if any understanding (or interest) in the historical tensions that have been causing a rise in fundamentalism within the world of Islam.

Ritter writes:

The task of holding Congress to account is a daunting one, and can be accomplished only if the citizenry that forms the respective constituencies of our ignorant congressional representatives are themselves able to operate at an intellectual capacity above that of those they are holding to account. So rather than issue “pop quizzes” to our elected representatives, I’ve designed one for us, the people. If the reader can fully answer the question raised, then he or she qualifies as one capable of pointing an accusatory finger at Congress as its members dither over what to do in Iraq. If the reader fails the quiz, then there should be an honest appraisal of the reality that we are in way over our heads regarding this war, and that it is irresponsible for anyone to make sweeping judgments about the ramifications of policy courses of action yet to be agreed upon. Claiming to be able to divine a solution to a problem improperly defined is not only ignorant but dangerously delusional.

So here is the quiz: Explain the relationship between the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Baghdad as they impact the coexistence of Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni populations.

Most respondents who have a basic understanding of Iraq will answer that Karbala is a city of significance to Iraq’s Shiite population. Baghdad is Iraq’s capital, with a mixed Sunni and Shiite population. If that is your answer, you fail.

Click here to read the rest of Ritter's article "Calling Out Idiot America"

307. Adam&Eve

Hamid Bahrami is an Iranian cartoonist. Check out his work here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

306. The Grand Shrine at Ise

According to Japanese legend, around 2,000 years ago the divine Yamatohime-no-mikoto, daughter of the Emperor Suinin, set out from Mt. Miwa in modern Nara Prefecture in search of a permanent location to worship the goddess Amaterasu-omikami, wandering for 20 years through the regions of Ohmi and Mino. Her search eventually brought her to Ise, in modern Mie Prefecture, where she is said to have established Naikũ ( the Inner Shrine) after hearing the voice of Amaterasu Omikami saying that she wanted to live forever in the richly abundant area of Ise, near the mountains and the sea. Prior to Yamatohime-no-mikoto's journey, Amaterasu-omikami had been worshiped at the Imperial residence in Yamato, then briefly at a temporary location in the eastern Nara basin.

Officially known simply as Jingū or "The Shrine," Ise Jingū is in fact a shrine complex composed of over one hundred individual shrines, divided into two main parts. Gekū (外宮), or the Outer Shrine, is located in the town of Yamada and dedicated to the deity Toyouke no ōmikami, the deity responsible for sacred offerings of food to Amaterasu, while Naikū (内宮), or the Inner Shrine, is located in the town of Uji and dedicated to Amaterasu ōmikami. The two are located some six kilometers apart, joined by a pilgrimage road that passes through the old entertainment district of Furuichi. The High Priest or Priestess of the Ise Shrine must come from the Japanese Imperial Family, and watches over the Shrine.

According to the official chronology, the shrines were originally constructed in the year 4 BC, but most historians date them from several hundred years later, with 690 AD widely considered the date when the shrines were first built in their current form. Legends say that Naikū was established by Yamatohime-no-mikoto. The shrines are mentioned in the annals of the Kojiki and Nihonshoki (dating from 712 and 720, respectively).

The architectural style of the Ise shrine is known as Shinmeizukuri (神明造) and may not be used in the construction of any other shrine. The old shrines are dismantled and new ones built to exacting specifications every 20 years at exorbitant expense, so that the buildings will be forever new and forever ancient and original. The present buildings, dating from 1993, are the 61st iteration to date and are scheduled for rebuilding in 2013.

Gagaku Court dance

Site of the older shrine, now rebuilt behind the wooden fence to the right

Modern worshippers cluster at the rebuilt 1993 shrine (Note security guard at left reminding me photos are strictly forbidden within the shrine precincts! Oops.)