Saturday, June 27, 2009

Surrounded by a Bunch of Old Men

Last evening my wife and I spent the evening in the company of a group of old men and their wives. I had warned my wife before we arrived, "I won't recognize anybody." And I was correct. Fifty years ago these old men and I walked across the high school stage and were handed our diplomas. We didn't look like teenagers any more. Time does terrible things to one's body. Twenty were already dead.

There were conversations about bypass surgery, stents, enlarged prostates and other sordid topics that I recall my older relatives discussing after Thanksgiving dinner long ago. Yet, these were my classmates, those energetic, narcissistic and optimistic fellow graduates who I last saw in June of 1959.

No one looked the same as that small photo glued to our name tags. When approaching someone, each would quickly glance at that 18-year-old graduation picture, before speaking. "Bill! nice to see you." "How are you, Harry?" "Remember 4th period study hall?" "What ever happened to Jim Smith?"

Surely, each of us, had we been brutally honest, would have said, "Damned, Bill, you sure don't look like that photo stuck on your shirt; what the hell happened to you?"

Fifty years of gravity, stress, sun-exposure, and careless health choices had made their marks. It was clear- we were a bunch of old men. Nonetheless, we were a jovial lot throughout the evening, telling tales of our classroom misadventures and rating our teachers. "I hope he's burning in Hell!" was a common phrase said about one of our history teachers. I may have been the first one. He really was a bastard. Lots of sentences began, "Remember when...?"

Tales of another time, another world. Kennedy was just a senator and the Washington Senators were customarily at the bottom of the American League standings. Jim Bunning a pitcher for the Tigers, and no one then thought he's become a U.S. Senator. No one had walked on the moon; no one had a cell phone or a PC. Typewriters and White-out for errors. 'Mack the Knife' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Stagger Lee" on the new transistor radios. Studebakers, DeSotos and Packards in our driveways. TV's were tuned to Rawhide, Bonanza and, of course, American Bandstand. Two new states, Alaska and Hawaii. The word 'astronaut' entered our conversations as did Cape Canaveral. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper go down- the day the music died. Doris Day and Connie Francis and, of course, Annette Funicello lit our fires. Some cigar-smoking revolutionary named Castro topples the Cuban regime. Here in Toledo, the St. Lawrence Seaway opens to bring international ships to our city. Our youngest sisters have Barbie Dolls in their bedrooms and our girlfriends might be wearing pantyhose. Two monkeys were shot into space and a far-distant place on earth called Vietnam began to catch our attention.

Ancient history to our grandchildren. Just yesterday for us.

Little did we know, as we gathered those 50 years ago for photographs with our classmates and family, how our world would would change and, in fact, define us . We were at that ripe age that kings, dictators and other political miscreants sent off to foreign lands to fight the old-man wars- for glory, greed and vengeance. The killing fields of Vietnam awaited us. Vietnam would forever both define and scar this graduation class. Some would return in body bags; others with life-long PTSD.

Who knew, in that summer of '59, that America would fight another war? Our dads and uncles had just come back from Japan and Germany, and our oldest cousins from Korea. Surely we thought, in our naivety, that our generation would be smart enough to avoid yet another war. Our new and young president would not ask us to go 'over there' and fight 'the enemy,' would he? We had college and marriage and careers ahead of us, not another war. Surely not our generation. Surely not us.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Goat For Azazel

If we modern-day men slew an occasional goat, would we feel better about ourselves and the condition of our lives? Did the act of casting a goat off of a cliff those eons ago actually wipe men's hard drives clean and cleanse their psyche? If so, perhaps we ought to create a new holiday here in America: National Scapegoating Day. It would, naturally, be another excuse-to-drink holiday that we love to celebrate here.

In all of those historic, mythical-searching strands of time, there was apparently a 'need' to periodically purge oneself of both guilt and fear, especially fear of the unknown, the unseen, and the spirits that haunted both the world and underworld.

Psychologists have recently begun to talk about memes- a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, and is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Wikipedia notes this about memes: Theorists point out that memes which replicate the most effectively spread best, and some memes may replicate effectively even when they prove detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.

Do men pass on the goat-meme to their sons? Have men, in fact, been crippling future generations for Milena by passing down a meme that has proven detrimental to the welfare of their hosts?

So why do modern-day American men need to purge? Surely we are no longer afraid of demons and devils from the netherworld. Nor evil spirits. And, as science daily unravels for us the 'mysteries' of life for us, surely we modern men are less afraid of those once-esoteric, cryptic mysteries. The Boogieman is no longer in our closets.

It seems to me that American men are an angry lot and growing ever-more-so. This economic crisis, as the newspapers report, has brought about even more family and spousal abuse cases. Shelters are overflowing. Men are shooting people more and more these days- another of those detrimental to the welfare of their hosts memes that rampantly festers like salmonella in the summer heat.

Some Christians believe that they have discovered a man, 'a pure suffering one,' who would be sacrificed to rescue mankind from its fear and hopelessness, one who would release them from the anger of the Father by taking that anger upon himself, one who would offer an example to lead human minds into a new truth, a new attitude about the world and their place within it. He would be an example to show how they could relate to one another on a higher moral level, with love and compassion.

The 'anger of the Father' is a curious line. Of course, Bible-ists think that it refers to the mysterious and mystical Man in the Sky. Yet, might this peculiar reference to the anger of the Father connote something altogether more closely related, literally? Why should a loving, good and gracious God have 'anger' as one of His component characteristics? Coincidentally, the History Channel has been advertising a program to be aired this Monday evening titled, Banned from the Bible- a list of books that were too angry, too violent to be included in that book.

War-mongering, fear, hate, bigotry and abuse have characterized the human male ever since records have been kept. The Jesus-as-scapegoat concept hasn't ameliorated the psyche of the American male too very much as our recent history denotes. That' s why I'm suggesting a yearly, perhaps monthly, goat-over-the-cliff ritual for men. A soul cleansing event for and by men, accompanied, naturally, by ritual fire, music, dance and intoxicants. Each town, city and village all across America could build its own special and unique goat-scaping arena, not unlike the sports stadiums of today or the purifying temples of yesteryear.

It becomes more clear each day that American men are not behaving less barbarically than those men written of in the Bible or in history books. American men, and those soaked in the Bible, still cannot keep their pants zipped, are still seen with nooses in their hands, or guns, or clubs. Still have reddened hands from beating their children or wives. Whether politician, preacher, or family man, the reports of men acting in barbaric ways towards others continue to cross the airwaves and the newspapers of America. Men in this 'Christian nation' reflect the same savagery and wild, primitive behaviors that men have always demonstrated.

The Christ-as-scapegoat story has become blase, meaningless and hollow. Some Jewish insurgent, put to death by the Imperial Roman occupiers, doesn't seem to satisfy the modern American male, to satiate his inborn meme that desires retributional sacrifice.

Real goats. Monthly slaughter. Ritual accompanied by fire and chanting, may be a cure for the angry American male.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stone Age Flutes Found in Germany

A bird-bone flute unearthed in a German cave was carved some 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archaeologists say, offering the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture.

A team led by University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.

Together, the pieces comprise a 8.6-inch (22-centimeter) instrument with five holes and a notched end. Conard said the flute was 35,000 years old.

Conard's team excavated the flute in September 2008, the same month they recovered six ivory fragments from the Hohle Fels cave that form a female figurine they believe is the oldest known sculpture of the human form.

Together, the flute and the figure — found in the same layer of sediment — suggest that modern humans had established an advanced culture in Europe 35,000 years ago, said Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who didn't participate in Conard's study.


Imagine that, people were listening to and inventing tunes some 35 thousand years ago! What melodies did they play? What kind of scale [if any] did they use? For what events in life was a musical accompaniment attached?

The right brain enjoying the freedom to discover, invent, dream.

To hear how this flute sounded, scroll to the bottom of this link

And we thought that only recently had humankind developed divergent and disparate thinking. Our 'picture' of life back then is becoming more complete with each new discovery. Apparently this cave region in Germany holds a treasure trove of infornation about our distant ancestors. With each new discovery, they seem to have been quite like us in many respects. They found time for art and music, so perhaps their life was not merely survival among the beasts, the weather and other tribes.

God-Pimping Over?

The Party of God, also whoringly known as the Republican Party, has just about run out of proselytizing prostitutes who claim to be the First Born Son of family values. Yesterday, yet one more holier-than-thou GOP politician admitted adultery, or euphemistically, an 'extra-marital affair.' The shock waves from the admission of adultery by GOP Senator John Ensign were not yet spent when the newest 'family-values' politician wept before the cameras. Has former GOP Senator Larry Craig managed to keep his zipper up lately? And what about down in Louisiana? Has the adulterous Senator David Vitter been in bed with any new women since he 'came out' about his 'sexual indiscretions?'

Oh sure, the Dems have their own zipper problems, but members of that party aren't hucksters selling worthless crap to the public election after election. It remains to be seen whether the public will be 'buying' the standard GOP line of bull next November. That God, guns and gays package has lost one worthless piece of tripe, maybe two. Just the guns are left, and definitely, they do love their guns.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Corn, Tomatoes and Peaches

Summer is here at last. It's not the date nor the 90 degree heat. Rather, it's the fruit and vegetables. I rode my bike to the market this afternoon and came home with sweet corn, big fat field-grown tomatoes and ripe peaches. Now I know it- summer is here at last!

It is Clear Why America Rejected John McCain

Most of us were smart enough to figure it out before November last year, but for those who voted the 'party' ticket, here's why 70 million Americans voted for Obama. Yesterday, McCain was asked by a reporter, 'Whose side do you think President Obama is on, Ahmadinejad or the people in the street?' It was a slow-pitch softball question but McCain struck out. He couldn't decide if our president was 'on the side' of the tyrant or the people of Iran.

I guess when he sang, 'Bomb, bomb, bomb-bomb Iran' during the election campaign, many of those seventy million Americans figured the guy out right then and there. Just imagine the horror we would be facing this morning with McCain in the White House. I shutter thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sit Down and Drink Your Vinegar!

"You're not leaving the table until you've finished drinking your glass of vinegar!" How many times have we heard that at the dinner table! Well, perhaps not, but maybe we ought to be hearing it more often here in America, land of the free and home of the obese.

In an article from NewScience titled, Vinegar Might Fight Fat, there is new evidence that acetic acid can prevent the accumulation of body fat. Some people, including my mother and my son, relish [pardon the pun] the taste of vinegar. In fact, my mother used to tell the story that, in her youth, she and her sister would 'sneak' vinegar while their mother was out of the kitchen. Both lived into their 90's with very little body fat.

The Japanese scientists who conducted the study on mice report note that vinegar has been used as a folk medicine since ancient times. People have used it for a range of ills. Modern scientific research suggests that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, may help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and fat accumulation.Lab mice fed a high-fat diet and given acetic acid developed significantly less body fat (up to 10 percent less) than other mice, Kondo's team found.

If one doesn't worry about the break-down of teeth enamel and damage to the esophagas and stomach lining, vinegar-drinking might become as common as that glass of bovine mammary fluid now customarily found on family dinner tables. Better yet, make it red wine vinegar to get the benefits of resveratrol.

Monday, June 22, 2009

But What About the Feet?

I received homemade Fathers Day cards from my grandchildren yesterday- the best kind- but the one pictured here lacks feet. "Where are my feet,William?" I asked. "Sorry, Papa, I forgot them." "It doesn't matter," I replied, "because I especially like my purple PAPA shirt!"

His 'homemade card' days are surely numbered and will pass away quickly as they did for his older brother. One needs to cherish the moment.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day on Solstice

It is an interesting convergence of the summer solstice
and the celebration of Father's Day.
A celebration of when the sun is at its zenith,
after struggling through the dark and dreary winter,
to warm the days
extra hours of brightness to the nights
nurture the crops.

A symbol of hope.
A sign of empowerment.
The warm touch of a secure hand upon the head.
The metaphor of strength.

How do we fathers measure up to that symbolism?
It is not easy to be a good father in these turbid times.
So many distractions seduce a father from his proper role.
So many electronic gadgets isolate the child from reality.

Conversations become muted,
as in that button on the remote.
Father and child move in opposite directions,
almost as strangers in the same house.

Like crops need the sun
so too the child needs a father's strength.
In old age we look back upon our lives.
We reflect on what we have done and failed to do.
How did we fill the role of Father?

Alas, it is not for us to judge.
For the history is already written:
We need to ask our daughters and our sons.

Summer Solstice

Wishing you all of the joy, energy and power of the solstice sun.

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