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Could a snake be more disconcerting?

Despite, or maybe in addition to, all this, now we read that  “Scientists performed surgery on the hoods of cobras to determine how ribs turned into hood bones and rib muscles turned into hood muscles. A number of the snakes awoke from anesthesia during the surgery, which the scientists found ‘disconcerting’.”

That is disconcerting, but I’m thinking even more so for the snakes. How would you like to wake up during surgery? Surgery, by the way, performed by a species much advanced beyond your snake-ness. (Or so we think.) I’m thinking all those folks who’ve been nabbed by aliens and abducted to spaceships, then poked and prodded over the years might have some opinion here.

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meanwhile the messin’ wit alter boys continued unabated

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has changed the word ‘booty’ to ‘spoils’ in a new translation of the Bible. ‘Booty,’ to younger generations, connotes a portion of the body often shaken in time to music, rather than the spoils of war. ‘We needed a new translation because English is a living language,’ said Bishop Richard Skilba.
From The Week Magazine

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amy and brian

Amy has had cancer for 7 years. She lost a breast, but honestly she doesn’t think about it much. She’s back healthy, cancer-free, and everyone tells her she’s probably out of the woods. She never gave up the hat though. The one she wore when she didn’t have any hair. It looks good now capping thick gray locks – the hair makes her look both younger, because it’s so thick and, older because of the gray.

Brian works at the coffee shop that Amy has been going to for over a year and a half. Every morning, Amy comes in and orders light roast and sits down to read. This blows Brian’s mind. There’s this sense of grace that Amy commands that always reminds him of a priest in a sunlit church all alone. Brian never feels that. Except when he’s around Amy. It’s almost like his perception of her becomes his feelings inside, which sounds stupid.

Amy’s back at work. Everyone’s cool and all that but she thinks everyone knows just how close she is to the edge; how slippery the ridge, how foreboding the relapse. It’s right around the fucking corner. Of course there are survivors, but she’s been back with the chemo twice. The doctors and nurses cheer; and Amy can tell that they care with every fiber of their being. They’ve seen it so much and they’re fucking sick of seeing it. Victories for them are victories over whatever devil biology musters.

Brian is also sick and tired. Sick and tired of this job – not that he doesn’t love it in the sense that it’s comfortable and the customers love his patter and his coffee. The regulars light up his life. Most of them. They are his friends – certainly beyond whatever friends he has from high school and all that. But he’s sick and tired of not having a girl like Amy in his life. He deserves it as much as the next guy and she’s there and they’ve talked enough for him to know all about her cancer and he thinks she thinks he’s freaked out by it, but any attempt at convincing someone you’re not freaked out by something, sounds totally freaked out. So he doesn’t say anything.

Amy likes Brian. He’s one of the few constants in her life that just feels good. He’s funny and likes to drop in the “Cappuccino you later”s and rather than being annoyed, Amy feels right. She feels like he’s someone who understands that the constant, grim determination to be new, hip, novel and relevant, crushes the soul. Repetition is good. That’s why we have ritual.

Brian hands Amy her coffee. The sun beams through the Dunn Brother’s window. The room buzzes. She laughs for no real reason other than it’s all good, at least right now.

“Another day, another light roast,” Brian says.

“Thank you, sir,” she intones in a familiar military manner and Brian laughs.

She turns for her table.

“Amy,” he says, “wanna get a cup of coffee sometime? Uh, anywhere other than this sad joint?”

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snakes and empathy

“The world’s snake population and the empathy of college students were found to have dropped precipitously in the past decade.”

This from Harper’s “Findings” September 2010 issue, and this frightens me rather a lot. I don’t mind snakes, as long as they mind their own business and stay out of mine. But I also assume they really don’t want me up in their business either.* So let’s not let the snake population drop, despite our mutual animosity. Lord knows they eat something we don’t want around here; and we do the same for them.

But then there’s this other issue: empathy and college students. College students, for the love of god. That’s when your empathy should be at its most heightened state, blazing fucking empathy! Because you’re filled with passion, but lacking the knowledge that comes from experience, and so know mostly feelings, and your feelings better damn well be working toward the positive, caring, empathetic. People cared for you, young one, or you’d be dead. Now care for them, and feel their suffering.

Be filled with the love of the world, because if it’s dead in you now, barring some revelatory experience, which could be beautiful, but also often just plain creepy; it could be dead in you forever.

I’m thinking we need a new leading economic indicator: The Empathy Index – tracks how much society (or someone) cares about others in relation to how angry they are about their tax burden.

* Imagine being a snake and some San Diego zoologist is displaying you up there under the bright lights of Johnny Carson’s television stage (date: luke/old). Brutal, that, and not at all snake-like.

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Olivia’s head

I put my daughter’s latest sculpture head up on facebook and got 20+ people commenting or liking and I told her about it, Olivia, she’s six, and she was quite surprised and impressed although I don’t think she understood any of the facebook business, but got the liking business; it was similar to when my wife skyped me at home on a day I was there working with our sick 3 year old, Ben, who I brought over to the computer and there he saw mommy and she asked him questions and he sort of answered but mostly just grinned like a crazy man and you could just tell that he had no idea if that was really mommy or just some surprising screen-thing like tv, angry birds, jake and the neverland pirates, the ipad and the like.

Civics, trouble

Diamonds are a jeweler’s best friend and a bright, shiny light on our collective ignorance

I’m still amazed by this fact that has been known for years and years and years, and yet like teabags to Palin, people continue to beeline for jewelers to purchase diamonds and gift them as if they’re this rare, amazing and precious stone. Rare, they ain’t.

Getting caught up on my Harper’s mags today (I’m just reading the June 2010 issue) and there’s another great article to wit.

DeBeers got us by the stones

The gist: The diamond industry is an artificial, counterfeit and controlled market. The worth of that $2,000 diamond on your finger – in your world – is $2,000 because that’s what you paid. In the real world, it’s almost worthless. That’s because a single, very secretive corporation/organization (or cartel), essentially the DeBeers, control the number of diamonds on the market, and simple supply and demand economics allows them to keep that cost exactly as high as they want it to be. The very well-documented secret is that if all the shiny, sparkly, beautiful, precious diamonds currently gobbed into bags on shelves in great big room-sized DeBeers-controlled vaults around the world were suddenly couriered to the bajillion jewelery shops in all the malls, you could probably get a fistful for a few hundred dollars.

Your diamond is probably worthless, sad to say. But the worst part is that we’re all taken for complete suckers – over and over and over again. I count myself among the sucker population. But I’m done. I’ll never buy another. They’re stones, rocks. The only difference is someone doles them out like candies to the poor kids chasing their limo.

Civics, detritus, poetry

The secret of being boring is to say everything.

The prescient Voltaire

The quote is Voltaire’s and so precedes Facebook by a few centuries, but would certainly have been uttered by him again had he had the distinct pleasure to read the daily, sometimes hourly, even minute-by-minute observations shared by his “friends”. Facebook has many uses for people, organizations and multi-national corporations. It’s become a sort of individually tailored town square through which we users all walk (some only occasionally, others never seem to leave) to greet our friends, hear the gossip and see the storefronts and street vendors. It’s ultimately a terribly lazy, and strangely passive (even camouflaged), way to go about experiencing the world. You can more or less hide in a bush by the sidewalk and just watch it all unfold from there (generally my M.O.).

That is my way because I don’t communicate well through anything like an online “chat”. The rhythm of the chat (or texting) is broken for me. If we are going to lay out long stories, arguments, treatises and the like and have another comment in return, then that sort of typing, sending and waiting for reply works just fine. But if we’re going to have a conversation with short sentences (not even) and shorter replies, then we must do that in person or with sound. To wait more than a half of a second for someone to reply to “Meet me at Luce” with “OK” is ludicrous. It’s a colossal waste of time and, keeping in mind the rule that 99 percent of all quoted numbers are made up, I would bet that we’re wasting millions of hours of time each year waiting for simple, often inane, replies.

The other problem with the chat business is it becomes chatty and chatty is girlie which is why I’ve always said that Facebook is for girls and chatty boys. Imagine any real man – real or Hollywood induced – and then imagine them posting their status on Facebook. John Wayne, no way. Bronco Nagurski, not a chance. James Bond, not unless it was really a trigger to a bunker busting bomb on the side of a mountain on an island somewhere in the ocean. That’s because it’s information lite; and these guys were men of few words and certainly wouldn’t waste any on “Having red sauce with fresh tomatoes and basil tonight!”

And that chattiness, especially in the one-way fashion it mostly unfolds on Facebook, becomes in its breadth, boring. No one can talk (or post) constantly and consistently say something of worth. And like the Menards commercials playing in the Menards while you are shopping, it first surprises, then annoys, then irritates and eventually slips a bit into the background as a minor irritation like a leg dotted with mosquito bites.

But like scratching the bites, I have this strange compulsion to read the incessant posts. Mostly it’s the proverbial train wreck from which I cannot turn. The gore, the sickness, the sadness, the sense of there but for the grace of the gods go I, are all somehow alluring, and yet simultaneously, and ultimately, boring.

That being said, here I am posting my own thoughts. There are two differences however: I don’t expect a reply and the related second difference, no one is reading this – my town square here is empty!

I guess we’re all broadcasting our thoughts with various degrees of thoughtfulness, intimacy and engagement.

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kid blue

Louise Goffin: Kid Blue

Wow. I just came across this album in the stacks. I was in love with, and in fact, married to, although she didn’t know that, Louise Goffin for a year or so around 1979. “Kid Blue” was a great album! The music, the cover shots, the pedigree. I was seriously day-dreamed into believing she and I were married. Oh, Louise, it was all very unrequited. I’ve been hurt by love.