Category Archives: humour

The Portal of Impressions

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

We step through the Portal of Impressions and the wait is short to our heart feeling things we can know about only in this place.

I was reading just now, and it opened the Portal, oh, just for an instant but long enough for my curious mind to slip in, taking me in also. Down the rabbit hole.

Here I am, amongst Impressions. They make no sound, they just move about like smoke in a light breeze. Heavy. My reading must have attracted them.

Main impression, I’m about to die. I’m not surprised at this, it is something expected, perhaps even anticipated. Still, it manifests as heavy.

Death is a pretty definitive event. I have often wondered if preparing for it is better, or wiser, than simply ignoring it and letting it take its course.

I don’t like surprises, least of all one as portentous as death. I don’t want to be caught unawares, foolishly believing I have time when it’s all been used up.

Time and death, they are accomplices as well as liars. Time tells us we have him for all the world. Death hides in the shadows smiling at our gullibility.

Amongst Impressions nothing is hidden. All is exposed but there is no chronology here. Pick and choose, pick and choose. Listen to your heart, it knows.

Impression of imminent death passes. The silence remains. The heart beats unconcerned. I turn and the Portal opens. I walk out into the silent moonlight.

Everything falls back into place. The Mad Hatter is still in the White House. The Queen of Hearts remains at Buckingham Castle. I’m the same.

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The Garbage Man

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Rolling, dried, sun-burnt hills seemed to stretch forever out to a hazy horizon beyond the snaking rutted roadway. Under the high, light grey cloud cover, and except for the road, nothing could be seen indicating the presence of man. Here and there a few tall skeletal trees raised their heads beyond a hill. Gorse and heather provided the only cover for man or beast. You might say it was a bleak landscape.

After a while however, coming down the road, three men in dirty, dusty vagabond clothing walked slowly side by side taking up the entire width of the roadway. They talked aggressively among themselves, laughing loudly at certain jokes. Their talk stopped when they rounded a bend and saw a large beech tree covered in its dried brown winter leaves. It would make a good place to rest but that was not what interested them. At the foot of the tree they could see a small figure sitting down, hunched over, apparently sleeping.

Approaching stealthily they saw that the figure turned into that of an old man in a dusty overcoat. Beside his hunched-over figure sat a well-worn travel pack with the handle of a stick protruding from a strap behind it.

They looked at one another and smiled, the smiles of the predator; smiles that said, ‘Easy prey.’

As they got near, the tallest of the three, probably the designated leader, kicked the old man in the leg. “Hey old man, wake up!” Startled, the old man opened his eyes and looked up at the three men. As he did so, he casually placed his right arm over the pack and took a firm hold of the stick handle.

“That’s right, ol’ fella. Give us some sport, huh! You gonna fight us with that stick, are you?” All three laughed loudly. The leader leaned in and said, “D’you want me to help you pull that stick out of the pack, or should we just dispense with the niceties, take what we want and kick your useless old hide in that ditch?”

“What’s a matter, old man” said the shortest of the three, putting his foot on the pack, and beginning to roll it, “cat got your tongue, eh?” More laughter.

The old man looked at his three tormentors one after the other, scanning their faces as if memorizing them, then in a raspy old voice said, “Perhaps I should warn you, in keeping with the niceties as you pointed out, that it would be greatly in your personal interest if you pretended you never saw me and kept on walking, what do you say? Then I could go back to my sleep and perhaps regain some of my dream. Such a nice dream it was.”

“Nice touch that. Good try for the courage bit, old man, but however you look at this one, the deck’s not exactly stacked in your favour. So here’s the deal. We’ll take the pack, and you will take off your clothes too, and maybe we’ll just let you live. We don’t have to,” he said, pulling out a rather intimidating bush knife from a hidden sheath, “and dead men don’t tell tales.”

“True” said the old man as he sat up a bit straighter, sighing deeply, “dead men don’t tell tales. I like that concept actually. Well, since there seems no way around it, I need to stand up if I’m going to take these clothes off. But I need my stick to steady myself, not as young as I used to be, eh?”

They stood back a step as the old man slowly, painfully stood up, pulling his stick from the pack as he did so and using it to steady himself. Carefully, shakily, he took off his overcoat and placed it at the foot of the tree. Then he leaned on his stick, well it turned out it was more of a staff than a stick, and once more scanned his assailants. “I’m not sure what happens next,” he said, “but are you certain I can’t talk you out of taking my stuff and just walking away from here?”

“Take ‘em off, old man, you’re becoming annoying. C’mon, we don’t have all day. Then the leader took that one fateful step back towards the old man.

You know what happens next, I know you know, it’s far from rocket science, but let me tell it anyway. The story needs that link so.

The staff flew up as if with a life of its own, whacked squarely across the thief’s face and down he went, the cracking sound indicating that both jaw bone and cheek bone were broken. The other two, not being the sharpest knives in the drawer and consequently too slow to realize the entire picture had just turned upside down, inside out and backward, rushed at the old man, large-bladed knives now pointing and glinting. The stick whirled so fast it could be heard, but not seen. The two thieves fell unconscious on top of their leader. Their knives went flying, one on the roadway, the other in the ditch.

The old man looked at the three inert bodies, shrugged his shoulders, then carefully re-inserted his staff inside the pack. There was a frown on the impassible face, indicating some deep thought. Then the face lightened up, a decision had been made.

He picked up the three knives, and went through the thieves’ pockets, taking whatever money and valuables he found there and placing them in a side pocket of the pack. Flipping one of the knives in the air and catching it deftly as if he’d spent his entire life doing nothing but knife throwing in the circus, he bent down and very deliberately cut open the heart of each man.

A high-pitched mocking voice, accompanied by the rasping of dried leaves, asked, “Hey “old man” why that last bit?”

The old man, unperturbed, replied, “C’mon down, Bean. You know very well why. Dead men don’t tell tales. It’s what they said, it’s what they must have wanted me to do. Plus now we can go on our way without having to worry about them overtaking us and laying a trap. But the main reason, as you should realize, is I didn’t want them to attack someone else, some other people less able to defend themselves. I was being charitable, doing my civic duty you might say. I have a reputation to uphold, I am after all the garbage man. Surely you remember when that idiot princeling, God rest his puny soul, called me that the day I rescued you from the burning barn they’d trapped you in?  You still haven’t thanked me for saving your life.”

A slim young woman dressed in brown tights dangled for a moment from a lower branch, let herself fall nimbly on her feet. She had waist-length black hair and black almond eyes. She too held a staff, but she also had a narrow-bladed, double-handed hilt sword on her back with an unstrung short bow and a quiver of arrows.  “Quid pro quo.  I had your back, you mine and we beat them handsomely, cleanly.  I’ll thank you when you thank me and add a drink in the bargain.”

She kicked one of the bodies, said, “Messy, garbage man. You could have left the knife work to me, I’m getting completely out of practice these days.”

“Why? I thought you preferred them wiggly. These were quite passive, quite forever passive, not worth the trouble of messing up your knife blade. I did you a favour.”

“More favours like that and I may as well sell my arsenal and hire myself out as a bar maid. Are you going to get rid of that old man disguise now?”

“I thought about it… No, I like it. The two of us wearing our tattered and torn overcoats, we look about as dangerous as a pair of bunnies. Gives us that edge.  Speaking of which, are you ever going to listen to me and learn to be less menacing when we encounter folks? Not all of ‘em are enemies, Bean.  As for those that are, why give them advanced warning of our, shall I say, abilities?”

“Wish you wouldn’t call me that. My name is Beanna. B-e-a-n-n-a! Bee-Ann-Nah. And it doesn’t mean Bean, it means “Swallow” in my home tongue, as in, I’m starving and I could swallow a horse right now. We’re very close to a village, and I think we now have the wherewithal to buy a meal and a room for the night thanks to these good boys?” She kicked another body and grunted.

“How do you know we’re near a village, Bean?”

“You said that deliberately to get a rise from me, damn you Edgar. Because I smell smoke.”

“Could be from a farm house chimney, or a branch fire.”

“Uh-huh, nah.  More than one kind of smoke, some of it coal. That would be the inn.”

“How much would you be willing to wager on that “inn” bit? What if it’s a forge? That won’t count you know. Coal fire: inn. Wager?”

“My sword against the secret of your speed, Edgar. Oh, and your real name in the bargain, and I’ll know if you’re lying to me.”

“You’d wager that sword? Are you crazy? Do you know what that’s worth?”

“Yes, I’m crazy! I’m certifiable! And yes, (with heavy, exaggerated emphasis on the words) of course I know what my sword is worth. I’ve had to kill or dismember a few hopefuls to hang on to it.”

“Tell me how you came by it then, since we’re beginning to be, what, friends?”

“Friends? I wouldn’t proclaim that too loudly. My mother gave it to me when she was dying. It is called a wakizashi, or short sword. My mother was a princess, you know! She  was given to a travelling Master as payment for services rendered to her father. She was permitted to take the wakizashi when she was ready to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) rather than leave it behind. You see, the sword was part of a pair, called a daimo, which the Samurai warrior she had given her heart to had given her before he went into a war from which he never returned. She would not be parted from her warrior’s wakizashi, believing that it was a part of his soul, the main part embodied in his own Samurai sword, his Katana.

“My mother’s people live on an island on the far end of the world. My mother said it is called the land of the rising sun. There is more to this story if you want to hear, but what do we do with these?” Once again, she kicked one of the bodies. “If we leave them here, a passing regiment of the guard can trace their deaths to us if we enter the village, and they will catch us in our sleep.”

“C’mon Bean, where’s your sense of drama? We set them up to look like a falling out among thieves, leave a few coins lying around, the knives in position to tell a very neat tale… et voila! Then when we engage conversations at the inn, we mention hearing some yelling and a fight, which we did not stay around to witness!”

“Anticipation, that’s good. Maybe you can be right about me at times, I may be a bit too impulsive. So, what am I going to be to you this time when we enter this next village?”

“My ward?”

“Why didn’t you say what you really meant to say, as in, “My subservient and mute ward?”

“That has merit, but for one thing: you couldn’t stay quiet for five minutes if your life depended on it!”

“Wrong! I was quiet in that tree!”

“Who would know for sure with the breeze rustling those raspy leaves?”

“Blah, blah… Fine. Male or female?”

“Male would be easier. You don’t have that buxom outline and straw hair that generally adorns our girls. That black hair and eyes, and the flat chest, hm. We’ll tuck the hair away and yes, definitely male.”

“Drasht you! One of these days, I’m going to kill you, Edgar. I swear it to every deity hiding in these god-forsaken hills. I swear it by… Hey!”

He grabbed her and she stopped wriggling and kicking when he placed a full kiss on her lips. She gasped. “Wow! Edgar!  I didn’t know you had it in you, dear. You’re forgiven, for the moment. But what about my flat chest, huh?”

“Oh, I’m willing to bet that with that tight shirt off it may not be so flat. It may even offer a couple of soft and warm handfuls.”

While the bantering was going on, the subterfuge was set and the two began the last leg of that day’s journey towards the village Beanna was sure they would encounter. For a time they travelled through the fields so as to leave no tell-tale footprints on the dusty road surface, then once satisfied that two miles sufficed for that, they clambered down onto the rutted roadway and continued on, accompanied for a time by a couple of crows while each of them, the tall hunched over “old man” and the small girl woman whose head barely reached the man’s chest, walked on lost in their own thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Theatre de l’Absurde

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

I’ve figured something else out from interacting with the world in the last few days, and from watching my own thoughts: we are all actors in…

(the) Theatre of the Absurd

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Theatre of the Absurd (French: théâtre de l’absurde [teɑtʁ(ə) də lapsyʁd]) is a post–World War II designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1950s, as well as one for the style of theatre which has evolved from their work. Their work focused largely on the idea of existentialism and expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence.[1]

Critic Martin Esslin coined the term in his 1962 essay “Theatre of the Absurd.”[2] He related these plays based on a broad theme of the Absurd, similar to the way Albert Camus uses the term in his 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus.[3] The Absurd in these plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, and/or man as a puppet controlled or menaced by invisible outside forces. This style of writing was first popularized by the 1952 Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot. Though the term is applied to a wide range of plays, some characteristics coincide in many of the plays: broad comedy, often similar to vaudeville, mixed with horrific or tragic images; characters caught in hopeless situations forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions; dialogue full of clichés, wordplay, and nonsense; plots that are cyclical or absurdly expansive; either a parody or dismissal of realism and the concept of the “well-made play“. These plays were shaped by the political turmoil, scientific breakthrough, and social upheaval going on in the world around the playwrights during these times.

While absurdists believed that life is absurd, they also believed that death and the “after life” were equally absurd if not more, and that whether people live or not all of their actions are pointless and everything will lead to the same end (hence the repetitiveness in many of these absurdist plays).

In his 1965 book, Absurd Drama, Esslin wrote:

The Theatre of the Absurd attacks the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxy. It aims to shock its audience out of complacency, to bring it face to face with the harsh facts of the human situation as these writers see it. But the challenge behind this message is anything but one of despair. It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity, and to bear it with dignity, nobly, responsibly; precisely because there are no easy solutions to the mysteries of existence, because ultimately man is alone in a meaningless world. The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful, but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief. And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.

Advice to Writers, Readers, Editors…

[PS: (that’s not Post Script, it’s Pre Script – thought I’d make that up to give some texture to the confusion.)  Every great piece of writing needs a preface.  So I’m prefacing this great work with this advice to self:  “Lighten up!” Oh no… I’m levitating…!]

as well as what to say when you’re born (should the opportunity arise again) and when you die (which opportunity is still clocked  at the likelihood of 100%, and really, when faced with two choices, it’s good to know that at least one is firmly in the realm of the possible.)

The greatest hint ever, for all you wanna-be book writers out there, straight from the mouth of Steven Wright:

“I’m writing a book.  So far I’ve got all the page numbers down.  All I need to do is fill in the words.”

And for those of you who think you can be editors and do several books at once because, well, you’re really good at reading, again from our hero, Steven:

“I’m in hospital right now. [pause] I was involved in a speed-reading accident. [pause]  I hit a bookmark and I went flying across the room.”

…closing this inane thing with what may well be (for the moment) my favourite S W (that’s Steven Wright, not South West) quote about quotes:

I wish, when I was first born, the first thing I said was “Quote” so the last thing I said before I died would be “Unquote.”
Steven Wright

There’s no Beer in Heaven – Time to get Serious

[off the cuff by   ~Sha’Tara]
It’s time to get serious.  As most know by now, I was once a very religious person.  So religious, in fact, I became religious twice.  In politics that would be called going from a liberal stance to a conservative one, or is it vice-versa?  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is, I need to confess the real reason I left religion.  Starting at the start, we do religion because we want to go to Heaven, just like we go to work because we want a paycheck.  Pretty basic.

All was well until one day, thanks to radio, I heard a song so devastating, I never recovered – I even went to an upholstery repair shop, they couldn’t help me.  (Oh, aren’t I punny!)

Here’s that infamous song by Frankie Yankovic

In Heaven there is no beer

That’s why we drink it here
And when we’re gone from here
All our friends will be drinking all that beer

The moment I heard that song, I was convicted of its utter truth.  I knew then, and still do, that people who sing these songs never lie because they are the ones the corporations use to sing commercial ditties for them, and we all know, based on their success rating that commercials absolutely NEVER LIE.  So there I was, halfway through my Heineken and my heart didn’t just sink, it plummetted.  No beer in Heaven.  They still hold to prohibition there.  Of course I was in the Christian camp so slipping on a hijab I snuck in the Islamic side to see if Allah was more open than Jehovah on drinking.  No luck, except that Allah was willing to provide a number of nubile virgins for his chosen heroes (they call themselves martyrs but all fundamentally religious people believe they are being constantly persecuted so that doesn’t mean a whole lot).  Obviously virgins, particularly of the female kind, wasn’t what I was looking for, so I excused myself, said I was just browsing, and made a rapid exit – you might understand why.  But back to my side of the fence.

After the shock, and a very satisfactory emtying of my Heineken beer, little knowing it wasn’t bottled in Holland, but at the beer plant in town,  I began to think about this.  So I’m in Heaven. Let’s just say I spent the day looking after a kindergarten bunch of rowdies and I want to retire to my “mansion” (everybody has to have a mansion in Heaven, that’s the rule, it’s in the law book – it’s for the higher tax bracket but I’m not supposed to know that), pop open the fridge and draw out a first class beer.  It’s Heaven after all, would I be sold after market crap?  But according to this song I just heard, no such luck.  It doesn’t help that I can hear the groaning and moaning along with the odd girlish cries of protest coming from the other side of the partition where the Muslim boys are going at it full bore.  In fact, it makes my blood boil, or would, if Iwas already there.  But I’m thinking here. That cheapskate Jehovah.  Here’s Allah providing seventy virgins, count them, that’s right: seventy for each one of his hero-boys to rape and pillage, and I can’t even have one lousy beer?  I mean you believe in the guy.  You serve him all your life, which can be reasonably long if he doesn’t decide to have you burned alive at the stake at nineteen as he did for Joan…

There are lots of reasons to leave one’s religion.  You’ve been fondled after Sunday school by the assistant pastor, and later on, raped by the main pastor.  That’s one reason.  You’ve been passed over for a promotion to choir leader.  The church bus left without you that day the church team was playing a rival team and they won.  You can’t become a “real” pastor ’cause you’re a girl and girls are designed by God to serve their men masters.  If you don’t believe that just ask a judge, specifically you could ask Judge Roy Moore – he’s the expert on this at the moment.  Just don’t get too close, his hands are still quite active when he’s not holding a gun in the right hand and a bible in the left.  You might be unpleasantly surprised where those fingers land.

But this song, that was the very last straw.  What’s wrong with God, anyway?  Isn’t it enough he feels women’s lives should be made hell, physically, morally, socially, financially and in any other “ally” possible?  Now he’s going to deny me my one consolation at the end of the day?  I’m committing apostasy, over beer (I said to myself).
Over beer? You ask somewhat shocked.  You bet.  So that was it.  It’s my understanding that Hell has an ample and unrestricted supply of beer.  OK, it’s raccoon piss, i.e., Canadian and American beer, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I’ll close this with the old truism on life.  In life, there are only two things to worry about: either you’re healthy, or you’re sick. If you’re healthy, nothing to worry about.  If you’re sick, there are two things to worry about: either you’re going to live or you’re going to die.  If you’re going to live, nothing to worry about.  If you’re going to die, there are two things to worry about: either you’re going to Heaven or you’re going to Hell.  If you’re going to Heaven, nothing to worry about (well, except the beer thing of course) and if you’re going to Hell you’ll be so busy entertaining and being entertained, you won’t have time to worry.

Eduardo Galeano, Monster Wanted (a Tomgram article)

The following is a copied article from Tomgram (see links), there being no “reblog” button on that site.  It is an introduction to a book that sounds very intriguing.  ~Sha’Tara~

Tomgram: Eduardo Galeano, Monster Wanted
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you’ve never read a book by Eduardo Galeano, believe me, your life has been lacking. Read his first book, read his last book, read something he wrote anyway. I offer you the Engelhardt guarantee: you won’t regret it. Start, if you wish, with his final volume, Hunter of Stories, featured in today’s post and then work your way back through a writer to remember.  Tom]

I’m 73, which means that saying goodbye for the last time is increasingly a part of my life.  Today, with the deepest regret, I’m bidding a final farewell at TomDispatch to one of the more remarkable writers I’ve known, Eduardo Galeano. I initially got involved with him in the early 1980s. I was a young editor at Pantheon Books and, on some strange impulse, decided to publish Genesis, the first volume of his Memory of Fire trilogy, based on no more than a few sample passages translated by the remarkable Cedric Belfrage. Call it intuition when it came to a book that had already been rejected by a number of U.S. publishers. (Admittedly, at the time I proudly thought of myself as the “editor of last resort” in New York publishing.) That modest decision launched me on the print journey of a lifetime.

This was back in the days many of you won’t remember when a book was translated and edited, often over long distances, without benefit of the Internet or email.  Belfrage had been exiled to Mexico during the McCarthy years, so he and I worked together in the old-fashioned way: by mail. (I wouldn’t meet him until years later: a little grey-haired gent with a cane who — I was still young enough to be staggered by the thought — had covered Hollywood for the British press in the silent film era.) It took forever to produce Genesis, though the process had a certain beauty to it. That first volume came out to modest attention and reviews, but its life and influence and that of the whole Memory of Fire trilogy would continue to grow in a way that only books could in those years and perhaps even in these. Eduardo was the most dramatic and beautiful of writers and he caught history — the history of these continents and of so many of the half-forgotten figures who struggled for what truly mattered — in a unique fashion, often in little passages of hardly a page or more. (I can still remember reading some of the more wonderful of them to my children as they were growing up.) I once wrote of him, “You somehow take our embattled world and tell its many stories in ways no one else can.” How true.

It took me years to meet Eduardo, since I travel nowhere, though he voyaged endlessly. (A friend of his once told him, “If it’s true what they say about the road being made by walking, you must be the commissioner of public works.”) Never have I met a man of more charisma who seemed less aware of it. Being with him was an experience because people regularly approached him to tell stories about their lives that were… well, there’s only one word for it: Galeano-esque. I saw it happen.

I’ve featured his work many times at this site, always with the deepest pleasure. This, I suspect, is the last time for both of us. The passages below are from his final, touching volume published by Nation Books, Hunter of Stories. And so, let me take this opportunity, one last time, to say goodbye, Eduardo, and thank you for everything, especially for the worlds you captured forever in words. Tom

A Visit to Heaven and Hell
Mapping Planet Earth
By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Hunter of Stories, the last book by Eduardo Galeano, who died in 2015.  Thanks for its use go to his literary agent, Susan Bergholz, and Nation Books, which is publishing it next week.]

Free

By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.

Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.

Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.

Shipwrecked

The world is on the move.

On board are more shipwrecked souls than successful seafarers.

Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood.

The illusions of any who manage to arrive do not last long.

Monster Wanted

Saint Columba was rowing across Loch Ness when an immense serpent with a gaping mouth attacked his boat. Saint Columba, who had no desire to be eaten, chased it off by making the sign of the cross.

Fourteen centuries later, the monster was seen again by someone living nearby, who happened to have a camera around his neck, and pictures of it and of curious footprints came out in the Glasgow and London papers.

The creature turned out to be a toy, the footprints made by baby hippopotamus feet, which are sold as ashtrays.

The revelation did nothing to discourage the tourists.

The market for fear feeds on the steady demand for monsters.

Foreigner

In a community newspaper in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, an anonymous hand wrote:

Your god is Jewish, your music is African, your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your gas is Algerian, your coffee is Brazilian, your democracy is Greek, your numbers are Arabic, your letters are Latin.

I am your neighbor. And you call me a foreigner?

The Terrorizer

Back in the years 1975 and 1976, before and after the coup d’état that imposed the most savage of Argentina’s many military dictatorships, death threats flew fast and furious and anyone suspected of the crime of thinking simply disappeared.

Orlando Rojas, a Paraguayan exile, answered his telephone in Buenos Aires. Every day a voice repeated the same thing: “I’m calling to tell you you’re going to die.”

So you aren’t?” Orlando asked.

The terrorizer would hang up.

A Visit to Hell

Some years ago, during one of my deaths, I paid a visit to hell.

I had heard that in the underworld you can get your favorite wine and any delicacy you want, lovers for all tastes, dancing music, endless pleasure…

Once again, I was able to corroborate the fact that advertising lies. Hell promises a great life, but all I found were people waiting in line.

In that endless queue, snaking out of sight along narrow smoky passages, were women and men of all epochs, from cavemen to astronauts.

All were condemned to wait. To wait for eternity.

That’s what I discovered: hell is waiting.

Prophecies

Who was it that a century ago best described today’s global power structure?

Not a philosopher, not a sociologist, not a political scientist either.

It was a child named Little Nemo, whose adventures were published in the New York Herald way back in 1905, as drawn by Winsor McCay.

Little Nemo dreamed about the future.

In one of his most unerring dreams, he traveled to Mars.

That unfortunate planet was in the hands of a businessman who had crushed his competitors and exercised an absolute monopoly.

The Martians seemed stupid, because they said little and breathed little.

Little Nemo knew why: the boss of Mars had seized ownership of words and the air.

They were the keys to life, the sources of power.

Very Brief Synthesis of Contemporary History

For several centuries subjects have donned the garb of citizens, and monarchies have preferred to call themselves republics.

Local dictatorships, claiming to be democracies, open their doors to the steamroller of the global market. In this kingdom of the free, we are all united as one. But are we one, or are we no one? Buyers or bought? Sellers or sold? Spies or spied upon?

We live imprisoned behind invisible bars, betrayed by machines that feign obedience but spread lies with cybernetic impunity.

Machines rule in homes, factories, offices, farms, and mines, and also on city streets, where we pedestrians are but a nuisance. Machines also rule in wars, where they do as much of the killing as warriors in uniform, or more.

The Right to Plunder

In the year 2003, a veteran Iraqi journalist named Samir visited several museums in Europe.

He found marvelous texts in Babylonian, heroes and gods sculpted in the hills of Nineveh, winged lions that had flown in Assyria…

Someone approached him, offered to help: “Shall I call a doctor?”

Squatting, Samir buried his face in his hands and swallowed his tears.

He mumbled, “No, please. I’m all right.”

Later on, he explained: “It hurts to see how much they have stolen and to know how much they will steal.”

Two months later, U.S. troops launched their invasion. The National Museum in Baghdad was sacked. One hundred seventy thousand works were reported lost.

Stories Tell the Tale

I wrote Soccer in Sun and Shadow to convert the pagans. I wanted to help fans of reading lose their fear of soccer, and fans of soccer lose their fear of books. I never imagined anything else.

But according to Víctor Quintana, a congressman in Mexico, the book saved his life. In the middle of 1997, he was kidnapped by professional assassins, hired to punish him for exposing dirty deals.

They had him tied up, face down on the ground, and were kicking him to death, when there was a pause before the final bullet. The murderers got caught up in an argument about soccer. That was when Víctor, more dead than alive, put in his two cents. He began telling stories from my book, trading minutes of life for every story from those pages, the way Scheherazade traded a story for every one of her thousand-and-one nights.

Hours and stories slowly unfolded.

At last the murderers left him, tied up and trampled, but alive.

They said, “You’re a good guy,” and they took their bullets elsewhere.

***

Quite a few years ago now, during my time in exile on the coast of Catalonia, I got an encouraging nudge from a girl eight or nine years old, who, unless I’m remembering wrong, was named Soledad.

I was having a few drinks with her parents, also exiles, when she called me over and asked,

So, what do you do?”

Me? I write books.”

You write books?”

Well… yes.”

I don’t like books,” she declared.

And since she had me against the ropes, she hit me again: “Books sit still. I like songs because songs fly.”

Ever since my encounter with that angel sent by God, I have attempted to sing. It’s never worked, not even in the shower. Every time, the neighbors scream, “Get that dog to stop barking!”

***

My granddaughter Catalina was ten.

We were walking along a street in Buenos Aires when someone came up and asked me to sign a book. I can’t remember which one.

We continued on, the two of us, quietly arm in arm, until Catalina shook her head and offered this encouraging remark: “I don’t know why they make such a fuss. Not even I read you.”

Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) was one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers.  He was the author of many books, including the three-volume Memory of Fire, Open Veins of Latin America, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, and The Book of Embraces.  Born in Montevideo in 1940, he lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for 12 years before returning to Uruguay in 1985, where he spent the rest of his life.  The passages in this post are excerpted from his final book, Hunter of Stories, translated by Mark Fried and about to be published by Nation Books.

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Excerpted from Hunter of Stories. Copyright © 2017 by Eduardo Galeano. English translation copyright © 2017 by Mark Fried. Available from Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, Lamy, N.M., and New York City. All rights reserved.

Political Correctness in Sports

One cannot always be “serious” – there has to be room for humour, even in the volunteer trenches, and here’s a good example of such humour.  Just got this in an email from a friend who spends time in the same trenches.

I think all sports fans will get a kick out of this letter written to the Chicago Tribune…. 

if it really was. ….

Here is an e-mail sent to Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune after an article he published concerning a name change for the Washington Redskins.

Dear Mr. Page: I agree with our Native American population. I am highly insulted by the racially charged name of the Washington Redskins. One might
argue that to name a professional football team after Native Americans would exalt them as fine warriors, but nay, nay. We must be careful not to offend, and in the spirit of political correctness and courtesy, we must move forward

Let’s ditch the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians. If your shorts are in a wad because of the reference the name Redskins makes to skin color, then we need to get rid of the Cleveland Browns.

The Carolina Panthers obviously were named to keep the memory of militant Blacks from the 60s alive. Gone. It’s offensive to us white folk.

The New York Yankees offend the Southern population. Do you see a team named for the Confederacy? No! There is no room for any reference to that tragic war that cost this country so many young men’s lives.

I am also offended by the blatant references to the Catholic religion among our sports team names. Totally inappropriate to have the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Angels or the San Diego Padres.

Then there are the team names that glorify criminals who raped and pillaged. We are talking about the horrible Oakland Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates!

Now, let us address those teams that clearly send the wrong message to our children. The San Diego Chargers promote irresponsible fighting or even spending habits. Wrong message to our children.

The New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants promote obesity, a growing childhood epidemic. Wrong message to our children.

The Cincinnati Reds promote downers/barbiturates. Wrong message to our  children.

The Milwaukee Brewers. Well, that goes without saying. Wrong message to our children.

So, there you go. We need to support any legislation that comes out to rectify this travesty, because the government will likely become involved with this issue, as they should. Just the kind of thing the do-nothing Congress loves.

As a diehard Oregon State fan, my wife and I, with all of this in mind, suggest it might also make some sense to change the name of the Oregon State women’s athletic teams to something other than “the Beavers.” (especially when they play Southern California.
Do we really want the Trojans sticking it to the Beavers???)

I always love your articles and I generally agree with them. As for the Redskins name, I would suggest they change the name to the “Foreskins” to better represent their community, paying tribute to the dickheads in Congress.