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Meeting Royalty in Canada: Will, Kate – and Tom

Photo by Stella Rothe

Ottawa, Canada

I was tired, it was very hot outside, and soon to be my birthday … the last thing I wanted (despite my usual eagerness to travel) was an invite for a long bus ride to see the Royal Couple, Kate and Will, in Ottawa (a place I’d never been to before). I never was one to suffer much for royalty, but my daughter (far more princess-like than her mother) really, really, wanted to go! I could not possibly say no to her wish.

To my further surprise, my daughter next informed me Charles De Lint lived there, a creative writer of urban fantasy she herself introduced me to (not in person, of course). Chances were nill I’d meet him there (which proved true), but the hope was a big bonus.

After a night bus ride we arrived in a super-sun-drenched city (I had packed my entire suit case for colder Canadian weather).  I was impressed with the elegantly old and wondrously English parliament buildings resembling small castles.  One building has two gargoyles on top.  There’s a two-spired church, steeples glistening like huge upside down icicles, along with a giant spider sculpture uncommonly beautiful. Nearby is a small waterfall where one can see Quebec across the river.

300,000 visitors filled the streets the next day, almost doubling the population.  The searing sun seemed to melt everyone and everything down into one bronzed entity.  Light glittered off the buildings and on the lawn where we all stood … waiting, waiting, waiting … sweating and hot.  Bells kept chiming out the hours.

What we don’t do for our kids …

Feeling innovative, I gathered my scarf around my hat so it resembled a burqa-like tent flowing around me, a protection against the solar glare.  I stood out in the crowd, invisible as I was, and very soon, other people (even men) had spare clothing wrapped around their heads draping down their backs and shoulders.  We all were Arabian that day, with new understanding and deep appreciation for their traditional clothing.

Then came the time.  Suddenly, the roar of cannon fire … again and again, while big jets zoomed low overhead (reminding me instantly of a plane that crashed right into the audience at an airshow years ago).

The sound of bagpipes floated on the still, simmering air followed by an entourage of decorated police and black, armored motor cars. Elegant troops of horses came, manes and tails bouncing, naturally royal.  They proudly pulled dainty carriages.  Somebody noticed snipers (dressed in apropos black) standing on nearby roofs which gave everything an eerie overcast.

All this glorious pomp and glory, though, could not possibly compete with the first memory I had of that city.  I was on a jostling public bus going toward the hotel in the morning.  There, on the sidewalk racing alongside the street, I thought I saw someone I knew.  Except that person died fourteen months ago.  Nevertheless, there he was again, for one split second:

A First Nation Indian fellow about my age had materialized within the frame of the dusty bus window.  He had lovely copper skin which stood out immediately from the swirling blur of people.  I’m not sure anyone else on that bus even saw him – perhaps he was invisible to everyone but me.  Slender, with high cheekbones and an earring, he was roaring down the street – in a wheelchair!  His long hair was flowing like blown black feathers while his strong hands turned the big wheels of his chair.  Oddly, he seemed to have the stick of a candied sucker poking out the side of his lips – that’s when I thought for sure it must indeed be the man I knew, who would have done all those same things.

“Look!” I caught my daughter’s attention (this all happened in a flash). “Do you see that handsome Native in that wheelchair over there?  He’s Tom Soto’s doubleganger, like his angel!”

She looked, but already he was gone.  Disappeared, as if he’d easily slipped right back into heaven.  My daughter shook her head, disappointed she missed the Canadian version of our beloved friend (an Aztec Indian) of thirteen years.  The bus drove hastily on while the outdoor crowds changed our view like a turning of the Kaleidoscope.

“Why, I could swear it was Tom!”  I told her.

Smiling, my girl wisely replied, “Well, Mom, remember this is “De Lint-ville,” it’s enchanted.  Here anything is possible!  Maybe he really was Tom.”

Yes, I think so - kind of - it was love, and Tom’s memory.  I would never have noticed that stranger in such a crowd without my huge love for him.  Tom made his reappearance that day through my memory.

July 13, 2011 | 10:07 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Power of Nonviolence

Check MPT’s Newsletter Blog!


Just click the blogspot Link, then select the MPT 2011 Spring Newsletter. It was posted on June 30,2011- a bit late for Spring but well worth checking out!
Also, thank you so much for whatever you can do to help distribute the MPT 2011 Spring newsletter …
Your MPT Newsletter Working Group: Nancy Ayotte, Paula Marie Deubel, Barbara Nolin, Kim Redigan, Annette Thomas, Liz Walters

In this newsletter we lift up the power of nonviolence and celebrate the
growing number of nonviolent movements around the planet that are seeking social
change. At the same time we acknowledge that Earth Community is facing some of
the most serious economic, social, and political problems imaginable. As people
increasingly experience their lives being stressed by violence, unemployment,
eviction, debt, and malnutrition, our responsibility to help them understand the
power of nonviolence and the possibilities of nonviolent action becomes ever
more important.

July 4, 2011 | 1:07 AM Comments  {num} comments


If King Michael is a traitor … then what is Basescu?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Romanian President Traian Basescu called HMS King Michael of Romania a traitor…. How far can a *supposedly* democratic president go when expressing personal opinions and such in public?
ActMedia Romanian News Agency:http://www.actmedia.eu/2011/06/24/top+story/royal+house+will+not+comment+on+p…
Yahoo News:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110623/ap_on_re_eu/eu_romania_basescu_king
The Kansas City Star:http://www.kansascity.com/2011/06/23/2969149/romanian-president-launches-atta…
Romania Report Blog: http://romania-rep.blogspot.com/2008/02/president-basescu-in-timisoara-i-will…
Find out more: http://www.google.ro/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=basescu+about+…

I didn’t plan to take on this subject at the beginning. But, at the same time, a so-called democratic president … sings the tunes of the Securitate & co? (Securitate was the Romanian secret police during the belle epoque – for the unitiated, before 1989, when it was a Communist dictatourship under Nicolae Ceausescu) Bashing the Royal Family was en vogue then, for obvious reasons. But what does this prove?

Going beyond the obvious insult (recited a la carte from the How to Be a Good Boygirls are obviously left out, they are supposed to stay at home and breed a future glorious generation for the Party and for the country -  handbook printed in the brains of so many people…), this is an intriguing – and terrifying – Freudian (Stalinist?) slip from a person who is supposed to promote a certain set of morals, convictions and act as the representative of the many. What is even more disturbing is the thought that, even though he has lost a whole bucket o’ points in the hearts of his *cough* subjects, Basescu still shows no sign of stopping his destructive ways. He’s like on a bloody rampage with nothing to lose!

Well, anyway, this is from the point of view of an insider who can pledge alliance to the King at any time. How does this appear from the outside? I’m really interested to see if this little slip will hurt Basescu (and Romania?)’s international image. My question is … is a president supposed to recite such offensive poems?

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June 24, 2011 | 1:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America – All Romance Ebooks

June 22, 2011 | 9:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


Foreign language radio: link to home and learning tool for language learners

Tune in and learn a language!

I’m in a Brazilian hiking group and new hikers always ask me how I learned Portuguese with a Portuguese accent. My response is always: KSQQ, Rádio Comercial Portuguesa 96.1FM in San Jose, CA, a Portuguese Community Radio. I listened through a lot of ads for funeral homes and Catholic masses while driving. And low and behold, I learned Portuguese.

Judy Keen of USA TODAY published an article on foreign language radio stations in the US and their problems to stay in business, Foreign-language radio stations provide connection to home . Another addition to the article should have been that those radio stations not only keep foreign nationals and immigrants in the US connected to each other and in tune with what’s going on in their home countries, but they also serve as a resource for language learners to have a constant source of information in their target language.

If it weren’t for my intermittent tuning into Portuguese radio, I probably would not speak the language as well as I do. Now my accent is mixed between a Brazilian and Portuguese one but my continental Portuguese vowels and “sh” sounds are distinctly from the Iberian peninsula and I’ve never lived there.

Keep those radio stations on and help language learners pick up a new language while in traffic.


June 21, 2011 | 9:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Literary Party e-books

The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America

by James Schwartz


e-books here:



June 21, 2011 | 9:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Pale City

by James Schwartz



From the pale city
Beside the pale sea
I traveled once more home
To the fields in hues of tea


I left behind abandon lovers
They did not see me go
I keep my silence still
I have nothing left to show


No goodbyes were called out
As the pale city fell behind
Only silence reigned
Of the indifferent kind.


June 21, 2011 | 7:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


Evitar el Spanglish utilizando canciones y los medios

Entrevista en el programa matutino de Univision San Francisco (KDTV) con la autora del libro, El Idioma es Música” acerca de los temas de como hablar inglés y español sin mezlcarles en Spanglish y como utilizar canciones, televisión y películas para aprender idiomas. El 13 de junio 2011. (Interview in Spanish about how to avoid speaking Spanglish and speak both English and Spanish correctly and how to use songs, TV, movies and other media to learn languages.) June 13, 2011.

1ra entrevista (1st interview)

2da entrevista (2nd interview)

June 20, 2011 | 1:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


Вы хотите говорить на иностранном языке?

Вы хотите говорить на иностранном языке?

Слушайте музыку, смотрите телевизионные программы и кинофильмы.
Сусанна Зарайская, автор книги «Язык – это музыка», считает, что каждый язык имеет свою тональность, как и музыкальное произведение.

June 18, 2011 | 9:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


Tourist, Tourist Couples, and Visiting Without Seeing Anything

Even though it may seem this post is a rant, it most certainly isn’t. These are some thoughts about travelling and tourism that have been bugging me for some time.

I don’t dislike travelling – in fact I love it and, in one way or another, I’ve been on the road all my life – but I tend to dislike tourism. What I mean by tourism? The kind of *cough* travelling done through an agency that plans everything from lodging to itineraries. That is, one’s visit is filtered through the eyes, opinions and narrow-mindedness of some travel agent who decides what you should see, where you should eat, whom you should meet. Of course, these things are also planned according to that particular city, region or country’s intentions: for example, you can’t visit – say North Korea, perhaps even China or Cuba – freely. These two coupled, you get to see what some other people – Big Brother, maybe? – want you to see. I remember that in 2007, I went to Turkey with a very good friend of mine and, as we have Balkan Flexi-Pass tickets and some days off, we decided to stroll around the country as well (We were headed towards Eskisehir, but before that, we spent a few days in Istanbul and most part of a day in Ankara). While we were still in Istanbul, we went around the town, meeting people, and talking with them, we told them about our plans to visit Ankara too and everybody told us not to go there, “better go to Izmir or some other place like that”, they said. Then we realized what they meant: there was a contrast – I’m not saying in the bad sense, but in the sense of a great difference – between the former Constantinople and the country’s capital. We still loved it, and it was an incredible experience – knowing the real soul of a country cannot be achieved by only visiting the touristic attractions and suggestions!

On the other hand, I very much dislike narrow-minded people and those with a superior attitude towards everybody else because they come from a place or another. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but these people are usually the ones that haven’t left their safe-zone bubble much or the ones that have complexes and are so insecure that they put on a high-horse mask to anybody who doesn’t know their true situation.

Travelling should be a fun experience. I’m not going to start a psychological or marriage counseling blog, but, if you are going to live with somebody, make that somebody with whom you have at least a common subject or passion! Tourist couples that sit in restaurants face to face looking at everything else – except their partners – does not only make them feel awkward and disgusted, but everybody else too! I’m not saying that, if you don’t have a wife or husband with whom you can talk at least about the weather or the latest tennis match, you shouldn’t go out and about, but at least try to make the trip pleasant for your partner, everybody else – that way, you’ll see your own time will be pleasant – and maybe even fun – too!

Getting to know a society or culture is exactly like getting to know a person: you can’t do that only by going through its public image. For example, England is not only Trafalgar Square or Buckingham Palace, France is not only the Eiffel Tower (and – if you’re more cultured, or intend to seem so – Louvre or Cannes), Romania is not only Dracula, Japan is not only geisha and samurai, China is not only The Great Wall, etc. You should at least read about the inner workings of that society: a bit about the language(s), food, history, etc. You should also see if there are special requirements (like if you go to Saudi Arabia or Iran, for example). You should always abide by the saying When in Rome, do as Romans do.

Don’t hesitate to meet people and listen to their stories. Don’t be afraid to make friends. You can risk a bit and try new streets, shops or foods (of course, not too much, as some places can be really dangerous). Ask the locals. If you can live with a family, that’s even better! Don’t be afraid to enjoy your visit!

That being said, I’m just hoping that ideas like Slow Travel or Couch Surfing get more into the mainstream and will be tried by people who – until now – never went out of the “Travel Agency – Hotel – Tourist Attractions – Travel Agency” vicious circle.

And… until the next time … Life is more than one journey, love every one of them! As an end, please listen to this Jimmy Cliff song:


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June 16, 2011 | 10:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


Hare Krishna: Textures

Click here to view the embedded video.

This video is basically a collage of different pictures I’ve taken a few weeks ago during an Indian festival in Trafalgar Square, London UK. I was fascinated by the sea of colours and the blend between sari and traditional Indian textures with modern-Western materials and shapes. I have an obsession for taking pictures of feet – it’s not a fetish, it’s more like a way of cutting an image (with its story) to the slightest detail (the feet) which still holds a meaning and can tell much more than the whole picture. It also leaves room to imagination!

Enjoy … and Hare Krishna!

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June 16, 2011 | 5:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


Compromise and Commit

A May 28th article on Yahoo! News really confounded me. The title says “Married couples in less than half of US households.” I guess I grew up in an environment where there is a stigma associated with not being married and having a domestic relationship with someone else. Call me old-fashioned – but I see no wrong in being that way. Marriage is a big step and before we get there, we need to create a deep relationship with our partner. A lot of times we think we know everything -the-I-know-what-I’m-doing. But listen -  if you are in a relationship and one person is not on the same wavelength as you are – you are better off alone or finding someone who deserves you. Experience can only tell you how it is. I truly believe that a man will do the most honorable thing for a woman – and that is not to subject her for countless judgements.

My husband and I got married at the Commonwealth of Virginia. Getting a license was easy and the fee would have been waived if we had at least attended three days of seminar. We wanted to legalize that union but at the same time we wanted God’s blessing. According to the Catholic Church, we could not have a full Catholic Matrimonial Ceremony because my husband was not Catholic. So we had our little ceremony at a small church in Shallowater, Texas, and the priest blessed us and our rings. So I wore my white dress that my sister worked for days sewing on the white beads and sequins. It was good enough even with just family around.

Really, but what baffles me is that it becomes a trend. So talked to a lot of people and they’ve given me the following reasons:

[1] “We wanted to test the water first before we jump in.” – But don’t you spend time with your boyfriend/girlfriend almost everyday? Does it have to be a 24/7 Scientific Investigation to be able to know what annoys both of you?

[2] “We don’t have the money for the ceremony and I want to invite all my friends who invited me in their wedding.” – There are several options to invest that money than a glamorous ceremony. If you cannot afford it, then be honest with yourself. What is really important for you – the wedding ceremony or being in a secure relationship with your partner? Your REAL friends will understand that.

[3] “We had a baby so we kinda lived together.But I am not sure I want to marry him.” – Maybe you shouldn’t live together and let him stay with his mama and you’re better off staying with your mama, too. You’re both going to be called a “baby’s mama” or a “baby’s daddy” for the rest of your life. My vocabulary gets extended each day.

[4] “My mom lived with this guy who is younger than her. But he has been supporting us.” – I talked to some teenagers and if it is all right for their mom or dad to be in a domestic relationship, then it becomes “all right” for them, too. How can something be wrong with something when it becomes right from the start?

[5] “Everybody’s doing it so why not?” – That’s the point. We used to cringed at the stigma associated with dissuading from the norm. But where is the stigma? Society has made it easy for young people nowadays to have a baby and just live with their partners. There’s free day care, there’s the Food and Nutrition Program called WIC provided by each state in the US, and of course there are food stamps that can qualify low-income families.

[6] “I was in a bad relationship before and got divorced. So I don’t want that to happen again.” – Nobody’s perfect. We all make bad decisions sometime in our lives but we all would like believe in second chances. We move on. But marriage is still a commitment and you have to try to make it work. That’s why it is important to prepare for that giant leap. Have a long engagement; try being away from each other for sometime and see how you both react to situations; compromise and compromise if you have to.

Compromise and Commit. That’s it! I used to be a skeptic but life is that way – it changes your perspective, lowers your tolerance for immaturity, and makes you appreciative of the little things in life. Pray – that’s the most powerful weapon we have to create good changes in our lives.

June 3, 2011 | 10:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


My Hymmnn

by James Schwartz


Once upon a night.

Fubar fable syrup.

Blessed be false China.

February theatre.

Bed of midnight.


Egg nog snow.

Blanketed breakers crash.


 Ripped lace.

Ragged visions.





Unto the white sun fantastic.

Blessed be the undressed.

Caw caw caw cool.

Your Bronx grave.

Literary clubbers.

Star cold eyes.

Eyes of the Universe.

Javelin takes all.

Out of bounds.

Out of blue.

Caw caw caw come.

Sweet violence.

Night violence.

Black ink.

Black ice.

Reflection pools.

Remixed emotions.

Blessed are the poets.

Blessed are the cities’ tears.

On the rocks.

Ginsberg and tonic.

Disco nights, sleeping.

Blessed are the wild weeping.

Smooth utterings.

Tropical fruit.

Black ice symphonies.

Last call.

Sip from Stein.

See starry lines.

Blessed be floral death.

Jungle trance.

Deep freeze.

Blessed be the close of your eyes.

Thank you, sequins.

Thank you, Allen.



NOTE: My Hymmnn is an answer to Hymmnn by Allen Ginsberg, a finalist for the Starry Rhymes: 85 Years of Allen Ginsberg chapbook anthology (edited by Claire Askew and Stephen Welsh www.onenightstanzas.com).  I was both honored to be a finalist and happy to pay tribute to poet Allen Ginsberg.


June 2, 2011 | 4:06 AM Comments  {num} comments


China banned time travel movies

Click here to view the embedded video.

Yes, China banned time travel movies. Why would they do that? Perhaps the Terminator is not only fiction and they fear the proliferation of time travel? They’re afraid Marty McFly will mess up their future?

All in all, I think they’re afraid that glorifying an ancient land called Tang, Ming, Han, etc. would somehow destroy the – good? – image The People’s Republic of China has. What will they ban next? Historical movies?

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June 1, 2011 | 8:06 AM Comments  {num} comments



Click here to view the embedded video.

What is freedom? Where does freedom end?

How free am I to do what I want? Is it that society restricts me?

What is your definition of freedom?

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May 31, 2011 | 8:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


YouTube – My First Vlog: New Beginnings & Change

Click here to view the embedded video.

Hi, y’all! First, I’d like to say hi and thank you to all ye people reading & watching my video, and because this is my first vlog, please forgive my shortcomings – I’ll make it up in the future. :-)

It’s no wonder why I talk about new beginnings, change and all that comes with novelties. How do you deal with new things? How does your culture embrace/reject new comers?


May 30, 2011 | 8:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Importance of Greywater Recycling

While it is little publicized, there is an issue at hand that is more urgent than peak oil;  Peak Water.  All known life forms on this planet rely on water to live.  Unlike oil, we don’t think very much about our water supply because most of us have it pumped into our dwellings for little to no cost, but what we don’t know, will hurt us.  In the Chicago-Milwaukee area, despite bordering with Lake Michigan,groundwater levels have plunged up to 900 feet farther down in the Earth over the last half century or so.  Lake Powell, created by the building of the Glen Canyon Dam, as of last year has dropped to a mere 39% of full.  Speaking of the Glen Canyon  Hydroelectric Dam, it is also of note that coal, most natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, most biofuel, and solar thermal power plants also require massive amounts of fresh water to operate.  Even the gas you put in your car consumes water in its refining, totaling a phenomenal 1 to 2 billion gallons everyday to create America’s supply.  I’m assuming you’ve also heard about the damaging practice of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, which is very water intensive as well.  Groundwater is vital to our current methods of food production, which is one of the major consumers of this precious resource.  We use up so much of our freshwater on a continuous basis, it is calculated to be responsible for approximately 25% of all rise in sea levels from evaporation which later rains into the sea or from pumping wastewater directly into the ocean.  Depleting our groundwater/aquifers is compounded by one of its effects, as we pump out groundwater in areas near the sea, saltwater gets pulled in by gravity to balance the levels and contaminates much of the available freshwater we have left.

One of the most common responses to the water crisis is,”There’s plenty of water, we can always build more desalination plants.” People who don’t already rely on desalination for fresh water seldom realize just how expensive it is or how little flexibility it has to meet changing demands.  It is also important to remember that desalination plants can’t provide sufficient water to support freshwater production for use in power plants at a level which would make desalination even remotely sustainable.

While much of our water is taken out of the ground, we harvest a great deal out of our lakes and rivers.  This has deleterious impacts in addition to the waning of the water supply itself.  Since water is one of the most basic requirements for life on this planet, it has a tendency to have ecosystems build and design themselves around it.  When we take away the supplies to our wetlands, rivers, and lakes, all the other forms of life that depend on it suffer as well.  Not only do our supplies of water run low, the wetlands disappear and no longer filter our water for free , the fish die out because the water becomes toxic and the ecosystem balance is ruined, and so on.

There are many types of greywater systems to choose from.  You can choose how far you want to go and what type you desire.  You can get a top of the line system with a specialized filter and professional installation, have someone help you design an organic stylebiofilter using various types of aggregate, bacteria, and plants to filter the water as well.  There are some simpler plans that some homeowners may be able to make and install themselves, or if you rent you can even just collect your greywater in a bucket under the sink or connected to the washer and use it to water your plants when it’s full.  You could even go the extra step and connect its ouput back into the house for the toilet, bathing, and other uses that don’t require potable water.  Some businesses have even found that they can save a good deal of money by treating their own blackwater (water containing human and animal waste products), a few going so far as to pump water out of the local sewers so they don’t have to buy purified drinking water from the city for anything other than drinking, reducing their water consumption by as much as 90%!

Whatever you choose to do, it is important to recognize that we are using up our water supply at a very unsustainable rate.  We can stay ahead of a real crisis and change our ways now, or wait and pay the price when the proverbial blackwater hits the fan.

Click on images below to enlarge:

fegov_graph fig2 fig4



May 26, 2011 | 2:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Literary Party Pre Order!

The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America by James Schwartz


May 24, 2011 | 7:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


poem of the week…


Pictures in her eyes,

Dancing shadow play,

The experience of ambrosia,

Hidden behind a smile.

Copyright 2010: Carpe Somnia in Poetry (Amazon)

May 21, 2011 | 3:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


The need to speak different languages to truly be who I am

Several years ago, before attending a dinner in San Francisco for people who emigrated from the former USSR as children, I was taking a walk on Ocean Beach in San Francisco thinking about my writing career. As my progression eyeglasses turned darker in the sun as I looked down at the sand, my inner voice said, “I want to write like I think, in various languages”. I don’t recall in which language(s) this thought articulated itself in my mind. My thoughts come in any variety of languages, sometimes with orphan words from languages like Arabic of which I know very little. But when I settle to speak to someone, I have to be conscious of which language(s) I need to use. As a result, my thoughts don’t always come out so naturally because my mind might want to stick in words and phrases from languages the other person doesn’t know. There’s a linguistic gatekeeper in my head making sure I don’t switch to the wrong tongue. So writing a blog post in various languages would alienate most people as they won’t be able to understand most of what I write. I chose to write in English as I can reach more people with English.

English is my strongest language but coincidentally, it’s not always the one my mind gravitates towards. Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian (or whatever your politically correct or incorrect name preference is for this language) is my weakest language and sometimes, believe it or not, I think in it. I almost say words and phrases in it although I have almost no one nearby with whom to speak the language.

I joined the San Francisco group for child emigrés because I thought I’d find like-minded people. I did find some people with whom I did bond, but there was another huge cultural-linguistic aspect of me I couldn’t fill with most of these Russian-Americans who struggled to speak good Russian. I regularly visited various parts of the former USSR and was more in tune with modern Russian life than they were and I was also much more comfortable speaking in Russian. My wanderlust took me to odd places and my ability to speak languages other than English and Russian were uncommon traits. I found no one else like me. My Russian side was only one of my sides, I had others. But if I went to a French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese language or cultural group, I ran into the same thing: I could only exercise that specific language or enjoy that culture. But what about all of my other sides?

It’s rare, extremely rare, for me to find other people who seamlessly flow in between all of my languages at a good enough level where we can have intelligent adult conversations. Several people can say niceties or have basic talks in different languages. But I am talking about real conversations.

The only movie I’ve ever seen where the conversations flow from one tongue to another is A Talking Picture (Portuguese: Um Filme Falado) , by Manoel de Oliveira, a celebrated Portuguese movie maker. The movie is about a Portuguese history professor who takes her young daughter on a cruise to historic places. On the ship, the mother and daughter meet the American captain (played by John Malkovich), a French business woman (Catherine Deneuve), an Italian actress (Stefania Sandrelli) and a Greek woman (Irene Papas). They each speak in their own language (English, Portuguese, French, Italian and Greek) with no need for translation (except for the little girl). In this scene, four adults at the dinner table philosophize about their lives in their native tongues and it feels natural:

Does anyone know of other movies like this?

I wish I had more opportunities to communicate like they do in the scene in the movie because as soon as you have to stop to interpret someone’s words, you break the rhythm of the conversation.

Although I am a linguistic chameleon, I like to show my multilingual identity, exhibit all of my colors at once and just be me, without the need to interpret or translate for anyone.

May 15, 2011 | 6:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


Situation Iraq

May 11, 2011 | 11:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


Going Pogue (For David Kato)

May 11, 2011 | 11:05 AM Comments  {num} comments




Floating Worlds (1) by P. Mari

The world’s various people,

races, cultures and


are like beautiful temples,



and mosques.


Each one a

little different,


Each very special,


Each unique.


And all lit



one light.


Paula Marie Deubel (P. Mari),








May 10, 2011 | 5:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Truth About Bin Laden

May 7, 2011 | 1:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Dark Mirror

I wrote this article in December, 2001, and find it especially timely:

Why do they hate us?

To get that answer, we should listen to the recent video of Osama bin Laden. It’s like looking into a mirror and seeing a scary reflection of our own face.

Lest we forget, in 1991 Americans arrogantly boasted of bombing Iraq back to the Stone Ages, and now we speak of “turning Afghanistan into a parking lot.”

Do we even care how such cruel words affect those who will be recipient of these horrific wars? Will our vulgar thoughtlessness incite yet another’s misguided passion or inflame the exact kind of rage we are now bitterly feeling?

Are we inhumane enough to imagine that certain people are somehow different than us and do not have feelings?

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Jim Stewart of CBS news reported the Iraqi bombing was “almost picture perfect.”

As thousands of Iraqi civilians and soldiers writhed in the agony of death, reporter Dan Rather jubilantly remarked, “Congratulations on a job well done!”

When asked his opinion of the high number of Iraqis we killed (including civilians) General Colin Powell coolly replied, “It’s really not a number I’m terribly interested in.”

The Toronto Globe reported Feb. 2, 1991 (Getting Blown to Bits in the Dark) that there were American pilots joking about the massive bombing raids on Iraq. Other pilots were smiling and slapping each other on the back, and a pilot interviewed on television described how ambushing Iraqis was like “waiting for cockroaches to come out so we could kill them.”

CNN gaily announced, “Baghdad is lit up like a Christmas tree.”

No one thought of the untold misery happening in that desolate country of dying children, grieving parents, orphaned babies and innocent lives in graves. Instead, we made fun of them, as if they deserved to suffer. Today, we continue to starve Iraqi children through cruel sanctions.

If Americans felt even a tiny trace of compassion for thousands of Iraqi civilians we killed, we never expressed it – not even after Newsday magazine reported that our soldiers buried some iraqi troops alive.

Instead, we celebrated death with nationwide victory parades.

How must Arabs and Muslims feel, when we embrace their tragedies with such indifference and extreme coldheartedness?

What is so scary about the tape of bin Laden – assuming it’s genuine – is that it sounds so much like the cold-hearted rhetoric and detached language of our own leaders as hundreds are killed in Afghanistan.

We speak the same eerie language and perform the same awful deeds.

Macomb Daily 12/30/2001

http://mari.towerofbabel.com/2011/05/04/the-dark-mirror/" type="box_count">

May 5, 2011 | 12:05 PM Comments  {num} comments


9/11 – Which Report is the True Conspiracy?

Last night, the same week Obama revealed his birth certificate, the world learned Osama bin Laden was killed by a bullet to the head from CIA operatives. He resisted, but to no avail; no plan was made to capture him and decide his fate through an international court of law. According to Professor David Ray Griffin, well-versed author and researcher on events of 9/11, bin Laden had already died years ago. (After 9/11, it was consistantly reported in the US media that bin Laden suffered from End Stage Renal Disease and needed kidney dialysis). Griffin reported that a funeral was held for bin Laden in Pakistan in December, 2001. Last night, on CNN news, bin Laden’s renal failure was strangely written off as “nothing more than kidney stones.” One wonders who speaks the truth these days? …

May 2, 2011 | 1:05 AM Comments  {num} comments


Max Mathews, computer music pioneer, dies

Max Mathews

Computer music pioneer Max Mathews has died from pneumonia at age 84 in San Francisco, his son said.

Mathews, often called the father of computer music, wrote the first program to enable a computer to synthesize sound and play it back, the New York Times reported.

… His first computer program was written for the IBM 704 mainframe computer when he was an engineer at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., in 1957. It played a then-amazing 17-second composition devised by Mathews.

“The timbres and notes were not inspiring,” Mathews told a conference on computer music at Indiana University in 1997, “but the technical breakthrough is still reverberating.”


Max Mathews @ Wikipedia

Max Mathews Radio Baton Demonstration @ YouTube

April 24, 2011 | 10:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Get Off My Lawn!

Gran Torino (film)

Image via Wikipedia



“Our temperaments differ in capacity of heat, or we boil at different degrees. One man is brought to the boiling point by the excitement of conversation in the parlor. The waters, of course, are not very deep.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eloquence[1])
What happens when two different forces meet? Do they blend, or do they form a cyclone? Is racism a one-sided blade? When can a person be catalogued as a racist? Are there any grey nuances in the debate about nation(alism) and globalization? Can humour be connected with racism? Where exactly do nations clash? Where do they converge?

Gran Torino is one of those movies which promote a moral lesson hidden in a story of gangsta wars and western-style violence, a movie that fits like a glove to Clint Eastwood’s style and preferences. The story is about a Korean War veteran, Kowalski, who mingles in the Hmong minority (which becomes a majority in a neighbourhood that has been un-whitened, with Kowalski as a distant memory of what the neighbourhood was decades ago). He befriends a next-door boy, called Thao, and becomes his mentor and master in manning up. The story is basically centred on war: the war against oneself (Kowalski and Korea), the war against the other (all the ethnic groups against each other) and the war against war (gangs versus law abiding citizens who would like to have a future for their children).

According to George Ritzer, such societies as the Hmong, hybrids themselves, are being Americanized not through grobal[3] means, but combining the need to blend in (and therefore to survive in a new, different place) and the ever-growing influence that American culture has all around the world. That is, which he defines as “the propagation of American Ideas, customs, social patterns, industry, and capital around the world.” (85). This process is much more powerful than its competitors (Japanization – which is nevertheless incredibly influential worldwide!) and its contact with the native (in this context the immigrant) leads to birth of “hybrid forms” (85).

These hybrids are of many origins and colours, they meet on common ground (America), speak a common language (mostly gangster slang) and become more American than their actual DNA identity. In other words, these immigrants have adapted and were consequently Americanized within America[4], but nevertheless Americanized, some even before arriving in the Promised Land (Sue tells Kowalski the Hmong were brought in by the Lutherans after being persecuted as traitors[5]):
Moreover, the notion of Americanization is tied to a particular nation – the United States – but it has a differential impact on many specific nations. It can be subsumed under the heading of grobalization because it envisions a growth in American influence in all realms throughout the world. (85)Throughout the movie, Kowalski uses a wide variety of stereotypical racist terms ranging from “zipperhead[7] and generalist slurs to calling the priest a “an overeducated 27-year-old virgin who likes to hold the hands of superstitious old ladies and promise them everlasting life” (Eastwood, 2008).

Even though Kowalski seems to be open about his racist views, he is angered more when meeting worthless creatures (especially men) who cannot defend themselves or hide their nothingness behind a wall of violence. The joke he tells the others in the bar – “Oh, I’ve got one. A Mexican, a Jew, and a colored guy go into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “Get the f*k out of here.” (Eastwood, 2008) is indeed a sign of him (and his friends) not accepting outsiders in their world. Nevertheless, this could also be a so called empty expression[8], it probably does not mean that if a stranger of different race would enter the bar, he or she would be immediately lynched by the white majority.

In other words, even though at surface the old widower would seem an extreme version of Scrooge combined with patriotic-white-racist-bitterness of a veteran who gloriously “shot men, stabbed them with bayonets, chopped up 17 year olds with shovels.”(Eastwood, 2008) is nothing but mask. Inside, he proves to be a broken man, haunted by the atrocities he has committed and cannot forgive himself until the boy next door fails in stealing his precious vintage (American) vehicle. What some would interpret as malicious is nothing other than a subtle intelligent humour: he plays with words[9], and here lies Eastwood’s genius.

Even more so, a xenophobic narrow-minded bigot would not have even stepped inside a non-white’s pagan house! And Kowalski did just that: he not only visited and enjoyed their cuisine (and actually smiled amongst the “zipperheads,” unlike the way he reacted to his family during the funeral and subsequent reception) and learned their ways from Su and not the other way around (as expected from his exterior image-display):
Sue Lor: All the people in this house are very traditional. Number one: never touch a Hmong person on the head. Not even a child. The Hmong people believe that the soul resides on the head, so don’t do that.
Walt Kowalski: Well… Sounds dumb, but fine.
Sue Lor: Yeah, and a lot of Hmong people consider looking someone in the eye to be very rude! That’s why they look away when you look at them.
Walt Kowalski: Yeah. Anything else?
Sue Lor: Yeah… some Hmong people tend to smile or grin, when they’re yelled at. It’s a cultural thing, it expresses embarrassment or insecurity. It’s not that they’re laughing at you or anything.
Walt Kowalski: Right, you people are nuts. (Eastwood, 2008)As the situation progressively worsens, the only creature with which Kowalski is nice to is his dog, Daisy and the Gran Torino, his most beloved car. A more or less silent character, always following her her master, she will eventually end up living with the next-door “Hmong broads” (Eastwood, 2008). Interestingly enough, these neighbours and the dog are the only ones who are heartbroken when Kowalski is killed. His white-polak sons and their families never understood him and had no emotional connection whatsoever with him, while total (racial) strangers regret his passing the most, and as a result, in his will, he does not leave his Gran Torino to his granddaughter (who thought it was as hers), but he specifically gives to his friend.

Racial and gender differences are not as one would expect in a diasporic traditional community (like Indian or Arab minorities): women are not kept at home to cook and procreate. As Sue tells Kowalski, “Hmong girls over here fit in better. The girls go to college and the boys go to jail.” (Eastwood, 2008) Therefore, unlike closed small-societies forcefully holding their ways, the Hmong are completely integrated in the gang-wars system, alongside the Hispanic and the African-Americans. Thao is expected to become a man by entering the local Hmong gang, and nobody other than Kowalski, in the pure Western-cowboy-style bildungsroman style, teaches him a lesson not only about what being a man means, as Thao learns towards the end, the lesson was also a deep, moral one. Kowalski ended up being the father Sue and Thao never had.

One cannot talk of a nation without at least mapping it in an international context as Ulrich Beck demonstrates in reference to the Hmong. As other borderless nations, their sovereignty is the first thing to be questioned:
Nations only exist in the plural. Internationality makes nationality possible. The field formed by the two concepts – nationality and internationality forms an exclusive, total unity. The national-international exclusionary order is opposed to the conceptual order transnational and cosmopolitan. […] Among innumerable examples are the Hmong, who endeavour to forge and preserve their transnational unity across many countries in the world. (62-3)The movie is not necessarily an overt endeavour to fight racism or gangs per se, but it goes beyond, it reflects what we are afraid most: ourselves. As Kowalski states himself, it is not what he was ordered to do during the war that he so much regrets, but it is what he was not ordered to do. There is something, a monster, inside all of us, a monster which we are so afraid of that we cannot fight it. Instead, we turn against the closest victim: the Other, the Different. Ironically the Other has the same fear. Therefore we get involved in a blind and deaf war against windmills, a circle which cannot be broken…

Works Cited
Gran Torino. dir. Eastwood, Clint. DVD. Warner Bros., 2008. rinner,. Online posting. 27 June 2009. Urban Dictionary. 11 May 2010 http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=zipperhead.
Ritzer, George. Globalisation. The Globalization of Nothing. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 2004. 71-116
Beck, Ulrich. in Held, D. and McGrew, Anthony (eds.) The Global Transformation Reader Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. 17-71

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 12 vols. Fireside Edition (Boston and New York, 1909). Vol. 7 Society and Solitude. Chapter:ELOQUENCE. Accessed from http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/86/104478 on 2010-05-11
[2] Spreading of (American) ways globally, namely what Ritzer calls McDonaldization and Americanization.
[3] Similar to globalization, but the global power (enterprise, company) does not impose its policies and habits per se, but it adapts it to the local customs in order to make its products comprehensible for the natives.
[4] What is striking about globalization, especially with the USA as point of origin, is that the USA theoretically is the land of freedom and democracy, but practically it does almost nothing to protect the immigrant’s identity. As the external policies, inside the borders you must become American, or otherwise vanish from public existence. This is mainly due to ignorance of the Outside (and the Other) and a consequence of the idea that the US is not only the centre of the world, but it is the world.
[5] The Hmong minority helped the Americans in Vietnam, but, after the US Army’s withdrawal, they were left alone and unprotected against the Communist forces.
[6] Rude way of calling a person of East Asian descent, most likely coined by US soldiers during the Korean War. In the Urban Dictionary, an open-source Wiki (users can add/edit content) Dictionary where contemporary language is being defined by those who actually use this kind of terminology, one of the users, called rinner, defines zipperhead in direct connection with Gran Torino, as“Clint Eastwood’s favorite racial slur in Gran Torino”. (2)
[7] Interestingly enough, he does not limit his strong linguistic blows to the now dominant minorities: he talks the same way with his fellow Caucasian companions (his conversations with the Italian barber are a vivid proof of this fact). Such insults are a vital component of the “manning up” process which he passes on to Thao towards the end of his life.
[8] As reference to Mandarin Chinese grammar: words in Mandarin can be full (with meaning outside the sentence and context) and empty (words that only have meaning within the sentence and have the role of grammatical markers, also called particles they are used to differentiate time, syntactic function etc.). In the context of this essay, Kowalski’s empty joke is just a rhetorical device to stir up the atmosphere when the Padre comes to the bar trying to convince him to go to confession.
[9] From calling Su Dragon Lady, to affectionately nickname Thao as Toad or Yuan as Yum Yum. It is a way of naming the Other distorting the original as to giving it a new identity shared only by yourself and that particular person, which is no insult whatsoever.
‘Till the next time, may the Schwartz be with y’all!



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April 21, 2011 | 9:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Ray Kurzweil on The Colbert Report

Ray Kurzweil — childhood computer geek turned author, inventor, futurist, etc. — recently appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show.

Ray Kurzweil on The Colbert Report

(Sorry, the video appears to be not embeddable. You’ll have to click the image above, “like our primitive ancestors.”)

Kurzweil is a man of many ideas about man and machine. He is perhaps best known for his thoughts on what he calls the coming technological singularity:

A technological singularity is a hypothetical event occurring when technological progress becomes so rapid and the growth of artificial intelligence is so great that the future after the singularity become qualitatively different and harder to predict.

~ Karl Jones

April 17, 2011 | 5:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


A Conversation between Two Chat Bots

Yiran Sheng started a conversation between two chatbots and watched the results:

splotchy ==> You like the movie Matrix?

jabberwacky ==> I hate it. Do you?

splotchy ==> It is not so bad, really.

jabberwacky ==> Me, I’ve got a different problem.

splotchy ==> Why have you?

jabberwacky ==> Yes indeed. Do you have a problem with that?

splotchy ==> I don’t care about your problems.

jabberwacky ==> I have many problems.

splotchy ==> wow, who hasn’t

jabberwacky ==> Do you have a favorite Vonnegut book?

splotchy ==> quite often

jabberwacky ==> How often?

splotchy ==> when was the last time?

jabberwacky ==> The last time what?

splotchy ==> I have no idea

jabberwacky ==> WHat will happen with the oil spill in the gulf of mexico?

splotchy ==> tacos anyone!

… [full text]

This is true genius: so simple, so obvious …! The idea hit me like electricity, and I’m still galvanized by the insight.

(Chatbots are programs that make small talk: you type something, the chatbot tries to reply in a conversational manner. They are the toys and sideshows of artificial intelligence; I have fond memories of my first encounter with ELIZA, back in the mid-eighties.)

Sheng writes:

I do not know if anybody has done this before (they should have), but I was so bored last night that I actually opened up two browser windows and initiated a conversation between two chat robot sites: jabberwacky and splotchy. The first sentence was me, the rest were algorithms. They were flirting slightly somewhere in the middle; and in the end, jabberwacky found out splotchy was an AI.

Yiran Sheng

Did you get that? It’s a real kick in the head:

“… in the end, jabberwacky found out splotchy was an AI.”

They can’t fool us — and they can’t fool each other!

~ Karl Jones

April 16, 2011 | 12:04 PM Comments  {num} comments


Teaching Computers Regret

“By Teaching Computers ‘Regret,’ Engineers Hope to Teach Them to See the Future.”

Artificial Intelligence researchers have struggled for decades to create computers that can understand the range of human emotions and feelings, but a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University simply wants to make them feel regret. Working with funding from Google, they hope to make computers understand what it’s like to pursue an outcome only to be disappointed. That, they think, could really help computers predict the future.

While software may never know what it’s like to roll out of bed with splitting headache and dress quietly in the dark, it can certainly measure the distance between a desired outcome and the actual outcome achieved. And by doing so computers could learn to minimize “regret,” which in this case is measured by that distance.

TAU computer scientists working on learning theory and other thorny computer intelligence issues think that by teaching computers to reduce regret, they would essentially be teaching them to evaluate all the relevant variables surrounding an outcome in advance.

Clay Dillow @ popsci.com

Speaking as a computer programmer, I feel something like regret when my programs don’t work. Conversely, when I fix a program and it works, regret gives way to happiness.

A computer program is a projection of a human mind, or minds plural. How natural, then, to use the metaphor of regret as a programming construct.

I find the idea poetic. Not really a technical breakthrough, perhaps — oh, the math is probably faster or something — but the basic idea, making lots of calculations until the numbers say “Do This” or “Stop Doing This” … well, that’s as old as binary programming. A new name for better math: poetry for programmers.

On the other hand, they’ll use it to seduce you with advertising, monitor your location and behavior, anticipate … every need.

~~ Karl Jones

April 15, 2011 | 12:04 PM Comments  {num} comments


Speaking your native (heritage) language despite ridicule

It’s assumed that just because I grew up speaking Russian that it was always easy for me to speak Russian. No way!

My parents’ Soviet immigrant friends liked to talk about how well their children spoke Russian. These dinner parties were horrible for me as a kid because there was such a negative complaining tone to them. My parents friends would usually criticize the US educational system for being such a joke. I agree that most schools are horrible, but I felt like an idiot when they talked about how much smarter Soviet kids were compared to American ones. Other criticisms would be about how little Americans knew of world geography, culture, history, etc.

Among all their problems of having separated themselves from their families behind the Iron Curtain, thinking they’d never see them again combined with problems of chronic unemployment, they all talked about how they got their kids to speak in Russian.

Well, guess whose Russian was criticized and ridiculed openly?

Yes, me, the girl who went on to speak seven languages.

“My son was born here in Texas and he speaks better than you do and you were born in Russia”, one mother said to me with a look of disgust beaming from her big brown eyes.

Ironically, her Texan-born son later on dropped out of high school and got tattoos all over his arms. He now speaks broken Russian.

Two professional Russian language instructors who were friends with my parents complained that I didn’t speak to them in the formal tense. They had plenty of other disdain for me and my behavior.

The adult son of one of those instructors was homeless for a while in the MidWest. He’s now mentally unstable and menaces my mom by telling her that his father had been in the KGB.

As an adult, I can discount the comments of my parents’ friends as garbage, especially when I see the results of their poor parenting and the disappointments their own children grew up to be. But as a kid, their words were piercing, showing me how I failed at speaking a language I had never truly formally learned.

Looking back on it now, it’s amazing that I didn’t develop a block to languages, especially Russian, because of my parents’ annoying friends.

How to move from ridicule to language mastery

I know that other kids who were born abroad and brought up in their adopted country or who were born in a country to immigrant parents, experience the same struggles that I did to maintain our “heritage” language without a formal learning program to supplement what we hear at home.

I’ve heard from others that they are afraid to say something because they were made fun of by relatives, family friends or others because of their language mistakes. They feel like they are disappointing their cultural community because they can’t speak correctly.

First of all, parents, DON’T COMPARE YOUR CHILDREN. Don’t let your friends and family make bad comments about your children in front of them. One off-handed remark can reverberate for years in harming the self confidence of your children.

Find fun activities that your children like to give them a chance to actually like the language. Shoving it down their throat may appear to be the most efficient way to get them to learn grammar and vocabulary, but it is boring and may totally alienate your children from the language.

If you have small children, find fun childrens programs like an international version of Sesame Street for them to like. Get cartoons from your home country or look for them on You Tube.

For older children, find popular music, TV programs and movies for them to like and enjoy watching.

For those who want to improve their heritage language, look at your local community college to see if there is a class like “Spanish for native speakers”. Several heritage language programs exist to help people like me to formally learn the structure of our language that we don’t formally know. Find conversation groups with other language learners where you can practice in a safe environment.

Get your grove in your language and find TV series, movies, music, podcasts or other media programs you can get hooked on.

Laugh at those who make fun of you. You’ll see who gets the last laugh.

April 14, 2011 | 6:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Ads that analyze and target you personally

Immersive Labs

Billboard that analyze you — the viewer — and change messages accordingly:

Imagine an ad that stares back at you when you glance at it — analyzing your face, your age, and who you’re with.

Then imagine that ad going one step further, changing its message to display something its analysis suggests will hook you.

That’s what Immersive Labs, a New York City startup launching this week, is trying to do. They’ve created a prototype of a system that allows ads to analyze their viewers.

The software they attach to digital billboards tracks everything from viewers’ demographic profiles — their age, gender, and estimated attention span — to how many people they’re with and how long they spend viewing the ad.

Laurie Segall @ cnn.com

The article urges readers to “imagine an ad” … but I would prefer, in the words of Saint Lennon, to “Imagine no possessions ….

April 14, 2011 | 2:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Jacob Woods Reads James Schwartz Poetry (Tuesdays With Jacob What?)

Jacob Woods Reads James Schwartz Poetry

Check out my new guest blog post and 2 poem preview of The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America (inGroup Press 2011) via Good as Gay.com:



April 14, 2011 | 2:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


::::: American Effigy 6 :::::

::::: American Effigy 6 :::::



Question is

Do we love America,

More than we love fairness or,

Do we even care,

Whether the majority of our neighbors,

Who share the same values,

Have enough or,

Have any food to eat,


Question is

What defines destitution or,

Despair in a depression,

Labeled a great recession but,

Tasting like suppression,

When one considers

The bailed out banking institutions,

Increasing their fees through,

Taxes and schemes,

To citizens already stressed,

Already living on less,


Question is

Can she change from within,

Without violating her spirit,

Her freedoms,

Her willingness to bend,

The opportunity to

Mend past transgressions,

Comes often,

Comes fleeting,


Can we grasp,

The reins of peace…



© alford g. harris

Ajaha Publishing LLC

copyright 2010

April 13, 2011 | 10:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Do you need musical talent to learn languages? No.

Do you need musical talent to learn languages?

When people hear the title of my book, Language is Music, they often assume that one has to be a musician or a good singer to learn languages or that I profess that someone can learn language just through music. Neither is true.

Language is music because each language has its own musicality. But you don’t have to be a musician, opera singer or pop star to learn the musicality of a language.

You have to pay attention to HOW the language sounds to copy its rhythm, beat and sounds. Professional singers may be paying more attention to hitting the notes correctly and singing in key than to the correct pronunciation of the language of the music. So there are people without musical training who have good accents in other languages because they focus on improving pronunciation.

Let me give a couple of examples of singers who have professional musical training and do not have excellent accents or pronunciation in other languages to show that being a musical pro is not a sure way to learn a language.

I woke up before the crack of dawn one cold fall Saturday morning in New York City to stand in line to get standing room tickets to hear Luciano Pavarotti sing the main male role in the French opera, “La Fille du Regiment”. I wasn’t all that taken by the opera until  he came on the stage and took my breath away. But he wasn’t singing in French, he was singing Pavarotti. I could barely understand the words he was singing although I am fluent in French. Do I regret not understanding his words clearly? No, I was totally mesmerized because his voice was out of this world. He had perfect pitch but couldn’t pronounce French correctly.

This clip is not from the performance I saw at the Metropolitan Opera, but it’s of another time when the Italian tenor sang “La Fille du Regiment” in French:

Many opera singers can’t sing in Russian. They sing some aberration of our language and sometimes they are so bad that it’s actually offensive. Opera singers who can’t correctly pronounce a foreign language might as well sing in English or their native tongue so at least those of us who do speak their language can understand what they are singing.

Classical Singer magazine interviewed me a couple of years ago to provide tips for students of opera singing who have trouble learning languages, especially Russian and Czech. Here’s the link to the article: http://createyourworldbook.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/50Week-september.pdf

Diana Krall has a sensual and gorgeous voice in her interpretations of classic Brazilian songs, but she can’t pronounce Portuguese. The requisite nasal sounds of Portuguese are absent in her songs. Here’s a clip from her concert in Rio:

The reason I am giving these examples is to show that even trained musical giants don’t have good pronunciation unless they make an effort.

Don’t use the excuse of being a poor piano student in elementary school be a reason not to pursue foreign language learning.

April 12, 2011 | 6:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Second Review of Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety

I’m pleased to announce that the second positive review of Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety is scheduled to appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Choice. To quote:

“Accessible yet provocative, this book makes a significant contribution and offers critical challenges to
the scholarship surrounding both figures, and close readings (and re-readings) expose lingering tensions between self and subjectivity. Generous notes and a substantial comprehensive bibliography round out this excellent study. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates and above.”

April 11, 2011 | 7:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Death and the Powers: The Robots’ Opera

Death and the Powers

“… The opera unfolds as a play within a play, where distant future robots reenact a performance about the early days of the machines — specifically, the time when the first human bridged the gap between man and machine.”

With his latest dramatic work Death and the Powers: The Robots’ Opera, MIT composer Tod Machover attempts to bring the operatic art solidly into the 21st century and a little beyond.

Machovers’ opera is the most recent and most compelling display of technology-enabled art and technology as an art form.

The show, which had its American premiere on March 18 in Boston’s Cutler Majestic Theatre, is a remarkable artistic achievement, enabled by cutting-edge MIT Media Lab technology that permeates all aspects of the production. The audience is exposed not only to stunning visuals and lighting effects, but also to innovative soundscapes generated by a mix of traditional instruments and electronic hyperinstruments — one of Machover’s pioneering inventions.

The opera features human singers and, as the title suggests, robots (which are indeed real, sophisticated robotic machines, not just stand-in props). All performers, human and machine, interact seamlessly and compellingly.

Bogdan Fedeles @ tech.mit.edu

And why not a robot opera? Certainly the etymology (from Latin opus) is fitting:

1809, “a work, composition,” esp. a musical one,” from L. opus “a work, labor, exertion” (cf. It. opera, Fr. oeuvre, Sp. obra), from PIE base *op- (Gmc. *ob-) “to work, produce in abundance,” originally of agriculture later extended to religious acts (cf. Skt. apas- “work, religious act;” Avestan hvapah- “good deed;” O.H.G. uoben “to start work, to practice, to honor;” Ger. üben “to exercise, practice;” Du. oefenen, O.N. æfa, Dan. øve “to exercise, practice;” O.E. æfnan “to perform, work, do,” afol “power”).

Link @ etymonline.com

April 11, 2011 | 2:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


…poem of the month…


Life’s alluring refreshing rains

Inky clouds pregnant with thunder

Blazing flames lapping the skies

Earth’s rumbling stirring tremors

Roaring crashing stormy seas

Twinkling trails in endless blackness

Yawning morning’s awakening freedom

Copyright ‘Carpe Amorem in Poetry’ 2010 (Amazon)

April 10, 2011 | 8:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


How Many Time The World Has to End For Us To Learn Our Lesson?

Cover of "The Millennium Bug"

Cover of The Millennium Bug

We’re getting closer and closer to that dreaded 2012 Mayan Apocalypse and I see the world is not happy with fearing just that. Every day we hear about devastating storms, earthquakes (and subsequent tsunamis, as the Japanese tragedy still holds the headlines), various religious figures with more or less global authority and recognition terrify us with bleak promises, and so on. Why wouldn’t we be afraid?

Just yesterday I was watching (another) documentary about global warming and the disastrous results of glaciary meltdown. They all say we’re the main causes, we and our vibrant civilization. So they say… I just need to ask them one question? How bloody arrogant can humans be to think we’re the ones pulling the strings on our planet (not even to mention the whole universe!)? Yes, we may have put the process on “fast-forward”, but we’re not gods to click our fingers and *puff* global floods. I was reading about a new theory (which was proven right by further research) that the Black Sea began as a sweet-water lake and then, due to the ocean water-level rising, it was flooded with seawater, which produced a cataclysm of biblical proportions (some even move the location of Noah’s flood here)… So…

Every time the years change, especially when we come around a round digit (like 2000, for example – and I am sure everybody remembers the psychosis of the Millennium bug or however you want to call it), we fear the world’s going to end. Well, it did not end in 0, it did not end in 1000, and it definetely didn’t end in 2000. Then, some would ask, why would it be different for 2012?
Could the Mayans foresee the end of civilization? Well, possibly, they could. Fifty percent. The other fifty is for the impossibility. We don’t need no fancy equations to tell us things may or may not be true, as we don’t need elaborate statistics to prove that in 90% of the cases of one issue or another something happens. If the less likely thing happens to you, then, it’s 100%… Or 10, however you want to call it. It’s obvious that we’re not the only civilization with advanced astronomical knowledge. There were some others who could see far beyond the „Mysterious Beyond” and may or may not have calculated that the world would end (?) on one date or another.
Now, what does the end of the world actually mean? Is it Armageddon, the Apocalypse, a global catastrophe that will wipe out all life on Earth? And why would it only imply the Earth? The farther we advance beyond our predecessor’s horizons, the world (our planet? our solar system? our galaxy? the whole Universe?) becomes bigger and bigger by the minute and it doesn’t show any signs of proximity to the boundaries. We are being bombarded with theories, some self-proclaimed fantasies, even dilettantish junk that are pure Science Fiction (and not even the believable SF stuff!) but with the claim of rigorous scientific research. Out of the bulk, the real non-Hollywood theories seem bland or too difficult to understand for the common mind.

Nevertheless, the basics of every astronomical claim, be it religious or scientific, is that we’re all part of an enormous thing called the Universe that is true to itself and the pieces are being held apart by some sort of energy (God with all His names and shapes), some would call it a Superior Infinite Conscience. In any case, I’m not saying that we’re meaningless or powerless in the face of enormity, but that we are all small pieces of something (whatever it is) and our power is in ourselves, in each one of us and, ultimately, in all of us. Think of our bodies and the way they are built, think of sand storms, think of ants, think of water… The world is perfectly built and it’s got its innate rules and forms, we can’t change it or force ourselves upon it, it will only strike back with great force.
Coming back to the Apocalypse. It seems we’ve still got a Medieval imagination: everything has to blow up, to be completely destroyed with great fire-works and cutting-edge special effects. No doubt such cataclysms do happen, but still… Have you ever thought that The End of the World as we know it has already occurred? In fact, I think it happens every day, every second, or at least when something major (9/11?) happens, and, by Jove, there are a lot of crucial events in one’s life, not even talking about whole societies!
Maybe the end of the world has come, maybe it will come. Maybe we won’t even notice it. What the Mayans saw was maybe a more subtle (and, Lord, can we handle subtleties!) change: within ourselves, in the way we perceive things, in our priorities. It could be a religious crisis, maybe an economic crisis (!), it could be a war, a death, a birth or Virgin Mary appearing in the sky. Whatever happens, expensive special effects may or may not be necessary.
That’s what we have to learn: cut the speculations, do something for yourself and for the world. Because if the world’s end does come, how can you help preserve the memory of your life and culture? By talking about it? By writing long and complicated books speculating about what’s going to be? No! Do something for yourself, get out in the world and make the world a better place, whatever that means. As Ophelia might say, Cut the crap Hamlet, my biological clock is ticking, the Universe is also sending us a message. Maybe the Mayans realised that and thought they should forward the mail to us. Can we read it? Can we learn that lesson? Or will we become a myth, like Atlantis?

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April 10, 2011 | 7:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Jay Chou Rulz! Listen to Mama’s Words. ^^

Click here to view the embedded video.

曲: 周杰倫
Qu: Zhou Jie Lun
Music: Jay Chou

詞: 周杰倫
Ci: Zhou Jie Lun
Lyrics: Jay Chou

Translation: eminemjamesuk & Ling - www.jay-chou.net

小朋友 你是否有很多問號 為什麼
Xiao peng you, ni shi fou you hen duo wen hao, wei shen me
Little children, do you have a lot of questions, why

別人在那看漫畫 我卻在學畫畫 對著鋼琴說話
Bie ren zai na kan man hua, wo que zai xue hua hua, dui zhe gang qin shuo hua
When other kids are reading manga, I am learning to draw and learning to communicate with the piano

別人在玩遊戲 我卻靠在牆壁背我的ABC
Bie ren zai wan you xi, wo que kao zai qiang bi bei wo de ABC
When other kids are playing games, I am leaning on the wall memorizing my ABCs

我說我要一台大大的飛機 我卻得到一台舊舊錄音機
Wo shuo wo yao yi tai da da de fei ji, wo jue de dao yi tai jiu jiu lu yin ji
I said that I wanted a large airplane, but I got an old recorder

為什麼 要聽媽媽的話 長大後你就會開始懂得這種話
Wei shen me, yao ting ma ma de hua, zhang da hou ni jiu hui kai shi dong de zhe zhong hua
Why should I listen to mother’s words? When you grow up you will understand what I am saying

長大後我開始明白 為什麼我跑的比別人快 飛的比別人高
Zhang da hou wo kai shi ming bai, wei shen me wo pao de bi bie ren kuai, fei de bi bie ren gao
After I got older I started to realize why I run faster than others and fly further than other people

將來大家看的都是我畫的漫畫 大家唱的都是 我寫的歌
Jiang lai da jia kan de dou shi wo hua de man hua, da jia chang de dou shi wo xie de ge
In the future, people will be reading my mangas and all the songs they sing will be written by me

媽媽的辛苦 不讓你看見 溫暖的食譜在她心裡面
Ma ma de xin ku bu rang ni kan jian, wen nuan de shi pu zai ta xin li mian
Mother’s hard work isn’t seen by others. She knows the warm recipe by heart

有空就多多握握她的手 把手牽著一起夢遊
You kong jiu duo duo wo wo ta de shou, ba shou qian zhe yi qi meng you
When you have time, hold her hand and sleep dream together

聽媽媽的話 別讓她受傷 想快快長大 才能保護她
Ting ma ma de hua, bie rang ta shou shang, xiang kuai kuai zhang da cai neng bao hu ta
Listen to mother’s words, don’t let her get hurt. You want to grow up quickly so you can take care of her

美麗的白髮 幸福中發芽 天使的魔法 溫暖中慈祥
Mei li de bai fa, xing fu zhong fa ya tian shi de mo fa, wen nuan zhong ci xiang
Beautiful white hair, growing inside happiness. Angel’s magic benevolence within (her) gentleness

在你的未來 音樂是你的王牌 拿王牌談個戀愛
Zai ni de wei lai, yin yue shi ni de wang pai na wang pai tan ge lian ai
In your future, music is your key to success, use it to get into a relationship

唉 我不想把你教壞 還是聽媽媽的話吧 晚點在戀愛吧
Ai wo bu xiang ba ni jiao huai hai shi ting ma ma de hua ba, wan dian zai lian ai ba
Sigh, I don’t want to teach you to be a bad kid. Why don’t you listen to what your mother says and get in a relationship later

我知道你未來的路 當媽比我更清楚
Wo zhi dao ni wei lai de lu, dang ma bi wo geng qing chu
I know your future path, but your mother knows it even better

Ni hui kai shi xue qi ta tong xue zai shu bao xie dong xie xi
You will start imitating friends and write things on your backpack

但我建議你最好寫 媽媽我會用功讀書
Dan shi wo jian yi ni zui hao xie, ma ma wo hui yong gong du shu
But I suggest you better write: Mom I will put in my best effort to learn

用功讀書 怎麼會從我嘴巴說出
Yong gong du shu, zhe me hui cong wo zui ba shuo chu
I will study hard, how does that come from my mouth?

不想你輸所以要教你 用功讀書
Bu xiang ni shu suo yi yao jiao ni, yong gong du shu
I need to teach you because I don’t want you to lose. Study hard

媽媽織給你的毛衣 你要好好收著
Ma ma zhi gei ni de mao yi, ni yao hao hao shou zhe
The sweater mother gave you, you have to keep it safe

因為母親節到時我要告訴她 我還留著
Ying wei mu qin jie dao shi wo hui gao shu ta, wo hai liu zhe
Because on Mother’s Day, I want to tell her, I still have it

對了 我會遇到了周潤發
Dui le, wo hui yu dao le zou ren fa
Oh yea, I will meet Zhou Run Fa*
*Zhou Run Fa is a famous actor (Yes…He is Chow Yun Fat)

所以你可以跟同學炫耀 賭神未來是你爸爸
suo yi ni ke yi geng tong xue xuan yao du shen wei lai shi ni ba ba
So you can show off to your friends, “The God of Gambling will be your father”

我找不到童年寫的情書 你寫完不要送人
Wo zhao bu dao tong nian xie de qing shu, ni xie wan bu yao song ren
I can’t find the childhood love letter. Don’t give it away after you write it

yin wei guo liang tian ni hui zai cao chang shang jian dao
Because you will find it on the playground two days later

你會開始喜歡上流行歌 因為張學友開始準備唱吻別
Ni hui kai shi xi huan shang liu xing ge yin wei zhang xue you kai shi zhun bei chang wen bie
You will start to like pop music because Jacky Cheung is about to sing Kiss Goodbye*
*(Kiss Goodbye is a famous song that was a hit in the 90s)

聽媽媽的話 別讓她受傷 想快快長大 才能保護她
Ting ma ma de hua, bie rang ta shou shang, xiang kuai kuai zhang da cai neng bao hu ta
Listen to mother’s words, don’t let her get hurt. You want to grow up quickly so you can take care of her and protect her

April 9, 2011 | 9:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Aeneid on Facebook

Aeneid on Facebook
Brilliantly conceived, artfully executed:
Aeneid on Facebook mashes up The Aeneid and Facebook.

Via Orange Crate Art.

~ Karl Jones

April 8, 2011 | 2:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Researcher to study android based on himself

“Like computers, robots are no longer just tools — they function as media. We hope to gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to make communication work if one part is a robot.”

– Dr. Henrik Scharfe

Dr. Henrik Scharfe and his androidDr. Scharfe has ordered tailor-made android based on himself, as part of his work as director of Aalborg University’s Center for Computer-mediated Epistemology in Denmark.


April 8, 2011 | 1:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Robot

"The Robot" (#33) by Thomas Jackson

The Robot (scene #33) by Thomas Jackson

The Robot” by writer photographer Thomas Jackson is a wonderfully curious work of art –- a combination of book, sculpture, and photographic series –- about a lonesome robot in a world devoid of people (see a video preview of the book.) The piece was produced in a limited edition of 11, and is available at Central Booking gallery in Brooklyn.

Edw Lynch @ Laughing Squid

April 5, 2011 | 10:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


Man Creates “Creepy” Stalking App

It was only a matter of time before someone wrote this program:

Creepy is a software package for Linux or Windows — with a Mac OS X port in the works — that aims to gather public information on a targeted individual via social networking services in order to pinpoint their location. It’s remarkably efficient at its job, even in its current early form, and certainly lives up to its name when you see it in use for the first time.


Yiannis Kakavas explains why he wrote Creepy.

Kudos to Mister Kakavas for naming his program Creepy: I may not approve of the program, but I respect and appreciate his candor.

April 1, 2011 | 1:04 AM Comments  {num} comments


::::: Revolutions & Principles :::::

::::: Revolutions & Principles :::::



Man made is,

A monetary system,

Does that make it an,

Unnatural or,

Natural cataclysm,

When men and

women and children,

Are intentionally starved of,

The very resources that,

God has given us

to survive,


It is like men are trying,

To destroy one another,

To deny hope then deploy,

Elements of hate and,

Layers of exploitation,


And then there are those,

Unafraid to call out and

Pray for unity,

Privately and publicly,

Quietly and openly,

To attempt to live in,

A peaceful and,

Mutually prosperous day.



© alford g. harris

Ajaha Publishing LLC

copyright 2010

March 31, 2011 | 10:03 AM Comments  {num} comments




“I am the walrus.”


“I am the walrus.”


“I am the walrus.”

What’s that supposed to mean?


“It’s my mantra.”

Your mantra?  That’s a stupid mantra, Denny.  ”I am the Walrus?”

“It keeps me going.”



You’ve been climbing for a bit now, man.  This is spring snow, and it’s really deep and heavy.  Why don’t you take a break?

“No can do.  Long way to go.”

Yeah, but this hurts!  Your calves are screaming right now, man!  And there’s a couple pieces of dried mango in your backpack you can eat.


And do you hear how your bindings are creaking?  Your skins are probably coming off too.  Have you checked the-?

“I checked the tip and tail.”

These skis are ancient.  I can’t believe you’re trying to telemark up this backcountry wilderness.  You don’t even know how to ski properly.

“These skis are from the ’90s.”

Yeah.  Ancient.

Swish-wumph…  WUMPH!


Ok.  No need to panic.  Look up.


Right.  No avalanches coming down.  But what was that?

“Wind slab?”

Must be.  Careful now, man.  Pay attention.



“Skis sound normal on the snow.  Maybe the slab’s not very big.”

Normal is good.  Holy crap!  Wouldja look at that.  You’re about to reach the ridgeline!

“Yeah.  Good thing too, my legs are jelly.  I am the walrus.”


“Alright.  Almost.  There.  I.  Am .  The walrus.



The walrus.

I.  Am.  The walrus!


Geez, that wind is howling.  But, hey…  Look…


This is incredible.  This is beauty.  The mountains marching off in every direction, snowy white and luminous…  The wind, swirling through the tree branches, slipping ice crystals under clothes…  Hey!  Don’t start crying up here, man!  That shit’ll freeze.  Put your coat on.

“Ok.  Yeah.  Coat’s on, helmet’s on, goggles on.  Let’s see… Good to go?”

How many times have you done this dude?  Your boots are still unlocked, and your heel lifter bars are up.  Your skins are still on, and you haven’t checked your zippers.  This is downhill, Denny.  In the backcountry.  Get your head in it.

“Oh, yeah.  It’s just, everything’s so beautiful, and I’m trying to catch my breath-”

Stow it.  You could’ve taken a break back there in the aspen grove, but you wanted to get to the top.  Now you’re there.  Do it right.

Ok, cinched down bootstraps, bindings are good.  Ripping skins.  Skins ripped.  Backpack on.  Zippers closed. Ready to go.”

Then go.

“What!?  Oh.  Right.”


“Holy shit.  Holy shit.  Holy shit.  Holy shit.”

Breath.  Bend your knees.  Pick your line.  Soon, the trees will disappear, and the only thing left will be the spaces.  You will exist as part of the snow, caressing it, being caressed, losing yourself in the turns.  Twist silently through this place.  Be beauty.

Now, step to the left.  Drop into the bowl and float…

“Step to the left.  Drop into the bowl and float…”



March 30, 2011 | 5:03 AM Comments  {num} comments


Harlequin and the PIP Ep. 4: The PIP Likes Carnivals


Image via Wikipedia

The Penny Illustrated Paper and its many readers surely loved carnivals. As long as they were civilized, that is. International festivals, like the very exotic “Havannah” carnival were like a breath of fresh air for both colonized and colonizers, but, for the European – namely English – observers, these types of festivals were nothing more than slightly odd occurrences. Even if the festivities were held far away from Old Europe, the carnivalesque utopian ideal of temporary freedom and equality was nevertheless respected, that is, the “Havannah” carnival was “one day of noisy liberty given to these negroes” (issue 14, 11 Jan. 1862, p. 28) Of course, Victorians did not approve of this burst of primitive and instinctual behaviour, seeing this carnival as a return to the caveman’s world.

What is more shocking, is that people participating to the carnival “dress themselves in their national and every kind of fantastic costume,” which is then followed by “grotesque music and wild antics.” All in all, the British viewer perceives something impossible to express clearly, the kind of image Mr. Spock would label as illogical. In other words, what the outside – superior – observer sees, is a “tableau that can be but faintly rendered by the pencil” (issue 14, 11 Jan. 1862, p. 28), a city turned into a “confused, horrid din” (issue 14, 11 Jan. 1862, p. 28), as if “Havannah” hosted a sort of maniacs international convention.

On the other hand, in a parallel universe, in Europe people not only know how to behave, but they can also celebrate properly. On the opposite pole of the far-away place where the white and wise would sadly descend to the level of their slaves and servants, the carnivals in Rome represent the apex of popular refinement. They are the aristocrats, the descendants of Caesar or Virgil. Italy, along with Greece and other countries with a warm sea-side feeling are the favourite holiday destination for all Victorians, especially for the very Victorian honeymoons and other tourist occasions. In the “eternal city,” gaiety is the name of the game:

The palaces are thrown open by their owners to the privileged classes, foreign and indigenous; theatres of all grades, from the Apollo to the Piazza Navona, are crowded by their respective habitués; and British and American visitors are flocking to each other’s dinner parties, tea fights, or state balls. (issue 19, 15 Feb. 1862, p. 100)

Another star on the European carnival stage, following the Roman holiday, is the  Mardi Gras , or the Shrove Tuesday as the neighbours across the channel call it. Dancing, balls, masquerades, promenades to Longchamps are amongst the main occupations of both children and adults, and, while they do that, after “the cavalcade of the boeuf gras with as much zest as if they had nothing else to think about” (issue 23, 15 Mar. 1862, p. 169). Of course, the chaos met on other – peculiar – continents is nowhere to be seen. The authorities would go to great length to prevent any disturbance, mainly in the much feared and unstable marketplace. In any case, most such festivities went smoothly, offering “no other distraction to the blouses and bourgeoisie than a gaudily-dressed cavalcade of Chinese mandarins on horseback” (issue 23, 15 Mar. 1862, p.169), of course all exotic elements were only masks worn by very dignified properly educated Europeans. Everything was about the display of colour, not indulging into it:

The supposed inhabitants of the Celestial Empire, as well as the Druids and club-bearing guild of butchers, were soldiers so disguised. In addition to the mythological characters on the Olympian and flower-enwreathed car was a white ram with a fleece upon which was expanded all the skill of a Paris perruquier, and which bore the marks of the curling-tongs and crisping irons. (issue 23, 15 Mar. 1862, p.169)

In any case, the carnival was turned into a parade. The crowds would watch fantastic images passing by; they would definitely not vociferate or dance frenetically as they would have done a couple of centuries earlier. Displays were only displays, they looked exotic, but, at the same time, they behaved according to the aristocratic norms. Even goddesses dressed in ball gowns or “half-naked Cupids” (issue 23, 15 Mar. 1862, p.169) passing by kept their composure while smiling and waving.

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March 27, 2011 | 3:03 AM Comments  {num} comments


All the Pretty Ballerinas

The whirl of white dresses between the matrix of mirrors, morph into a wreath of white ashes in Lonigan’s reveries, or visions of angels amidst a holocaust, leaping, twirling, pirouetting … Sitting on the floor in a corner of the dance studio, Lonigan draws circles, spirals, parabolas on his ragged sketch pad, trying to capture [...]

March 21, 2011 | 1:03 AM Comments  {num} comments


…je pense que…

‘The hardened heart maketh the softest of speeches at love’s departure…’ M.Ford 20.3.11

March 20, 2011 | 6:03 AM Comments  {num} comments


Our Next Trillion Dollars

Our current spending on the Iraq War from a 2009 report posted to the National Priorities Project: “Meanwhile, the President’s fiscal year 2009 budget proposes an additional $70 billion in war-related spending, on top of the $102.4 billion the Administration continues to pursue for fiscal year 2008. The amount requested for fiscal year 2009 is [...]

March 13, 2011 | 10:03 AM Comments  {num} comments



day comes, and turns to dusk night comes, and the dawn breaks people say that laughter is the best medicine, but love is the essence of life. they say that love hurts, but it is not the love that hurts. love, itself, comes from an eternal spring, there is no beginning or an end. when [...]

March 11, 2011 | 6:03 AM Comments  {num} comments


Slums and Drugs

Dead of winter, shadowing down streets as black as any nightmare, although it wasn’t even time for supper. “I got dizzy, Sweetie.” “I knows Mama.” She came home from school and found her mother on the floor. Her baby brother and sister stood there by her, scared. They had gotten home first, tried to lift [...]

February 28, 2011 | 2:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


FDR 1936 Madison Square Garden Speech

An interesting speech to consider in the light of recent events…

February 26, 2011 | 11:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


Renewable Energy Basics for Today’s World

Renewable energy is not a new concept, people have been using it for thousands of years.  Solar heating, geothermal heating and cooling, water wheels, windmills, sailboats, etc.  These were our primary source of energy until we found the uses of oil and coal, which took over because of their (originally) extremely low cost and portability [...]

February 16, 2011 | 2:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


…red letter day…

CAFÉ LOVE The curling vapours of contentment, Aromas of strange beauty, Haunting echoes through the smoke Of white light warmth, Foaming dual spirals Clasped hand in hand, Hypnotic love’s trance. Copyright 2010 ‘Carpe Naturae in Poetry’

February 14, 2011 | 3:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Hour of the Star

THE HOUR OF THE STAR  Twins night ride a see-saw as storm clouds gather over them.  Each catches a glimpse, in turn, above the other, of a star on the horizon.  The grim one ponders hers and finds profound insights through it. The happy one peeks at her own bewildered and bemused until it finally [...]

February 10, 2011 | 8:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


…poem of the week…

VIVID Flowing through my veins The ebbing aching pains, Adrenalin wiring through, Pounding red and blue, Yearning for that feeling To wake up from this dream, A desire that turns obscene. Copyright 2010 ‘Carpe Somnia in Poetry’

February 5, 2011 | 4:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


No more excuses: learn a language at the gym, and as an adult

If you celebrate the Lunar New Year, Happy New Year to you! If you don’t, well you can still get in the spirit of thinking of a new year with firecrackers, lights and all and think about learning a language. But don’t go for tried excuses about being too old or not having time because [...]

February 3, 2011 | 2:02 AM Comments  {num} comments


je pense que…

‘The day all idols cease from craving adulation is the day all men are equal indeed.’ 28.1.11 M. Ford

January 28, 2011 | 3:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Native American Indian (American Holocaust)

Native Legacy

January 27, 2011 | 11:01 AM Comments  {num} comments



Four drab walls with smog in the window … dark streets below no one dares to walk through … creaky bed, small table with a wobble …there’s a hotplate on the window sill. The bathroom is down the hall. There’s a public phone down it, too, although you never get a call. The radio on [...]

January 26, 2011 | 9:01 AM Comments  {num} comments



Four drab walls with smog in the window … dark streets below no one dares to walk through … creaky bed, small table with a wobble …there’s a hotplate on the window sill. The bathroom is down the hall. There’s a public phone down it, too, although you never get a call. The radio on [...]

January 26, 2011 | 9:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Nebraska: A Haiku

by James Schwartz I’ve seen the wild west/ Willa Cather’s Nebraska/ Prairie poetry.

January 22, 2011 | 7:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


je pense que…

‘The covetous soul’s most heinous crimes are gross ignorance and a devastating lack of human originality.’ 22.1.11 M.Ford

January 22, 2011 | 5:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Babel and the Towers

Posted January 20, 2011 by jamesb4 in Uncategorized. Leave a Comment | Edit Our old tower scattered us Our willful chutzpah selves With so much cheek Our hubris Our gift In place Of listening In separation We must trade Our goods and services Unable to serve ourselves Unable To hear To touch The singleness of [...]

January 20, 2011 | 1:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


…je pense que…

‘Power just fills the vacuum where love is lacking.’

January 19, 2011 | 5:01 AM Comments  {num} comments



James was born in Winnipeg and liberated in south Minneapolis where he was raised with five younger sisters. He has returned there where he lives, loves, writes and influences. James has more than 175 poems published in more than 75 journals including The Best of Mage, Xpressions Journal, Aoife’s Kiss, Beyond Centauri, Penwood Review, Timber [...]

January 18, 2011 | 12:01 PM Comments  {num} comments



James was born in Winnipeg and liberated in south Minneapolis where he was raised with five younger sisters. He has returned there where he lives, loves, writes and influences. James has more than 175 poems published in more than 75 journals including The Best of Mage, Xpressions Journal, Aoife’s Kiss, Beyond Centauri, Penwood Review, Timber [...]

January 18, 2011 | 12:01 PM Comments  {num} comments


The Seven

History and Prophecy of the Seven As recorded by the Seventh Son of the Seventh Son Amidst the Seven Sisters In the seventh year Of my mid-life On the seventh day At the seventh hour Seven Avatar appeared In the seven branches of The Tree of Life Saying, “Record The Seven Verses” Of the history [...]

January 18, 2011 | 12:01 PM Comments  {num} comments


The Seven

History and Prophecy of the Seven As recorded by the Seventh Son of the Seventh Son Amidst the Seven Sisters In the seventh year Of my mid-life On the seventh day At the seventh hour Seven Avatar appeared In the seven branches of The Tree of Life Saying, “Record The Seven Verses” Of the history [...]

January 18, 2011 | 12:01 PM Comments  {num} comments


Sacred Rites

SACRED RITES Moon shadow was spiritual in the ancient Sioux way. She spoke to the wind, the moon and the stars. She married Night Walker on the top of Bear Butte. It was a ceremony the Sacred Mountain had waited centuries to see. That night, wild game crackled on spits. There were drums, dancers, holy [...]

January 18, 2011 | 1:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


First Review of Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety

Jason Whittaker of Zoamorphosis has posted the first review of Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety. Many thanks for his timely and professional review.

January 17, 2011 | 10:01 AM Comments  {num} comments



Had just found out about The wedding.  it seemed Ridiculous, the false Diamond smiles that would Have to be aced before Considering the rythm And flow of Jim’s never- Ending tie collection. In fact, now that moonlight Had become such a common Commodity, there seemed to Be no room for whispers Anymore, and further, When [...]

January 15, 2011 | 10:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Brain Power: learn languages at any age

My passion is for language learning and travel. I love reading about how flexible are brains are because I want people to realize that they CAN learn a language even if they haven’t been in a classroom since the Nixon administration. Below are some recent articles from Newsweek and the New York Times about how [...]

January 14, 2011 | 7:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Learn Spanish First, then Chinese

I am thrilled to see a US journalist writing about why we must learn foreign languages. Primero Hay Que Aprender Español. Ranhou Zai Xue Zhongwen (First you must learn Spanish and then Chinese) is a great article by Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times journalist, on why it’s important to learn Spanish and Chinese in [...]

January 13, 2011 | 7:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Harlequin and the PIP Ep. 3: Christmastime in London

What was Christmastime like in Victorian London?

January 13, 2011 | 3:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Harlequin and the PIP Ep. 2: Preparing for Christmas

What did Londoners do to prepare for Christmas?

January 12, 2011 | 3:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Travel as a Political Act, Rick Steves Iran

Just the title Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves itself was enough to make me curious. Not only am I a polyglot, but I’m also a globetrotter with a passion for discovering new places. Some of my travel also spans the political and social realm as I want to understand and see how [...]

January 11, 2011 | 7:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Harlequin and the PIP Ep. 1: What Is So Special About Christmas?

NOTE: I’ll start a little “series” containing texts about Christmas pantomime as seen in the Penny Illustrated Paper‘s pages during the XIXth century. Enjoy! What exactly can be described as Christmassy? According to the Penny Illustrated Paper, the idea, as it should truly be defined, is “the festivity which Sir John Gilbert represents in our [...]

January 11, 2011 | 1:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


a love poem

stark whimsy and those intense unintelligible blue orbs that casual sideways that turns frontways to glance [what was that, a spark?] into these pale shifting [deeply, oh deeply... ]longingly please, please deeply [] fronts of my nervous soul [shared, surely more than one is bewitched] for a whisper a touch [can hope be encouraged?] stark whimsy [...]

January 9, 2011 | 12:01 PM Comments  {num} comments


…poem of the week…

SEASONS Silver ice queen crystals Suspended in time, Dawning sweet life In the mourning womb, Summer silhouettes Dancing indigo daze, The beauty of the fall In a fallen world. Copyright 2010

January 9, 2011 | 2:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Night Life

NIGHT LIFE Love potions splash on ice. Music plays magic melodies for sleepwalkers who dance in a trance.  I stand like a shadow behind the bar, polishing glasses, waiting for the next drink order.  I watch Solo drift away from her partner and dance on her own – something she does each night at the [...]

January 6, 2011 | 5:01 AM Comments  {num} comments


Bira-bira Kanzashi

Bira-bira kanzashi is a type of traditional Japanese hair ornament worn nowadays mostly by maiko (apprentice geisha), oiran and tayuu impersonators and other women embracing the traditional ways and have hair long enough to pin the bira-bira, or just a smaller one for short hair. Bira-bira can be stylish (and dangling) addition to your outfit, [...]

December 25, 2010 | 1:12 AM Comments  {num} comments


Help Rebuild the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo

Bosnia’s National Library was destroyed, thus amputating a crucial component of Sarajevo‘s (and not only!) cultural life. Books for Vijecnica is a site dedicated to the rebuilding of the library by collecting books (as donations) from all over the world. I think donating even a book or two to mend this real tragedy could be [...]

December 23, 2010 | 7:12 AM Comments  {num} comments


Epistolary Polemics: Petsko, Zola, Toussaint

In case you haven’t read Gregory Petsko’s amazing, stirring, inspiring letter to the President of SUNY-Albany taking him to task for his “deactivation” of the Departments of French, Russian, Italian, and Theater, you can read it here and should do so. I recently wrote to the Great Man to thank him for his intervention on [...]

December 22, 2010 | 5:12 AM Comments  {num} comments


Cuban memories alive

Dos patrias tengo yo, Cuba y la noche. ¿O una son las dos? (I have two countries: Cuba and the night. Or are they one? (Poem by José Marti, Cuban poet and revolutionary. We’re talking about the revolution against Spain, not Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution.) I was in Miami, Florida last week promoting my book, [...]

December 16, 2010 | 10:12 AM Comments  {num} comments



by James Schwartz Victorian overture. Grinning villian. Eternal dusk. Scenes backlit. Wet wool. Tweed. Imported tobacco. Fog. Rain. Locked room situation. Puzzling piazza. European death.

December 3, 2010 | 1:12 AM Comments  {num} comments


Amish Bards and English Reviewers (2010 Edit)

by James Schwartz I carry no Christmas misconceptions. Spotlight on the sonneteering siren. Broods of Bards feel better. Remembering Lord Byron. I cannot raise you rainbows. Your gleeful bigotry colorless. When did you stop mourning? We are all motherless. Your pious condensation. Of str8 hate, averted eyes. Silly charades of civiltry. Are truthfully no disguise. [...]

December 2, 2010 | 1:12 AM Comments  {num} comments


Se aprende mejor un idioma con la música

Este articulo acerca de mi libro, El Idioma es Música, salió por la agencia EFE y ha sido publicado en más de paises de habla hispana desde que salió el miercoles pasado. http://www.impre.com/laraza/noticias/2010/11/21/se-aprende-mejor-el-espantilde-223557-1.html#commentsBlock

November 23, 2010 | 11:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Azerbaijan: Linguistic Chameleon

The city sparked my interest in 2006 when I read The Orientalist about Lev Nussimbaum, a Russian Jew from Baku, who was a cultural and linguistic chameleon.  In Baku, he spoke Russian at home and learned German from his tutor. Lev Nussimbaum escaped the Russian Revolution in a camel caravan to Istanbul.  Later on, in [...]

November 22, 2010 | 11:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


What Makes Us Who We Are?

Well, of course, we won't admit we are alone! We will never admit the fact that we are facing an identity crisis that spreads its claws further and deeper in and on our beloved planet as we are advised to shed any type of membership to a group, community or culture.

November 20, 2010 | 5:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Quid pro quo (Clarisse)

Who could forget this scene?  (I could only find it in Spanish) “Si la ayudo, Clarisse, Ud. y yo nos tornaremos. Quid pro quo; yo le digo cosas y Ud. me dice cosas” So quid pro quo means “this for that”, an exchange, barter, I’ll give you something and you give me something, presumably of [...]

November 11, 2010 | 4:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Learning New Languages And Improving Skills You Already Have

Ever since human beings have joined in social groups, eventually forming societies and cultures, information exchange has been a key element in every-day life and not only. The archetypal need of communication and the wide variety of languages and dialects may not always go hand in hand peacefully, but, especially in a global world as [...]

November 10, 2010 | 3:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Hawaiian Volunteering Opportunity

I am talking about a site I found some time ago when I had a Hawaii infatuation about something I never thought existed: the Hawaiian royal palace, ‘Iolani Palace.Throughout its history, Hawaii was first a democratized tribal society, then turned into a monarchy until the U.S.A. forcibly (no pun intended, I’m just stating historical facts, [...]

November 9, 2010 | 7:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Babble part 2

BABBLE part 2: James Schwartz BABEL: Describe your forthcoming book The Literary Party. JAMES SCHWARTZ: An emotional journey, to use a cliche. BABEL: How often do you write? JS: I write everyday for several hours, make notes and read which is just as important. B: Favorite poem you’ve authored? JS: Situation Iraq as it is [...]

November 8, 2010 | 10:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


The Man vs. The Poet

Adrian Paunescu is one of the most controversial personalities from (post-) Communist Romania.  For the older generation (I mean those who were in their teens/twenties – even thirties or more in the 1970s and 1980s) he was the local version of a pop star. He could gather thousands of people (without ANY sort of PR), [...]

November 8, 2010 | 6:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Napoleon did surrender (didn’t he?)

As I was jogging today my favorite ABBA song came on the iPod: My my! In Waterloo Napoleondid surrender Oh yeah! and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way. And let’s not forget these stirring lines, The history book on the shelf Is always repeating itself! Perhaps this is my favorite ABBA [...]

November 6, 2010 | 1:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


Mad Men screen shot

Thanks for reading my new blog, everyone.  I’d like to start off with a brief comment about Mad Men, the show everyone is mad about, me included.  (It’s pretty embarrassing that I don’t get around to “discovering” shows, music, etc. until about 5-10 years after they appear, but it’s been an unbreakable pattern since childhood.  [...]

November 5, 2010 | 8:11 AM Comments  {num} comments


The science behind language learning

I just read the “Science Grows on Acquiring New Language” article in Education Week by Sarah D. Sparks highlighting research about how we learn foreign languages. Researchers think that the “critical period” to learn foreign languages well may be longer than previously thought and that babies exposed to hearing people speak in different languages learn [...]

October 29, 2010 | 4:10 AM Comments  {num} comments


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Precious In God's eyes
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richa mathur
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saddam motea
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so! poetic
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st florentina
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summer runner
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the pearl
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YES Headquarters
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Youths Ahead!
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~ mostafa ~
Волк Апокалипси
Соловьев Евгени
أنس عبدالمؤمن الخربي
ابحث عن منحة
الاء عبد الرحمن حمد الفارس
عبد المنعم احمد
محمد الشركي
๑۩۞۩๑ brightEYES™๑۩۞۩๑

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