Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, enero 29, 2012

Language Help Wanted (Updated!!)

This is a peace pole. This particular one is in my field in Spencertown, Columbia County, New York. It says, "May peace prevail on earth," in four languages: English, Hebrew, Tibetan, and Algonquin. Those languages seem appropriate to who I am and where the pole is.

According to the World Peace Prayer Society:

The Peace Pole Project is the official Project of The World Peace Prayer Society. It started in Japan in 1955 by Masahisa Goi, who decided to dedicate his life to spreading the message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in response to the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Peace Poles are handcrafted monuments erected the world over as international symbols of Peace. Their purpose is to spread the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in the languages of the world.

Mr. Goi believed that Peace begins in the heart and mind of each individual. As war begins with thoughts of war, Peace begins with thoughts of Peace. The Peace Pole reminds us to keep Peace ever-present in our thoughts. As we learn to honor one another, our environment, plants, animals and all creation on Earth, the vision of global Peace will gradually become a natural way of life, a true culture of Peace.

That is precisely the idea. It makes sense to me. I got the idea a few months ago that I needed an additional peace pole to plant in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The problem, this is the one I need your help on, is languages. English and Spanish make sense to me. That's a no brainer. But I think the other two languages on this particular pole should be Yucatecan Mayan and Nahuatl. I want two of the panels to be indigenous languages that are connected directly to Tulum. Mayan because Tulum is a Mayan part of Mexico. Nahuatl because that language descends from the language used by the Aztecs when they were the masters of most of Mexico.

I didn't think it would be hard to get the phrase "May peace prevail on earth" translated into Yucatecan Mayan and Nahuatl so I could put it on a peace pole, but I was wrong. My efforts to communicate with people who speak these languages have failed. My efforts to solicit help from people who teach these languages have failed. I've wondered about why this is being so challenging. Maybe that's because I'm not sitting in Tulum as I write this or beating the bushes there for a good translation. Maybe it's because the people I've contacted don't really want to help me. Or don't care about the project. Maybe it's because this pole isn't a good idea on some energetic or spiritual level. I have no idea what is causing the problem. I just know that it's being a problem to get the words "May peace prevail on earth" in both Yucatecan Mayan and Nahuatl.

Even when I've made progress, it didn't solve the problem. During my search I received a translation of the phrase into Mayan, "TE YUKSILE YOK KABIL." I was told that this was not literal. OK, fine. But I want to know what it means before I put it on a pole. And I haven't been able to confirm that this phrase is actually an acceptably accurate transmission of the idea. I have nothing in Nahuatl. Except emails to various people that haven't produced results.

Which brings me to this request for help. Dear Readers, I would like your help with this. If you have anyone who can help me with this, please leave a comment or email me. I want to be able to plant the pole in either March or June. But right now, I'm stuck.

Updated (1/30/12), 8:40 am ET: With the help of Stewart at I have language in Mayan and Nahuatl. In Mayan: JAT K'A RI KIKOTEMAL, K'O CHE NJE' CHUCH QATE' RUWACH'ULEW and
in Nahuatl: Ueye Pakillistie Ipan Tlalitpaktle. So far so good. Now all I need is confirmation that these are accurate AND that the Mayan dialect is correct (Stewart says it's Maya kaqchikel). So now I am well on my way. A special thanks to Stewart. This is just a great beginning.

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sábado, enero 28, 2012


This old dump truck has been sitting in the woods near my home for a long time. I first saw it about 26 years ago. Back then, I assumed its owner would pick it up and drive it away. Or haul it away if it wouldn’t run and repair it. It was worth something, I thought. But that hasn’t happened. It remains in the very same spot. Unmoved. In repose. Slowly rusting and rotting and deteriorating. Its registration expired in 1980.

When all of us are long gone, this truck may still be sitting in the woods waiting for the archeologists or historians to find it. They will make up elaborate stories about why it’s still there. And how it got there. But the race between oxidation and storytelling, between destruction and preservation is already underway. How long will it be before this truck is wearing a rich, brown coat of flaky rust, and its once shiny red color is just a conjecture? And how long will it be before its tires have disappeared leaving it sitting on its muddy axels? And how long will it be before its interior – its windows have been open for decades – is a smelly pile of rotting debris slowly corroding its already rotting floorboards from the top?

Impermanence, we are taught is a fact. A Gatha: "From interdependent causes, all things arise and fade away, so teaches the perfectly enlightened one." In my mind, it all happens relatively quickly. Lives are too short. Relationships are too short. Things that we love are all too quick to fade and break and end. But this truck reminds me that it also happens slowly. Sometimes excruciatingly slowly. Plastic takes 10,000 years to break down in sea water. How long will it take to reduce this dump truck to its lowest common denominator, to unrecognizable particles?

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viernes, enero 27, 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles: Mud Season Edition

Last year there was a fierce Winter. Huge, frequent snowfalls. Extraordinary, aching, persistent cold. And this year, as if finding mercy, Winter has so far been quite mild. A deep snow at the end of October melted quickly. There has been no extended, sub zero cold. And there has been little snow. Yesterday’s foul weather warning was unjustified: the feared storm turned into copious rain. Streams and ponds and lakes are not fully frozen. In short, mud season has arrived early and it may persist.

Mud season turns the world monochromatic. The sun is weak. The sky is overcast and gray. There is no snow cover. Fields and forests and dirt roads are all brown. And so we wait. We make it a practice not to complain. Not to jinx whatever clemency we’ve received. We wonder. Is the future a plunge into growling arctic blizzards, or is it a slow but muddy slog toward the Equinox?

Robert Frost:

Looking For a Sunset Bird in Winter

The west was getting out of gold,
The breath of air had died of cold,
When shoeing home across the white,
I thought I saw a bird alight.

In summer when I passed the place
I had to stop and lift my face;
A bird with an angelic gift
Was singing in it sweet and swift.

No bird was singing in it now.
A single leaf was on a bough,
And that was all there was to see
In going twice around the tree.

From my advantage on a hill
I judged that such a crystal chill
Was only adding frost to snow
As gilt to gold that wouldn't show.

A brush had left a crooked stroke
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn't actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles. For the essays you have to visit The Dream Antilles

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jueves, enero 26, 2012

Raven Haiku

When there is no moon,
ravens huddle together.
I must be dreaming.


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martes, enero 24, 2012

Loose Skin

“Man, I know what you need, sitting out there in that shack in that cotton field.”

I thought he was going to start talking about looking for women. Or liquor. But I was wrong about that. “You need a dog," he said. "That’s what you need, man. A dog. A hound. A man’s best friend.”

“I like dogs, but do you think it’s a good idea? I mean, with all of this going on. Some people are really crazy, upset, and they’re making threats. Talking ugly.”

He shrugged. He looked at the sky. He thought about it. “Come out to the house and have a look. I’ll give you one. I’ve got two pups that are ready to go; three already been taken.”

I went. I am such a sucker. The puppy smells were delicious. And I liked how this one looked, all spotted and brown and white and black and gangly. And feisty. And, of course, the price was right. So I ended up with “Lester,” and I took him home with me.

"Lester" could have been named for Lester Young, because of his melodious bark, but no, he was named for Lester Maddox, a huge segregationist, because he was a dog. Just like his namesake.

A few weeks later, the landlord, Mr. Tony, showed up with his stogie clenched in his mouth to collect the month’s rent, $30.00. No, the decimal point is not misplaced here. That's how it was. “So you got a new dog, hunh?” he said. He immediately bent over and unceremoniously picked Lester up by the scruff of his neck. The pup squealed sharply. Mr. Tony put him down. “This dog isn’t worth nothing,” he announced. “Not going to amount to nothing. Skin’s not loose enough. Got to be able to lift a coon dog by the neck. Good dog don’t mind that. Not at all... And there’s no need to look at me like that. It didn’t hurt.”

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lunes, enero 23, 2012

Derek Walcott

Today is Derek Walcott's birthday. He was born in Castries, Saint Lucia in 1930.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1992, he said:

For every poet it is always morning in the world. History a forgotten, insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.

Falling in love with the world in spite of history. A wonderful thought to carry into this week.


sábado, enero 21, 2012

Why Town Court Should Be Abolished In New York (Parts 1 and 2)

I could post a long argument with footnotes about why Town Court should be abolished in New York. These courts, formerly called "Justice Courts," are a vestige of 18th and 19th century rural America, and they just don't measure up to what most people now think is just. Their judges don't have to be lawyers (more than 70% aren't) and there is no education requirement for the job. The training non-lawyer judges receive is grotesquely inadequate to make important decisions. And the rulings these judges make can have enormous significance to the people who appear before them. Just take a look at these brief videos:

Why Town Court In New York Should Be Abolished
by: davidseth

Why Town Court Should Be Abolished In New York, Part 2
by: davidseth

I'm just a beginner with this technology. I've now made two short videos. I think they make the point: Town Court should be abolished in New York. I'm just pointing out the reasons.

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viernes, enero 20, 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Joe was enthusiastic. He bought a .32 and a box of bullets at a pawn shop and was headed across the fields to shoot some beer bottles. Target practice. “Man,” he smiled at me, “Man, you need one of these, too. For protection. You can never tell what will happen around here. You have no idea how crazy these people are.” He got there before me. He, too, was from New Jersey. Maybe he knew what he was talking about. But we weren’t supposed to have guns. We were supposed to be non-violent. But maybe I did need protection. There were a lot of people around who were not thrilled at our arrival. There were rumors. And, of course, threats.

The police headquarters was on the dusty, main street of the town. On the white side of the tracks, down the block from the gin, across the street from the drug store. I walked in in the middle of the afternoon. The old police car was parked out front. The street was quiet, it was hot, and there was a single officer inside. He woke himself up, pulled himself out of the wooden armchair he was leaning against the bars. I put the brown paper bag (he would have called it a “sack”) on the counter, and quietly informed him, “There’s a gun in there. It’s mine. I want you to look at it and write down the serial number, and I want you to take my name and address, so that if I have to shoot somebody, you’ll know it was me who did it.”

He didn’t seem at all startled by the request. He already knew who I was. And why I was there. He knew all about the rumors. And the threats.

In the bag was a heavy, black, snub nosed .38. A police special. It wasn’t at all for shooting targets. Neither beer bottles, nor small animals. If you wanted to hit something, or more likely someone you’d have to be standing right next to it or him. But this gun had one enormous virtue. When you fired it in the dark, it was very loud. Like a cannon. And it made a bright yellow flash. In other words, it was perfect for me. One squeeze of the trigger would scare anybody to death. Including me. You’d think of just going home. Or back to wherever you were before. You wouldn’t think about much more than that. You’d want to leave.

After my visit downtown I put the loaded gun under my pillow. And life went on more or less as before. Community organizing. Playing with the dog. Going to meetings. Visits to the store to buy single cigarettes. Trips down the highway to buy cheap, hot beer. Answering questions from distant supervisors about what was going on. The constant talking of organizing. Eating barbecue. Putting coins in the jukebox. Talking some more. Visiting the neighbors. Talking some more. After a while, it wasn’t a big deal any more that there was a bump under the pillow. I took it for granted. I continued to watch my back. And my step. But the ugly rumors continued that they would get me.

One Fall Saturday night it was cold and raining. I was alone at home watching television. Home at the time was a run down, rotting shack in the edge of a small cotton field near the railroad tracks. The dog was sleeping on the floor. A leak in the roof near the entrance was dripping into a coffee can. I heard two or three cars pull up, heard their doors slam, and heard the occupants yelling and bumping into things. They were calling me all kinds of unkind names, telling me how they were going to beat my posterior, telling me immediately to bring my buttocks out of the house. When I looked out the window, it looked like they might be carrying shotguns or rifles. I couldn’t recognize any of them. I turned the lights off. I went to the bed and reached under the pillow. They continued to yell epithets and threaten and describe the things they were planning on doing to me. They said they were going to inflict various kinds of physical injury on me, burn my house down to the ground, and kill the dog who they thought only barked at white people. It was true about who the dog barked at, so he started to growl and bark at them. I quietly opened the window at the side of the house, pointed the gun toward the sky, and fired a single shot. Boom. The boom echoed around the town. As I was afraid it would, it scared me nearly to death.

“Oh hell,” one of them shouted. “I told you he’d shoot. Let’s get the hell out of here.” They jumped back in their cars and drove off into the rain.

My heart was pounding. I was shaking. I picked up the phone to call Joe. “Listen,” I told him. “Something just happened. You know that gun I got?”

“Did you just shoot somebody?”

“Nobody got hurt. But I’m shaking. I need you to come and get me and let me stay at your house tonight. Just for tonight. I don’t want to be here if they come back tonight. It’s too scary.”

He came and got me. To my unending gratitude, they didn’t come back.

Instead, one afternoon about two weeks later one of them drove off the road in his pick up truck. He intentionally ran over my dog and killed him.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn't actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles. For the essays you have to visit The Dream Antilles

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Etta James, RIP

The New York Times:

Etta James, whose powerful, versatile and emotionally direct voice could enliven the raunchiest blues as well as the subtlest love songs, most indelibly in her signature hit, “At Last,” died Friday morning in Riverside, Calif. She was 73....

Ms. James was not easy to pigeonhole. She is most often referred to as a rhythm and blues singer, and that is how she made her name in the 1950s with records like “Good Rockin’ Daddy.” She is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

She was also comfortable, and convincing, singing pop standards, as she did in 1961 with “At Last,” which was written in 1941 and originally recorded by Glenn Miller’s orchestra. And among her four Grammy Awards (including a lifetime-achievement honor in 2003) was one for best jazz vocal performance, which she won in 1995 for the album “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.”

Regardless of how she was categorized, she was admired. Expressing a common sentiment, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in 1990 that she had “one of the great voices in American popular music, with a huge range, a multiplicity of tones and vast reserves of volume.”

She will be missed.

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jueves, enero 19, 2012

Edgar Allen Poe's Birthday

Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

Today is Edgar Allen Poe's birthday. The Writer's Almanac gives us this macabre story of the end of his life:

Poe died two years later, after he was found delirious in a Baltimore gutter.

Poe's cause of death was never determined, but most people have assumed it had to do with his alcoholism, or his drug addiction. But many of the assumptions people have long held about Poe can be traced back to one of his rivals, anthologist Rufus Wilmot Griswold. The two men had had an ongoing feud since 1842, when Poe was critical of Griswold's choice of poets for an anthology. Griswold, under the name "Ludwig," wrote a lengthy obituary for The New York Tribune, which began: "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. The announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it."

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miércoles, enero 18, 2012

Here Comes The Sun!

Wow! Quite a blackout that one was! Very intense. And now, everything seems so much brighter. Here comes the sun!

Welcome (back) to The Dream Antilles! We're happy you're visiting. Feel free to wander around. Make yourself at home. Mi casa es tu casa.

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Blacking Out To Oppose SOPA/PIPA

Not one keystroke today.

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martes, enero 17, 2012

Muhammad Ali's 70th Birthday

I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.

Happy Birthday, Champ!

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lunes, enero 16, 2012

A Book Offer You Can't Refuse

For a very limited time. In other words, until noon on January 20, 2012 Eastern Time, I have a great deal for you! It's one you can't refuse. Here it is:

You buy a copy of Tulum, either soft cover or eBook, and write and post a review of it at the Amazon and Barnes & Noble web sites. I will reimburse you the cost of the book or eBook. There it is. Simple. You buy the book by writing and posting the review.

The ubiquitous fine print: you need to have purchased the book before January 20, 2012 at noon ET and have proof of purchase. And you need to post the review of the book on or before February 20, 2012. The "cost of the book" includes only standard shipping. You do not need to buy the book online. A receipt from a local bookseller is excellent.

I heard that. You said, "But that's not fair. What if I already have a copy of Tulum and I don't have a receipt, what then?" Simple. Post a review of the book by February 20, 2012, explain to me why you don't have a receipt, and I'll give you the deal. I'm a reasonable person.

But remember. This is a deal you cannot refuse. If you don't buy the book by Friday, the deal is off. Finito. Terminado. Let's not think too much about what that might mean.

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domingo, enero 15, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968)

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

More than fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King recognized the importance and validity of direct action as a tactic in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail:

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

In honor of Dr. King, I think it's time for us to recall the role that direct action can play in restoring America to its most Democratic, humane, and decent principles. It's also worth recalling that Dr. King wasn't talking about political parties. He was talking about movements. I think he would have been delighted by the Occupy Movement.

Creating of constructive, nonviolent tension even in the face of threats of extremist violence is Dr. King's true legacy. My hope is that in honor of his birth we will find the courage and foresight once again to do as he would have. That we will become nonviolent gadflies. Recommitment to nonviolence and direct action might be an antidote to America's present inequality worth considering. And enacting.

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Ice Station Zebra, New York

We awoke to minus 4 degrees F. And a wind chill in the minus double digits. Today's high will be in the teens, and tonight will again be negative. Winter waited in Eastern New York and Western New England until mid-January to arrive. And now it's here. Unfortunately, the bitter cold evoked thoughts of Ice Station Zebra. What a terrible movie.

Why did this come up? Is this Winter now somehow like the isolation of floating around the Arctic on an iceberg? No, not yet. We should inquire about this again in about 60 days, when cabin fever has had a chance to incubate and the isolation has set in in earnest. Is this somehow like Ice Station Zebra, a movie Roger Ebert said was "so flat and conventional that its three moments of interest are an embarrassment"? No. We have to give wintry boredom a chance to fester and grow. Give it time. Get into the stretch of winter after the Stupid Bowl. The stretch of winter that's like a two lane highway across the Arctic. Maybe the thought is just a reason to check out episode 11 of season 3 of Breaking Bad, in which a check from Ice Station Zebra Associates makes a brief cameo. I don't know. I do know that this is clearly Winter thinking. Inconclusive. Speculative. Slow. Untethered.

One thing remains clear. Winter grows introspection. Silence. Wonder. Curiosity. Creativity. There really is time. Every minute seems to have its full compliment of seconds. The weather has truly slowed everything down. Or slowed everything up. We'd like to grow some blubber. We'd like to hibernate. We'd like to get closer to the fire. For all of this I am grateful. And I am thankful for warm, secure shelter.

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sábado, enero 14, 2012

Kitchen Disaster

It began simply enough. It was a weekly, late night, vegetarian cooking show. It was aimed primarily at men. Most of the studio audience were men. He joked that if they were watching him cook at home or in the studio, they weren’t getting any. If it mattered, he said, he hoped they’d have better luck in the future. And they should try cooking like him and eating this food, because that would definitely help in this regard.

First the loud theme music. Was it Talkin’ Heads? He’d come on to wild applause in his totally black clothing, smiling. He’d describe with his Gringo accent what he was making. And he’d demonstrate to the overhead camera. The food was nutritious and simple and clean, and he touted how healthy and virile and lovable it made him. Just look at me, he said with a smile. You can see how this kind of food has made me irresistible, deliciously macho, delectable. Brother, I do very well with this food. You will do well with it, too. Of course, it helped grow his audience that his smiling young assistants were beautiful, barely clothed and frequently revealed cleavage to the overhead camera. The show was a complete success of sorts. It was growing a loyal audience.

In the middle of its first season, he was going to make some Nutella flavored crème brulee. He said a desert like this was an aphrodesiac. He would test it on the staff after the show and report back. The tall, blonde assistant with the green eyes brought him an already lit blowtorch. And then something unexpected happened. There was an explosion and a fire broke out. Apparently, the blowtorch ignited gas that was silently leaking from the stove. There was a bright flash and a loud boom, and ingredients flew all over the room. The cameras shook but kept on shooting. Miguel, that was the host’s name, got cream and Nutella and eggs and ashes all over him. Plates sailed across the room; pots crashed from the sky. The brunette assistant’s blouse fell open and she screamed. Fire began to engulf the set. The producers and camera operators and technicians all rushed to put out the fire. The cameras continued to roll. The show came to an end in chaos.

The next day the crème brulee, the explosion, the assistant’s breasts, Miguel, the entire calamity were all over the news. He was going at last to receive his 15 minutes. He had apparently arrived. “Well,” he told one of the many interviewers, “The show will continue. Of course, it will. And I’m sure we’ll have more surprises this week. Be sure to join us, tune in.” He looked in the camera, winked and smiled.

More surprises indeed. It was obvious. The show had been transformed. Its title remained the same. But everyone began to call it “Kitchen Disaster.” And its audience mushroomed. Every show began as before, Miguel with his Gringo accent, the beautiful assistants smiling and handing him things, a healthy recipe that would render the cook irresistible, a magnet for love. Irresistible like Miguel. And then in every show a different surprise, a different disaster, an unanticipated, new calamity. Fires, explosions, floods. Loss of power and darkness. Sprinklers turning on without warning. Smoke alarms. Leaking pipes. The police. Burning food. Flaming frying pans. The fire department. Alcohol fires. Grease splattering. The seven plagues. Clothing falling off. Screaming assistants. Every show with the same, iconic ending, the cameras rolling, the staff trying to quell the emergency. And Miguel’s laughter.

The show had a long, successful run. The number of possible disasters was enormous, and the staff was inspired in creating new ones. But then one Saturday evening in summer, Miguel just didn’t show up. Nobody knew where he was. And the show had to be canceled. They showed a Julia Child rerun in its place. But nobody could find Miguel. How could the show continue tonight or next week without its star? The station put out a statement that Miguel was gone and the show would not return. Again, the show was in the news. Some people said it was another publicity stunt and that, of course, Miguel would reappear to benefit from the free publicity. But he never returned. And he was never found. Eventually the show and Miguel passed into obscurity.

n/t to Ian for the prompt

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viernes, enero 13, 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles

[Note: Your Bloguero has rendered the following dialogue into common English. Originally, it was in the local, mumbled dialect of Limestone County, Alabama.]

“Look, the first thing we do is drink this moonshine. See how clear it is? This whole mason jar. It’s a quart. Wonderfully clear. Nothing in the bottom. No twigs. I got it from Mr. Toney. And it’s good. We drink it first. And then we get the lights out and we let the dogs go. The dogs know where to go. They know what they’re supposed to do. They look for the coons and they tell us where they are. Then they chase them. When they have the scent, they call. And they will chase them up a tree. And they call when they’re up the tree. It’s a special barking. We just run after them, see? With the guns. And the lights. It’s very dark out there already.

“Now the most important thing about this hunt – I know you never did this before, right? – the most important thing is when the dogs get the coon treed, we have to get there. In a hurry. To that tree. Because very soon, that coon is not going to stay up in that tree with the dogs barking at it. Nope. He’s coming down, and he’s going to be mad, and when he does come down, he’s going to fuck these dogs up. You understand what I’m telling you? We don’t want that to happen. Look at Old Lester over there. See that he has no left ear? See that he’s got a scar across the top of his head? He’s a great coon hound. That’s what we’re talking about. We don’t want that to happen to these dogs. So when the dogs are barking the special bark, telling us that the coon is up in the tree, there’s no time for fooling around. Got to run and get there in a big hurry before the coon changes his mind about staying up in the tree. And then you have to shoot him out of the tree. That’s what the lights are for. You shine them up in the tree so you can see the coon. That and making sure you don’t trip and break your head while you’re running.”

“But,” says your Bloguero. “It’s really dark now. There’s no moon yet. And the paths in these woods aren’t clear. And if we drink all of this shine, how the hell are we going to get to some tree that’s far away in time to shoot the coon before he comes down from the tree? I mean, it sounds like we could be stumbling around drunk in the woods and tripping on things and getting all scratched up. And we could easily shoot ourselves while we’re running. And not get to the tree so fast. In other words, this could be a disaster.”

“Oh you a city boy, aren’t you? I know you never did this before. That’s not bad. Look. We’re going to show you how to do it. We’ll get there. We might get a little scratched up by the bush, and we might trip on some roots, and we might take a while to run to the tree. We might get pretty drunk. But don’t you worry. We will get there. These dogs need us to get there, and we will. Matter of fact, we almost always do. I’ve been doing this since I was 10, and I’m 70 now. And Obie over there, he’s 72 now. We’ve been hunting together for 60 years or so. So we know how to do this.”

“But what about Lester’s ear? And how the hell can 70 year old men who are completely drunk and carrying loaded guns run through the woods without getting hurt? Are you sure this is safe?”

“Look, I told you before, we’re not perfect. Sometimes we fuck up. We try not to, but sometimes it can’t be helped. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t try to do this any more, right? We are not retiring from this. I mean: this is all that can happen when you go coon hunting. There can be problems. Of course. Like anything else. And we try to make sure they don’t happen. But we’re not stopping until we can’t do it any more. Right now, thank God, we can still do it. So we do.”

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. It's a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles in the previous week. Sometimes, of course, like right now, it jumps the rails and doesn't tell you anything about the past week. Sometimes it gets all distracted and goes completely astray. To know what's on the Dream Antilles you have to visit it.

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jueves, enero 12, 2012

Wintry Mix

Here he goes again. “Listen here, boy. When I was little, it used to get cold around here. How cold? Don’t give me that look, boy. I’ll tell you how cold. It was so cold you would split logs using just a hammer. It was that cold. You’d hit the log once with the hammer, and it would go 'pop' and jump into pieces. It’d splinter. That’s cold, all right. I’d run out there and break up a bunch of wood with just a hammer. That was my job. And I didn’t even have gloves back then. You know how cold that was? Gimme that bottle.

"And I'm not even gonna tell you about my old man, and what he was like. No. No, sir. Not gonna talk about him at all."

It was the second or third month of cabin fever season. Him sitting unshaven on the couch in a frayed t-shirt with a captive audience. Me. The bottle nearby. The ashtrays overflowing. The stove pumping out its dry heat. The console TV flickering with nobody watching. And a view through the small, frosty windows of large, unpleasant things falling from the sky into fields already covered with deep snow: some ball bearings, sleet, ice cubes, plaid Barcaloungers, pointy scrap metal, old weather satellites. At first having school called off was OK. I hated school. After a month, it wasn’t so great. There was nowhere to go. Everywhere there was waist deep snow with a thick turquoise Formica crust. Furniture and space debris and hardware falling from the sky. Roads like an unfenced luge course. Winds screaming and shaking the house. The dimmest of yellow light in the early afternoon. And him.

There are now 67 days until Spring. And today there is wintry mix.

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lunes, enero 09, 2012

A Distant Tree And An eBook Solution

Of sorts.

When somebody buys my magical novella, Tulum, in soft cover, I am always thrilled to sign the title page and to write a dedication on it. To the reader, or to anyone else they choose. That makes the book more personal. And it marks my physical connection with the reader. That’s what is typically done at readings. Maybe it even helps sell books. Maybe the books are more prized if they're signed.

But if you buy my book or read it on Kindle or Nook or on your iPad or some other device as an eBook, you’re not going to get it signed. And you’re not going to be able to have it dedicated. Why? Because it’s not a physical book, and there’s nothing for me to scrawl on. Maybe there should be such an app (developers, are you reading this and thinking about it?) but as far as I know, there isn’t. Yet. So if you buy my book as an eBook, you potentially get shorted. I can't sign it for you. I cannot scrawl a quote from Shakespeare in the book and sign my name. I’m unhappy about that. And I know other writers are also.

So I have a solution. Of sorts. I can have some postcards made up, and if you want a dedication or a signed copy and you bought Tulum as an eBook, I can send you a postcard. Not by email. Nope. That doesn’t solve a thing. No, I will send you an actual, analog postcard via the US Postal Service. With a real postage stamp on it. And best of all, with the horrible handwriting I developed because of in spite of the feared Mrs. Reynolds, my first grade teacher at Hillside Avenue School in New Jersey. Maybe the postcard should be of the cover of the book. Maybe of some other scene from Tulum. I will consider the options.

Meanwhile, speaking of Hillside Avenue School. It’s now called, believe it or not, Walter Krumbiegel School in memory of the tall, deep voiced, mustached principal who was there long ago. Anyway, I was thinking today (I don’t know what may have prompted the thought) about climbing a tree on the front lawn of the school near the entrance. When I was small, when I was an 8-year old, it was so very easy to climb. It was, in fact, the easiest tree in the neighborhood. I imagined that by now, more than 50 years later, it would be gigantic. Majestic. It would be as tall as the school. No, taller. It would have a round, thick base. It would have tremendous, long branches. By now, no 8-year old could easily pull himself into its wide branches. A worry: maybe it had to be taken down because it grew so very large and was so close to the school building. Wrong. Completely wrong. It’s still there. The joke's on me. It appears that it was a dwarf or miniature flowering tree of some kind. Crabapple? Maybe.

How do I know it's still standing there with open limbs inviting children to climb it? You can see it standing where it always was, still flowering on the school’s lawn, just to the right of the stairs, up close to the building.

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domingo, enero 08, 2012

Winter Haikus


Last winter's haikus
were hiding in my notebook.
That was not much fun.



4 am awake.
Darkest night, winter's silence.
Dreams tip toe away.



Three squabbling crows fly.
What's the argument about?
No one remembers.


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viernes, enero 06, 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Your Bloguero hints you should buy his new novella

As you can see, your Bloguero has returned. He enjoyed his time away from the incessant yadda yadda and habla bla bla of the Blogosfera. He enjoyed his vacation away from his faithful keyboard. And from the odious task of promoting his latest book. He is now wearing conspicuous relaxation across his forehead. And he is so restored, believe this or don’t, that he’s not even going to complain, not even a little bit, that his return was not met by jazz bands, a parade, people throwing candy and beads and flowers. And pouring him drinks. He returned without any of that hoopla. Well, ok. He’s prepared to wait for that until February 21:

Actually, your Bloguero first returned on January 1, 2012, as originally scheduled. His first posting tried to focus on general gullibility. To your Bloguero, it seemed a trifle too easy, too comfortable to climb back into blogging. Oh well.

Then he wrote about nests that he found abiding in the fields, quoted two wonderful poems, and served up a Haiku. If the weather in Eastern New York and Western New England were not unseasonably warm, your Bloguero would never have wandered the fields and would have had to climb through deep drifts of snow to find these abandoned nests.

And your Bloguero got down to Three Kings, also called Epiphany, and the story of the Tres Reyes Magos. Today, January 6th, is Epiphany. Your Bloguero wishes you Feliz dia de Reyes Magos!

The last post of the week was sad, the death of the author of the Bass Saxophone, Josef Skvorecky.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually, like this post, a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. It’s a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles in the previous week. Sometimes, of course, it jumps the rails and doesn’t tell you anything about the past week. Sometimes it gets all distracted and goes completely astray. Not toay. Your Bloguero is thankful that didn’t happen this week.

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jueves, enero 05, 2012

Josef Skvorecky, RIP

The New York Times:

Josef Skvorecky, a renowned Czech author who drew on his experiences under the Nazis and the Communists to write fiction that captured the corruptions and humiliations of the 20th century, died on Tuesday in Toronto. He was 87 and had lived and continued to write in Canada for many years....

Mr. Skvorecky was in the front rank of a generation of Czech writers who achieved international attention for dissident literature produced in the face of Communist censorship. Among his peers, and friends, were Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal, the Nobel Prize-winning poet Jaroslav Seifert and Vaclav Havel, the playwright and former Czech president who died two weeks earlier.

Mr. Skvorecky’s most enduring creation was an alter ego, Danny Smiricky, a jazz-loving, northern Bohemian admirer of Mark Twain. Danny, who appears in about half of Mr. Skvorecky’s dozen or more novels, struggles — not always heroically — to maintain decency amid the terrors and indignities of totalitarian society. In descriptions of forced labor in a Nazi factory, Communist censors, Soviet tanks, political purges, false accusations, stool pigeons and women who allure and tease, Mr. Skvorecky offered glimpses of his life....

In all, Mr. Skvorecky (pronounced shik-VOHR-et-skee) wrote more than 30 books, including essays, literary criticism, detective mysteries and collections of short stories. He also wrote for film and television and translated American classics into Czech, having been drawn to American literature from an early age, particularly to Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Twain.

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miércoles, enero 04, 2012

Mechior, Gaspar And Balthazar

January 6 is Three Kings Day (Tres Reyes Magos or Epiphany). It commemorates the day the Three Kings from the East, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia and Africa, after following the star for twelve days, arrived on horse, camel and elephant, in Bethlehem to find the child in the manger and to give their symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Three Kings Day is the day on which gifts are traditionally given throughout Central and South America.

Only relatively recently has globalization and commercialization brought Santa Claus and Christmas trees and gift giving on Christmas Day. Only recently has the gringo, capitalist commercial extravaganza taken hold. Before that, the Three Kings came with the gifts only on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, on the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

In Spain, Argentina, and Uruguay, children and many adults polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the 5th of January. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes on the eve of January 6 by the family nativity scene or by their beds. Also a letter with toy requests is left and sometimes the shoes are filled with hay for the camels. In Puerto Rico, it is traditional for children to fill a box with grass or hay and put it underneath their bed. In some parts of northern Mexico the shoes are left under the Christmas tree (an import from El Norte) with a letter to the Three Kings. This is analogous to children leaving mince pies or cookies and milk out for Santa Claus or Father Christmas.

If you consider the Three Kings Story from a mythic, rather than a religious perspective, it's a very important allegory about faith and instinct. The wise, eastern Kings' faithfully follow their instinct and knowledge across the desert to the place it leads them. Do they know where they were going? Are they following the signs correctly? Are they supposed to follow the star? When they reach the destination, they give their gifts to the one they find, the ones who should receive them. Is this the right person? Are these the right gifts? How do I know whether I’m doing this correctly?

I really like the story. I like to think about the kind of courage and understanding and conviction and trust one would need to play the role of one of the kings (the wise men) in the story. Would I know to follow my star? Would I understand that it was time for the journey? Would I leave immediately? Would I persist for 12 days? Would frustration, despair, fear or doubt stop my journey? Would I become distracted? Would I press on? Would I keep my focus? Would I realize when I had arrived? Would I know what gifts to give and to whom? How would I know all of these things? What an epic journey it is.

Feliz Dia de Reyes!

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lunes, enero 02, 2012

Winter's Nests

First, Emily Dickinson's Poem 143:

For every Bird a Nest --
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round --

Wherefore when boughs are free --
Households in every tree --
Pilgrim be found?

Perhaps a home too high --
Ah Aristocracy!
The little Wren desires --

Perhaps of twig so fine --
Of twine e'en superfine,
Her pride aspires --

The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house --

Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?

Then Robert Frost's poem "The Exposed Nest":

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
I the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But 'twas no make-believe with you today,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clovers.
'Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasking flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once--could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might out meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven't any memory--have you?--
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

Then today's wintry haiku:

This nest is perfect.
How can it be so naked?
Now it's so exposed.


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domingo, enero 01, 2012

He's Baaaack!

He’s baaack.

Yes, he is. Your Bloguero has returned. He’s back. Apparently, the phrase has something to do with Poltergeist II. Evidently, it’s really “They’re back!" ("Han vuelto") At least that’s what it says on the jacket of the book derived from the movie. Or the DVD cover released in Mexico that mimics the US cover. But never mind all the attribution and repeated Google-izing, it’s close enough. Close enough to spur a brief, New Year’s Day inquiry into general gullibility.

Your Bloguero bets that you don't remember the 1986 film. You've probably forgotten this part:

One night, Steven lets his guard down and gets drunk, swallowing a Mezcal worm that is possessed by Kane, a demon disguised as a preacher, who temporarily possesses him. He attacks and tries to rape Diane, who cries out that she loves him. Steven then vomits up the worm possessed by Kane, which grows into a huge, tentacled monstrosity.

Your Bloguero, who is now back from his brief hiatus and wearing his relaxation in the middle of his face, wonders how this Mezcal worm nonsense passes an “Are You F*cking Kidding Me?” (AYFKM) Plot Salience Test. Maybe it's aimed at Gringos. After all, most Mezcal, your Bloguero notes, doesn’t have a “worm” in it, thank Mayahuel, and when it does, it’s not really a worm. No, senores, it’s a weevil larva. An insect, not a worm. So passing AYFKM relies on the particular viewer’s ignorance. Passing AYFKM requires a viewer who is already up to the eyeballs in false agave legends. Stories from the Border States. Jalisco Apocrypha. Dis-information (see, Paco Taibo II, Four Hands). Untrue stories about Oligochaeta. Perhaps in naked gullibility.

And, and this is a big and important and, when this yarn passes AYFKM, the viewer will of course have been taken in by something that is, wait for it, demonstrably false. My goodness. That’s nothing. I heard you say that. I agree. This is hardly surprising. This is an everyday event. An event that happens repeatedly. It's like WMD. Or yellow cake. Or the "debt crisis". And a million others. You can insert your favorite ones right here. Your Bloguero is, of course, amused at finding this in Poltergeist II. At the very least, he thinks, thank goodness, this particular falsehood didn’t cause any injury to anyone. Unless, of course, mind numbing credulity and stupidity promoted by gullibility are injuries. Maybe these are self inflicted (cue Ron Paul or Rick Goodhair). Anyway, it’s nothing new: it’s de rigueur. Hell, it's expected. You expect it. So does your Bloguero.

Your Bloguero originally speculated that the instantaneous transformation of the puked larva (believed to be a worm) into a “huge, tentacled monstrosity” was the place AYFKM Fail would be harshly activated and the plot would be reduced to his and other viewers' guffaws. Wrong. Your Bloguero notes without citation that if the viewer willingly and uncritically accepts the

(possessed worm=larva) < Mezcal

formula, the film’s startling, spontaneous generation of a giant monster from a Pukevalanche including a dead insect is hardly problematic. It’s entirely credible. It follows almost logically, if you're of that mind.

Your Bloguero loves to generalize from such thoughts. And to terrorize himself with them. But he cannot top H.L. Mencken, who said “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Your Bloguero knows how scary that is. It makes Poltergeist II seem bland.

Have a wonderfilled, joyful, Happy New Year! Your Bloguero is delighted to be back.

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