Here Thar Be Monsters!

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Run For The Border

Tim and I met on the TGV from Paris to Madrid. He was a tall, lanky sort with thick beard who was teaching English privately in Spain, but the thing that got us talking was that he was from Waco, and I hadn't met another Texan in almost a year. That alone was cause for celebration, but he also had peanut butter, which at the time was virtually impossible to find in Europe.

I was packing a baguette, cheese, cold cuts, and grapes, so I was able to negotiate a dollop of his ambrosia. We both had wine, his Spanish and mine French, so we made a decent feast for ourselves.

The TGV was slick, and this was 30 years ago. It was unlike any train I had been on: smooth, sleek and beyond fast. Inside was comfortable and arranged with four seats around a table. Between the cars were automatic sliding glass doors and the bridge between was enclosed to protect passengers from the 300 kpm winds. There was a buffet car and an observation car, and walking around was not unlike being on a jet plane: the occasional minor lurch but otherwise solid.

Tim and I lucked out and took over a whole table. We spread our feast out and stuffed our faces and Provence slid by at dizzying speeds ourside. Out to a hundred meters or so, everything was a terrifying blur, but beyond that was acres and acres of wine country. Somewhere out there was the field I had worked in for about a month during harvest. I earned room and board, plus a handful of extra duckies. In the purple distance, the Pyrenees rose against the horizon.

Late in the afternoon, we had arrived at the foot of the mountains separating France and Spain. This was the end of the line for the TGV and I was sad to see it go. We had to get down and go through customs. This was the first time since I had arrived in Europe a year ago that I actually had to go through customs. Usually, the officers just walked through the trains and stamped passports. After crossing through the gates, we has to wait for the train that would take us across the mountains, so Time and I hunkered down and did some intense girl-watching.

After about an hour or so, the train pulled in. My eyes grew wide. I had descended from the 21st century and I was about to enter the 19th. The train through the Pyranees was a coal burning steam locomotice. I felt like I was stepping into a old western film, with the ringing bells and the chugging heartbeat of the train.

We boarded the train and soon it was pulling out. Unlike the glass-smooth acceleration and mind-numbing climb to cruising speed, this was a lurching, chugging wind up that took a good 30 minutes to get to speed. There was no air conditioning on this train, and the interior looked kind of like the Hogwarts train with a aisle on one side and a line of enclosed cabins on the other. Unlike Harry Potter's idealistic transport, this one had a trough running down the aisle against the side that had urine sloshing back and forth as the train climbed and descended through the mountains.

Tim and I had gotten a cabin with a Spaniard from Barcelona, two German girls, and a Brit guy. My German was pretty good, so I spent the time chatting up the girls, while Tim chatted with the Spaniad. The Brit just slept.

At one point, the heat got to me. There was no air circulation and the air was growing unbearable. Having never ridden on a coal burner, I slid down the window without thinking. Within seconds, the cabin was full of stinking black smoke and we all had to bail out into the aisle, where in the confusion, I stepped squarely into the piss trough just as it sloshed to the rear of the car. My popularity quotient had sropped precipitously in less than five minutes.

I cost me a full bottle of wine to make peace.

At the base of the mountains, we switched to a much more comfortable electric train for the trip to Madrid. I still reeked of piss but it had one advantage: nobody wanted to sit in the cabin with Tim and I. For the next six hours, I tied my shoes together and hung the offending one out the window. It helped a little and made the cabin somewhat more habitable.

We arrived in Madrid early in the morning. Tim didn't have to get back to his job for another couple of days, so we found a pension and began to loot and plunder the acient city.

Madrid is a beautiful city, with broad avenues, foundtains and lush parks everywhere that stood in start contrast to the arid and sweltering plains of central Spain. Tim and I wandered around soaking in the culture and flavor of Madrid and during siesta, we would find a cafe where the owner was happy to have the business, and we drank copious amounts of beer.

The second afternoon, after siesta and a case of ice cold beer, we had ended up at the south end of the city. Stangding like a white man at the African People's Congress was a castle of 14th or 15th century design. It was a classic castle with towers and parapets and ramparts that looked like they had stepped out of a story book. There were no signs, no tourists and no sign of life of any kind in or around the ediface, but the gate stood open far enough for a man to pass through.

Tim and I couldn't resist the opportunity and we slipped through the gate and into an empty courtyard. The place looked and felt abandoned and I was having fantasies about taking over and declaring the place a sovereign principality, with me as the prince, of course. We wandered around poking our heads into doors and windows, where we saw desks with papers and typewriters, so there was obviously something going on there. My dreams were fast evaporating.

I pulled out my camera and started snapping a couple of shots. My funds were limited, so I used film sparingly. I chose a couple of select scenes and recorded them for posterity.

Suddenly, there was a distinct sound. Tim and I were both from Texas, so we knew instantly what it was. It didn't just come from one direction, either. It came from everywhere all at once. It was the sound of a hammer being drawn back on a gun. I had heard it thousands of times, but this time it wasn't me doing the cocking. I did what any normal, red-blooded Texan would do when they heard that sound: I froze like a statue. In fact, I was so still I am still convinced to this day that my breathing stopped, my heart paused and peristalsis ceased in my intestines. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Tim was my mirror image.

Glancing up, I could see the wall around the courtyard was lined with at least 50 men, but could have been thousands, as far as I was concerned. At our level was another 20 or so. Altogether, we had at least 100 weapons of various kinds aimed at us. My shoe wasn't the only thing smelling of piss at that moment.

One man walked up to me. I could see from the various things hung on his uniform that he was at least a colonel, if not a general. He had a meticulously trimmed moustache and dark, impenetrable eyes. He stip searched me with his gaze and then reached out and slowly divested me of my camera. He looked at it for a moment, then popped it open and began to slowly pull the film out while staring me square in the eyes. I didn't flinch, though my bowels had taken off running a while back.

"Oh shit," Tim croaked.

"You're telling me," I breathed, still locked on the general.

"No dude. This is Guardia Civil," he hissed.

I knew exactly what he meant. The Guardia Civil was the secret police under General Franco, and still operating, almost with impunity, even after the General's death. By reputation, at best they could make us disappear forever, and at worst, kill us with the flick of a finger.

As I stared a hole in the General's face, I saw the barest flicker of a smirk, involving only the right corner of his mouth. The rest of his face was frozen. He clicked the back of my camera shut without taking his eyes off me, then handed it back to me.

A single bead of sweat had taken up residence on the end of my nose and was making my crazy, but I dared not make a move, other than to put out a hand to receive the camera.

"Enjoh-ee yurrr stay in MAHdreed, gentlemen," the General's voice was a rock hard Seville perfection.

"We should," Tim suggested.

He was facing the gate and I was facing the general. We began to inch glacially toward the gate. We had each other's 6. My feet felt like stone blocks. After what seemed like a month or two, we reached the opening and slid through. Without looking back, we made our way down the street, as close to running as we could be without actually breaking into hundred-yard dashes.

When we got to the opposite side of the city an hour later, we planted ourselves at a table in a small street cafe and began drinking Spanish wine like two men who had just stared into Oblivion and survived.

The next morning, Tim bundled up his gear and headed back to work. Within the hour, I met Klaus, a German guy about my age on break from school and backpakcing around.

"I'm going to Morocco," he announced in that way that Germans do, that make even the loosest of plans sound like they are written in stone.

Morocco, I thought.

We were on the train the next morning, heading for Algeciras, and beyond that, to north Africa.

I wished I had more peanut butter. It's my greatest comfort food, especially slathered on an Oreo cookie.


The Freedom of the Road

As I recall, it was the late summer of '79. As fast as they put a diploma in my hand, I blew the town. Houston was not big enough for both me and my dad, and he didn't appear to be going anywhere. So I did the honors.

First stop was Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had been there once before when I was about 7 or 8. It was a magical time, because it was snowing when we landed in Albuquerque. It was Easter time and everyone was remarking that it never snowed that late. We stayed at La Fonda on the square. Even now, I can recollect the scene out the hotel window of the snow falling on the Plaza in Santa Fe. Magic.

So when I was thinking of somewhere to run away to, that place just came to my head and my dachshund Lucy and I hit the road. Not long after I got there, I met George. He was a piece of work. Rich LA family with a ranch north of the city. He was there for college, complete with Saab 900 Turbo and a care-package from his buddies back home that would make a DEA agent blush. Shrooms, coke, sinse, uppers, name it. We struck it off right away and spent a lot of time charming chicks and making runs to the ski basin in the Saab. We had some magic moments.

There was the time we packed up a couple fine coeds, some beer and care-package contents, and a TV George and I had bought that ran off a car cigarette lighter. We smoked it up to a very cool place I had spied with a view that looked clear out to Albuquerque. It was early fall and the air was crisp, and the aspen trees had started turning. At one point, we sped through a tunnel of gold, with the silvery fall light spun through like gossamer, and the stark white trunks of the trees lining both sides of the road. I was standing in the seat with my upper body out the sun roof. The wind combed my long hair and parted my ample beard. I kind of looked like the illegitimate son of Billy Gibbons and a biker moll.

We spent the night at the overlook watching Saturday Night Live, tripping our heads off and macking on Shoshana and Lucia. Magic.

George was always going on about LA this and back home that, so one night we were sitting around bored out of our minds, full of pizza that we got free from another buddy after closing time. I looked at George and said, "You wanna go to LA?" Within hours, we were speeding down the highway at 115 mph, heading west. The next afternoon, LA rose out of the horizon like the Emerald City, and there I was with Scarecrow and Toto, and Glenda had just made it snow, in a manner of speaking.

We swung by a couple of George's buddies' houses and ended up with some blue dragon blotter. That night we sat on the cliffs watching fog roll in from the sea and smog roll out from the city. They met over the beach like a silent scene from "Braveheart", and fought it out for hours as we spun through the Book of Mysteries, climbing into our own navels and sliding out through our mouths. Magic.

The next day, we beat a path up the coast highway to San Luis Obispo, and to his family's ranch. We were greeted by the Mexican maid and George's two Rottweilers. To her credit, Lucy the dachshund held her own. We broke up a foot-long bud of sinse he had snagged from a bud earlier and we bonged a bit before taking the vintage WWII jeep out on the ranch to do a little 4-wheeling. We were listening to Lee Rittenauer and Dixie Dregs, and climbing the jeep up a steep hill until we had a commanding view of the entire valley. Magic.

George's folks hardly seemed to bat an eye that he had just quit college after three months and had shown up at home with an out-of-work roadie in tow. We stayed there a week before beating it back to the city, this time to the home of a famous movie star's son up in the Hollywood Hills.

The guy was so happy to see George that he took his radio phone (cell phones hadn't been invented yet) out to the pool and within an hour, the buffet was covered with a king's feast and the coffee table was wall-to-wall fantasy land. There was a serving platter of Peruvian marching powder, yellows, blacks, reds, and my choice...shrooms. That night I sat in the hot tub looking over LA lights like electric fireflies while mushroom visions formed in the clouds and minor starlettes kept me entertained. A well-known band showed up and gigged until dawn. Magic.

Two days later, we were in a 24-foot sailboat in LA harbor. I was at the tiller and the guys were rolling and tugging like there was no tomorrow. I lost my hat to a stray gust. It was my lucky hat. I wore it wherever I traveled. Bummed me out, but I got over it pretty quick. Later, when we docked, some guy walked up and handed me my hat. He had been not far behind us and had fished it up. A lucky hat, I tell ya. Magic.

After a while, I started to feel the need to work again. I had met a couple of bands that were starting tours soon and I managed to get on the crew of one.

The tour was kicking off in Miami and I had about six weeks to get there. I would just about make it on time using my personal travel agent: my thumb. I packed my bag, rolled up my blanket and pulled on my lucky hat, and George spun me out to the edge of town on I-10. I worked hard to get out of California since the hawks cruised the highways looking for young hitchhikers to pick up. If you didn't put out, they dumped you within a mile or two. Took me two days of that crap to get to Arizona.

In Arizona, I met Geronimo's grandson sitting on the side of the road. He looked about nine years older than God and had a bullet lodged in his side from WWII that he was only too happy to show off. He never put his thumb out. When he was ready for a ride, he just put the idea out to the Universe and someone would stop. I was dubious.

We spent the night on the side of the road talking and drinking whiskey. The next morning, he looked at me and said, "OK, I'm ready." Almost the next car along stopped and gave him a ride. Magic.

I gave it a shot. A guy in an old Dodge van pulled up and asked me if I knew anything about mechanics of motors. I offered that I could use a wrench in a pinch, so he gave me a ride to TorC, New Mexico from Flagstaff.

All I had to do was keep the old rattle trap running, which I managed. We broke down just over the state line late at night. I was doing my best in the dark when some guy appeared out of nowhere and started praying over the engine to exorcise the demons. The van started up and we were on our way again. Magic.

I said goodbye at TorC and told the Universe I was ready for another good ride. A semi pulled over and the passenger door swung open. I looked up into the cab and the driver asked, "Can you roll a decent joint?" I allowed that I could do a fair job in a rain storm, blindfolded, using newspaper.

I was in charge of rolling, changing tapes in the stereo and keeping the coffee cup full.

I must have done a fair job because he let me off about a mile from my folks' house in Houston two days later.

I made it to Miami with three days to spare, which was good since I made a few extra duckies doing a load check.

Never have figured out what happened to that hat.

America Runs From A Fight

"Ahmadinejad's remarks to the UN general assembly on Thursday caused wide outrage and a walkout by diplomats from the US, Britain and many other countries. The Iranian president said one "theory" of what happened in September 2001 was that "the US government orchestrated the attack in order to save the Zionist regime in the Middle East".

"Obama described this as outrageous and disgusting: "Particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation; for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable."

On September 11, 2001, three buildings collapsed in NYC: WTC 1, WTC 2 and WTC 7. The first two collapsed early in the morning, while 7 collapsed around 5pm. Nobody seems to remember 7, because by then everyone was not paying attention to the TV, but rather on the phone and the internet trying to make sense of what had happened that day.

WTC 7 collapsed in the exact same manner as the two towers: free-fall into its own footprint, something that only happens in a carefully planned and executed controlled demolition.

A year later, Larry Silverstein, the owner of the WTC complex, stated on the record, on TV where you can see his lips move to match the audio, on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and aired nationwide, that he had taken the decision to "pull" WTC 7. "Pull" is jargon referring to controlled demolition of a building.

From everything I can find about the art and science of explosive demolition of buildings, it takes months of careful planning, rigging of explosives, complex mathematical calculations, intricate timing, dozens of permits, and extreme safety concerns with review of all preparations by a dozen different government agencies.

So, we must either conclude that some group of experts ran into a burning and structurally compromised building, carrying hundreds of pounds of high-explosives and rigged the building, or it was planned months (even years) ahead of time. Perhaps we are to assume that all the buildings in the WTC complex were built with the explosives already in place, so that their eventual demolition could be easily executed?

The official 9.11 commission report conveniently omits building 7. All the memorials and anniversary events never mention building 7. No one ever talks about building 7. And not a single occupant of the building has ever sued over having their offices, documents and other possessions blow up despite the overt admission of the owner that he "decided" to demolish the building without giving notice or the chance to salvage.

Excuse me?

Something really stinks here. Pardon the metaphor, but it would seem that building 7 is a smoking gun. Perhaps Ahmadinejad is out of line making direct accusations without presenting hard evidence, much like little Bushie did when romping into Iraq and Afganistan, but he is certainly right to question the official conspiracy theory.

In addition to the anomalies surrounding the collapse of the WTC buildings, there's the matter of cell phones working at thousands of feet above the cell towers with pristine reception (Pennsylvania), the crash without wreckage (Pentagon), the fire that wouldn't stop for months (NYC), the terrorism drill, overseen by Dick Cheney, on the exact day and time that involved crashing planes into buildings and had the east coast air defenses stood down. We won't try to analyse the fact that every hijacker's name was Saudi or that they were able to take over commercial aircraft with box cutters or that their cars were found at Logan airport with full details of their plans and brand-new copies of the Quran. We won't discuss the way in which evidence of one of the worst crimes on American soil (Indians aside for a moment) was almost immediately scooped up and cleared away without a full and thorough investigation by several dozen alphabet agencies (local police departments do a better job of investigating gangland murders than was done at WTC).

Certainly, that employees of an Israeli company officed in tower 1 were told to stay home that day. The mayor of San Francisco was told not to fly that day. Six Mossad agents were seen celebrating in New Jersey, where they had stationed themselves with a clear view of the WTC. Iraq was invaded not for its role in the attack, but for non-existant WMDs. Afganistan was invaded because a bearded cleric living in a cave had orchestrated one of the most spectacular crimes of all time using e-mail and cell phones. This same cleric has managed to evade a massive, global man-hunt, as well while managing to publish a vlog on a fairly regular basis. Hell, his family lived very close to me in Houston and they were given massive police protection and an escort to the airport to fly out when all other air traffic was grounded. Guess it didn't make sense to hold them for questioning.

And let's not forget the Nigerian yellow cake documents that were shown beyond a doubt to be forgeries of the highest quality. Or how about the fact that the president at the time and the current numb-nut both have multi-generational ties to the CIA. None of that has any bearing, I'm sure.

I have no problem with Ahmadinejad making accusations such as he did, but can't he trot out a little evidence? That would put him in a league all his own, since no one else seems the least bit ready, willing or able to show any evidence of any kind. In fact, there has been a concerted effort to hide, destroy and obfuscate any real evidence. If he could do that, it would certainly stir the pot a little bit. Ahmadinejad wasted a perfectly good opportunity to expose some real evidence. But perhaps he was well-paid to add his name to the list of folks who doubt the official conspiracy theory. It sullies a lot of intelligent and well-meaning folk who have done a lot of work to bring some real facts to the discussion.

Any more, it's hard to say what the truth is, but perhaps that's the point. Just like Orwell's famous novel, history keeps getting edited and adjusted and false enemies are put up and then disappear (where is Obama, I mean Osama?) until it is hard to trust your own memories. And let's not forget that the really bad guy in "1984," was named Goldstein and the owner of WTC is named Silverstein. A coincidence? You decide.

In the end, I'll just grab a quick shave with Occam's Razor because I remember meeting Taliban leaders in Houston when they were being courted by various oil interests. I remember squibs popping on the towers on live TV. I know for a fact that the bin Laden family lived on Memorial Drive right near Beltway 8 and that their house was guarded by dozens of HPD officers the night of 9.11, when I was driving home from work. I remember the weird, other-worldly feeling I had that day and I know that it could be exploited in folks with weaker minds to control large populations. Basically, I know a long laundry list of wants and needs were handled with big smack up. I also know that the Bushies had some bad blood over business deals with Saddam and that the Taliban were eating into the family opium profits. Evidence? My dad's archives are full of it. He hated the Bushies for many reasons.

The best evidence against the US government was when they walked out on Ahmadinejad's speech. After all, if you are in the right, you stay and fight. All their little leash dogs ran away with them, as well. Truth hurts, don't it? It will probably be about 50 years after the fall of the American empire before historians uncover the truth hidden in a vault somewhere in Nevada.

Until then, it's best not to believe anyone, least of all me.


The Far Out Side

t\Here at the Far Side, we like to think of ourselves as "we," even though we are but a lone nut sitting at a laptop somewhere in the jungles of Borneo, sending our observations of the Universe out to anyone who can sit still long enough to read them.

There we were, paddling up the Sebuku River, looking for the legendary Mount Pentyieanga, home of the elusive Pamingir people. Sightings are extremely rare and most never return, because one is required to duck down and cover one's eyes when passing through the villages lest one see one of the women bathing in the river. If this happens, one must marry her immediately. After that, you may leave the village, but your Family Jewels must stay until you return. Needless to say, most chose not to leave.

We were still wearing our tiger mask (worn on the back of the head because tigers won't attack your face side) from the Sumatra safari. From a distance, this was mistaken for us taking a look, and well, the rest is history. Fortunately, we were able to tell the local chief which beautiful young lady we had seen bathing (even though she was 4 kilometers away at the time, but hey...).

As it turns out, we are pretty good at basket weaving, so we have cornered the market on burial bags in this region of the jungle. We tried our hand at poison darts for a while, but after the paralysis wore off, we chose a somewhat safer line of work. We had a brief stint as a fire walker, but we couldn't succeed in getting the fire to take even a single step. We get the occasional fish or two for our stirring renditions of Beatles favorites (known locally as De Bitels). Our wife is so happy with our success that she gave birth to yet another budding film and TV star (inside have to be Indoensian).

So we were out with the gang hunting endangered species the other day, when we ran into our seventh brother-in-law from our third wife (we spend a lot of time at the river, you see). He told us that an Indonesian had been elected president of the USA. We were shocked, of course. We just couldn't imagine anyone eating kerupuk in the Oval Office while singing karaoke. We just hope he keeps his hands off the maids.

So we know what you're does some lone nut get internet in the darkest parts of Borneo? We're still trying to figure that one out, as well. After all, we're still using last year's shell phones, for cryin' out loud! We're in talks with several Middle East courntres to buy all their Blackberries after they ban them. Then we just have to figure out how to charge the little buggers.

After the last volcanic eruption, we lost most of our coffee crop, so we started chewing cocoa leaves, which we found gives a much better bang for the buck. It came in handy when we woke up one morning, face to face with a Kymoto dragon. We must have downed about a kilo of leaf by the time we passed Jesse Owens.

Speaking of volcanoes, the village was preparing for the annual throw-the-virgin-in-the-lava-pit festival, known locally as Orang Terkutuk. Our first wife volunteered. We pointed out one problem with the idea and she just growled at us. We were kind of happy to see her go after that. It was a very nice fastival this year. Good music and dancing, and the flames reached almost 30 meters high. We have a theory about that, but we have a rule about mentioning Satan's name around our house.

Last Saturday night, we screened Michael Jackson's (no the OTHER one) remake of King Kong. We had forgotten that it was set in Borneo. The entire village had a great laugh, because those native costumes when out after Fay Wray. We keep a necklace of crocodile teeth by the door, but only because it was a wedding gift from my fourth father-in-law.

Well, we think that's enough for tonight. We just finished a huge place of fried wolf bat and can hardly move. We've got wives 2, 3 and 4 working the whole massage thing, so looks like we'll call it a day here. We just wanted to get a note out to anyone who wants to come visit (PLEASE!!!), we'll keep the candle burning for you. We highly recommend an air drop, since they can't tell if you saw the bathing hole when you're 10,000 feet up. Be sure to call ahead so we can neutralize the deathtraps that surround the village.

Oh, and if you can't make it here (SOON!), be sure and check out our Amazon book selection. Some good stuff in there that will help you avoid our predicament.

Sampai jumpa!

That means, "Help us!" in the local dialect.


The Death of a Thousand Cuts

“Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.” -Isocrates, c.300 B.C.

Throughout history, intellectuals have followed democracy to its logical conclusions and warned us of the impending demise that it brings. As the joke goes, democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner, but I would add that we are purposely kept ignorant of the wolves' where-abouts or agendas. The wolves become masters of deception, leading the sheep to the sheering while making them think they are on the road to Salvation.

We are, ostensibly, reaching the end of an age. It seems that the entire underpinnings of culture, both in the West and globally, is reaching it natural limits. All that we know is not enough and we are faced with the choice to grow or die. Now we will find out if humans truly are adaptable, or if we've just had a lucky streak.

A few years back, there was an excellent and underrated film called, "No Way Out," with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman. The premise was that a Russian spy had been planted in the US as a child and had been groomed to rise meteorically through the ranks to subvert the nation from the inside out. Even more poignant was Peter Sellers' "Being There," whose Chauncy Gardner was haunting in his ability to attract the projections of others' desires. Democracy has brought us both characters in a single package.

Increasingly, the gold is supplanted with paper, the rhetoric with slogan and the the mass mind with group-think. Having been hollowed out, a democracy's leadership becomes vacuous and ephemeral while maintaining the illusion of substance, because the sheep no longer look at the contents, but are satisfied to traipse after symbols.

Ultimately, the sheep arrive at the sheering, happily jostling for the front row, ready to throw themselves at the sheers because they now think they have chosen this path for themselves. As Alexander Fraser Tytler noted,
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."

Americans, thoroughly deluded by the empty promises of democratic Nirvana, have exported their folly to the world, and set up for themselves phantom leaders who are completely manufactured out of whole cloth. We know more about leaders who lived a thousand years ago than we know about Barrack Obama, yet how many blissfully followed him, basking in the light of "hope" and "change?" Simple sloganeering deluded millions who failed to look beyond the icons and into the meanings.

The result has been a gutted economy, raging deathtraps (with the promise of more), and a moral decay of every public institution. An American can not point to a single public trusthold that isn't rife with corruption and fascism. There is not a single movement or group that they can turn to that isn't co-opted by agents of wolves.

Without wholesale replacement of the entire system from top to bottom, there is no way out. Yet, there is no way to do that because, in an Orwellian twist, the language itself has been modified to the point that even one's thoughts are suspect. The money is debased, ethics are but shadows and even discourse has been stolen by those who define the words.

As an English teacher, I often deal with the fact that most people hear and respond to what they expect and not what is actually said. Formulaic responses to formulaic constructs are the vast majority of language. This fact is further exacerbated by a lifestyle that is so hectic that we don't have time to respond to deeper implications, but only to the superficial appearances of things.

As anyone who has ever raced cars knows, the faster you go, the less you can focus on anything but what is directly ahead and moving at the same relative speed. All the little details flying by at break-neck speed are insignificant and out of focus. Until one of those details torpedoes you from out of nowhere. As life, by design, rushes past us at furious speeds, we no longer focus on the minutae, but have only time to notice the things coming directly in our path.

We not only fail to stop and smell the flowers, we don't even see the bushes on which they are growing.

The ancient Chinese devised a truly horrific torture called The Death of a Thousand Cuts. The victim received hundreds of superficial cuts, that bled profusely, and salt was rubbed into them. As the victim slowly bled to death over weeks, they were in agonizing pain from a non-consuming fire.

Look into your neighbor's eyes. Do they look truly happy? Do those windows reveal inner contentment? Now look at your leaders. What do you really know about them as human beings? Outside of a few well-chosen slogans, what ideas do they actually offer? More to the point, how much of your life is taken from the public treasury, and how much did you actually generate?

To use another iconographic image, have you robbed Peter to pay Paul lately?

One last question: What have you done to really fix things?

I don't mean what you have delegated by vote. I don't mean, letting the pit crew service the car on the road of Life. I mean, what have you personally done to change the world? Not just lately, but ever? And how often have you stopped to consider those questions? If the world is our victim, how many cuts have you applied?

Are you a Magritte?

Jesus is famously quoted as saying, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." The thing I have never heard a preacher address is, if you have nothing of Caesar's, you owe him nothing.

In other words, are you a democrat or are you free?

Think about it...


Buah Si Malang Kama

There is a concept in Indonesian called "buah si malah kala." In English, it literally translates as "the fruit of the opposite outcome." The English equivalent is "damned if you do and damned if you don't." Another equivalent is "stuck between a rock and a hard place."

So, what could possibly inspire me to talk about buah si malah kala?

How about the French ban on burqas and full-face scarves?

Let's start with what the buah si malah kala is. According to legend, there is a fruit that is forbidden (sound familiar?). If you pick the fruit, you must eat it, or your mother dies. If you don't eat it, your father dies. Talk about a conundrum. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Many people, in the West, argue that the whole face-scarf thing is completely foreign to the culture, not to mention that it hides potential terrorists from face-scanning technology. It must be banned in order to protect the public order and to ensure the safety of all citizens. Also, it represents a threat to Western culture from invading Muslim traditions, and we can't have that, can we?

To all of that, I call, "Bullshit."

I was raised in pre-Vatican II Catholic tradition, which required all women to cover their heads with a veil on Sunday. If you do a Google search on "catholic women wear veils," you will find a long list of muslim-related articles. If you do a Google search for "photos, bathing suits of the early 1900s," it gets all of two results, of which neither has anything to do with the topic. Looks to me like someone is systemactically trying to erase the past. It was not uncommon for women to wear veils in America in the 1960s, and photos of turn-of-the-century bathing suits should return thousands of sites.

Maybe we in the West don't want to remember that we weren't all that different just short time ago.

In dozens of cultures throughout the world, women's hair is considered erotic. Lord knows I find it very arousing. Men wear short hair because long hair is a sign of subservience. Someone can grab your hair and make you do something. Ergo, men like women to have long hair. Ergo, women wear veils to cover long hair so that they do not seave anyone but the people they expose their hair to.

When you think about it, a veil is empowering to a woman. It takes away the power of strangers to make her subservient. But feminist idiots see it as a form of slavery. I know both from my life as a catholic and from talking to women in Indonesia that the complete opposite is true. Many women here wear a "jilbab." Search for that on Google and it brings back over one hundred hits. The interesting thing is that men here don't make women wear jilbab, the women make the women wear them. They are covering their vulnerability, not submitting to male power.

In the same way, the women here wear full-body swimsuits that, quite frankly, are far more alluring than the real thing. Face it guys, air-brushed Playboy is much better than the saggy, wrinkly, blotchy, mole-covered reality. In the same way, the skin-tight Lycra from ankle to wrist to hoodie leave much more to the imagination than any Brazillian postage stamp ever would. It's all in the mind, in the end.

Here in Indonesia, many women wear the jilbab, but there are many more traditional women, known as ninjas, who wear the black, amorphous dress with the full head and face covered. My guess is that it gives the men bragging rights. After all, if you can't see his wife, he can say anything about her and it's true. Once she drops the veil, though, there's no mystery left. In other words, under the veil, every man married a 10.

So, what does this all come down to?

Simple. Let the women dress however they want to. In the West until 40 years ago, it wasn't much different, no matter how hard they are trying to cover that up now. The whole argument is specious. They want to claim that only terrorists cover their faces. Bullshit. It that is true, then why do US DEA, BATF and police cover their faces? Are they terrorists? I'll let you answer that question. But, while you are pondering that, the original definition of the word 'terrorism' meant abuse of government power, not individuals fighting it.

Every day, I get on an ojek (motorcyle taxi), and put on a helmet and mask to keep out the dirt and pollution. They sell them here on the street corner for a dollar. At home, I'd be arrested for trying to hide my face from scanning technology. Here, I'm just one of many trying to maintain respiratory health. Whose right? Me, of course.

governments are always afraid of what they can't see. Everything is a threat to their survival and propagation. Governements thrive on sucking the life out of their subjects and keeping the masses afraid of some boogyman that drives the masses home to Big Brother's bosom.

Gimme jilbabs and burqas. I prefer the mystery and the Eternal Dance.

And screw the overpaid, blood-sucking bastards. I'm tired of their charade. They are the terrorists, not the woman wearing a burqa. Cave-dwellers with cell phones and box cutters are not the problem. Para-military police with machine guns and licenses to kill are the problem. They can wear a mask and we all applaud. What is wrong with this picture?


Summa Dat Olde Tyme Religion

Well, it's Sunday, so that means time for a sermon. I'm not in the mountains, so let's call this one, "Sermon on the Delta," in honor of the Kali Malang, or Unfortunate River.

And Jayzus said, "Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened. Ask and it shall be delivered to you."

Man looked to the Heavens and saw lots of pretty lights. Some, seven of them, moved around, so he named the days of the week after them and perceived a black curtain around the whole affair with little holes that let through the Light From Heaven. These he called stars. Being rather full of himself, he declared that the whole darned thing rolled around the Earth in several repeating patterns, which he called days, months and years. And all was good.

Later, thanks to a few wise-akers, man discovered that, WAIT!, it all really rolled around the Sun, and some of those lights had smaller lights that rolled around them. So they were persecuted and vilified and excommunicated. Then it was discovered that the Sun rolled around a galaxy, and later that the galaxy rolled around an invisible spot with a whole bunch of other galaxies, and the the whole danged mess was just one of many messes, which were all flying apart into Oblivion.

So man turned his attention to smaller things and invented toys for looking inward. There he found unseen critters, and cells, and DNA, and molecules, and atoms, and particles. Soon the inner Universe was just as big a mess as the outter, what with all those quarks and gluons and fermion, and bosons, und so wieder, ad nauseum. Can I get an Amen.

Undaunted, man kept building bigger and bigger toys to look farther and farther inward and outward, only to discover that there was more and more to find.

Thus Jayzus said, "Look and you will find." Buddha said, "Seek and the answer is there." Muhammad said, "Don't bother. It will just make you crazy."

So you see? I have absolute and unshakable faith that there is a God, and His Name is Henny Youngman. To have a sense of humor requires intelligence, and the Universe is full of humor. Everywhere you look. It's chock-full of one-liners. In fact, when our toys finally find the biggest and the smallest, both will turn out to be signs that read, "Gotcha! LOL!"

That being said, I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in any religion. You see, the Universe is God's Church. Just lay out under the stars one cool, clear night, and you will get all the healing you need. Free. No books, no priests, no buildings, no spectacles, no charge. It comes to you each and every night. And that's just one of the many building blocks of God's Chruch.

The real bullshit starts when a couple of folks get together and decide they don't want to work for a living, so they set themselves up as intermediaries to God. Ya just can't get to God without paying one of them. That's how is all works. They know all the secrets and they will tell you, for a price. Buy their self-serving books. Get their self-aggrandizing CDs and DVDs. Slowly, over the course of years, they will let you in on the secret, step by step, so you can Understand.

They sell tickets to a place that doesn't exist, so you don't go to another place that doesn't exist, commanded by someone you can't see or hear, whose ego is so fragile it require all life to eternally worship it. BUT! The trick is you can only worship in a certain way, and if you pay the priest, he or she will do it for you, and if you're luck and pay enough, they will teach you also. (buy the book and tape series for a primer)

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention the Absolute Servitude. You must do everything the priests tell you, or you're going to Hell! (see the DVD series). And of course, they need giant mansions and private aircraft to shuttle them around the world to spread this bullshit. What? Feed the poor, clothe the naked and heal the sick? Hahahahahaha! Not when there are buildings to erect and revivals to put on! Priorities, man. Where's your head? We need to spread the (word). There are unpicked pockets yet to be explored!

Oh yeah, and if you don't believe, then you are going to Hell for all eternity. If you do believe, then run out and convert everyone you see. If they won't convert, kill 'em! Because our god is more powerful than all the other gods.


Meanwhile, over our collective head, there is an amazing Cosmic Waltz going on. Not just 7, 8, or even 9 participants, but literally KAjillions, all performing a magnificent ballet with absolutely no imput from us at all. It was all put in motion long before we invented time to measure it, and it will exist long after we have gone the way of the do-do. Swirling and gliding in endless permutations out as far as our toys can see, and much further. It doesn't need churches, it builds its own. It doesn't need money, it has its own currency. In fact, all it requires from us is to lay out on a cool, clear evening and look up. Occasionally, its nice to throw some hope and good wishes out to it, as well. They often come back, free of charge. It doesn't require priests. You can look for yourself and make your own interpretation of it in the quiet of your own heart and head.

So next time the collection plate comes around, throw in a pair of glasses with the instructions to go out and "take a look" at God. Next time the priest tells you you're going to Hell for your sins while fondling your children, remember that right outside those sacred walls is God's church. It was built without a single human hand, and nary a dollar spent.

If the Universe wasn't so perfect and awe-inspiring, there wouldn't be a need for priests who want to distract you from it. Ipso facto. Churches crumble. Religions die out. But, the Universe just keeps on spinning away, waiting for you to take a look.

Oh, and send a little Hope out there. You never know what It will give back to you.

Oh yeah, and if you have a burning desire to give away some money, just click on the PayPal link or buy my books and DVDs. Thanks!


Both Sides Agin The Middle

I spend a lot of time apologizing for Merica, even though I'm not Merican (I'm Texan).

Honestly, the world sees Merica as a bunch warlords out to conquer the world with bombs and McDonald's. The bombs may not work, but McD's has a fighting chance to destroy Life As We Know It (LAWKI).

To be fair, Mericans are completely bamboozled by Madison Ave. and modern marketing techniques. Since mass media is not a required subject in college, the unwashed masses have no idea what beast they unleash in their very homes every time they flip on the teevee. They don't consume media, so much as get consumed by it. The All Seeing Eye invades their domains and subverts their reasoning in ways they can't even imagine.

Politics is just one commodity that is stuffed down the collective throat of Mericans. How many times has someone said to you, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?" How many times have you nodded and smiled knowingly, as if you agree with the statement? How many times have you voted for a republican or a democrat? Are you not, by definition, insane?

Imagine, if you will, that Merica is the Titanic. She's going down by the bow (republican). Someone yells, "Hey, everyone go to the back of the boat to balance it out!" So, you all run to the stern only to notice the ship going down the other way. And so this theater of the absurd continues, with everyone running fore or aft, trying to balance the ship out, while all the time the ship continues to sink. No one seems to be able to come up with any other plan but to run back and forth.

Last time, it was democrats who were sent to save us from Bush with pockets full of Hope and Change. We got neither in abundance. Before that, it was the republicans who were to save us from Clinton and return decorum (i.e.-keep the peccadilloes hidden). Look how well that turned out. Before that, it was Reagan, and before that Carter, and before that just goes on and on for decades.

Nothing ever changes. The ship continues to sink and eventually, it will snap in half, just like the Titanic, before it becomes an historical curiosity and hit film, with DiCapprio's grandson reprising the role of whatever the character's name was.

Whenever the subject of third parties comes up, the most heard response is, "But they can't win. I want to be on the side of a winner." Well, guess what folks? You lose. It doesn't matter who wins the titles, everyone loses because no one will get in the lifeboats.

I distinctly told everyone I knew to avoid Bush like the plague. He's evil, I said. He's braindead, I said. But no, everyone wanted to be on the winning side, and besides, he had to be better than Clinton, right? Your honor, I wish to present Exhibit A: History. Don't vote for Obama, I said. We know next to nothing about him and the marketing is just too slick and too Madison Ave. Oh no, had to be on the winning side, didn't you? And he HAD to be better than Bush, right? Your honor, I wish to present Exhibit B: History.

Do you see a pattern here? If people had memories longer than their pinkie fingers, this might be a different world. Heck, if they just installed a firewall that catches 85% of the BS that comes out of the All Seeing Eye, they might be able to reason just slightly better than now. I mean, look how this works...the global economy is tanking, there are wars and disasters raging everywhere, Obama is driving us straight into a train wreck, BP et al. are sliming the landscape, and there are cosmic cataclysms coming that would make your hair turn white overnight. What makes news? What, of all these horrors steals the headlines? Some Bible-thumping idiot in Florida who wants to burn some books.

I hate to say it, but it bears repeating. Mericans are INSANE.

The funniest part is he never burned them. His marketing was done, his flock swelled. He got global headlines. Didn't even need to whip out his Zippo.


The whole freaking world is insane, really. Everyone snapped the BS, hook, line and sinker. I mean, it just seems so obvious to me. Why can't others see it? It's like a giant pep rally back in high school. Get everyone all whipped into a lather and then point to some manufactured enemy, then while everyone is busy jumping up and down over there, the crooks are emptying the safe and getting off scot clean. Is it just because I spent my first career making propaganda that I can see it? Or is it because I refuse tp pop doggie-downers? Maybe all those years of pot and shrooms actually protected my mind from being overrun by mediots (media idiots...if you use it you owe me).

It's so simple. It's a 3-step program, so it's even easier than AA. Unplug the teevee, stop doing what you're told and vote for a third party. That's it. So simple. Not a shot fired and yet the Earth will shake from the reverberations.

Think it will happen?

Pass the Xanax, dude. I almost woke up.


In A Pig's Eye

A thousand years ago, there was a comedian named Yakov Smirnoff, whose famous tag line was, "I loaf dees cone-tree."

After my last nemesis, I mean wife, stole everything I ever owned, destroyed our family and strung herself up to the shower head, I pretty much lost my sense of humor. There was nothing left to laugh at and my insides just withered and wasted.

Thankfully, there was a place in the world called Indonesia. Sometimes this place can be a laugh a minute. If there's a labor-intensive, illogical and strangely effective way to do something, then I can guarantee it's being done right now in my neighborhood, and in neighborhoods all over the country.

Maybe it's the fact that I am like Gandalf in Hobbiton; a giant hulk of a man wandering blindly around a world made of and for short people. Certainly I provide endless fodder for the local folk as I nearly knock myself out on overhangs or the chain of broken chairs and stools in my wake as they collapse into their own footprints without resistance of any kind.

Maybe it's the guy burning the trash down the street complaining about air quality in Jakarta, or the folks who buy motorcycles to get around the city more quickly and end up becoming the reason why traffic here is such a nightmare. Perhaps it's the way folks complain about how dirty Jakarta is as they mindlessly toss their wrappers and plastic cups on the ground as they speak.

It could be the way someone will spend 70,000 rupiah to take a taxi across town to save 40,000 on an item that is on sale. Or the sign I saw a while back: Rp.15,000/each or 2 for Rp.35,000. The really funny part was the people buying two. Certainly, watching a woman haggle for an hour with a vendor in the market to save Rp.1,000 (about 10 cents) on a hand of bananas. The best way to get an Indonesian's attention is to say something is free. The second best way is to say it's on sale. Even when neither is true.

It's always a good laugh to see skin-whitening products sold here in the diametically opposite way that tanning products are sold in the states. I'm trying to think of a way to open whitening salons. I'd make a gajillion bucks, trust me. Of course, cigarette ads are infinitely humorous. They are still advertised on TV here, but you are not allowed to show anyone actually smoking. So, you get streams of images of people doing really healthy things followed by the brand logo. Kinda like beer companies sponsoring race cars.

It definitely includes the Indonesian version of the Physician's Desk Reference, which lists only one malady, masuk angin, and only one cure, tolak angin. This literally means "the wind enters," and is blamed for just about anything that makes you uncomfortable. The cure means "to push away the wind." What makes it more humorous is that Indonesian humor is very broad and slapstick. They don't have stand-up comedians, and certainly have never considered word-play as a form of humor. So when I come along and change things around by saying, "masuk anjing" and "tolak anjing," (the dog enters and push away the dog), it takes them about 15 seconds to register what I just said, and then it becomes a running joke. There's an expression, "Okelah kalo begitu," which translates as "alright if that way," or "whatever." So I turn it around as, "Okelah kalo begini (alright if this way). The room full of RCA dogs always tickles me as they ponder the reversal. I could be the Indonesian version of George Carlin if I get an hour-long routine worked out.

One thing Indonesians do that just mystifies me is unplugging everything all the time. Not that the action alone is humorous, but the explanation is that electricity will leak out and cost money. So I just ask a simple question. If that is true, then why do open wall sockets not leak? Stops 'em dead every time.

Indonesians are penny-pinchers to the point of pathological obsession. They make Dutch and Scots look like profligate spenders. When you point out the illogic of their actions, they just walk away shaking their heads as if thinking, "What a dolt. I just saved Rp.35,000 by taking a taxi across town."

Certainly the complaints about corruption make for good entertainment. An Indonesian will rue the rampant government corruption while paying bribes and accepting kick-backs. In fact, it's so ingrained in the way business is done that no one even thinks about when they are doing it. They just complain about some theoretical thing that exists "out there." The dichotomy makes for great theater of the absurd.

Something that tickles me to no end is the fact that millions migrate to Jakarta because this is where the good jobs are, and once they arrive they start complaining because there are so many people here because this is where the good jobs are.

The Indonesian brain must have no bridge between the left and right hemispheres. Nothing else could explain the way one can hold opposite and conflicting ideals, and yet not see the simple contradiction. One thing I will give them, though. At least I found my laugh again.

Thanks! I needed that.

I Loaf dees cone-tree.


Don't Fence Me In

If you pick up a handful of dust and see, not the dust, but a mystery...that is magic. Dr. Lao, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao

I came with two bags and a $1,000 in my pocket. I had a couple of plans for things I could do to make a buck. I overall goal was to see Asia like few people see it, or anything for that matter. I really just had a feeling that I had to be here now.

That's pretty much the way I've always done it. I decide I want to do something, and if Universe wants me to do it, the doors all swing open and away I go. I've learned, through some spectacular trial-and-errors that if there's a big struggle to do something, then it's the wrong thing to do.

In many ways, as I ponder my half-century of life, that I have a lot in common with Huck Finn. As long as Nigger Jim and I are cruising down the river, life is grand. But when the raft drags up and I go into town to check things out, life takes tragic turns. Every time I get the crazy notion to settle down and sink some roots I light the fuse of the powder-keg that will eventually blast me back the river. It usually takes a few years, but I eventually forget the lesson and start thinking about getting off the river again, only to find that I was much better off with nothing, drifting along quietly.

My fondest memory is the day my daughter was born, but short of that nearly every other happy moment was when I had virtually nothing but the wind in my hair and the unknown in front of me. Backpacking around the world, going on tour, joining the monastery, driving tours in Europe, excursions to Central and South America, hitch-hiking willy-nilly around the western US all represent my happiest times. Conversely, my marriages represent some of my most miserable moments. The last one brought me as close as I've ever been to "domestic bliss," with the house, the family, the corporate gig with stock options, the two cars, the dog and the cat, and that left me a widower up to my ass with The Most Evil Creatures on Earth (often referred to by the euphemistic Children's Protective Services), completely broke, and living in a bottle for five years.

After I took the decision to haul my carcass to Indonesia, however, my fortunes changed radically. What was left of my Earthly possessions was precisely enough to get me here, a nod from Universe that I was on the right track. I have received just what I need when I need it to once again be able to grow and to smile a bit. I entered on an adventure unlike anything I have known up to now. I moved the the polar opposite side of the world and my life took a similar turn.

Nigger Jim and I are back on the river.

Three years ago, I never imagined I would get used to bucket baths, a profound lack of toilet paper in the bathroom and an equally profound abundance of it on the dinner table, the absence of winter, eating durian, bajaj and ojek, and monkeys in the trees. I live within five hours of Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, Gengis Khan's palace, and literally thousands of other exotic sights. I am surrounded by volcanoes and have experienced my first major earthquake. I'm pretty much as happy as I've ever been.

The only thing I can figure is that certain people are born to travel. The Germans, in their language, created a word for it: wanderlust. I am a gyrovague. I have only been fulfilled by the moments when I have had nothing but my pack and an open road. One could call it a curse, but I have touched what others have only dreamed.

I recall a theme from the book, The Journeyer, a fictionalized version of Marco Polo's adventures. It has stuck with me for many years. It is the idea that at the moment of my death, I don't want to think, "I wish I had gone there and done that." I don't want to regret that fear of the unknown had stopped me from learning and experiencing something completely foreign.

The sum of my regrets do not include a single minute of travel. No matter how disasterous a trip has been, I have never wished that I had not gone. I have not spent one cent on travel that I wish I still had in my pocket. Can't say the same about a lot of other experiences. I have met Geronimo's grandson on the side of the road. I have watched as two men who lived five blocks from each other in a small city in Kentucky met for the first time at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I have seen some of the greatest art and architecture our species has created. I have gazed on natural wonders and seen the ocean at night. I have been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and sat at the top of the Rockies. I have ridden through the middle of two warring factions. I have held a dying man's hand and received a baby into the world.

They say you can't take it with you, but that's only true of all the crap we accumulate as we cruise through life. The intangibles stay with us, tucked safely in the soul's kit bag. The little scraps of wisdom that I have wrested from Universe's clenched fist are mine to keep. The bonds of civilization are lost to Time when he comes acallin'. I'll take the road over a safe and comfortable bed any time.

As ole Huck might tell us:
The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.

Mortgage literally means "death pledge." For better or worse, I slipped that bond and got free again. For better or worse, I got the wind in my hair and a pack on my back. For better or worse.

So far, it's always been better.


Universe Has The Last Laugh

Well we know where we're going
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what we're knowing
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out
-Road To Nowhere, Talking Heads

One of the best arguments against Evolution I can think of is that we have been given eyes in front of our heads and 20/20 hindsight.

If evolution were a real phenomenon, then we would have two pairs of eyes, front and back, and be able to view future events at least one hour ahead. Think of all the hazards to survival we could avoid if we could see just a few minutes into the future. We could see the immediate consequences of an action or decision. We could have forewarning of impending doom. We would know if that puddle was a massive pothole that would swallow us. We would know if the girl we are chasing is really the best mate for us, or just another battle-axe waiting to chop off our crown jewels.

It is a Supreme Joke that we go through life with a fogged windshield and crystal clear rear-view mirrors. Yet, we are given eyes to see what's ahead and are blind from the back. It's as if Loki has been given free reign to play with the Universe, to make us blind where we have eyes and eyes where we are blind.

We go through life never really knowing what's ahead, yet when we look back at where we've been, it all makes perfect sense, or at the least we can perceive the chain of evidence. If some random Nature had really wanted us to survive, we wouldn't know regret and we would mostly die from old age and the world would generally be a pleasant place where people lived in relative harmony and sang "Kumbaya" a lot.

In Sumatra, if you go into the jungle, you must wear a mask on the back of your head. Apparently, tigers will not attack from the front, and if confronted by a tiger, you can stare it down. By wearing the mask, they think it's your face, and so will not attack you either way. Doesn't it make sense that a random Nature would endow us with a metaphysical face on both sides of our head so that we are not attacked by vicious future events? If you looked at a spot and envisioned the house you wanted to build there, sure would be handy if you could see it being destroyed by Nature ahead of time. Agreed?

Steven Hawking recently announced that God is no longer needed as Creator of the Universe, while Albert Einstein predicated that God does not play dice with the Universe. They are both wrong. There is an infinitely amused God and He most certainly loves a little chaos. How else can you explain seven billion creatures wandering through life with eyes wide shut?

This makes sense because if you read the Bible, you will repeatedly encounter the phrase, "Let he who has eyes to see..." You can almost picture Zeus upon the Throne of Heaven thumbing His Nose at us with a Supreme Smirk on His Lips. It's almost like the mean kid down the street who likes to tape cats' paws or give dogs peanut butter, and then laugh his fool head off at the ensuring antics.

Throughout history, there have been diviners, seers, prognosticators, and profits. People have turned to the stars, the cards and tea leaves to try and augur future events. Some have had better than random results, but most are useless at foretelling more than, "I see a meal in your future," which works as long as the listener lives until dinner time. When it does work, I generally picture God sitting there, like Mickey Rourke in "Barfly," scratching a cheap bottle of Old Future with His Ring saying, "This far and no further." The He kicks back with a couple of the angels and watches another hilarious episode of the Seven Billion Stooges.

There is a God and He does indeed play dice with the Universe. He uses loaded dice, to boot. We know this because Evolution would have given us the ability to see bad things coming. We would all be endowed with Spidy-Sense and there would be no victims of disasters and no bad marriages (often the same thing). There would be no rendom occurances and everyone would be filthy rich because they all would have bought into the Apple IPO and picked up some Microsoft shares on the cheap. In fact, there wouldn't be a need for stock markets and banksters, since we'd all know which ideas are the best and which will pay us the biggest return. There wouldn't be a need for government, because we'd all be able to see, without the benefit of hindsight, that governments are always the most egregious enemies of peace and rights.

Yes, history itself is the best argument against evolution and in favor of the Supreme Jester. History is replete with examples of people walking head-first into their future and dying from the resulting injuries. We have enshrined the fact with axioms such as, "20/20 hindsight," and "Hold my beer and watch this..."

In the end, as my brilliant students have rightly pointed out, this is the day after yesterday, and really that's all we can be absolutely sure of, and even that is in question. After all, doesn't a magician make money by showing you that you don't even know what's in front of you at this very minute? Ultimately, history is written by the victor, the present can be altered before your eyes, and the future, well...ain't nobody knowin' that. Thus, it's all an illusion not to be taken too seriously, since Loki is in charge and all is wrong with the world. Pandora should be so lucky.

As the Joker said in The Dark Knight, "They all have a plan, but I don't have a plan. I just do."

Kinda Buddhist, I think.