Here Thar Be Monsters!

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The Gay Divorcee

The high-level game of one-upmanship is progressing apace.  You've got the Russians shutting down AEGIS-class destroyers and the Americans blowing up Proton-M rockets with the latest communications satellite on-board.  The Crimean banks just switched to the new Russian financial clearing system and the Americans leaving scorched earth in Ukraine.

You've got China quietly sitting in the background.  These guys are shrewd.  Their rhetoric is clearly aligned with Moscow, but they haven't taken a direct action towards either camp.  They are playing their own game of watching and learning, while toodling around on the Moon with their little buggy learning all the stuff that has been so carefully hidden from the world for 50 years.

The EU is looking rather silly and confused.  On the one hand, they want to stay aligned with the US masters, but on the other, they see the US leadership has completely lost touch with reality.  They are teetering precariously on the fence trying to decide which side has the most king's horses and king's men to put it back together again.

Australia, historically a staunch US ally, is starting to waver.  They see the US playing a dangerous game of destabilization in the Pacific, which is soiling the Ozzie back yard.  They may have cultural and historical ties to the US,  but they also know which side of the toast is buttered when it come to trade and playing well with neighbors.

The US has obviously lost a lot of points in South America.  Brazil, a long-time ally and hot economy, is finding much greener pastures elsewhere.  Columbia and Venezuela, having been invaded by the US decades ago under something called the "War on Drugs," struggling to get out of the US tent and breathe a little fresh air.  Even quiet little Ecuador is tired of being ridden by economic hitment and want to get a little taste of their own resources.

Argentina hasn't had much luck the past few decades getting their economic cow pies together, but they are quite sure that playing in the US sandbox (and by extension the UK box-read Faulklands) is not in their best interests.

Underneath all of these macro currents, the number of secessionist movements globally has jumped dramatically in the past few years - Scotland and Venice being notable examples.  On this point, I am definitely torn.  Having worked many years in the Texas independence movement, I know the impulse and drive that makes a people want to throw off oppressive slavery and make a few decisions for one's self, for a change.

The problem with this is that you run smack into the old "devil you know" situation rather quickly.

Anyone who has ever been divorced knows that weird feeling of suddenly missing what was making you miserable.  You'll fall for anyone almost instantly just to replace that comfort of the familiar as fast as possible.  In a different situation, it's called the Stockholm Syndrome.

Once you have gone through all the court proceedings, and your friends have long since tired of hearing your litany of reasons for wanting out of the marriage, you find yourself in a position of being solely responsible for your well-being and the choices you make.  Even those moments when you just want someone to lean on, even a barb-wire covered post is better than nothing.

Furthermore, you no longer have anyone to back you up, regardless of the cost to your dignity and self-respect.  It's like the escaped slave running through the bramble, stepping on sharp stones with bare feet, and tripping over unseen obstacles - evenutally he will have the thought that at least he had three squares and knew where all the hazards were back when he was in captivity.

Finally, the main problem with independence is that one tends to cast wildly for new friends to work with, and this is where nefarious types step in to take advantage of one's weakness.  This is the classic divide-and-conquer scenario.  Break a member of the herd off alone and they are quickly very vulnerable to your evil machinations.

Herein lies the rub...people want independence and freedom, which is a good and, some would say, holy desire.  But there are wolves at the gates waiting to rip the flesh from bone as soon as those people are free of their protective shell - whether by stealth (sheep's clothing) or the direct take-down.

The PTB have acted in concern as a single, if not factionalized, entity for centuries.  They are above nations and without loyalty to anything but themselves.  Though they may disagree on the methods and tactics, they are united in their desire to rip us apart.

Smaller and smaller political units means the PTB have an easier and easier time of conquering.  That is why you see such effort to tear apart the Ukraine, or slice Scotland off the top of the island, or divide the various political forces within Iran, or keep the 'Stans ancient rivalries and hatreds stoked.  The larger the group, the harder it is to attack.  Exploiting weakness is a sure-fire way to win.

Humans have an instinct to 'circle the wagons' when under attack.  Obviously, the bigger the circle, the harder it will be to attack, and the opposing force risks a great deal in doing so.  Ideally, you want to get each wagon alone, so that there are no protected sides, no layered defenses and far more vulnerabilities.

The one major weakness of independence movements is that they rarely have long-term plans for when they succeed.  Cast loose, nations are like new divorcees, they will bed down with anyone who shows the least interest in them in order to feel the old comfort again, and that's where the PTB usually win.

Independence movements should first put their efforts and momentum into reforming what they have.  Failing that, they should corral their best and brightest to come up with a long-term strategy for survival once independence is gained.  This includes listing one's assets and deficits, and carefully forging relationships that include parsing the other sides' agendas.

One thing is certain, most independence movements fails right at the point where they succeed.  Since most do not have long-term plans, the general populace reacts with rebound syndrome and will run back to the devil they know rather than face an uncertain future.

Long-term plans must, perforce, include cultural, legal, diplomatic, educational, and economic solutions to the future.  It is easier to change an existing plan, than to plow forward in the dark with no clue.

One thing is sure - those outsiders who will support an independence movement from the start often have hidden agendas.  It is only after a successful divorce that worthy potential suitors will step forward.  It is key to remember that 'divide and conquer' always serves the divisor and never the divided.

The first step to independence is to act like you are already independent and start making clear-headed and long-reaching decisions for yourself, and especially taking full responsibility for the outcome of those decisions - good or bad.

Oftentimes one finds that by thinking and acting independent, one becomes independent.  Revolution by arms is never so efficient and clean as revolution by mind.  Stop thinking like a slave and the rest follows.


The Best Medicine

Once in a while, we here on the Far Side like a good laugh or two just to keep things light.  What follows is the actual joke noted in the famous Monty Python skit, "The Funniest Joke Ever Written."  Fair warning, you will want to have a bottle of oxygen and a defibrillator on-hand, just in case.

Recently, ol' Frank from back East was visiting friends down Texas way.  He was a bit of a celebrity because foreigners didn't often make it to these parts, being somewhat isolated in the Big Thicket, as it were.

Anyway, ol' Frank was asked to be a judge in the annual chili cook-off.  Now folks 'round these parts didn't think nothin' of it.  In fact, it was an honor to put him in there, since usually the folks selected only the most experienced tasters for this very serious event.

Well, as part of ol' Frank's obituary, we thought we'd publish his last words as a celebration of his life, especially since we don't get much interesting stuff happen around here.

Here are the scorecards from the event:

JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on the tomato for the palate. Amusing kick in the finish with an interesting nose.
JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild, velvety palate with a smooth finish.
FRANK: Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove asphalt from your driveway with this stuff. I needed two beers to put the flames out. Hope that's the worst of it. These Texans are crazy.

JUDGE ONE: Smokey, with a hint of pork. The armadillo might have sat out a bit longer. Slight Jalapeno tang.
JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor. The dried 'coon was an exciting touch.  Needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
FRANK: Keep this out of reach of children! I'm not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich manoeuvre. They had to call in three extra beers when they saw the look on my face. And that rice looked more like maggots!

JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.
JUDGE TWO: A beanless chili. A bit salty. Good use of red peppers.
FRANK: Call the freaking EPA!!, I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano and my esophagus is so raw I'm hacking blood. Everyone knows the routine by now: Sally the barmaid pounded me on the back till my backbone became my breastbone. I'm getting positively shit-faced putting out the fire!

JUDGE ONE: Black Bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing and drab.
JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods. Not much of a chili.
FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but couldn't taste it. Sally the barmaid was standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300-lb bitch is starting to look HOT, just like this nuclear-waste I'm eating.

JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
FRANK: My ears are ringing, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from corroding by pouring beer directly from a pitcher into my mouth. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Freakin' Rednecks! ! !

JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.
JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions and garlic.
FRANK: My heart stopped twice in the past 10 minutes.  My intestines are now a roiling sewer pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally.  I'm sure I've got permanent damage to my intestines. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone!

JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum. Tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge # 3.He's had to be resuscitated three times and there's some kind of noxious gas coming from his orifices.
FRANK: You could put a freaking grenade in my mouth, pull the goddam pin, and I wouldn't feel a damn thing. I've lost the sight in one eye and can hardly see out of the other, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which fell out of my goddam mouth, which is insensate at this point. My pants are full of a lava-like substance.  I can't really tell, but it looks like buzzards are circling overhead, but it could also be spots in front my my eyes. At least during the autopsy they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing, it's too painful. I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the four inch hole in my abdomen.

JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending. This is a nice blended chili, safe for all; not too bold, but spicy enough to declare its existence.
JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 passed out, fell on the chili pot and pulled the whole thing on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor Yank.
FRANK: - - - - - Urk...

Frank's funeral will be held at 3p today at the Bethany Grace Baptist Church, with Rev. Billy Joe officiating.  There won't be a casket, since we sent what little we could salvage back East to his family before the dogs ate it all.  The family asks that in lieu of flowers, folks make a donation to the Rockefeller Center for Congenital Diseases.

The mayor has declared that next year, the chili festival will be called the Frank Memorial Cook-Off and Clean Up.


A Word, If You Will

by Ji Lee (link at end of page)
When the Elohim became alarmed at the doings of Mankind, their response was to scramble His languages.  In other words, they attacked the words.

When a wizard or witch wants to manipulate the medium, they use magic incantations - words of creation or destruction.

Words are the very fabric of our reality.  We perceive what is real to us by which words we use to describe the "out there" to ourselves.  Scarier still, when we listen to others and ascribe to their words some sort of uber-importance, then we allow someone else to create our reality for us.  If you are listening to Flox Gnus right now, then you are allowing the various functionaries within that organization to create your reality for you.

We manipulate picture and symbols as a form of highly condensed words.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then think how much reality is created within you by simply looking at images.  It is a powerful thing to be the creator of images - to create within many souls the very fabric of their reality.  So what kind of reality must people see when they view vomit as art?

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell graphically illustrated the concept that people cannot conceive of realities for which they have no words.  By slowly reducing the dictionary of New Speak over generations, eventually people could not imagine whatever things the State wished them to avoid.  How like our current cultural situation is this?  Just look at what passes for language in the average text message.

Words are magical things.  All religions use them, whether it be Ohm, or nam myoho renge kyo, or the Lord's Prayer, or chanting Arabic phrases, those who follow such things are generally unaware that they have been socialized into creating a magical reality that someone else designed.  Why else would preachers preach, except to manipulate the medium of reality?

In most revolutions, the first to be slaughtered are the intelligencia and the artists.  The reason is simple - they people, wittingly or not, know how to use words and they cannot be tolerated in times when control of reality is of the utmost importance to those who seek to control it.

The Chinese culture knows the value of words.  They have a long tradition of meditating on characters and then transferring that essence to canvas in a process where the very language itself becomes art.  People like Wayne White do similar things with English words, while poets like e. e. cummings paint pictures with words (there is a difference).

One reason I have felt compelled to write since I was just a boy is that I have had an instinctive recognition of the power of words.  Like all writers, people who feel this truth seek to harness that power to some degree of success or another.  No one can deny that such men as the one known as Shakespeare mastered the technique.  Modern writers such as Tom Robbins are well aware of the power they wield.

As a child, I learned the old saw, "Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  What a sad little saying, since it inculcates a disrespect for the power of words that we all know is true, but which such sayings encourage us to deny.

Thing about it: the most powerful noun can be modified by a deceptively simple article like "a" or "the".  The largest and most active verbs can be completely turned around by nothing more than adding "to" or "for".  If these simple little articles and propositions can control the most powerful things and actions, then how much more power must other words have?  If we can invoke Satan with a word, then can't we do the same with God?

Words are reality.  We know no other reality but that which we can speak.  The more powerful a language, the larger its vocabulary, and the more it comes to dominate the thing we call reality.

In light of these thoughts, doesn't it behoove us to build our vocabulary and to take control of the language we use and that which we allow into our minds?  In fact, knowing these things makes it imperative that we turn off the corporate media and take control of our language and learn the power we have sitting right in front of us.  By taking control of our language, we control our reality, and conversely take away the power of others to create our reality for us.

Words are the core of majick.  They are neither good nor bad, but serve the intent of the speaker.  Take the word "cow".  To a Hindu follower, this is the word of a god.  To an overweight woman, this is the word of insult.  To a person urging action, it the word of blind obedience.  A simple word with so much power.

Consider your next word.  Use it carefully.  And the next after that.  Be aware of how you define your reality.  Control your inner dialogue.  Choose your terms to invoke the world you want.

We are all gods, and the power of that station is within our minds and at our fingers.  The smithing of words is more vital that we often imagine.

Most importantly, actively filter those words which you allow into your mind.  Consider the source that their intention in using the words.  Don't let others define your words, for in so doing, they are controlling your reality.


The ArtWords of Ji Lee


I See Your AEGIS And Raise You...

Update: I see your Su-24, and raise you a Proton-M with state-of-the-art CommSat.

A funny thing happened on the way to World War.  The bully got his pants handed to him in a most deliberate and quiet way you can imagine.  In fact, the bully was so humiliated that he ran away with his tail between his legs and all his henchmen tendered their resignations.

So what the hell am I talking about, you ask?  Great question!

First, the US Navy's officious version of it says that the USS Donald Cook, an AEGIS-class missile defense frigate, was over-flown no less than 12 times by an unarmed Russian Su-24 bombers in simulated attack runs.  Shortly thereafter, the Cook made a run for Romania and the Navy brashly and bravely called the Russians "unprofessional".

That's one side of the story, and the other side is a bit harder to dig up, but according to this post, the Russian bomber was carrying their latest electronic warfare gear.  As the Su-24 began its first pass, the AEGIS system locked on and started loading targeting information, such as speed, distance, et cetera.

Then suddenly, the screens went black.  The Su-24 wasn't just evading RADAR, it had completely shut down the Navy's star air and missile defense system, and according to some other sources out there, they couldn't reboot or get the multi-billion dollar system to respond in any way.

Seemingly corroborating the story is Zero Hedge's take, saying that the NATO partners are just a bit alarmed that their protection racket ain't worth the money spent on it, especially since it turned tail and ran just half-way into it's "reassurance" mission.

Certainly, in the days since that incident, the US has become quite a bit more subdued in its sabre rattling, as the Masters of War sit in their hidey-holes scratching their highly decorated heads wondering just what the hell happened to their vaunted "defence" system.

You see, the fun in this story is not that the over-priced, over-sold and over-reaching US military got its butt in a sling because of those 'puny backward' Russians.  It's that the Russians have just told the entire Western empire that it can be shut down very easily and within minutes.

Suppose this Russian 'scrambler' technology were mounted on satellites that could whizz by US intel and comm birds and click them off?  Suppose it were quietly set up at key internet backbone sites?  Suppose they could blind the US/NATO war-finance system with the flick of a switch?  How much of this stuff do they have and where is it?

You can just hear the awed silence in the DC and Virginia bunkers as they try to figure out just what exactly they saw happen.

Right on the heels of this incident, Premier Putin signed a bill to establish a financial clearing system completely independent of the Western banking system.  This system would likely serve Russia, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil, the so-called BRICS alliance.  So what, you ask?

Well, one thing the Western empire has had going for it was that it sat atop every international financial transaction everywhere, and they were all denominated in dollars.  Forget petrodollars, this is where the acton was, using high-speed transactions to front-run markets, manipulate FOREX and tinker with LIBOR.  If the most powerful emerging markets in the world were to suddenly yank the plug on dollar trades and clearing...Katie bar the door.

That should happen about July, according to the new Russian law.

When the US leveled sanctions against key banks in Russia, cutting off the credit card accounts of key members of the Russian inner circle, that could only be done because the West holds the keys to the SWIFT system, which handles all MasterCard and VISA transactions, as well as inter-bank and international money movements.  If you've ever transferred money to an overseas account, then you know that you need the receiver's name, bank account number and the bank's SWIFT number to do it.  Think of it as the routing address for money blips on a screen somewhere.

Hell of a lot of power to have in a few hands when you can not only see all the transactions gong on around the world, but stop them on a whim.

Hell of a lot of power you can take away if you can go around that system, too.

Now, not only has Russia shown that it can switch off the SWIFT system by killing a few key satellites and backbone servers with a switch, it has stated quite openly with a public law that it will set up its own clearing and finance system by mid-year.


Guess the banksters shouldn't have bet so many cookies on the Ukraine.  Even worse, the oligarchs are over a barrel because the battle can now be taken to the 'high ground' of space communications, which has been the centerpiece of Western hegemony for so long.

The Russians can switch off satellites, the Chinese are releasing half-century old secrets with their little rover on the Moon, and India is going to Mars.  It's the death of a thousand cuts writ large.

The US/NATO bullies are in a position now where they must either reveal one of their secret weapons, too, or face the fact that they are at least a couple of years behind and need to get the lead out or lose their precious strangle-hold on the world.

You might have missed it.  The world changed pretty radically in the past couple of weeks.  That clap of thunder in the distance was the sound of impending doom for the Western oligarchs unless they have some nifty tricks up their sleeves that they are willing to flash now.

The problem is that the US has no manned space program and its heavy lift system is still largely untested.  They are hitching rides to the high ground with Russia, and in fact, Russia and China are the two leading space programs at the moment.  If it doesn't have some amazing technology tucked away in a 'black' closet somewhere (as many suspect), then they are in a precarious spot trying to rule the world without access to the one thing they need to do it.

It's truly amazing what one little unarmed bomber can do flying around the Black Sea on a sunny afternoon.  Hang on, though, the real fireworks should get underway any time now.


Oh My God!

A White Russian is a drink intended to be served layered.  The Patron is the one who is responsible for mixing those layers, not the bartender.  This is one of those little-known facts of life that should, but often fails, to guide our conscious lives.

There is a common image of the artist as a bedraggled loner ensconced in his studio (artists are always male in the common mind).  Whether the artist is a writer, painter, sculptor, or whatever, he is moody, disheveled and teeters uncertainly on the cat-walk of sanity.

The writer sits alone in his rat-infested flat above a whore-house with red neon light screaming unheeded warnings across the walls of his mind.  There is a single lamp spilling unnecessary light on the termite-eaten desk.  He hunches over an Underhill Upright - upright referring to the writer, not the machine - a bottle of squalor stands guard at his right hand as he bangs out veiled autobiographies to an uninterested world.

The painter lives alone in a dingy, cavernous room with wooden planks for flooring.  Alone, that is, unless he has just sold a painting and can pay a local night butterfly to pose nude - nude is on purpose, naked is not - while he dispassionately outlines the curves and ignores the scars.

Painters have beards, writers do not.

Amidst these land mines of solitary creativity and psychological case studies, there is one art form that stands out as unique in all of art history.  It is the single art form that thrives on socializing and public adulation.  It is the one art form in which mental instability is paraded and glorified, rather than castigated and clucked at.  It is the one art form in which there are job descriptions and career paths, and whose jargon has invaded the natural landscape of communication.

The theater.

I hear you...what about the military and pro sports?  Those are destructive, not creative, and the mental illnesses on display are not favored in polite society.  A soldier or a linebacker cannot quote Shakespeare and Ionesco, nor can he distinguish between the five conventional plots.  Most certainly, these Cretaceous outcasts could never understand the deus ex machina, though they pray fervently for just such a thing.

No, in the theater, there are educated and erudite folks who just happen to like taking off their clothes for money in acts that require no consummation.  These beasts of the boards know the subtleties of body language, they rehearse for hours to place just the right inflection on a syllable, they thrive on the praise and applause of their peers, and most of all, they live for the blood-screaming immediacy of the theater.

There is no other art form in existence in which a happenstance assemblage of artists, technicians and machines must work in perfect synchronization for two and a half hours every night to create magic.  And there is no other art form in existence in which the consumming public expects that magic on demand.

Image a gaggle of art lovers hovering around a painter screaming nightly for a new masterpiece.  Or how about stuffy readers seated in the flat of the writer awaiting their due on time and on cue.  You would more likely receive cacophonous hissies about the vagaries of the creative muse, than steamy dressing rooms choked with anxiety and pheromones, and full of painted liars ready to offer their souls for your applause.

Yes, in the space of time that most of us slough off on the couch in front of the TeeVee, this group of highly suspect human beings emote to the point of leaving a physical residue on the stage - not just actors but crew as well.  In a quiet moment, if you listen very hard, you can hear the Stage Manager having a cow in her corner backstage.  She has screamed every curse and epithet known to humankind trying to push the talent onstage.

Pulses are pounding, the hairs on the nape of the neck are standing erect, pupils are dilated - just another night in the theater.

Before and after, the entire company gets sauced.  Before to calm the nerves and focus the fear - nay terror - of stepping in front of an audience.  After because the thrill of the moment and living in the eternal now is something humans are ill-equipped to survive.  Ram Daas would be envious of the showman's life: there is no future or past, just now.

That is why persons of the theater are so prized among the lesser artisans of film and TeeVee.  In those bastard arts, only the stage-trained and tempered can hold up under intense pressure and deliver identical performances time after time.  "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star," roared Peter O'Toole's character in My Favorite Year.  He spoke from the heart in that singular line.

The theater is a mystical place.  Great brotherhoods are forged in 10 short weeks, though they fade just as quickly.  Indeed, the stage has produced some of the greatest talents ever to emote a catharsis.  Even their deathbed scenes are truly of note. 

The great Victorian actor Edmund Keene is still quoted "on the boards" for his Earth-quaking last thought as he expired, "Dying is easy...comedy is hard."

Perhaps the uninitiated will not remember Wilfrid Lawson, but there is a tale of Titanic proportions among theater folk:

Sir Lawson met an old friend on the street after a long absence.  They retired to a pub for a long list of courage.  At one point, the friend suggested they take in a show, and Sir Lawson said there was a show up the street that was "fair".

They stumbled their way over to the theater and, with luck, were able to get two tickets in the back of the house just moments before the curtain rose.

As the show went on, the friend remarked, "Seems a bit slow, old boy."

To which Sir Lawson replied, "Hold on, it will get quite a bit more interesting in just a moment."

The friend inquired, "How so?"

"Do you see that woman on stage there?" said Sir Lawson.

"Yes," came the reply.

"When she finishes dressing, I'm supposed to enter," he hissed.

Such incredible toying with the Eternal Now are not possible in film and TeeVee.  They are edited out.  Theater is immediate and gut-real.  There is no "cut" and do-over.  There is only NOW...

Film and TeeVee people are known for drugs and overdoses.  That doesn't happen in the theater.  The high from just one tiny show is so overwhelming that there are only two answers: one, the orgy, and two, drinking heavily to bring you down.  Theater people don't need drugs, they live the greatest of them all - NOW.

 In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he noted that one could look into the eyes of a traveler and see how far they were from home.  When Arthur looked into Ford's eyes, he was nearly thrown from his stool.  This was a metaphor not for aliens or travelers, but for theater people.

We know each other across time and space, no matter the distance or medium.  We can look into each other's souls and know that both of us have stood upon the threshold of Time and touched the Big Lie at the center of the Universe.

Theater is a unique and wonderous thing.  There can be no other experience like it, for even the shamans know theater.  It is the deepest of all human experiences, which is why audiences crave a taste, though they dare not step into that abyss.

Theater has no rival.  It is mystical in a way that no solitary artist will ever experience, for ultimately he cannot share his experience with anyone, even those looking at his tints or brushstrokes.  Only those who have journeyed to the Center together and survived can ever share the Mystery that is theater.

That is why the very stitching of culture uses the lines from the stage.  That is why the undergarments of God are the Costumes of Ages.  That is why even the Universe uses make-up to show us her best face - though we call them flowers or so other appellation.

Once you have tread the boards, you cannot see the world in the same drab way that the rest of humanity envisions it.  Once you have played on the Far Side, nothing less will suffice.

As Shakespeare himself noted, "The play is the thing in which we shall catch the conscience of the king."

Theater is dangerous and should be handled with the utmost of care.  Those who toy lightly with it are bound to receive radiation burns.  The older the play, the deeper the magic.

Can you name a single work of art that is more than 2,000 years old?

I thought not.

But the Greek plays and the Roman plays are still produced today, as fresh and alive as they were millennia ago.  They don't need restoration because they have not faded.  They don't reside in a single place but are available to anyone anywhere at any time.  Theater IS immortality.  Shakespeare is just as relevant now as he was 400 years ago.  So too Aristophanes and Thespus, Ionesco and Wycherly.  The past lives in the eternal NOW, and it is connected to the future, because at some point those great plays will be produced long after we are dead.

Show me a Mona Lisa that can achieve that.

Oh, to tread the boards once again and live in the immortal moment for just one second longer.

Human, meet thy true god...


The Curse

Make no mistake about it: I am cursed.

Some, like my father the historian, might jump up and down, waving his hands wildly, exclaiming in breathless eptithets that 'we are witnessing history!'  I prefer to see myself as an esoteric surfer pipelining a tsunami, watching as it swamps culture after culture, but helpless to ameliorate even the slightest part of its fury.

I am doomed to relive the 1960s US over and over again.  At first, it was exciting to 'witness history', but having seen what it did to the US, and then to Ireland, Germany, the Czech Republic, I am loathe to watch it replay.

Here's the playbook:

One generation becomes fabulously affluent by mistake or design (listen to my interview with John Perkins).  That generation becomes overly indulgent of their progeny, to the point of completely ignoring them.  Meanwhile, the prevailing political system, ashamed of its own history, has altered the past, and in most cases has ceased teaching it at all (such is the sin of public education).

As a consequence, the children become completely self-absorbed.  They are like tumbleweeds in a California drought - without roots and subject to the vagaries of the wind.  They become mindless consumers, unable to save or even survive on less than an opulent lifestyle.  They being to question everything.  They see the old structure as standing in the way of their insatiable need to self-gratification.  The old rules are as quaint and divorced of meaning as Carter's Liver Pills.

As their parents age, they come to the crashing conclusion that they have erred in some fundamental and horrible way, but it's too late to rectify the situation.  The children, having attained adulthood themselves, no longer listen.  The parents become alarmed and swing wildly in the opposite direction, toward unbridled conservatism.  Infuriated, the younger generation openly rebel and the culture suffers a massive upheaval, a convulsion of epic proportions.

Thus, the wisdom of centuries is lost, locked away in dusty tomes that no one reads anymore.  History becomes radically uncool and no one with any snap will touch it, for fear of being rejected as part of the 'old way' and a sympathizer with the System.

Now, utterly without guidance, both by design and by choice, the new generation goes on a bender, consuming and lusting in way that would instantly kill their elders.  But they survive and thrive and pass it on to their own children, who take it even further.

In Ireland, the were blinded by greed and avarice, and have ended up in the crushing poverty that their grandfathers knew all too well.  In Germany, they idolized the mechanistic part of their souls while leaving the humanistic part to wither like picked over grapes.  In the Czech Republic, they frittered away their cultural heritage and revolutionary fervor to languish in near obscurity.  In Russia, they have returned to the Czarist Orthodoxy in a way similar to neo-paganism - all form and no context.

In the US, they have realized their worst nightmares, as envisioned for them by Hollywood.  They created an empire of good intentions.  The unique dystopia that is contemporary America would go down in history as a warning to the future, except that no one will remember because history is a dirty word.

Now it is happening in Indonesia.  They are following the playbook step by faltering step.  The government has banned history lessons to hide its sins.  The current generation in power has become fabulously affluent.  The children have been left behind as mere consequences of the high life.  The younger generation has no tempering of struggle and want, and so blazes forth with unbridled desires.  Even the outgoing president is analogous to Eisenhauer, and the heir apparent is warmed-over JFK.

There's the oppressive and over-reactive religious majority determined to reform or bring the whole thing down in ashes.  There are simmering civil rights issues that are willfully and callously unaddressed.  Half the population, called female by most, are suddenly realizing their power.  And pork and package liquor can be found most anyplace now (a significant development, I assure you).

The tide is coming, in a way that will make the 2004 Aceh wave look like a Sunday picnic at the beach.  There will be no cultural stone unturned and ultimately rejected out of hand.

Yes, it is a curse to watch this happen again and again, for not once have I seen good come from it.  It has left ancient and rich cultures hollowed out like worm-eaten apple flesh - what remains is but a shell of its former glory.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive.  Maybe being raised by an historian has colored my glasses a sickly green, rather than rosy pink.  Perhaps I'm just one of those curmudgeonly grouses that try to hold back progress out of some warped fixation with the past.  One could easily dismiss my observations as longing for the 'old ways' or misplaced conservatism.

Having witnessed up close the gutting of so many great cultures and the stench of cynicism and hopelessness left in its wake, and having seen it happen in one country after another, I begin to detect the outlines of A Plan.

Without roots, the greatest trees are easily toppled, and if one has designs on dominating nations, one could not do better than to sever the roots of a nation before giving a light push in any direction one so chooses.

Perhaps Indonesia would do well to step back a moment and inventory the past.  Lessons are often hard-won by people who had no choice but to fight.  At the moment, we have a choice.  Shouldn't we take one last long breath of cool breeze before leaping blindly off the cliff of the unknown?

Pay special attention to patterns because that's how career thieves and murderers give themselves away.  They are locked into self-reinforcing feedback loops from which they cannot escape.  All we need to do is look for the telltale clues that will guide our thoughts going forward.