Archive for August, 2009

It’s time to take a break from outrage and post some bits of life here on this island for those of you who actually like sharing my life with me.

I’ve written before about the wonderful people with whom I’m blessed to spend time … a smart, funny, lovely and international gang … and as it goes here, new people join in as others move along.

Going away get-togethers are a bittersweet aspect of Seychelles living, and I’ve been to a few lately. The other night was such an event … Violeta is leaving for some months … so a dinner at Sam’s Pizzeria was on the plate.

As always, many countries were represented, and if the UN could do half the job around the table at creating global warm fuzzies as we do the world would be a much better place.

Check out the smiling faces …

Me and Sam ... that's the US, Seychelles and Cambodia

Me and Sam ... that's the US, Seychelles and Cambodia

Deb ... a Yorkshire lass ... and Cj

Deb ... a Yorkshire lass ... and Cj

Violeta, from Serbia

Violeta, from Serbia

Laura is Italian

Nathalie is from Lebanon

Nathalie is from Lebanon

Lio and Carlos ... that's France listening to Spain

Lio and Carlos ... that's France listening to Spain

Photo credits: Sam Benoiton

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A one-two punch of stories in today’s news would not have seemed to follow taken individually, but when set side-by-side an obvious tango appears.

The first, this out of China, is about a four-fold increase in profits seen by the state oil company, Sinopec.

Fuel price reforms have allowed price hikes that have been repeating bundles.

Sinopec reported a net income of 33.2bn yuan ($4.8bn; £2.9bn) for the six months to the end of June, compared with 7.7bn yuan a year earlier.

… “It is anticipated that the result of [the] first three quarters of 2009 will be over 50% higher compared with the same period of last year … ”

Oil companies making money in today’s global economy may sound like a positive ramping up that could fuel growth … for those who consider growth always positive … but that brings me to the next report.

In Africa, leaders are gathering to talk about climate change.

Captioned, “Africa is set to suffer the worst impacts of climate change”, the implications should not be underplayed.

Under the auspices of the African Union, the meeting will underline the chief African demand for compensation for damages caused by global warming.

The move to agree a common negotiating platform for Africa is a recognition of the failure of the continent to make its voice heard to date.

One of the documents prepared for the meeting talks about the “dismal co-ordination” of the African negotiation process.

Fine and dandy, yes?

Considering the aggressive courting China is now doing in Africa, maybe not.

The reality of the UN climate negotiations is that the US, China, India and the European Union have the greatest sway.

Failing to recognize a link between increasing oil consumption and profits for that consumption in China and climate change in Africa would be missing a major point, and if Africa is set to “demand compensation for damages caused by global warming” at the same time China is buying the continent wholesale, we have a conflict, folks.

Not only is Africa more than willing to take just about whatever China is wiling to give, and they give a LOT in the way of construction, development, cash … whatever … African countries also vote in the UN General Assembly — line on the left, one vote each — and those votes go a long way toward keeping the Chinese government away from accountability and closer to doing whatever the heck they want in ways that can’t help but get that climate change thing going through the roof, or the ozone layer, as the case actually will be.

We’ve all seen images of drought in Ethiopia, the venue for the African talks … starving children, dead cattle, millions of people in camps begging for a grain of anything to keep them alive one more day … but reading about four-fold profits on oil in China may not trigger a response that connects to those images nor seem the potentially devastating blow it truly is.

It’s not a vacuum we live in … if it was, the world would be cleaner … and what happens in one corner of the globe impacts us all, some much more drastically than others.

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Since a post with panties in the title has attracted thousands of hits even though the topic was women’s rights and the panties mentioned were “big girl” with an admonition to pull them on and change the world, I’m wearing mine again … and, no, I won’t be offering multi-day-worn undies on Japanese eBay, no matter how much pocket money that provides schoolgirls there … hoping to get folks who may not tune their dials to the plight of the world’s female population to give a read, and perhaps even a thought.

The recent subject has revolved around the question of how and why a a planet with inhabitants that are more than 50% of the girl persuasion gets away with treating that majority like shit. The answer may be as simple as: Because it can.

The minority most certainly has a vested interest in keeping up this sucky status quo, as illustrated by this load of protected bollocks:

Conservative clerics in Iran have criticised a proposal by re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to include three women in his new cabinet.

“There are religious doubts over the abilities of women when it comes to management,” said hardline lawmaker Mohammad Taghi Rahbar.

He said his views were shared by many MPs from his clerics’ faction, which dominates Iran’s parliament.

Yep. He’s afraid his gnarled set of piyaz torshi will sink to the bottom of a bowl of turshulu aash and his bullshit will never float again if women have the power to do more than run households, live within budgets, oversee families and all that other stuff that keeps him and his cronies going.

But it’s not only men dedicated to the perpetuation of perpetual misery for their own mothers, sisters, daughters and wives doing damage.

Take women in Mali for an example …

Tens of thousands of people in Mali’s capital, Bamako, have been protesting against a new law which gives women equal rights in marriage.

The law, passed earlier this month, also strengthens inheritance rights for women and children born out of wedlock.

The head of a Muslim women’s association says only a minority of Malian women – “the intellectuals” as she put it – supports the law.

Amazing how often “intellectual” is spat toward a supposedly thinking world like a shit-covered fly … wouldn’t want to swallow anything having to do with smart now, would we?

And intellectual women? OMG! Stop them. Stop them now … and while you’re at it, beat them and throw acid in their faces.

Which brings us to this, right back where we started a couple of days ago in Afghanistan … a story in the NYTimes about acid attacks on girls in Kandahar who have the temerity to go to school.

… Through the mask, he asked Shamsia what seemed like a strange question.

“Are you going to school?”

The masked man pulled the scarf away from Shamsia’s face and, with his other hand, pumped the trigger on his spray gun. Shamsia felt as if her face and eyes were on fire. As she screamed, the masked man reached for Atifa, who was already running. He pulled at her and tore her scarf away and pumped the spray into her back. The men sped off toward another group of girls. Shamsia lay in the street holding her burning face.

I hold out some hope that outrage will replace apathy and that we eventually approach the tipping point where women will have finally had enough of this and turn the tables … and chairs and beds.

Watch out world when that happens, because the backlash is gonna be fierce.

Have I mentioned that my friend Gay spouts her solution far and wide … and with no little support resulting? The plan? Universal Male Castration. Since the announcement of the creation of artificial sperm, her arguments for a world where balls are just beach toys is getting more attention.

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The ever-more-rapid passing of time captures my attention, albeit fleetingly since a quick ponder is all there is ever time for, so a headline from the BBC today grabbed both of my eyes.


“Ah ha!” thought I. “As unlikely as it may be, the Beeb sorts it.”

But no.

It’s a story about how a sundial on the Firth of Forth kept monks from wandering from the mandated lockstep of nibble, work, pray, sleep, nibble.

Aside from some minor astonishment that a sundial would do jack in a place as often perpetually dark as Scotland can be, the idea that Augustinian brothers were compelled to wrangle time into digestible tidbits fails to shed light on anything at all.

As limited by our biology as humans are, we mere mortals can only grasp what we can wrap our brains around … see a recent tangent on this … and providing boxes for those bits we have a handle on is so, so handy.

So, we make boxes for minutes and hours and days and weeks, and on an on, and fill those as we see fit.

Some are so attached to the labels on the boxes that confusion results; the labels are deemed actual as if the contents … and keep in mind that the boxes themselves are nothing more than figments … constitute matter that matters.

Conveniently, the BBC provides evidence of this today, too.

An Australian scientist says the continent needs five or six seasons to suit its climate.

Tim Entwisle, chief of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, says Australia should “unhook” itself from the “arbitrary” four seasons it inherited from Britain.

Mr Entwisle has proposed “sprummer” – the season between spring and summer – and “sprinter” – an early spring.

He says a new system could help people better understand their environment and monitor signs of climate change.

“Having four three-month seasons… doesn’t make any sense in the place we live,” he told Australia’s public broadcaster ABC News.

The continent needs 5 or 6 seasons to suit its climate? Hm.

Allow me to mention that the continent needs nothing at all from hapless inhabitants; it was there a few bazillion years before bipedalism became de rigueur and will still be there … with some sort of climate, as a nuclear winter snow falling with no one to see it could sound much like a tree falling in the forest … long after we fuck up the planet so badly that our frail forms go tits up.

May I, also, point out to Mr. Entwisle that it matters not the least what the heck name humans put, the globe spins and stuff happens?

He has suggested holding a national debate on the subject, and a public competition to name the new seasons.

If Australians need more boxes, that’s okay by me, even though it seems a silly waste of time … which is not linear and cares not one whit as it passes faster every day … which is an arbitrary designation based on where one happens to stand on this rotating globe.

Time marches on … or doesn’t, if that non-linear thing clicks … whether or not we attach names to its bits, and there’s something smacking of ‘too precious’ in the compulsion to confine the nebulous rather than attempt to appreciate the amorphous nature of stuff we can’t hang a handle on.

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I wrote the other day about a ghastly new law that allows Afghan husbands to starve wives that refuse sex … a story that garnered outrage and inspired an onslaught of “united condemning”, as utterly useless as that may be, from many corners of the world.



Aren’t we in the developed world just oh-so-smug in our condemnation of those who trample on women? Or are we?

A couple of stories in today’s news slap back that idea a tad.

First, from the UK … and Gordon Brown was amongst the loud singers in the anti-Afghan choir … this little ditty on domestic abuse in that country and how they are just getting around to, and falling short of, protecting women from beatings.

The Home Office says conviction rates among those cases which make it to court have risen from 60% to 72% over four years. However, some charities have previously noted a rise in reports of domestic violence as a result of the economic downturn.

Refuge, a charity which helps victims of domestic violence, has welcomed the changes to the rules on restraining orders. But it says it is essential the government provides the courts and the police with the resources and training to implement the orders effectively.

Well, there’s a thought …

And from a society that considers itself very well behaved, this out of Japan:

… the world’s second-biggest economy ranked 54th in the world in terms of gender equality.

It was concerned over the low legal penalty for rape and the widespread availability in Japan of violent pornography …

Add this to a 6-month waiting period between marriages that applies only to women, “unequal laws on marriage, the treatment of women in the labour market and the low representation of women on elected bodies”, and other facts of life faced by women in Japan daily, and that modern culture can stop thumbing its nose.

I am in no way condoning what’s going on in Afghanistan, but shaking my head over … and my finger at … a gender gap that exists in 2009. And what is with that?

Come on, ladies … we outnumber them, so why do we still put up with this shit in huge numbers?

I’m as guilty as the next broad, I know, when it comes to buying into the “less-than” bullshit, and that pisses me off with me.

It dawned only recently that, contrary to what my ex rammed down my throat, I actually CAN speak Creole and drive at night … even at the same time when required. Go figure! Yes, he had me convinced that both were beyond my tiny capabilities and that I needed him to talk and drive for me.

BOLLOCKS … on a plate, chopped and salted …

Why did I buy this sack full of bogus and limiting shit? Ya got me, but I did, and for a long time.

So, slap me sideways and call me a pussy … and while you’re at it, wake the power within and help the world’s women to put on their big girl panties. We’ve been wimps for way too long.

And, you know what? Those men in charge? They’re nothing special …

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Telling stories with no words …

Words are my thing, my outlet, the tool of my creating, and it’s a good thing I have them because I suck at most other forms of art.

My daughter, Jenn, and my son, Sam, both amaze me with their ability to take something blank and turn it into an image that provokes recognition and emotion … it seems like magic to me.

Ernesto can make six guitar strings produce music so beautiful that I’m filled with toe-tapping joy or cry as it resonates deeply in my soul.

Being bound by words as I am, a story unfolding without need of any astounds me.

Here’s a link to an astounding story I can’t seem to find to embed, but MUST be seen.

Ernesto sent it for the kids, inspiring Sam toward yet another medium, and we thank him …

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It’s time for me to let outrage spill into the blog again, and although I could pound on about health care in America, the abomination in Burma, the double standard on internationally adopted children and much more, this gets my dander itching this morning …

It is now legal in Afghanistan for a man to starve his wife to death if she refuses to have sex with him.

Rape, of course, is not an issue, as that goes without saying. Beating to death is common enough and usually without repercussions, and now starvation is condoned.

And how will the world react? With its usual impotence …

Western leaders and Afghan women’s groups were united in condemning an apparent reversal of key freedoms won by women after the fall of the Taliban.

Oh, the dreaded “united condemning”!

Shall we wait to see how much food that puts into an Afghan woman who’s not in the mood for abuse?

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Music ... for the soul. Photo: Kim Pockpas

Music ... for the soul. Photo: Kim Pockpas

It has longed seemed to me that as humans we are over-engineered and severely limited by our biology.

I suppose that could be why Yoda’s line … in addition to many issuing from sources less mainstream and more respected … resonates:

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

Crude matter, for sure, even when we fix ourselves up, often to the detriment of luminosity.

What could be the reason for minds that allow us to imagine everything, but bodies that begin falling apart as soon as we’re born, spend a lifetime secreting disgusting fluids, can’t see in the dark, breathe under water or fly?

Only one answer makes sense to me, and that is that this life is merely a pit stop, a quick duck-in for some sort of tuning up or tuning in or tuning out … whatever ends up being made of our time.

I know many who are convinced that this is it, that in becoming human we have hit the wall, that we’re born, we live, we die, and that’s the whole story, and I have no problem with that, except that it makes no sense … it’s just bloody wasteful.

We can easily track the reasons for many evolutionary developments … whales lost their legs because they hampered swimming, mandrills developed colorful butts to keep track of each other in dense forest … and much of human change, from bipedalism allowing for quicker spotting of predators, leading to shapely asses in the process, to color vision letting us find ripe fruits, fits the program. At some point, however, it just got silly.

Science may argue that our capacity to dream up Shakespearian plays, grand music, art and philosophy is some sort of side dish, a naturally occurring consequence arising in tandem with the ability to hunt and gather, but I’d have to ask: What would be the point?

Did we need to be able to put man on the moon to put food on the table … Did we need a table? … and reproduce? Other animals that have been around much longer than we have, tortoises, for example, haven’t been compelled as a species to invent French horns to enrich their environment .

Our evolutionary biology has worked against us as we’ve been honed. We’ve lost the capacity to smell sexual readiness, fear and illness as we’ve relied more and more upon vision, even while knowing well that we can’t trust our eyes much of the time, the hand being quicker than and all that.

And as great as our minds can be, our bodies limit us; our brains can only process so much of the information in our world. We know, for instance, that time is not linear. This has been proven, but can we wrap our heads around that? Even those who can quote formulas live one day at a time.

Stephen Hawking, for one, who said: “It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value.”

How much in our world do we miss, ignore, refuse to incorporate into our version of reality? We know that we are constantly surrounded by energy; light and heat are two we notice, but it’s likely that there is much more. We may even sense the occasional touch of something, but not being able to classify we chalk it up to whatever …

There was a case of a “new tribal people” discovered in South America some years back. Poor slobs were inundated by scientists wanting to study this unique and untouched society. At one point one of the researchers, noting the weekly overflight of an airplane, asked the people what this object in the sky was called in their culture. He was looked at with amusement … poor guy was obviously batty … because the plane simply did not exist in their world. They didn’t even see it.

It is possible that we exist in simultaneous multiple universes, even though we can conceive of them wonderfully without really “getting it”, so are very likely missing a lot.

Or are we? Perhaps we know more than we think we do. After all, we create art and music for our souls … the part of us we know and touch without proof. We are more than our biology, and death is a door, nothing more.

Okay. Tangent over …

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I don’t know why, but it came as a shock to me that because my son was not married, it was up to his father and me as next of kin to make a whole load of decisions we so did not want to make when he died: cremation or burial; where to bury; casket color and style and open or closed; clothes to dress him in; headstone material, design, size and copy; music … and words.

His dad thought it right that I write something for the funeral “program”, an idea that jarred me to my bones, to say the least. I could not imagine that I could find any words at all … but I did.

Here they are as they appear on the back page of the whatever-the-mortuary-handout-thing-is-called:

Jaren Eli Combes
17 February 1971 – 2 June 2009

The bluest eyes
The sharpest mind
The brightest wit
The kindest soul
The biggest heart

From tiny baby boy to
Big Guy
In stumbling steps
through 38 years
half of his last cookie
the shirt off his back
acceptance without judgement
love without condition

Illustrated composer
repository of memories
assuager of consciences
We laughed and danced in
his quirky brilliance

Too James Dean
to stick around too long
We run with the thought of
a rock & roll heaven

Find peace, my son

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Shells are tough ...

Shells are tough ...

In an attempt to light a fire under the part of my ass I write from … and, yes, that’s throwing a bone to critics, so feel free to chew away … I’ve set up a fan page on facebook for my work .

Here’s the link where readers can fan me, if they so choose.

I am well aware that I could be prying the top off a tin of burrowing invertebrates with this rather bold (for me) move, since there are a few of you out there who have been nagging relentlessly for me to produce more words linking together in one form or another and I am possibly inviting more of that sort of thing, but I need prodding.

Lest anyone get the idea that promoting myself in what feels a bit like a whimpering plea for validation … I mean REALLY!!! Fans???? … comes easy to me, well … it doesn’t.

Although I do love the facebookese that turned “friend” into a verb, asking to be fanned without the aid of breeze-making devices runs against the deepest of my grains. Administering Ernesto’s various sites for a while now has helped a bit, as I do see the value of putting information where people can get to it, but blathering on about the talents of another is far different than leading a cheering section aimed at me.

I’m tempted to say that I’ve swallowed my pride, but that seems the exact opposite of what setting up a fan page conveys, so I’ll simply let it stand and see how it goes; the point being to get work … and I do need more of that.

So … continuing in the vein that is trying to steer blood into the heart of my career, I’ll drop a hint like a sledgehammer: I write for money, so if anyone needs words and wants to pay for them … speeches, articles, web content, onesheets, bios, fairy tales, etc. … I am available for work and fanning.

Whew …

That was tough …

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