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Sharing this again as I’ve noted the day without the time to give proper consideration …

Paradise Preoccupied

Yesterday I wrote about infamous dates, an appropriate topic on Pearl Harbor Day.

Today is another one of those. Although not on the same scale of lives lost or immediate consequence, December 8, 1980 saw a moment that defines a generation, and world, thirty years after the fact of an act of murder.

The death of John Lennon put paid to an era born in the sixties and dying with John.

It could be the timing was coincidental … another decade had closed and the 80’s loomed large and voracious. Flower-power was giving way to the darker, disenchanted tones of Goth, Ronald Reagan was White House-bound and the 80s stretched before us like a ladder to be climbed one pricey rung after the other.

Could it be, however, it was the event that instigated at least some of the changes?

The violent death of a gentle musician and poet…

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ImageA couple of things happened over the weekend that have gained some ground in restoring my faith in humanity. Unfortunately and predictably, others had completely the opposite reaction and are now writhing around on the grubby floors of social media and the halls of urine-colored ‘journalism’ as if possessed by really stupid demons of the going-to-hell-in-a-handbag-because-the shoes-don’t-match-it sort as if they don’t know the difference between rapture and rupture.

Let’s start with football. The American version, of which I am … or was, when I had any access to viewing … a fan.

In a sport that makes constant reference to ‘penetration in the end zone’, ‘tight ends’, ‘wide receivers’, ‘defensive ends’, ‘long snaps’, ‘ball carriers’, ‘pump fakes’, ‘ball control’, ‘man-on-man’, ‘man-in-motion’ and where the point is ‘going (for the) down’, you’d be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that ‘man-on-man’ was okey-dokey with the National Football League in just about any context. You’d be wrong.

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Michael Sam gets the call …

Michael Sam just became the first OPENLY gay draft pick in the NFL. Just now. Yesterday. In May of 2014.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player ever to enter the National Football League draft, was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick of the draft Saturday, proving precisely nothing about the state of homophobia in professional football.

This is not to say there haven’t been loads of gay players, may of whom were at least party out of the locker. (More than 30 years ago, a dear friend moved to California with his boyfriend who had, coincidentally, been drafted by the Rams.)

Although there have been many positive public reactions to the news … and to the video of Sam being congratulated and cuddled by his partner as the call came … there are still far too many humans that have yet to recognize the simple fact that we’re not all the same.

Here’s what some fuckwad of an NFL ‘player personnel assistant’ had to say:

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

Sound familiar?

Back in 1946, the Rams signed Kenny Washington, the first African-American football player in the modern era of the NFL. Fisher was aware of the historical resonance Saturday.

Perhaps someday football fans will value gay players as much as they do Black players, as the league wouldn’t amount to shit without them.

Now … keeping with this Monday theme …

The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest

To be honest, I’d never heard of this extravaganza until I moved to England way back in the early ‘90s. To this day I don’t know if I was simply clueless or if the US just didn’t pay much attention and I went along with that. I was stunned by the enthusiasm, the parties planned for the occasion, the dressing up to watch it on the telly, and more than a bit confused about the process. Having the same experience a few years later a small, very crowded apartment in Zurich, I am now convinced that this is a VERY big deal.

Eurovision is about music; the song and the performers.

Historically, a country’s votes were decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom) experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success,and from 1998 onwards all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible. Back-up juries are still used by each country, in the event of a televoting failure. Nowadays members of the public may also vote by SMS, in addition to televoting. Since 2009, national votes in semifinals are a 50/50 combination of both telephone votes and the votes of juries made up of music professionals.

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Conchita and her trophy …

Hundreds of thousands of people watch and vote, and this year the country-by-country talent contest that brought ABBA to the world made even more history than they have since their win 40 years ago …and the winner was humankind.

That not everyone is happy with this outcome is as obvious as peaches having fuzz. The Russians in all their icky homophobic skid … complete with marks … toward the Dark Ages are particularly peeved:

Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision win has been branded “the end of Europe” by Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. After last night’s 2014 song contest in Copenhagen, Russian state television broadcast a debate on her victory, as politicians and celebrities launched a hate-filled attack. Outspoken ultranationalist MP Zhirinovsky called this year’s result “the end of Europe,” saying: “There is no limit to our outrage. “It has turned wild. There are no more men or women in Europe, just it .”

Hm. It … It seems that take ended up biting Russia on the furry butt:

Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws, restricting the spread of information on what was called ‘non traditional sexual relations’ did not go down well with last night’s audience. Russia’s entry, The Tolmachevy Sisters, were greeted by loud boos from those in the venue, with many of the onlookers waving rainbow flags. The tension then reached boiling point during the results announcements, which saw Russia receive further boos with every point received.

I must admit to having had a few less-than-pleasant encounters with drag queens in the past, having taken no little guff from some who find amusement in being unmercifully snarky to straight women who’d just like a top-up on their wine thankyouverymuchMarge, and have been slightly intimidated when standing in line between 6’7” blonds … big shoes … with hair the hight of the Tetons while waiting for a free cubical.

I have also, however, has some uproarious times laughing my head off, straightening stocking seams and dissing … yes, I can do snark, too … the polyester-clad clueless that seem to form herds wherever drag queens congregate.

It takes huge balls to be transgender true to yourself … even bigger than necessary to tell the NFL you’re gay. The world is full of ‘transphobic’ fuckwads

Researchers describe transphobia as emotional disgust, fear, anger or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectations,[and say that although it is similar to homophobia, racism and sexism, those attitudes are becoming generally considered unacceptable in modern society, whereas some individuals still maintain transphobic views without fear of censure.

As adults, transgender people are frequently subjected to ridicule, stares, taunting and threats of violence, even when just walking down the street or walking into a store. A U.S. survey of 402 older, employed, high-income transgender people found that 60% reported violence or harassment because of their gender identity. 56% had been harassed or verbally abused, 30% had been assaulted, 17% had had objects thrown at them, 14% had been robbed and 8% had experienced what they characterized as an unjustified arrest.

All because of their look, their dress, they’re undeniable style? How stupid is THAT?

Conchita deserves admiration. She is brave beyond measure, beautiful and talented … and her attitude is fabulous!

“Hey, I’m just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.”

She is also the WINNER! Watch her performance here.

Could it be that the world became a better place this weekend?

I think so.

Those deeply invested in enjoying their fundamentalist frantic frenzy of fucked-uppery … carry on. Sigh …

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Have fun storming the castle …

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It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

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… and that can be good!

~W. Edwards Deming

Seychelles is a beautiful country. No one who has gazed at our magnificent granite mountains, strolled our pristine beaches or enjoyed our warm, clear sea would argue the point. 

Beauty has value, of course, but it’s not always enough to sustain an economy and provide for a population, no matter how small.

As the World Bank explains:

 

This island is predominantly service-based and highly vulnerable to global shocks and climate change due to its isolation and small size.

 

… The limited land space, capital, and human resources restrict Seychelles’ ability to benefit from economies of scale in production and economic diversification. 

 

Although tourism and the fishing industry have done us well over the years our dependence on the global economy for guests combined with the bleak outlook for a continuing availability of fish in massive numbers, it seems time to do a re-think and make some changes.

 

Change is never easy; belt-tightening that makes daily living a challenge and new rules forced through scarcity often result in painful restrictions and has historically led to societal unrest and rebellion.

But what if all that needs changing is attitude?

 

We would rather be ruined than changed;

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.

~W.H. Auden

 

Three little changes in perspective, just three, all eventually inevitable anyway, could set Seychelles on a quick path to solving issues that now loom large. Why not lead, rather than struggle to catch up with those who possessed the vision … and the cojones … to forge the way forward?

 

First thing: The legalization of marijuana. 

 

The instant benefits of such a move have been made clear in places where the laws have been changed in favor of a reasonable approach. Take, for example, the US state of Colorado where over US$ 1 million was raised in tax revenue alone in the first 30 days of legalized pot …

 

The proposal outlines plans to spend some $99 million next fiscal year on substance abuse prevention, youth marijuana use prevention and other priorities. The money would come from a statewide 12.9 percent sales tax on recreational pot. Colorado’s total pot sales next fiscal year were estimated to be about $610 million.

People are already growing weed here illegally, a condition proven to do more harm than good by putting ill-gotten gains into the hands of bad people:

For the first time ever, many of the farmers who supply Mexican drug cartels have stopped planting marijuana, reports the Washington Post. “It’s not worth it anymore,” said Rodrigo Silla, a lifelong cannabis farmer from central Mexico. “I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.

 

Keeping pot illegal is not only of no benefit to the country, but creating a drag on the economy through policing costs in time and energy and tying up the courts. 

 

Since both the police and the courts should be busying themselves pursuing far more dangerous and detrimental crimes and since the income generated by legal pot farms would add much to the country’s coffers, it’s a win/win situation waiting to happen.

It’s not only farmers and retailers that would see profits, but also ancillary business like bakeries and other purveyors of items to munch. (Watch this if you doubt the potential for the sale of snacks.)

 

As more places make recreational pot an option, Seychelles could grow a global export market for what must be excellent … and somewhat exotic … pot at exactly the same time this country draws mellow tourists who would enjoy tokes on the beaches at sunrise AND have a load of extra cash from the taxes on the weed for enforcement of laws against … and treatment for … truly dangerous and addictive drugs that take a heavy toll here like alcohol and heroin.

 

And speaking of mellow tourists … that brings us to the second change: The legalization of same-sex marriage.

Not only is the writing on the wall for marriage equality to become the standard in the modern world, it is also simply right … and why should anyone care enough about someone else’s love life to get in their way anyway?

 

There are now eighteen countries that recognize gay marriages, NONE of which is a tropical holiday destination.

Aside from earning Seychelles the designation as a caring, progressive country that refuses to cater to bigotry, it’s also a huge money maker:

 

In a paper posted this week by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, researchers predict that same-sex marriages will bring nearly $700 million to the California wedding industry and pump almost $65 million in new revenue into the state budget over the next three years.

 

Weddings are income generators for many local business and they lead to anniversaries so guarantee repeat visits, and with the simple step of legalizing gay marriage in this wedding-destination, tourist-dependent country we open up a new and untapped market … AND up the image of the country globally.

 

Another win/win.

 

The third change requires a bit more than an attitude shift: Swift conversion to solar power.

If every new construction project in Seychelles over the past few years had been required to roof with solar collectors, we’d not need to import expensive, dirty fossil fuels to run much of the country … and we wouldn’t have as many power cuts. (My power just cut … sigh … so who knows when I’ll be able to publish this post.)

We are 4 degrees south of the Equator, which results in having 12 hours of daylight every day of the year, unlike Germany that expects to be 100% onboard with renewable energy by 2050 and has already made a very good start on that goal.

 

Germany is, without a doubt, the leading country for using solar energy. Not only has Germany installed thousands of solar panels already, but it plans to be using nothing but renewable energy by 2050. The country has remained the top buyer of solar energy panels for several years now, and is expected to continue going forward in the same direction during the upcoming months.

 

During 2009, Germany installed eight times more megawatts of photovoltaics solar energy capacity than America did that year.

 

Unlike the diesel the generators that now provide electricity to Seychellois need constantly and a great cost, sunshine is free. Just imagine how much juice would be produced now if places like Four Seasons Resort, Ephilia Resort and Eden Island had been mandated to install solar voltaic systems as part of their projects!

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Car parks covered in panels are a great idea!

 

Remember, if nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.

 

 

(If you don’t like weed, don’t use it. To those who find homosexuality somehow offensive I say: If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry anyone the same sex as you are … and GET OVER IT. If you are opposed to renewable energy from the sun that shines every day … well … you’re either weird or you have a strong financial stake in dirty, expensive fossil fuels.)

 

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Some days are better than others, and some are so spectacularly better they deserve an entire post dedicated to their spectacularness.

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Maia Spa

This has been one of those days.

Let me begin by stating unequivocally that I SO deserve this day … ‘nuff said.
Going into detail about just why I’m deserving of hours of luxurious pampering would only serve to dent this almost transcendental state I’m enjoying for as long as I can keep it going, and you already know how life can suck so there’s no reason to go there.

Here are the magic words that made a Wednesday in May wonderful:

Maia Luxury Resort and Spa

Seychelles has a few 5 Star+ resorts and Maia is the jewel in the crown. Award-winning and consistently listed as one of the best hotels in the world by every globally recognized travel publication and tourism organization, it is beautiful with attention paid to every detail and an atmosphere of peaceful exclusivity.

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Maia Attention to Detail

The hotel serves only its guests, so opportunities to luxuriate in Maia environs are rare for most people in Seychelles. I, however, am not most people. (Okay … most days I am very much ‘most people’, but today I was special.)

Here’s how my Wednesday unfolded:

After dropping the kids for their trip to school at 6:15, I returned home for coffee, yogurt and a bit of work. I then drove the 15 or so minutes to Maia where I pulled up at the gate, flashed a smile, and was admitted … after the security guy made a phone call.

I was greeted in the Welcome Pavilion by the gracious Mr. Georges, a manager of long standing with Maia, who escorted me to the Maia Spa where I was served cool juice as my feet soaked in scented water and I was asked to choose from a selection of heavenly oils, then led to an amazingly comfy message bed.

For the next hour I was pampered and pummeled in equal measure, a most pleasurable experience I could easily live with as a daily occurrence.

That done, I was slightly rearranged as it was my face’s turn to be gently indulged for another hour in ways I’m sure took a year or three off this old visage.

Soon after deciding I was NEVER leaving, I was served the most delicious chilled glass of juices I’ve ever tasted and a bowl of fresh fruits … kiwi, melon, pineapple, etc. … in a lovely alcove surrounded by garden and water and bird calls.

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After-pamper refreshment … Maia Style

I may not have left if champaign and sashimi with great company had not been on offer, but it was, so I did.

Many thanks to Maia’s General Manager, Ernst Ludik, and to Georges Gravé for the day and the terrific conversation.

I’d be very happy to do this day again …

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Champers and Mimosa …

“Like” Maia on facebook to see more …

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ImageHave I mentioned the ghost sitting on my roof?

Apparently … or is that apparitionalyly? … it’s just Sydney, my dead neighbor. Not that anyone has ever actually seen a wispy version of a long-departed guy perching near my rain gutter, but that hasn’t stopped the story from spreading from Anse Soleil to Baie Lazare like an invasive creeper.

Like many islands and much of Africa, Seychelles, being an island AND African, enjoys a casual familiarity with ghosts and gris gris. Although steps are routinely taken to keep the number of zombies (locally known as ‘dandotia‘ to a minimum, it seems there are few effective methods for keeping the wraiths away. Believe me, if I could find a spell that would convince the people around here that disembodied Sydney had moved on to a more comfy spot than my hot tin roof, I would put it to use. Not that I’m much bothered by the idea of a rooftop phantom neighbor, but the kankan makes it difficult to find someone willing to walk down my road to cut my grass.

Although it seems silly … and it’s been no few times I’ve watched people scoff with horror attempting a skepticism they so don’t feel … far be it from me to insist on a non-existence of spirit beings. Heck, for all I know we’re surrounded by them all the time, just as we go through life unaware (thankfully) of all the mites, viruses, bacteria and such that inhabit everything and take every opportunity to become one with us. Not to say I believe we die and turn to dust mites, although that is more likely than growing wings and strumming harps given decomposition and all, as the idea of Sydney morphing into millions of tiny bits that could infest my mattress is just too gross to consider. Perceiving the unseen, the unknown and the unknowable may or may not be within the realm of human potential. ESP and other notions of connections with a higher consciousness have been debated for centuries, so who am I to point a finger and laugh?

Someone whose grass needs cutting, that’s who.

And, yes, I am keeping with the date theme that started with May the 4th (be with you), but may have to shift gears as the month goes on. Tomorrow, however, I will be spending the day in 7th Heaven, so watch this space.

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History is a cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of man. <

                                                                    ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

Yesterday, the fourth was with us. Today, the revenge of the fifth, but aside from that almost sad reach for the Star(Wars) and being rather fun to say, ‘fifth’  looks weird and is fun to say.

 

Try it:

Fifth, fifth, fifth, fifth, fifth.

 

Dribbling yet?

 

Historically, the Cinco de Mayo has more going for it than jokes about BestFoods in a basin and a colorful Mexican holiday. 

 

In actual fact, the condiment, like the Irish county, is pronounced “mā-ō”, and the holiday originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. (Mexico’s Independence Day is el dieciseis de septiembre … much harder to convert into a photo meme.)

 

It was on the 5th of May in 1862 the Mexican forces loyal to Benito Juarez defeated troops sent by Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla. Coincidentally, it was also on a 5th of May, in 1821, that Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on the island of St. Helena, so we might say that el cinco de Mayo doesn’t sound so good in French.

 

Also on this day the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery (1865), Jesse Owens set the long jump record (1935), Holland and Denmark were liberated from the Nazis (1945), Alan Shepard became the first American in space (1961) and Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, John B. Stetson (the hat guy) and Michael Palin were born.

 

Funny thing about dates … 

 

They’re arbitrary, not real things in any real way … as Einstein said: an illusion.

 

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”  

                                              ~ Albert Einstein

 

When the earth was flat and lives were shorter, chariots were sometimes thought to be the vehicles of the rising sun, yet now we’re on a globe NOT at the center of the universe … but what’s a couple of thousand years in the grand scheme? Not even an eye blink.

 

But how else are we puny humans, chained as we are to our biological forms and reliant on biochemical actions and reactions, to sort out our perception of the world around us?

 

Imagine the confusion if every 5th of May Napoleon Bonaparte died at the same time the 3rd Napoleon got his ass kicked in Mexico! Sacré blue! The French would never stand for such a thing.

 

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” 

                                                                               ~ Albert Einstein

 

 

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On a warm morning in May of1980 I was living in Sacramento, California. My kids were 11 and 9 at the time. (The same ages Sam and Cj are now.) Because I considered it a prime duty to raise them right, I kept them out of school, knowing the experience gained that day would resonate for decades longer than a lesson in long division.

 

The day grew hotter as we stood in a very long line for a very long time, but we’d prepared well, had plenty of water and no shortage of amusement in the queue.

 

The venue was the Century Complex. The event, the first showing of “The Empire Strikes Back”.

 

The film, of course, was brilliant. It introduced us to Yoda and we exited with our heads full of deep meaning, confusion and lines that within days had been grafted on to daily conversation.

 

“THAT is why you fail.”

 

“There is no try.”

 

“Luke! It’s a trap!”

 

“I love you.” “I know.”

 

My brother was in New York, so had seen the movie a few hours before the time had come on the west coast. He’s a ‘no spoiler’ kind of guy, so kept mum, but was chomping at the bit to share the experience and waiting by the phone for a call from us to rehash what we’d just seen.

 

New York audiences, being a bit more elaborate in their reactions, were not holding back, and my bro was most impressed with the reaction to the penultimate scene:

 

<Darth Vader: No, I am your father.

 

NYC audience: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

 

There was about an hour of long distance back-and-forth over what various plot twists and hints might mean for the next installment … Who did Yoda mean when he told what was left of Obi Wan, “… there is another”? Was Vader lying? Would Lando and Chewy find Han? Would they someday be making “Han Solo-incased-in-carbonite coffee tables”?</a> (Okay, that one didn’t occur to any of us until decades later.)

 

Yes, all those questions were answered in a follow-up that included Ewoks, but it took some time for that to happen. In between that then and the then that was walking out of the movie on that day in May made movie-making history and changed the culture of imagination forever.

 

That is why on this day, I say:

May the 4th be with you …

 

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