Sunday, 19 August 2012

Blond Bimbo Bondage Bitches

The Province of British Columbia has introduced yet more anti-smoking legislation. Since the end of March it has been illegal for any establishment to display cigarettes if children under the age of 19 are allowed on the premises. Cigarettes are now kept out of sight in locked cabinets. The cabinets are only opened when someone purchases a package then the clerk has to open it, of course, to get them out. I don't know if there is a fine imposed if a child happens to see a package of smokes in that 30 second maneuver.

Yes, I know. It seems like a ridiculous law. Does our legislature really believe that by keeping kids from seeing cigarettes on store shelves they are going to stop them from taking up smoking? Kids don't see marajuana for sale on store shelves either but they still know about it and find where it can be bought.

I went to my neighborhood gas bar to buy a pack of smokes this morning. The clerk opened up the cabinet, momentarily showing all the various brands for sale, and got the Players Light I had requested. There were no children there. Children do not normally frequent gas bars but God knows you can't take a chance that seeing a package of Export A's might set some child off onto a course of life long smoking. Of course, they aren't Player's Light any longer. The last round of anti-smoking legislation determined that calling any cigarette 'Light' was deceptive and made people think they were safer than non-light brands. Now I know there are a lot of people who think we smokers are stupid but I have never yet known a smoker to walk up to a counter and ask for one of those 'less dangerous' light brands. We know smoking is dangerous! We choose a brand for its taste. And, here is a hint for all those do-gooders in Victoria and Ottawa. Nobody asks for them by the new name you have forced on the manufactures. No one asks for Player's Rich. Everyone still asks for Player's Light and lo and behold, the clerks still know what we want.

Please understand. I am not defending smoking. I am not suggesting that we should not be doing all we can to prevent children from taking up the habit. It is just that making retail outlets hide the smokes behind locked cabinets is just plain stupid. Hello. The kids still know they are there and they still know they are cigarettes. Maybe the next round of legislation will require smokers must smoke in a locked cabinet.

Like corner stores everywhere this one has a magazine rack with the usual assortment of crossword books for the women and car, hunting and fishing, and skin magazines for the men with the regular assortment: Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse, Club and many others. Prominently displayed this morning was a magazine titled Busty Bondage Babes. It pictured a scantily clad young thing with a ball gag in her mouth trussed up like a chicken. Beside that was one titled Bitches In Heat.

I think I am beginning to understand. We must prevent children from even seeing a package of cigarettes but it is okay to expose them to twisted sex that may scar them for life.

Bars and nightclubs are exempt from the new legislation, of course, since no one under 19 may enter them. Cigarettes are on open display but, of course, you can't smoke them there. You must go outside to smoke and, again, under the new legislation it is now illegal to smoke within 10 feet of any doorway to a public establishment lest someone accidently inhale second hand smoke. Never mind that WHO, The World Health Organization, not long ago issued a paper stating that in spite of all the hype there is zero evidence that second hand smoke has any ill health effects.

I live in a town with two pulp mills spewing out emissions that blanket this city in a haze. I worked in the pulp and paper industry for 28 years. I know what is in those emissions. I know that the paper industry has to pay the province for every tonne of every different chemical they emit. The province gets rich while pulp and paper communities have the highest rates of cancer in the province.

I guess the new legislation to prevent the chance of someone inhaling a wisp of second hand smoke is to divert their attention from the dioxins, hydrogen sulfide, methanol, acetone, methyl mercaptan and others they are inhaling from the pulp and paper industry just as I am sure that it is more important to keep a child from seeing cigarettes being sold then it is to keep them from seeing some blond tied up with tits to the breeze being poked with a cattle prod.

Give me a break.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 7, 2008)

Lamed-Vovnik (The Just Men)

Hasidic literature is among the most beautiful literature in the world and no tale is more beautiful and heart-wrenching than the story of the Lamed-Vovnik, the Just Men. I first discovered the Lamed-Vovnik when I read Andre Schwarz-Bart's Prix Goncourt winning book, The Last of the Just in 1967.

I seldom read inspirational books but not long ago I happened to pick up Naomi Remen's national bestseller, My Grandfather's Blessing, and was delighted to see she offered her remembrance of first learning of the Just Men. Speaking of her grandfather she says:

"The story he told me is very old and dates from the time of the prophet Issiah. It is the legend of the Lamed-Vov. In this story, God tells us that He will allow the world to continue as long as at any given time there is a minimum of thirty-six good people in the human race. People who are capable of responding to the suffering that is part of the human condition. These thirty-six are are called the Lamed-Vov. If at any time, there are fewer than thirty-six such people alive, the world will come to an end.

"Do you know who these people are, Grandpa?" I asked, certain that he would say "Yes." But he shook his head. "No, Neshume-le," he told me. "Only God knows who the Lamed-Vovniks are. Even the Lamed-Vovniks themselves do not know for sure the role they have in the continuation of the world, and no one else knows it either. They respond to suffering, not in order to save the world but simply because the suffering of others touches them and matters to them."

It turned out that Lamed-Vovniks could be tailors or college professors, millionaires or paupers, powerful leaders or powerless victims. These things were not important. What mattered was only their capacity to feel the collective suffering of the human race and respond to the suffering around them. "And because no one knows who they are, Neshume-le, anyone you meet might be one of the thirty-six for whom God preserves the world," my grandfather said. "It is important to treat everyone as if this might be so."

I sat and thought about this story for a long time. It was different than Noah's Ark. The rainbow meant that there would be a happily-ever-after, just as in the stories my father read to me at bedtime. But Grandpa's story made no such promises. God asked something of people in return for the gift of life, and He was asking it still.

Suddenly, I realized I had no idea what it was. If so much depended on it, it must be something very hard, something that required a great sacrifice. What if the Lamed-Vovniks could not do it? What then?" "How do the Lamed-Vovniks respond to suffering, Grandpa?" I asked, suddenly anxious. "What do they have to do?" My grandfather smiled at me very tenderly. "Ah Neshume-li," he told me. "They do not have to do anything. They respond to all suffering with compassion. Without compassion the world cannot continue. Our compassion blesses and sustains the world." "
In his El Libro de los Borges, Argentinean writer Juan Luis Borges tells the story like this.

"There are in the world, and have always been, 36 righteous men whose mission is to justify the world to God. They are very poor, and do not know one another. If one of them reaches the realization that he is a Lamed Wufnik, he dies immediately and is replaced by someone else, perhaps in another part of the world. They constitute the secret pillars of the universe. Were it not for them, the Lord would annihilate the human race. They are our saviours and they know it not."
For over forty years I have considered The Last of the Just the best book I have ever read. Reading Naomi Remen's account took me back there to reread this incredible work. I read it in English, of course. I cannot imagine how beautiful Le dernier des Justes would have been in French. It doesn't matter the language though. I weep enough in English. Schwarz-Bart wrote:

"RIVERS OF BLOOD HAVE FLOWED, columns of smoke have obscured the sky, but surviving all these dooms, the tradition has remained inviolate down to our own time. According to it, the world reposes upon thirty-six Just Men, the Lamed-Vov, indistinguishable from simple mortals; often they are unaware of their station. But if just one of them were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.Thousands of popular stories take note of them. Their presence is attested to everywhere. A very old text of the Haggadah tells us that the most pitiable are the Lamed-Vov who remain unknown to themselves. For those the spectacle of the world is an unspeakable hell.

In the seventh century, Andalusian Jews venerated a rock shaped like a teardrop, which they believed to be the soul, petrified by suffering, of an 'unknown' Lamed-Vovnik. Other Lamed-Vov, like Hecuba shrieking at the death of her sons, are said to have been transformed into dogs.

When an unknown Just rises to Heaven, a Hasidic story goes, he is so frozen that God must warm him for a thousand years between His fingers before his soul can open itself to Paradise. And it is known that some remain forever inconsolable at human woe, so that God Himself cannot warm them. So from time to time the Creator, blessed be His Name, sets forward the clock of the Last Judgment by one minute."
I will leave you with another Hasidic tale as told by my favorite author, holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner, Elie Wiesel.

"When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted. Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer." And again the miracle would be accomplished. Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: "I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient. 
God made man because he loves stories. "
Keep telling your stories.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 4, 2008)

Book Review: The Last of the Just

Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Author: Andre Schwarz-Bart
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

For over forty years The Last of the Just has been my favorite book of all time. I recently reread this heart-wrenching story. Forty-one years later it still makes me cry. If you haven't this this you owe it to yourself to do so. It is considered by many to be the greatest single literary monument to Jewish persecution that has ever been written.

"On March 11, 1185, in the old city of York, hundreds of Jews were brutally massacred by their townsmen. A group of families, taking refuge in an abandoned tower, decides to commit suicide rather than allow themselves to be slaughtered. As legend has it, God blessed the only survivor of this medieval pogrom, the infant son of Rabbi Yom Tom Levy, as one of the thirty-six Just Men of Jewish tradition who shoulder the burden of humanity's suffering so that mankind can survive. The blessing extends to one Levy of each generation and sets in motion an epic tracing the history of these righteous men over eight centuries against a stunning historical canvas, from the Spanish Inquisition to successive expulsions throughout Europe to twentieth century German. As Hitler's sinister star is one the rise and the agonies of Auschwitz loom, Ernie Levy, the last of the Just, emerges, in this haunting narrative of the Jewish experience."

Click Here to purchase this book.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 4, 2008)

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Genre:  Literature & Fiction
Author: Moshin Hamid
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I haven't read very much fiction in the last year. I haven't been able to find anything worth reading. I suppose I wasn't looking hard enough.
Moshin Hamid's novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Frankly, it is difficult to understand how this taunt, sharply tense, remarkable book didn't win.

Valerie Ryan at Amazon says:

"Told in a single monologue, the narrative never flags. Changez is by turns naive, sinister, unctuous, mildly threatening, overbearing, insulting, angry, resentful, and sad. He tells his story to a nameless, mysterious American who sits across from him at a Lahore cafe. Educated at Princeton, employed by a first-rate valuation firm, Changez was living the American dream, earning more money than he thought possible, caught up in the New York social scene and in love with a beautiful, wealthy, damaged girl. The romance is negligible; Erica is emotionally unavailable, endlessly grieving the death of her lifelong friend and boyfriend, Chris. Changez is in Manila on 9/11 and sees the towers come down on TV. He tells the American, "...I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased... I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees..." When he returns to New York, there is a palpable change in attitudes toward him, starting right at immigration. His name and his face render him suspect.

Ongoing trouble between Pakistan and India urge Changez to return home for a visit, despite his parents' advice to stay where he is. While there, he realizes that he has changed in a way that shames him. "I was struck at first by how shabby our house appeared... I was saddened to find it in such a state... This was where I came from... and it smacked of lowliness." He exorcises that feeling and once again appreciates his home for its "unmistakable personality and idiosyncratic charm." While at home, he lets his beard grow. Advised to shave it, even by his mother, he refuses. It will be his line in the sand, his statement about who he is. His company sends him to Chile for another business valuation; his mind filled with the troubles in Pakistan and the U.S. involvement with India that keeps the pressure on. His work and the money he earns have been overtaken by resentment of the United States and all it stands for.

Hamid's prose is filled with insight, subtly delivered: "I felt my age: an almost childlike twenty-two, rather than that permanent middle-age that attaches itself to the man who lives alone and supports himself by wearing a suit in a city not of his birth." In telling of the janissaries, Christian boys captured by Ottomans and trained to be soldiers in the Muslim Army, his Chilean host tells him: "The janissaries were always taken in childhood. It would have been far more difficult to devote themselves to their adopted empire, you see, if they had memories they could not forget." Changez cannot forget, and Hamid makes the reader understand that--and all that follows."

There is a lesson here for Westerners, perhaps, although subtly delivered, that we should pay heed to. Hamid in an interview said, "The dangerousness of nostalgia is a central theme in the novel. Changez is nostalgic for Pakistan. His girlfriend Erica is nostalgic for her dead ex-boyfriend. We live in a world that is changing more and more rapidly, and the desire to look back with longing is growing more and more strong. But we can't return to the past and it is dangerous to try. No matter how much some politicians would like to cast America in the same role that the country played in the Second World War, the comparison is false and harmful. Similarly, the idea some Muslim radicals espouse of taking us back to a medieval golden age of Islam is destructive and misguided. But even though nostalgia can never be a solution to our problems, it is highly contagious, and Changez, despite all his success in America, finds that he is not immune."

The suspense builds to the final page ... and beyond. Asked if he had always intended the book to end as it does the author stated, " It was always intended to end as it does. For me, the reader is a character in a novel, and the way one reads it shapes the outcome. So a reader who is more suspicious of Pakistanis might read it differently from one who is more suspicious of Americans. But it is the fear we are all being fed, the sense that something menacing lurks in the shadows of our world, that has the potential to make the novel a thriller. In reality, we should be much less frightened of our world than we are. When two people meet and disagree on this planet, the result is almost invariably a conversation--nothing more and nothing less."

An expertly crafted book.

Purchase Now (Click Link)

(Originally posted to Multiply May 3, 2008)

Book Review: Thich Nhat Hanh: Essential Writings

Genre:  Religion & Spirituality
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

For those who have never read Thich Nhat Hanh, this is a delightful starting point. For those who have read him before, this is an excellent reminder of the teachings of this gentle, Buddhist monk.

"Thay" has the ability to simplify difficult teachings of the dharma. But, more than that, it is his ability to so clearly light the path to awakening that makes this Zen Master such a joy to read. "Life exists only in the present moment. To lose the present is to lose life."

Like the Dalai Lama, Thay may well be a living Buddha. His kindness and compassion are so evident in his writings that I am always uplifted whenever I open one of his books.

Don't miss this. It could be the book that opens your heart to the light of life.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 2, 2008)

Why I Don't Do Tools

Tess asked me to fix the faucet on her bathroom sink. It had broken and wouldn't turn off. It is one of those fancy single handle, space-age looking things. No problem. This is the second time it has broken but it has a life-time warranty. It is just a matter of replacing the cartridge which is free at any Moen dealer.

I grabbed all the required tools and got ready to play plumber.  It should have been just a forty-five minute job but I should have known it wouldn't be that easy. Nothing is ever that easy.

I couldn't get the handle of the faucet off to get to the cartridge. None of the allen keys were the right size. Bells started ringing in my head telling me I had this problem the last time also put I couldn't quite remember the details. I was missing one size of allen key, of course, so I went off to the hardware store to get that size and go back to the house. One allen key, $1.75.

Guess what? That key wouldn't fit either. Right then. Now I remember. This is an odd size peculiar to Moen. I grabbed the wrenches and crawled under the sink and remove the faucet and off  I went to the plumbing supply store since they would have the key and I would have to get the new cartridge from them anyway.

The plumbing people were able to get the handle off but the problem was more than just the cartridge this time and I would need a new faucet. No one in town handled Moen any longer and unless I wished to drive to the city for the warranty replacement, I would have to purchase a new one. They had one, naturally, which they claimed was identical, $64.95.

With new faucet in hand I returned to install the new faucet only to discover it wasn't identical. The existing drop lines to the water taps were too short so it was back in the car to a third hardware store for two new plastic drop lines, $6.99, then back to Tess's where, immediately, I cut the first one too short. I would have laughed but at the precise instance the mirror door to the vanity dropped off the hinge and shattered all over the floor.

So, it was back to the hardware store where, wiser, I purchased two stainless steel flexible drop lines, $18,99, and then went on to the glass shop to have a new mirror door made, ready tomorrow, $45.09.

The water was back on in the bathroom at 5:00 P.M. My forty-five minute job took three and a half hours (plus whatever time it will take to put the door back on tomorrow) and cost $137.77 in parts and probably another $20 is gasoline which hit $1.319 a litre ($4.95 per gallon) here today.

I should probably have known better. Tools and I just do not mix. Last year I helped father punch a hole through the basement wall with a hammer drill. The hammer drill jammed and kicked back into my face shattering my glasses, $450.00, and breaking my orbital socket. Here in Canada the resultant examinations by an eye doctor and physician didn't cost anything although the months worth of Percocets set me back another $58.00.

The next time a repair job needs done I am just going to hire the appropriate tradesman. It would certainly be cheaper than getting me to do it.

(Originally posted to Multiply May 2, 2008)