Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Departure from this LIfe of Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden...

 The Apparently Unanticipated Departure of Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden from this Life and World Whilst Enjoying the Cozying Pleasures of Pornography: Death of a Malevolent Grandpa.

   In the relative cool of the early night, in Abbottabad, a moderate-sized city of a bit under one million residents, about the same number as you would find in San Jose, California, a T.V. set threw its flickering light on the walls of a shabby, threadbare room and, upon its sole occupant, an elderly- seeming man, grey-bearded, hunched forward upon a throw pillow. Eyes riveted to the images displayed on the old, coat- hanger- for- an- antennae- technology television before him, with its myriad of electric cords binding together a small array of electronic devices, he saw and heard nothing but himself, a few years younger, standing tall, beard darkened, his eyes vigorous and alert, looking softly into hell as he called upon his followers to wreak havoc on those he had so often deemed, and thus declared, to be the minions of evil.
   Abbottabad, a city whose main industry is its military institutions, with multitudes of officers, active and retired, a mere thirty-one miles north-east of Pakistan’s capitol city of Islamabad, where the common language is Hindko, and whose only professional sports team is the cricket- playing Abbottabad Falcons, had harbored the world’s “most wanted” man, probably for several years.
   Ironic, for certain, that he would take his refuge, not in the harsh, romanticized mountains of Tora Bora, where the major floral growth is poppy flowers for opium, and, scraggly jihad beards, but in a city founded in the mid-1800s by then Major James Abbott, a member of the British Raj, and author of the poem Abbottabad in its (his??) honor. Possibly the most horrid, sappy, honey-dripping poem in the English language other than Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, Abbottabad, the poem, stands forever as a less-than-grand example of the lasting cataclysmic effects of colonialism on culture.
   But I digress. It happens. Actually, rather frequently.
   What, you ask, sagely, could so distract this wily, ever-alert leader of hordes of jihadists from the sounds of a very large helicopter crashing down into his eighteen foot high walled-in compound with barbed wire trim, and no internet connections or phone lines?
   Well, apparently, when he wasn’t rocking back and forth, mesmerized by his own days-gone-by image and memories of murders undertaken, he took further refuge in the pornographic images stored on several of the compound’s computers. The man who had condemned America for “ selling your daughters with no clothes on without shame in order to sell your products”, sat now, in the warm embrace of Pakistan’s military heart, warmly embracing himself, visually and venially, and failed to notice, until just a bit too late, that a wife lay before him and a bullet had unceremoniously entered his head.
   Oh, Abbattobad, we are leaving you now
   To your natural beauty I do bow.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Not-So-Very-Mysterious Life of a Grain of Yeast: Quest for Perfection

       The Not-So-Very Mysterious Life of a Grain of Yeast:
                               Quest for Perfection                                            

       So, I got it into my head that I would tell the story of the life of a grain of yeast, and that in order to do so I would need to actually measure a grain. Not overly clear about what I’d be measuring exactly: its size, its height, weight, mass, density, hardness of outer casing (whatever that may be), permeability (because a 6 syllable word is always fun), color, reflectivity, its very yeastness.
   Fact is, it doesn’t have much of any of that. Except, perhaps, the yeastness bit. Other fact is, I lack any nano devices able to examine objects so amazingly small. I attempted to weigh one teensy gram of instant yeast on a glass-topped baking scale. One gram is, for certain, the smallest unit of anything you or I will ever need to measure out for any purpose in our lives.
   Ever peep a grain of yeast? It’s the color of a single camel hair, bleached by the sun. Not bright, just camel. Bleached. I’ve now poured some into a mini-baking cup, the very small ones I use for Chocolate Cheesecake bites. I’m thinking I might have one- tenth of a gram. Maybe. And in that ten percent of a gram you can see quantities, such that thoughts roaming toward the countless grains-of-sand on the beach, or stars- in- the- universe kind of hyperbole  seem not at all perverse.
   Oh, smell! Nearly forgot to scrutinize the smell! It’s basically, discernibly, yeasty. If you’re unfamiliar, $2.39 will getcha some, instant, in a vacuum-sealed bag at Smart n’ Final. It’s a pleasing smell, wholesome, rich, promising. Just don’t snort it.
   So, there they sit, scribillions of the bitsy suckers, at the bottom of the cup, gazing up at me, as might the countless denizens of an infinitesimally small world, staring in awe at the reigning demi-god, not at all sure where they’re headed.
   And of course, you have, this very second, said,” Pshaw”, or your personal equivalent, to proclaim your disbelief that you just read that yeast might feel, and perhaps, express, concerns about their immediate future(s).  
   But are we not examining the life of a grain of yeast? And is not one of the most telling qualities of life the ability to reflect, to some degree, upon one’s own existence. So, for the purpose of this happy reflection, we shall, henceforth, accept as indubitable truth, that this single, singular, miniscule grain of yeast, can reason and reflect!
   Upon what, you may, and should, well inquire, might this insignificant living entity dwell? What deep thoughts waft through its reflective pools of contemplation?
   It would, in the truest Dulce et Decorum mode, seem only sweet and fitting for our little yeastling, whom we shall call by his given name, Kor, to undertake deepest thought and ultimately to surrender his life to his raison de etre, the creation of the Kwisatz Haderach , the ultimate, the finality, the uber bread!
   Basically, yeast, including Kor, do for bread what money and sexual conquest do for the human ego: puff it way the hell up!
   Yeast, when properly handled and used, acting as a leavener, causes a bread to rise, becoming in short time, an object of olfactory and culinary delight. When improperly employed, or when heated beyond 125 degrees, or when cooled to the point of dormancy, or when tainted by direct contact with salt, when any or all of these, or other, adverse conditions come into the mix, yeast will fail to leaven the bread.
   Little Kor knows this instinctively, with a deep intuitive wisdom, passed down from matriarchal ancestors for untold millennia. (A deeper examination of yeast genetics and heraldic coats of arms may someday appear in a further scientifically and historically mangled accounting).  Pretty much any damned thing could royally screw up his mission, so he undertakes to be THE most effective, leaven-producing yeast unit in the only way he can imagine.
   He allows the other yeastlings in the mix to get themselves all stirred up, moving in a near-violent swarm, burrowing deep into the flour as it begins to glutenize, or frothing mightily in the tepid water to bloom, like brown pond scum bobbing upon the surface of the water in the mixing bowl.
   These energetic yeast, he full-well knows, will soon expire from their frantic exertions, rendering them incapable of exhaling their potent, gluten-expanding, air pocket- creating breath into the loaf.    
   He sits. Holds back. Waits patiently for his fellow yeasties to fail from their exhaustive labors. HE and he alone will be THE ONE. By dint of HIS prodigious genius and mighty puffy powers shall THIS loaf rise to the never-before-attained status of the KWISATCH HADERACH OF ALL BREADS  EVER!
   The Demi-God, Chef by name, to whom Kor and the other yeastly minions have long bobbed in supplication, now swoops down from above, scooping the shaggy dough deep from within the mixer, to be punched and rounded prior to fermenting.
   Alas, the ferment will take place without our little friend, who, having most successfully held back from the seething, bleached camel haired masses striving for perfection, sits forlornly on the rim of the bowl, having been missed in the heavenly scoop!
   Kor dies ten minutes later, victim of the heat from the bakery’s dishwasher.
   Moral of our narrative: Good shit will not happen if you sit back on your ass waiting and wishing. Not even for a grain of yeast.
   And, you know you counted the syllables earlier!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

First Blogs First

I've BEEN wanting to BLOG. You know, throw all my mental ramblings into the NETherworld and let others entertain themselves with it all as they choose. I've decided to name it: G.I.M.M.I.E., Good In My Mind's Eye. Having long since wearied of the standard "NEWS AT 11" world of murder and mahyem, I thought I'd spend my ramblin' time and energy on those matters which seem to me to be praiswworthy and ultimately, redemptive.
I invite you, if you have made this brief journey with me, to offer up any comments, notes, observations, or items of agreement or disagreement as you deem fit, funny or fantastic. I do, however, insist that if you find my musings to be egregious and just plain stupid, that you share your thoughts in a distinctly courteous manner. It's always OK to disagree. It is NEVER OK to be disagreeable.
That's it. The ground rules. I blabber. You get your say. Heckfire, this could even become a conversation.
I've decided to pst, as my first-ever blog, an essay written a while back. Don't let the sub-title or first few lines throw you. It's ultimately ALL about redemption

                                                  Sage Against the Machine:
                                    A Set of Snarly Reflections on the State of Things in General

So, I’d like to do that very thing against which I so often complain, namely… complain. And it serves us all well, I believe, that I take special pains to eschew the voice of an elder who, looking aghast at the misbehavior and slackness of youth, pines for the better days of his own youth, or times more distant.
In the eleventh century, Ch’eng Hao, a philosopher during the reign of Sung Dynasty Emperor Sheng-tsung, wrote and presented to the emperor, an essay titled Ten Matters Calling for Reform. In this treatise, Ch’eng largely outlined those societal issues which he believed stood most sorely in need of amendment. None of Ch’eng’s issues would surprise any of us today. He stated that the Sage Kings had established laws based on human feelings and the proper order of things. He also noted that although laws change naturally into systems suited to current conditions, there remain, nonetheless, certain underlying fundamental societal principles, which, directed toward the good of all, never change.
            The first of these principles is the need for all classes, from the Sun King to the commoners, to have teachers in order to perfect their virtue. In his time, Ch’eng believed that this role was no longer filled, leading to the loss of respect for virtue and the enjoyment of doing one’s job well.
            His list of concerns includes government appointments not being made based on competence, and education failing to inculcate clear, moral obligations. He further stated that the arrogant display of military power had exhausted the national resources.
            Ch’eng also noted that natural resources, such as the fish in the streams and the beasts in the field, were being cut short in their abundance.
            Throw in a few observations about loss of proper ritual, and food and land distribution, and you pretty much get the picture.
            Our picture.

            Mind you, Ch’eng held out hope for reforms which could be put into practice.
Hence, his hopeful submission to the King.

            I  served for twelve years as Dean of Students at a northern California high school. All things considered, a fairly good one.  Good kids, good staff. Great view of the hills.
            And day following day, I found myself in contact with people, while seeing others in the news, about whom Ch’eng might easily rail.
            The thing that got me snarly the other day was the piece about the middle school students on Long Island who beat another girl badly, while the beating was being video phoned.
            I’ve not gone out of my way to garner a whit more information on this incident. Don’t need to really. I’d seen enough Jerry Springer-like behavior on my day job. This mostly involved parents who told me that I was picking on their kids, for no good reason. Or, that I’d lowered their self-esteem by indicating that something may be amiss with their current behavior.

            I fear greatly for this generation. Not that they don’t often read, or spend time examining the world around them, as much as  they are lacking diligent elders to school them in the ways of virtue, or the joys of a job well done.

            All of this puts me in mind of King Lear and Mickey Mouse.
            Lear, sighing at his aching bones, readily gave the keys and prerogatives of power to those who were neither ready, nor worthy. The end result, as so often occurs in Shakespearean tragedies, is that at the end of the story, everybody’s dead.
            His kids simply had not been prepared to assume responsibility.
            In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey blithely creates chaos by animating a horde of angry mops, which make a serious mess of the castle. Enter the Sorcerer, grim and unsmiling, to set things aright, and whack Mickey in the rear with a soggy mop. Linger a moment, or pause the video and look at the Sorcerer’s eyes. You’ll see the affection, and the hope the Sorcerer has, for his not-yet-worthy apprentice.
            Today, I had lunch with my brother, his wife and identical four- year old twin boys. Their sister was in her 2nd grade class, and unable to join.  I asked her dad to tell her that I would make up the missed lunch to her. She later told her mother, that I didn’t have to do anything for her, that she already knew I loved her.
            A seven year old who doesn’t demand “stuff”.
            Who understands the deeper meaning of the word, no.
            Who will never be seen on a video- phone treating another person badly.
            Who will, someday, be worthy of receiving the keys.
            Whose elders have raised her well.

            Ch’eng would be pleased.