by Gilles d'Aymery
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again."
—André Gide, Le Traité du Narcisse, 1891.
(Swans - April 25, 2005) Am I the only one lost in la-la land?
STORIES IN CONTRAST: "Uíge, Angola, April 16 - For nearly four weeks, teams of health experts have been trying to set up a rescue operation in this town of windowless, crumbling buildings with no running water, intermittent electricity, poor sanitation and a perennially jammed telephone network.
"They are trying to contain the worst outbreak of one of the world's most frightening viruses, known as Marburg [a cousin of Ebola]." (The New York Times, April 17, 2005, front page, "Stalking a Deadly Virus, Battling a Town's fear," Sharon LaFraniere and Denise Grady.)
On page 6, the reporters further elaborate on the horrific spread of the deadly Marburg virus that has killed some 300 villagers and international health workers (doctors and nurses) indiscriminately, and inform that "Even now, health experts say, Angola's government has failed to mount a full-scale response to the epidemic..."
Next to that article, on the same page, Celia W. Dugger reports that a "Deal to Ease Poor Nations' Debt Eludes Rich Nations." "The world's richest nations failed to reach a deal to forgive $40 billion in debt owned by the world's poorest nations..."
Meanwhile the happy few who happen to own a Rolls-Royce Phantom (sticker price: $332,750) can order a set of car wheels from the Lexani Wheel Corporation of Yorba Linda, Calif., for a mere $250,000. As Brendan I. Koerner notes in "If Hubcaps Just Don't Do It For You" (NYT, Sunday Business, April 17, 2005, page 2), "A $250,000 set of car wheels decked out in 63,000 carats -- almost 28 pounds -- of cubic zirconia certainly qualifies as ostentatious, even by the flamboyant standards of the $3.3 billion custom-wheels industry." One set has already been bought...
I can see your eyes rolling and your head spinning...you simply can't believe it, right? Need a breather? Why not a visit to Molokai, the little-known Hawaiian island "of splendid isolation?" There you could stay at the Lodge of the Molokai Ranch. A room with a view (of the ocean) will set you back a mere $478 a night (that's pennies on the dollar). Think about wedding there? They have a Bliss package for $15,888. Don't forget to pack your $635 pair of Evisu limited edition jeans...
(Pardon me: With regard to Molokai, I feel the urgent compulsion to open a parenthesis, but not wanting to digress from my train of thought, I'll append it further below, so that you may carry on, unencumbered, with the stories in contrast.)
Or perhaps, being more spiritually minded, you'd rather enjoy cooking-to-order -- prepared by a massage therapist who "offers conventional and water massage in a heated pool." For this, you'll need to stay at Ramashala ("a light-filled tropical manor where simplicity and grandeur co-exist. Made up of three interconnecting Balinese-style hexagons linked by a magical covered bridge, Ramashala is nestled behind a private bamboo gate and surrounded by serene meditation gardens -- a soothing environment for renewal, rest and reconnection," according to their Web site. You can "Plan a personalized healing retreat with the expert guidance of Wellness Coordinator, Bhakti Rinzler" and receive "Massage, reflexology and energy balancing," so as to "deeply unwind," with of course gourmet organic food), in the Coastal Kehena area of Pahoa, in non-tourist Hawaii -- on the Big Island (Pahoa is also famous for providing residence to our very Milo Clark!). As a spiritual retreat, with Yoga studio, one-thousand-square-foot Prana cottage, filled with Balinese furniture, "gated by more than 60 hand-carved doors made by Balinese artisans" [paid about $2 a day for their craft] you'll fork $1,000 a night during the high season. (See Bob Tedesh, "Secluded Retreats on the Big Island," NYT, Travel Section, April 17, 2005, page 11, and the Ramashala Web site.) Don't hesitate; fulfill your dream; hear the "subtle desires of your soul"; you deserve it!
Or you may prefer to enjoy old European charms in the Big Apple, where $1,000 will afford you, more or less, one night in a Deluxe room at The Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue at 61st Street, American breakfast included (and possibly a bottle of fine Chardonnay). When there, give a call to either Elizabeth Lee Sample or Brenda Powers of the renown real estate agency for the rich and famous, Brown Harris Stevens, to arrange a visit to The Pierre Penthouse which is on the market (check Listing ID: 364979). A triplex with 16 rooms, 5 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, 5 wood burning fireplaces, a library, eat-in kitchen, 4 terraces, doorman, attended lobby, concierge, elevator attendant, health club, 360-degree views of Manhattan, and, according to the description, a "living room [that] is considered the most magnificent privately owned room in the world. This incredible space was the original ball room at The Pierre Hotel, with 23 foot high curved ceiling and 20 foot French doors overlooking the park and the city. Four adjoining terraces add to its phenomenal dimensions. This is without question the most important and spectacular penthouse in the world." Here, you can read a full description of this French Château. You can have it all for a paltry $70 million -- that's 70,000,000 USD (what's all this rambling about housing bubble, I hear?). Expect to pay $47,767 for maintenance/CC, and an estimated $30,000+ monthly real estate tax (now you know why the rich deserve tax cuts, and why the estate tax, which so harshly hurts the poor, should be abolished! Come on DeLay, come on DeLay, come on...).
Somewhere else, far from our daily concerns and gratifications, away from the Angolan Marburg virus and the earthly pleasures of the happy few, the Avian Influenza A -- H5N1 (bird flu) -- keeps raising its ugly head in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and counting...a disaster of unfathomable proportion is in the making... Meanwhile, a US lab "accidentally" sent to labs around the world 3,000 influenza test kits containing the virus responsible for the 1957 Asian flu pandemic which killed approximately two million people worldwide... We have a danger of monstrous proportion knocking on our door steps -- all door steps -- and away we go, blindingly walking in la-la land...
And, by the way, in la-la land, of which Los Angeles is a fair representation and only one sample among many, over 50 percent of blacks and Latinos, and one-third of whites don't even graduate from the public school system, aka the dropout factory...
No problem, you'll say, the US military that keeps our freedoms safe, from Hawaii to The Pierre, and a zirconia-loaded set of wheels, by waging war on the terrooorists, will also keep us (and the world) safe from Marburg, Ebola, and H5N1. You can count on it. Trouble ahead? Send the Marines (or the police, as in L.A.), and have the naive do-gooders à la Marla Ruzicka make us feel good, and sad, and hopeful, and miserable, and what the heck, I deserve a respite in Hawaii or at The Pierre, and who cares, it's all the same f****** s*** anyway, right? Have you paid your taxes lately?
Or, maybe, you'll count on the latest head of the Roman Catholic gerontocratic hagiocracy to pray the troubles away...
Or you are a believer in the rapture and that only the non-believers will be exterminated (something DeLay is familiar with)...
Or, like Ahhnold of Golden State fame, you'll say, "Close the borders. Close the borders in California, and all across Mexico and the United States..."
Or, it's so overwhelming to one's sense of decency (or latency), so disturbing to one's latest spiritual trip to an earthy nirvana, and one's inability (or unwillingness) to grasp the whole mess and respond to it, that all of the sudden ostriches are deemed redemptive animals, whose behavior is worth emulating... a response of sort, I suppose...
Perhaps, it's worth repeating my initial question: Am I the only one lost in la-la land?
QUOTATION FOR THE AGES: "This system cannot be stopped by force. It is violent and ruthless beyond the capacity of any people's resistance movement. The only way I can even imagine stopping it is through massive non-cooperation."
--Judi Barry (1949-1997), cited in Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World.
THE ROMAN FAITH-BASED MASQUERADE prompted Bill Blum to conclude his monthly "Anti-Empire Report" (#20, April 19, 2005) with a few witty remarks and relevant, if slightly irreverent questions:
Word from Rome was that the favorite to become the new pope had been Cardinal Giusseppe Sicola of Italy. But his candidacy failed because other cardinals were reluctant to have a Pope Sicola.
I would love to have been in heaven to see the pope's face when he discovered that there was no God. As some people would love to see my face in heaven as I was confronted by God. The difference is that John Paul would be terribly shocked, while I would be thrilled, although I'd have a number of questions to ask the Lord: 1) Who do you admire more -- the believer who goes to church and does good deeds because he hopes to be rewarded by you or at least not be punished by you, or the atheist who works to enhance human rights because that's the kind of society he wants to live in and not because he'll be judged in some future life by you? 2) Do you recognize al Qaeda as a faith-based initiative? 3) Why did you allow John Paul to work against liberation theology in Latin America? 4) How did this world become so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid? Did it reach this stage by chance, by -- you'll pardon the expression -- evolution, or did you plan it this way? Or did the devil make you do it? 5) Is it true that if you wanted us to go naked, we wouldn't have been born with clothing on?
(As usual, you can read Blum's Anti-Empire Reports on Bill Blum's Web site, at http://www.killinghope.org/.)
NOT THAT IT GREATLY MATTERS, but for those who are intrigued by the interim PopyStar -- at 78, we are really talking about an interregnum here -- and wish to better grasp the personality of BXVI, away from the hagiographic commentaries distilled by the media, I'd recommend two good reads: first, an April 16, 1999 article, "The Vatican's Enforcer," by Staff writer John N. Allen, Jr. for the National Catholic Reporter, which provides a few lights on this controversial man; and, second, a more recent (April 17, 2005) and curtly opinion from São Paulo, Brazil, "Cardinal Ratzinger 'odious'." As said, not that it greatly matters, but "The Vatican's Enforcer" is worth a little détour...
AMERICAN FAITH-BASED EDUCATION: Latest Virgin Mary sighting: April 10, 2005, Fullerton Avenue underpass, Chicago, Illinois. Mary, it appears, chose a salt stain on the concrete wall of the underpass as her latest residence. (Will the resale value of Mary's previous abode -- a sandwich, remember -- now decline?) "Obdulia Delgado said she was driving home along Fullerton Avenue on April 10 after getting off work at St. Elizabeth Hospital when she saw what she believes to be the Virgin Mary on the wall. She quickly pulled over and examined the form, and then began praying." Delgado and her husband, Fidel, talked to their priest about the apparition. "The priest told the Delgados that the image should be seen as a positive aspect of their lives..." Other statements made include: "'When you come down here -- that's why I wanted to come down here and see for myself -- when you come down here and you see it, it's real,' said Joanne Grablik, of Inverness." "It is beautiful." "It's a miracle." "'We're here because the Virgin Mary is on the wall, and she's inside the wall, and we were just curious, but at the same time we're scared, wondering why she's there and what the meaning is of her being there,' Annette Byrd said." "'If this is something that is going to help someone have faith, then that's great,' said Irma Elderado, of Chicago." (Source: NBC5.com) Question: Are the graduation rates of the Chicago public school system similar to those of Los Angeles? (see supra.)
AMERICAN COMPASSION (example thereof...): Inmates Probably Conscious During Lethal Injections . . . . . . . . . . . No further comment.
AH, YES, MY PARENTHESIS: I'd call it, "CARRYING THE AGENDA OF CORPORATE INTERESTS IN DISGUISE." Molokai Island was the lead story in the Travel Section of the NYT, April 17, 2005 -- "On Molokai, A Land Faithful To Its Roots," written by Adam Nagourney. Here is a perfect example of how a NYT article can be highly deceptive -- or the author and editors are "useful idiots"... take your pick. Adam Nagourney emphasizes the isolation and the Hawaiian culture and ownership of the island. He cites a local anti-tourism or low-tourism activist as saying, in reference to Waikiki, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island, "They've given our best resources to the tourism industry and asked us to change the sheets. We've lost our cultural resources all because of this huge money-making thing called tourism." A picture in the article shows a sign that reads: "Visitors are welcome. Visitors go home. Molokai is not for sale." Nagourney waxes romantic about the primal condition of the island, and how much he and his partner, Ben, fell in love with the place -- no traffic lights, no Starbucks, just two hotels and three gas stations -- and will go back for a longer stay... He also -- normal feature of these travel articles -- diligently provides resources on what to expect, where to eat, the various tours to take, and where to stay; this is how I found the Web site of the Molokai Ranch, which I visited...and explored. (That's where I found the $15,888 "Bliss" package, which Nagourney did not mention for obvious reasons.) Naturally curious, I looked behind the scenes. And what is this ranch about? A 64,000-acre working ranch -- with only 500 heads of cattle...hmmm... -- encompassing more than 40 percent of the entire island. Wow, I thought, there is at least one darn wealthy Molokaian family...but hold on to your cattle. The "ranch" is owned by Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) which, in turn is owned by BIL International Limited, an international investment company headquartered in Singapore with, according to their Web site, "primary listing on the Singapore Exchange [and] secondary listings on the London and New Zealand Stock Exchanges." "The company's primary role is as an active investor with strategic shareholdings and active investment management aimed at extracting and maximizing shareholder value." "The company's portfolio consists of core, strategic and portfolio investments. Its key investment areas are in the hotel and resorts development and portfolio investments." "[Molokai Ranch] offers a variety of investment options, luxury accommodation and unique activities for tourists." In 2001, MPL purchased 12,000 acres of land that are being developed for both residential homes (read tourism) and commercial activities (read retail business). Adam and Ben can expect more "staggeringly beautiful morning[s]" sipping a latte at the local Starbucks on the occasion of their next visit! Certainly, MPL and BIL will happily host the couple! I wish them a blessed future... Irony aside, think how The New York Times and the corporate world operate...as well as mouthing the words of government ventriloquists (think of Judith Miller and Iraq...).
BOONVILLE NEWS: With the above firmly rooted in the layer of my lazed unconscious, I am reminded of Robert Frost's aphorism: "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." And indeed, it does go on (the world exists so long as I do...from one's perspective).
It's the time of the year to sit, relax, and enjoy the spectacle of yet another Spring symphony (at least, in the Northern hemisphere). This has been an unusually rainy and miserable winter. We had a short remiss in February, for a week or two, but cold and dampness were more often than not the order of the day...
...till Thursday, April 14, in the morning, when suddenly, out of nowhere, two swallows of the violet-green sort (Tachycineta thalassina), back from their winter camp in Honduras, showed up. Within minutes, tens of other couples were flying by in a ballet the 12 performers of the Martha Graham Ensemble could only aspire to in their wildest dreams. There they were, show-casting their deep green upperparts with a dark violet rump, and white bellies that look shiny metallic silver in the sunlight, zigzagging and crisscrossing the air above the lavender and the oaks' canopy. The Allen's and Black-chinned hummingbirds are back too (we had a couple of Anna's Hummingbird around through the entire winter). In the early evening, a venue of Turkey vultures -- named for their red and featherless head resembling that of a turkey, were gliding high in the sky in a wide circle, with what looked like a Cooper's Hawk in their midst (as though the vultures were waiting for the hawk to make a kill on one of our hens, snapping a head with its powerful claws and leaving the dead body for the vultures' dinner!); wild turkeys were foraging down the hill as a couple of does were walking by the creek. Add California poppies and wild flowers galore, the California grasses gently undulating in the warm evening breeze...and the meaning of Frost's aphorism, in this quiet and serene splendor, can be fully appreciated: Indeed, life goes on.
If only people would wait a week or so before starting their engines (weed whackers, tractors, lawn mowers) you'd think it's paradise. Though in heaven I suppose the local paper would have an editor to clean sentences like, "[John Mossly of San Francisco has bought Philo's Last Resort property.] He is open for suggestions and yes, one of them of them been to put in a wine tasting facility. He has no intention of right now of evicting any of the tenants." Perhaps, this kind of writing is what prompted Jim Smith of Weaverville, North Carolina, to miss Bruce Anderson and "feel that the AVA's quality has dropped off a bit since Mr. Anderson moved on."
Or, maybe, it's the following entry in the paper by, I'd guess, the Editor's daughter: "As far as I've seen, we are a diverse, loving community. We love diversity, all colors and shade of the rainbow. We relish our differences and we are all beautifully accepting of all our beautiful unique traits. We love to congratulate ourselves on where and how we live so nice and prettily. I love that about this place, that we hardly ever see anything truly ugly. Or terrifying. Or weird." You'd have expected to hear this on KZYX, the local lib-lab mouth-piece!
Or, again, it may be due to the fact that over half of what the paper publishes now can be first found all over the Internet and the remaining half is filled with infomercials on local businesses (it brings the advertisers in), advertisements (brought in by the infomercials) and various notices, legal and whatnot.
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...