The other war on terror (Part-1)

 

“The things you did that haunt you the most…they were the things that you weren’t ordered to do.”

– Clint Eastwood’s character, Korean War vet Walt Kowalski, in “Gran Torino”

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Before I start, let’s just watch this clip from the Oliver Stone film, ‘Born on the 4th of July’. The movie is a true account, based on the life of paraplegic Vietnam vet, Ron Kovic, skilfully played by Tom Cruise…

In the clip, Kovic is being given a hero’s welcome in his neighborhood after his return. Asked to say a few words, Kovic begins warming to his speech, waxing eloquent about how America is doing the right thing in Vietnam and will surely win the war in the end. As he gets to the part about his experiences in Vietnam, a baby in the crowd of spectators begins bawling loudly and Kovic’s voice falters. The voices of crying Vietnamese kids blanket his consciousness and he is overwhelmed by the sheer untruth in the rosy picture he just presented. The stark sounds of Nam, the thaka thaka thaka beat of a Huey’s turbo-shaft engine, come back and swamp him. Kovic just sits there on his wheelchair, trying to form the words but can’t.

Ron Kovic’s sudden meltdown from simply hearing a baby cry was a reaction known as ‘intrusive recall’, an anxiety disorder which in those days hadn’t yet been recognized as an injury that needed treatment.

We now know that condition well, as Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) – the other war on terror.

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Here’s another classic example of PTSD……

“…Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge. Back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars, man! I had all these guys back there, my buddies. Out here there’s nothing, man, no buddies. Where is everybody?

Remember Joey Danforth? He was always talking about Vegas and he was always talking about this big fuckin’ red ’58 Chevy convertible. ‘We are gonna cruise till the tires fall off, man’, he’d say.

Then we were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this little kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says “Shine, please, shine!” I said no. But he kept askin’ and Joey said “Yeah, okay.” And I went to get a couple of beers. The box was wired and the kid opened up the box, fucking blew his body all over the place. And Danforth, he’s layin’ there, screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend, he’s all over me, man! The guy’s fuckin’ insides keep comin’ out and I keep tryin’ ta hold him together! He’s repeatin’ over and over, “I wanna go home, Johnny!” He keeps calling my name! “I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!” And I’m lookin’ at him and I’m thinkin’, “With what? I can’t find your fuckin’ legs!”

— John J Rambo, Green Beret, in the 1982 film ‘First Blood’

The above may be fiction, but it is a very close representation of the senseless mayhem that is war. Combat veterans always say that it is hard to make civilians understand what they have been through. The following account is of a real Vietnam Vet, taken from a 1971 issue of Time Magazine that I chanced upon….

“The noise, the confusion, the suddenness of the shelling, the deadly invisible snipers, the dank heat, the incessant rain, the terror and with it the desire to stay put even though that could cost me my life. The nearest cover is a large rocky outcrop about a hundred meters’ straight sprint from where we are.

There’s pin-drop silence but we know they are there, behind those trees to the left with their heavy machine guns, waiting. I turn to look at the guy closest to me inside the hollow. Its the Captain. The Captain I looked up to on the parade ground is cowering down there, a flesh wound somewhere on his left arm soaking his tunic through.

The Captain is just a kid out of West Point and he has defecated in his pants. I can tell, because in the close quarters of the ditch, the stench of his filth is intense. He is just sittin’ in there, trying to form words but he can’t get them out. I nudge him impatiently and he lets out a hoarse whisper,” I want to see my Mommy. I want my Mommy…”

I remove his army-issue Colt from his holster and put it to his head and order him to pull himself together and issue the command….“

Close your eyes and try to imagine what it must have been like for the GI who wrote this account. You’ll find it hard if you have been a civilian all your life. Most would look at the captain who had simply snapped, with derision.

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I have an American colleague, Stan, whose late father had been a navigator in B-24 Liberators during the Second World War. He flew over forty sorties and bailed out twice over German territory. The first time, it was very close to the Swiss border and he managed to slip across to freedom and find his way back to his squadron in Malta.

His second jump was in December, 1944. His squadron was on a bombing run over Ulm, an industrial town deep inside Germany that had several large lorry manufacturing plants, belonging to the auto major, Deutz. These factories were believed to be churning out armored personnel carriers for the Wehrmacht.

It was December 1944 and Stan’s dad’s squadron had been told that the Luftwaffe had been completely wiped out and therefore the bombers were flying that night without fighter escort. The planes were carrying 2-ton ‘blockbuster’ bombs that were meant to churn up the air and cause turbulence over the city’s boulevards. The blockbusters would be followed by white phosphorus and thermite incendiary bombs that would the set the rushing air on fire, incinerating everything.

A pair of Messerschmitt-109s suddenly appeared out of nowhere and tore into the lumbering B-24s with their 20mm cannons. The plane that Stan’s dad was in took multiple hits. Both right engines and the complete right wing were chewed up and the fuselage and tail section ripped to shreds. They were going down.

As the big plane tipped its nose for the downward spiral, Stan’s father jumped directly over the city. He suffered a cracked ankle as he hit a stretch of ground that was covered with jagged rocks, right next to a street that was paved with asphalt. It was a grotesque sight straight from hell.

The asphalt had melted and was boiling in the heat of the white phosphorus. Flames were licking up from the bubbling black tar. Here and there, people were stuck in the tar. They were on their hands and knees, trying to extricate themselves. They were stark naked, their clothes having been blown off their bodies by the blast of the firestorm.

Stan’s Dad was immediately spotted and captured and he spent the remaining months of the war as a POW inside a nearby prison camp run by hardened SS-Totenkopfen. Tortured and deliberately starved, he lost 60lbs in the six months that he was incarcerated there. By the time he was liberated at the end of the war, he was barely alive.

Despite being brutalized in the prison camp and witnessing horrifying scenes of death and destruction for five long years, the Stan’s dad survived, regained his health, settled down to a solid family life, went on to build a successful business and finally passed on peacefully in his sleep at the ripe old age of 94, last summer. He had never shown any signs whatsoever of post traumatic stress.

Why does one man succumb to PTSD while another is able to shrug off the horror and move on?

Let me take this a bit further. If one were to compare the horrors of the Second World War with the Vietnam War, there is no question that the WWII was far more horrific. Yet, the surviving Allied military personnel of the Second World War appeared to have weathered it more ably, since we never heard of a rush of PTSD cases among WWII veterans.

I posed this to Stan and he said his father and his buddies saw WWII as a “just war”, one that America had entered reluctantly, only because its allies needed it’s support. The American GIs knew who the enemy was. They knew what they were fighting for and they were proud of that noble goal. The war galvanized and united America and when it was over, it paved the road to unprecendented prosperity and power.

In comparison, the Vietnam War was very different. At the height of the Vietrnam War(1967), the US Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara commissioned a top-secret study that would cover the entire history of American involvement in Indochina, right from the end of WWII. Maybe he wanted to record it for posterity.

The resulting 47-volume document, now famous as “The Pentagon Papers” described in vivid detail an infamous 1964 plan to create NSA-doctored radar images that were made to look like North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacking a US Navy destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. The goal was to conjure up the justification to launch military attacks inside North Vietnam, a sovereign nation that had never done the US any harm.

That NSA subterfuge is now infamous as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It started the Vietnam War.

Deceit doesn’t remain under wraps for long and by 1971, The Pentagon Papers was being serialized and published chapter and verse by the New York Times and the Washington Post. (Check out the 2017 Steven Spielberg movie “The Post” which is centered on the Pentagon Papers).

The exposé left Americans feeling cheated. GIs returned home defeated, riddled with guilt, from the realization that they had been directly involved in the killings of thousands of innocent civilians in a sovereign nation half a world away, one they had no business being in.

Iraq took the Vietnam deceit one step further. Not only did the US participate in a subterfuge designed to fool the world about a non-existent threat, but it showed America to be capable of harboring leaders who might otherwise have been prosecuted and even convicted as war criminals, had they been from another nation, if the existing international treaties on war crimes were allowed to be applied. In terms of the number of diagnosed cases of PTSD, the 2003 Iraq war has even larger numbers which, according to a study, is expected to cost the US exchequer billions to treat over the next two decades.

If weapons of mass destruction had indeed been found in Iraq and if Saddam Hussein was found to be really in bed with Osama Bin Laden, would there have been less PTSD cases among Iraq war veterans, since the 2003 invasion could then be termed a just war?

I don’t know, to be honest, but don’t forget to check out Part-2 which I am still working on. Just relax, get yourself a beer and wait. You have nothing better ta do anyway.

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The Power Moms of Ancient Rome (Part-1)

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The Roman Emperor, Nero, standing over his mother, Agrippina the Younger’s corpse. The painter intended to show Nero grief-stricken, even though in First Century AD Rome, the grapevine had it that, Nero was fed up with her domineering, meddling ways and had had her assassinated by a hired Libyan assassin.

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(If you have the feeling you have seen the above pic somewhere before, I poached it from an earlier post titled,”The impressionists and their genital-envy“. Do read it. It’s all about how impressionists liked to paint bare tits and tiny dicks.)

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Before I tell you about all the power moms of ancient Rome, let’s take a closer look at the emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty that the power moms assassinated….

Augustus : 27 BC – AD 14 (First emperor of Rome / Julius Caesar’s stepson) : Most likely poisoned by wife, Livia, so her son from an earlier marriage – Tiberius could be emperor and she could sorta run things for him. Livia Drvsilla was one of the most Machiavellian but astute women of her time, destroying her enemies while managing to retain friendly relations with those of the elite that mattered and that included the Praetorian Guard. Perhaps it was for this reason that she was the only power mom who got away with murder and died a natural death.

Tiberius   : AD 14 – AD 37 (Augustus’s stepson) : Smothered to death with a sofa cushion by a Praetorian Guardsman while another impaled him with a cyanide-tipped spear up his ass. The 1st Century AD historian, Pliny the Elder, however wrote that Agrippina the Elder (granddaughter of Augustus, mother of Caligula) orchestrated the killing. She wanted her son to be Emperor so she could be the power behind the throne. She succeeded, choosing an apt method. Tiberius was known to sodomize light-skinned Tunisian boys, so the cyanide-tipped enema.

Caligula   : AD 37 – AD 41  (Augustus’s great grandson) : Turned out an asshole. Stabbed to death by his Praetorian Guards, because of it. During one of his drunken binges, he made his horse, Incitatus, a Consul. Consul in those days was a position that reported directly to the Emperor, a very big deal. Let me give you a parallel….

Imagine General Kenneth Mackenzie, the guy who head’s America’s CENTCOM (United States Central Command), a military jurisdiction that covers the whole of the Middle East, including West Asia, up to Iran and Afghanistan and in the south, Egypt. Now imagine if these are conquered lands (which they essentially are) and General Mackenzie has the power of life and death over the inhabitants of this vast region. He would then be exactly what a Consul in the Roman Empire used to be and Caligula made his horse a Consul. Wouldn’t you say Caligula was an asshole?

Caligula might still have gotten away with being a jerk but this time his Power Mom, Agrippina the Elder wasn’t around to save his ass. You see, she had already been incarcerated and beaten and starved to death by one of Tiberius’s henchmen, a horrible guy called Lucius Aelius Sejanus. Let me introduce him to you…

If you have been paying attention, the term “Praetorian Guard” has popped up in the text above. The Praetorian Guard was an elite unit whose members initially served as personal bodyguards of Emperor Augustus. Over successive generations however, they gradually expanded and evolved into a powerful entity that owned vast tracts of real estate and farmland, ran businesses, poked their noses into Roman statecraft and foreign policy, assassinated emperors and chose and installed their successors. The Praetorian Guard was much like Saddam’s Republican Guard Corps, Iran’s Quds Force or Putin’s FSB. These modern day parallels didn’t target their masters though. They terrorized all others.

Roman emperors came to depend on their Praetorian Guards to keep them in power and at the same time, they feared their power. The Prefect of the Praetorian Guard in Tiberius’s reign was that guy, Sejanus.

Claudius  : AD 41 – AD 54  (Mark Antony’s grandson) : Perhaps the only just and reformist emperor of ancient Rome (aside from Marcus Aurelius two centuries later). Claudius was the 1st Century equivalent of 15th Century English monarch, King Richard-III. While Dicky was known to be a great king, he was a hunchback who suffered from a spinal condition known today as scoliosis. Naturally his appearance made him a singularly unattractive man. Claudius too looked like a fucking bozo. He had a perpetually running nose and an embarrassing stutter.

The historian, Tacitus wrote that the only thing that saved Claudius from assassination was his apparent harmlessness. After Caligula was killed by the Praetorian Guard, they came looking for him. Fearing a purge, afraid that he would be murdered next, Claudius hid behind the drapes in his bedroom, but the guardsmen found him. Claudius fell to his knees, begging for his life, but amazingly, instead of killing him they bowed and proclaimed him Emperor!

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Claudius, begging for his life and the Praetorian Guard, bowing and swearing allegiance

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The Praetorian Guard expected Claudius to rule as a figurehead but he surprised everyone, turning out to be an astute leader and a great conqueror. Claudius was the Roman Emperor who annexed Britain and gave it it’s name – Britannia. Maybe being handicapped makes one try harder and leads your adversaries to underestimate you, to their detriment.

Being good however didn’t help Claudius in the long fucking run. Claudius was married  to a power hungry siren, Agrippina the Younger, a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, great granddaughter to Augustus, granddaughter to Tiberius, daughter of Agrippina the Elder. As a pastime, Agrippina the Younger financed a lab that developed exotic poisons.

Like her mom before her, Grippy the Younger too had plans for her son, an immoral 17-year old alcoholic prick whippersnapper called Nero. Not content to wait, one moonlit night when Claudius was settling down to dinner, Agrippina fed him a deadly herb called atropa belladonna (known today as ‘nightshade’).

Exit stage up, O great Claudius. Enter stage left : all round asshole – Nero.

Nero        : AD 54 – AD 68  (Claudius’s stepson) : Started of as Claudius’s great-nephew and then adopted as his stepson. Turned out to be a flaming asshole, run through with his own sword by his secretary on his orders. Why? Earlier that day, the senate had declared him ‘enemy of the state’ because he had turned out to be an asshole. And trust me, he really was an asshole. He fiddled while Rome burned to the ground on his orders.

This time, his power mom, Agrippina the Younger, wasn’t there to save his ass. She had already been murdered by him, remember?

The sentence specified being beaten to death by the Praetorian Guard, obviously Nero saw being run through as a quicker and less painful option.

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You saw any of the emperors die in bed of old age? Naah, assassinations were the norm in those days.

Like in the Mafia. Except for Joseph Bonanno and Carlo Gambino, almost all mafia capos were ‘whacked’ and for the same reason – succession. But of course, they weren’t killed by Machiavellian machinations of power moms, like their 1st century ancestors were.

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One particular Roman power mom always fascinated me. Large breasted and exceptionally beautiful, she rose to become one of the most powerful women in the Roman Empire.

I am not sure if this woman had large breasts. I just like women in my blog posts to have large breasts and even if they didn’t actually have large breasts historically, my blog endows them with big jugs and if my post says she had large breasts, she had large breasts, period.

While still in her teens, this woman plotted against her own brother, the Emperor Caligula and when discovered, managed to escape execution by seducing him into a ménage à trois with another sister. I like a free thinking flower girl. She married her uncle, Emperor Claudius and attempted to inveigle her way into a position of influence but Claudius was too smart. He kept her at an arms length.

Maybe not too smart. Claudius fell for the cream of poisoned mushroom soup she served one night and he croaked it. With her son, Nero, as emperor she effectively ruled as regent, with the power of life and death over every living soul in Rome.

Meet Julia Agrippina, a.k.a Agrippina the Younger, mother of Emperor Nero, widow to Emperor Claudius and great granddaughter of Rome’s first Emperor, Augustus.

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Let’s back up a bit, to the first Roman Emperor. Augustus, in spite of having fucked thousands of women as Emperor, couldn’t manage to have a son and thereby an heir. A male heir was a big deal. So Augie did the next best thing – he designated his two grandsons as his heirs.

This was millenia prior to the discovery of stuff like penicillin or antibiotics, a time when going down with even a sore throat and a cough could kill you. Pasteurization and refrigeration weren’t even concepts and you could easily end up consuming putrefied meat which could bring you down with salmonella and sure death. Heck, you could die of a stomach ache.

Augustus’s grandsons didn’t survive into the double digits. They most likely died of typhoid and he was left trying to figure out a way to secure his lineage. That was when he adopted Tiberius, his third wife, Livia’s son from an earlier marriage. Tiberius would go on to be emperor during the time Jesus Christ was crucified.

Alas, in ancient Rome signing adoption papers was sometimes akin to signing your own death warrant. Historians agree that, no sooner had the ink on the adoption papers dried, Livia fed Augustus poisoned figs to have Tiberius installed.

Oh yeah, poisons were a big thing in those days. There was no forensic science then. You could poison someone and pass it off as a stomach ache and no one was the wiser. Members of the elite financed and maintained hidden laboratories, churning out ever more exotic poisons.

What separated the men from the boys was the ability to develop antidotes in case you were poisoned. You had to have the resources to pay highly qualified chemists to develop not only the poisons but also their antidotes, just in case. And you had to be rich enough to have a dungeon full of slaves to try your concoctions out on.

The chemists very lavish lives. As long as they produced potent poisons, they were rewarded handsomely, awarded vast estates and armies of Nubian slaves. But often those lavish lives were short ones. A chemist could be executed on suspicion of leaking secrets to adversaries or killed out of spite for a rival nobleman.

One of the more well known chemists of the time was a broad named Locusta. A favorite of Nero, she was executed by his successor, the moment Nero was assassinated.

Aren’t you glad you weren’t there in ancient Rome? Phew!

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Ps : Looking at your depth of intellect and attention span, I gotta end this post. But watch out. There’s more about Agrippina the Younger in Part-2 that your Uncle Spunky is going to tell you all about. As soon as he gets another Stella Artois from the fridge, that is.

Holy Cow!

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Cows are cuddly, I’ll hand you that. Check out a cow at close quarters and her eyes will blow you away, so beautiful are they – large, with long eyelashes, they are trusting, serene, all comprehending – as if she is saying to you, “I know you need my body, for your daily nourishment, your survival. Don’t harbor any guilt that you treat me so – I completely understand….”

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One Sunday, last summer, a colleague and I had to be at work finishing a project that we had to present, Monday. Around 3 pm we were done, when Marie-André said she was going over to her parents’ at St. Bruno, a farming community on Montreal’s south shore. She suggested I come along and check out what a typical Quebec farm looks like from up close. Marie-André’s dad is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel who rears cattle and sheep. I couldn’t resist the invitation.

The farm has around a hundred cattle and fifty odd sheep and these animals are having a ball. Judging by it’s neatness, one get’s the impression that the farm really knows how to look after the animals. They are healthy and they are organic. And they should be – they are raised exclusively for meat.

Marie-André’s dad went to great lengths explaining that the animals are killed very humanely, without cruelty. “I could have fifty pounds of sirloin, chuck and ribs ready for you to pick up this fall. Pick your animal and I’ll call you when it is all shrink-wrapped and ready,” he said.

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Most folks feel very strongly about animal suffering and yet we all seem to get along fine with the idea that we can kill and eat them. Looking at the cows, lazily grazing across a lush green meadow, I wondered how both those feelings could be held within one’s conscience at the same time. And when I wonder, I Google and therefore this piece.

Sometimes seeking an answer to certain questions have a habit of broadening the issue until it becomes an unmanageable web of myriads of little but yet important angles.

Australian moral philosopher, Peter Singer, currently a professor of ‘bioethics’ in Princeton University, is also author of Animal liberation. I picked up a copy last summer but left it after fifty pages since it isn’t exactly my kind of reading. But his arguments are convincing.

The central message of the book is that even though there are far more differences, for instance between a chimpanzee and an earthworm, than there are between a chimp and a human, we humans still lump the ape and the worm together as ‘animals’ while we see ourselves as privileged – above all other species. Therefore while we find it not okay to kill a human, it is fine to kill another species of animal.

Singer argues that we should treat killing animals as an ethical issue because there is no ‘red line’ between humans and non-humans. He explains this by going into an analogy, substituting the word ‘species’ with the word ‘race’ – so when a white man looks at another white man and says ‘he is like me, so I’ll treat only him and folks like him as I treat my own’, it should be acceptable and appropriate, but it isn’t – it is racism.

Again, suppose we consider a really intelligent orangutan, like say, Clyde, in the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie ‘Every which way but loose’. Clyde is a trained pet who acts like he is almost human. Orangutans are known to be highly intelligent and display human-like social behavior patterns.

Now if you compare Clyde with say, a child suffering from acute Down Syndrome or a severely cognitively impaired woman stricken by Alzheimers, it is quite possible that the orangutan would trump the human in all those qualities that we pride in ourselves as setting us apart from animals. And yet we would treat that child or that woman with far more deference than we would treat Clyde.

So, do we have to lose any sleep over killing a cow to eat it’s meat? One argument is – no, humans have evolved with mouths, teeth and digestive systems that are specifically designed to eat meat and therefore we should not worry about the morality of it. But some behavioral scientists take exception to this sweeping statement on how we were designed to eat other animals. Since men have evolved to be stronger, should it then be natural for them to dominate over women?

Spreading the net wider, if one went by the ‘evolved to dominate’ assumption, then slavery was a natural instinct, wasn’t it? Of course it was. White folks were better in every way – they were stronger than the impoverished negro villagers of Africa, had better technology, better weaponry, were healthier and better educated. So, the argument that those white folks in America simply evolved to lord it over the Negros would seem quite reasonable, if one went by the evolved-to-dominate theory. But slavery is universally condemned, as it should be.

It is also not true that we need to eat meat, for our sustenance. Any nutritionist will confirm that meat consumption is not absolutely essential. Take India for instance – almost 35% of all Indians, that is around 400 million souls, are vegetarians.

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Now about the morality in killing other animals – how does one justify the killing of animals, on moral grounds?

Peter Singer suggests we consider a hypothesis. He says that, for argument’s sake, let us assume that all lambs and cows are reared on farms like Marie-André’s dad’s, where animals are treated humanely, right up until the time they are slaughtered – painlessly – for food. Let us further assume that up until the last instant, the cow or lamb is unaware that it is going to be killed and is therefore it’s usual happy, normal, cud-chewing self.

So we have put aside the question of cruelty toward those animals and their suffering. In those perfect conditions, is there anything wrong with killing an animal for it’s meat? I don’t really know but the trip to Marie-André’s dad’s farm did throw up interesting arguments…….

When we had come upon him, the old man had been walking a bullock toward the tailgate of a pickup truck that had a tall rectangular wooden enclosure in the back. He had opened the gate of the pen and solemnly herded the animal forward, seeming sombre and deferential toward it. “I’ve done this a million times but it is still saddening,” he said.

“Why so? Guilt – that he has to die?” I asked.

“I guess you could call it that.”

“But wasn’t he just like one of those other faceless animals in your farm?”

He turned sharply, almost as if I had offended him by calling the beast faceless. “I know each one by name. This one is Gucci. She came to us one stormy night in 2011. She has this habit of coming up silently behind and giving you a gentle nudge and then brushing past, as if to say,’ It’s been a while and I’m famished. How about some chow, big guy?’

Chuckling to himself, the old man guided Gucci up a slanting ramp onto the back of the pickup. He stooped to carefully arrange a bed of hay and some fodder and emerged, closing the tailgate firmly behind him. “When you live among them, feed them, look after them, it dawns on you that they all have distinct personalities,” his voice was gravelly, filled with emotion.

Then he said something that sounded strange but which I later realized could be absolutely true – “If humans didn’t rear cows and lambs for meat, milk, leather, etc, these animals might not have existed at all. Given how fragile, harmless and vulnerable they are, they would probably have been rendered extinct by carnivorous predators long ago.”

I was amazed at the idea. “So, maybe, we have done them a favor and they should thank us for letting them live and exist this long at least – is that what you are saying?” My tone must have sounded incredulous.

“Why, of course. At least they have had some existence – comfortable, disease-free lives inside a farm where food is abundant and a vet comes and checks them every now and then. Isn’t it better than not having existed at all? As long as they have no inkling that they’ll be killed and so long as they are killed painlessly, I don’t see why killing them is morally wrong.” he replied.

“So, a lamb is better off living for a year and then being killed for it’s meat, than not having lived at all. Should he thank us for the opportunity?” My incredulity grew and I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not.

‘Absolutely,” he replied. “A morally good action is one that maximizes happiness (which we do by looking after the animals’ needs while they are alive) and which minimizes pain (which we ensure, by killing them painlessly).”

By this time, I was willing to take up their invitation to stay for supper, so interesting a man was Marie-André’s father.

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I did stay for supper and the steak was succulent. It had been breathing just that morning. I felt a tinge of guilt eating it. Aren’t animals’ rights – the right to live and not be killed – the same as humans’ rights? Moral philosophers like Peter Singer believe that they are.

Marie-André’s father admits that each cow and lamb behaves differently, as individuals. To someone like me, visiting the farm, they might all look and behave alike but to someone who interacts with them on a daily basis, they are individually identifiable, with distinct personalities. He senses that they have the sentience – the capacity to feel. They respond when called by name and they act in a manner that clearly indicates that they have memories. At times they clearly are happy and playful, says he.

Therefore, judging by the old man’s own admission, what happens to his cows and lambs in the future matters to them and, given a choice, they would like to live as long as they possibly can.

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Jeff McMahan, another moral philosopher who teaches at Oxford, has found a way to draw a line between those animals that should not be killed and those that can be killed without suffering moral injury. He says that there are living beings that are – unlike cows and lambs – unaware of their past, present or future. They do not have a narrative. Like worms, for instance. I have never heard of any moral dilemma attached to the killing of a worm.

McMahan recommends that before we kill an animal, we need to ask ourselves ‘ how psychologically connected is it, to it’s future self?’ The more connected it is, the more morally unacceptable it is – to deprive the animal of that future.

My religion, Hinduism, has never encouraged any debate on animal slaughter, at least not one that I have read about. Hinduism bans killing cows not because it considers killing another living being immoral but simply because Hindu scriptures say cows are sacred, period.

The hypocrisy shows when one considers the fact that, while Hinduism reveres cows and bans cow slaughter, it is totally indifferent about buffalo slaughter, even if buffalos are from the same taxonomic classification as cows. But we know why that is. It’s simple – cows are white and buffaloes are black. Indian society equates white with good/revered and black with bad/inferior.

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A male colleague at work is an avid hunter who believes that hunting must be as humane as possible. Before he skins and cleans his kill, Francois lays his open palm gently on the rump of the whitetail and says,” I apologize for this but it had to be done for my sustenance and that of my family. I promise I won’t waste any of your flesh….” He makes himself believe that without the kill, he and his family would die of starvation.

Francois always takes careful aim so he won’t just wound the whitetail and let it skimp away only to drop from exhaustion and lie dying a mile away, writhing in pain in the thick brush or somehow survive and live out the rest of it’s life a cripple or be set upon and torn apart by a coyote or wolf pack.

Francois doesn’t pull the trigger until he is certain he’ll drop the animal in it’s tracks. With his bolt-action Nosler M48 Patriot cocked, he waits until he has the animal within 15-20 feet, facing broadside. Once he has the animal positioned perfectly, he shoots through the near-side shoulder. The high-powered 129-grain projectile snaps the spinal cord and takes out the upper lung area (and maybe even the forelegs) and exits through the opposite shoulder. It’s hard for even the toughest buck to remain standing after a hit like that. The animal remains transfixed for a few moments – in ‘hydrostatic shock’ – and then collapses in a heap, literally not knowing what hit him.

Francois is the most ‘ethical’ hunter I know. The whitetail might differ though.

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As for me, I have left many habits in my 65-year long sojourn on this planet. I have left smoking, drinking, womanizing, reading porn, masturbating and dreaming of taking Scarlett Johanssen to bed – but I haven’t yet left meat eating.

After supper, as Marie-André’s dad lead me out to my car, I decided to place an order for one of Gucci’s rumps.

I am a sucker for butts. That’s another thing I haven’t left behind.

 

It takes more than friezes to deliver justice

“But Grandpa, where’s God?”

Boy who ventured into the main hall of the US Supreme Court and stared at the friezes of famous law makers from ancient times

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Picture1

A section of the carved friezes in the great hall of the US Supreme Court, depicting legendary law makers. The friezes are meant to represent justice, liberty and peace. There’s Moses, second from right, clutching those laughably useless Ten Commandments. 

Occupying nearly the highest point of the luminous, gold-edged hall, above the 30-foot Ionic columns, the friezes inspire awe. When Sherman Minton, a Supreme Court justice from 1949 to 1956, pointed out each historic figure to his grandson, the 10-year-old listened in silence and then asked in puzzlement, “But Grandpa, where’s God?”

Indeed. Looking at today’s America, the question does reverberate….Where is God?

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The US Supreme Court building is an imposing sight, ringed by pillars, it’s walls covered with carvings and quotes and bas reliefs. There’s sheer white marble as far as the eyes can see and great big Ionic pillars that rival the Acropolis. The ceilings are high and marble staircase – it appears to lead directly up to heaven.

It is not really a court by the definition of the word. Rather, the US Supreme Court is a hyper-partisan institution whose members are not really concerned with delivering justice as mandated by the American constitution. They are nominated and installed solely to pander to partisan political interests, by whoever happens to be in power with a majority in the Senate. There is this continuous tug-of-war between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’, when the conflict should be between proving crime and upholding innocence.

Over the past century, it has delivered such travesties of justice and emblems of hate and bigotry, that to outsiders like me the US Supreme Court seems more like a sick joke rather than a symbol of the rule of law. And yet, even storied liberal political commentators like Fareed Zakaria insist on calling it “the last bastion of the free world that is above the political frey.” Flowery words. But then, America has always believed in perceptions, rather than the reality.

If you spoke with an Indian or a Chinese or even a Brit and asked if they knew the names of even one of their Supreme Court justices, you’d draw a blank. An Indian judge performs his task quietly without fanfare and is rarely quoted or mentioned, other than when major cases are being argued in front of them. Even then, I doubt if any member of the Indian or Chinese public would pay much attention to who the judge actually was.

Not the Americans. Americans might not be able to name all 50 states in the US or which countries are their neighbors, but they sure know their Supreme Court judges. To them, the Supreme Court must be perceived to be this great big haloed institution. A hush must fall over everyone when the US Supreme Court is mentioned.

Just imagine, strong circumstantial evidence and realms of witness testimony make it clear that one in four US Supreme court justices his a sexual predator and still sits on the bench, despite the evidence. I am referring to Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. What can Americans really expect from the court? Justice?

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And then, there are those grandiose wall friezes. The nine sitting justices (who enjoy cushy lifetime appointments) are not the only presiding presence. High above the mahogany bench, are friezes with the figures of 18 historical lawmakers from different races and ethnicity, dating to as far back as 5800BC (give or take).

The South Wall Frieze depicts personalities from the ancient pre-Christian world. It includes Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, and Octavian.

The North Wall Frieze shows lawgivers from the Middle Ages on and includes representations of Justinian, Muhammad, Charlemagne, John of England, Louis IX of France, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, John Marshall, and Napoleon.

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The courtroom of the US Supreme Court, the three friezes of those 18 lawmakers, high up on the walls. 

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The friezes are meant not only to honor the above mentioned historical figures but also to depict diverse legal tradition and heritage from around the world that have directly or indirectly shaped the concept of what Americans perceive to be law and justice in America. For Americans, those 18 dudes on the friezes are the gold standard of justice, law and order.

Now let’s take a closer look at some of these 18 dudes and judge for ourselves whether they really are the great judicial geniuses that America idolizes…..

Menes (c. 3100 B.C.)

The first Pharaoh of Egypt’s first dynasty, Menes single-handedly created the world’s the first nation-state. Centralized government, through a coherent set of laws, was born. Menes did many great things but, like all great men, Menes had his quirks. At his Temple of Ptah in Memphis, Menes liked to offer human sacrifices to the Gods “whenever the Gods demanded it”. And that was on a pretty regular basis. Like once, maybe twice, a day. And don’t hold your breath over who made the shortlist of the sacrificial suckers – slaves, of course. Egyptian gods were particularly slave thirsty.

What if one of Menes’ slaves came alive and traveled through time to the US Supreme Court, to be confronted by the frieze of Menes up there on the wall? He certainly would be aggrieved.

Hammurabi (c. 1792-1750 B.C.)

Reigning in Babylon, Hammurabi produced the first surviving set of laws. A compilation of legal procedure and penalties, the ‘Code of Hammurabi’ covered all civil and criminal disputes and reflected the belief that law can be fixed and certain, rather than a series of random responses by political leaders to various forms of conduct.

And boy oh boy, were they laws. Here is a sampling….

If a man has stolen goods from a temple or house, put him to death and he that received the stolen property, put him to death too.

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If a woman has loafed around, neglecting her house, not caring for her husband’s needs, drown that woman in the river

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If a man is in debt and is unable to pay his creditors, take away his properties, his wives, sons or daughters. Use them, deliver them up for “servitude”

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If a boy steals talents from his father’s money bag, his hands shall be “hewn”

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Imagine Hammurabi as one of the nine American Supreme Court justices. Would this be a courtroom or would it be a body-parts wholesale business?

Moses (c. 1270 B.C.)

According to biblical accounts, the great Hebrew prophet delivered his people from slavery and received the Ten Commandments. His figure on the frieze is meant to suggest existence of a higher authority, beyond human control. There are just a few things that escape reason…..

It is virtually certain that, had Moses chosen to remain in his position as Prince of Egypt, he would have succeeded the great Pharaoh, Seti I, to the Egyptian throne, since the old man had already chosen him, over his own biological son, Ramases II. Had he hung in there and succeeded Seti-I, Moses could have, from his position of power, accomplished a great deal of good for his people – the Jews – a people who had by then developed the uncanny ability to get screwed into an art form, all over the Middle East. Moses, as Pharaoh, might have been able to elevate the Jews to the status of full citizens.

In any case, looking at Israel, a nation that is constantly under turmoil and the ever growing scourge of Antisemitism in the non-Jewish world today, one gets the feeling that Moses ultimately failed.

Now let’s look at the Ten Commandments. Aside from the fact that most of the commandments are no longer considered cognizable offenses in almost all courts of law in the modern free world, Moses can’t take credit for them, anyway – you see, Moses didn’t think them up. They were handed to him by God, remember?

Solomon (c. 992-953 B.C.)

Regarded as a great king of Israel, Solomon’s name is synonymous with judicial wisdom. When two women came to him, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, Solomon determined who was the mother by watching the women’s responses to his suggestion that he cut the baby in half and give each a share. One woman agreed to the proposal while the other yielded her claim, thereby proving through her concern, that she was the real mother.

Great, but here’s the thing – King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Any woman he took a fancy to, whether she was already married or not, had to be his. Some of them later turned him toward idol worship and orgiastic drinking parties. Being predisposed to debauchery, Solomon wholehearted took part in bacchanalian galas.

King Solomon’s descent into sin has been recorded in the Bible. What is Soly doing up there in the US Supreme Court?

Lycurgus (c. 800 B.C.)

A leading statesman of Sparta in ancient Greece, Lycurgus guided reform of the Spartan constitution and instituted more efficient public administration. All his reforms were directed towards the three Spartan virtues: equality among citizens. Note the word ‘citizens’. Since slaves weren’t considered citizens, they didn’t figure in the equality gravy train. The other two values were austerity and military fitness.

According to legend, Lycurgus believed that the most serious crime of all was retreat in a conflict. He had never bloodied his own hands in battle, I hasten to add. Even so, at first glance Lycurgus seems like the only one who deserves a place at the US Supreme Court frieze.

There is just one tiny little problem – Historians are still debating whether he really existed or was just part of a mythological legend, like Achilles and Hector and Thetis and Zeus, yada, yada, yada.

Solon (c. 638-559 B.C.)

The Athenian, whose name survives as a synonym for “legislator,” codified the laws of the Greeks and is credited with laying the foundation for the world’s first ‘democracy’.

Wait till you hear what the word ‘democracy’ meant to the Greeks. Solon ended exclusive autocratic control of the government, substituting it for an elitist version of democracy in which a cabal of wealthy citizens governed, somewhat akin to the Senate of ancient Rome, prior to the Julio-Claudian era.

Great, haven’t I heard something like this being called an oligarchy? So, where is the real justice for the common folk here?

Draco (late 600s B.C.)

Another prominent legislator in Athens, Draco was the first to write an Athenian code of laws. The problem is that Draco knew of only one punishment for all crimes, even the most trivial – death. You swiped your neighbor’s strawberries and the next thing you knew, you were sleeping with the fishes. It is not for nothing that today the term for harsh and cruel laws is ‘Draconian’.

Draco sure does merit a permanent spot at any US court. He’d have loved to administer justice in the US. Cops randomly shooting unarmed folk would have warmed the cockles of his heart. If Draco could make it to the frieze, so could they.

Octavian (63 B.C.-14 A.D.)

The first dictator of Rome, Augustus Caesar single-handedly put an end to collective decision-making in the Roman Senate, killing what little democratic process there was.  A singularly dour individual, he was a vainglorious man. Forever ready to go to war (like the Americans today), he chose ‘Imperator’ (victorious commander) as his first name – Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus. As in the case of Solon, the laws that we lionize Octavian for, were meant to make life for the wealthy and well-connected easy. The slaves, who constituted as much as 30% of the population inside the Roman Empire did not figure in this Octavian dude’s jurisprudence. Neither did the free commoners.

Muhammad (570-632)

He was a loner, a man who liked to be by himself. I am such a man myself. Like him, I too like to find myself in a secluded hilltop, gazing down at my surroundings or staring up at the night sky. In fact, we do have a grassy knoll behind our backyard, where I like to spend late summer evenings sometimes. I am just plain unlucky that a descendant of the Angel Gabriel hasn’t appeared before me. Maybe he knows that I’ll tell him to go fuck himself.

But if Angel Gabriel does appears before me, surely I cannot take credit for what he asks me to note down and convey to my fellow humans? After all, am I not pretty much like a secretary who takes shorthand?

Just like Moses, Mohammad too was only the accidental messenger. He was not the lawmaker, God was. And pretty much like Moses, he left his community in a much worse shape than when he organized it.

King John (1166-1216)

Ruler of England from 1199 to 1216, King John’s claim to fame was the Magna Carta, a document which was supposed to have elevated the importance of individual rights and the concept of due process – the idea that laws must be administered in the same way for all.

The only problem is that King John didn’t write the Magna Carta on his own. He had to be persuaded, with the threat of a coup-de-tat. Imagine a group of the richest and most powerful people in the country who are tired of paying high taxes, having their rights restricted by government – a cabal of robber barons who think the King is an asshole and detest him. Imagine that they get together and agree to use their wealth to force the government to behave the way they want it to behave.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s the way it has always been, and probably always will be. Wealth is power, even in governments supposedly of, by and for the people. The Magna Carta barons were analogous to wealthy campaign donors, corporations or Super PACs using their wealth to gain special privileges.

Consider this one clause in this revered document so often cited as the foundation for the rule of law and ‘a jury of your peers’……

“… no freeman ought to be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, or deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.”

Equal rights and the rule of law for all freemen. Cool, right? Except for another tiny fact. The word ‘freeman’ had a very narrow definition and meant the wealthy barons, no one else. All others – the serfs, the infantrymen, the farmers, the blacksmiths, the bakers and the road layers – worked for them or were outright owned by them as bonded labor. Equal rights, my ass.

In any case, King John was a greedy and cruel monarch who was hated by 99.999% of his subjects. When your approval rating is 0.001%, should your likeness be on a frieze in the highest court of the world’s most haloed democracy???

Louis IX (1213-1270)

King of France from 1226 to 1270, Louis IX led the seventh and eighth crusades against the Muslims, in the process of which he came to hold, albeit temporarily, vast tracts of territory that belonged to the Muslims. He was known to exhort his troops on the battlefield not to take any prisoners. The King was even canonized as Saint Louis, for these acts of aggression, by the Catholic Church. By that yardstick, I would think that today the late head of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has a similar right to being accorded a place on that US Supreme Court frieze.

John Marshall (1755-1835)

In 1820, the U.S. Revenue Service cutter Dallas seized a slave ship that was carrying a ‘cargo’ of 281 African slaves, some of the claimed owners being Portuguese and Spanish. The U.S. Supreme Court heard five days of arguments before packed courtrooms. On the fifth day, the Chief Justice himself delivered the unanimous opinion, beginning by stating that he himself did not find any moral fault with slavery. He then went into some legal ‘spin’, declaring the slave trade a violation of natural law but not the law of nations, meaning that it may be wrong but is legal where protected by legislation.

Since the international slave trade was by then deemed illegal in the United States, slaves bound there were released, but since it was legal in Portugal and Spain, slaves of those owners were returned to bondage.

Guess who that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was – John Marshall, a slave-owner himself. Oh yeah, John Marshall should definitely be up there in the frieze, no?

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Emperor of France, Napoleon is celebrated and demonized for his warfare. But his legacy in the law is an 1804 civil code that influenced laws in Europe, Latin America and, to a lesser degree, the United States. Louisiana’s unique civil code traces to the Napoleonic Code. Among its overriding principles were personal freedom, the ability to make contracts, equality among citizens and an end to church control of civilian institutions.

Too bad that those for whom his civil code was meant, didn’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of the legislation, thanks to his almost constant and naked impulse for raw unprovoked military aggression. Thousands upon thousands of his soldiers trusted in him and he simply rode them off the cliff, waging foolhardy invasions of neighboring countries.

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I heard that the sculptor of the Supreme Court friezes got a crick in the neck and stopped, otherwise he had plans of fitting in Genghiz Khan, Lynndie England and Mohammad Bin Salman too, in the frieze

So, a recap… A cursory glance will tell you that 9 of the 18 gents up there on the friezes, were either slave-holders themselves, actively abetted slavery or at best found ‘nothing wrong’ in the owning of slaves.

In a way, I can understand the friezes in the US Supreme Court. They are in fact quite apt, for an institution that has constantly lied to it’s black, latino and aboriginal citizens over the past century, making them believe that it’s justice was accessible to them all, quoting those flowery words of the constitution to tell them that they counted, that they were free.

I am not impressed by the cavernous room, the red carpets, the marble pillars and the grandiose friezes. They can all go fuck themselves.

It takes more to deliver true justice, than shitty wall carvings.

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The Impressionists and their Genital-Envy.

nerone-davanti-al-corpo-di-agrippina

The above image depicts the Roman Emperor Nero, standing over his dying mother, Agrippina the Younger, his arms outstretched. Like wow, look at mom’s jugs!

It’s more likely that the painter intended to show Nero appear grief-stricken, even though 1st century AD Roman grapevine said he actually had had her assassinated by a hired Libyan assassin.

Let’s look at Agrippina’s two jigglipoos with a critical eye – no sag, no hand grenade-sized nipples, no overt heaviness. Pure and virtuous, not naughty and seductive. They’re just not enough of a palmful. That painting is a disgrace.

A 19th Century oil, ‘Liberty Leading the People’, (Delacroix 1830), depicting liberty in the form of a bare breasted woman leading the charge against the French King Charles X’s forces. Certainly not the recommended outfit for hand to hand combat. But she won. The French monarch abdicated.

No wonder King Chuck lost. If I were there, facing off with this woman, would I give a fuck about fighting? Look at the breasts. Musta spilled out when a bayonet accidentally snipped a blouse strap. Again, no sag, no obscene bulge, no plum nipples, armpits shaved – just runa-the-mill plain and guileless, not saucy. The “Oops, sorry they just fell out” kind, not the “Come and get it, Tiger” kind. The men around her don’t seem aroused at all. They appear to be saying matter-of-factly,” Cover yoreself, Libby honey and let’s go kick some butt”.

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Faust, lying spent after a night of pleasure with multiple nymphs, with the Satan standing over him (Falero 1880). No, Satan isn’t saying, “Now, Fausti-boy, remember the deal”. The Satan is actually apologetic, his head bowed in shame as Faust falls asleep in sheer boredom. And Satan is saying, “Sorry bud, they’re all I had. If you wanted real tits, didn’t you know all broads with big tits go ta heaven?”

Again, the breasts Falero has painted are helter skelter, disorganized and plain. Rogers and Hammerstein would have observed, “They are flibbertigibits, they are willow-the-wisps, they are lambs.”

Yawwwn. I’ve never been so bored writing a post. Tennis anyone?

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And don’t even get me started on paintings of Aphrodite, or Penthesilia, the queen of the Amazons or Venus or Helen of Troy. Tits, tits and more tits. All less than ordinary. Personally I like tits so large that they give me a crick in my jaws when I try to orally stimulate ’em.

Then there’s the male nudity thing in art, where the obsession is with penises, little penises. Muscular men with tiny richards.

Michelangelo’s “David”. Just take a look at his tiddlytoo. So tiny. If you held up your pinkie in front of it, you’d block the view totally. Of course, it can be inspiring to a certain demographic – men who have tiny penises. Like “look, you can have wee little richards and still be able ta slay Goliaths.

Michelangelo’s famous fresco “The Creation of Adam”. If I had had a richard like Adam’s, I would be bullied outa boarding school.

Classical painters insisted on painting tiny richards. Maybe they didn’t want dick-envy so they painted richards that were smaller than theirs’. I am willing to bet you never saw a renaissance painting that had a hunk with a 12-inch boner.

I recently visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and I really think they should name the joint “Montreal Museum of unimpressive tit and dick pics”.

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But honestly, what’s with all this nudity thing that early impressionists were so obsessed with? Please, I know all that crap about symbolism, aesthetics and the ethereal beauty of the human body. So go ahead and paint tits and dicks all you like – even in unusual settings like the battlefield, I don’t care. But please paint ’em big is all I ask, with nipples that can ring a doorbell and crack your skull if you bump into them.

Objectified attachments

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Overheard…..

“Sometimes, when I grab a coffee cup from my cabinet, I will pick one that’s in the back and never gets used because I think the cup feels depressed that it isn’t fulfilling it’s mission of holding coffee.”

“I used to work at a toy store and if anyone ever bought a stuffed animal I would leave its head sticking out of the bag.. so it could breathe.”

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object

A friend once told me, “I feel bad for inanimate objects, all the time.” I confessed to her that I did too. I have an old heavily scratched water bottle I am unable to discard. Even though I have replaced it with a newer one, it lies at the back of a kitchen cupboard.

Why is this? Why do some of us sometimes sense a pang of guilt while throwing a pair of worn-out shoes in the garbage bin or neglecting to wear an old shirt with a frayed collar that’s been with us a long time? We know these things do not feel joy or loneliness and yet, every now and then our emotions inform us otherwise. Perhaps this is the result of all those Disney films featuring a motherly teapot or brave little toaster.

History however suggests this behavior predates any cartoon depiction of household items with people-like personalities. From the worship of idols to an animistic worldview, various cultures from around the world have long believed that material objects either contain spirits or possess some kind of special connection to us.

Take Galileo for example. The spacecraft “Galileo”, that is……

Galileo had been aptly named. Carried into space by the shuttle Atlantis, in 1989, Galileo performed a finely choreographed series of loops – one around Venus and two around the earth – maneuvers that in Nasa parlance are known as ‘Gravity Assist’. Gravity Assist is like a slingshot, meant to increase velocity – necessary to enable the two and a half ton, schoolbus-sized spacecraft to reach its goal – Jupiter.

Six years later, Galileo arrived over Jupiter and fired it’s thrusters to slow it down and it parked itself into an orbit half a million miles above the stratospheric storm clouds of the gas giant. There had been life threatening glitches on the way but this artificially intelligent robot had listened to the commands from it’s rapidly receding masters and it had come through unscathed.

Like the astronomer whose illustrious name it bore, Galileo scored many firsts. The first flyby of the irregularly shaped asteroid named ‘243Ida’ and the discovery that it had it’s own moon. Gravity-Assist flybys of the Jovian moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The discovery of liquid water bubbling and frothing under the icy crust of the Jovian moon, Europa and the realization that Europa might harbor life in some form. (Arthur C Clarke had seen water under Europa two decades prior in his “2001 – A space odyssey” but that’s another story.)

Galileo sent back grotesquely dramatic video of active volcanoes on another Jovian moon, Io, erupting and ejecting plumes of basalt and sulfur hundreds of miles into space, the pictures having much greater resolution than the ones that Voyagers I and II had sent back more than a decade earlier. Then came the unbelievable real time video of the comet Shoemaker-Levy, slamming into Jupiter’s 90% hydrogen atmosphere and breaking up into multiple fireballs, leaving huge vortex-like holes in Jupiter’s clouds.

And many more. Galileo was designed to last 8-10 years and the scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory would have been satisfied if it had conked out by 1997, the year that the mission was officially scheduled to end.

But Galileo was just getting warmed up. July, 1995, right after it had injected itself into Jupiter orbit, Galileo released a probe, which plunged into Jupiter’s thick atmosphere and by the time it’s parachute had slowed it down, it had transmitted to Galileo 58 minutes of invaluable data on why Jupiter is what it is, for onward transmission to earth, before succumbing to the punishing heat and atmospheric pressure.

By early 2003, Galileo itself had completed all its mission goals (and some) and now it was time to put it down. On September 21, 2003, it was commanded to fire a ‘de-orbiting burn’ and once again it faithfully obeyed. The de-orbit burn caused it to slow down to the point where centripetal force overcame centrifugal force, drawing it inward, into Jupiter. It hit the upper atmosphere at 174000 mph and disappeared into the thick soup forever. 26 years after construction had first begun, the talkative robot finally fell silent. The Galileo-Jovian Project was over.

Immediately following Galileo’s demise, a funny thing happened. Let me back up a bit.

The engineers and scientists dedicated to the mission had been young, in their late twenties and thirties, when Galileo had been first conceived and started being built. Trials and tribulations, marriages, breakups, deaths, disease – they had gone through it all, buoyed by the intensity of their commitment to Galileo’s success. They had cheered at each milestone – delirious with awe at the Shoemaker-Levy spectacle, stunned at the evidence of liquid water sloshing around underneath Europa’s icy crust, laughing hysterically at the oddity of watching a piddly asteroid with it’s own moon and the many other firsts that Galileo had achieved.

Now here they were, three decades later, in their middle age, 365 million miles from their ‘baby’. And they were watching it die. Scientists and engineers – from a dozen nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, men and women – stood up from their consoles and hugged each other, sobbing openly, overcome by a sense of loss that comes with bidding farewell to a loved one, as Galileo – for one last time, faithfully on command – plunged into Jupiter.

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Ever since we have existed, we humans have always attempted to form attachments toward everyday objects that have become a part of our lives, in part because we are loving creatures and affection is in our nature. Love is a fixed part of our species needs. When we are small, it is the teddy bear or the security blanket we couldn’t live without. Remember Linus, in ‘Peanuts’, clinging on to his blanket and sucking his thumb?

As we grow, we fall in love with all sorts of objects in our daily lives. In my case, it’s the old corduroy jacket that always seems to lift my spirits the moment I slip it on. Or my first car in Canada, a 1998 Corolla that had to be constantly coaxed into taking me where I wanted to go, but still came through when desperately needed – like in a snow storm on Highway 20 in the middle of the night. The car was so dear to me that I had even given it a name – Bertha and a gender, female.

Or even the house I grew up in. I remember making a trip to Durgapur, while on a visit to India in 2010, just to see with my own eyes the two-storeyed bungalow that we had lived in, five decades prior – 1964 onward – when I was 10. Besides being a place filled with love, events that had seemed momentous then had occurred there, like the gradual break-up of my parents’ marriage and me being sent to live with relatives first and later on to boarding school, when life with my relatives became unbearable.

As I leaned against the wall of the bedroom that my two brothers and I had slept in, I stared down at the grassy patch outside and I felt I could hear my Ma calling from the kitchen window…”Ei Jobbu, anek hoyeche, ebar bhetore choley aye. Kal school khulche je, boi pottor dekhe ne shob ache ki na” (Jobbu, that’s enough of playing, now come on inside and go over your school bag and see if you have everything. School starts tomorrow).

It was still there but the bungalow now had a run-down look. The woman who let me in was very understanding. After a while, as I wandered from room to room, touching the windows, the walls, while memories sprang up like asparagus on steroids and I couldn’t hold back the tears. The window sill over which I had lobbed Ma’s treasured Ganesha out in rage because I was caught bullying the neighbor’s daughter and given a spanking – that window sill appeared not to have changed one bit, though it had been way taller than me and I could barely see over it then. Later on, Ma told me she would never have guessed where the marble idol had landed (in the bushes outside), had it not been for the Krishna figurine teetering on the ledge of the window. It appears I had taken out my anger on multiple gods. (The fact that I have grown into a well-adjusted adult proves that Hindu gods don’t hold grudges.)

My emotions that day in 2010 were so real that the woman who had let me in hugged me and began crying herself.

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For the men and women who had nurtured Galileo, seeing it plummet into Jupiter, the attachment toward a robotic spacecraft must have felt like something similar. For three decades, Galileo had been a part of their daily lives.

Without doubt, inanimate objects are just that – inanimate. Or are they? After all, we haven’t yet fully grasped what reality really is, have we?

 

Schloop-me-tight-Goober

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The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is an unabashed schloop-me-tight-goober. Here he is seen schlooping various assorted bigshots, including the Obamas.

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What? Haven’t you heard of schlooping? It is a close, squishing, cheek-rubbing embrace, so tight and so close that it can get a bit embarrassing if you are at receiving end of it.

By the way, “Schloop-me-tight-Goober” is an authentic copyrighted Spunkybong term. I’ll sue you if you use it without my permission.

The Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi, holds a PhD in schlooping, he is such a hell of a touchy schloopy guy. Give him half a chance and he’ll schloop you. If you happen ta be a head of state, film star, CEO or celebrity and you see Modi bearing down on you from across the room, you’re going ta get schlooped whether you like it or not.

Quite admittedly, the act of one human hugging another is a heartwarming image. What with the rise of hate everywhere, the world does face a love-deficit at the moment. There is nothing wrong with the gesture as far as I am concerned. Politicians schlooping each other in India is du jour.

But what is striking about Modi’s schlooping is the look of pure maniacal bliss on his face when he schloops someone. He won’t let go – he’ll just keep on schlooping you with that Alfred E. Newman grin on his face. Just google Narendra Modi and you’ll see a zillion Modi schlooping photos. He makes it look like he is in multiple same sex marriages, each photo appearing as though it was taken right after the ring exchange and the vows. When he is deep into schlooping, he looks slightly off into the distance and seems to be saying,” What? Me worry?”

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After two decades in the west and being near white folk, I have realized that schlooping is not a very appropriate gesture in the western world. The warmth that a schloop tries to convey, is lost on most world leaders, especially if they happen to be white folks from affluent nations. Take a look at Mark Zuckerberg or Tony Scott in the collage above. I can just sense the inadvertent cringe they must feel, being schlooped by Modi.

Would you find a Boris Johnson schlooping an Emanuel Macron? Or an Anglea Merkel getting schlooped by a Matteo Salvini? Modi thought nothing of schlooping his erstwhile arch-rival, Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif. Would you have dreamt of seeing Barack Obama schlooping Vladimir Putin? Donald Trump has professed undying love for Kim Jong Un, but have you ever seen him schlooping the guy? Why does it become so necessary for an Indian Prime Minister to slobber all over another dignitary? During his last meeting with Obama, Modi schlooped him no less than six times in the space of 24 hours.

In the west, physical space is an important concept. Usually it is a two-foot deep envelope all around a person. Western men take breaching that envelope as an annoyance, even as an act of aggression. Between straight men in the west, the only acceptable way to breach the envelope is through a handshake or a high five. Otherwise, schlooping is frowned upon in general. A hug may look quite normal in India –even holding hands is quite common between two male friends in India – but if you try to hold another man’s hand here in the west, he’ll recoil from you, convinced that you are a raving perverted homo.

There could be a number of  reasons for this aversion to touching between men in the west – one is a perception that any overt show of warmth or affection is by default a sign of a lack of manliness. After all, the Caucasian male is essentially a war-like sub-species of human beings, immensely proud of his masculinity.

Another reason could be the way that a western individual is taught to practice his faith. Take a look at pictures of Christian, Jewish or Islamic prophets and even artistic depictions of God – invariably he is shown as old, bearded, stern and humorless , austere, severe and martial and generally inspiring fear and respect. If you looked at a picture of Moses, would it make you feel like giving him a hug?

All three Abrahamic religions teach believers to ‘fear’ God or else. The term “an honest god-fearing man” is an oft-repeated one in the west, meant to describe a devout person. Being God-fearing is like a badge, a qualification here. Brutal retribution is just one tiny sin away, if one following either the Bible, the Tora or the Quran doesn’t fear God. It may be this either my way or the highway implicit ultimatum in these three religions that maybe somehow makes a majority of believers cold and impersonal.

This is not to say that I haven’t met warm Christians or Muslims. The lack of warmth that I am referring to is just alluded to the physical space concerns and therefore the straight western man’s aversion to schlooping. Besides, I am not expressing an opinion on whether that is desirable or undesirable.

In comparison, look at Hinduism and all it’s many gods and goddesses (we Hindus don’t have prophets or any other divine sales reps). All Hindu deities have one thing invariably in common – our Gods have this beatific, mushy, serene smile. Fearing god is not a requirement at all in Hinduism, not in the way that the Abrahamic religions make it mandatory. There is no threat of hell fire in Hinduism. The explanation is simple and profound – how can you love someone you are told you should fear?

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Hey, how you bin?

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Take it easy, Volodya may be watchin’ and if he gets pissed, he’ll release the golden shower video.

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Now cut it out, dumbass. I told you no schlooping and no begging!!!

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Schlooping, like any other field of pursuit, has it’s variations. Let me show you a few………..

‘Schleep’ is when a schloop ends in a kiss on the cheek. You could go further – like you could think of doing a schloop-a-doo-dee. For that, you might have ta check into a motel room in a remote part of town, under a false name, with a blonde.

There are goobers other than the schloop-me-tight-goobers of course. Let me introduce you to another kind of goober that inhabits the world – suck-my-face-goober – also a Spunkybong copyrighted term. Suck-my-face-Goobers are annoying folks who like to kiss wet slobbering open-mouthed kisses that women say are so yucky. Their kisses have a ridiculous slurpy sound, leaving half the woman’s face wet and sloppy, while their tongues slurp around the palate like eels. Yechh!

Suck-my-face-goobers are usually men but once in a while one gets a female – like this married landlady twice my age in India, when I was twennie-two. She just couldn’t get enough of me and would slobber over my face. I indicated to her that she might find schlooping my richard more fulfilling and I am happy ta report to you that she acceded with zest.

But let’s stick to just schlooping, okay? I am too straight-laced to write about the others, though there was a time I even went schlapee-doo-shaa. Please, don’t make me tell you what that is.

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Getting back to Narendra Modi, if I were the Indian PM, I would stop being a schloop-me-tight-goober forthwith and maintain a certain aloofness. In international politics, it is more prudent to command respect than to look for some facile affection.

 

 

Jardin enchanté

“The first thing that Almighty Lord did was plant a garden……” – Anonymous

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A trip to the Montreal Jardin Botanique de Montréal leaves one kinda unfulfilled. When it’s time to leave after spending the day there, one is always left feeling like, ‘Hope I didn’t miss anything’.

There’s simply so much to see in this 75-acre picture postcard Garden of Eden.

Besides, how do you decide just how long you need to spend at each section – the rolling Chrysanthemum beds crowded with red-yellow, blue-purple and angel white Chrysanthemums so huge that if they were any bigger, they would have their own atmosphere, gravity and moons. Or the gushing brook that’s stuffed with colorful bass and overfed rainbow trout that brazenly waddle up and pout at you and let you caress them before they say ‘stop touching me’, wriggle free and scoot away.

Or the sunflower section? You thought there were only them inch sized sunflowers on God’s earth? Nope, the Jardin Botanique has those but they also have ones that are a foot in diameter, teeming with bees that look like salesmen exchanging stories of great deals at the sports bar I go to Friday nights.

Or the weeds section? Oh yeah, the much maligned weeds. Weeds are plants too, some even having their own pretty flowers. It’s only that they appear at places you don’t want them ta be in. Just because they are hardy, need no maintenance to survive and multiply like crazy, they are considered evil. Personally I love weeds because I love the underdog, like. The Jardin Botanique has a whole section here that teems with buttercups, goldenrods, thistles, catnips, jasmines, milkweed and of course, dandelions.

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Then there’s the book. I always have a book with me wherever I go. I can’t stand being somewhere by myself with nothing ta read. I’m fidgety, but that’s okay. All geniuses are fidgety people.

Today I am rereading “The girl with the dragon tattoo”. It’s not the ideal book for a trip to the botanical gardens but it’s so fucking interesting, I can’t put it down, so I brought it along. I am fascinated by Lizbeth Salander. She is unruly, unwashed, probably has bad breath but I am turned on by her. I  picture her savagely squeezing me with her vaginal muscles while I have torid sex with her. Wild, tightly coiled women drive me nuts.

How did this post turn to sex? It was supposed to be about flowers for Christ’s sakes. I was wanting ta write a post on my visit to the Botanical Gardens and here I am, with a stiffening richard the lion heart, thinking of fucking Lizbeth. (Maybe I really want to fuck Rooney Mara).

Wherever you go, you have to choose the book you want ta take with you very carefully. If you are in a doctor’s waiting room, take something comic, like a Richard Gordon, an Emma Bombeck or a Wodehouse. Nothing too racy like a Jackie Collins or else you might fail ta hear the nurse call out your name and even if you don’t, the doc might decide you have high BP. Don’t take Nevile Shute either or else you’ll be stuck being told you have hypotension. A long train journey or a trans-Atlantic flight is true crime / serial killer time. You need the hours ta fly. But if you’re on the bus or the subway, try not to read at all lest you miss your stop. Just watch the girls and day dream like I do.

The Jardin is strewn with reclining wooden armchairs and my ambition is to find the right spot where I can settle and read. As I make my way from one section to the next, I am constantly scoping it out for the armchair that is positioned just right for a long delicious read.

Alas, in the end I don’t actually get ta spend much time reading, because I have been spending the whole time looking for that perfect spot. And by the time I have found it, it’s nearing closing time. What a jerko di tutti jerki I am.

With a half hour ta go before the gates close, I end up at the Restaurant Organique. Soon as I enter, I feel the pure oxygen in there. I munch a vegan sandwich and an ice cold melon kombucha. All 100% organic. The food is excruciatingly healthy, something that my body simply isn’t used to. But I’m famished so I eat it anyway.

The girl at the counter is a picture of health. Plump, baby blue eyes, pink-cheeks, boisterously vivaciously bouncy. I tell her I want ta adopt her and she blushes and laughs, displaying pearly white teeth.

That’s one of the advantages of being an old man. You flirt audaciously and instead of being offended, they blush.

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My first smoocherooney

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It happened 1967, in a small eastern Indian town called Durgapur. I was 12 and so was she. I am 64 now, but listen, you’ll never ever forget your first smoocherooney, trust me.

It was like yesterday, I remember that day so vividly. The rest of the school was out at the stadium race-track for the annual parade dress rehearsal. The morning had gone by playing the fool, leaving corny notes on each other’s desks, hiding our compass boxes from each other and generally poking good natured fun at one another.

This thing between Rashmi and me had been going on for a while and we were beginning to feel like it was all sort of building up to something but we didn’t know what that was. Just last week my lips had brushed against her ear while we were on a arts and crafts project together and I had managed to say, “Surprise attack!” and grinned. She had expressed mock shock and given me a playful slap and run off to the other girls.

That day, the bell rang for the parade rehearsal and everyone began trooping down to the stadium – except Rashmi, who had been loitering behind. Instead of following the crowd, she gave me a quick glance to ensure she had my attention and slipped away and disappeared inside the chemistry lab.

I followed her in. The Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, would have been proud of me.

I found her at the far corner, behind a cupboard filled with the burettes and pipettes. She just stood there facing the doorway, her arms outstretched, gripping the shelves, her sparking eyes filled with delicious foreboding. The moment I swung into her field of vision, her hands flew to her face and covered her eyes, her middle and forefingers parting a crack to see if I was making any progress toward her.

In a few strides I was on her and as I held her tight, she kept trying to wriggle free, though not with any genuine conviction. Rashmi somehow knew she was desirable and therefore her brain was configured to be coquettish and frisky. I guess its one of those things that no one teaches pretty girls, they are just born knowing it.

Instead of breaking out of my grasp, she kept real quiet and that should have told me something but it didn’t. In fact I kinda lost my balance holding her and she thought I was stepping back. Her hands snaked up my back and yanked me back to her tight.

Now that should definitely have told me something, no? This time it did. It emboldened me. I stared at her beautiful lips and said,“ What would you do if I kissed you right now?” Her beautiful face took on a devilish twist. She seemed like she wanted nothing else.

“I would kiss you right back,” she whispered and before her palms could fly right back up to her face, I had them in mine.

Rashmi was a head shorter and had her face buried in my chest so I wouldn’t be able to reach her lips with mine. Still, I tried. I crouched low, not letting go of my grip on her shoulders for even a moment, as I tried to reach down with my lips, but they could barely make it down to her pretty nose.

About to give up, I sighed and gently gave the tip of her nose a peck and started to move away, when she stopped struggling and went slack in my arms. She brought her face up to mine, her bright beautiful eyes an inch away from mine, so close that I had only her eyes in my vision. Suddenly their texture changed, the pupils widened and the corners crinkled. Though I couldn’t see her full face from up that close, I knew she was grinning.

Taking this as a cue, I plunged my lips down but instead, I felt her knee come up and connect with my adolescent testicles with a crunch and I let go with a yelp. She sprang free and ran, but then she came to a stop a few yards away.

Then she did a funny thing. She stopped turned. Woooooo!! It wasn’t over yet, I rejoiced silently. Pretending to be really seriously hurt, I fell to the lab floor and gasped, my face screwed up in mock agony. Taking hesitant steps, she inched back toward me, the devilishly naughty look now replaced by one that was puckered in genuine concern.

Curling up in a ball, gasping for breath, I bided my time letting her come within reach until she was stooping over me to take a closer look, strands of her hair falling all over my eyes and my chin. Suddenly my whole being was being assaulted with the scent of Brahmi Amla Kesh Coconut Oil. It took all my adolescent self-restraint to keep my eyes open just a slit, like as if I was in agony.

I don’t know when exactly she caught on I was pretending but it was too late by then. As she knelt over me, I uncoiled in a speedy blurr, reached out and grabbed her. She responded by letting out a high-pitched squeal, more in excitement mixed with delight, than fright. Sometimes all you need ta win a girl is a little subterfuge.

As we lay entwined, the chill of the chem lab floor made Rashmi shiver and she whispered, “They’ll look for us!” said she and shivered,” Hurry!”

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Now take it easy. Between the 1967 ‘hurry’, and the 2019 ‘hurry’, there have been genuine advances. Bras and panties became passé, folks streaked naked over open ground and the word ‘f–k’ stormed the lexicons of the world. The 1967 ‘hurry’ meant just a kiss. And not even a French kiss.

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It was bliss as we lay there, Rashmi on top of me with her head on my chest, her curls tickling my nose, one leg draped over me with her black uniform shoes touching the floor on my other side. The though of progressing toward something more just didn’t cross our minds. This, what we had achieved so far, in itself was manna – like summitting Everest. Around us, two silent shelves filled with syringes, glass bowls and distilling columns were still, staring down with disapproval, like Lhotse and Cho Oyu.

After a long while we stood, retreating to a corner. I took her soft hands in mine and my lips skimmed over her forehead, her eyes, her ears and her nose just grazing against each while her breath clouded my specs. I could write a saga on just that breath – it had a scent of Amul butter, milk and bread crumbs on it.

I was inhaling greedily when finally I found her lips and tarried there a while. It was the first time my lips had been on a girl’s and I explored the tiny ridges that run vertically along lips that are maiden – they form when the weather is cold and dry. I didn’t know it was cold out there, jeeze, I was sweating like crazy.

For a moment the Amerigo Vespucci in me took over once again and I couldn’t resist feeling those ridges with my tongue but she recoiled in horror, so I hurriedly put my tongue back in. That didn’t deter the oral explorer in me, though. Since that day, my safaris have ventured into more than twennie pu…baby cats in my adulthood. Honestly, if Capt. James Cook was hiring scouts for his Australia expedition, he would have offered me a handsome signing bonus.

Getting back to Rashmi, we remained that way, giving each other tiny pecks and kisses, for what seemed like an eternity. Nothing was said, the words pouring out through our lips, google-translated into kisses. The Almighty created lips for communication but I am sure even He didn’t figure how well kisses can articulate.

In the middle of our kiss, her lips stretched, her teeth made contact with mine and her eyes crinkled and once again that Amul baby breath lingered out and engaged my nostrils and I knew she was smiling again. Right then, if she had demanded that I walk off a cliff onto jagged thorns and hyenas below, I woulda.

The shouts and yelps alerted us to the fact that the parade dress rehearsal was over and the kids were coming back in. She pushed me back against the burette/pipette shelf, making it jangle and almost tipping over some of the pipettes that were near the edge.

And then she ran away, blowing a kiss at me as she turned the corner and disappeared.

After that first time, the back of the chemistry lab served us well in our canoodling, being empty most of the time. Our chemistry teacher sucked and hey, doesn’t chemistry suck on the whole? Anyways, there we would crouch – not speaking, just kissing interminably long kisses. I think 1967 kisses were definitely longer than 2018 kisses, simply because they didn’t come with any feeling up or squeezing you-know-whats.

About a year later, Rashmi moved away with her family, to Asansol, another nondescript small town like Durgapur where nothing really happened. Rashmi had lovely feet and wore nupurs (ankle bracelets) that jingled just a wee bit and drove me nuts. The day before she left we had one last marathon canoodle behind a rack of bunsen burners. She cried a little and knowing how much her nupurs turned me on, she left me a pair of faux silver ones.

“I’ll tell my mother I lost them,” she tearfully whispered.

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Actually I am not sure how much of this anecdote really happened – all those years and all. Throw into that my imagination and y’know how it is, things get a bit hazy. Did I find her behind the cupboard in the chemistry lab or did our trysts happen in the library? Did we have a chemistry lab at all, or was the lab from my memories of my next school, La Martiniere where, a few years later, I ….. oh, forget it, you won’t believe what happened in La Marts anyway.

But, listen, if you haven’t yet kissed anyone and want ta, prepare yourself for a very surreal roller-coaster ride. As your lips meet, every nerve ending shall twang, every hair stand on it’s end. Your eyes shall swim, finding it nigh impossible ta focus. It isn’t a sexual thing. Guys, you won’t even get a hard-on even if you are old enough to have one, but the excitement will be so intense as to make you feel faint. At that moment you’ll be ready ta do anything for the girl. If her lips are slightly parted and she uses a breath freshener, the sensation of slipping your lower lip in will simply blow your mind. Take this from a man who has kissed maybe a thousand women.

Those days, Indian girls were very passive and demure. They made no moves by themselves. They just sat back and loved being kissed all over. I would say Rashmi was a bit more precocious than most other girls of that era. Rashmi’s face would take on a flushed glow when we kissed, I swear to ya.

And me – I was flushed too but suffice it to say that those days the parts of me that were usually soft during the normal course of the day, remained that way even when I was flushed with excitement. I believed then that a stiff dick was just another term for an obstinate 12th century English King with a backache and a lion heart.

I will never be able to go back and stand there in that school in that tiny town in India, without feeling the taste of Amul butter on my lips.

 

 

Just another ordinary American family

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Far-right Republican gun weirdo and politician, Michele Fiore (third from left) with her family. The image was from her 2015 Christmas Card to her constituents.

The three babies in arms don’t have their own guns, the poor dears – what a travesty.

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St Matthew, before he became an Apostle, had been known as Levi, one of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s many tax collectors who regularly had hapless inhabitants of conquered Roman province of Judea thrown into dungeons if they didn’t pay their taxes on time.

The word ‘levy’ (for taxes) might have been derived from him, but don’t take my words to the bank. Never take my words to the bank. Remember what the header on my blog says.

Getting back to Levi, when he heard Jesus speak one day, he was so moved that he turned into one of the prophet’s closest aides. He changed his name to Matthew, renounced all his ill-gotten gains and began following the prophet around, taking notes that later became ‘Gospel according to Matthew’ in the New Testament. Here’s an excerpt that is perhaps the most ridiculous of all Bible quotes…….

“It hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. But I say unto thee, whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other one also. And if any man shall sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak too….” (5:38-40)

That was Jesus exhorting his followers to not only refrain from revenge and retaliation against their oppressors but to go even further and actually abbett the persecution by looking at it as something that needed to be fueled with encouragement.

In almost the same breath, in another part of this most incomprehensible document that we know as the Bible one of Jesus’ closest apostles, St.Paul, commands his followers to do this…..Samuel 15:3: The Lord Almighty says … ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’

To put this in context, the Amalekites were sworn enemies of the Israelites. I have no idea what they did to the Israelites, but the Jews hated them, period. And we know what happens to those whom the Israeli Jews happen to hate, don’t we? So here was the Christian God, clearly not acting as God of everybody but taking sides and actually directing his “chosen” to commit genocide.

Turn the other cheek or kill their infants? And while the so-called “faithful” are vascillating from one extreme to the other, their God is sitting somewhere up there and having a belly laugh at the mind fuck called Christianity that he has orchestrated.

I swear if I bump into Angel Gabriel on a mountain top, I’ll tell him to shut the fuck up.

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Wannabe American politician, Michele Fiore and her family must hate this guy called Jesus, since he stood for everything that they loathe. Can you imagine folks like the Fiores turning the other cheek or giving away their cloaks?  In fact, it sure is hard for me to believe that such a family can even exist in America. But yes, the Fiores are actually a living breathing American family, exercising their “2nd Amendment” rights.

Now, to the sane among you who will want to ask what the fuck is the 2nd Amendment, it is an amendment to the American Constitution that is interpretted very conveniently as bestowing every American citizen the right to ‘bear’ arms, when it actually does not.

If you are in the company of a Republican (specially someone from the ‘heartland’) for more than 60 seconds, chances are high you will hear the terms “2nd Amendment” or “Founding Fathers” thrown around quite a bit, aside from frequent references to Jesus. Open an American TV Channel and someone is sure to be talking about how the right to bear arms is “enshrined” in the “2nd Amendment” by our “Founding Fathers”. In no other country on this planet do ordinary citizens mouth references to their constitutions with such frequency.

Michele Fiore and her ilk love these terms of course. Like many of her fellow gun crazies, Michele Fiore believes that mass shootings (now regular weekly events in America) are caused by psychotropic drugs. Mass shooters are, to her, just deranged folks with guns who can only be stopped by good folks with guns.

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Michele’s 2016 “Walk the 2nd Amendment” Calendar, a wall hanging featuring pinup-style portraits of her with a different weapon for each month, from a Mossberg 590 for January (“self-defense awareness month”), to a SCAR (Special Ops combat AR) for June (“Campus Safety Month”).

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Since the printing of her 2016 calendar, Michele seems to have put on a bit of weight. And moved into a bordello (judging by the gaudy pink everywhere).

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Her calendar and Christmas card gained Fiore so much notoriety that she had no difficulty gaining a membership of the Las Vegas Republican City Council. She is now Mayor ‘pro tem’ of Las Vegas and says her next step is running for congress. Yes, in America it works. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are living breathing signs that the more outrageous a lowlife looney you are, the more are your chances of getting elected there.

In 2013, Fiore sponsored a bill in the state assembly, which would allow students and teachers to carry concealed firearms on college campuses, grade schools and day care facilities. It would even allow folks to walk into airports with concealed guns on their person. In an interview with The New York Times, she is quoted saying, “If those hot young girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to stick their fingers up their panties. The assaults that are occurring today will stop once a few of these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”

Fiore is confident that her bill will gain support and eventually become law. “This bill is for the good guys that are abiding by the law, being put in dangerous situations where we can’t defend ourselves,” she says.

If being a gun nut who has an atrocious taste for wall paint colors was the only idiosyncracy Michele Fiore had in her veins, I wouldn’t bother writing this post. I would just call her a wierdo and leave it at that. But more importantly, she also happens to be a corrupt self-dealing politician who is actually in there, like all other Republicans, for the money.

Besides her official duties, Fiore also owns and operates a home health care business, named ‘Always there 4 U, Llc.’ and has her own radio show where she once infamously proclaimed that cancer is not a cell mutation, as conventional science believes, but a ‘fungus’ that can be flushed out of the body with sodium bicarbonate.

A weirdo can still be considered a palatable person if that person at least didn’t break the law, but this lady cannot help herself. In 2014, she and her business faced $1 million in fines involving unpaid taxes. She simply forgot to deposit employee payroll taxes with the state exchequer. And guess what? Michelle Fiore was the majority leader and chairwoman of the Nevada State Assembly Taxation Committee!

Being an Indian by birth and having come from a country that boasts having 36% of it’s elected officials who are members of organized crime and scam artists, I am so heartened to see the beacon of the free world having it’s own share of redneck kooks who fill other folks with disgust.

Way to go, America, thank you for bolstering an Indian’s sense of self-worth.