Friday, January 9, 2009

Wordle Challenge #2 (now with HINTS!) Deadline = Sat. midnight

Come now, friends! I have re-evaluated the status of this Wordle Challenge and find that it is, indeed, an easy one. It is now even easier, hints having been added.

Ms. Fresca was kind enough to leave it unsolved but is probably second-guessing that choice now, and chomping at the bit to get at the lucrative prize offerings. I'll keep this open until the end of the week -- at which time, Fresca can cash in.

Wordle Challenge #2, Easy Level: Identify the novel from which comes the following wordled text --

HINTS: Published in the mid 60s, the alternative title of this work is Pearls Before Swine.

Good luck!

Wordle Challenge #3 (Now with Hints!) Deadline = Sat. midnight

Wordle Challenge #3 is perhaps too difficult, though likely not for those immersed in the murky waters of French tradition.


Still, I think that if you had an intro to French lit at university, this is easily within your reach. Here are two hints: Louis Malle directed the movie version; The book's first word is a neologism that is a phonetic transcription of that existential question -- D'où qu'il pue donc tant?

As usual, identify the author and his/her work. But for real bragging rights, tell us to what/whom the citation refers (that is: oatmeal? doggy doo? Spiro Agnew?).

Good luck! As with Wordle Challenge #2, this one will be withdrawn if not solved by Saturday, midnight.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We don't need no stinkin' humanitarians

I am a fan of Thomson Reuters Foundation AlertNet -- "Alerting humanitarians to emergencies." That last part makes me feel strange, very strange, as almost all of what they report seems to me to be hard news, meant to be read by hard people, not namby-pamby* humanitarians. I go elsewhere for my gardening tips, Tom Cruise insanities, and Genuine Ginsu Knives pricing updates. I ain't no freakin' humanitarian**! (Profound apologies to the "stinking badges" of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)

Or maybe I am. Aren't we all?

Apparently not.

ICRC says Israel broke international law in Gaza
08 Jan 2009 14:57:48 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds remarks by senior ICRC official)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Relief workers found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City bombed by Israeli forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.

The ICRC accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the hit area and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded.

"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded," he said.

In unusually strong terms, the neutral agency said it believed Israel had breached international humanitarian law in the incident.

In a written response, the Israeli army said it works in coordination with international aid bodies assist civilians and that it "in no way intentionally targets civilians".

The Israeli offensive launched in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Dec. 27 to end rocket attacks by Islamic militants has drawn increasing international criticism over mounting civilian casualties.

Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances and ICRC officials managed to reach several houses in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City on Wednesday after seeking access from Israeli military forces since last weekend, the ICRC statement said.

The rescue team "found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses", the ICRC said.

"They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses," it said.

In another house, the team found 15 survivors of Israeli shelling including several wounded, it said. Israeli soldiers posted some 80 meters (yards) away ordered the rescue team to leave the area which they refused to do, it said.

The ICRC said it had been informed that there were more wounded sheltering in other destroyed houses in the area.

"The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuated the wounded. It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable," it said.

In all, it evacuated 18 wounded and 12 others who were exhausted, including the children, by donkey cart. This was because large earth walls erected by the Israeli army had made it impossible to bring ambulances into the immediate area.

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, warring parties are obliged to do everything possible to search for, collect and evacuate the wounded and sick without delay, it said.

Dominik Stillhart, ICRC deputy director of operations, declined to say explicitly whether the Israeli inaction constituted a war crime.

"Clearly, it is (for) the International Criminal Court -- not for the ICRC -- to say whether this is or is not a war crime," he said, referring to the Hague tribunal.

Ambulances must be given "round-the-clock" access to the wounded throughout Gaza, Stillhart told a news briefing. "We cannot wait for the next suspension of hostilities for the wounded to be evacuated and brought to hospital."

The Israeli army said any serious allegations would need to be investigated properly after a formal complaint was received, "within the constraints of the military operation taking place". (Additional reporting by Adam Entous in Jerusalem) (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jonathan Lynn)


*We are being very literary when we call someone a namby-pamby, a word derived from the name of Ambrose Philips, a little-known 18th-century poet whose verse incurred the sharp ridicule of his contemporaries Alexander Pope and Henry Carey. Their ridicule, inspired by political differences and literary rivalry, had little to do with the quality of Philips's poetry. In poking fun at some children's verse written by Philips, Carey used the nickname Namby Pamby: “So the Nurses get by Heart Namby Pamby's Little Rhimes.” Pope then used the name in the 1733 edition of his satirical epic The Dunciad. The first part of Carey's coinage came from Amby, or Ambrose. Pamby repeated the sound and form but added the initial of Philips's name. Such a process of repetition is called reduplication. After being popularized by Pope, namby-pamby went on to be used generally for people or things that are insipid, sentimental, or weak.

**The original quotation comes from the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with Humphrey Bogart. In one of the scenes in the movie a Mexican bandit leader (Gold Hat played by Alfonso Bedoya) is trying to convince Fred C Dobbs (played by Bogart) and company that they are the Federales.

'If you're the police where are your badges?'
Gold Hat: 'Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!'[1]

This in turn was adapted from B Traven's 1927 novel upon which the movie was based:

"All right," Curtain shouted back. "If you are the police, where are your badges? Let's see them."
"Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don't need badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching' tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you."

1 Popularly misquoted as "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!", most likely from Blazing Saddles in which the line was so worded.

[Retired Educator here. I am infamous for my inability to quote quotes and pronounce proverbs, and, above all, to absolutely slay idiomatic expressions, especially in translation.]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Of Bookies and Grader Boobs

My eldest brother and I were lost to one another for almost 40 years. I had concluded that he was dead and stopped searching for him in mid-2007.

Just before Thanksgiving that year, I decided to get back in touch with my Mother and her preferred litter of kids. Rather than struggling to connect with my half-sister and half-brother -- with whom I had probably spent a total of two weeks -- I planned to get gifts for my nieces and nephews, and through the great goodness and graces of children, insert myself into the clan as Super-Tante.

This necessitated finding stuff out about the four kids in question -- like, umm, their names and ages, likes, dislikes, needs, and wants. It was working out well, since the emails and phone calls back and forth were not as clumsy and nervous as they'd have been otherwise. Give the adults an agenda -- don't offer up too much unattached information, too much free air, space, time.

And then there was the day I thought I would never again be able to catch my breath.

My half-sister is a lovely woman, and quite possibly the most outgoing person of my acquaintance. Tossed into the seven or so sentences making up her note to me was "Oh, I have [your eldest brother's] snail mail and email address if you want them..."

I couldn't breathe.

I touched the computer screen as if it were the face of my most beloved.

Then I grew cold, could not get warm. I wanted to cry, and couldn't.

She is lovely and animated -- but she can also be a little "off" sometimes. I know her better now, know her extreme goodness and the wildness of her heart. She simply did not know, did not understand. Her family never lost its nucleus.

It probably won't occur to you -- but what gave me back my breath, what warmed me, was a burning thought: But Mother... surely you would not have done this to me?

Oh, if you could see the smirk on my face. Mother is a snake in the grass, capable of more meanness than I can even imagine. But she is old now, and sad, and as she wrote to me: "I can no longer do penance over and over..."

Which was news to me, of course, having never heard her even come close to saying she was sorry for anything. But she is old now, and sad. I must make that my mantra, and understand it as true. The man for whom she left me and my brothers -- oh, and the original Father-Unit -- was, it must be said, a remarkable, wonderful person. I have said, ever since I matured enough to understand all that happened, and is still happening, that were my fondest wish to come true, my parents would be constituted from the step-parents who blessed us with their love, caring, and guidance. But Mother is old now, her Wonder Husband dead, and she is sad.

I wrote my... sister (it does not roll off the tongue, nor type easily) back within the half-hour. I was inchoate, insensate. In that selfsame interval, she apparently shared with the Mother-Unit what she had done and been rudely chastised. She was trapped in "I-didn't-know-it-was-a-secret" Land.

There was now no denying me and I demanded, using language that was direct and clear, what we came to call his "contact information."

He ran away from "home" at the age of 15 -- definitively, that is. He ran many times. The last time, we surmised that he went to San Francisco. Not long afterward, we moved from California to the Philippine Islands. My father told us that he was fine, was staying with our grandparents, and would join us in three months -- when, in truth, he had not looked for his son, had no real notion where he was, and did not care. Did Dad really think that my remaining brother and I would forget about him in three months -- he who was dear to us?

I took the contact information and copied it everywhere. Every type of address book I own. On the refrigerator. In my checkbook. The Emergency Card no one ever looks at that comes with wallets. In the computer, on the Palm.

Calling him seemed wrong. I wanted him to have the chance to not respond, to refuse. In all these years, he could easily have found me, us. Somehow, though, I knew what he must have thought. My brother Grader Boob (he's an English prof) and I were surely part of that family that abandoned him...

I emailed him, trying not to fall into all the tangles.

And so began one of the greatest conversations of my life. Some days, most days, when I am in pain, fatigued, depressed -- and cannot see beyond these small adjectives -- I think of him, write him, and am reintroduced to joy.

He is a bookie in Vegas. He is a poet and wondrous writer. He paints houses in Tahoe. He is a photographer and naturalist, leading clients into the wonders of the Grand Canyon during the half-year he works as a guide. He became a naturalist, I believe, due to all he learned during the years he was homeless and lived in concert with trash cans and nature. He was shot once and almost died. He has a daughter but is out of touch. Her mother made porn films and now lives in Thailand. He is kind, witty, and always battling against his reserves of depression and fear. I love him so.

I have taken to surreptitiously posting his photography here ("Surreptitiously"? Ha!) whenever I need it. It has become a need.

I detest the telephone and have never enjoyed long chats -- except with people I know very well and with whom I share a history of sufficient detail to fill a phone conversation. So we have spoken only once and that shames me. Maybe today? Maybe tomorrow?

For some reason, he is on my mind today and I find myself wondering if there is anything at all that I will ever be able to do for him, give him.

Grader Boob decided long ago that he did not want to be a part of any of these pseudo-families, that were his brother ever to surface, alive, he did not want to participate, thank you very much. Nor does he speak to the Mother-Unit. He visits yearly with Dad and his wife. I like to think that we are very close but may be deluding myself.

Since rediscovering my older brother, Mother has fallen and broken a hip, had some serious heart problems, and apparently is desperately trying to waste away. She won't go that way, though. No. Not her.

Yesterday, the bookie poet posted the following quote from H.D. Thoreau's journal on one of his blogs:

January 6, 1857/

A man asked me the other night whether such and such persons were not as happy as anybody, being conscious, as I perceived, of such unhappiness himself and not aspiring to much more than an animal content.

“Why!” said I, speaking to his condition, “the stones are happy. Concord River is happy, and I am happy too. When I took up a fragment of a walnut-shell this morning, I saw by its very grain and composition, the form and color, etc., that it was made for happiness. The most brutish and inanimate objects that are made suggest an everlasting and thorough satisfaction; they are the homes of content. Wood, earth, mould, etc., exist for joy. Do you think that Concord River would have continued to flow these millions of years by Clamshell Hill and round Hunt’s Island, if it had not been happy,-—if it had been miserable in its channel, tired of existence, and cursing its maker and the hour that it sprang?”

This was the photo he chose as illustration to this entry, "The Stones are Happy."

The Chair

I am doing housekeeping duties -- things that are easily taken on, checked off: piles of emails, teetering, and about to fall over; quickie phone calls to make, cancel, and reschedule appointments; actual dinner plans (those veggies will NOT go bad in the crisper, not on my watch!); a shower with my dear Hibiclens (must. kill. MRSA.); a couple loads of wash; pharmacy refills; and a well-timed, perfectly executed attack on the feline contingents' fur (Why won't they just *chill* already, and let me vacuum them? Touchy, touchy.).

The poor darling Fred. As there is so much, these particular days, that I cannot actually do, my many annoying lists of choses à faire are delivered with the Royal "We." As in: It would be great if we could get the kitchen windows washed before they actually become opaque. Or -- Tante Nancy is visiting next week... maybe we can sweep the leaves off the deck before she arrives? Poor guy.

If yesterday was Tuesday, it must have been Infectious Disease visit day! My favorite PA was back from her extended vacation. (We call her Susan because that is her name.) Actually, I believe she was not entirely back -- it was a rather vague encounter. I never know what to do when I know something that the medico ought to know -- should I speak up, drop a hint, or remain silent? She was totally horrified that "no labs have been done," which was, of course, a ridiculous thing to think. Every Wednesday when we go back to the office to pick up the medicine balls of antibiotics for the coming week, we also get a copy of our labs, from which I forward abnormal results to Dr. Boutiqueur. I gave Susan her 15 minutes to run around consulting her colleagues, then pretended surprise when she rushed over and pointed out the "critical values" from last week. One of the nurses smiled at me from over her shoulder. So Susan saved the day and simultaneously sort of slid back into the rhythm of things. Right on cue, she was spouting the party line: high WBC, high sed rate, way high CRP, etcetera -- That advice I gave you? About relaxing and putting further surgery out of your mind? Well, the need for another shoulder operation may arise more quickly than I'd anticipated...

They love Fred in the Infusion Center. He cracks me up! We get to the waiting room and he practically salivates with pleasure, with anticipation. When the nurse comes to take me back to an exam room, he always says: "Why don't I go back and wait for you in the Infusion Center?" Eager as a puppy.

See... it is all about The Chair.

To be specific (and we should all be specific) Champion Healthcare Seating Products designed the recliner of his dreams, the 59 Series Relax Recliner, in stunning Ice Mint. There are 6 of them in the Infusion Room. He always picks the one to the left -- as you go in -- next to the window.

When I am done with the exam and consult part of the visit, I head for the Infusion Room, chuckling already. Every time, there is Fred, head back, feet up in the air, paperback novel on his lap, snoring to beat the proverbial band. At that, I cannot help myself, and bust my proverbial gut in outright laughter. The nurses all put their indexes to pursed lips, practically glaring at me, the unappreciative woman who has obviously abused her good natured, ever helpful life partner -- this poor, worn out man!

This poor, worn out man is going to be seriously depressed and deprived when my 6 weeks of i.v. treatment are over. Me? I haven't had the pleasure of conking out in the 59 Series Relax Recliner in Ice Mint. I wheel around, knocking bedside trays into bizarre configurations, running over toes.

Periodically, he half-wakes, stretches like the aforementioned puppy (with a little pot belly in this iteration) and graces us all with the sweetest smile before falling asleep again. Meanwhile, I am usually getting stuck, since my PICC line loves to be flushed but hates to give up any blood. He always misses the 15 minutes during which my right arm is extended and rotated in an ungodly position so that the dressing can be changed. He wonders aloud sometimes what could possibly have caused the pain that I bitch about on the ride home. I tell myself that next Tuesday, I will fill a bowl with warm water and minister to the tips of his fingers as he sleeps.

That being a "medical" chair and all, it cleans up easily.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

I Blame Herzl

Do the right wing bigots really think that leftist assholes, such as myself, cannot distinguish between Hamas and the deserving -- overarching -- Question of Palestine? I wouldn't deign to waste time proposing an inanity such as Israel not having the right to self-determination, or to exist. Israel is the king of de facto everything, particularly of annexation, so what would be the point?

Israel is, de facto.
May Palestine eventually be, de jure.

I blame those peacenik Ottomans, those opium-toking he-went-that-a-way Turks. And the oh-so-benign-not-to-mention-secret Sykes-Picot incestuous annexations. I blame the Lame League.

I would link up with some of these right wing bigotted commentaries, but then I would have to pretend to want to debate (typical leftwing amour propre -- still better than their queer robes of purple armor).

Beware such winning and unconsidered repartee!

But really... did it not at least make you pause when a whole swiftboat class of answers presented itself in the form of one ever-manic Cynthia McKinney, Pippi Longstocking of the Closed Military Zone on the High Seas. We all start whistling and slipsliding backward at her sight, at her sound. I confess to a moment of admiration. She was actually doing something and it was consistent with her long-professed beliefs.

I gotta stop smoking that wacky tobacky. Anyway, the Israelis accidently rammed Cynthia's boat. A de facto ramming, if you will. She was, is, and always will be, an idiot -- but I've a soft spot for her now -- out there on the water, sans doute pissing herself and dissing the Jews, so reliably stupid. She comes by her anti-semitism honestly.

These are tragic times. Those of us not being bombed or doing the bombing, let's not subvert the causes of deserving peoples because we lack the mental agility to dissect the issues, that is, if we even understand them. I sure don't. I am swayed by the passions of individual Israelis and Palestinians and want to planify discrepancy. I belong in a home for the feeble-mindedly optimistic. It should be my job to wash and dress the dead, then bury them -- in accordance to the prevailing customs. Winds. Incoming missiles. Available space, and clergy.

Obviously, competing intransigeance is a waste of the world's time -- backing one or the other purely smacks.

We all know the answer lies in the two-state solution -- in which Hamas can play no role. So am I to support the occupation of Gaza in the hopes that when the bullets cease, Hamas will {*poof*} be gone?

It begs the huge question -- if not Hamas, then who else will see to the trapped 1.5 million Gazans? It has only been a few years since Israeli settlers and soldiers were withdrawn from Gaza -- is it Permanent Occupation Time again?

To claim that there is the least hope for Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza is ridiculous. The desperation of the Gazans does not resonate in his breast; Fatah would never ever be welcome if swept into power there in the wake of the Israeli war machines. One thinks of Pétain and of Gaza as the new Vichy...

More likely? Ghettos. The rising apolitical desperation of the trapped and hungry defeated Palestinians will be legitimized as an easy rallying cry for militant Islamist terrorists. Only a pawn in their game, indeed.

When the League of Nations had the brilliant idea to divide Palestine, and to screw the Palestinians by means of that ever-buggering British Rule -- the Mandatory Power that was to be provisory, transitory, and every other meaningful -ory -- the world chose not to take notice.

When we deigned to glance around, we saw Arafat in fatigues and sporting a weapon before the United Nations. It was all rather confusing.

And so we have see-sawed back and forth through the decades. The one thing that I have learned in my in-depth, spirited studies of world conflicts? There has to be someone to blame.

I blame Theodor Herzl for not having settled on Brazil.
painting by Erez Vaxman