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Here’s a horror story that may well visit us all. Got a mail from the manic Mr. Sands with this bit of information that made Java reach for the fixins and contemplate the options.

Here’s what we read from Mr. Sands:

There is a lot of talk about obtaining bunker buster bombs for the
SLAF, or whether it already has them and is using them against the Tigers.
This type of bomb comes with lingering costs.  It has become an issue in
Iraq, first with the damage it is causing to US and UK troops, which the
Defense Ministries try mightly to deny, and now it is coming up as an issue
for the local populations.  What if the SLAF does get a good supply of
these bombs and begins using them liberally in the North?  DU is Depleted
Uranium, which is the penetrating element in this type of bomb.  As far as
I am aware, there is no discussion of this factor in Sri Lanka

And this is the article he sent:
“We Are Living Through Another Hiroshima,” Iraq Doctor Says Sherwood Ross Op Ed
 November 21, 2007
As a number of Op Ed readers attacked the credentials of authorities Leuren
Moret and Doug Rokke cited in my previous article on radioactive ammunition, here are a few more authorities that support their view the U.S., Great Britain and Israel are turning the Middle East into a slice of radioactive hell.
There’s a ton of data about this on the Internet for the skeptics: from sources such as the 1999 report of the International Atomic Energy Commission to oncologist members of England’s Royal Society of Physicians to VA hospital nuclear medicine doctors to officials at the Basra maternity and pediatric hospital to reporter Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor. Peterson used a Geiger counter in August, 2003 to find radiation readings between 1,000 and 1,900 times normal where bunker buster bombs and munitions had exploded near Baghdad. After all, a typical bunker bomb is said to contain more than a ton of depleted uranium.
For a concise overview on radioactive warfare, read “DU And The Liberation of Iraq” by Christian Scherrer, a researcher at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, published on Znet on April 13, 2003. Scherrer states: “Based on the report of the 48th meeting issued by the UN Committee dealing with effects of Atomic radiation on 20th April 1999, noting the rapid increase in mortality caused by DU between 1991 and 1997, the IAEA document predicted the death of half a million Iraqis, noting that…’some 700-800 tons of depleted uranium was used in bombing the military zones south of Iraq. Such a quantity has a radiation effect, sufficient to cause 500,000 cases which may lead to death.”

Scherrer writes,  “In 1991 the DU ammunition was mainly used against Iraqi tanks in the desert near Basra, while in the present war DU is being used all over Iraq, even in densely populated areas including the heart of Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit and other cities.” He adds that, based on IAEA estimates and his previous research, “the death toll may surpass a million deaths over the next few years, with more to follow!”

Scherrer notes, incidentally, the UN’s Human Rights Commission back in 1996
declared DU a weapon of mass destruction(WMD) and that those who use it are guilty of a crime against humanity. Among its users: the first President Bush, President Bill Clinton, who irradiated the Balkans, and the current occupant of the White House.
Now let’s hear it from Iraqi doctors: Oncologist Dr. Jawad Al-Ali of Basra Hospital and Professor Husam al-Jarmokly of Baghdad University “showed a rapidly increasing death toll in Iraq since 1991 due to cancer and leukemia caused by U.S. radiological warfare,” Scherrer writes, based on their presentation of December 1, 2002 at the Peace Memorial Hall in Hiroshima.
Al-Ali, who is also a member of England’s Royal Society of Physicians, is quoted in Feb. 5, 2001, “CounterPunch” as stating, “The desert dust carries death. Our studies indicate that more than 40% of the population around Basra will get cancer. We are living through another Hiroshima.” (Basra is a city of 1.7 million. Does that mean 680,000 people will be stricken?) 

The same article also reported since 1990, the incident rate of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent and, similarly, “The leukemia rate in Sarajevo, pummeled by American bombs in 1996, has tripled in the last five years” and “NATO and UN peacekeepers in the region are also coming down with cancer.”
Dr. Zenad Mohammed, employed in the maternity department of the Basra teaching hospital, said in the three-months beginning in August, 1998, 10 babies were born with no heads, eight with abnormally large heads and six with deformed limbs, according to a report on World Socialist Web Site of September 8, 1999. And the British Guardian newspaper reported Basra maternity reported cancer cases shot up from 80 in 1990 to 380 in 1997.

Reporter Phil Gardner quotes Dr. Basma Al Asam, a gynecologist, at Al Manoon hospital, Baghdad, stating: “I’ve been watching this for seven years now and it’s increasing. We’re not just seeing babies born with congenital abnormalities, but very late spontaneous abortions because of congenital defects. In the past we used to see, maybe, one a month. Now it is two or three cases per day.” (Two to three cases a day, h-m-m-m, does that equal about 1,000 a year at this one hospital?)
And from an American doctor: Colonel Asaf Durakovic, formerly chief of nuclear medicine at the VA hospital in Wilmington, Del., said he found uranium isotopes in the bodies of Persian Gulf War veterans. The New York Times reported on January 29, 2001, Dr. Durakovic said he found “depleted uranium, including uranium 236, in 62 percent of the sick gulf war veterans he examined. He believes that particles lodged in their bodies and may be the cause of their illness.” Once inhaled, Dr. Durakovic noted, “uranium can get into the bloodstream, be carried to bone, lymph nodes, lungs or kidneys, lodge there, and cause damage when it emits low-level radiation over a long period,” the Times reported. The Times article also called attention to the cancer deaths of 24 European soldiers that served as peacekeepers in the Balkans “and the illnesses reported by many others.”
And from a U.S. researcher: Roberto Gwiazda, of the environmental toxicology department at the University of California Santa Cruz, was the lead researcher examining returned Gulf War veterans that had radioactive shrapnel wounds. The university’s “City On A Hill Press” newspaper quotes him as saying, “Of those with radioactive shrapnel wounds, all had significant levels of uranium in their urine seven to nine years after the explosion. Of those who only inhaled the incendiary uranium, a statistically significant number also had high uranium levels.”
And from U.S. veterans: Tom Cassidy, of the 1st Cavalry Division who saw service in Iraq in 2003-05: “After the first gulf war, the level of radiation was 300 times what is considered normal. In this invasion we used even more DU bullets. The effects there are horrible,” he told the UCSC paper. Added Dennis Kyne, from the U.S. Army’s 18th Airborne division and Desert Storm veteran and who suffers from an “undiagnosed illness”: “The scientists call it cell disruption, and they don’t know why it’s happening to veterans, but it’s really radiation sickness, and it’s because the DU is all over.”
Sherwood Ross has worked as a publicist for the City of Chicago and Nassau County, N.Y., governments; as a news director for the National Urban League; as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News; as a workplace columnist for Reuters; as a media consultant to colleges, universities, law schools and more than 100 national magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Business Week, and Foreign Policy; as a speechwriter for mayors, governors and presidential candidates, and as a radio news reporter and talk show host at WOL, Washington, D.C. He holds an award for “best spot news coverage” for Chicago radio stations in 1963. His degree from the University of Miami was in race relations and he has written a book, “Gruening of Alaska,” a number of national magazine articles and several plays, including “Baron Jiro,” produced at Live Arts Theatre, Charlottesville, Va., and “Yamamoto’s Decision,” read at the National P
ress Club, where he is a member. His favorite quotations are from the Sermon on The Mount.

As Mr. Zip would ask: What do you think about that?

It had been a while since traversing the east coast all the way from Panama in the south to Kayankerni, which is a bit south of Vakarai, to check on the tsunami-related construction and other works that we had been involved with since those days in December 2004 when much of that coast was reduced to rubble. The soldiers manning the checkpoints appeared to be a tad more paranoid than they were when we last visited, a month or two before – perhaps due to the impending LTTE celebration of their heroes past and present. It was also evident that there was a considerable reduction of ‘Karuna offices’ along the way – with the armed children that frequented them, and on the whole, the east had a more settled look with no evidence of the numerous refugee camps that were once so in your face.

The work is, for the most part, done. Close to a thousand homes rebuilt, nine ‘Social Centers’ all the way down the coast, (consisting of kindergartens and facilities for vocational training programmes of different types, computer classes and educational and vocational training equipment for children, youth and adults), ‘tsunami-shelters’, roads and drainage systems in the settlements, water and power supplies (some of the latter through solar-generation), have all been accomplished and should be audited and ‘done’ by the end of this year. The only project still in the process is a school in Kalmunai with over 1,750 students, which began late due to the dithering of those in charge.

Looking back at the process that made this all possible is like a hazy dream, full of events and incidents that generated fear, frustration, apprehension, anger, happiness and a feeling of accomplishment – amongst other emotions. Realization that this disaster, with all the incredible loss and tragedy it caused to so many, could well have been the way out of the dilemma that still faces the country in terms of the rehabilitation and development of the North and East and the restoration of dignity to those that live there, was a chance in a million that was squandered by those in power due to nothing less than greed and incredible selfishness. And not just in the North and East, the chance to develop our infrastructure – roads, railways, telecommunications, power and water supply – could all have been upgraded to modern standards by the massive amounts of aid and expertise that was offered in early 2005. Instead, the government of the day, with its myopic and self-centered view initiated such shameful processes that even imposed taxes on aid in the form of medical supplies and other essentials. Unbelievable! And we still pay the price – and how!!

The circuit of the ‘tsunami-projects’ was also a chance for some donors and others from the parent organization based abroad to look at the accomplishments that had been achieved by the organization based in Sri Lanka. The quality of the finished projects, the sense of stability and security that replaced the aura of insecurity and loss, the realization of having contributed in some small way towards the well-being of those less fortunate, were all acknowledged in their amazement at the transformation that replaced what they witnessed in those early days.

So, all in all a successful few days on the road – tiring, but inspiring nonetheless. It also brought back sharply into focus our present plight and what a different country this would be if only those power-hungry entities on both sides of the divide that, for the most part, keep the conflict going by appealing to the crass emotions of ethnicity and nationality, find some way out of the morass.

Going with the flow of the stream of the last post – How to get there is the question – into the realms consciousness and possible evolution of the species achieving a higher plane of ‘being’ in general, caused Java to mull over some of the aspects of what Darwin (Charles, not the Domestic Goddess on Kottu) set in motion. We were walking the dogs and I had to stop for a moment pick a leech (Haemadipsa zeylenica) off my foot, which must have triggered the spark.

Heeeyy maaann, if all creachures be evolvin to serve som purpose an keep dat balance in nachure happenin, what do yo tink dat da purpose of dese leeches an pests like mosquitoes an sheet like dem be servin?

I had to admit to him that I had never really thought much about it, but no doubt there would have to be a pretty good reason for the survival of the creatures he mentioned. Natural Selection, as Darwin described it, ensured the survival of those organisms that adapted best to their environmental conditions – the ‘balance of nature’ being struck as a result. I supposed (to Java) that in addition to leeches and mosquitoes providing a source of food for other creatures, they would undoubtedly serve other purposes as well. I brought up the example of Malaria, which still causes around three-million deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa each year and has been doing so through the centuries in other parts of the world as well. Caused by the Anopheles mosquito, the whole process generated by the mosquito’s bite sets in motion all sorts of micro-organismic activity. Here’s a short extract from Wikipedia that may help with a description of what I am on about:

The parasite’s primary (definitive) hosts and transmission vectors are female mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus. Young mosquitoes first ingest the malaria parasite by feeding on an infected human carrier and the infected Anopheles mosquitoes carry Plasmodium sporozoites in their salivary glands. A mosquito becomes infected when it takes a blood meal from an infected human. Once ingested, the parasite gametocytes taken up in the blood will further differentiate into male or female gametes and then fuse in the mosquito gut. This produces an ookinete that penetrates the gut lining and produces an oocyst in the gut wall. When the oocyst ruptures, it releases sporozoites that migrate through the mosquito’s body to the salivary glands, where they are then ready to infect a new human host.

Check out all the other micro-organisms that are created by the mozzie bite – a fascinating chain of events that cause the deaths of millions – mostly children. And so, I ‘lectured’ Java, it would appear that the mosquito played a major part in reducing the numbers of children in various parts of the world. The incidence being mostly in third-world African, Asian and Latin American countries provides other grounds for hypothesising the reasons for this Malaria ‘belt’ stretching across the globe in just those countries. And if you take a look at the map, it does seem to be a logical extension of the geographical, social and cultural conditions, with poverty being a major contributory factor, effectively providing the right environment for Anopheles to act as a means of population control. And perhaps that was part of the ‘nature’s balancing act’ number with mosquitoes!  

I could see that Java was considering my explanation, although I had no idea how well it would hold up in a discussion with ‘experts’ on the subject. The walk continued – Sally was on a leash, as she had entered her very first heat and had Buzzie and Rock in a tizzy in spite of them being neutered. We skirted the pond, as Sally, who was undoubtedly an otter in her last incarnation, would want to leap in and frolic in the water as usual. We made our way back to the house, and as Java got the sound going with The Incredible String Band doing The Circle is Unbroken and started to get his fixins together to start off his day, he said, as if in afterthought:

Shheeet bro, I guess even dem mozzies have dere purpose, huh?

Looking through Midnight Margarita’s post on the ‘God Center’ set the stream in motion and brought back memories of adventures in alternate realities. Drac’s comment pointers were also useful in getting up to scratch on recent developments in looking at how the mind works and the intricacies therein. The book that first came to mind in the analytical process that flashes through the innerspaces was ‘Cosmic Consciousness’ by Richard Maurice Bucke, MD, that impressed me no end when I read it in what seems like eons ago.

Described as ‘a classic investigation of the development of man’s mystic relation to the infinite’, Bucke investigates the mystical experiences of sages through the ages – including folk like Gautama the Buddah, Jesus the Christ, Mohamed, Paul, Plotinus, Dante, Whitman, Balzac, Bacon, Blake, Emerson, Thoreau, Spinoza, Socrates and a host of others. First published in 1901, it was enthusiastically acclaimed by both William James and P.D.Ouspensky – both giants in their respective and related fields.

Richard Maurice Bucke was a descendent of Sir Robert Walpole – a famous English statesman in the 1700s – and was born in England in 1837. The next year his parents migrated to Canada and he grew up on their farm near what is now Ontario. Self-taught for the most part, he left home when he was seventeen and made his way to the USA, where he did all manner of work, including wagon driver and gold-miner to keep body and soul together. Then at twenty-one years of age he lost one foot and part of the other to frostbite. Having inherited a small estate from his mother, he put himself through McGill Medical School and did his postgraduate work in Europe. In 1876 he was appointed Superintendent of the Provincial Asylum for the Insane at Hamilton, Ontario and in 1877 of the London Ontario Hospital. In 1888 he was elected President of the Psychological Section of the British Medical Association, and in 1890 President of the American Medico-Psychological Association.

In the process of reviewing the mental and spiritual activity of the human race Bucke discovers that at certain times, certain individuals who appear to be endowed with the power of transcendent realization, turn up and immensely influence many of those they come in contact with. He postulates that their experiences constitute a definite advance in man’s relation with the infinite. Bucke was also of the impression that the ability to achieve this consciousness was on the increase and the book is his record of, as the liner notes describe, “practically all the cases on record up to the time the book was written”.

Bucke himself had experienced ‘illumination’, as is quoted from the Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada:

He and two friends had spent the evening reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning, and especially Whitman. They parted at midnight and he had a long drive in a hansom. His mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk of the evening, was calm and peaceful. He was in a state of quiet, almost passive, enjoyment.

All at once, without a warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around, as it were, by a flame coloured cloud. For an instant he thought of fire – some sudden conflagration in the great city. The next (instant) he knew that the light was within himself.

Directly after there came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmanic splendor which ever since lightened his life. Upon his heart fell one drop of the Brahmanic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven.

The effect this experience had on Bucke changed forever his views on life in general and consciousness in particular, and in 1879 he produced his first book, Man’s Moral Nature . This was an examination into the relationship between the human central nervous system and man’s moral nature – a subject that he had broached before in a paper read for the Association of American Institutions for the Insane in 1877. This same year he met Walt Whitman – another crucial experience for him and described by him as “..a sort of spiritual intoxication” and “the turning point in my life”.

But getting back to ‘God Center’, or that point in time and space where the individual consciouness transcends the ‘ordinary’ plane, it does seem that many folk throughout the centuries have experienced this bliss. Most religions describe it and many of the acid freaks of the 60s swore they got a glimpse of it. Richard Alpert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard was so freaked out by it he dropped out, changed his name to Baba Ram Das and took off for the Himalayas to check out the monks there and what their states of consciousness were like. There are many others who have been there and many more who would like to take the trip.

How to get there is the question…

It isn’t too often that in this day and age – and particularly in this country – that repartee and putdowns have a certain quality and class. All too frequently we are subjected to the inane and profane – a notoriously ominous politician with a rambunctious son being a case in point. He would, for instance, fit a putdown credited to Winston Churchill, who expressed his sentiments about someone he disliked as “he has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” And then there’s the inimitable Oscar Wilde, whose “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends”, is also a doozie.

Here’s a few that would describe the situation where the death of someone would not exactly have the persons saying these things wailing with grief: “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it” – Mark Twain, or “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure” – Clarence Darrow, or “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go” – Oscar Wilde – again.

I can think of a few that will fit William Faulkner’s description of Ernest Hemmingway: “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary”. And many times have I felt the way old Groucho Marx did, when he said: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it” And here’s one for missing someone you don’t particularly like: “I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here” – Stephen Bishop.

For folk you don’t like: “I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial” – Irvin S. Cobb. “He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others” – Samuel Johnson. “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up” Paul Keating. “He had delusions of adequacy” – Walter Kerr. “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork“- Mae West.

And for putting down egotists: “He is a self-made man and worships his creator” – John Bright.

Winston Churchill was a master of the instant put-down as these two examples will illustrate: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend – if you have one.” said George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill, to which Churchill responded: “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second, if there is one.

And then again, classic Churchill: Lady Astor once remarked to Winston Churchill at a dinner party, “Winston, If you were my husband, I would poison your coffee!” and Churchill replied without so much as batting an eye, “Madam if I were your husband I would drink it!”

No, it’s not some exotic drink – but exotic nonetheless!

Lychee Lassi is a German band that performed at Barefoot on Friday night and when The Dancer, The Sibling and I got there only a smattering of folk were around. Not too long after, however, the place was buzzing and the bar was busy with all sorts getting their beverages together so they could settle back and check out this group, sponsored by the Goethe Institute and billed as performers influenced by funk, hip-hop, jazz and blues, among other genres.

Consisting of Roy on drums, Dirk on electric guitar, Beat on electric bass and Vincent on the ‘steel wheels’ – twin turntables, the band started off with Roy’s heavily dominating drum rhythm and the accompanying music that I took to be influenced by hip-hop and gave the audience an inkling of what was to come – something slightly different to the usual rock, jazz, funk or hip-hop that we have been used to. The second piece only increased the apprehensions, as a discordant electronic blues-type number, interspersed with a variety of sounds and rhythms that emanated from Vincent on the turntables had me more than intrigued and definitely appreciating the technique and creative abilities of the foursome.

And so it went. Java turned up at the end of the first number and promptly headed for Mo’s corner from where he could do his thing, brew in hand and head in that special place, up close and personal to Vincent performing his magic on those ‘steel-wheels’.

Maaan, dat cat be somting else – sheeet! I be watchin him reeeal close wit Mo by my side, an to see dat cat operate dose discs, makin dose sounds wit his fingers an palms beatin on dat vinyl, getting in at jus da right time to merge dem vocals to da rest of what be goin down wit his bros, be somting else! An den dere be dat heavy blues vocals by Olu Dara dat he merged into dat back-beat dat jus blow ol Mo an me right away. Vincent be havin som markers on his discs, but jus how he did his timin an co-ordinashun be somting else, let me tell yo – shuurre be somting speshul. Sweat be pourin down his face and we be seein dem beads hangin on da edge of his nose before dey fall onto his console and set dere shimmerin like prisms as dey vibrated to da rydem in dose spotlights. Dat dude be too mucking fuch maan!

Rapping with the members of the band after their encore and before dinner was served (we had been invited by the Goethe Institute to dinner and to meet the players by virtue of The Dancer’s cultural connections), I learned that they had been playing together for the past eight years. Based in Berlin, they not only played together, but also with other bands individually. They picked their unusual name from the menu of an Indian restaurant, according to Beat, who found it difficult to put a tag on how exactly to describe their music and to which genre it belonged. It wasn’t exactly jazz or blues, not quite hip-hop or funk, certainly electronic and consisting of elements of all of these styles.

Roy, apparently the leader, played drums and always provided a very strong rhythm that set the pace, with just a snare drum, bass drum and cymbals – uncomplicated and extremely effective. Dirk on lead guitar – unostentatious and original, did marvellous things with a special ‘box’ that occasionally converted the guitar sounds into what sounded like a tamboura. Beat provided just that – a very strong backing support, dominating at times and at times fading into the background, but ever present. And Vincent blew everybody away with his amazing coordination and ambidextrous manoeuvring of his stack of 33 and 1/3 rpm vinyl collection. Richard Lang, Director of the Goethe Institute, told me over dinner that Vincent was probably the numero uno DJ in all of Germany, and watching him perform his magic left me in no doubt of this whatsoever.

Dinner was a cool and informal affair with interesting exchanges with Richard and his wife Cora de Lang – an artiste in her own right and curator of a recent exhibition of work by the monk Bikkhu SumedhaAja Schmidling, in his earlier life and a painter par excellence. The film made by Richard and Cora will be re-screened on November 26th at 6.30pm at the Goethe Institute. Well worth a watch for those interested in individuality personified.

All in all – a delightful evening extremely well spent and Lychee Lassi sure provided a refreshing change from the mundane.

Like Java said a few posts back, ‘it takes all fuckin types maan, but some types are more fuckin’ dan odders’ and then just yesterday I get this mail from a buddy about an article that exemplifies our statement – only in an even more literal sense. The headline read – ‘Bicycle Lover Busted’, and went on to describe the case of Scottish cycling enthusiast Robert Stewart, who, as the piece described, was placed on the Sex Offenders Register this week after he was caught making love to his bicycle by cleaners at the Aberley House Hostel, Ayr.

The report went on as follows: Mr Stewart pleaded guilty to committing a ‘sexual breach of the peace’, the Telegraph reported, after he failed to hear the maids knocking at his hotel room door as he pleasured his bike. They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white T-shirt, naked from the waist down,” prosecutor Gail Davidson told the Court, “The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex..

The latest inanimate object sex case came three years after fellow Scottish registered sex offender (and self declared performance artist) Ross Watt was placed on probation after being caught having sex with a traffic cone in front of 20 Edinburgh teenagers. British sex criminal Karl Watkins was less fortunate in 1993 when he was jailed for 18 months after being spotted by children making love to an underpass.

See what we meant? And although we were referring to commenters on blogs, the observation cuts across the widest spectrum, as the Bicycle Links at the end of the mail I received indicated. Here’s a couple in case anyone out there wants to check them out – especially those who get turned on by aromas! (RAVE: the female bicycle seat sniffers association of N.O.: ‘What we do is meet at Tulane’s campus and then we watch for girls riding their bikes to class or dorms or the library or whatever. Once she dismounts the bike, we each take turns sniffing the seat . . .’) (snarfer; ‘sniffing, or putting your face on girls bicycle seats. Favored target is Chubby girls or girls with a yeast infection because of the strong aroma . . .’)

Like Java said, takes all fuckin types maan, but some types….

Okay, all right, we won’t rub it in

It wasn’t as if Java was trying, which was what was getting to me – and all I wanted him to do was to leave me alone for a bit. Instead, he kept up this incessant jabber about ‘tolerance’ and how it seemed to be at the crux of how the cause and effect flow kept going throughout the universe. It was pretty early in the morning up in the hills and the overnight rain had left the leaves sparkling in that special morning light. I was ready to walk the dogs – the usual ritual – and was in no mood to exercise the grey matter with analysis, semantics and whatever else was required to ponder on his postulations. Maestro on WorldSpace had an unknown classical guitar quartet doing some atonal Spanish sounding avant garde stuff that didn’t do much for me, so I switched to RIFF, the jazz station, and the change was instantaneous – cool piano, with a heavy bass backing was what I first heard and then the sax and drums slid in. I couldn’t catch the tune or identify the players for a bit, and then the sound and style got a bit more familiar. It must have done something to Java as well, as he kept silent, probably trying to identify the music and the players himself – before I did. And then it struck me – before it did Java – Pat Metheney, confirmed soon after by the DJ. Then, as Frank Sinatra eased into the next track, I made my move with the dogs in tow. Java stayed behind with the music and his early morning starter, but it took a few minutes for his words, that kept playing back in my head, to abate.

The walk was activated almost immediately by Sally, who unlike Buster, Rocky and Bruiser, is not yet trained properly to not attack Jungle Fowl (Gallus lafayetti), spooked a male and four females at the eastern edge of the garden. My yelling had no effect whatsoever, but fortunately there was no harm done and the Jungle Fowl family scattered to safety. Sally had to be reprimanded and tied for a bit in the hope that she would sus out the cause and effect number and it would prevent her from, or at least that she would have second thoughts about, repeating the misdemeanor.

Brekkers done, I get into a bit of landscaping of a neglected part of the lower garden. Sally’s whining and occasional howl to be released is getting through the meditative mindset and I try to shut it off by concentrating on other nature-sounds and it works for a bit, but after a while it gets right in there and dominates until it gets nearly intolerable. So I wash the earth off my hands, flick a couple of leeches (Haemadipsa zeylenica)  off my feet and get back to Sally, give her a bit of my mind, watch her squirm apologetically, and then release her. She goes ape-shit with relief and jumps up at me to show her gratitude, leaving a trail of blood from the leech bite on her paw on my shirt. Shit!

Heeyy maan, I be checkin yo ass out from da study window and see yo leave yo shit out dere to release Sally. How com?

I hadn’t seen Java since I took the dogs out. He didn’t turn up for brekkers, so I figured he was chilling somewhere in the house – probably spaced on some music. Anyway I told him how I couldn’t handle Sally’s yelping, so had to leave the ‘scaping for later and get rid of the ruckus.

Yeah maan, I be figurin dat out. Yo couldn’t handle dat sheet, huh? Yo mean yo tolerance level went bust? Breakin point reached?

I could see where this was leading – all the way back to earlier this morning and his spiel about ‘tolerance’

Maan, like I be tryin to tell yo ass, ’tolerance’ be a heavy number, hear? Jus yo tink bout it – from behavior of da individual, to society, to physics, to engineerin to religion, to…yo name it maan. All dat stress an tension sheet – all to do wit ‘tolerance’ – can yo dig it? Cause an effect – ackshuns an reackshuns – pressure builds – tolerance levels can’t take dat strain an den all hell can break loose – like in dem wars an sheet. Can yo see where I be comin from maan?

I’m trying to figure some way out of this conversation – in no mood for one of those metaphysical trips of Java’s – I’d rather get back to the gardening and sorting out drainage and erosion hassles that may be caused by altering the existing landscape. So I pretend not to hear him, take my shirt off and tell him I have to scrub Sally’s leech stains before they dry and head off to the sink.

Come to think of it, I did tolerate Sally’s yelping for quite a bit before it got really intolerable and then had to do something about it. Hmm, worth a thought or two – and that should please Java. But first, back to the garden.

The ‘when it rains it pours’ kinda cycle happens occasionally, doesn’t it? It does to me at almost regular intervals, so here’s another movie – and one that turned me on to a director I had not heard of previously. Guy Maddin is a Canadian director who gets off on making films that have the feel of those silent, early sound era films charged with all manner of surreal, psychosexual images and tones, laced with dark humour and wit. I’m uncertain if the film is in any way autobiographical, as Guy Maddin co-authored the script, but it deals with the reminiscences of a boy named Guy. Coincidence?

The film was originally made in 2006 as a silent film, with live accompaniment and a narrator, one of who was Isabella Rosellini, who also figured in the film version with a soundtrack that was released in 2007. Not expecting a movie in this mode, I was at first taken aback but very quickly settled into being completely intrigued by just about everything about it. What I mean is that I have never been really knocked out by the old silent films and wondered how long my attention span would cope, but as I mentioned, in no time at all I was completely absorbed. The style and techniques used to convey the intricate psychological messages, combined with the theatrics, humour and surrealism was right up my street.

The story was of the memories of Guy when he returns to ‘his’ island with the lighthouse in which he lived as a child and where his mother (an overbearing, tyrannical monstress, of off-beat sexual bent) ran the orphanage. His father was some crazy scientist type who worked mostly underground and tapped the orphans for material that he used in the concoction of an amazing nectar that had all sorts of weird effects. I won’t get too much into the details. The other characters are Guy’s sister (Sis) and a sister and brother duo (Wendy and Chance), known as the ‘lightbulb kids” – teenage detectives who come to the island on an investigation initiated by adoptive parents who discovered strange head wounds on their children who came from the island orphanage.

Lots of weird shit takes place – all done in an exceptionally original manner and I couldn’t help but think that Tarantino and Rodriguez would freak if they see it – as I’m sure they must have, as the film was featured at many of the festivals that count.

So there it is – if you like weird, off-beat, surreal shit done with class and style, then check out Brand Upon The Brain – well worth a watch.

Your mind just goes to the craziest idea to lure people into the theatre and then you write your script around those elements”, says Robert Rodriguez, describing the modus operandi he used to put together Planet Terror – the movie within the meta-movie Grindhouse that he and his buddy and partner Quentin Tarantino most recently collaborated on. So the movie consists of two films, connected by four trailers – made by Eli Roth of Hostel fame, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Robert Rodriguez himself – for films that have never even been made! The whole idea was to duplicate the films that the Grindhouse Theatres ran – mostly B movie double features – and the ambience they created. And in order to go the whole hog and retain the authenticity, the two movies even have the look and feel of the ones that they are paying homage to – in other words, there are scratches, breaks and all sorts of other elements that, if you have seen any of the stuff they are on about, you will recognize instantly.

For those that aren’t aware, Grindhouse Theatres were the ones in the downtown areas of cities in the US in the 50s, 60s and 70s that ran B grade genre movies of the sort that the big studios wouldn’t have anything to do with – usually dominated by sex and gore, with garish posters that promised a whole lot more than would actually be on the screen. The theatres themselves were havens for the winos and homeless bums. As Tarantino says: “Grindhouses were usually in the ghetto or they were the big old downtown theatres that sometimes stayed open all night long, for all the bums. The Grindhouse that I went to, every week there was a new kung-fu movie, or new car-chase movie, or new sexploitation movie, or blaxploitation movie.”

I really dug the films – Death Proof in particular – for a variety of reasons – being a Tarantino fan, among them. I’m not even getting close to describing it, or Planet Terror, for that matter, except to say that I thought Planet Terror was a wee bit over the top. But then, that’s just me, who’s not a huge fan of the zombie genre. I am however, in awe of Rodriguez’s creative and technical abilities. This guy does just about everything – from conceiving, writing the screenplay and most the music (picking the rest), shooting, editing – you name it! Tarantino is in the same league, although I doubt he writes music. Actually, Rodriguez was meant to be the cinematographer on Death Proof, but convinced Tarantino that he could handle it himself, and for the first time ever, Tarantino was the cinematographer on his own film. The duo are classic and it is really wonderful that fate, or whatever, determined that they should meet and collaborate.

Spoiler Alert

The car chase scene in Death Proof will be, Tarantino hopes (in an interview with Total Film), “one of the greatest car chaces ever made. I’ll take top three”. The plot centers on a sociopathic stuntman, Mike, played by Kurt Russell, who stalks and kills chicks with his car – a customised job that can withstand just about any punishment. Brilliantly filmed and with Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill double) playing herself and excelling to such an extent that Tarantino says,  “..if I did an action movie again it would be foolhardy not to cast her”. Suffice it to say that all you ‘liberated’ ladies out there who brook no shit from no one, will surely dig this movie – oh, and you mustn’t be squeamish, okay?

Planet Terror is a whole other kettle of gore, with the plot revolving around a small town in Texas where a biochemical weapon is released from an abandoned military base which results in the infected residents crowding the local hospital. Horrifyingly, the victims’ bodies start to rot and they metamorphose into bloodthirsty zombies! And that’s not all that’s on the ‘mindblower’ menu, Rose McGowan, who loses most of a leg in the initial action, ends up having a machine gun attached to her stump – and what havoc she wreaks with it! I won’t say more – in case you will watch.

The movie(s) was released as one movie – a double-feature, as in the old Grindhouse days. However, perhaps with the less than expected returns on the initial run, they have been re-released as individual movies, so the DVDs available on the local market will probably have them as individual movies. If you are a fan of either Tarantino or Rodriguez, or both, check this effort out – you will not be disappointed. If you’re not, don’t bother.

November 2007
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Ephemeral Ruminations by Java Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
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