The first time I meet Frank was in the late 1960’s and I wasn’t sure what to make of him.  He was wearing a motorcycle gang vest, on which he had hung a beer bottle opener. His other clothing were jeans and bad- ass looking  black motorcycle boots  I asked him why he had a bottle opener hanging on his vest and he explained to me that it was his weapon in case he needed a weapon in a hurry he could just grab the opener in a split second.

The night I meet him there were three of us in Jimmy’s bedroom sitting in the dark except for light coming from Jimmy’s large tropical fish tank.  We set around and shared joints which we passed back and forth throughout the evening. This became a regular event over time often with one or two others people joining us in the ritual.

I learned later that at the time I meet Frank he was still living at home with his parents, which included his domineering father who was a retired policeman who liked to flash his gun about.  It became clear to me that Frank was dominated by his dad father and I came to realize that his motorcycle gang getup was an attempt to act tough even though it turned out that he was actually a pretty sweat guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly.   

The first event that led me to this change in how I saw Frank was one late afternoon at Jimmy’s new apartment.  As I walked in to the apartment Jimmy was offering up a teenage girl for anyone who wanted to have sex with her.  The girl was just barely conscious lying in Jimmy’s  bed. She was stoned on alcohol and Seconal sleeping pills which we called stumbles.  Frank immediately jumped up and stood at the entry to the bedroom and said loudly and clearly that no one was going to hurt that girl.  I was impressed by his quick action in baring the door and making it clear that he was fully ready to do whatever needed to be done to protect  the girl. And that ended that.

 Eventually Frank got married and had a daughter of his own.  He still went about with his motorcycle gang outfit on and seemed always to have a new chopper but otherwise he had become truly domesticated and a loving husband and great dad.

Frank continued wearing of the motorcycle clothing unfortunately wound up leading to deadly trouble.  The trouble happen one evening when Frank went out to a bar dressed in his full colors and after a few beers began to brag about him being a member of a particularly violent motorcycle gang who was headquartered in Venice California not far from where the bar was located.

He didn’t know that the gang he was claiming to belong to had members of that very gang in the bar at the time he was talking about being a member.  Nor did he know that the gang was particularly pissed-off at the time as some other non-gang folks had been posing as member of the gang while selling inferior drugs in the Venice area which was bringing additional heat on the  actual gang members as well as hurting their reputation as providers of high quality drugs.

Long story short Frank was found dead the next morning, his body floating in the Venice canals and it still hurts.

Magic wands are a crutch

Wizards and witches in the Harry Potter Universe should not require wands to do magic.

  1. Magic folk are hosts of magic from birth. Both muggles and squibs are not endowed with magical potential, only magic folk are. Somehow, magic folk are genetically different; they are created as vessels for magic channeling. A wand in the hand of a squib or muggle would be useless, so magic must not be fundamentally attached to a wooden stick.
  2. Harry Potter could do magic before he even knew he was a wizard. He vanished the glass in the zoo and popped up into a tree—magically. Clearly, no wand was required to do that magic.
  3. House elves, genetically magical creatures, can do magic without a wand. In fact many beings and creatures, thestrals: invisibility, phoenix: teleportation and uncanny strength, ext. can perform magical feats without wands.
  4. Many objects themselves can perform magic, the paintings in Hogwarts for instance, Hermione’s purse and the Weasley’s tent. All things which are magical in their own right and require no external force or device to trigger the magic.

It follows from this evidence that a great witch or wizard should have no trouble performing magic without a wand. I would go so far as to say that a wand becomes a crutch, a debilitation for without a wand, a wizard would assume they are powerless. When in fact, they should be able to wield even more magical might.

A word is a world apart from other words and other worlds

A word is a tag for something in our world that allows us to share with others what we and others see, hear, feel or otherwise experience in our real or imaged experiences.  The symbolic meaning/s are then added to the tag word for said experience and are also shared by more words.

Before agriculture it was impossible for groups of humans to live in large numbers together.  As hunter and gathers human group sizes remained small. So small that it was possible for everyone in the group to know each other person by relationships, name and status.  As population increased a family or group of close friends would move out of the original group and create a new group, which over time drifts away from the founding body in important ways eventually including language and the words and their meanings. 

For example, the hundreds of American Indian tribes shared many everyday life ways and traditions as well as spiritual traditions, but over time each eventually evolved in subtle ways which given more time began to be felt as important distinctions by the members of the different tribal groups.  Eventually many different languages evolved over time which hastened the move towards an isolation from each other to varying degrees and consequences.

Even in monotheism which came about after the invention of agriculture and large scale societies this kind of moving apart has occurred over and over again and has often let to outright demonizing of one group by another a la the Religious Wars of Europe which were waged in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. The conflicts of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) culminated in the devastation of Germany and killed one-third of its population.

And so it has been in the past, let it no longer be in our present and future.

“Where there is love there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi’

We must become love..

Religion as a Human Universal

Religion in its broad sense is a human universal like dance and music and scores of other things as shown below. All of these universal exists as they have been naturally selected in the broad sense of the phase.

Religion answers questions that otherwise can’t be answer, giving comfort and a sense of unity and cohesiveness among its followers which in turn make the group more likely to survive by supporting one another against outside groups not unlike the Oregon Ducks unite against the Utah Utes.

 The Following is Pinker’s summary of Brown’s Human Universals (It takes for granted more basic questions like “life). — DougMerritt]

“According to Brown, the Universal People have the following:” ie. found in all known cultures.

“Value placed on articulateness. Gossip. Lying. Misleading. Verbal humor. Humorous insults. Poetic and rhetorical speech forms. Narrative and storytelling. Metaphor. Poetry with repetition of linguistic elements and three-second lines separated by pauses. Words for days, months, seasons, years, past, present, future, body parts, inner states (emotions, sensations, thoughts), behavioral propensities, flora, fauna, weather, tools, space, motion, speed, location, spatial dimensions, physical properties, giving, lending, affecting things and people, numbers (at the very least “one,” “two,” and “more than two”), proper names, possession. Distinctions between mother and father. Kinship categories, defined in terms of mother, father, son, daughter, and age sequence. Binary distinctions, including male and female, black and white, natural and cultural, good and bad. Measures. Logical relations including “not,” “and,” “same,” “equivalent,” “opposite,” general versus particular, part versus whole. Conjectural reasoning (inferring the presence of absent and invisible entities from their perceptible traces).”

“Nonlinguistic vocal communication such as cries and squeals. Interpreting intention from behavior. Recognized facial expressions of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, and contempt. Use of smiles as a friendly greeting. Crying. Coy flirtation with the eyes. Masking, modifying, and mimicking facial expressions. Displays of affection.”

“Sense of self versus other, responsibility, voluntary versus involuntary behavior, intention, private inner life, normal versus abnormal mental states. Empathy. Sexual attraction. Powerful sexual jealousy. Childhood fears, especially of loud noises, and, at the end of the first year, strangers. Fear of snakes. “Oedipal” feelings (possessiveness of mother, coolness toward her consort). Face recognition. Adornment of bodies and arrangement of hair. Sexual attractiveness, based in part on signs of health and, in women, youth. Hygiene. Dance. Music. Play, including play fighting.”

“Manufacture of, and dependence upon, many kinds of tools, many of them permanent, made according to culturally transmitted motifs, including cutters, pounders, containers, string, levers, spears. Use of fire to cook food and for other purposes. Drugs, both medicinal and recreational. Shelter. Decoration of artifacts.”

“A standard pattern and time for weaning. Living in groups, which claim a territory and have a sense of being a distinct people. Families built around a mother and children, usually the biological mother, and one or more men. Institutionalized marriage, in the sense of publicly recognized right of sexual access to a woman eligible for childbearing. Socialization of children (including toilet training) by senior kin. Children copying their elders. Distinguishing of close kin from distant kin, and favoring of close kin. Avoidance of incest between mothers and sons. Great interest in the topic of sex.”

“Status and prestige, both assigned (by kinship, age, sex) and achieved. Some degree of economic inequality. Division of labor by sex and age. More child care by women. More aggression and violence by men. Acknowledgment of differences between male and female natures. Domination by men in the public political sphere. Exchange of labor, goods, and services. Reciprocity, induding retaliation. Gifts. Social reasoning. Coalitions. Government, in the sense of binding collective decisions about public affairs. Leaders, almost always nondictatorial, perhaps ephemeral. Laws, rights, and obligations, including laws against violence, rape, and murder. Punishment. Conflict, which is deplored. Rape. Seeking of redress for wrongs. Mediation. In-group/out-group conflicts. Property. Inheritance of property. Sense of right and wrong. Envy.”

“Etiquette. Hospitality. Feasting. Diurnality. Standards of sexual modesty. Sex generally in private. Fondness for sweets. Food taboos. Discreetness in elimination of body wastes. Supernatural beliefs. Magic to sustain and increase life, and to attract the opposite sex. Theories of fortune and misfortune. Explanations of disease and death. Medicine. Rituals, including rites of passage. Mourning the dead. Dreaming, interpreting dreams.”

Dear Mike, Transience

Dear Mike,

Thanks for your thoughtful post regarding the naming and knowing of things. It truly is hubris how we label “cucumber”, or “full moon” and think we know them. But isn’t that how we humans are? In constant need of having our humility reset?

What I take from your letter is that “authentic Italian spaghetti sauce” may indeed be authentic, given that all things are transient in the Universe. A thing may last for just a day, a mayfly for instance, but one would have to admit that that damsel-winged bug is just as authentic as yesterday’s? Or tomorrow’s.

It’s all in how we interpret the names and labels we so carelessly apply to things. Or how we reinterpret them. What is old is (or can be) new again.

During our walk today, we discussed many things, as we are wont to do. The one topic that we agreed was untenable, yet unsolvable was corporate power, greed and its insidious infiltration into society’s image of itself. I’d like to open that topic up to see if there were indeed some means to affect change as to how corporations oppress and control us. We acknowledged that corporations have become much too powerful, so powerful in fact, that they cannot be reined in—controlled so that they serve mankind rather than the other way ’round.

What factors might we mull that, exposed and popularized, might shift the political and social landscape in favor of the People?

Eager to continue our discussions, your friend,

Dear Dave, Original and Authentic

We name “things” like foods or seasons and think we know these named things. And in a simple way we do. It allows us to communicate with one another about different things and this of course has value.

But naming something and knowing it are very different. By naming something we feel better, feel wiser, and naming allows us to communicate with one another on a day to day level. But of course, we are kidding ourselves in the end for everything in existence is at the deepest level a thing of mystery as everything is a part of a universe of mystery of its existence and meaning if meaning there be.

What does original and authentic mean. Everything exists in time. Everything currently existing exists in the moment by moment—now. What was new becomes older. What is newly created out of existing parts is new at the moment of its bundled existence and then not new. Foods move and morph about as human cultures encounter one another. But everyone has food as everyone in every culture has music and dance and fantasy. And in places like New York City a vast array of these folks and foods can be found and enjoyed not to forget their function in providing the critical nutrient for all human life however we dress them up and name them.

But of course, if one is hungry for Asian food it helps to not try to get your Asian food needs by going to a Bosnia restaurant. But you could get a great pita which means pie, but don’t expect lemon pie with blueberry meringue on your pie/pita.

What is the reality of the label Italian or more broadly European, Asian or African and the multitude of finer separations of what is really at the core one multi-colored, multi-cultural inclusive and exclusive jumble of currently living human selves. By the way Italians divide themselves into numerous subsets/categories each of which think of themselves as the real Italians compared to the lesser claimants.

I think I am failing at this task but I did try.

Your friend.

Dear Mike, Impassioned

Dear Mike,

I hope this finds you well.

Over on that other site of mine, Anonymole, myself and a fellow who goes by the name of DesertCurmudgeon have started an exchange of sorts. He proposed a series of posts which chained together. I recalled that Seneca and Lucilius exchanged written correspondence which have been immortalized as Seneca’s Letters.

I thought the same technique might provide a similar platform for getting those creative writing juices going—over here.

I’ll pose a topic and you can reply, or not, with your thoughts; ending with a topic of your own. Alright, here goes…

I have these thoughts about the origins of food. Specifically, when cultures claim certain dishes to be authentic when in fact, they’re a New-World mixup. Take Italian food and the tomato. How can any Italian dish that uses the tomato be considered authentic when for thousands of years the tomato was trapped over in the New World? The same goes for hot peppers and Thai or Chinese food.

Now, for good food, I don’t care where a food or ingredient originated. As long as it tastes great, I’m in. Garlic from the older world, sesame from the Fertile Crescent, peppers from Central America, ginger from the East, wheat noodles from the Crescent, chicken from China—mix it all up for a great meal.

When do cultures get to reset their chronological food clocks? Or do they? What does the word “authentic” really mean? Should I be that impassioned when it comes to such things?

Is it spring or autumn where you are?

Your friend,


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