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Romney, Republicans, Petraeus and Israel

Again, it has been a very long time since my last post.  The reason is laziness, pure and simple.

But tonight, as I glare into the never ending stream of news on my Iphone I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of stupid I am reading.  As I am still very much in lazy mode, I really do not feel like putting too much effort into this post.  I simply want to do a quick brain dump and get back to my magazines.  My blood is boiling though and I don’t think I’ll be able to rest until I get it out of my system.

A.  US Election

Obama wins the election and the Republicans throw a fit.  In their own words they tell us that Obama won due to the young, the minorities, the educated, the women and so on and so on.

So who voted for Romney then?  Well, let’s take a look at the map.  Do you see anything interesting here?  The states with a more intelligent population (California, New York, Washington etc) all voted for Obama.  The States with a massive amount of farmland and much less education (and the South, no surprise) voted for Romney.

This really isn’t rocket science – areas with more education voted blue and those with less voted red.  It is as simple as that.

Furthermore the Republicans cannot stop saying extremely idiotic things.  It does not matter who said what but let me just jot down a few things from memory.

1. Legitimate Rape – Female body has ways to shut the whole thing down
2. Too many black people were voting in areas that don’t have many black residents
3. Obama bought the votes of the young and the blacks.
4.  We want to secede from the United States!

It seems the Republicans have a complete monopoly on idiocy since all of the above have come from the Republican camp.  Perhaps it is akin to a young child throwing a tantrum when things do not go his way.  Little Johnny didn’t win the basketball game so he not only throws the ball into the neighbors yard but starts running in circles screaming incoherently.

So let’s sum this all up.
1.  The states with smarter populations (computers, finance, rocket science) voted blue.  The states with plenty of farms and the South voted Republican.  (No surprise from the South for obvious reasons.)

2.  Republicans cannot seem to stop saying very idiotic things.  One of the dumbest things said happens to come Mitt Romney who only a few weeks ago happened to be their champion and who they now cannot get far enough away from.

3.  More than a few would like to secede from the Union.  I say give Texas back to Mexico and let’s watch those idiots have a complete brain hemorrhage when they realize they are now surrounded by people who are NOT English speaking 45 year old white men.

B.  Petraeus

First let me say that in regards to his affair I wish the USA were a bit more like France.  Petraeus did turn a war around and by all accounts was a very good General.  I’m sure he can and did do a fine job at the CIA.  If he wants to have a little something on the side in his private life then it should stay private.  Unfortunately we are all still very much Puritans in this country and therefore we must expose these fornicators and publicly shame them!   (Then we can return to whatever sex themed sitcom happens to be our favorite which ironically glorifies a loose lifestyle.)

Regarding the Benghazi Attack – Petraeus is called to testify and says it was terrorism.  Here is a newsflash.  It was terrorism.  The Obama administration needed time to get the facts and even after they had them they did play down the fact that it was terrorism.  Why?  Because it would make them look weak on security and given the Republicans something to  use during the campaign.  Why is the US having a congressional committee on this?  Because the Republicans absolutely hate Obama and want to attack him in any way they can.  It is all political theater.

Hopefully, some leaders somewhere are actually doing the right thing and instead of playing politics are strengthening security no matter what the Republicans or Democrats say.

C. Israel and Gaza

Here we go again.  In this part of the post I am only speaking to those who are worldly and educated enough to just feel sad about this whole conflict.  Israel has a right to exist and defend themselves.  Unfortunately, in doing so they oppress, enslave and murder an entire group of people.  The oppressed become the oppressors.  There is no right answer here and I feel very sad for all of the death.

What I hate most of all is how in the West we will never read about any of the Israeli guilt in these conflicts.  The media will always fault the Palestinians.  Furthermore, I hate how we no longer just read about all of this, but now we have video so we can feed off the sorrow, the death and destruction for our own entertainment purposes.  This is our dark side.  We want to press the play button on the video, we want to see a missile strike and we want to see dead bodies.  This is something most people will not admit to themselves, they will suppress the modicum of guilt deep into their gut as they hit the play button and enjoy the adrenaline as they wait for the missile to strike and death to happen on their Iphone.

This type of media gets the population excited and thus it gets clicks which add to the bottom line.  I cannot think of anything more American than showing actual death, happening thousands of miles away in order to make a profit.  It is capitalism at its finest.  Cameras in place to stream the carnage by satellite directly to each and every device where we gain a rush, and a dark satisfaction from real live death, while in the corner of our eyes an advertisement for Coca Cola creeps into our subconscious.  Such a marriage of technology, death and profit is almost like a beautiful requiem, so much so that it almost brings a tear to my eye.

I should stop reading the news.

Disoriented

It has been quite a long while since a post.

Hate to disappoint but this will not be much of a post either.  I simply want to write down a few thoughts going through my head at the moment.  I’m disoriented, out of balance and instead of retreat to my online computer game (Wow) thought it would be more productive to share these thoughts.

1. I’m alone

I’m currently in a large house, by myself, with nobody but myself, my fish and the lure of the internet.  You see, I’ve just come back from Japan.  While there I had to make a decision.  We were visiting my parents-in-law with my young son.  The great grandmother lives in Tochigi Prefecture which is just below Fukushima.

The decision was mine to go and I did my research.  Never in my life would I have thought that I would have to make a decision concerning radiation.  The choice also involved my young son as well as immediate Japanese family.  I chose to go as we have a great grandmother there who is 90 years old.  It was now or possibly never that my young son could meet the grandmother.

I learned quickly that the radiation levels were not very strong and could sometimes be just as high as the worst spots in Fukushima as they were in certain spots in Tokyo.

We did have many discussions about the radiation which I hope to write about later but what really captured my attention was the picture of my boy’s ancestors.  In every Japanese house they have a shrine to the ancestors along with photos that peer down on you from the corner where the wall meets the ceiling.  In the great-grandmothers house as well as in my parents-in law’s house there was a picture of  a Japanese WWII soldier in uniform that never came home.  These men would be the great-grand-uncles of my young boy.  In the film they call them “Japs.”

My wife and child are now staying another two weeks in Saitama.  So I find myself alone, sad and for some reason have chosen a documentary on WW11 on Netflix as my weekend entertainment.

Sure I could go out, I have free reign to do whatever I would like.  Yet, I chose wine and Netflix to divert my attentions.  I miss them terribly.

As I watch the video of WW11 and the video of the dead American and Japanese soldiers I cannot help but try to recognize the same men I saw in my family’s house in Japan.

Is it not astounding how quickly times change, how quickly opinions change and how quickly we can all become allies?  In one moment our nations are shooting at each other and in the next blink we are best friends?

War is absurd.

I then read about an impending military strike from Israel on Iran.  As much as I read I simply cannot understand the rationale with “geopolitics.”  Yes, I am aware that there are very logical reasons for attack, for death, but in the grand scheme of things I cannot help but think of us as a very primitive species.  This instinct towards war, the belief that a divine power is always on our side, and that the only solution is to kill.

Being in this house alone, watching war in High Definition, watching politicians give their support for further war completely depresses me.

I almost wish I was not human, did not belong to this group that continues to kill over and over.

I hear the rationale, the reasoning and it is as if the chimps are chattering, beating their chests and I wonder, why can I not understand them?

So, further in-depth posts will come, I’ll use my tiny brain to try and reason, to argue against further destruction.  But do I really understand anything?

Perhaps it is best to retreat to my wine, to watch my movies and wallow in the stagnant waters of sadness.

Palestinian Kid’s War Art Cancelled

This morning I came across an article in the SF Chronicle that I simply had to share with you all.  Perfect for a GC post and a GC opinion!  

Oakland museum cancels Palestinian kids’ war art – SF Chronicle

Israelis’ vs Palestinians!  What a great way to have readers immediately take a side before they have even read the article.  You have to ask yourself, am I able to read this article with an open mind or have I already applied a filter and already condemned one side or the other?  

If you live in America, 70% would probably already be supporting the Israeli side.  If you live in Europe (especially France) then 70% would already be supporting the Palestinian side.  

Well, here is my quick take on the matter.  

My first thought was that it was just the extremely powerful Israeli lobby shutting down anything that portrays Israel in a negative light.  No business owner wants to tangle with the Anti-Defamation League if it can at all be avoided.  In the US you can never ever criticize Israel or you will be in a heap of trouble. 

My second thought was that the museum may have a good point in that there is no great reason to be placing a children’s space in such a highly controversial situation.  

But then I read the following.

In 2004, art by Iraqi children hung on the museum’s walls. The pictures, made shortly after the U.S. invasion, included a picture of a helicopter shooting into a field of flowers.

Isn’t this extraordinary?  The USA can be portrayed as aggressors in the USA but when it comes to prickly Israel the subject is taboo?  

 

In San Francisco the Jewish community has The Contemporary Jewish Museum where they can display whatever they like.  The Palestinians would be hard pressed to get a permit to display their art on the sidewalk.  

Can you imagine what would happen if an opposing group tried to shut down a display at the CJM?  

In doing my best to keep an open mind on a topic like this it seems quite obvious who is in the wrong here.  

Israel is a classic case of the oppressed becoming the oppressors even down to children’s displays.  

Now, that you have read the post you may be having very negative feelings towards Israel.  But as usual you cannot simply condemn an entire group of people.  It is my take that the oppressors are mostly the old vanguard, the geriatrics of Israel that by suppressing any and all criticism of Israel are actually making things worse for the Jewish state.  

Not all Jewish people would agree with shutting down this display and I still highly support J-Street which it seems to be is made up of younger, highly energetic Jews.  I would really like to hear their take on the art display.  But even J-Street has internal divisions and sometimes the hard liners gain the upper hand.  J Street’s Lose-Lose Situation.   

Well that is all I really wanted to say in this post.  

Information Overload and The Art of Forgetfulness

As usual, this post has been inspired by a serindipitous insight.  As you know, I do not enjoy taking time to edit and much prefer simply writing as the thoughts come along.  This post shall not disappoint.  

The first insight I had today occurred while going through my massive amount of daily news.  What occurred has come to my mind before and came very forcefully today.  What became apparent to me is that 90% of the things I read are simply “noise.”  

I feel addicted to my news articles.  I scan through the New York Times, The Economist, USA Today, Google News, Bloomberg and so on almost daily.  Even though I read so much am I really learning anything?  

It feels as if I’m sifting through a wide and deep river but only coming up with a lot of sand and only on occasion a flake of gold.  It is when I do my research and find an excellent book that I feel I have discovered a gold mine.  

My most recent gold mine was Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.”  I’ve wrote about this in the previous post and have no intention of repeating myself here.  Before that my gold bar was 1001 nights. It seemed to me like the Arabic version of Grimm’s Fairytales.  I was familiar with all the Western tales but it wasn’t until I read One Thousand and One Nights that I laid down the groundwork to understanding Arabic culture.  It is quite refreshing to start learning another culture by what the children learn instead of jaded opinions from foreign cultures.  Children after all start with no bias.  Bias is learned, taught to them by adults.  

How interesting that we now have Aladdin from Walt Disney yet the Americans have most recently decided to hold a hearing on Muslims in the USA.  Perhaps they should have subpoenaed Aladdin and have him fly in on his magic carpet?  

As usual I have gotten off track.  My point is that most of the things we read on a daily basis are simply noise, the articles provide no real learning.  The reason for this is that news/entertainment companies are under constant pressure to come up with new content.  Every single day there must be something new to report.  What we get is a “this happened here” such as with USA Today.  If you read a bit further with good magazines like the Economist you may be able to dig a bit further.  But even magazines like the Economist only scratch the surface.  

So what would I like to see?

I would like a publication that has an immortal as an editor.  This person has lived for 50,000 years and has experienced it all before.  What I’m getting now resembles a young child trying to ride a bike.  This reporter knows how to get on it and maybe peddle one pedal.  However, an immortal would know how to work both peddles, turn the wheel, dodge bumps in the road, fix the bike should it break and tell me how the bike is actually built.  

I guess this thought comes from listening to populist politicians who manipulate the energy and issues of the day.  The reporters as well only have a hind sight of 1 mile and can see nothing of the road ahead in heavy fog.  

I want a sage, or as Don Quixote puts it, a veritable Solomon.  Solomon was seen as a prophet but what I have recently learned is that prophet may mean “to authorize singing human compositions with musical instruments.”  In “The Age of Reason” Paine points out that this word used to mean simply making music so when people used to “prophesize” they were simply singing.  

By this example, I’m illustrating what I would like to see in a daily publication.  I want insight, I want history and I want an explanation that spans all human knowledge.  I want a big fat nugget of gold every time I decide to read an article, not just a bunch of sand that tells me nothing other than there is sand under the river.  

I want to know how the sand got there, I want to know what it is made of and from where it came.  And if it is a most excellent article, I want to know where the sand is going.  I want to know what the original meaning of “sand” is.  Currently, all I get is, “There is sand here.”  

Forgetfulness 

The more I read and the more I learn I find it simply astounding how quickly we forget the past.  We now have universities, great institutions of learning, yet why is it that we never really understand history? 

We read about the atrocities of the past, but how many people really *feel* those atrocities.  We read about entire cultures being wiped out but we never really internalize the gravity of the horrific act.  How many of us can put ourselves into the lives of those destroyed by the conquering power?  

If you read the bible it is full of death and destruction.  You have Judah vs. Israel and it claims the destruction of one was due to the will of God?  Why is it that even today the victor, the leader of nations will often claim that God has chosen them specifically to lead?  

Time and time again, as I read history, the destruction of an entire group of people was due to “The Will of God?”  

How many of us can put ourselves into the mindset and lives of those that were slaughtered?  

Or do we simply say that the act was in the past and we are much more sophisticated and enlightened now? 

This brings me to my next point. 

If we were to look back 500 years and condemn the Spaniards for destroying the Mexica, the Americans for destroying the Natives, and the Natives for destroying those that came before them, what will people 500 years from now say about us?  

Again, we consider ourselves extremely sophisticated and look upon those that lived 500 years ago as not being “humanitarian,” as being “sub-intelligent.”  If we can do that now, then again, what will people 500 years from now say about us? 

With all our education, with the complete sum of human knowledge that the internet brings us, why can we not recognize our faults as they happen?  

Why can we not understand that loving each other is the true path?  

Why do we continually find faults and actively strive to find differences in order to condemn others?  

Why is it that many feel so uncomfortable around people that are different from them?

Instead, we read the news, learn to solidify our bias and feel intelligent when we can point out how our hatreds and bias are justified based on the little we think we know? 

Perhaps it is due to all this knowledge on the internet and my insatiable curiosity to continually want to learn more. 

To illustrate I recently found a piece of music called “Saltarello.” 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQILvRxj7rs[/youtube]

But I am not satisfied with just listening to the music.  I want to know what Saltarello means.  I want to know the culture it comes from.  I learn it comes from the Kingdom of Naples and I want to know how this Kingdom was formed and what happened to it.  I also want to know what the dance steps are.  I want to know where it was played and who composed it.  I want to know how “Saltar” came to mean what it means!  What language does it originate from?  What sounds did humans make that eventually came to form the word!  

I feel that this kind of curiosity is lacking in the world today.  We are content to simply listen to the music and express if “we like it” or not.  

*Side Note: *In America the thought would be how to make money off the piece.*  

Again, with all our learning and access to information where has the curiosity gone?  Why are we so content and happy with whatever *new* drivel the news organizations decide to tells us about, especially when the news is bereft of real historical and wise insight?  

To be addicted to the news as I am is akin to a Koala bear eating Eucalyptus leaves.  Sure, I eat a lot but I am getting very little nutrition .  


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GHOSTS

It has been a while since my last post.  You’ll have to excuse me as I’ve been quite busy but I hope to not disappoint you with this entry.

In honor of Halloween I’d like to write about Ghosts.  I’ll try not to bring anything “controversial” such as religion into this one but I can promise nothing.  What I can promise is an honest post about an issue that seems to be taboo.  Even though in our culture we go to church, pray to the divine, eat flesh and drink blood we seem to have trouble sharing stories about the supernatural, and those that do seem “weird.”

Ooops, there I went with the religion.  I promise I’m done with it.  From here on out, no more.  :-)

In American culture we too have ghosts but if you happen to actually see one, you shouldn’t tell anyone or else you’ll become the “crazy person.”  Yet, we have quite a few documented cases of ghosts but they remain just stories.  Asia on the other hand has a very intense ghost culture and people will actually believe you if you have seen one.

Well, I suppose that is enough of an introduction, let’s get started.

I have seen a ghost.  I will share this only with a few close friends and of course you my readers.  To be honest, when I think of it, my arm hair stands on end and I feel a range of emotions from extreme fear, to wonder, to anger and start to imagine that when I die one of the first things I will do is go straight to where I saw it and berate it for scaring innocent, slightly drunk college students.

But that story is the cream of this post and thus the last to be shared.  Let’s instead start with my interest in ghosts (and other spooky stuff) from things I have read and experienced.  Further, I do not really feel like writing a long post tonight so I’ll just get straight to the spooky with each point.

1.  The Bell Witch

This is an American ghost and one of the scariest I have read about.  Just click on the link in Wikipedia to read about her.  Apparently she is very aggressive and has no qualms about causing things to happen.

What caught my eye with this one is that even a President of the USA acknowledged her existence when he said “”I would rather fight the entire British army single handed than face the Bell Witch again!” – Andrew Jackson, seventh President Of The United States.”

2. China

As I mentioned, Asia has a very intense ghost culture.  The one spooky thing that I have read about in Chinese culture is that ghosts can die as well.  Sometimes they can be killed but more often then not they just fade away.  I read about this but could not find the Kanji associated with it so I asked a Chinese friend (thanks Jessie!!)

This is her response.

“good question…Not too many people know this, but I think it’s called 聻, an ancient character… Yes in Chinese culture, a ghost can die too, when a ghost dies, the form and spirit disappear 形神俱灭,never comes back to another life 永不超生。Chinese culture believe that after people die, they can become something/someone else in another life 投胎。But a 聻 wont. Of course those could be some kind of superstition 迷信 in the culture, not everyone believes it… ;)”

This kind of freaks me out because in many religious traditions you either go to heaven or come back to earth when you die.  But in Chinese culture there are instances when you can never come back and I’m not quite sure where the 聻 would go.

If we think about mind and the intense feelings it can cause I would suppose that some “minds — ghosts” would hang around for a while until the strong feelings dissipate.  But perhaps there are instances when these feelings can be shattered or simply fade away and thus the mind would go off into another plane of existence never to return to this one?  I don’t know, just letting my own mind wander.

Getting further off the point, if you’ve never had a change in consciousness well, then you just aren’t aware of it.  Can you imagine when you have a very strong, intense dream?  That is a change of consciousness of sorts until you wake up and those feelings dissipate.  I wonder if this is what death is like?

If this seems off the wall, I can give you another example which you should definitely not try at home.  Again, DO NOT DO THIS.

If you want to see what an entire change of consciousness is like there is something we did as kids which never fails called “The Elevator.”  Basically, you bend over, take 20 deep and strong breaths and then have a friend push inward and upward on your stomach (under the top of the ribcage) against a wall for about 15 seconds after which you will pass out.  The things you will see when passed out are INSANE!!!

To demonstrate the power, we did this to a friend and after about 2 minutes he woke up and asked us why we were at his house.  Little did he realize he was laying on my living room floor and it took him about 15 seconds to realize it but after he did he had a complete fit!

But I must repeat, do not try this at home because it is pushing blood, oxygen whatever into your brain which is not healthy at all.  All I’m trying to relate in the example is that we are so comfortable with what we consider to be “normal consciousness” yet if you try “the elevator” you will be quickly transported to a whole different consciousness for a while.  My theory is this must be kind of what death is like but you simply remain there and never wake up again.

3.  Japan

In Japan, they have a yearly tradition called “Obon”  (お盆).  Here is a quick description:

“Obon (お盆?) or just Bon (盆?) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spiritsof one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori. – Wikipedia”

I have always admired this festival as I think it very important to take time to honor your deceased ancestors.  Basically, you set out the favorite foods of the deceased as they are actually going to return to your house and visit you.  You turn on a special light so they can find their way back to your house and then make time for them.

In Western society this might seem a bit strange.  Well, it shouldn’t because we practice the same traditions but always dilute the meaning.  We celebrate Halloween but how many of us know the origin?

Scholars trace the tradition to the Celtic festival of Samhain where apparently,

“The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes andmasks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm.”

And there you have it, I bet you thought the Japanese were a bit strange for celebrating a day to welcome the dead back to their home until you found out the origins of Halloween!  :-)

Let us also not forget that in Christianity we have “All Souls Day,” which also commemorates the dead to try to get them get to heaven.  And where did this come from?  Well, it is also practiced in Judaism “Historically, the Western tradition identifies the general custom of praying for the dead with the Jewish practice of prayer for the dead dating as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42-46.”

All Souls Day falls on November 2nd and Halloween is on October 31st.  These are all pretty close together so perhaps the ancients knew that during this time our plane of existence came very close to that of the spirit world?

Please also note the following.

“Another popular name in English is Feast of All Souls. In some other languages the celebration, not necessarily on the same date, is known as Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos or de los Difuntosin Spanish-speaking countries; Yom el Maouta in Lebanon, Israel and Syria).”

Well, nowadays we just pass out candy, watch scary movies and dress our kids as Elmo.  Quite a bit of meaning has been taken out of it, but it is fun none the less!  :)

By the way, I think something is looking over your shoulder right now, don’t look.

Just kidding, on to more things I admire about the Japanese.

a.)  Shrines

In each Japanese home you will find a shrine to their deceased ancestors.  I admire this as just because your relatives are dead, does not mean they are actually “gone.”  As I mentioned in my post “Graveyards and the Meaning of Life” we will all die someday but in Western culture we have a very hard time thinking about it.

I don’t have this problem.  I’m here now, I am going to enjoy myself, love others and appreciate being alive.  After all, I have a very limited time here.  I would like to think that others, especially my family will remember me from time to time and a shrine in the house will certainly help that.

b.)  Graves

I took this picture in Japan as I was amazed that they were so close together and right in the middle of the city.  To be honest, I was hoping to catch a ghost by camera but I do not see one there, do you?

Another thing I admire about the Japanese is that they leave favorite foods/drinks right on the grave of their deceased acquaintances.  I was surprised to find full cans of beer right there on the grave and can only assume that ghosts like to drink as well.  Why is it that in Western society we do not really like to visit graveyards?  I personally would still like to feel a connection and if you go before I, just let me know what your drink of choice is and I’ll leave you a six pack.  ;-)

c.) Housing

If a person dies in a house in Japan, the market value of that house will fall dramatically as nobody is going to want to live there.  If they were murdered then just completely forget about it, that house will most likely have to be demolished.

The Japanese are extremely afraid of ghosts and thus are the best makers of horror movies.  Here are two of my favorite scary ones, the first of which is about a woman being murdered.  It scares the crap out of me.  In fact, it was so good, the Americans made a remake and called it “The Grudge.”  But the American version just does not do it justice.  Here is the original.

The second one is called “Ringu.”  It was also remade to an America move.  Yep, it’s called “The Ring.”  Here is the Japanese version

4. America

Here are the creepy ghost things I’ve found in American culture.

a. Poltergeist

These are very aggressive ghosts and seem to like teenage girls.  Apparently, sometimes teenage girls can create extreme negative feelings which these ghosts feed on and attract.  So if you are a teenage girl, I would recommend not becoming too negative or bad things could happen.

What you might not know about this film is it is associated with a curse.  The child actors all died untimely deaths after the movie was made as documented by Wikipedia.

“The franchise is often said to be cursed, because several people associated with it, including starsDominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke, died prematurely. “The Poltergeist Curse” has been the focus of an E! True Hollywood Story.[1]

They do not mention this in Wikipedia but one of the reasons may be (or could be urban legend) is that they actually used real dead bodies when they discover in the movie that the house is built upon a graveyard.  Yes, actual dead bodies.

Therefore, for disrespecting the dead some of the cast members actually died.

As I write this post, I do have to mention that the lights have flickered quite a bit here in my office.  Of course I attribute this to just being a new house (yes I moved) but it still makes me wonder.

b. Ouija Board

-  Yea, don’t use the Ouija board.

- If you are religious then you’re practicing magic (or dark arts) and that is forbidden.  Plus, you really do not want to attract bad ghosts to you.  Remember, in most traditions the purpose is to keep bad ghosts away.  By using the Ouija board you are actively calling to them.

And my lights continue to flicker.  Now you’re just annoying me ghosts.

c. Jews in Hitler’s Holocaust

I ran across this article in “From Our Correspondent” with the BBC.  “Setting the Memory of Holocaust Victims in Stone.”   Apparently, in Berlin some are creating bronze plaques to be put on houses with the names of the Jews who did not return to their house (killed in concentration camps).  This correspondent tells us the story of her rented apartment and this:

My daughter, Miranda (she’s four), tells me about “the family of ghosts with big, dark eyes” who live there. She’s petrified.

I have been told that younger children (and babies) can see ghosts much more easily as it has not been long since they were in the spirit world.  Pretty freaky eh?  But I guess it shouldn’t as we in American culture should pay much more attention than we do to “the other side” as we’re all headed there sooner or later.  It’s like you’re eventually going to take a trip to Disney Land but refuse to read about it and consider crazy anyone who has seen a very large mouse with big black eyes and a grin.    :O

So, many people were massacred in Germany and experienced so much fear.  I would imagine that this fear imprinted itself somehow and will continue until is slowly dissipates.  This is actually a very large (yet secret) phenomenon in Berlin and you can hire people to help encourage the ghosts to move on.

d. Post Mortem Photographs

I believe this tradition started in Victorian England but was continued in America for a while.  Many American movies such as “The Others” have referenced it and although it does not concerned ghosts, I find this particularly disturbing.

5.  My Ghost Story

The post has run long and I feel it is about time to share my own story.  Again, I find it strange how people in America run around talking to Jesus but if you happen to actually see a ghost it is taboo and nobody is going to believe you.  I have no fear of what others may think so I’ll go ahead and share.

I studied in a very old city called Toledo in Spain.  This was founded by the Romans and is 2000 years old.  There have been many wars and you can imagine how many times the city has been run over by invaders which would necessarily create a lot of murders.  If ghosts were going to be anywhere, they would definitely be here.

Anyway, we were all college students studying Spanish and the school was a place called “La Fundacion Jose Ortega Y Gasset

There had been rumors of three distinct ghosts, The Priest, The Soldier and The Gypsy.

This school was an old convent and thus had classrooms plus dorms for the students.  I did not live here the first semester so I believed all these stories to be silly.

My first freaky experience was when they told me there were rumors of a graveyard under the school.  This does make sense since in Europe you have “Catacombs”  where you buried the dead underneath buildings.  Apparently these could be accessed by climbing to the top of the tower in which you would find a trap door.  The trap door was there and we opened it and peered down below.  What I saw was a very ancient roof, kind of looking like a pyramid covered in dust.  Some of my crazy fellow classmates actually tied sheets together and climbed down.  They didn’t find much as they would have to climb to the top of the “pyramid” (old roof”) to the top where there was a hole in which you could descend again.

The students climbed back up and got in big trouble for having very dirty sheets but nothing else came of it.

Then, strange stuff started happening.

Some students reported lights being suddenly turned on/off as well as their windows being opened and closed by themselves.  It would be very hard for it to be wind as these were solid wood windows with metal latches.  Yet, they did and we even asked our teachers if there were “fantasmas” (ghosts) in the “Fund” but they did not answer and it just seemed to make them uncomfortable.

It wasn’t like people were throwing a fit about it as it was so out of the ordinary and was only brought up if specifically asked about.

One of my friends told me how he awoke to find his roommate face down on his pillow struggling to lift himself yet seemed to be sleeping.  It scared him quite a bit so he went over and lifted his roommate up.  His roommate then awoke in a terror and told him he was dreaming that a soldier ghost was pushing his face down into the pillow so as to suffocate him.  Then the priest ghost appeared and woke up the roommate so he could help.

I was starting to believe.

So, Spring semester ends and we have a break in which we all went travelling Europe.  A few of my fellow students were staying on to the next semester and I was moving from my home-stay program to live in “The Fund” for the summer semester.  This means that just about all of the students had returned to America and it was just me and Alejandro living in the Fund until the start of the summer semester.

We were completely alone in this place.  All the Spring semester students gone and all the teachers back home for break.

Well, one night we went out partying (like usual) when I became tired and decided to head back early.

I returned and was the only soul in the entire dark former convent now a school.

I took a shower, closed the window with the metal latch, turned off the lights and went to bed.  It hadn’t been about 15 minutes when I felt a very ominous sense of dread and the very strong feeling that something was staring at me from behind.  I was laying on my side facing one direction and whatever it was, was directly behind me.

I simply thought it as strange and slowly turned to my other side.

That is when I saw a Gypsy woman sitting on the bed next to me with very large dark eyes and a sinister grin staring at me while sitting on the bed just three feet away from me.

My body reacted as I was gripped with intense fear and I jerked back to my other side.  My body had seized up with fear and my hand went straight to the cross around my neck and I rapidly started to pray saying “GO AWAY, GO AWAY, GO AWAY, GO AWAY.”  I could not move for five minutes until I made myself reach for the lamp and turn on the light.

I still could not look behind me for what seemed like an eternity until I forced myself to do so and it was gone.

I prayed for my roommate to return home as quickly as possible (No cell phones in 1998) and would not turn off the light until he came back.

So there you have it, my very own real ghost story and I do not care if you do not believe me.  I know what I saw and even relating this story has made my arm hair stand on end.

Oh, by the way, the lights just flickered again.

Some will say, well you were out drinking so that explains it.

Well, let me tell you, I have been out a bazillion times and drank beer, wine and sometimes even tequila.  Yet, YOU DO NOT SEE GHOSTS WHEN DRUNK!!!!!  Well, I have heard that if you drink Absinthe you can see little green fairies but those are certainly not scary ghosts.  :P

This has only happened one time in my life and I would imagine that if I were going to see a ghost, it would most certainly happen in a place like Toledo, Spain.

6.  Vietnam

I thought I would leave off with that, but there is one more story I would like to relate.  I used to live in Saigon and I lived in a house which was accessed by going into a very narrow alley.  Across from the doorway was another entrance to a different house in which lived a Vietnamese family.  Two of the family members had an intense effect on me.  This is not about ghosts but I feel the need to share.

1.  A deformed child (agent orange)

- This child was never seen outside but I sometimes would catch a glimpse of him in the upstairs bedroom.  He was severely deformed and remained on the bed.  I once made eye contact with him but to my shame I could not hold it as he made me afraid.

This, as well as other things has made me eternally against war.  I am ashamed when I hear some of my countrymen get excited about something they have never experienced and something that causes so many awful effects.  That is all I have to say about that.

2.  The old lady

-  One day I returned home and was surprised to hear a very weak voice behind me as I went to open the door.  I turned around and saw a very frail old lady who looked very close to death.

She said, “S’il vous plait, fermez la porte doucement parce que mon cour est malade.”  – Please close the door gently because my heart is sick.

In Vietnam, they have metal doors and I often made the mistake of slamming mine shut.  Imagine, this old lady who had been through two wars jumping every time I slammed my door.  I cannot imagine the first thing that came to her mind when I did.

That was the only time I saw the old lady and I wish I had had the courage to ask to speak with her about her experiences.  But I did not have courage that day and just promised “Oui, madame, je suis desolee.”

Well, that old lady died about two months later and I had my first experience with a Vietnamese “viewing.”  It lasts for a week so that people she new in life can have the chance to come see her one last time.

Further, they invite Buddhist monks to come and have prayer sessions that last long into the night.  I cannot tell you what it is like to try and sleep when listening to the slow, rhythmic chants that are exactly like this.

From my window I could see directly into their main living room and everyone was dressed in white.  From what I understand, these chants are to tell the deceased to please continue on into the next world and do not linger.

In closing, I really have no point to make other than this.

Enjoy life, be kind to everyone and do not be afraid that we will all pass on someday.  I sincerely believe that we will all continue on to another existence and should I happen to go before you, please leave a 12 pack of Samuel Adams on my grave and perhaps a nice Cuban Montecristo.

Happy Halloween!!!!!

Sweden: Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes

This article first appeared in The Telegraph on 21 Feb 2010

Permalink: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/sweden/7278532/Jews-leave-Swedish-city-after-sharp-rise-in-anti-Semitic-hate-crimes.html

Sweden’s reputation as a tolerant, liberal nation is being threatened by a steep rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city of Malmo.

By Nick Meo in Malmo, Sweden

When she first arrived in Sweden after her rescue from a Nazi concentration camp, Judith Popinski was treated with great kindness.

She raised a family in the city of Malmo, and for the next six decades lived happily in her adopted homeland – until last year.

In 2009, a chapel serving the city’s 700-strong Jewish community was set ablaze. Jewish cemeteries were repeatedly desecrated, worshippers were abused on their way home from prayer, and “Hitler” was mockingly chanted in the streets by masked men.

“I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway,” Mrs Popinski toldThe Sunday Telegraph.

“This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now.”

Malmo’s Jews, however, do not just point the finger at bigoted Muslims and their fellow racists in the country’s Neo-Nazi fringe. They also accuse Ilmar Reepalu, the Left-wing mayor who has been in power for 15 years, of failing to protect them.

Mr Reepalu, who is blamed for lax policing, is at the centre of a growing controversy for saying that what the Jews perceive as naked anti-Semitism is in fact just a sad, but understandable consequence of Israeli policy in the Middle East.

While his views are far from unusual on the European liberal-left, which is often accused of a pro-Palestinian bias, his Jewish critics say they encourage young Muslim hotheads to abuse and harass them.

The future looks so bleak that by one estimate, around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel, and more are preparing to go.

With its young people planning new lives elsewhere, the remaining Jewish households, many of whom are made up of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, fear they will soon be gone altogether. Mrs Popinski, an 86-year-old widow, said she has even encountered hostility when invited to talk about the Holocaust in schools.

“Muslim schoolchildren often ignore me now when I talk about my experiences in the camps,” she said. “It is because of what their parents tell them about Jews. The hatreds of the Middle East have come to Malmo. Schools in Muslim areas of the city simply won’t invite Holocaust survivors to speak any more.”

Hate crimes, mainly directed against Jews, doubled last year with Malmo’s police recording 79 incidents and admitting that far more probably went unreported. As of yet, no direct attacks on people have been recorded but many Jews believe it is only a matter of time in the current climate.

The city’s synagogue has guards and rocket-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

It is a far cry from the city Mrs Popinski arrived in 65 years ago, half-dead from starvation and typhus.

At Auschwitz she had been separated from her Polish family, all of whom were murdered. She escaped the gas chambers after being sent as a slave labourer. Then she was moved to a womens’ concentration camp, Ravensbrück, from where she was then evacuated in a release deal negotiated between the Swedish Red Cross and senior Nazis, who were by then trying to save their own lives.

After the war, just as liberal Sweden took in Jews who survived the Holocaust as a humanitarian act, it also took in new waves of refugees from tyranny and conflicts in the Middle East. Muslims are now estimated to make up about a fifth of Malmo’s population of nearly 300,000.

“This new hatred from a group 40,000-strong is focused on a small group of Jews,” Mrs Popinski said, speaking in a sitting room filled with paintings and Persian carpets.

“Some Swedish politicians are letting them do it, including the mayor. Of course the Muslims have more votes than the Jews.”

The worst incident was last year during Israel’s brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favour of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Arabs and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.

“I haven’t seen hatred like that for decades,” Mrs Popinski said. “It reminded me of what I saw in my youth. Jews feel vulnerable here now.”

The problem is becoming an embarrassment for the Social Democrats, the mayor’s party.

Their national leader Mona Sahlin – the woman who is likely to become the next prime minister after an election later this year – last week travelled to Malmo to meet Jewish leaders, which they took to be a sign that at last politicians are waking to their plight. After the meeting, the mayor, Mr Reepalu, also promised to meet them.

A former architect, he has been credited with revitalising Malmo from a half-derelict shipbuilding centre into a vibrant, prosperous city with successful IT and biotech sectors.

His city was – until recently at least – a shining multicultural success story, and has taken in proportionally more refugees than anywhere else in Sweden, a record of which it is proud.

Sweden has had a long record of offering a safe haven to Jews, the first of whom arrived from the east in the mid-nineteenth century. Today the Jewish population is about 18,000 nationally, with around 3000 in southern Sweden.

The mayor insisted to The Sunday Telegraph that he was opposed to anti-Semitism, but added: “I believe these are anti-Israel attacks, connected to the war in Gaza.

“We want Malmo to be cosmopolitan and safe for everybody and we have taken action. I have started a dialogue forum. There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo.”

Sweden has had a long record of offering a safe haven to Jews, the first of whom arrived from the east in the mid-nineteenth century. Today the Jewish population is about 18,000 nationally, with around 3000 in southern Sweden.

“Jews came to Sweden to get away from persecution, and now they find it is no longer a safe haven,” said Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, 31. “That is a horrible feeling.”

One who has had enough is Marcus Eilenberg, a 32-year-old Malmo-born lawyer, who is moving to Israel in April with his young family.

“Malmo has really changed in the past year,” he said. “I am optimistic by nature, but I have no faith in a future here for my children. There is definitely a threat.

“It started during the Gaza war when Jewish demonstrators were attacked. It was a horrible feeling, being attacked in your own city. Just as bad was the realisation that we were not being protected by our own leaders.”

Mr Eilenberg said he and his wife considered moving to Stockholm where Jews feel safer than in Malmo. “But we decided not to because in five years time I think it will be just as bad there,” he said.

“This is happening all over Europe. I have cousins who are leaving their homes in Amsterdam and France for the same reason as me.”

Malmo’s Jews are not the only ones to suffer hate crimes.

At the city’s Islamic Centre, the director Bejzat Becirov pointed out a bullet hole in the window behind the main reception desk.

Mr Becirov, who arrived in 1962 from the former Yugoslavia, said that windows were regularly smashed, pig’s heads had been left outside the mosque, and outbuildings burnt down – probably the acts of Neo-Nazis who have also baited Jews in the past.

He said that the harassment of Jews by some young Muslims was “embarrassing” to his community. Many of them are unemployed and confined to life on bleak estates where the Scandinavian dream of prosperity and equality seemed far away.

For many of Malmo’s white Swedish population, meanwhile, the racial problems are bewildering after years of liberal immigration policies.

“I first encountered race hatred when I was an au pair in England and I was shocked,” said Mrs Popinski’s friend Ulla-Lena Cavling, 72, a retired teacher.

“I thought ‘this couldn’t happen in Sweden’. Now I know otherwise.”

Current America, Israel Affair

Just wanted to write a quick blurb on the current “flap” between America and Israel.

The article “Democrats criticize Obama, highlight seriousness of U.S.-Israel flap” was amazing to me.  At first, I was pretty surprised but as I thought about it more, I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with calming a very important voting block (The Jewish Population) which may be voting Democrat?  It seems very weird (for lack of a better word) that Obama is being criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for sticking it to Prime Minister Bibi after his government completely embarrassed Joe Biden and the hopes of resurrecting the peace process.   This just doesn’t make any sense.

Sarah Palin has also been making headlines with this issue by criticizing Obama and saying America shouldn’t “disagree with Israeli policies.” Aside from the fact that she reflexively disagrees with everything Obama does, I saw a parallel between her statement about nukes: “It’s kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, ‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.’” It would seem it is ok if the current Israeli government does exactly that to the  US Administration in her opinion.

I understand the Republican criticism because that is just what they do but I’m not sure if the Democrats are criticizing to appease the voters or if we should give credit to the main Jewish Lobby and their immense power! It seems that this lobby really does run America!

On a positive note, I’m really rooting for the new Jewish lobby called J-Street. I think they are a great counterbalance to the conservative “pro-Israel no matter what it is doing group.”  What J-Street is saying is always just spot on in my opinion but they are going to have to get much bigger to have any impact on their rival.

In the USA I think the media and politicians have been too scared frankly to stick up to the main Jewish lobby due to their incredible power.  I love that J-Street speaks to reason and that if the USA disagrees with the conservative Israeli government then that is OK!  I hope this group continues to gain influence and that the Kadima party wins back power in Israel.  The way the Likud party and current coalition is going about things is never going to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

I also take issue with the media in the USA and how their bias in reporting about Israel.  It always seems too one sided.  I have not been to Israel but have enough experience abroad that one should definitely form their views from media in the USA.  I had the opportunity to talk to a few female Israeli soldiers in the Pham Ngu Lao district in Saigon.  From that discussion I probably learned more then from all the news articles I have ever read about Israel in the USA.  I was shocked to hear them saying that what Israel is doing in taking over Palestinian lands is wrong in their opinion!!  I had been trained by the media in the USA to think that taking over land is what the majority of Israelis wanted!  It just goes to show how much one can learn simply by setting foot outside of the USA and actually speaking with citizens of whatever country.

On a side blurb, I would also like to point out the similarity between “lobbying” and “corruption.”  The USA often gets on other nations for “corruption,” but perhaps it would behoove these other nations to simply change the name of the practice to “lobbying?”

UPDATE 5.10.2010:  When writing the above post I had to be extremely careful because in the past when one disagreed with Israel all hell would break loose.  But now, J-street is a younger, hipper lobby that often breaks ranks with their older peers.  I just read the article “Jon Stewart vs. Israel” and love his thinking that “any and all ideology, a belief that racial and ethnic boundaries between people are just plain dumb, and, above all, that true believers in anything are downright funny.”  This is good for Israel, good for peace and ultimately good for the world.

Hamas supporters envoke Hitler in fight against Israel

2009-01-10

”Heil Hitler”, ”we want to kill all Jews”, ”give us some Jews”, ”down, down, Denmark”, “down, down, democracy” were among the slogans chanted at this Palestinian pro-Hamas, anti-Israel demonstration in central Copenhagen. Watch the footage below. Demonstration also attended by a handful of left-wingers.

Imagine if a pro-Israeli demonstration had chanted “kill all Palestinians”… There would have been no end to the media-hysteria.

Issues of the Day

1. Proposition 8 – Gay Marriage
There was an article in the Wall Street journal about a “black list” of businesses that gay people were protesting due to their support of Proposition 8. It seems like these are extremists and such extremism isn’t really supported by the community. The article told the story of a Mormon woman who although she employed quite a few gay people in her restaurant had supported Proposition 8. As her establishment was being protested she thought it a good idea to offer an apology but could not renounce her belief and thus was shouted at. It’s good to hear however, that most of the gay population does not support this type of behavior and she is absolutely within her right to vote according to her beliefs.
I myself voted No on Proposition 8 (Gays have the right to marry = No vote) and it got me thinking about how we define marriage? I am still unclear on the answer.
Marriage is a traditional custom that transcends culture and is a custom found in almost every society. For tribes without a nation the marriage is upheld by the rules of tribal elders. In our society, the state recognizes marriage and affords married couples special privileges (and penalties). Another authority, Religion, also recognizes marriage.
Gay people are afforded special “domestic partnerships” in California which is very close to the rights of married couples. I’m not sure on all the details but to me it seems that it is simply a change in the word used to define a couple who have made their relationship permanent and public. Religion on the other hand comes in all shapes and sizes and spans every nation. Most religious leaders will not condone gay marriage.
However, if a gay person does not belong to a religion that does not condone gay marriage then who really cares what rules religion imposes. The only thing that matters are the rights afforded by the state and gay people have these privileges in more enlightened nationals and states (USA).
Thus, isn’t this whole debate simply about a word which defines the relationship between two people (Marriage)? What if the word was simply changed? Or perhaps it is simply a matter of having the same exact privilege that straight people have and the gay population wants equal rights.
To demonstrate the point, I am in a straight relationship called “Marriage.” However, I could care less if religious elders did not condone of it. The only thing that really matters is that the state affords me the benefits associated with it, should other people have special privileges as well. If the state provided no benefits, I could also care less if the state recognized it since it would give me no advantage. “Marriage” to me is a commitment I made to my wife and I could care less what any third party thinks unless it was disadvantageous in some way. We could call it something else like “the pact,” “the bond,” the promise,” “you and me babe,” etc.
However, this is from the mind of someone who studies language and the impact it has on mentality, thus may seem quite absurd to non language students. Further, it must hurt to not be included when the rest of the population is afforded something (even if it is only a word). In other words, Marriage is a long tradition and the word “Marriage” defines it and if everyone else is entitled to it then to not be included is discriminatory. But in the end, isn’t it just a word if the same benefits can be received (religion excluded)?
2. Israel and Gaza
Israel has started bombing Gaza again. I listened to the Prime Minister of Israel and can understand his frustration. But haven’t the policies of the USA and Israel been extremely unfair to the Palestinians? There are no jobs and the only thing that flourishes is the resentment of Israel. I have spoken with Israeli soldiers and even they have said policies towards the Palestinians have been unfair. It is such a mess there that countless intelligent people have failed at trying to find a lasting solution. In the end, Israel has the right to exist and not be shot at while the Palestinians have the right to prosper, be free and flourish. Seems to be a downward spiral and very hard for American policy to be balanced as it is shamefully pro-Israeli now. It is my opinion that America should not get involved in this mess or if they must then castigate both sides equally.
3. Christmas movies
To end the post on a trite note, I recognized this Christmas that there are still no good Christmas movies coming out. Hollywood continues to spew forth garbage with no end in sight. I’m dying for another good Christmas movie like one of the following:
1. A Christmas Story
2. A Christmas Carol
3. Old animation Rudolph, Frosty etc.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life
5. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
6. Elf
I could do without the following”
1. Anything with Vince Vaughn
2. Bad Santa – The worst movie ever made
3. Tim Allen’s Santa movies – I started watching the third in the series as it was the only one I could stream from netflix but turned it off after 15 minutes.
Reasons:
a.) Since when does Santa get people pregnant
b.) Santa’s wife isn’t happy but instead a whining middle class woman who just has to have her way.
c.) All the elves are just little kids with elf ears stuck on.
d.) They just run around from one catastrophe to the next — Christmas is supposed to be full of happiness!!!!
Message to Netflix,,, please stream any version of “A Christmas Carol” to make your viewers happy. Hollywood monkeys running around screwing everything up is not a good Christmas movie.

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