A Curse on Carols!

Now that Christmas songs and carols are blasting us in every store, office building, and restaurant, I could, as usual, gripe and pray for December 26th, but this year I decided to take a withering look at the lyrics and expose the speciousness and absurdity behind every jolly tune.

            Jingle Bells. “Dashing through the snow / In a one-horse open sleigh.” How brilliant is it to travel in an open-air vehicle in the middle of winter? You won’t be “laughing all the way”—you’ll be shivering your asses off!

            Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. “He’s making a list … He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Come on, Santa, fess up. You like ʼem naughty, don’t you, you filthy old pervert! But I understand. It’s cold and dark up north—just you and the elves. But some of those elves can be pretty foxy, viz., Liv Tyler in Lord of the Rings. Of course, there’s Mrs. Claus. But wait a minute! How do we know there is a Mrs. Claus? Do we ever see this woman? Maybe Santa made her up to look legit? Meanwhile, he’s busy shacking up with some elfin chick (or dude). “I’m Santa Claus! I’m family-friendly! I’m everybody’s grandpa! Here, kid, have some Coke!”

            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Here’s a tale of abuse if I’ve ever heard one. The reindeer are, like, calling Rudolph names. “You’re a weirdo, a loser! We despise you! Stay out of our games!” Then on a foggy Christmas night, Santa is kvetching, “How am I gonna drive my sleigh in this crap? Hold on… What about that one reindeer, the freak with the shiny nose? Let’s get him to pilot the caravan.” Sure, suddenly all the reindeer love him, now that he’s eminently exploitable! Rudolph should just say, “Screw all of you! I’m gonna go over to the other side with Jesus. He’ll treat me right!”

            Let It Snow. The weather outside is frightful, the fire’s delightful, and we’ve no place to go, but you’re still sending me out into the storm at the end of the evening? Honey, there is something seriously wrong with our relationship!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas. The ultimate smart-ass anthem. “Yeah, I’ll be home for Christmas—in my dreams! You people have made my life a living hell. Do you think I’ll endure your hypocritical bonhomie for another year? Forget it!” …  I don’t know. Maybe I’m too angry.

            Deck the Halls. “Don we now our gay apparel.” Considering that “gay,” used as an adjective, can be derogatory and embedded with homophobia, this line proves that you can get away with singing what you could never say out loud.

            Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Here’s a depressing number. “Next year all our troubles will be miles away.” This year, everything sucks! The problem is that we sing this every year. It appears, then, that those troubles are not anxious to relocate anytime soon. “Someday soon we all will be together / If the fates allow.” And if they don’t, you are out of luck, baby! “So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” Yeah, I’ll bet you will!

            Frosty the Snowman. Speaking of fatalism, here is the capper. Frosty’s dancing around in his top hat and corncob pipe, saying, “Let’s run, and we’ll have some fun / Now before I melt away.” Next thing you know, he’s waving goodbye as he liquefies. It’s hard to imagine how jolly and happy he can be, knowing a little sunlight will obliterate him. But I suppose he does have reincarnation in his favor.

White Christmas. How about a BIPOC Christmas this year? White people have had it too good for too long! Oh, by “white,” you’re referring to the ice-coated dust that forms ten-foot drifts to trap you in your car? And if you’ve got your kids listening to hear sleigh bells in the snow, you are one mean SOB! Well, it’s more than likely that me and Elvis will be having a blue, blue, blue-blue Blue Christmas.

            Winter Wonderland. Let me get this straight. You build a snowman and call him Parson Brown. And this ministerial effigy is going to “marry” you (heh-heh-heh) and legitimize your illicit relationship? I quote, “You can do the job when you’re in town.” Doesn’t this suggest that the bulbous being you’ve created will amble to the nearest house of worship to officiate? After all, it can talk, so locomotion shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, no, you say, we meant that Parson Brown would actually be doing the honors. Yeah, well, that’s not what the lyrics tell us. I might suggest that the snowman and Parson Brown could become entangled so that the movements of one will duplicate the actions of the other. But I don’t want to drown in quantum theory.

            Good King Wenceslas. Most people don’t know that the Good Christian King got offed in Bohemia by his pagan brother and became a martyr to the faith. Hopefully, he lived long enough to wine and dine that peasant, although the song ends while he’s wandering around in the woods, so we don’t know if GKW gave up and let the unfortunate fellow die under the mountain.

            Santa Baby. The ultimate Christmas wish list. Eartha doesn’t want much, just a sable mink, a convertible, a yacht, the deed to a platinum mine, a duplex, a whole lot of personal checks signed by Santa, and a ring (with a groom appended?). What does Santa get for all this largesse—what does he ever get? Not much, since she believes she’s entitled because of all the fun she’s missed and the dudes she hasn’t kissed. I suppose sobriety and chastity deserve some reward, but the lady is asking a bit much for her continence.

            I’m not going to carp on the carols lest I offend the devout. Except for The Little Drummer Boy. I could foresee that all the “pa rum pum pum pums” would start to get on everyone’s nerves, especially right after a tough birth in a stable. Makes you wonder whether  Joseph wouldn’t finally say, “That’s great, son. Why don’t you run out and entertain the shepherds for a while?”

            I’ll finish up with The Twelve Days of Christmas. It was sweet of my true love to give me presents for twelve days, but…. First day, a partridge in a pear tree. I live in an apartment, so I’m not sure what to do with a pear tree. But thanks. The next day, I get two turtle-doves and another partridge in a pear tree. Gosh, that’s—uh—so thoughtful. On the third day, I’m gifted with partridges, pear trees, turtle-doves, and three French hens. My landlord does allow pets, but I’m not sure I can pass off chickens as boon companions. Fourth day, four calling-birds. I don’t have room for all the cages required, and my carpet and furniture are spattered with bird droppings. We come to day five, and I get five golden rings. Finally, something good. By the twelfth day, I’ll have 40 rings. Not too shabby, given the rising price of gold. Meanwhile, it’s getting really crazy. Six swans a-swimming. Eight geese a-laying, i.e., hatching even more geese. What is with all the damn birds? I’m going to have to build an aviary. On the eighth day, I receive eight maids a-milking. Milking what? Cows! Nobody talks about them in the song! But you know the fantasies that abound around maids. Maybe the eight of them and I can have some fun gratifying our “urges” if I can get them to stop with the milking for a while. It seems to get even better when I find myself with nine ladies dancing. The girls are crowding into my apartment by the minute. My true love probably won’t be too wild about me being in flagrante, but she’s the one who procured all the freaking women! Anyway, the chiquitas will abandon me once the ten lords a-leaping arrive. I can’t compete with their nobility and acrobatics. I was wondering how I’d keep all the guests entertained, but then 22 pipers and 12 drummers show up. But not one electric guitar! And don’t we need a lead singer? By the time we hit day twelve, I have 12 partridges, 12 pear trees, 30 French hens, 22 turtle-doves, 36 calling-birds, 42 geese, 42 swans, 40 maids, 40 cows, 36 ladies, 30 lords, plus the pipers and drummers. I’ve had about all the fruit, birds, and people I can stand! The cops will be here any minute! Amid all the chirping, clucking, cooing, trilling, honking, squawking, flapping, milking, mooing, dancing, leaping, thumping, chattering, laughing, whooping, piping, and drumming, I scream, “STOP! STOP! STOP! EVERYONE GET OUT! GET OUT! Go wait by the pear tree orchard until I figure out what to do with all of you!” My true love better come up with a farm to house all these animals and humans, plus a ton of food and grains to feed them, or we’re calling it quits!… Ah, that’s better! After twelve days of this, I’m hoping to have a Silent Night at last!

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NASA Says Warp Drive Closer Than We Think

We’ve all heard Jean Luc Picard command the USS Enterprise to proceed at “warp factor six,” or 216 times light speed. NASA scientists already have plans for a warp drive that would allow a spaceship to travel faster than light. Of course, it’s in the testing stage. When it becomes a reality, some of us might want to volunteer for the expedition.

The April 2013 edition of Popular Science reported on a meeting of the “100 Year Starship” that included a presentation by NASA scientist Harold “Sonny” White on the subject of “Warp Field Mechanics 102.”An agency of the United States Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has the goal of making travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. Among NASA’s goals for facilitating travel via chemically propelled rockets, antimatter systems and nuclear engines include the possibility of using warp drive as a means of galloping faster than light.

Of course, the law of relativity decrees that matter cannot accelerate to a light speed or faster because mass would expand infinitely and require an infinite amount of energy to achieve.

White has not only developed the concept of warp drive but is also commencing physical tests in NASA laboratory.

White suggests that warp speed would reduce travel time to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, from 75,000 years to two weeks. A wagon train full of pioneers usually ambled along at about 2 miles per hour, if the mules were sufficiently motivated. A ship moving at the speed of light would get about 670 million miles in that period of time. (We can reach that sum by multiplying 60 seconds by 60 minutes by 186,000 miles per second.) Even a plane moving faster than the speed of sound would not affect the equation by much.

How warp drive would work is to reverse the attractive force of gravity by means of negative energy. Negative energy would not keep space and time together by mutual attraction but would pull them apart. Quantum mechanics has predicted that negative energy does indeed exist.

White could create negative energy in a NASA lab. While two conductive plates could be brought close enough to generate a small amount of negative energy, scientists are skeptical about the notion that a sufficient amount of negative energy could be generated to allow a ship to skip faster than light. They are of the opinion that warp drive would require such vast amounts of negative energy as to make propulsion by such means infeasible.

But White’s computer simulations have uncovered a “warp bubble” that would need millions of times less negative energy to carry a spaceship beyond our solar system.

Faster than light transportation has been in existence since the Big Bang, which expanded space and time such that matter within the “bang” could have been moving at warp plus speed.

Negative energy would mold space and time like clay, compressing and flattening it. Meanwhile it would wrap the spaceship in a field like a bubble. The ship could then ride along the distorted shapes of space and time.

The Popular Science article includes full-color portraits of warp drive in action.

It’s hardly news to physicists that, because of the inextricable bond of space and time as established by relativity principles, faster than light motion would tug the space pioneers not only through space but also through time. A ship wrapped in a negative energy bubble would become a time machine. Going by way of negative energy could involve sailing through negative time. Astronauts experiencing a two week trip to Alpha Centauri might also find themselves millions of years older, so to speak.

Of course, you could very well ask, how would they know the difference? We don’t even know what the planets circling Alpha Centauri look like now, much less how they appeared a few geological eras ago.

What we do know is that if you bring up the subject of warp drive to Sonny or other NASA scientists, they will tell you they’re working on it. And they will likely come up with a solution to long distance travel well before a century has passed.

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Mental Health Treatment Strides into the 18th Century

By the end of the 17th century, madness was viewed as a physical phenomenon rather than a spiritual or moral issue. But “treatment” of the mentally ill included the use of chains and the whip, as well as diet and exercise, in order to suppress the passions of those regarded as wild animals. The nickname given to the notorious “Bedlam Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem in England, “Bedlam,” became a common noun for scene of pandemonium and violence.

In the 19th century, asylums were created to store the mentally ill, but “mental illness” was defined indiscriminately to confine those manifesting any condition that disquieted society, despite the fact that many of these maladies were little more than responses to oppressive societal and economic circumstances. Therapy was almost nonexistent. The asylums practiced seclusion and minimal caretaking of patients by largely untrained personnel.

In the Islamic world, as early as the 8th century, institutional care was based upon the belief that God loved the sane and insane alike, and patients were treated with special diets, baths, music, and felicitous surroundings

The asylum concept for the treatment of mentally ill seems to be thriving well into the 21st century, as evidenced by institutions such as Hotel Pawnee in North Platte, Nebraska. The facility has been cited by the Department of Health and Human Services for multiple violations of DHHS regulations, including hiring of uncertified staff, lack of safety in food preparation and administration of medications, and failure to conduct background checks of applicants. Recently Hotel Pawnee was placed probationary status and ordered to correct numerous deficiencies within the next year.

The DHHS investigation, conducted in May of 2012, disclosed a situation of peeling ceilings, moldy walls, broken light fixtures, dirty corroded bathtubs and thick piles of dust everywhere. Residents’ rooms were found to be littered with clothing and trash, and cluttered hallways contained cat litter boxes spilling feces onto the floor. Residents were being served sparse amounts of food, and nurses were administering injections without washing their hands or wearing gloves. Random examination of residents’ files by DHHS indicated that none of those suffering from mental illness or behavioral disorders were receiving specialized training in behavior management.

Hotel Pawnee was built in 1929 as the “Hotel Yancey,” and later became designated as the “Pawnee Hotel.” The eight story brick building, with its Georgian Revival architectural style, featured prominently in the history of North Platte, hosting celebrities and political figures and offering elegant receptions in its second-floor ballroom.

Disability Rights Nebraska, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the legal rights of the disability community, conducted a nine-month investigation of Nebraska assisted living facilities for individuals with mental illness that included Hotel Pawnee. Photographs of the interior of Hotel Pawnee confirm the previous reports of appalling conditions, and documentation of food service operations have disclosed the restrictions on food and other necessities disclosed in the DHHS report. Ironically, the walls and ceiling of a ballroom that so characterized the opulent appointments of the past, collapsed several years ago, and have never been repaired. Disability Rights Nebraska has characterized the conditions at Hotel Pawnee as “dangerous and inhumane,” and has undertaken efforts to require DHHS to enforce its legislatively mandated responsibilities by closing down this facility and relocating the residents to environments less inimical to their health and safety.

Eric Evans, Chief Operation Officer of Disability Rights Nebraska, has described the conditions at Hotel Pawnee as a “soul killer.” It is difficult not to regard Hotel Pawnee as a reincarnation of Bedlam Hospital.

Amazingly, Hotel Pawnee is a “private pay” institution, which means that the residents pay over $1,076.00 per month for the questionable privilege of living there.

The squalid conditions of the facility are not the most tragic aspect of the situation. Of greater significance is the isolation of the residents and their seclusion from the world. The State of Nebraska is mandated to provide not only for treatment of those suffering mental illness and behavioral disorders, but also establish the means for allowing them to integrate into the community. For example, the DHHS Division of Behavioral Health is charged with ensuring “the public health and safety of persons with behavioral health disorders” and to provide Nebraska citizens with “an appropriate array of community-based services,” a “continuum of care” and “high quality behavioral health services.”

Unfortunately, in one of her final actions as Chief Medical Director of DHHS Public Health, before leaving the agency for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dr. Joann Schaefer issued a decision allowing Hotel Pawnee to stay in business.

Bruce Mason, Litigation Director for Disability Rights Nebraska, regards this and similar state statutes, as well as regulations promulgated by DHHS itself, as binding promises made by the State of Nebraska to provide an opportunity for all of its citizens to live decent, secure, productive lives, free of isolation and restraint. Mr. Mason says that Disability Rights Nebraska will exert all of its efforts to assure that the State honors its promises and fulfills its legal and equitable duties.

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Black Holes and Gravity Let Us Time-Travel

A NASA space telescope recently recorded two black holes shining in ultra-bright X-ray light in the galaxy Caldwell 5, 7 million light-years from Earth. Scientists speculate that these are intermediate, rather than supermassive black holes.

Black holes start from massive stars which exert tremendous gravitational force. Gravity and black holes could help us travel in time. But the kind of time travel we could do ranges from a 50% reduction in rate to an acceleration of billions of years per second.

A star exists because gravity compresses a massive cloud of hydrogen gas and heats it up so much that the nuclear force overcomes the natural repulsion of protons, which are hydrogen nuclei, so that they fuse to form helium. This fusion releases energy, which is one of the reasons that stars shine and why stars become nuclear furnaces. But this release of energy also burns hydrogen and makes helium waste. When the helium waste builds up over billions of years, it causes the furnace to shut down. Then gravity reappears like a pouncing arch-demon and crushes the star into a white dwarf. The helium waste can still be burned, given sufficient heat, like the ash from a camp fire. This is the reason that the white dwarf continues to burn, converting the helium ash into lithium and other elements, until it burns down into iron. Iron nuclei cannot fuse and release energy, so that, in medium sized stars such as our sun, the collapsing star has run out of fuel, and the white dwarf turns black. However, for stars that are several times the mass of our sun, gravity continues its labors of concentration, causing the iron core to collapse and the outer layer of the dwarf to be released as a supernova. What’s left after the explosion is a dead star, a neutron star. However, in really massive stars—ten to fifty times the size of our sun, the force of gravity continues to squeezes the neutron star into a black hole.

In an article in Science Digest (September 1982) Isaac Asimov suggested a method of time travel related to black holes. He pointed out that, in the extra-large stars, the black hole has a radius of about eighteen miles. This radius forms a spherical surface known as an “event horizon.” But beyond the event horizon, the black hole continues to collapse until its mass is squeezed into an infinitely small point, known as a singularity. We know that black holes exert such a gravitation force that even light cannot escape. But time flows at a different rate at a black hole than in the rest of space. Assuming that a human traveler could resist the gravitational forces, the traveler would discover that, just before crossing the event horizon, time would accelerate to billions of years per second, until, after crossing the event horizon, the remaining life of the universe would have passed. Unfortunately, Asimov notes, this is a one-way trip.

Another method for time travel around a black hole, offered in the same edition of Science Digest, utilizes the “light cone” first developed by the German mathematician Hermann Minkowski to visualize space and time. In actuality the time cone looks more like an hourglass, with diagonal lines to represent the speed of light and the circular top and bottom signifying the time coordinates. Light, traveling along the vertical plane, comes up through the bottom half of the hourglass, which is the past, to emerge at the top, which is the future. Light would travel through space on a horizontal axis that splits the two halves of the cone (past and future). One of the two cones would also possess the same coordinates of space and time. One cannot go outside the limits of the cone, because one would be traveling faster than light, which contradicts the law of relativity.
How the cone is involved in time travel is derived from the fact that light can be bent by gravity. The light cone, nearing a massive object such as a black hole, would start to revolve around it. The light cone could then tip into negative time. A traveler could travel along any path within the light cone. A timid voyager that faithfully adhered to the space axis would end up at the beginning, while a more adventurous soul could choose a path below the space axis (but still within the light cone) and would journey down a helical road into the past. After enjoying an earlier age of the universe, the traveler could hop onto another helical conveyor to the present.

Another less dramatic method was suggested by Stephen Hawking (see http://bit.ly/wkDEdH). It is based on the relativistic principle that time slows and appears to stop for bodies approaching the speed of light. He postulates that, for travelers orbiting a black hole at a sufficient distance to avoid its powerful gravitation, time would slow down by half. Therefore five years spent by the travelers would translate to ten years on earth, and the passengers would return to a future Earth.

In his book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking echoes Asimov in observing that a spaceman falling through an event horizon would be confronted by a singularity and the end of time. Again, a one-way trip.

We on Earth are aware that time travel does not require a black hole. We leap forward and fall back an hour every year, in obeisance to the daylight savings commandments. And time certainly slows down when we microwave our dinner or build up our abdomens in a regimen that ostensibly lasts no more than fifteen minutes a day.

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Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, are accused of detonating two bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, killing three people and wounding hundreds of others. They are also accused of killing a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was slain in a gun battle with police, but no cemetery in the United States appears willing to have him interred, out of fear of reprisals by the loved ones of others residing in the same cemetery. The fear is not lessened by the suggestion that Tsarnaev could be buried in an unmarked grave.
A funeral director in Worcester, Massachusetts, Peter Stefan, who assisted in the preparation of the body for burial, has received phone calls from people accusing him of being “un-American” because of his willingness to handle Tsarnaev’s funeral. A protest was staged outside his funeral home on May 5, 2013, at which protesters held American flags and chanted “USA!” One sign was more explicit declaring that Tsarnaev should not be buried on United States soil. One of the protestors shouted, “Throw him off a boat like Osama bin Laden!”
The United States government has yet to intervene and resolve this issue.
In the case of previous slain murderers, whose names and deeds remain vivid in the memories of Americans, no dispute arose concerning burial. Lee Harvey Oswald is buried in Dallas, the same city in which he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The ashes of Oklahoma City terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh were duly scattered. Because Tsarnaev was a Muslim, his body cannot be cremated.
Ray Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School and specialist in the area of law related to death and burial, stated that she had never seen such a case of a dispute over burial of the dead.
Almost immediately after Tsarnaev was identified as one of the assassins, the media focused on Tsarnaev’s Muslim background. A YouTube channel that he had created includes a speech by a Muslim Russian militant. An aunt of Tsarnaev reported that he had shown a deepening interest in radical Islam.
The source of the resistance against Tsarnaev’s burial on American soil very likely stems from the idea that, as a Muslim, he was a practitioner of terrorism. The correlation of Islam with worldwide terrorism sometimes seems to be embedded in the American consciousness.
In fact, there is ample evidence from the history of Islam and its spiritual principles that Islam does not equal terrorism. In the Muslim Holy Book, the Qur’an, the Prophet Muḥammad does mention Holy War, or jihad, but in various section of the Qur’an he also condemns conflict. “Whenever they light a fire for war, God puts it out; they strive for corruption in the earth, but God loves not the corrupt.” (Sura 5 – The Table, E.H. Palmer tr.) Elsewhere he treats it as no different from any other human behavior that calls for divine pardon. “Verily, those who believe, and those who flee, and those who wage war in God’s way; these may hope for God’s mercy, for God is forgiving and merciful.” (Sura 2 – The Heifer, E.H. Palmer tr.)
Jihad is commonly misinterpreted as “holy war” though it most frequently appears in Qur’an in the idiomatic expression al-jihad fi sabil Allah, which means “striving in the way of God.”
In her book, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong indicates that the term jihad implies more than holy war but also a physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual effort that is completely unrelated to armed conflict. She also points out that the term “unbeliever” does not refer to a non-Muslim, but to a person that knows the truth of God but refuses to reorder his or her life in accordance with that knowledge.
Jihad is not included as one of the five “pillars,” of Islam, which are the foundation of Muslim life. These include belief in the Oneness of God, daily prayers, concern for the needy, fasting and at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest place in the Muslim world. There are Muslim scholars who have tried to add jihad as a sixth pillar, a position that does not have wide Muslim support.
Muslim extremism can be traced at least in part to Wahhabism, a sect of Islam established by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. Wahhab opposed any idea added to Islam after the third century of the Muslim era (about 950 C.E.). Wahhabi adherents do not consider their creed as one school of thought among many, but as the only path of true Islam. Since the establishment of the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, there has been a close relationship between the Saudi royal family and the Wahhabi religious establishment. Wahhabism has been regularly exported from Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world by Osama bin Laden, among others.
Another form of extremist thinking can be found in Salafiyya, a reform movement that began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in various parts of the Islamic world. Advocacy of jihad has been traced to both of these puritanical groups. Salafism, for example, has had a potent influence upon Al Qaeda. Islamic militancy was also an outgrowth of the war of resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In a report for Congress in 2008, entitled “The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya,” Christopher M. Blanchard, an Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs, stated that there is evidence that Saudi financial support to Afghanistan, as well as U.S. and European funding to Pakistan, may have been diverted to fund the construction and maintenance of madrasas, Islamic religious schools that have helped to spread radical interpretations of Islamic teachings. Violent promulgation of Islam is by no means acceptable to the majority of the approximately one billion Muslims in the world.
In her biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong quotes from the Theology of the Jihad, which maintains that jihad has a significance that transcends the concept of Holy War. It means the duty of Muslims to struggle to make the world apply divine principles to their lives and to create a just society. Islam is no different in its fundamental teachings than Christianity, Buddhism, or any other major world religion.

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From Divine Play, pp. 114-115

From the Hellmark Hill of Fame production of Romeo and Juliet
Sponsored by Hellmark Cards, Ltd.—Act II, Scene ii:

ROMEO [As Juliet appears at a window above him]
Your face, your eyes, like sun and stars,
So bright I just can’t speak.
I wish that I could be the glove
That’s stuck against your cheek!

Poor me!

I love to listen to you talk
And watch you stand above me.
You’re cuter than the angel that
Tops off the Christmas tree!

Oh you, you! Why’d you have to be you?
With a name like Montague!
If you really love me, you can bet
I’ll change my name from Capulet!

Should I speak or stay and hide?
Gosh, I’m all confused inside!

Which part is Montague? Your heart?
Your hand, your foot, your face, your butt?
You can still smell the flowers and not know their stupid names.
Why can’t cute boys be the same?
Romeo! I got a deal for thee!
Give up your little name and you get all of me!

I’ll take it, sweet thing!
I got the yang if you got the yin!

What kind of perverted creep
Would listen in on my soliloquy?

I got no name, because you hate it.
I’m gonna burn my birth certificate!

You sound like Romeo Montague.

If you want me to be someone else, that’s cool.

How’d you get over the wall? You’re good!
But you’re dead if my family finds you, dude!

Baby, my love for you’s like wings.
And if you love me, I can do anything!

If my cousins knew we were together,
They’d cut you up real bad for sure!

Every time you look at me, I’m just like jelly.
Just let my love in, they can’t do nothin’ to me!

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Excerpt from Divine Play, pp. 452-454

The waterfall extended for hundreds of meters perpendicular to the asphalt overlook on which they stood, but the frothy, bluish liquid that spilled precipitously into the chasm was not water and exuded caustic fumes into the slate-colored, frigid sky. Though diluted by humidity and rarefied by wind, the mist that enveloped them was stinging and numbing.

They’d been provided no protection but goggles and facecloths, which shielded them slightly. Also, a seamless white stone dam kept the fluid from the canyon directly below them, their destination. Gradually, the prickling skin and nausea abated.

“What is that?” Willie asked, her voice muffled by the mask.

“Smells like gas. Petroleum, I mean,” Alex ventured.

“What could possibly be the purpose of dumping thousands of liters of gas per minute like that?” Les asked.

“Maybe they know,” Emo said.

Clustered a few hundred meters behind them were a hundred or so men and women variously adorned in black, blue, or charcoal gray suits, pants or skirts, white shirts, pastel ties, scarves, high heels, wing-tips. They paced in evasive, intersecting paths, holding small silver cell phones to their ears or expostulating into the air within the ambiance of microphonic chips embedded in earplugs. Skittishly attentive, they brushed hair strands from their foreheads. Their tanned cadaverous faces exhibited a tension of self-consequence. Willie, Mikki, Les, and Coop approached them, but the executives disregarded them, and the four listened for a few moments to the conversations:

“I get this baby bundled on Monday; it’s a homeless whore by Wednesday.”

“They jetted in a frenesí to Cancún to meet with Sheila. Who they? Buddy from Omni, Sammy from Rama-Round. Of course, Sheila’s incomprendo now, but I will nail her ass through stainless steel, y’all!”

“Yeah, sokay, it was yuge. He piloted the deal. But that’s nine days now, φίλος! How long is his OCD?”

“I am completely mawooned, babe! But―you can handow him, Sven! Bobby’s gonna teww you it did ten biww on Fwiday, twelve on Saturday, but Sunday—fau. Only fau! That’s what I’m sayin’. Dead by Sunday! Dead by Sunday!”

“I tole you I tole you I tole you! No legs! Domestic gonna be death plus.”

“―at lunch with Stan at the Marquis Wednesday. He is freakin’ dying to do this. He musta said mebbe six times in a hour, ‘Incredible script―this is an incredible script.’”

“Don’t be dense, Toby! His ass is way into the tar on this ‘Son of Titanic’ thing.”

“―wearin’ this T-shirt that said ‛Lie to Me’! I am not kidding!”

“Mokatte maka?”

“―nada mas till I get off this―the detox place . . . . Yes, I did mention it. Vershure I mentioned it! . . . Last week. At Tookey’s―!”

“Na na, Walda—not megadeal, not gigadeal―transcendendeal!”

“‘Just lunch’? No such thing as ‘just lunch,’ ziphead! He blowin’ smokaroonie rings up your—!”

“—pay or play—”

“—bag of snakes—”

“—paper the house—”


“—scorched earth—”

“—small and soft—”

“—census reduction—”

“Excuse me,” Mikki announced, “but does anyone know when the next . . . thing arrives? Transport? When’s it due?”

The execs halted and stared at her for a moment, and then resumed their conversations.

“I don’t know. In pastel uniforms! . . . I am not kidding.”

“The gay marines must be recruiting . . .”

“―usually want money―”

“Thank you for your attention,” Mikki called.

“What are they doing in here, dressed like that?” Les asked.

“How can they breathe?” Willie wondered, waving her right hand before her face to fend off fumes.

“Something’s wrong,” Coop said. “They’re not ants, I don’t think, but they’re still . . . artificial.”

“Bergson’s definition of the comic, I think,” Emo observed. “Wasn’t it?”

“Right,” Vic agreed. “Bergson. ‘Something mechanical encrusted upon the living.’”

Sounds of sirens, turbines, screeching saws, and damned souls erupted from the earth. A long, narrow, black machine, shaped like a Viking ship but for the rodent masthead, arose out of the chasm. A row of
padded benches filled the craft. From its hidden speakers blared sped-up, rocked-out versions of camp songs, complete with hyperkinetic falsettos and/or croaking gutturals:

Areyoucryinglord areyoucryinglord? (blam-blam)
Areyoucryinglord areyoucryinglord?
Cumbayaaaaahhhh! Cumbayaaaaahhhh!
Old! Mac! Don—!—ald! had! a! farm, yo! Ee! Yi! Ee! Yi!
On! this! farm! he! had! some! ducks, yo! Ee! Yi! Ee! Yi!

The ship did a ninety-degree turn and alighted before them. The music stopped. The pilot was a huge, bearded, swarthy man with curly black hair and beard and ample chest hair growing over the top of his satiny white, sleeveless T-shirt. He wore tight green verrucated pants, simulating alligator hide, a black sport coat of crushed velvet, and a gold chain and scorpion-shaped medallion around his neck. On seeing the team, he held out his arms closely together, tilted his head back, and did a genuflection in the air with his right leg.

“There they are! There’re my little ones, my angels!” He bustled nearer.

“I am so thrilled to be your limo service to the eighth circus. My name’s Jerry Honnor, and”—pointing with nimble finger and supple wrist—“you are Vic Domismo and you are Willie Farina and you are Celestine Link and you are Cooper Voka and you are Emile Sogalet and you are Alex Strabis and you are Mikki Sanjuro!” He flapped the fingers of his right hand at himself, beckoning. “Suffer, little children, unto me.”

Meanwhile, the executives had folded up their phones, terminated their discourse, and hastened over en masse. They began their bargaining:

“You know, I have a life-or-death situation here—”

“I posilutely must be there in forty-five minuttoes—”

“—impossible unbelievable pressure here, Jerry! What can I get you? What can I give you?”

“Right now, Jer. A hundred and fifty people on the set right now waiting for me―at 25,000 bucks an hour―”

“I am so sorry, folks,” Jerry replied, his hands outstretched, palms flat against a mimed wall. “You’ve just been incredible to wait so patiently, but”—he lifted his eyebrows and shoulders slightly—“I have a teensy catastrophic emergency to deal with, which requires that I take these technicians down to the eighth circus, so if you could just please bear with—”
“Unfucking belie-fuckable!” screamed one.

“Knock-up-drag-down-slick-shot-shit!” a second screamed, more loudly.

The rest made various other angry noises as they simultaneously flipped open phones, thumbed handsets, and retreated in a slow, diffuse parade.

“You know,” Mikki said, “it’s really not fair for us to go first when they’ve been waiting so long.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jerry said. “They’re not going anywhere.”

“What do you mean?” asked Les.

“They’re prisoners,” Jerry replied. “They’ve been coming here every morning for years. They gather here, drinking medicated coffee, and then stand around ’til dark and go home, in silent lines like the living dead”—he indicated a clump of gray semicircular buildings in the distance—“to those geothermal huts, eat ‘proteinamin’ gruel, remove their disposable suits and paraphernalia, and sleep it off on bunk beds. Next morning they get up, do their showering and toilette, don disposable suits and paraphernalia, and return to this cliff for another day of waiting.”

“Don’t they realize they’re not getting anywhere?” Willie asked.

“No,” Jerry answered, “they had a little laser surgery on their temporal lobes—had the medial portions removed. You know, the parts with the hippocampus and the amy—amyg—I can’t ever say that word.”

“Amygdala?” Coop offered.

“Right. Their most recent memories are of being movers and shakers and dealers. They haven’t formed new long-term memories―about being convicted of fraud and embezzlement and stock swindles, and being sent to the slammer. They wake up remembering who they were and act it out all day—until it gets dark, and then they’re nothing: no will, no self, no place in this world—nothing but indoctrinated nullities.”

“So there’re no people on the other end of those cell phones?” Mikki asked. “The conversations are in their heads?”

“No, the phones connect to simple vocal processors that’ve been fed samples―the voices of coworkers, partners, spouses―plus enough data on each inmate that they can respond, react, and banter all day by selecting among thousands of words, tones, emotions, and rationales.”

“How can you stand to breathe this without a mask?” Les asked.

“How can they?”

“Ain’ no thang! We been fixed! I was a pulmonologist―until I started selling my medicinal arsenal. Anyhoo, think about it: The respiratory tract is just a bunch of holes to push air through. Do we honestly care what kind of air it is? Just remove some mucus-secreting glands in the nose, replace receptor neurons for smelling, tweak the alveoli to transfer new gases into the blood, change the blood to use the new gases, adjust the brain to use the new blood, and there you go!” He inhaled deeply through his wide nostrils. “Jus’ like flowers ‘n’ spring rain!”

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Title: Icy-Dicey: “Manthem”

Excerpt from Divine Play, pp. 618-619

Never got the breast when I was a pup,
So I grew a lot older but I never grew up.
I chose rock ‘n’ roll to make myself self-made,
’Cause you can be an adolescent till you fall down dead.
I prance around the stage in orgasmic pain.
If I had any kind of inner life, I’d feel ashamed.

I read poetry, like baby ducks and hugs.
But I write my songs about sex and drugs.
You might say I’m a proponent of equal rights.
I think that every pretty woman is equally entitled to—

Me, myself, and I:
A love that terrifies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so fervently.

I got a thousand homes on a thousand lakes.
Hope the drugs don’t kill me and my throat don’t break.
I could tell you stories ’bout my mom and dad.
They once told me that they loved me, but the hell with that.
We go from hotel rooms to the concert stage,
But we’re so self-absorbed we rarely notice the change.

We are the life of every party that we crash.
We got people who can clean up all the blood and trash.
You might say I’m a fighter for the rights of man.
If you don’t want a fight, you better pay up for the rights from—

Me, myself, and I:
A love that putrefies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so morbidly.

Me, myself, and I:
A love that vilifies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so hopelessly.

Me, myself, and I:
A love that horrifies
I, myself, and me:
In love so urgently.
Me, myself, and I:
A love that mortifies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so sickeningly.

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Excerpt from Divine Play, pp. 481-485

Alex stopped by the Lashers’ locker room at halftime. Russ Behr came in soon after, and his red eyes opened wider. He took off his flat-topped helmet and flipped it. The spikes on the crown stuck to the magnetized bench. He slipped off the metapolymer full-face mask and laid it there as well. “Je-zuz!” he proclaimed. “You’re spost to be out.”

“I am out.” He sat astride the bench, facing Behr, and around him were rows of transparent cylindric lockers and metal benches, white light from coffin canisters in the wire-strung ceiling, and fumes of sweat and piss and cologne. He rotated his right knee as it started throbbing. New cartilage formed rapidly at the fractures for molyfreaks like him, but new bone took at least two weeks to grow back―five more days of this. He took his usual doses of analgesics and stimulants, but still the knee pestered him, like some loud little man in the stands that won’t let up. He craved more pain meds and speed, but popping pills would amuse Behr too much.

Behr sank onto the bench, perpendicular to Alex, and grunted, “You seen this shit?”

“I heard about it.” He couldn’t bear to watch when he wasn’t playing.

Behr nudged a spot on the convex “glass” inner wall of his locker, and the play appeared. Behr nudged it again, and the scene was twinned outside the locker in 360 degrees.

Ridgebacks had the ball on Lashers’ 12. Third and five. A scrimmage line of gold-suited Lashers (left) and purple-suited Ridgebacks on the silver grid. Steel wire over the shoulder pads, brass-knuckle gloves, spikes jutting from helmets, boots, and kneepads. Microchip loops made the numbers flash on their backs and chests. The scene revolved so the billions at their home 3VAKs [3-D Video-Audio-Kineteo receivers] could see “all the action.” The hundred thousand fans in the stands were jiggling multicolored beads.

Spiked ball snapped to Ridgebacks’ quarrel, Ross Theddick, who stopped it in his magnetized gloves. After a single step, Alex recognized the 4/8 power play. Left offending tackle, tight end, right offending
guard, and fallback charging left toward the eight-hole in formation, with Theddick scurrying behind them. Ridgebacks had the style of a bulldozer, but knowing the moves didn’t prevent them. He saw the rods sliding out of the glove cuffs of the left offending tackle and right offending guard. Cy Burntick, the Lashers’ left defensive end, bullied in, hit the Ridgebacks’ shock batons, and fell back, gibbering in a seizure. The Lashers’ left defensive tackle, Lyan Semblie, and middle laneblocker (Behr) also got blocked and shocked. Theddick vaulted over the pileup and slammed the ball down onto the meshwork. 42K-21K, Ridgebacks.

“I knew it!” Behr yelled. “Fucking dick wands! Why didn’t they call it?”

“They don’t call it when we pull the same shit. The fans love it when something illegal’s snuck in. Especially if someone dies. Where is everybody?”

“Oh, Vollig started in on them with the scriptural verses right in the tunnel. I ducked out an exit. Dumbshits know it’s comin’, but they just submit to it.”

“They couldn’t all dodge it.”

The Lashers jumbled in, babbling, the clear plastic face masks tilted up so the air could find their sweaty faces. They rested on benches, popping pills and chugging bottled water, or got undressed and sat in intervallic, tubular healing chambers, the anesthetizing mist engulfing them.

“Strabs!” said Anna Laudy, the center. “I thought you’d be in a full-body cast!”

“Hey, Alex,” said Randy Malchick, the right wired receiver, “did the bad man scare you?”

“How you doin’, Cy?” Alex asked Burntick as he limped in; his arrowhead face—short hair, sharp chin, and aquiline nose—was as dull and gray as it would ever get.

“Still alive.”

“Of course, you are,” said Eubie Gross, the fallback, “you’re a molyboy!”

Cy smiled. “A freak, you mean. Same as you.”

“Don’t worry,” counseled Theo Durant, the right guard, “we’re gonna stomp that pile o’ shit Mackidaw.”

Alex’s knee started to throb again. Homer Mackidaw, the Ridgebacks’ laneblocker, had tackled Alex and in the pileup got his right leg between two hand compression disks that broke most of the bones. “Mackidaw? “It was a LOTTA [Left Offending Tackle ] and ROGUE [Right Offending Guard] that went after Cy.”

“No, for what Mackidaw did to Telly,” Cy murmured, tilting down his head.

“What happened to Telly?”

“Take a look.” Behr forwarded to the last play of the quarter. Lashers had just gotten a “blocking below waist” call. Even as the ref curved his arms near his groin to signal the call, the Lashers went rigid, gritting their teeth as the electric charge went through the grid at their feet. Some tried hopping or rhythmically alternating feet to ameliorate sensations of a hammer pounding the skull and hot grease sizzling the legs. They could have lost ten yards, but the refs elected to run some charges through
them. The crowd screamed and howled; they loved to watch the players “dance.” Silvie Belljar, the Lashers’ right safety, passed out and collapsed, and the crowd roared.

Lashers were at the Ridgebacks’ 40. Telly Mnottom was the quarrel. Telly’s arm was swift and true, but he was too easily unnerved. Just past Anna Laudy, the Lashers’ center, Mackidaw was watching him. The face mask seemed too small for his massive head―he looked like a giant in a kid’s Halloween costume. You could see the muscles of his jaw working, enhancing the hate, the eyes white in the eyeholes as his pupils rolled up and dead black when they rolled back. The primers were working, all right. On Monday Night Fiteball, Homer had promised to grind up every quarrelback until the end of the season.

Alex knew Telly wouldn’t risk a running play; he stood seven meters behind Anna. They ran a recycled shotgun as Randy Malchick dodged the right cornerback and did a ninety-degree turn. Both Lasher offending guards and tackles moved in to protect Telly as he looked off, preparing to blast it to Randy at the two-hole.

Mackidaw was the strongest and most agile defensive lineman in the league, and the bloodthirstiest fucker as well. Lately he’d been on heavy doses of Rapid Accelerant. The Lashers’ team docs had predicted he couldn’t take any more RA without stroking or busting arteries, but apparently he could. He got to Telly in seconds, battering the linemen aside and then knocking Telly down and punching him until the plastic face mask broke and he could sink his spikes into Telly’s skull. The sack was a minute old and the refs were screaming into their whistles, but Mackidaw kept on; even when the Ridgebacks lifted him off, he still stomped Telly several times with his boots. The crowd screamed in raucous ecstasy.

Alex felt the rage in him, moving extra oxygen through his blood, spurring hormones from his glands, agitating muscles―receiving, once again, in his memory, the old man’s anger, Werther’s grip on his shoulder, the fingers curling into skin and muscle, seeking soft tissue. “How is he?”

“Brain dead,” said Gideon Bach, the left wired receiver.

“They’ll have to replace it,” said Anna.

“If he can get off life support,” added Eubie.

“Who’s playing?” Alex asked.

“Well, Cy―unless . . .” said Theo.

“I’m out,” Cy informed them, slapping a towel onto the bench. “Doc took me out for a concussion.” He prodded his skull, above his hairline. “Another one.”

“Then me,” answered Maury Gretta, nestled in the steam of a healing chamber; his voice emerged from the translucent speaker in the door. Maury was a third-stringer. The others grimaced.

“Gimme your jersey,” Alex said.

Cy’s slit eyes got round. “Are you nuts? Coach’ll know. Everybody’ll know.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Behr said. “You’ll lose that leg if he gets at it again.”

Alex sighed and turned to Maury. “Gimme an extra jersey, Maury. Please?”

“He runs off; you run on,” Anna nodded.

“You’ll get suspended, you know,” Maury warned him. “Indefinitely.”

“I just want one play,” Alex said. “I don’t care about afterward.”

As the Lashers went into a huddle, Maury called time-out, pointing to his helmet, as if his audio had gone out. He vanished into the piebald wall of humans at the sidelines, and Alex emerged. He was more compact than Maury, but the jerseys shrink-wrapped to fit.

Alex slowed his hustle a little, adjusting to the thrumming and the heat from the grid and the startling movements of players under the ultraviolet sky of the dome. It should be unnoticeable, after all these years of playing. But ground level, up close, everything was magnified. His knee was numb from painkillers and speed, but he could sense the ache, like an insect sinking its chelae into him.

The crowd recognized him right off and was chanting, “Stra-bis! Stra-bis! Stra-bis!” He noticed something glowing in his periphery: Vollig had appeared in holo form, asking Klaus Loop, one of the offending coaches, what was going on, and Klaus was shouting earnestly. Mackidaw, pacing and flexing and swiveling his huge torso, smirked at him from five meters away.

Anna snapped the ball, and Alex dropped back behind Eubie while Eubie charged up the middle and Gideon did a forty-five degree toward the six-hole. Alex tried to look off, but Mackidaw drove through Anna and the guards before they could breathe. Mackidaw was on him so fast Alex thought he was nailed, but blindly fired off the pass to Gideon. Mackidaw crouched low, but he crouched lower, clamping onto Mackidaw’s ankles. Mackidaw fell forward along Alex’s back. Alex straightened, dragging and then boosting Mackidaw in the air, launching him upside-down. No way a human could lift 180 kilos of Mackidaw plus equipment, much less flip him overhead,by reaching behind. But he was a wound-up, revved-up, drugged-up, pissed-off little molyboy, designed to exceed mechanization, like John Henry outdigging a steam shovel.Alex caught Mackidaw’s ankles again as he plunged headfirst, flailing his limbs and howling. Alex raised him up and slammed him down like a posthole digger. The spikes on Mackidaw’s helmet bent from the impact as his cervix cracked and his brain swung wildly in his skull, before it ceased all processing. Mackidaw’s body lay facedown on the grid. And the crowd cried.

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The truism is that men fall in love with (through) their eyes, and women with their ears. Writers would seem to be assured with success in matters of the heart. Unfortunately, the words of writers, except for those contained in plays and screenplays, are not read aloud, and even in those exceptions, the majority of text is devoted to stage and camera directions, of which audiences and viewers may never be aware. And entire books of poetry are rarely recited. What we are left with is the “written”—i.e., “read”—word. If the ability to entice another’s devotion is based upon the extent and quality of one’s writing, male and lesbian authors will very likely be lonely, and female and gay authors will not.

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