Saturday, December 31, 2016


        in homage to Osip Mandelstam

In Warsaw near the Tomb
of the Unknown Soldier,
in a treeless square,
there used to scowl a statue

of Feliks Dzierżyński,
founder of the CheKa,
the Bolshevik Secret Police.
His nickname was “Bloody Felek.”

Before the unveiling,
someone managed to paint
the statue’s hands blood-red.
When the string was pulled,

the dignitaries gasped:
the blood of his victims
seemed to drip
from Bloody Felek’s hands.

The speaker on the podium
began to stutter. The military
band struck up, then
stopped; feebly began again.

To the hesitant tuba’s
failure to proclaim the dawn
of workers’ paradise,
the string was pulled back.

Fifty years later, ten thousand
people jammed the square
to watch the demolition
of a monument to a mass murderer.


My cousin Ewa tells the tale
of yet another fallen icon:
a giant statue of Stalin,
largest in the world. Taller than

the Statue of Liberty,
the dictator stained the sky
at the joining of two rivers,
the Volga and the Don —

his “sneer of cold command”
staring down the starving
Ukraine. The ten-story
pedestal still stands.

Stalin was toppled into the water —
shallow enough, they say,
that from the cruise boats you can see
his colossal face.

Ewa was on one of those boats:
“From where I stood,
I only caught a glimpse
of Stalin’s mustache.”

She giggles. She must have told
this story countless times.
We sit at the table smiling,
sipping home-made hawthorn wine.

Stalin’s mustache. The empty
pedestal still stands.

~ Oriana © 2016

“In homage to Osip Mandelstam” — because he wrote of Stalin’s “cockroach whiskers,” for which he paid with his life.

And Stalin’s great admirer just sent a man to a penal colony for having called him a Fascist on Facebook . . . well, at least he didn’t have him shot.

Though my poem wasn’t inspired by Shelley’s Ozymandias, my cousin’s story reminded me of that famous sonnet — and the ending (“The empty / pedestal still stands”) claims kinship with with the unforgettable image of the broken statue of the one-mighty ruler.

And here is the poem that I wish everyone in the world knew — along with the idea that no empire has ever been too big to fall.


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

~ “Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, was born about 3,000 years ago and is widely regarded as the most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. The Greeks called him Ozymandias. When he died in 1213 B.C.E., he left a series of temples and palaces that stretched from Syria to Libya, and countless statues and monuments commemorating his impressive reign. By the 19th century, when European colonization reached Egypt, most of these statues were gone, and the ones that remained were in ruin. In 1816, the Italian archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni discovered a bust of Ramses and acquired it for the British Museum. This is when Ozymandias’s life, in one respect, truly began.

“Ozymandias,” perhaps the most famous sonnet Percy Bysshe Shelley ever penned, was written in 1817, as the remains of the famous statue were slowly transported from the Middle East to England. Shelley imagines a traveler recounting a journey in a distant desert. Like Belzoni, Shelley’s character discovers a great bust, half-buried in the windswept sands. Next to the wreckage is a pedestal where the monument once stood. Inscribed in shallow letters on the slab of rock: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Of course, as Shelley’s poem tells us, nothing remained of these works or the king of kings. Just sand.

The poem’s message is perennial: All of this will be over soon, faster than you think. Fame has a shadow — inevitable decline. The year 2016 has delivered a string of deaths that serve as bracing reminders of this inevitability: Prince, Nancy Reagan, David Bowie, Elie Wiesel, Bill Cunningham, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Merle Haggard, Patty Duke, John Glenn [Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Zsa-Zsa Gabor — minor, yes, but “famous for being famous” and thus a part of our collective psyche — and, just now, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds]. Of course, it has also been a year that has ushered in a new empire and, simultaneously, the specter of apocalypse. The year’s end is a time to take account of kingdoms built, but also the sheer rapidity of their destruction. It is a chance to come to terms with the existential fragility that is overlooked in most of our waking hours and that must be faced even by the greatest among us.

David Foster Wallace argued that for most of us dying in the pursuit of wealth or prestige is simply our “default setting.” The problem isn’t that we’re picking the wrong things to die for, but that we aren’t actually picking. We chose to live by proxy. We allow ourselves to remain in a psychological trap that prevents us from seeing what might be genuinely meaningful in our own lives. In doing so, we risk, according to Wallace, “going through (our) comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to our heads and to (our) natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.” We might call this the Ozymandias Trap — Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! — and be on guard against falling into it ourselves.

Most days we discover that we’re not quite up to the heroic task of extricating ourselves from the Ozymandias Trap. Others, we fear we’ve failed miserably. It is not realistic to love in the awareness that each day might be your last. But at least we can stop pretending that we will endure forever.

Ivan Ilyich can’t pretend that he’s not dying. He recognizes what Ramses II apparently did not: With his death, there is no justification of his life, there is no proof of himself to leave behind, there are no monuments where he is going.” ~

landscape agate



This is perhaps the most moving, and certainly the most realistic Nativity: Caravaggio, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1609. I think it's superb, and I'm surprised it's not more famous.

These are all poor people — I think that's the source of viewers' discomfort — the unidealized truth of it. This is the painting that made me realize made me realize that in most art Mary is presented as if she were a pampered aristocratic woman in fine clothes — and often in a fine interior. Here she really is a poor peasant, one of the downtrodden — just like the shepherds.

Compare this to one of the conventional Nativities — this one by Girolamo Romanino, 1545

This is indeed a splendid robe. But at least the contorted boy angels are funny.


~ “I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened somewhere at some time, that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.” ~
Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Heavenly Christmas Tree” (1876) 

A marvelous Borges-like opening. Is there any other short story that opens with a statement “I am a novelist”? The story resembles Andersen’s The Little Match Girl, and is definitely not for those seeking “Christmas cheer.” Inspired by Dostoyevski’s visit to London where he noticed many orphans wandering in the streets, it’s about a poor little boy who freezes to death and finds himself standing with other dead children around “Christ’s Christmas Tree.”

~ “I keep fancying that all this may have really happened — that is, what took place in the cellar and on the woodstack; but as for Christ’s Christmas tree, I cannot tell you whether that could have happened or not.” ~

This reminds me somewhat of Hardy’s magnificent poem “The Oxen.” The longing to believe is there, and the intelligent adult’s near-certainty that it’s only wishful thinking. 


~ “Nazi officials took high-performance drugs such as methamphetamine hydrochloride (crystal meth) and cocaine. German military units and aviators were dosed with the patent methamphetamine-based drug Pervitin (manufactured in Germany from 1937) to improve operational efficiency. And drugs such as Pervitin and metabolic stimulants were tried out on students, military recruits and, eventually, in concentration camps," Weindling wrote. 

"Questions remain, however, over precisely how the drugs were tested, prescribed, distributed and used."

 Even though "they're affecting the same systems in slightly different ways," meth and cocaine boost the release of two main neurotransmitters in the brain — dopamine and serotonin — which give users a sense of energy and euphoria, said Kristen Keefe, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah.

German, English, American and Japanese governments gave their military personnel methamphetamine to enhance endurance and alertness and ward off fatigue during World War II, according to the Methamphetamine and Other Illicit Drug Education project at the University of Arizona.

More recently, US officials said last year that some jihadist fighters in Syria may be using the drug Captagon, an amphetamine pill that can provide a surge of energy and a euphoric high.

In 2002, two American fighter pilots accidentally released a bomb that killed four Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan. A lawyer for one of the pilots argued that the Air Force pressured the pilots to take amphetamines, also known as "go pills," which impacted their judgment.

The lawyer's argument was rejected in the actual hearing, Keefe said.

"The pilots were using Dexedrine, or dextroamphetamine, as 'go pills' to keep them awake and alert," Keefe said.

"Historically, it has been used to provide this increase in energy and ability to stay awake in pilots, military pilots ... troops," she said. "So, it's not a Nazi thing, as much as we might want it to be.” ~

Nazi eagle being removed


~ “The Führer, by Ohler’s account, was an absolute junkie with ruined veins by the time he retreated to the last of his bunkers [Hitler received intravenous injections of a drug today known as oxycodone and also used high-grade cocaine].

The effect of the drugs could appear to onlookers to be little short of miraculous. One minute the Führer was so frail he could barely stand up. The next, he would be ranting unstoppably at Mussolini. Ah, yes: Mussolini. In Italy, Blitzed will come with an extra chapter. “I found out that Mussolini – patient D, for Il Duce – was another of Morell’s patients. After the Germans installed him as the puppet leader of the Republic of Italy in 1943, they ordered him to be put under the eyes of the doctor.”

For Hitler, though, a crisis was coming. When the factories where Pervitin and Eukodal were made were bombed by the allies, supplies of his favorite drugs began to run out, and by February 1945 he was suffering withdrawal. Bowed and drooling and stabbing at his skin with a pair of golden tweezers, he cut a pitiful sight.
Hitler, July 1944

“Everyone describes the bad health of Hitler in those final days [in the Führerbunker in Berlin],” says Ohler. “But there’s no clear explanation for it. It has been suggested that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. To me, though, it’s pretty clear that it was partly withdrawal.” He grins. “Yeah, it must have been pretty awful. He’s losing a world war, and he’s coming off drugs.”

He pauses. “You think it [nazism] was orderly. But it was complete chaos. I suppose working on Blitzed has helped me understand that at least. Meth kept people in the system without their having to think about it.” ~


So actually the mystery of the Hitler’s insanity may be simpler than anyone supposed. We don’t have to reach for paranoid schizophrenia. But factors such as Hitler’s possible brain damage from exposure to mustard gas during WWI may also be part of the equation.

And then some of the decisions he made were just plain stupid. As someone observed, “There is no cure for stupid.”


Kenny Baker, who “manned” R2D2, died in August. Here he is with Han Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew, 7'3"), and Luke Skywalker.

Let me remind you that Darth Vader was the father of both Princess Leia and Luke, her twin brother


~ “John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues argue that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets — centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns — would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. “One possibility,” they write, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.)

All of this matters because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble.” ~


George Lakoff’s answer is that liberals grew up in nurturant families, while conservatives tend to come from punitive families. This seems plausible: punishment would make you more attuned to threatening stimuli. Of course this is not a 100% proposition: sometimes children run the other way, e.g. the most militant atheists tend to have had the most punitive religious indoctrination. Rebellion certainly happens, but it’s more the exception than the rule.

The replicated finding that conservatives are more disgusted by images of filth, maggots, insects, etc. also fits with the fear theory, though somewhat obliquely: there is a kind of fear of contamination.

Finally, it’s been suggested that conservatives have little tolerance for novelty (which means uncertainty), ambiguity, and complexity. They prefer familiarity and simplicity.

The final irony is that the more liberally minded, though not as threat-oriented, perceive conservatives as a threat — perhaps even the greatest threat. They see them as easily manipulated through inciting fear and hatred of anyone different (“the other”), and dismissive of facts — they live in an alternate reality of paranoid conspiracy theories, and are not reachable through persuasion.


~ “The problem with this is watching Fox News actually makes you less informed than if you don’t watch any news at all. In a 2012 study, Fox News viewers rated the absolute lowest in ability to correctly answer questions on a quiz about recent news events. People who didn’t take in any news programs at all did better on the quizzes. NPR listeners rated the best. Consistent liberals in the Pew research were big fans of NPR, by the way. It was the second most common outlet cited as a favorite by consistent liberals, topped only by CNN.

Fox News is one of the main factors, possibly the main factor, driving political polarization in this country. Huge chunks of this country listen mostly or solely to a relentless stream of misinformation coming from Fox News, coupled with warnings, implied or even baldly stated, to avoid listening to other, more factually accurate news sources. Unsurprisingly, then, more people are becoming conservatives and people who were already conservative are becoming more hardline about it. If you have any Fox viewers in your family, you probably already suspected this, but now Pew has given us the cold, hard facts to confirm your suspicions.” ~

To detox from this sickening polarization:


~ “Kessler defines “capture” as a triad of basic elements. The first is a narrowing of attention. This is followed by a “perceived lack of control” and then a “change in emotional state.” What we end up doing, he writes, “may not be what we consciously want.”

Kessler says he was drawn to study the power of unbidden influence — thoughts, feelings and behaviors that override reason and will — through his earlier FDA-related work on tobacco and obesity; he has written three books on those subjects. “Is it possible that the same biological mechanism that selectively controls our attention and drives us to chain-smoke and over-eat . . . is also responsible for a range of emotional suffering?” he asks.

Kessler concludes that it is, and in a section on the neural underpinnings of capture he explains the commonalities. These include the basic workings of brain circuits that enable us to selectively focus attention, couple sensory experiences with feelings, form and recall memories, and learn. The result is behavioral patterns that are sometimes useful and sometimes destructive.

Why some people are captured — obsessed, fixated, enthralled — by particular events but others are not is one of life’s bigger mysteries. The capture theory does not shed light on this question. Without predictive power — who will be captured, why or when — the theory can’t really serve as a basis for understanding or action. And that is because it is a description of what happens, not an explanation of why.

The author hopes that by understanding capture, we might “release those caught in its vicelike grip.” But the most he can do — the most anyone can — is point out that people can undergo reverse capture by forming strong attachments to new ideas, people and causes. Even so, this is not something one can do readily, in part because it’s extremely hard and in part because we don’t know in advance what kinds of commitments will come to be our salvation.” ~

~ "I’m convinced that the best way to get release from capture is to find something more positive that can be more meaningful that captures you. For one [person] it was music, for another it was running, for [Winston] Churchill it was painting. You don’t necessarily control what you’re captured by, but you can put yourself in a position to be captured by certain things." ~


I find that a great way to fight “capture” is to ask oneself, “What is my purpose in life?” And we know that the answer is not going to be “to bite my nails.” Nor will it be “to eat all the candy bars I can.” Nor, “to see how many reasons I can find for self-loathing.” And simply understanding that begins to break the spell.

Awareness, awareness, awareness. We may not know exactly what kind of positive commitment will produce the desired shift of attention, but the question about life purpose will immediately throw doubt on whatever it is that has produced negative capture.
I urge you all to become more flexible


 ~ "The Pitt team didn't think the primary motor cortex would control the adrenal medulla at all. But there are a whole lot of neurons there that do. And when you look at where those neurons are located, most are in the axial muscle part of that cortex.

“Something about axial control has an impact on stress responses,” Strick reasons. “There’s all this evidence that core strengthening has an impact on stress. And when you see somebody that's depressed or stressed out, you notice changes in their posture. When you stand up straight, it has an effect on how you project yourself and how you feel.  Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress. And I suspect that if you activate core muscles inappropriately with poor posture, that’s going to have an impact on stress.”

Strick focused on movement, but Bruno specializes in sensory neuroscience, so he read more into the findings in the primary somatosensory cortex. Some of these tactile areas in the brain seem to be providing as much input to the adrenal medulla as the cortical areas. “To me that's really new and interesting,” said Bruno. “It might explain why certain sensations we find very relaxing or stressful.”

I thought of a good back scratch, or, for some reason, the calming sensation of putting your bare hand into a plate of fresh pasta.

The idea that primary sensory and motor areas in the brain have a part in to modifying internal states in such a prominent way has caused Bruno to question the very nature of these areas of the brain. “It's not clear to me—from our work, and from their work—that what we call motor cortex is really motor cortex,” he said. “Maybe the primary sensory cortex is doing something more than we thought. When I see results like these, I go, hm, maybe these areas aren’t so simple.”

As Strick put it, “How we move, think, and feel has an impact on the stress response through real neural connections.” ~

Early 20th-century gymnastics in Stockholm

Favorite vintage ad:
Who needs a live horse when you can have this perfect substitute . . .  Note the three settings: trot, canter, and gallop. Imagine what gallop must do to corpulence (shudder).

And note that this Hercules Horse-Action Saddle reduces corpulence AND creates appetite. Also cures indigestion and gout. Whatever happened to this panacea?

Favorite art story of 2016:

the 1520 Durer engraving that was found at a flea market — Durer's trademark billowing tresses

Least favorite person of 2016: this Fatty Boom-Boom (aka Horror Clown). Just his fourth-grade way of speaking should have disqualified him, but apparently it’s precisely that moronic simplicity that has a terrific appeal to millions.

And we thought that W was as dumb as a president could get . . .


“Those people who now say how they would have stood up to Hitler — believe me, they wouldn’t have.” ~ Brunhilde Pomsel, Joseph Goebbels’ secretary

  Hitler, Magda Goebbels, Joseph Goebbels

Carrie Fisher on why Star Wars worked:

“Movies are dreams! And they work on you subliminally. You can play Leia as capable, independent, sensible, a soldier, a fighter, a woman in control — control being, of course, a lesser word than master. But you can portray a woman who's a master and get through all the female prejudice if you have her travel in time, if you add a magical quality, if you’re dealing in fairy-tale terms.”


I’ve often wondered why “Star Wars” felt religious in some ways. Carrie Fisher supplied the term I was missing: “fairy tale.” Religious tales and adventure movies are built on the model of the folk fairy tale.

“Religion is a fairy tale for adults.” ~ Albert Einstein (in a letter) (Oriana: not really for adults, or else childhood indoctrination would not be seen as so necessary.)

Fairy tale motifs and magic — not that one can separate the two, since most folk fairy tales have witches or wizards, good and bad fairies. Something supernatural happens — someone has super-powers. The Force is just another form of magic — a way to control reality (even if it appears to violate the laws of nature) to produce the outcome you want. Like prayer, but, in the movie and its sequels, a lot more reliable. Nor do you have to sacrifice any lambs to be able to slaughter enemies with such incredible ease.

Sure, there were some pretensions to mysticism, and Yoda made an adorable little guru, but . . . if you’ve ever watched a magic show, with the magician making something (or someone) levitate, that’s basically it — except for our eternal hunger that the magic be real and not based on tricks. If only we attain that special state of mind, or sufficient serenity or concentration or . . .  faith? Since faith is supposed to move mountains?

How odd that in reality it takes dynamite to make any impression on a mountain.

Still, I did enjoy the original Star Wars, and I did feel a genuine sadness when I learned of Carrie’s death. Part of it was due to what she became after Star Wars — in spite of Star Wars. She was not afraid to speak the hard truths, to embrace the complexities of life rather than stereotypes. “Society honors its dead troublemakers and living conformists.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

ending on beauty

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

~ William Butler Yeats





Thanks for starting the new year out with a blog.

I especially like the quote “I am a novelist and I suppose I made up this story.” Don’t we all wonder where our imagination ends and the real story left off . . . even as poets . . . how much do we make up . . .

I too loved Star Wars saw it three times each time looking for special things, and at the time I remember thinking how many Christian symbols he used but now I can’t remember them . . . and how many people recognized them, if they weren’t versed in the Bible.

R2D2 was so lovable but so was his sidekick C-3PO. I admired Princess Leia. A favorite saying here was “Let the Wookie win.” 

May the Force be with you in this year of the ass.  


Oh yes, how much we make up — and many years later may accept the poem’s version as “what really happened.” What really happened may be mundane or unbelievable or “out of character” for the fictional character. Endings are especially vulnerable that way — beware of autobiography.

R2D2 upstaged the loquacious C-3PO, but back then almost everything about the movie felt so novel and exciting — even those things that on closer look were ridiculously old-fashioned, like Leia’s shooting a laser rifle but always wearing that long white (virgin symbolism?) princess gown, and of course being a princess to start with.

“The Force” seemed pretty New Age to me, but “may the Force be with you” seemed to echo “may God be with you” — and that’s the origin of “goodbye.” But then there is no such thing as religious originality — everything’s been copied and rehashed and changed to fit new needs.

By the way, I used to have a Metaphors Be With You bumper sticker. I almost can’t believe anymore. But Star Wars was a huge cultural phenomenon, and that too seems a tad hard to believe now. After all, it wasn’t a particularly deep movie, the religious elements notwithstanding. Star Trek was very rich in meaning by contrast, but it seemed a poor, modest thing next to the Star Wars pizzazz. Star Trek had a vision of a future humanity — you could say it stood for optimistic secular humanism, while Star Wars was something of a throwback to magical thinking.
Actor Anthony Daniels as C-3PO

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Christmas tree cluster in fox fur nebula  


My last Christmas Eve in Warsaw —
the gray, uncertain daylight
dying into the early dark,
we wait for the first star —
then light the twelve
skinny candles on the tree
and break the wishing wafer.

Holding a jagged shard of a wish,
mother intones: “Health and success,
fulfillment of all dreams.”
Kissing on both cheeks,
we break the wafer each with each.
So begins Wigilia,
the supper of Christmas Eve.

The number of the dishes
has to be odd: spicy red borscht
with uszka, “little ears” —
pierogi with cabbage and wild mushrooms
soaked back to dark flesh
from the pungent wreaths;
fish — the humble carp;
potatoes, a compote from dried fruit,
and poppy-seed cake.
Father counts: “If it doesn’t
come out right, we can always
include tea.”

He drops a pierog
on the starched tablecloth.
I stifle laughter as he picks it up
solemnly like a communion host.
On the fragrant, flammable tree,
angel-hair trembles in silver drafts.

Then we turn off the electric lights.
Now only candles in the dusky hush.
Father sets a match
to the “cold fires.” Icy starbursts hiss
over the staggered pyramid of gifts:
slippers and scarves, a warm skirt,
socks and more socks,
a book I will not finish.
We no longer sing carols,
mother playing the piano —
the piano sold by then,
a TV set in its place.

Later, unusual for a Christmas Eve,
we go for a walk. The streets
are empty; a few passers-by
like grainy figures in an old movie.
It begins to snow.

I never saw such tenderness —
snowflakes like moths of light
soothing bare branches,
glimmering across
hazy halos of street lamps.
Each weightless as a wish,
snowflakes kiss our cheeks.
They settle on the benches and railings,
on the square roofs of kiosks —
on the peaceful,
finally forgiven city.

~ Oriana © 2016

For me Christmas had always been about the special food on Christmas Eve (which in Polish is not called “Christmas Eve” but “vigil” [Wigilia] —see my poem “Cold Fires” on this page), the evergreen tree (which in Polish is not called a “Christmas tree”) and its scent — ah, the scent! — this holiday was very much about the scent of an evergreen), the gifts, the tree lights and ornaments, the wishes, the nice clothes, the carols, the family warmth and coziness. Even back when I did go to church, that was not the important part of the holiday. If food was a “ten”, then church was a “one.”

So when I stopped going to church on Christmas or any other day, Christmas went on as usual. I hardly noticed.

Nor did I miss anything. I left the nativity story as I left children's books — which I also didn’t miss, except maybe Winnie the Pooh.

There was a bit of mystical hush and wonder, especially in early childhood. But it wasn’t about Baby Jesus, entirely absent in our celebrations — except in Christmas carols — but those were about the pleasure of singing. When I now recall those hushed moments, they had to do with beauty. Beauty and the night itself, the first star, the scent of the Christmas tree, and yes, the white burst of the “cold fires.”

During my Catholic years, god was the all-seeing, all-powerful tyrant to be feared, and the sweetness of the nativity creche did not obscure that. Not for me. I did like the animals though. They were the best part. They lent the most comfort and a momentary forgetting that here was a terrorist religion based on threats of hellfire. It was marvelous to drop that part and keep on enjoying the celebration.

So Christmas was basically secular from the start. But that doesn’t mean that I object to the crêche displays. True, at first it was a tad of a shock to discover that it was all a myth — not Mary’s virginity, since that part was obvious, but Bethlehem, the census, the barn or stable rather than the house of a relative, the fact that the “slaughter of the innocents” never took place but was invented to echo the slaughter of the first-born Egyptian infants, as later the flight into Egypt so that there could be a return from Egypt. Or the heavy possibility that Jesus never even existed.

But even before I fully digested the made-up nature of it all, I was able to enjoy the stories as stories — the way I loved Greek myths, even with the cruelty inherent in many of them. And I don’t mind if someone says “Merry Christmas” to me — I say it back to them, knowing that to neither of us it’s about religion.

Photo: Diane Funston


“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
~ Luke 2:14, New International Version

 You know that favorite Christmas verse that says "Peace on earth, good will toward men?" Well, that's not really what it says in the Greek. What it really says is "On earth, peace toward those whom he favors." You can look it up in almost any English version besides the KJV and see it translated more accurately.

It may look like a small difference, but it's not really small at all. The correct rendering tracks better with the rest of the Bible, which always presents God's blessings as discriminatory, not equally doled out to all in the same way. If any God created "all men equal," it most certainly wasn't the God of the Bible.

But that's not what people today read when they get to that verse. They read what they want to read there, and telling them what the original says doesn't change their minds one bit. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing, and the religious mind typically doesn't change directions, even if new information arises from an already approved source of authority. I find that fascinating.

~ Neil Carter (Godless in Dixie)


Neil Carter knows the New Testament Greek and I trust his accuracy.It’s true that Yahweh plays favorites in the most blatant way. But in this case, I favor the inclusive mistranslation in the King James Version. Inaccurate translation is one way a religion can reform.

Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a red hat, 1540


~ “No one living in the first century thought they lived in the first century. They used Roman or Jewish calendars. The New Testament never says that there were only three magi, or that they were kings, or that Jesus was born in December, or that he was born at what we now call the turn of the Common Era. If there are mistakes here it’s not because the Bible is lying. It’s because of the traditions that attached themselves to the nativity story. But one thing is for certain: No matter what the carol says, Christ was not born on Christmas Day.” ~

— if someone who was to become the Jesus figure ever existed, that is. By now the consensus seems to be that the legend is so thick that the “historical Jesus” can’t be reconstructed — except according to the biases of the scholar who’s doing the quest (Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher, Jesus as a socialist champion of the poor, Jesus as a nationalist freedom fighter). When it comes to the “historical Jesus,” I am an agnostic. When it comes to the Nativity story, I am a mythicist.

Now here is a real nasty from the Talmud, in the words of a professor of comparative religion, Leonard Kress:

~ “Here's a pleasant story about Jesus (from the Medieval Jewish text, Toledot Yeshu): "It came to pass after these things that the wicked one [Jesus] played with the lads outside, as lads playing together are wont to do. The wicked one angered the lads with his playing. The lads said unto him: “Bastard, son of a menstruant! You think you are the son of Johanan? You are not his son, but the son of Joseph Pandera, who bedded your mother in her menses and sired you, evil begotten by evil.” Whereupon hearing these words the wicked one ran to his house, to his mother, fuming, and let out a great and embittered cry, uttering: “Mother! Mother! Tell me the truth straightaway. When I was little, the children used to say that I am a bastard, son of a menstruant, but I thought it a tease. But now the lads, all as one, hoot at me, day in and day out: ‘Bastard, son of a menstruant!’ They tell me that I am the son of Joseph Pandera, who came unto you in your menses.” ~

It’s all in the bias of the teller.

Seriously, humanity (or at least the majority of the human population) needs to understand once and for all that religions are man-made, and sacred texts are like any literature. It's fiction -- even if we can trace some historical roots. People know better than to kill and die for Superman, Batman, or Yoda . . . now if only they had that understanding about gods.

At the same time, we can always enjoy a story as a story. We can love a character such as Yoda without insisting that it must objectively exist. He becomes part of our psyche and can provide guidance through the workings of the unconscious. We are enriched because someone made him up — based on many teacher figures and an amalgam of traditions. I thank the creator of Yoda, and I thank all the great tale makers.


~ “When Mikhail Gorbachev resigned 25 years ago — bringing the USSR to a sudden end — he had been left little choice by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The three men had signed a treaty 17 days earlier dissolving the Soviet Union - a momentous decision which appears to have been taken with very little planning.

At the end of 1991, these regional leaders saw Mikhail Gorbachev as largely irrelevant.

"Sure, he was still a figurehead, but he had no power!" says Kravchuk.

"After the coup against him in August 1991, he had lost power. He did come back afterwards, but he had no real power any more. We saw that the power was devolving to the leaders of the republics. Although Gorbachev had wanted to re-organize the country into a new kind of union, he could not really do it."

So, on 7 December 1991, the Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk and Byelorussian leader Stanislav Shushkevich headed for a country estate, reserved for top-level Communist officials, in Belavezha, near the Polish border. 

 Belovezhskaya Pushcha hunting lodge

 The next day, on 8 December, at 09:00 the leaders, with their prime ministers and various officials in tow, gathered for the negotiations — still apparently unclear what they were about to discuss.

The first suggestion came from a Russian adviser, Gennadi Burbulis — and it could not have been more radical.

“It is the opening statement of our agreement, the only one which was adopted without any arguments. 'The USSR, as a geopolitical reality, and as a subject of international law - has ceased to exist.' And I was the first to say that I would sign up for this.”

The agreement would render the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev irrelevant, while giving more power in Moscow to Russia's president Boris Yeltsin.

But putting an end to the centuries-old Russian empire and its successor, the USSR, was a big step. Years later, many wondered whether the three politicians were entirely sober when taking this momentous decision?

“According to a popular myth, we drafted our agreement while drunk,” says Shushkevich. “This is completely wrong! Of course, it was a typical Soviet arrangement, and alcohol was freely available everywhere in the residence - but no-one touched it. The most we would allow ourselves was a drop of brandy every time we adopted a new article.”  

. . . “It was a difficult [phone] conversation,” says Kravchuk. “Gorbachev was angry with Shushkevich, saying, 'What have you done? You have turned the whole world upside down! Everyone is alarmed!' But Shushkevich stayed calm.”

To this day, the affable Byelorussian leader is clearly proud of the way he handled that crucial conversation with Moscow.

“I explained to Gorbachev the kind of document we were about to sign. He responded, rather patronizingly, 'And what about the the international community? Have you thought of their reaction?' And I answered, 'Actually, Boris Yeltsin is talking to President Bush right now — and Bush doesn't seem to mind! In fact, he is in favor!’"

During the next hour, the three leaders signed their historic document at a press conference called for the purpose. After the conference, it was time to go home — and that's when Stanislav Shushkevich got cold feet.

I got scared. I thought: 'Eighty-two per cent of our regional parliament are Communists. If they don't ratify this agreement — I will have made a mistake, and this will be the end of my political career!’"

But all three regional parliaments ratified the agreement, and other Soviet republics joined in over the next couple of weeks. On 25 December, President Gorbachev resigned, and the USSR was no more.

To Gorbachev, what happened was a “crime and a coup.” Putin said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the “greatest tragedy of the 20th century.” Let’s just say that we live in interesting times (this, let me remind you, is a Chinese curse).

By the way, it seems to me that the dissolution was mainly Yeltsin’s doing. One autocrat was taking power from another. The dissidents may have had an influence, but in the end it was about secret machinations — not a good prospect for the birth of democracy.


 ~ “One of the best modern Christmas Eve stories is a true one, and it happened in 1914, in the trenches of World War I. The "war to end all wars" was raging, but German and British soldiers had been engaging in unofficial ceasefires since mid-December. The British High Command was alarmed, and warned officers that fraternization across enemy lines might result in a decreased desire to fight. On the German side, Christmas trees were trucked in and candles lit, and on that Christmas Eve in 1914, strains of Stille Nacht — “Silent Night” — reached the ears of British soldiers. They joined in, and both sides raised candles and lanterns up above their parapets. When the song was done, a German soldier called out, “Tomorrow is Christmas; if you don't fight, we won’t.”

The next day dawned without the sound of gunfire. The Germans sent over some beer, and the Brits sent plum pudding. Enemies met in no man's land, exchanging handshakes and small gifts. Someone kicked in a soccer ball, and a chaotic match ensued. Details about this legendary football match vary, and no one knows for sure exactly where it took place, but everyone agrees that the Germans won by a score of three to two.

At 8:30 a.m. on December 26, after one last Christmas greeting, hostilities resumed. But the story is still told, in a thousand different versions from up and down the Western Front, more than a century later.” ~

(source: Writer’s Almanac, December 24)


I've read a longer and slightly different version years ago — but any version is powerful and moving. All versions agree that “Silent Night” was sung, and that a soccer match took place. Common humanity prevailed — and a common culture (both sides knew Silent Night, be it in different languages; both sides were soccer fans.

These days some insist that soccer (or sports in general) is the “true religion of the working class.” There is no denying that it’s a rousing collective experience.

Another thing that I’ve read about WWI is that the brutalities of the officers toward their men were greater than the brutalities of one side against the other. That also sounds true.


Pinker: Look at history and data, not headlines. The world continues to improve in just about every way. Extreme poverty, child mortality, illiteracy, and global inequality are at historic lows; vaccinations, basic education, including girls, and democracy are at all-time highs.

War deaths have risen since 2011 because of the Syrian civil war, but are a fraction of the levels of the 1950s through the early 1990s, when megadeath wars and genocides raged all over the world. Colombia’s peace deal marks the end of the last war in the Western Hemisphere, and the last remnant of the Cold War. Homicide rates in the world are falling, and the rate in United States is lower than at any time between 1966 and 2009. Outside of war zones, terrorist deaths are far lower than they were in the heyday of the Weathermen, IRA, and Red Brigades.

Julia Belluz: One big thing that’s changed since we last spoke is the election of Donald Trump. We now have a president coming in who has said he wouldn’t defend America’s allies in NATO if we were attacked by a foreign power and who has strong links to Russia. His election came after Brexit. These really seem like threats to the global institutions that have likely helped sustain peace in recent years.

SP: Several awful things happened in the world’s democracies in 2016, and the election of a mercurial and ignorant president injects a troubling degree of uncertainty into international relations.

But it’s vital to keep cool and identify specific dangers rather than being overcome by a vague apocalyptic gloom. Brexit may be regrettable, but it’s not going to lead to a war between the UK and Germany or France. A closeness to Russia is troubling in many ways, but it may reduce, rather than increase, the chance of a major war (so suggested the eminent peace researcher Nils Petter Gleditsch).

It’s easy to reach for historical analogies and speculate about Russian or Chinese imperial expansion, but as my colleague Graham Allison points out, you must consider the differences between current and past cases, not just similarities, and the differences are substantial.

JB: One of the other alarming aspects of Trump’s rise to power is that he won, in part, by inciting racist tendencies. We know minority groups are afraid that racist people are going to be empowered under Trump, and there's some discussion that there's already been an uptick in racial violence here. Are you concerned about gains in racial equality in the US unraveling?

SP: Beware of headlines. And beware of statistics from advocacy organizations whose funding stream depends on stoking fear and outrage — I’ve learned that they can never be taken at face value.

There are reasons to doubt that we’re seeing a big post-Trump rise in hate crimes. Rates of hate crime tend to track rates of overall crime, and there was an uptick of both in 2015, before Trumpism.

Indeed, Trump capitalized on the crime uptick to sow panic about the state of the nation, and progressives foolishly ceded the issue to him. Moment-by-moment analyses of Google searches by the data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz show that Islamophobia strongly tracks incidents of terrorism with Muslim perpetrators. So hate crimes will probably depend more on overall crime rates and — in the case of Islamophobic hate crimes — on terrorist attacks than on a general atmosphere created by Trump.

More generally, the worldwide, decades-long current toward racial tolerance is too strong to be undone by one man. Public opinion polls in almost every country show steady declines in racial and religious prejudice­ — and more importantly for the future, that younger cohorts are less prejudiced than older ones. As my own cohort of baby boomers (who helped elect Trump) dies off and is replaced by millennials (who rejected him in droves), the world will become more tolerant.

It’s not just that people are increasingly disagreeing with intolerant statements when asked by pollsters, which could be driven by a taboo against explicit racism. Stephens-Davidowitz has shown that Google searches for racist jokes and organizations are sensitive indicators of private racism. They have declined steadily over the past dozen years, and they are more popular in older than younger cohorts.

JB: Are you optimistic about the future?

SP: I’ve never been “optimistic” in the sense of just seeing the glass as half-full — only in the sense of looking at trend lines rather than headlines. It’s irrational both to ignore good developments and to put a happy face on bad ones.

As it happens, most global, long-term trends have been positive. As for the future, I like the distinction drawn by the economist Paul Romer between complacent optimism, the feeling of a child waiting for presents, and conditional optimism, the feeling of a child who wants a treehouse and realizes that if he gets some wood and nails and persuades other kids to help him, he can build one. I am not complacently optimistic about the future; I am conditionally optimistic.

But Pinker fails to give us hope regarding this impasse:


The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.

Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION. Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as "substandard."

Most women only washed their hair once a month. They used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The Five leading causes of death were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet.

There was neither a Mother's Day nor a Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores.
Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!”

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

YO NO SOY UN GUERRERO (another post-election dream)

In the dream I still live in Torrance, in a tract of what used to be affordable working-class homes. A man is walking towards my house. He looks like the stereotype of a Mexican immigrant: swarthy and stocky, in a colorful long-sleeve shirt and jeans. With a drunken swagger, he sings in a loud voice: “Yo no soy un guerrero . . . tah-dah-dah . . .” Just those two verses of La Bamba, over and over — except that he changed “Yo no soy marinero” (I am not a sailor) to “Yo no soy un guerrero” (I am not a warrior).

And suddenly he is in my driveway while I stand in the middle of the front lawn. He has a rifle and raises it. I hit the ground — and yet I feel no fear. There is no feel of a nightmare — the dream is completely “disarmed” by the happy tune of La Bamba. He takes no notice of me. He’s aiming above the roof — as if he were to shoot into air. In the distance I hear the sirens of squad cars converging.

I wake, feeling astonished — most of all at the fact that there was an armed man in my driveway, and yet I felt no fear. And where did La Bamba come from, after so many years of not hearing it?

In the actual song, it’s “Yo no soy marinero, soy capitan” — I am not a sailor, I am the captain. (“I am the captain of my soul” from “Invictus”?) But I didn’t know that in the dream, or before. I never bothered looking up the lyrics of La Bamba, though it’s a cheerful song I like. It’s connected to two good memories when I experienced the communal feeling, a rare happening.

I immediately knew that the dream was in some way related to the election. My resistance would not be of the direct, militant sort — I am not a warrior, “yo no soy un guerrero.” My contribution would be intellectual.

The Talmud says that a dream isn’t complete until it’s interpreted. I’d like to stretch that to include the new information that we were inspired to discover afterwards. “Yo no soy marinero — yo so capitan” makes sense to me. The idea person. 

 Antoni Cygan: Madonna and Child — just what Resident Rump and KKK and other such kindred minds would hate.

This article starts in a predictable way:

~ “The consensus as to Donald Trump’s psychiatric issues is nearly unanimous. “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” according to clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, quoted in Vanity Fair. He is just one of many who have reached the same conclusion. Noting his motor mouth, chronic inability to pay attention and shockingly deficient impulse control, others diagnosed Trump as a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal, reported that his client had no attention span and fidgeted “like a kindergartner who cannot sit still.” ~

But for me it becomes fascinating at this point:

~ “The ghostwriter Schwartz reports that Trump had no recollection of his youth.

There is always a reason for such amnesia. People have poor recall of their childhoods when they found reality so painful that their minds had to repress awareness and push memories into the unconscious. “I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see,” Trump admitted to a biographer.

According to biographers, Trump’s father was workaholic, ruthless, emotionally cold and authoritarian, a man who believed that life is a competition where the “killers” win. Donald’s elder brother drove himself into alcoholism, a common escape from pain, and to an early death. The younger, favored child is now self-destructing on the world stage.

Lying is such an endemic aspect of his personality that he does so almost helplessly and reflexively. “Lying is second nature to him,” Tony Schwartz told The New Yorker “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

How are such patterns compensations?  Not paying attention, tuning out, is a way of coping with stress or emotional hurt. Narcissistic obsession with the self compensates for a lack of nurturing care. Grandiosity covers a deeply negative sense of self-worth. Bullying hides an unconscious conviction of weakness. Lying becomes a mode of survival in a harsh environment. Misogyny is a son’s outwardly projected revenge on a mother who was unable to protect him.

According to biographers, Trump’s father was workaholic, ruthless, emotionally cold and authoritarian, a man who believed that life is a competition where the “killers” win. Donald’s elder brother drove himself into alcoholism, a common escape from pain, and to an early death. The younger, favored child is now self-destructing on the world stage.

Lying is such an endemic aspect of his personality that he does so almost helplessly and reflexively. “Lying is second nature to him,” Tony Schwartz told The New Yorker “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.”

[Hillary Clinton] also appears to have learned reality-denial at an early age. Her father, too, according to biographic reports, was harsh, verbally abusive, and dismissive of his daughter’s achievements. The opaque persona many now see as inauthentic would have developed as young Hillary Rodham’s protective shell. In an anecdote related by the former Secretary of State herself as an example of salutary character building, four-year-old Hillary runs into her home to escape neighborhood bullies. “There is no room for cowards in this house,” says her mother, sending the child out into the street to face her tormentors. The real message was: “Do not feel or show your pain. You are on your own.” Over six decades later the candidate hides her pneumonia even from her doctor and from those closest to her. Repeatedly she has overlooked her husband’s outlandish infidelities, defending him against disgrace— no doubt suppressing her own emotional turmoil in the process.

We Canadians are no strangers to political leaders whose childhood suffering formed their personalities and infused their policies. The journalist and Stephen Harper biographer John Ibbitson characterized our former prime minister as “autocratic, secretive, and cruel.” A journalist described him as “chilly and inscrutable,” while his former chief of staff recalled him as “vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia.” These traits, too, are uniformly markers of trauma. Unsurprisingly, Harper also resisted discussing his childhood.

No infant is born a bully, cruel or cold-hearted. Well-nurtured children mature naturally past infantile self-regard, develop impulse control and find empathy. They learn to feel and regulate their emotions. In the case of those who do not, there is pain they are unable or unwilling to confront. Their development was distorted.

A political leader in denial of his trauma may be so little able to bear his core pain, fear and weakness that he will identify with the powerful, disdain and attack the vulnerable. Or, behind a false persona, she vows to support the downtrodden while kowtowing to the rich and dominant.

What does it say about our society that such deeply troubled individuals frequently rise to the top ruling circles, attaining wealth and power and even the admiration of millions?

People who are anxious, fearful and aggrieved may be unable to recognize the flaws in those seeking power. They mistake desperate ambition for determination, see grandiosity as authority, paranoia as security, seductiveness as charm, dogmatism as decisiveness, selfishness as economic wisdom, manipulation as political savvy, lack of principles as flexibility. Trauma-induced defenses such as venal dishonesty and aggressive self-promotion often lead to success.

The flaws of our leaders perfectly mirror the emotional underdevelopment of the society that elevates them to power.” ~


Gabor Maté’s analysis is compelling, but it doesn’t tell us why Trump and Clinton developed such different defenses. Clinton is an example of over-inhibition while Trump shows insufficient inhibition (to put it mildly). Trump has a desperate need to be liked and admired; Clinton doesn’t come across as especially needy. Ultimately each individual is a unique mystery, with so many variables involved that the complexity overwhelms any analysis.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” ~ Henry Longfellow

“Hard to process that the next president is both a conscienceless threat to the republic and also a heartbreakingly weak and sad broken soul.” ~ David Frum (senior editor at the Atlantic)

One of the problems is that people don't really love themselves. Someone who is pained and hurting inside reacts on the outside. ~ Alicia Elkort

“Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless.

Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments a stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Letters from Prison

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” ~ Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)

Adam van Breen Skating on the Frozen Amstel River, 1611

Longfellow’s message of empathy certainly applies to ordinary people. I wonder, though, if knowing about Trump’s unhappy childhood can disarm our hostility. A dangerous buffoon who could start a world war through sheer incompetence is simply not someone we can watch with empathy.

There is yet another factor, and here is where I can speak from personal experience — I once had the misfortune of being involved with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One thing in particular undermined my initial admiration for him: his rage at even the slightest criticism or hint of rejection.

In that he was the opposite of the sheriff in High Noon, the first (and still best) Western I ever got to see, in Warsaw. Gary Cooper delivered the message beautifully: you must be brave. Even if everyone rejects you and you stand alone, you don’t throw temper tantrums; you calmly proceed to do your duty. Even when the person you love most appears to have abandoned you, you don’t engage in petty vindictiveness; you step out into the empty street to do what you know is right.

Here Hillary’s ability to withstand the grueling investigations and three decades of vilification without breaking down seems closer to High Noon. I'm not a fan, but that show of almost superhuman emotional strength hasn’t been lost on me. I believe the colloquial idiom is “she is a real trouper.”

Poles highly admire courage. The message of High Noon resonated for them. There was even a High Noon poster for Solidarity.


~ “It helps prevent herpes sores

It has recently been discovered that L-lysine is our ally when it comes to herpes prevention. It acts as an antiviral, by blocking the reproduction of the Herpes Simplex Virus. Therefore, if one has a diet rich in lysine or if one takes lysine supplements, he or she, although not curing the disease, might be able to prevent genital herpes outbreaks or even the outbreak of cold sores that usually accompany the herpes virus.

treats herpes sores (both mouth sores and genital sores)

relieves shingles

prevents anxiety by raising serotonin


L-lysine, which increases calcium absorption and drastically decreases its excretion. A few studies have also shown how lysine helps the body rebuild bone, by aiding the bone and collagen cells.


Another great benefit L-lysine has is that it helps fight against acne. It cures zits, pimples and black heads and leaves the skin clean and mark free. Many users have reported that, after a treatment with lysine in the form of supplements taken every day, they noticed a huge improvement as far as skin health goes.


The main reason for that is the fact that collagen products are mainly based on the body’s access to four amino acids: lysine, methionine, glycine and proline. These are the same amino acids that produce keratin, the protein that protects skin cells from external factors such as stress, damage, cold or any other factor that might kill the cells. It represents the building blocks of the human’s skin outer layer. Therefore, if one of the main amino acids that produce keratin and collagen is lysine, its benefits for the human skin and hair are guaranteed.

Herpes virus

1000 mg/day is the recommended dose for prevention; 3000 mg/day for herpes treatment


~ “Lysine is an essential amino acid involved in the creation of collagen and absorption of calcium. Lysine may also help alleviate herpes simplex infections. A deficiency of lysine can lead to anemia, blood shot eyes, and fatigue. High lysine foods include lean beef, cheese, turkey, chicken, pork, soy, fish, shrimp, shellfish, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and lentils. The recommended daily intake for lysine is 30mg per kilogram of body weight, or 13.6mg per pound. A person weighting 70kg (~154 pounds) should consume around 2100mg of lysine per day.

ending on beauty

A friend tells me that a propagandist for collectivization tried, in a village near the Danube, to convince a peasant of new methods and superiority of benefits that would follow fixed working hours, the higher efficiency, etc. The cautious villager didn't want to say yes or no. In response, she pointed with her finger at a bird flying past them. She didn't dare to speak of freedom but had the courage to indicate the symbol . . .    ~ Emil Cioran

Monet: The Magpie, 1869