Five Hundred Followers, or Claire’s Comedic Genius takes a Bow

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Hallo, all! Have some cake.

I’ve been thinking – now that Electrica in the Desert has 500 followers, we could start a cult! I hadn’t given much thought to who would make the best leader, but – what? You say you want me? That’s one vote: I accept.

Bow down before me.

Hey, get back here, everyone! The doors are locked, so you might as well relax. I didn’t say it HAS to be a cult. Good grief, a minor proclivity for Divine Rights never hurt anyone.

 

Hmm…

Say, what about finance? For a modest $1,000 each, we’ll have $500,000 to invest. Just make your checks out to me – I might as well collect them now. I know people at a couple of Hedge Funds, and it will be a lot simpler if I handle everything. One less thing for you to worry about.

Me? A Communist? I don’t recall that information. Oh, but you do?Well, I’m not a real  communist anyway, more of a socialist-Marxist or prehaps a Marxist-socialist.

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No,I don’t see any inconsistency there.

But you do, eh? Still?  Prehaps you’ve been reading too much Trotsky on a full stomach, then.  Ayn Rand, you say?

Oh my, is..I mean, is that still allowed?

I mean what I meant to say, yes of course, is that these are Cuban hedge funds with offices right in downtown Habana…yes, that does change things, doesn’t it?  Quite all right, then.

What’s that?

No I still have no names to provide. I don’t recall. I still don’t have that information.

 

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Well, I see it’s getting late, so I’ll adjourn the meeting now. No need to decide right away. Only, do give some thought to joining a small, private army – what’s that? Why, mine of course. A force of 500 could be very effective, but small enough to conceal if one had the acreage…

What, all of you already say no?

I see. I wonder if I could trade you in to WordPress for 500 different followers.

You know, it isn’t nearly as much fun having 500 followers as I thought it would be. I remember the carefree days when there were only 499 of you as if it were yesterday.

Oh wait. That was yesterday.

Ah, that was a simpler time…

 

500 Follows!

 

 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT THE DEVIL – HOW I INFILTRATED A CELL OF IRAQIS

THIS IS  A  STORY  I  WROTE  A  FEW  YEARS  AGO  FOR  THE  FREEPORT (IL) JOURNAL- STANDARD  NEWSPAPER. I THINK IT’S WORTH RE-VISITING

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                                                                       UntitledThese are the faces I see when I think of Iraq. And when I think of a nuclear attack on that ancient place that was once Mesoptamia, then Persia, then part of the Ottoman Empire (which welcomed the  Jewish victims of the Spanish Inquisition) I think of these faces, twisted in agony as they imagine their families being evaporated, or turned into virtual charcoal to die an agonizing death.
These men represent a very small community of Iraqis who blew a little breeze of joy into my days when I wrote for the Journal-Standard. I lived a block away from their little store, so I saw them every morning (coffee) and every night (whatever). They were interested, kind, generous, earnest, and full of news to share.  They believed in being cheerful, and in fact did seem to find something humorous in every situation – the word that comes to mind is ‘merry’.
After the newspaper’s higher-ups (not my great editor) killed follow-up coverage of the Iraqis, I was free to hang out and talk with them on a level more personal than a continued professional relationship would have permitted. Nevertheless, we all maintained a restraint that stopped short of friendship: I wanted the option of writing about them to remain open, should it become a possibility. And they, of course, had numerous reasons to limit anything they said to an American – or any other – reporter.
That left us plenty of room. They were genuinely emotionally expressive – all of them – and in a manner that clearly showed this to be cultural. The men would reminisce about their mothers and cry freely; they also  spoke unself-consciously of broken hearts, that is, “hearts broken by grief’. Since I come from a family that rejects broken hearts as strategic hyperbole, I recognized a rare opportunity to tell a broken heart story of my own.
They listened respectfully, nodded soberly, and reiterated that a broken heart is an unbearable experience.
 
The Iraqi men of Freeport immediately recognized the racism directed against the African-Americans who comprised the neighborhood,  and were quick to express their allegiance. They didn’t win the good will of the Black community overnight. They persevered.
Years later, when I arrived and asked to hear that story, the Iraqis told me, over and over, how much people need to feel respected. THIS is something the Iraqii people – and all Arabic, Mideastern peoples – evidently don’t have to be taught.
 
 
Could it be that there are some clues here? I wonder what there is about being:
A)   Black in southside Chicago,
and
B) Arabic in the Mid East
that drives people
C) right over the cliff  –
When the same two factors of:
1.America
and
2.respect
are introduced
 
 
 
 
 
 

“May it be erased from the earth before foreigners imagine it”: unbearable loss in Java

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This is a story about a young man, his grandfather, the very small house he lost, and the unbearable hole this loss left in the universe.

Acep Aprilyana  is a young Indonesian writer from West Java, living far from home in Nunukan, an island town near the Malaysian border. He recently left Burma, where he had found temporary work in a jungle plantation. Thousands of people have arrived in Nunukan looking for work over the past several years.

Like millions and millions of other people,  Mr. Aprilyana lives in a country that was çreated when a European nation forcibly occupied a region of the world and drew lines on a map to create a colony.

Acep is Electrica in the Desert’s oldest supporter life’s greatest heart, and justice’s favorite brother.

Many readers are already familiar with Acep’s work, both because he has allowed me to feature it several times, and because his own blog, Sundanese in Actions, has plenty of  fans.

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Acep Aprilyana is the last member of a family whose roots in Indonesia had extended beyond human memory far before it was brutally occupied by the Dutch over 400 years ago

Like most Sundanese people, Acep is from Java, whose people dated their origins  back to the Creation centuries before establishing a Muslim culture in the 1400s. The village Acep describes below is practically as much a part of its small, steep mountain as are the narrow stairways, roads, and rice terraces carved into the face of the rock by his ancestors – about as far back as most human conceptions of time retain coherence.

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Although presented as fiction,  what follows is the first part of an essay-length autobiographical account of the small village of traditional rice farmers in which Acep was raised by his grandfather. The  narrative is infused with a particular significance by its time frame: the childhood he describes appears practically ancient – until one recalls with a jolt that Acep did not achieve full majority until 2006 !*

Fer 400 years, it has been attacked in every way a culture can be attacked, enduring every  imaginable form of rupture.

But what it preserved throughout those centuries, to pass down to Acep in the 1990s ( as a wave of violence swept Indonesia ) was a lived experience of continuity, a meaningful interpretation of the colonial catastrophe, and a collective memory so powerful as to leave me on my knees.

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ALBIE AND HIS GRANDFATHER

By Acep Aprilyana

Balonggandu is just a small village. When it was isolated, wilderness was its blanket and peace was its pulse. Foreigners who imagined it just once from a great distance thought a thousand times about Balonggandu. 

 When they had walked the land with both feet,  over time their hearts followed, drawn by the friendliness of the villagers, and by the sincerity and peace of their lives.  The village’s spirit is unity, its breathing is harmony, its soul is truth.

Its dress is simplicity.  Its robe is resignation.

Its friend is patience.

It would have been better if Balonggandu had not been worthy of mention or had disposed of  its memory so that the mind did not expect to mention its name. With no decent story to tell and no news of interest to be disclosed , Balonggandu  could have been kept off the map. This would have better for the mind,  for being erased from the earth can be a glorious destinty.

Instead,  Balonggandu remained worthy of its name, filled with beauty and charm and  interesting to every generation.  So the generation that preceded it gave messages,  advice, and warnings about how one should live life, weaving the light of love and longing into its blanket, and truth and holiness into its clothes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fate has been spinning and embroidering threads, thereby setting in Balonggandu the life of a family consisting only of a kid and his grandfather. They lived in the smallest house, the house facing north at the tip of the village and closest to the forest. Most of the walls at the bottom were made of boards, while the top was made of woven bamboo. The roof was dull, although it still looked solid and some of the tiles in back were cracked.  In fact,  the ground floor was wet with every rain.

A rear door connected the house to the hills behind it, and the courtyard was decorated with cut grass and neatly arranged  flowers. Some would look at the house and see an old shack, but in this old shack a story begins.

If it had not been inhabited by Abie and his grandfather, the little house might have been destroyed. Even so, a light brighter than sunlight shone from within. It was the light that emanated from Abie.

The stars seemed to give Abie his smile. It was a smile that made the moon flush.

This hut has remained the same since Abie was born. His grandfather was reluctant to fix it: other than financial factors, the little house is a form of memory. It is better to keep the memories in this form than to remember them in other ways, for other ways will only bring pain and sorrow. The house holds the  pain of two Deaths.

The first death is the death of Ainah – beloved wife of Abie’s grandfather – and the second death is the death of Oom Romlah, Abie’s mother.

Seventeen days after she gave birth to Abie, his mother died.

And shortly after the death of his wife, Abie’s father left Abie.  He entrusted his son to his father, Abie’s grandfather. and he never returned.

Thus, when the trees have grown, they no longer protect Abie as they once would have.

***

                                                         End of Part One

Acep Aprilyana’s work is avaiable in Sundanese, Indonesian, English and Dutch, but he has decided on a fourth version, edited for standard English and available for selected posts, and has trusted me to edit with a heavy hand in service to his voice.

Acep’s English has its own beauty, one that many of his readers prefer. This is just another option for readers and a way to expand the scope of his voice.

Come back for Part Two, coming soon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My note: when the past refuses to stay in the past, it usually heads straight for the present. There, it’s easy to spot, because it’s ususally causing a racket of some kind. If you order it back, this type of past will appear to comply, but it never departs in good faith. As soon as you’re sure it’s finally obeyed, it will show up somewhere else, claiming to be the present.

Maybe it is throwing rocks at a tank in Palestine. Maybe it is an old Jewish man, lighting a candle in Warsaw. Maybe it is a pirate in the Sudan. Maybe it is sneaking across the Mexican border. Maybe it is a 16-year-old gang member aiming a gun at a 15-year-old drug dealer in southwest Chicago.

Or maybe it is a broken heart in Indonesia.

EL FONDO DE MI CORAZON: HALF A CENTENNIAL!

DAD LET ME DRIVE! / CLAIRE O’BRIEN 2009

Electrica in the Desert celebrates 50 followers today!

               ¡ Saludo a todos y cada uno! Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazon.
            I salute each and every one of you. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.
When I was a newspaper reporter, I had thousands of readers every day. But I appreciate the fifty people who follow this blog more than I ever appreciated any readers before. I also appreciate everyone else who drops by for a visit and/or takes the time to leave me a Like.
Please accept my sincere apologies for not dropping by and visiting so many of you. The fact is,
I have serious computer problems that I can’t afford to address – if you could see me wrestling with this laptop, sometimes for hours, just to get out a single post, I think you would understand. But I’m working on the issue, and I’ll return the respect you have shown to me as soon as I can.
                             Let’s celebrate with a parade: here come the flags!
                                                                
                                                                                                             CLAIRE O’BRIEN/2009
A bigger turnout than expected :
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SPEAKING OF VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN

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The specific homes, schools, neighborhoods – and thus the lives – of these children are deliberately attacked by adults from a distance – with bombs, not guns.

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Think about it.

Adults take care to preserve their own safety while bombing the homes of children.

Why isn’t that called terrorism?

A HOME IN THAT ROCK: THE WAR ON BLACK BOYS

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                            IT WILL LIVE INSIDE ME FOREVER
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, halfway between sleep and consciousness, I go to the place where that bewildered boy of long ago still dwells in me, and my eyes fill with tears. I tell him that he is safe now, and that I will protect him. But the scars on his soul ache, and although he wishes me well in his little, manly way, he is able to draw little solace from my presence.
When I stand in front of my students, my mind often wanders back to those years. Almost as if it were yesterday, I vividly recall watching my father being beaten by the police. I have never felt more impotent and powerless than I did in those days.
They will live inside of me forever.
Gregory  Howard  Williams
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I don’t think of them as dead, but as walking together  over green hills at dawn, peacefully making their way  along a zigzag trail. When they lose sight of one another, one of them calls out in a voice that echoes throughout the hills, “Kote w ye fre m? Brother, where are you?
And the other one answers,  “Mwen la . Right here, brother. I’m  right here.”
Edwidge Danticat,  Brother, I’m Dying
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 GOD GAVE NOAH THE RAINBOW SIGN:  WON’T  BE WATER, IT’S THE FIRE NEXT TIME
images-2“I’m too young for this. I don’t want to talk about it. I need to take a long rest”
8-year-old boy, Henry Horner Homes housing project, Chicago
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“The future? You better not be thinking about the future if you want to make it through each day.”
Crips set leader, age 16, Brooklyn, New York. Television interview.
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“I just want to be the one in the little boat who goes up and down the river,
pulling out the things that hurt the ducks – so that no more  ducks will die.”
J. Drayton, age 7, Boston
CIMG0162-1 (dragged)
DRINK PLENTY OF MILK / ART AND PHOTO BY CLAIRE O’BRIEN 2011
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This is the body of Blake Melvin Staples, the seventh of my family’s nine children. I know his countours well. I bathed and diapered him when he was a baby. He is the smallest of the brothers, with the same short torso, and long arms and legs. His second toe curves slightly and rises in an arc, in a way that’s unique to us.
Below the familiar feet, a drain awaits the blood that will flow from the autopsy.
“The deceased twenty-two-year-old Negro male sustained multiple gunshot wounds – “
The floor gave way, and I fell down and down for miles.
Brent Staples,  Parallel Time

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS THREE PEARS

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PORTRAIT OF THREE PEARS AS A WORKER

Mary O’Brien was 13 years old when she began working in a New York City bakery in 1943.  

At age 45, after 25 years of marriage and five children, Mary’s life changed and she became a primary wage earner and single parent.

Almost 30 years would pass before Mary Katherine would be able to retire.

She cared for her elderly mother and raised her youngest child while working full time, attending college part time, and, later, raising a grandson with her former husband and his new wife.  She first began to paint when she was 70.

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Two years later she was still painting. And still working – ironically, at a Council on Aging, coordinating services for clients younger than herself. The sight of 72-year-old Mary and her shovel getting her latest old car started on a winter morning was an unsettling one. For months, she continued to chug through the snow out to distant suburbs, checking in with her often 65-year-old clients.

Finally, about four months before her 73rd birthday, Mary Katherine O’Brien cashed her last paycheck

                                             _DSC0301-6Now 82 years old and living alone in the Boston area, Mary rises early every day to paint for at least several hours. Her work has been displayed and sold in a number of Boston area shows. More impressive has been her determined pursuit of health care services uncovered by Medicare,  such as acupuncture and massage, for which she barters her paintings.

Mary has the  same strong, healthy teeth that first popped out of her seven-year-old gums in 1937. And the dental profession has enough – as in enough, already – of her paintings.

Perhaps Justice will visit America again someday, and happen to bump into Art and Labor. If they do, the People will buy back all the paintings Mary gave up in exchange for her medical care – because that care was already owed to her.  As every six-year-old in Costa Rica and France and Nigeria and Finland knows:

Health care is a basic human right.

PAINTING BY MARY O’BRIEN

I have deliberately limited Mary’s social identity (which is significantly expanded by other factors) to its definition for Congressional policy makers: as wage earner, tax payer, retired, elderly social security/Medicare/ food stamp recipient, occupant  of HUD -subsidized housing.  Combinations of this identity are shared by millions of diverse people, none of whom is anymore its representative than is Mary Katherine O’Brien.

Over the past five (at least) years, all of them were lumped together and targeted for ruthless, sustained attack by interests whose goal could have led nowhere other then essential destruction.

Mary O'B

Those interests haven’t gone anywhere. They represent immeasurable wealth, and cannot be sent to their rooms.  In fact, turn around: they are right behind you.

COSTA RICA IS ONE OF THE SMALLEST NATIONS IN LATIN AMERICA, AND ONE OF THE POOREST. YET IT PROVIDES UNIVERSAL FREE HEALTH SERVICES  AT AN INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED HIGH LEVEL OF CARE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESDE URUGUAY: UN POETA INFORMES

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                             FROM  URUGUAY : A POET REPORTS

                                       ~ Celebration of Fantasy  ~
 
It happened at the entrance to the town of Ollantaytambo, near Cuzco.  I had detached myself from a  group of tourists and was standing alone looking at the stone ruins in the   distance when a small boy from the neighborhood, skinny and ragged, came over to ask if I would give him a pen. I couldn’t give him my pen, because I was using it to write down all sorts of boring notes, but I offered to draw a little pig for him on his hand.
Suddenly the word got around. I was surrounded by a throng of little boys demanding at the top of their  lungs that I draw animals on their little hands cracked by dirt and cold, their skin of burnt leather: one wanted a condor and one wanted a snake,  others preferred little parrots or owls, and some asked for a ghost or a dragon.
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Then, in the middle of this racket,  a little waif who barely cleared a yard off the ground showed me a watch drawn in black ink on his wrist.
       “An uncle of mine who lives in Lima sent it to me,” he said.
                              “And does it keep good time?” I asked him.
                              “It’s a bit  slow,” he admitted.
                                ~~ Eduardo Galeano ~~
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                                            BIENVENIDO. PASA. ENTRAR.
                                            WELCOME. COME IN. ENTER.
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EL MUNDO ES TU REINO. LAS PIERNAS SON SU PASAPORTE, VÁLIDO PARA SIEMPRE.
THE WORLD IS YOUR KINGDOM. YOUR LEGS ARE YOUR PASSPORT, VALID FOREVER.
                                          ~~  EDUARDO  GALEANO ~~
                                           Thank-you, Paul Seimmering

YOUR LEGS WILL BE YOUR PASSPORT

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      “Perhaps one day the world, our world, won’t be upside down, and then any newborn human being will be welcome. Saying, “Welcome. Come. Come in. Enter. The entire earth will be your kingdom. Your legs will be your passport, valid forever.”
                         Eduardo Galeano, poet and hero, Uraguay