Today’s answer

What life means

and what it is for

are the questions to be answered

first always and last

 

We answer these all the time

(though not always aware that we do)

in how we choose, right now, to live

and change from day to day

 

What we need do, I think today

is to live a life that makes sense

(and enjoy it along the way)

despite the madness that surrounds us

 

CHERRY PICKING KOELS

 

Another magical spectacle, right outside my window pane. A koel couple today provided a different take on their cherry-tree antics. In a post some two years ago I wrote about a koel man feeding ripe red cherries to a koel woman. (I paste that story below).

Off and on, from there on, they’ve repeated the ritual – for my delight while I write. And I wonder idly, do koels marry for life? Is this tender deed – in what’s a cruel species – a manifestation of sweet nothings that bind a koel husband to his wife? What do other birds that are known to marry for life, do to make their marriage last? Monoandry coupled with monogamy is mostly a birdly thing – though not the thing of most birds by far. No amphibians, no reptiles ever marry for life. (Little do I know?) Marital fidelity is not a mammalian instinct at all – which is why humans need such abundant manipulation and enforced legal knots to make their marriages last.

Married or not, a koel couple reappeared today. The red inviting cherry fruits appeared not to interest the woman. She sat decorously, while the man hopped about branches, looking for the best cherry to pick. Having found one to his taste, he picked it off and flew over to where the woman-koel sat. And today’s event was on a branch right before my eyes. My previous observation, through intervening leaves and twigs, had not been as clear as this. The fond offering I had presumed took place, did not match at all what the koel man did.  The procedure followed was quite unlike how gaping mouths of nestlings are fed. The man did not sit at a convenient spot opposite, all the easier to feed the woman. Rather, he perched parallel – and offered his cherry sideways. And she had almost to wrench it off his beak. Having managed, she proceeded cheerily to gobble it down in one gulp. The practice among koels, I noted, is for the woman eat the man’s cherry. Could any bird custom be more starkly different from those of humans, we should ponder.

Having lost his cherry, the man returned soon with a second fruit. This time round, he was more careful not to let her yank it of too easily off his beak. Holding the cherry right out in front, with head well positioned to make her reach far out, he tried cunningly to mount her while she was struggling to get the cherry off his beak. But he wasn’t quite deft enough. She quickly let go the fruit and flew immediately off. The man followed eagerly behind, cherry still firmly in beak. The outcome was out of my sight.

And what’s with cherries – to be so attentively eaten, bitten and picked?

 

That previous post:  of  15 July 2015

Courting koels

A wonderful event occurred outside my window, some minutes ago. The sound of a heavy bird settling on a ‘cherry’ tree, just two yards from me, drew my attention.  It was a lady koel. And soon thereafter came a gentleman koel. It hopped on to a branch near the lady and she responded by lowering herself submissively.  The gentleman flitted from twig to twig, I thought looking for leverage to mount her. And all of the lady’s posturings indicated to my non-koel eyes that she wanted him to proceed with things. But after a few moves, he left her to pick an inviting red cherry fruit. The lure of food, I imagined, had proven stronger than that of sex.

In a few seconds he was back, with the fruit in his beak. And he offered the juicy little delicacy to the lady, who happily accepted the gift. It was so reminiscent of birds feeding their nestlings that I imagined for a moment that the gentleman was a parent feeding a young one. With another species, this possibility could not have been easily discounted. But not with koels, who hand over child upbringing to crows. So this was clearly a prelude to sex, a post-coital gift or simply an expression of love. I had never seen or heard of such gift-giving.

All too soon, the romantic interaction was interrupted by two screeching bulbuls, who kept diving at the couple. Koels aren’t particularly worried about bulbul attacks and usually ravage their nests even as the parents shriek and dive. But in this instance, the couple flew away – probably because the bulbul insistence was too strong a deterrence to intimacy. The whole episode was over in less than two minutes. But it left me relieved that even our few remaining birds are able to provide unmatched spectacle.

I am so glad I don’t have a camera on my phone.

 

samara-singhe@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

Garbage – Denmark, US and Sri Lanka

 

A speech I read (at http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/25/the-f-35-and-the-incinerating-ski-slope/) is topical, given our recent calamity. It compares proposed garbage disposal activities planned in Denmark and the USA. The Denmark design is to maximize benefits to the public and minimize harm. Not to maximize profits for a few, who then kick back some of it to even fewer ‘decision makers’.

How may we make our decision makers give priority to the public interest? Are we entirely powerless?

A few excerpts from the article follow.

…  And a typical U.S. garbage incinerator produces vast quantities of pollution, horrible smells, dioxin, mercury, nitric oxide, lead, and particulate matter. If you live near such an incinerator, your chances of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and respiratory problems shoot through the roof … That’s why in recent years the students at Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School in a poor and already heavily polluted section of Baltimore, Maryland, had to organize and — thus far — block the construction near their schools and homes of what would have been the biggest and nastiest incinerator yet. … The Baltimore incinerator, the construction of which has been stopped thus far, would have burned 4,000 tons of trash per day and emitted 1,240 pounds of lead and mercury per year.

… an incinerator, or waste-to-power plant, now nearing completion in Copenhagen, Denmark. If you have to have incinerators, because you have not yet reached zero waste, you might want one like this one. It emits none, zero, not a speck of all those nasty poisons and smells that an American simply assumes an incinerator must produce, as illness must produce health insurance companies, as robberies must produce gun sales  …  Because this incinerator is not dangerous to those near it, it can be placed near a city. This will allow it to heat 160,000 homes while providing electricity to 62,000 homes, and generating a byproduct of water while burning something over 1,000 tons of waste a day, or a quarter of what was planned for Baltimore. And because it’s placed safely near a city, this particular power plant has had ski slopes installed on the roof of it, with elevators used to bring skiers to the top.  … None of this means that the incinerator is not still a problem. It still produces carbon dioxide. However, it produces much less of it than do other plants. 

 

 

Easter cheer

Surprise turned to shock as I heard a newsreader dutifully read Easter messages this morning, allegedly as news. The breaking news story was that the President had lauded how Jesus had struggled to liberate the poor from sin.

Maybe the lady at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation had misread? While I was trying to figure this out, words from the Prime Minister had slipped past. Probably the usual edifying inanities. Next came a message from the Bishops. I think she said the Catholic Bishops Conference, or some such, but I can’t be sure. Their lesson of the day was about the need for ‘economic development and poverty alleviation’. Wow! Even our esteemed Minister of Finance could not have done better paraphrasing Jesus – nuancing his message into one that the rich could heartily approve.

What on earth is happening? The poor are sinners, to be saved. What could be more sinful than remaining wickedly poor in this world of plenty, huh? If the poor fail to be liberated might they forever be excluded from the Kingdom, or have eyes of needles to negotiate along the way? In the meantime we can quietly bless the rich who have already inherited the earth, and justly so too. To keep us all soothed, leaders of the church sing paeans to economic development and poverty alleviation in the name of Jesus Christ. Not having had a Christian education I was completely unaware that Jesus had spent his life running around promoting economic development and poverty alleviation. So good of the Bishops to have made things clear to me this morning.

 

 

Depression: let’s talk

 

         Discussing depression

    in depressing ways

makes depression

 doubly depressing

                                         -  Diyanath,  2017

 

The World Health Organization (or WHO) has chosen to stimulate action on depression through this year’s ‘world health day’ events. Who in WHO are tasked with coming up with ‘themes’ for such annual happenings, I wonder? A most unenviable task, for sure. Those who did it this time round have done well to select a subject that has major public health consequences. Their choice of words, ‘Depression: let’s talk’ is sensible. And I am happy they state clearly that the remedy for depression is not only medication (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-health-day/en/).

 

Talking is a good idea. Not talking is generally depressing anyway. But talk that is depressing is also depressing. Not moving enough is depressing. Living with or being in the company of certain individuals (whom we should call depressogenic people) is depressing. Boring jobs are depressing. The list is long. These may all lead to sadness and a loss of interest, an inability to carry out daily activities, loss of energy and zest, difficulty in concentration, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm. A disease process affecting the brain, which also is called ‘depression’ (so as to keep everyone baffled), leads to similar features. And it is easy to confuse this cause with the ‘causes’ listed first, such as being in the company of depressogenic people, that can lead to similar symptoms.

 

Psychiatrists are gently guided by drugs marketers to recognize and treat depression of the first kind with medications designed for depression of the second kind. There is no countervailing push that can help level the field. Maybe we should, in partnership with WHO, see how the necessary corrective can be generated?

 

Let’s in the meantime talk. But talk too should be of the right kind, not depressogenic. In these times, where misery is being made fashionable globally, it’s up to each of us to produce a little good cheer.

 

Please do send any comments to samara-singhe@hotmail.com as the ‘comment’ tab on this site has stopped working

 

 

Credit due to Hillary

Two people who reacted to my previous post (20 Nov), took the opportunity to criticize, with some passion, Hillary Clinton. Even in distant Sri Lanka, people are interested in how the US elections unfold. Unlike in other countries, elections and their aftermath in the USA drag on forever. One wonders whether the elected ever get time to run anything in the country. No matter, really, for the US is anyway run by a cabal that uses these election spectacles to keep the public eye forever off the ball. Every day in the US is election season day. The farcical show helps keep a mostly politically naïve, but otherwise reasonably educated, public entertained. And it serves to keep the politicians distracted. The cabal is then able to run the country with little interference from whoever happens to have been elected.

 

Election outcomes make no difference to ordinary Americans anyway. The bottom 90% have to continue coping with declining living standards while the top 1% struggle with how to create interesting enough distractions to counter boredom. The 9% in-between must go on struggling, striving to reach ever so slightly higher on the wealth rankings.

 

There being greater interest among people living outside the US than within, in its election results, is understandable. Who wins or loses in faraway USA determines whether their own country or region is in peril, based on where the new administration wants to foster fun and games. It appears that some Sri Lankans too had imagined that Hilary C was more likely than the Trump to provide Sri Lanka with interesting times.

 

My own feeling is that the Hillary is not getting due credit for some of her positives. She brought about a major systemic change in the US electoral system. She has exposed to all, her own party’s real agenda. Previous Democrat nominees for president – Carter, husband Bill, Gore, Obama and the like – were no worse than her in the policies they were committed to. But they all managed to convey to their supporters that they stood for the exact opposite of what they believed in. This poor lady didn’t have the requisite Democratic Party skills to pull it off. Her insincerity was all too evident, and with it came a new wave of public insight into the Democratic Party farce.

 

Trump, like all Republicans, came across as sincere in his utterances. No teleprompters needed. No rehearsed brushing away of a tear. Just say it as one sees it, however ludicrous. He demonstrated in real life, not just in words, the audacity of grab-them-by-the-pussy honest disclosure. People went for the display of sincerity they felt they could believe in. Policies are not what cosmetic elections are about anyway. And years of creepy Obama rhetoric probably had them ready for revolt.

 

And in Sri Lanka and scores of other countries, we can take some perverse pleasure in watching the post-election machinations now taking place in the five-star democracy. For decades now, the ruling global cabal worked through their hireling, the US government, to fix election results in other countries according to their preference or whim. In the rare instances that they failed, they had the USA and other tame states undermine the legitimacy of upstart victors, however far off or tiny the countries concerned.

 

Hillary C, unparalleled ingénue, laid it all bare: the chosen representative of the alleged party of the less privileged incapable of hiding support for, and by, most of the ruling cabal. And in the red corner, the party of the billionaires represented by a billionaire ‘outsider’: allegedly not of the cabal.

 

We must thank Hillary for bringing to the USA the tactics it had unleashed on the rest of the world.  Her party, supported by the larger segment of the cabal and therefore by most of the main(stream) mass media, is now waging with a vengeance the delegitimization war they’ve practiced to perfection in other nations. Crying foul when the results don’t please. (Her opponent too had laid the groundwork for his own protest well before the election, claiming it was to be rigged.) A pink revolution for the USA is most appropriate. These are methods with which we people of distant nations are all too familiar. But the prospect of such ugly ploys coming home to the USA, to roost, is pleasing.

 

And we shall see how the new regime will be distracted or rendered toothless unless it falls in line with the more powerful faction of the divided cabal – namely, agree to wage more war, ideally against Russia. But even Syria would suffice to get Trump off the firing line – plus some quiet private agreements. What will the unpredictable President-elect do?

 

Prediction: Trump will fall in line and agree to launch more military escapades in new places, while keeping old ones prospering as well. And he will, to add to the bargain, continue the assault on our terminally ill earthly environment even more vigorously than the confidence-trickster Obama.

Result: Soros 2 – 2 Zuckerberg

Heads the cabal wins, tails the rest of us lose.

 

Zuckerberg surpasses Soros?

 

In those early days, human masses prayed to various gods, kings, lords and chiefs to grant them their wishes. The pantheons of Greece and ancient Egypt, of Hindu India and the less well-known deities elsewhere, provided for the jostling of different powers – usually representing different qualities, good and bad. The richness, subtlety, depth and panoply that these ‘primitive’ beliefs provided were mostly squashed by the power of the simple minded and boring monotheistic religions. We don’t have stories to relate, any more, of titanic clashes among gods.

 

Battles between kings, and nations they represent, survived longer, to provide us drama and myth. Armed clashes still continue, even where kings and queens no longer lead. Most of these latter-day wars are less gripping than the battles of old, when contenders clashed directly – and not through proxies or paid armies. Today’s very different and unequal battles capture attention only in the depths of depravity resorted to. There is no interesting spectacle, only disgust-evoking machinations and technology-led slaying of the helpless and mostly innocent.

 

Clashes between sporting stars and teams remain – to satisfy our lust for viewing struggles for dominance. These too are now losing their grip as we learn how results are mostly fixed beforehand. We could still engage, had we some means to figure out which contests aren’t fixed.

 

Fortunately, a new spectacle has recently emerged. The handful of global controllers, members of the global cabal, appear to have started to jostle among themselves. This club, which usually has consensus on whom they wish to anoint with political power, could not quite fix it at the 2016 US elections. For the first time in over 50 years, there was real difference between what the candidates offered, instead of the cosmetic personal identity charade that usually happens in elections in all powerful western nations.

 

Faced with more-than-cosmetic choice, the cabal was confused. Some backed the safe crook while others went for the potential bigger asset. Of the team backing the proven crook, one George Soros appears to stand out, from what some people in the USA are writing.  Zuckerberg, playing for bigger stakes, opted for the Trump gamble, we are told.

 

Now we have again a drama of celestial proportions. We must pray this will not tamely settle but grow into a spectacle worthy of the unimaginable power they can each unleash.

 

Friends

Who counts as a friend? For many of us, friends are those so listed in a facebook account.

There were other ideas about friend and friendship before the facebook characterisation rose to dominance. In those conceptions, to have 5,000 friends would be impossible. Not so on FB. Among facebook friends are, of course, some who were already our friends – before we added them to the facebook lot. Such ‘beyond FB’ friends are of a different kind: a breed I am tempted to call ‘proper friends’.

Friendship of the proper variety is too precious to be allowed slowly to atrophy or be replaced by the FB kind. It is in many ways more powerful than lovership. Who we choose as friends in turn mould who we are. For who we are, or who we become, is influenced unnoticed by who our friends are, probably more than by who our lovers are. Lovers influence a more superficial aspect of our being, often more intensely than friends can. But we turn off lovers more often and more quickly than we turn off friends.

Friends who become our lovers are an unimaginable and rare delight. Better even than lovers who become friends. But that is quite another matter.

(To be up with the times I should refer to lovers and spouses as ‘partners’, I guess. But this leads to some new difficulties. One could, for instance, have only a single current spouse in most societies, but any number of concurrent lovers. With partners the position is not so clear. Can one have a partner and at the same time extra-partneral lovers? Or are these extras also partners?)

Friends make no demands, while lovers and family rarely do not. Friends don’t turn off because we befriend someone else. This is why they are able to change us, to turn us subtly into something else – better or worse.  Not-making-demands does not by itself make a proper friend of course.  A friend also cares.

The great danger is that uncaring, remote and virtual friends too can mould us in important ways. For instance, we probably begin to change as a result of having presented ourselves in a particular way on facebook. We then come to resemble the person we present in the virtual realm. To pose to conform with what we imagine the remote pack admires must surely change us. The potential for subtle alterations in who we are is a grave danger, should we not see it happening.

Even more seriously, friendship equated to intimacy in the virtual world, devoid of caring, demeans the real-life thing.

 

Alcohol – the powerful aid to humour

People who do not consume alcohol are so boring aren’t they? Can’t laugh, can’t have fun, don’t know the jolly side of life. Dull chumps, party poopers and holier-than-thou hypocrites. Many of the poor sods aren’t even able to join in the merriment that alcohol fosters; or enjoy the jokes it helps unleash.

I encountered lately some instances of the magical effects of alcohol in enhancing our capacity for humour.

First, with a group of three serious ‘university academics’ chatting about some current issue, whilst walking to our cars after a ‘seminar’.  One of them missed a step and had to skip on one foot to ensure he did not fall. The lady academic quickly commented, ‘Not drunk, are you?’ And the other three instantly broke out in loud laughter, which went on for about 30 seconds. I smiled too, to show I shared in the spirit of things. But I could not quite bring myself to guffaw like the rest. Maybe I had missed the joke. It could not be put down to my not being drunk at the time, since the other three weren’t either.

Second, with a group of relaxed colleagues after a talk at a medical seminar. The authorities had presented a cylindrical wooden ornament as a gift to the speaker – wrapped in fancy coloured paper. One of the group pointed to the wrapped gift and said, ‘Not a bottle of alcohol, is it?’ Everybody immediately broke out in laughter – and the merriment lasted quite some time, as in the previous instance.  I smiled too, to show I shared in the spirit of things. But I could not quite bring myself to guffaw like the rest. Maybe I had missed the joke. It could not be put down to my not being drunk at the time, for the others there weren’t either.

Third, with some friends at a house party. Four of the menfolk were holding glasses of Scotch. In the course of conversation, one of the men lowered his voice and made a comment about his wife. It felt to me to be quite a nasty and vulgar statement and the others too appeared to be taken aback, momentarily. The man who made the remark concluded it and went on to hoot with laughter and the rest quickly joined in – guffawing louder and longer than the previous two instances. I could not bring myself even to smile, even as a sign that I shared in the spirit of things, which I certainly did not. Maybe I had missed the joke.

I recognize that alcohol is superb at helping people indulge their sense of humour. I worry that the jokes it helps generate are so subtle that I am not able to catch them.

 

 

Please do send any comments to samara-singhe@hotmail.com as the tab on this site does not work

Is Cameron worse than Obama?

 

To look someone straight in the eye

While through your teeth you lie

Is more or less to die

 

To live a life in respect lacking

Especially that from within

Is not to be quite human

 

Becoming sub human is dying

At least as a real person.

Why bother continue breathing?

 

Can inner death be concealed

Through vaunted prizes for peace

Or clinging to premierships?

 

While those not-quite-there continue

Panama papers fell other men

For being less thick of skin

 

Is Obama worse than Cameron

Or the Blair abomination?

Pointless comparison

 

If lack of self-respect is death

And deadness has no degrees

They are then all alike

 

And how do many of the undead rest

While with themselves satisfied, laud

Those in self-respect dead?