Thumbelina, World's Smallest Living Horse

As a lifelong devotee of the terrier-sized eohippus and other Pleistocene fauna, I am thrilled at the fifth birthday of Thumbelina, a miniature horse saddled with dwarfism, a condition that dropped her adult height from 34 inches to just 15 and 1/2. Her breeders didn't expect the foal to survive, but she has done so with a will. Now Guinness has officially recognized her status as world's smallest horse and her family is scheduling appearances to raise money for children's charities. The plucky little thing is now a cossetted family pet that sleeps with the dogs and bosses the other animals around.

In our own home, all the animals defer with some evident tenderness to "It's", our cherished guinea pig with the crippled feet from being kept in too small a cage before we rescued her. She's our Tiny Tim; we named her "It's" after the Michael Palin character who introduces each episode of Monty Python after emerging in tatters from some unspeakable dungeon. When she takes her constitutional, the cats and the rabbits all let her coo and groom them as if they know she can't walk very well. I certainly understand the little horse's family and their tender attachment for the tiny creature who must wear prosthetic supports on her feet. This is why Walt Whitman said that animals do not moan about their condition.

The vulnerability of the best parts of this world brings tears, reminding me of the Tibetan admonition that if you want to be a Shambala warrior, and truly open your heart to the world as a boddhisatva would, the world will swell and break your heart. Those who profess hard-heartedness do so out of fear; the broken heart of the world, the child in Sudan squeezing a finger, the tortured soul in prison, the hopeful dog wagging its tail on its way to the death chamber, all these would call the cynics away from their bemused sarcasm and demand some kind of action.


C.G. Jung described the stone tower he built with his own hands at Bollingen on Lake Zurich as a "representation in stone of my innermost thoughts and of the knowledge I had acquired... a confession of faith in stone." The tower's design is something more than an intellectual exercise in spiritual symbolism, more than weekend physical exercise designed to call the intellect back to earth. The tower is also one of the more interesting self-portraits of European culture. The evolution of its design, as related in "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", parallels the evolution of a soul. "At Bollingen," he said, "I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself."

The home built after Jung's marriage was well and good for a proper Swiss physician and family man; the sorcerer-in-training required something more. The tower is, in a sense, a part of Jung himself left behind, like the shell of a chambered nautilus.

The Bollingen stone tower took shape in five stages, corresponding with five stages of consciousness described by mystics of various disciplines as follows:
-- The physical plane, that of our animal flesh;
-- The astral plane, containing the so-called "lower" emotions such as desire and possessiveness;
-- The mental plane, where the higher emotions and the individua personality begin to manifest themselves;
-- The spiritual plane, where the wisdom of nature and the "Holy Spirit" begin to inform the mystic pilgrim;
-- the celestial plane, where a manifest god, God-the-Son for the Christians, Apollo for the Greeks, the discovery of the "god within", the individuated "Self" appears.

Beyond these five stages of spiritual development awaits the unknown, the "Absolute": the God Unknown, the Tetragrammaton, the living archetypes of the Divine.

These five stages, borrowing from G.A. Gaskell's "Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths", correspond with the gods and symbols of both ancient and modern pantheons. In ancient Egypt, for example, the god Nepthys represented the physical level of development, Set the astral level, Thoth the mental, Isis the spiritual, Osiris the celestial, with Ra as the unknowable archetype over all. It risks academic grasping to fit Jung's homely architecture into such a tight boot, but the pattern does offer intriguing parallels.

Jung tells us that the first section of the tower "represented for me the maternal heart." It is here that the family gathers 'round-- a birthplace, a primal source. Interestingly, Gaskell's study identifies the "physical" stage not just with Nepthys but with the Greek goddess Hestia (in Rome, "Vesta"): the goddess of the hearth.


Apparently, There ARE Some Things That Even a Maggot Will Gag At

Before we congratulate Rupert Murdoch for stepping in and cancelling the O.J. Simpson bookdeal, let us remember that this was not done in a fit of good taste but as an economic decision, disaster control after the universal outrage started to outpoll any potential profit.

And again, it underscores my argument that the factions in the "Culture Wars" are aiming at the wrong target. It is not liberalism or atheism that has vugarzed popular culture, it is capitalism and the profit incentive. And neither side, not the religious right or the limousine liberals is simply not ready to reject teh assumptions of capitalism. Much easier to blame an amorphous "they" for the murder as entertainment on television, tabloid news instead of detailed stories, and smarmy sitcoms as afterschool babysitters.

UPDATE: Judith Regan, who brokered the deal, was fired from Harper Collins December 15th, no doubt with a severance package that will let her go on to better things.

The BBC and Bobby Kennedy

Photograph copyright Verbatim excerpt from the BBC News for Tuesday 21 November 2006:
"New video and photographic evidence that puts three senior CIA operatives at the scene of Robert Kennedy's assassination has been brought to light. The evidence was shown in a report by Shane O'Sullivan, broadcast on BBC Newsnight. It reveals that the operatives and four unidentified associates were at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles in the moments before and after the shooting on 5 June, 1968. The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and some of the officers were based in South-East Asia at the time, with no reason to be in Los Angeles.

"Kennedy had just won the California Democratic primary on an anti-War ticket and was set to challenge Nixon for the White House when he was shot in a kitchen pantry. A 24-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, was arrested as the lone assassin and notebooks at his house seemed to incriminate him. However, even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember the shooting and defence psychiatrists concluded he was in a trance at the time. Witnesses placed Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy but the autopsy showed the fatal shot came from one inch behind. Dr Herbert Spiegel, a world authority on hypnosis at Columbia University, believes Sirhan may have been hypnotically programmed to act as a decoy for the real assassin.

"The report is the result of a three-year investigation by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan. He reveals new video and photographs showing three senior CIA operatives at the hotel. Three of these men have been positively identified as senior officers who worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's Miami base for its Secret War on Castro.

"David Morales was Chief of Operations and once told friends: "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." Gordon Campbell was Chief of Maritime Operations and George Joannides was Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations. Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the Congressional investigation into the JFK assassination. Now, we see him at the Ambassador Hotel the night a second Kennedy is assassinated.

".... Paul Schrade, a key figure behind the school project, was walking behind Robert Kennedy that night and was shot in the head. He believes this new evidence merits fresh investigation: "It seems very strange to me that these guys would be at a Kennedy celebration. What were they doing there? And why were they there? It's our obligation as friends of Bob Kennedy to investigate this." Ed Lopez, a former Congressional investigator who worked with Joannides in 1978, says: "I think the key people at the CIA need to go back to anybody who might have been around back then, bring them in and interview them, and ask - is this Gordon Campbell? Is this George Joannides?"

The Commonplace Book, November 2006

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." (Thomas Jefferson)

"...the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart." ( Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

“... the very first example of congressional oversight in our history was an inquiry into President George Washington’s deployment of the military. In that case, a committee appointed by the House in 1792 was authorized to investigate the disastrous defeat the year before of Gen. Arthur St. Clair by Indians in the Ohio Territory, with the power to issue subpoenas for “persons, papers and records as may be necessary to assist their inquiries.” (Stanley Brand

“.... One day, Tomasello and Paabo were talking in the institute's cafeteria about a family in England with a remarkable genetic defect. Some members of the family have a mutation in a gene known as FOXP2, which helps direct the development of the brain during infancy and childhood. Every family member with the mutation had great difficulty speaking. Paabo had been thinking about how to identify genes that had changed during human evolution to make speech possible, and FOXP2 seemed like a prime candidate. He and his co-workers sequenced the gene—that is, they figured out the order of the DNA bases that make up FOXP2—in six different species. They found that it was one of the most stable genes they had ever studied; from mice to rhesus macaques to chimps, the protein produced by the gene is almost exactly identical, suggesting that the gene itself plays a fundamental role in animal function. But in humans the gene had undergone a slight modification. About 250,000 years ago, according to the scientists' calculations, two of the molecular units in the 715-unit DNA sequence of the gene abruptly changed. That's not long before modern humans first appeared in the fossil record. Could the changes in FOXP2 have enabled modern humans to speak? And could articulate speech have given modern humans an edge over the Neanderthals and other archaic humans?

“That's certainly what some newspaper stories implied, labeling FOXP2 a "language gene." But Paabo and other scientists are more cautious. FOXP2 "is one of who knows how many genes that affect language ability," says Ken Weiss, an expert on evolution and genetics at Pennsylvania State University. The change in FOXP2 might have been entirely coincidental. Or the gene may be related to language indirectly—for example, by influencing coordination. And some scientists argue that language evolved much earlier than our version of FOXP2, and that archaic humans also had speech....”
(Smithsonian magazine)

“As usual, Cheney's remarks reinforce mistaken notions about terrorism. He suggests to the bomber forces that only taking the fight to terrorists can turn the tide.
“Cheney doesn't talk about stealing the audience from terrorists or robbing from them the ability to exploit grievances that many in the Middle East feel.” (Steve Clemons)

"Many of the governments here in South America are now made up of people who were thrown in prison and tortured in the past, so they're taking a very different look at the role of their armed forces and their military relations with the United States."
(Lisa Sullivan, Caracas-based organizer for SOA [School of the Americas] Watch)

"Look at the JLA; They all map on the chakras. Batman is a human being of ultimate power [and intention.] Flash is communication. Superman is about giving selflessly. He represents the sun. He is that thing that loves us unconditionally. ,,, Batman is like Christ harrowing Hell, because only he can withstand it. He endures everything for us. Batman is a character who was almost brought to the brink of his destruction, but who persevered. Batman is our shadow and we have to look at the shadow and integrate the shadow. ... Mr. Miracle [an escape artist who survived a Dickensinian childhood on a Hell planet] is the transcendent character, the seventh Chakra.”
(Grant Morrison)

“In the 1970s form began to be considered uncool. It represented the rigid establishment. So everything started to become vague and mushy.”
(John Kricfalusi)

“I remember when the famous phrase "Live from Studio 60, it's Friday Night In Hollywood!" used to mean something. Back then, when the show first came out, I'd stay home every Monday night just to make sure I didn't miss an episode. There was such a buzz around the show in the weeks leading up to its premiere because it was something new, something no one had ever seen before. But ever since Judd Hirsch left, * the show's totally gone downhill.” (Review by “Artie Mayer” in The Onion)

[* NOTE: Judd Hirsch’s character only appeared in the first five minutes of the show.]

"I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time." (Orson Welles)

“There are two very separate worlds: the marketplace, and the bustling bazaar that is my brain. The brain place is crowded with goods, ideas, sequels, spinoffs, animated versions, miniseries, radio dramas -- this is just the used goods. All the new wares are in there as well and it's deafening. Once I create a verse I never let go of it. And figuring out how much of my energy should be devoted to reawakening the projects you all love with the actors and characters I all love, and how much should be forging ahead and creating entirely new works (which you are contractually obligated to love) is exhausting. More than you know. You know the horse caught bwtween two pools of water? Add seven pools, and make the horse wicked A.D.D. The other world, the marketplace, I don't even begin to understand or predict.” (Joss Whedon)

“By labeling concerns of American workers [regarding cheap labor from illegal immigrants] “nativism”, you dismiss those concerns as reactionary or invalid. Characterizing those concerns as racist or xenophobic allows you to ignore the economic impact on the working class... You are playing into the multinational corporations’ agenda. Way to go.”
(Les Reed, in a letter to The Nation 11/13/2006)

“If you’re talking about mugging little old ladies, you don’t say, ‘What’s our target for the rate of mugging little old ladies?’ You say, ‘Mugging little old ladies is bad, and we’re going to try to eliminate it.’ You recognize you might not be a hundred percent successful, but your goal is to eliminate the mugging of little old ladies. And I think we need to eventually come around to looking at carbon dioxide emissions the same way.” (Ken Caldeira, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, whose work for the Department of Energy showed an increasing acidification of the oceans.)


"My attitude about this is that there is a great opportunity for us to show the country that REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS ARE EQUALLY AS PATRIOTIC and equally concerned about the future, and that we can work together."

G.W. Bush, November 10, 2006

Will Nancy Pelosi Teach George Bush Some Manners?

It's a little early for a mash note to Nancy Pelosi, but isn't it fine to hear a politician interviewed without expressions of false piety, misplaced arrogance or calling the opposition a band of traitors? When asked a question she doesn't want to answer, she tells the interviewer it would not be politic or prudent to answer, instead of accusing the reporter of stupidity for daring to ask such a question.

And what a world is this, where the popinjay-in-chief is learning to speak of bi-partisan cooperation without accusing half the American population of hating America? Again and again, he has shown himself to be a bully who knows no law until someone slaps him down-- in Churchill's phrase, "either at your throat or at your knees." Not so bitchin' without his backup, now that the people he's disdained for six years have veto and subpoena power.


1. Raise the federal minimum wage, which now has the same spending power it had in 1955. Override the inevitable presidential veto.
3. Implement the security recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Override the inevitable presidential veto.
4. Reinstate the ancient right of habeas corpus as won by the barons at Runnymeade, seized from the tyrannical hands of King John. Override the inevitable presidential veto.
5. Rewrite the so-called "Patrot Act" to restore privacy protection. Override the inevitable presidential veto.
6. Investigate and shine a light on a) why we invaded Iraq, ignoring the best available intelligence; b) gross negligence by person or persons unknown in the conduct of the war in Iraq.
7. Investigate and shine a light on Halliburton's no-bid contracts in Iraq and damage done to national security by privatizing "security" militias in Iraq.
8. Investigate and shine a light on how and why the Taliban was alllowed to make a come back in Afghanistan.
9. Appoint Grand Juries to investigate, indict and persecute those responsible for torture committed in the name of the people of the United States.
10. a) Supoena EVERYBODY. b) Indict everybody that doesn't turn state's evidence. c) IMPEACH THE MOTHERFUCKER ALREADY.

If the Democrats take the Senate too (12 Midnight here, too close to call), there will be no end-zone dances. But Carl Levin is quietly and judiciously going to start looking for the Truth-- last seen bloody, beaten and left lying in the ditch by George W. Bush.

MICHIGAN TO NATION: Our Governor is STILL Hotter Than Your Governor


This morning Saddam Hussein and his cohorts were sentenced to be hanged. The president is congratulating himself, one assumes, on having burnt down the barn and the whole damned farm and provoked a civil war in order to get rid of a handful of rats. This afternoon the inventor Ray Kurzweil is on C-SPAN talking about nanobots the size of a blood cell and machines that can pass the Turing test for artificial intelligence by the year 2029. As Kurzweil is thinking about medical applications and demonstrating a wonderful translation device that will permit you to talk to almost anyone in the world using your cell phone, someone in the American military is dreaming of robot "soldiers" within a decade.

The great Ingmar Bergman described his life's work as contributing a block or two to the great cathedral of human civilization. Myself, I'm only a grunt in the race between Creation and Destruction, trying to hold the line in my small classroom outpost against xenophobia and violence, earnestly introducing children to Shakespeare and Thomas Paine and the Ishtar Gate. And I'm wondering tonight if we're outnumbered, if the busy little hands building bombs and the wagging tongues spreading hate aren't working faster than we are to bring down that cathedral.

They don't even have to work that hard; it only takes a moment for one person to destroy thousands, to put a bullet in Gandhi or blow up the building in which one year old Baylee Almon went to day care. This is a problem inherent in our race, a killer ape intelligent enough to invent a weapon but not smart enough to use it wisely, as the Roman soldier murdered Archimedes while he was drawing circles in the sand.

I'm for scuffling and shoring up and trying to hold the world together with duct tape. But what do we do about the stupid people who think they're smart enough to decide who lives and who dies? Didn't Hussein see himself as "creating" something when he took over Iraq and committed his murders with Stalin as his role model? Tim McVeigh thought he was sparking the third American Revolution, creating a better world for himself. Somebody trusted George W. Bush with the most powerful military force on earth.

Ray Kurzweil is an optimist, and has charts to show the advance of intelligent machines in spite of two world wars and the Great Depression. He looks forward to extending life expectancy with technology, with little thought as to who will take control of that immortality and use it to abuse the have-nots. A student of history, I worry about the collapse of Rome and the suicide of the Greek democracies. I wake up an optimist and go to bed a pessimist. If we are in a race between the forces of destruction and the forces of preservation and creation, which side is running fastest?

Who Will Ann Coulter Call If She Needs Bail?

Complaining about about right-wing hypocrisy and the pecadilloes of public moralists is like complaining about the heat in July or the snow in winter. I am concerned here with what happens as they fall down the other side of the Wheel of Fortune.

Twenty years ago, a friend of mine had a niece who was just beginning a career in entertainment. My friend was concerned that "the little shit" should be careful whose hands she stepped on as she was climbing the career ladder, because she'd be needing them if she ever slipped and fell down. Despite the odds, her niece has made a living in the arts for the past twenty years; any failures were moderated by other triumphs. I've fallen out of touch, and never heard anything more about the niece's backstage behavior towards housekeeping staff and the spear carriers, but if her career collapses, I'm sure she has a place to sleep.

When I was a janitor, I knew more about the people whose offices and toilets I cleaned than they knew about me. Some I could have embraced as friends; there were others I wouldn't have pissed on if they were on fire.

Now Ann Coulter faces felony charges for voting fraud. There's always been an age discrepancy on her driver's license (unless she voted at the age of 16 in 1980), but now according to a Florida election official's incident report, she tried to vote in a precinct she wasn't registered for and then tried to vote twice in the same race, a no-no loaded with 5 years in prison and a fine. The part of me that feels a little sorry for Malvolio at the end of "Twelfth Night" says this can happen to anyone. I myself have a phobia against filling in forms. If a form requires that I attach other forms, I panic, hide the form under other forms, withdraw into a corner of the room and go into shock like an animal caught in a trap. ("Tharn", the rabbits called it in Watership Down.)

Let her fill in the forms and forget about it, I say. Arthur Anderson, the Palm Beach County elections supervisor, agrees: "We want to give her a chance. She needs to tell us where she really lives." Do as I do-- ask a friend or relative to talk her through the process, promise her a treat when it's done. This is why we pay other people to fill in our tax forms. I assume Miss Coulter became successful not for fame or better restaurants, but so that she could hire a secretary to handle the forms. If it all turns to shit for Miss Coulter, I'm curious to see who her friends turn out to be; she has made a career out of bashing people lower than herself, and they might be the only friends she has left. If she gets tossed into the tank, she might want to rethink her mockery of anti-apartheid activists, her call for a New McCarthyism, and "I think the government should be... engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport... and sending liberals to Guantanamo." All I'm saying is, if I were a Harvard professor or a liberal Supreme Court judge, and Ann Coulter had called for my murder, I'm damned if I'd chip in for her bail.

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals fessed up to buying amphetamines and three years of monthly "massages" from a gay prostitute. The circles I travel in would say "to each his taste" and shrug, except that the fellow is a prominent gay basher with a wife, five children, and a 14,000 member megachurch.

Republican Jim Gibbons in Nevada is having a very bad week including attempted rape, a $300 bar tab (oh, THAT'S only going to get more expensive), and millions in no-bid sweetheart contracts for friends. All of this could just be a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time story, except this is a guy who screams about illegal immigration but hires an illegal for eleven years, then drinks for two hours with a 12-top, spends $300 and leaves a ten-dollar tip.

Republican Congressman Don Sherwood, a married, "family values" conservative paid $500,000 to his mistress if she would just shut up about the strangling incident until after the election.

When my own life hit a rock, it was instructive to find out which of my friends stayed true, while others dropped me as a bore and an inconvenience. One of my "closest" friends couldn't see me because he didn't want to miss Adrienne Barbeau's nude scene in "Swamp Thing". Ordinarily I would sympathize with this excuse, but damn, man, rent the video.

This was not long after he'd taken a management job and started dropping me for golf dates with new friends he openly described as people important to his career. "Le affaire Barbeau" involved an invitation to watch the film with the movers and shakers. None of them were at his funeral. Another friend-- that I might have judged in our first acquaintance as superficial, overly-concerned with bourgeois social propriety-- lent hundreds of dollars with a bohemian indifference as to when I paid it back. "Thus the whirligig of Time," Feste tells Malvolio, "brings on its revenges." We never learn what Malvolio did to Feste to inspire the feud between them; we do know Malvolio could not call upon his friends when he fell from grace because he had no friends.

I envision a day when Guantanamo Bay is packed with every gay, liberal, homeless, black, lesbian Harvard graduate, Arab, elite intellectual, cock-sucking, muff diving, dope smoking, Communist, Socialist, titty baring, Muslim, French, porn-loving, wine-drinking, Bush-hating, flip-flopping, anti-Semitic, Times reading, rap-singing, terrorist-sympathizing lawyer in the country. In that post-apocalyptic America, Ann Coulter is about to be groped by Jim Gibbons and there's no one left alive to answer her 911 call but Alan Dershowitz. And Dershowitz can't come because he's barricaded himself in the bathroom to escape the zombie of Roy Cohn.

No wonder Jesus hung out with the publicans and sinners; they were more humane than the moralists. Now if we could just get Lloyd Dobson to Shut The Fuck Up Already about everyone else's spiritual growth, and worry about his own...

Silver Tongued Orators: How Can Kerry Lose an Election He's Not Even RUNNING In?

In an orgy of self-destruction ordinarily reserved for the eighth inning of a Cubs game, John Kerry blows a punchline and the Republican chickenhawks spend the next week impugning his patriotism. Incurious George, who had been looking a little ragged lately, finds his mojo again, hooting like a blood-crazed mangani at a dum-dum that today's recruits are "plenty smart".


Lost in the noise is the larger issue of whether military recruiters prey on the young and the hapless. Anecdotal evidence suggest that this is so, with friendly video games and friendly recruiters in the high schools. I know two high school seniors already signed with the Marines for a spot "in the Marine Corps band."
There can't be that many slots open, can there? And if they don't make the try-out, I asked?

The Heritage Foundation says no, but they would argue that ice water is good for you while standing on the Titanic. They limit their argument to two years with very different social climates, and by focusing their contempt on the remarks of one individual, Charles Rangel. It looks to me as if they only proved that the middle class is suffering in this war, while the people who made the Iraqi war go unscathed.

The National Priorities Project looks at different years, shows the same picture of a middle class fighting Harvard's war, and draws conclusions that contradict the Heritage Foundation.

If we must send soldiers into harm's way, then in the name of all that's holy, let them not be wasted on a fool's errand. When did it become unpatriotic to object to waste? Was Tennyson a traitor to Britain for objecting to the futility of the charge of the Light Brigade? I must side with Henry Fielding's humanism over the patriotic gore demanded by Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld: "To die for a cause is a common evil. To die for nonsense is the Devil."