August 13-20, 2002
Five deaths; two births! Boring! Of course ... and how many did you 'know'? Wells and Nightengale were easy. Any of the others? Brits will probably guess that Sir Liberty was the founder of Liberty's in London. The remaining ones ... it's doubtful if anyone cares a whit about them [well, maybe Ireland but certainly not Runciman].
But, the boredom does not end with the names. It just starts there; it's the just plain vanilla beginnings and ends (the 'died' and the 'born') that are the real yawns.
Births ... NEWNES can't do much with those. Deaths, however ...
Though NEWNES notes five deaths for today, not one was remarkable for the way he or she did it. Taylor, Millais, Nightengale, Runciman and Wells all just "died." But, sprinkled throughout the next twelve months, we'll see NEWNES amplifying some of the exits. Here is a reprint of a list I posted a couple of years ago:
"People" in NEWNES'S world are always walking around this place in the past tense. First, they were "born" ... later on they "died."
But, every so often, NEWNES allows them do something with a certain style. Almost always this 'something' is an elaboration on the way they leave us ... a twist in their personal path toward death ... a signature exit, so to speak ('birth', by contrast, is so limited in its menu that it next-to-never needs anything more clarifying than just plain being 'born'). And, as the roads out of here lead in so many different directions, NEWNES'S choice of exit language can be just as colorful and illuminating as the ways in which his people are dispatched to their next stop. Yes ... dear reader ... those of you who have been here with me for even a few short months have had the chance to see how the big and the great of this world ended there time on it. Most have died just plain vanilla style, but not a few have marched out of here in a rainbow of colors:
"Alf, can you please move on?"
After yesterday's suicide by crocodiles, today's Bangkok broadsheets are pretty pale by comparison.
A local drug addict, after taking an enormous amount of speed, felt that his new found chemically enhanced strength would allow him to jump into a narrow deep muddy hole in the ground ... and then, with a powerful kick, blast out of it like a Titan missile fired from a Nevada silo.
An upcountry small time politician was shot to death in his car. This crime scene photograph is only interesting in the way that it shows the enthusiasm of the greeter. With gloved hand and a welcoming smile he could just as easily be ushering you to into a limousine.
"Quite enough, Alf."
Dang-Gum-It! Yesterday I forgot to give you Wescott ... and he was mercifully short and so to the point.
A schoolmaster whose pupils stabbed him to death with their pens.
Yes, and Wescott is not much wordier today:
A priest who opposed Pope Liberius. Apparently the latter was willing that the heretical Emperor Constantius should put him to death. They cut out his tongue, but he was able to speak without it.
Last week the great Thai language broadsheets front-paged with a stomach-wincing story that sternly counseled students not to be late for school. The warning was a highly visual one: graphic pictures of a young truant who had impaled his face on a school fence while trying to sneak onto the school grounds without first confessing his tardiness.
Today, the same great national dailies cautioned Thailand's elders not to pick fruit from trees that lie on the far side of someone's pointy divider. This 67-year-old man slipped badly; and his heavy unsteady and falling torso drove a shaft of sharp rusty steel right between his testicles and through his penis.
Earlier in the month THOCBDC republished an article from The Onion in which it was reported that scholars at the Yale Divinity School had determined that God was/is/always-will-be bipolar (a 'manic-depressive'). The little people ... who make up the bulk of our valued readers ... on occasion rise to the point to share their thoughts:
Miss C.P. Bloch of Winona, Minnesota (mid-USA) writes:
"I think that the God that we hear speaking through Mal. 2:1-4 is a God who has just thumped heavily onto the floor of a deep depression. There is no other explanation for His wrathful intolerance of honest theological debate. You can just imagine the furious wailing guttural exhalations of venomous hate that must surely have accompanied these words:
"And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, ... behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces."
In a lighter vein, elsewhere in Bangkok forensic scientists discovered that they had dug up the wrong corpse.
In America, Doonesbury cautions the President not to talk too much about the economy.
"Alf, this 'blog' is turning into less of a tell and more of a tale."
Tomorrow things will brighten up. I promise! Watcharee and I are going out to dinner with Alex and Nuch.
I promised much but I have little. At 6PM Watcharee and I took the skytrain over to Siam Square to meet Nuch and Alex for dinner at The Novotel. After five hours of talk and dining, I walked away with just a few badly composed pictures. But, we had a wonderful time.
1 Obviously the 'Assumption' ... which monopolized the lead for the first millennium ... had to start sharing the marquee in 1057; by 1769 it was getting very crowded up there on the top line; and, by the 1930's the Assumption was fighting for space at the tail end of the credits with the 'grips' and the 'stunts' and the 'location caterers'.
2 For students at The Assumption College in Bangkok it was a one-day holiday from school. One out of a hundred may have guessed why.
Terribly weakened by last night's excesses in celebrating the Assumption,1 my journal efforts for today have been forced dry ... making this a good opportunity to catch up with some housekeeping odds and ends that surfaced last week.
It was quite by accident that I discovered that those same meddlesome Nepalese Maoists who have been embarrassing the Chinese with their '70's dance steps and polyester slogans had recently poked rudely at my Diktel English Boarding School. You see, a snippet in last Saturday's International Herald Tribune reported the some Maoists had kidnapped an employee of the Gurka Welfare Scheme (a charity run by British army officers to help retired Nepalese Gurkas and their school-age children).
I quickly sent off a message to the former 'chair' at GWS and he confirmed not only that bad news ... but, in an unfortunate fillip, he added that the Diktel school had also been 'bothered' by the Maoists. Curious, I asked for details. Today I received another reply from him:
To answer, the Maoists went through a phase of forcing all 'private schools' to close. The Diktel English Boarding School was also threatened but in the event the school was able to continue as they were able to demonstrate that they took in a number of disadvantaged children and was not exploiting the community. In view of the current uncertainties, the school decided for the time being not to take in boarders, but to continue as a day school. Apart from that one incident, the school has not been affected and continues to run well.
The Maoist policy of forcing private schools to close did backfire as the 'state' schools became overcrowded and saturated. This caused some discontent amongst the people as all students were adversely affected, and the Maoists themselves were unable to fill the gap. The Maoists were therefore forced to amend their policy with a face saving measure of allowing private schools to form 'co-operatives' with local communities. The majority of good private schools have ignored this and continue to provide good education, but those schools that were formed purely for selfish profit making purposes will not be able to survive.
Tomorrow, dear reader, we'll see how Timothy Leary fell to the pitchmen from Celestis.2
1 Its full title is "The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Her Rightful Place at the Feet of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, etc."
2 The company that launches the ashes of 'loved ones' into orbit ... or, to the moon (for a little bit more money). Click 'back' to read about the company's current offerings.
Yesterday, almost as an afterthought, I again included NEWNES' annual nod toward Lord Hawkes: the cricketer who was born in 1860. I have done this every year in the hope that someone will tell me why this cricketer should share the curtain call with people like Duncan Phyfe. Within hours Eric Shackle from Australia replied:
Ref. your forgotten anniversary: August 16, 1860: Lord Hawke, cricketer, born.
Connected with Yorkshire cricket for over 50 years.28 years as Captain.
Will also be remembered as the fellow that Captained the amateur teams he took touring about the Empire. Certainly one of the great Gentlemen of the game and did a deal to bring the game to parts of the World which now regularly teach England how the game can be played.
And, reader D. Bull from the Southeast Methodist Corkscrew Collector's Club must have overheard me mention that Watcharee has started a keychain collection ... something to compete with my own corkscrew collection ... well that was just enough incentive for him to pack off a few items to her in Bangkok. Can you pick out at least one of them?
Work is proceeding ever so slowly on Bangkok's Skytrain extension. Readers who are familiar with my earlier obsession with the work on my former neighbor's roof (the French Embassy) can expect to be even more bored with this incremental laying of tracks across the Chao Phya River.
Watcharee is learning how to swim laps in our pool. What does this mean? Stay tuned ... this is not idle filler.
Because the following article about Timothy Leary was written a few years ago we don't know whether his ashes have yet undergone their second burn. Celestis, Inc. hasn't said. Perhaps a confidentiality agreement is in effect.
Timothy Leary is dead and well and blasting through outer space.
In a few years, a quarter-ounce bag of pure, 100 percent Timothy Leary -- no stems or seeds - will come flaming down through the heavens like a comet. Don't you feel better knowing that?
BY STEPHEN PROTHERO - Timothy Leary's cremains have boldly gone where no man has ever gone before. Early yesterday morning, a winged Pegasus XL solid-fuel rocket hitching a ride on the underbelly of a Lockheed L-1011 jumbo jet ignited at 39,000 feet above Spain's Gando Air Force Base on the Canary Islands and delivered a MINISAT research satellite owned by the Spanish government into orbit 300 miles above Earth.
On the way the Pegasus also sloughed off a canister owned by Houston-based Celestis Inc. containing "the individually encapsulated cremated remains" of 24 former human beings. Seven grams of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry were strapped in this 9-by-12-inch mausoleum. Another lipstick-sized aluminum capsule was reserved for a quarter ounce of Leary.
After learning he had terminal prostate cancer, the LSD guru had vowed to "give death a better name or die trying." Would he commit "directed de-animation" live on the Web? Or have his head cut off and frozen? No and no. He died in his sleep and was privately cremated -- a rather conventional coda from a man who had excoriated traditional modes for much of his life.
America's first modern cremation took place in a cigar box of a building in Washington, Pa., in 1876. The star of that day, who according to a prescient New York Times reporter was destined to be "principally famous as a corpse," was a would-be baron from Bavaria with more bluster than means. For roughly the next century, cremation was reserved for theosophists, socialists and other crackpots. But in the last two decades cremation has boomed, and not just among Timothy Leary types. According to Jack Springer, president of the Cremation Association of North America, the national cremation rate is now 21 percent. Along with the boom in cremation has come a bewildering array of choices. Independent Urn Sales of Holly Hill, Fla., offers a "Star of David" urn for Jews, "Calvary" for Christians (in a "Crucifix" version for sick souls and "Risen Christ" for the healthy-minded), "Pink Triangle" urns for gays and the unadorned and oddly titled "Cube Large" (for overweight cheapskates?). You can display an urn on your mantel, tuck it in a columbarium niche or squirrel it away alongside savings bonds in a safe deposit box. Or you can skip the urn altogether and scatter the ashes on the warning track at Shea Stadium or Candlestick Park -- assuming you don't get caught. "Cremation Keepsake Pendants" are available from any self-respecting death-care provider. In a college course I teach, called "Death and Immortality," students often fantasize about going out with a bang: incineration on an open pyre in Washington Square in Greenwich Village, or a post-cremation bash complete with acid jazz and hemp brownies sprinkled with ashes. Hiring the Neptune Society to scatter your ashes at sea just isn't hip anymore.
But shooting your remains into space -- now that's style, especially if, as Celestis president Chan Tysor promises, you are guaranteed after a few years to keel back toward Earth and burn up "like a shooting star." (Your space burial, the Celestis Web site promises, will not leave behind any unsightly "orbital debris." What could be hipper than a green reincineration?) The "Celestis Earthview Commemorative Spaceflight Service" does not come cheap. Rocketing in an environmentally friendly manner to the front lines of our "spacefaring civilization" will set you or your heirs back $4,800. A 10 percent discount is available for members of the Celestis Associates Program (cost: $35 a year; students: $25). If the launch, as my students say, "pulls a Challenger," Celestis will either refund your money or collect another seven grams of your loved one's ashes and try real hard to be more careful next time. Leary appears to have escaped such humiliation. His seven grams of pulverized bone, mixed with trace elements of C20H25N3O, are now safely in orbit, passing over your head and mine roughly every 90 minutes. In a few years, they will tilt back to earth, accelerating, burning, burning, burning out, surfing a hissing wave of smoke and light, vaporizing in the black, empty silence of space.
"I'll be a space pioneer," Leary told longtime friend Carol Rosin after viewing the Celestis video puff piece that sold him on space burial two days before he died. "I will be the light."
Like Do and his Heaven's Gate followers, Leary -- the man who wrote the ad copy for both the '60s ("turn on, tune in, and drop out") and the '90s ("to immortalize, digitize!") -- dreamed a quintessentially American dream: to light out for new territories, using the powers of spirit, mind and controlled substances to, in his words, "form higher units in neurological (and physical) Outer Space." But he knew better than to trust his scheduled ascension to a UFO and the clockwork of comets. Instead, he waited for death to come to him, then put his trust in the thrust of a Pegasus rocket. If the Heaven's Gaters were, as I've heard it said, "killed by kitsch," Leary was memorialized by it, presumably with the requisite ironic wink. Yes, the Celestis service is a crass, commercial venture, and Leary is now its pitch man. But give the guy credit. At the end of the millennium, Leary is out in front once again, reminding us this time of fallen Viking warriors launched into the sea on ships of fire, riding light into darkness, challenging everyone over 30 to live recklessly and then to die without shame.
April 22, 1997 - Stephen Prothero is a professor of American religion at Boston University. He is the author of the forthcoming "The American Way of Cremation," to be published by the University of California Press.
This girl's mother died when she was a child, and she regarded the Virgin Mary as her mother, and acted accordingly.
Watcharee and her cousins (and cousins' wives) spent the day together.
I spent the day doing nothing.
1 C-B Wire Service reports an anonymous Vatican source as saying that Pope John Paul will allow his body to be 'relicized' after his death. Presently on a trip to his spiritual birth-home, Krakow, Poland, it is expected that the Pope will soon announce that it is his final wish that his remains not be allowed to rest in just one place ... that his peripatetic but aging mortal 'husk' be hewed and distributed to the many venues where ... during his long papal tenure ... he carried the word of the Holy Mother Church.
Vatican medical experts have been consulted on what the Holy Father can expect from 21st century science. Is it now possible to preserve soft tissues and otherwise frail organs so that they too can be displayed to the faithful with the same ease and convenience that bones and teeth have enjoyed over the centuries? But, aside from these technical problems, many daunting geo-political questions would have to be answered long before any individual bits of this Pope were even prepped and wrapped. Foremost: would the actual heart of this great man remain at Saint Peter's, or would it be returned to the Pope's eastern European birthplace? What about the brain, if it still exists? And, does the finger that carried the Papal ring have more 'weight' than any of the other remaining digits? Is an elbow loftier than a knee? Vatican 'theogeoanatomists' are urgently grappling with these questions; for they know the clock is not on their side. Even the keepers of the Church coffers might have a say. Would Vatican economists insist that the marketplace be the final arbiter of which display cases best deserved the various relics of this eminent Pope?
Of course, all of this would be for naught if the Pope's plane should decide to bury itself into a Polish potato patch.
Yikes! Good Gravy! Holy Smokes! Golly Gee Whiz! Where are Morton and his magical dot and hatch machines? All this blood, gaping wounds and sloshed out brains ... is the darkroom on strike? As you can see, dear reader, this was one fucking bloodbath of a Bangkok weekend!1
Yep, over the past few days a couple of Bangkok marriages had really irrecoverable 'downs'. And it was their bad luck that our crime-beat photographer was tuned to the police radio.
"Details, Alf, details!"
OK, apparently the whole week had gone wrong for one 'little woman.' Whiney kids, sour words from her boss, a lost contact lens, a slight by a salesclerk, too much bleach in the wash ... and then her husband ... well, enough said about that. Anyway, it ended when she fired a 9mm slug into his forehead. Oh, one more thing: she then killed herself. The neighbors said they were a model couple.
The knifed dead-girl, on the other hand, had been having a good time all week ... too good a time in the eyes of her husband.
1 However, the perceptive reader will see that the female victim's nipples have been ever so slightly 'air brushed' ... suggesting that a 'scab' may have been brought in to cover up the really nasty bits.
Wescott is a bit long today ... but, it IS Saint Bernard's feast day:
The Doctor Mellifluous, as he is called - one of whose emblems is a beehive - seems indeed the princeliest of princes of religion: by birth, by incomparable talent, and by temporal power. When he was little more than a boy, one of his noble uncles and four of his brothers imitated his renunciation of the world, and so it went to the very end: women hid their men, men hid their friends, as if he had been a tragic courtisan.
At twenty-three he entered the new Cistercian abbey of Citeaux; a year later, founded his own abbey, Clairvaux, in a place called the Vale of Wormwood, or, if you prefer, Absinthe Valley; in due time establishing seventy other houses here and there; and was the uncrowned king of the supposedly civilized world, the oracle of Christendom. He personally organized the second crusade, boasting that in all Europe he had left only one husband for every seven wives. It was a calamitous adventure; and if he himself had not stayed at home prudently, he might not have been able to blame the mysterious ways of providence, the sins of the individual crusaders, and this and that. For what happened.
Like St. Francis, he despised the intellect and its virtuosi in and around the universities, humiliating and indeed mutilating scholasticism in the person of Pierre Abelard.
He himself was puzzled by his facility in working wonders, saying that he knew himself to be neither a holy man nor a charlatan. Thirty-six miracles took place on one day, while he was recruiting for his crusade.
Once, when he was in poor health, the Virgin let him suck from her breast.
"Yes, Alf, very well and good ... being Bernard's day and all that ... but do you think you could give us a refreshing turn with the Patpongettes? All this religious stuff is a bit heavy for midweek reading."
I'll ask Paul to see what he can find in the archives.
Meanwhile, THE LATIN READER! We've neglected her pages for too long. I think there are half a dozen stories here that might bring a little darkness into the light:
Watcharee and I are thinking of visiting Si Quey's Place again. It has been about a year since we have had an update. Anyone interested?
Incidentally, this week's NEWSWEEK (August 26, 2002)1 has an article entitled "LIVING IN THE BLOG-OSPHERE." The author dates the beginning of Weblogs as 1997; a full year after THOCBDC went on the air. A main entry page to the C-B site as it existed in 1996, complete with links to various 1996 entries, can still be found in the Internet Archives.
1 I am looking at the Asia edition of NEWSWEEK which I picked up just a few hours ago.
Next: More August