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Friday April 18th, 2008


(Boil in Peace)

Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.
Oscar Wilde


Dear Folks,

Boil in Peace refers to the practice of resomation, the latest enviro-friendly way to dispose of the dead that's replacing cremation and burial. More about that later on.

I'm not getting a lot of takers on the gauntlet I threw down last week of coming up with zen-like original quotes like the ones Oscar Wilde was known for. That's because it's not easy thinking them up. But came up with one that I have been leaning on a lot lately - especially when one is passed over for something by some putz on some Board who really shouldn't even be on the short list to polish your shoes:

"I'm unqualified in the ways visible to them, and overqualified in the ways invisible to them."Josephus the Utterer

I heard that Dylan received the Pulitzer Prize last month. Well, not the actual Pulitzer Prize, but a Special Citation. He's in good company. Doctor Seuss received the Special Citation in 1984. Joseph Pulitzer III got one a few years ago, too. (He's the grandson of Joseph Pulitzer I. Sort of keeping it in the family.) I won't go on about El Dylan in this letter, 'cause I know that it gets up a lot of people's noses - except to note that the article mentioned that Bob was overjoyed to receive the citation and he's putting it up on the shelf next to his Oscar. An Oscar. Certainly not for acting, I found out, but for best song in the movie 'Wonder Boys.' The song was 'Things Have Changed,' - not one of his better efforts either, in the opinion of Josephus the Utterer - but containing this unintentional bit of insightful Dylanism:

' I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can,
Some things are too hot to touch,
The human mind can only stand so much,
You can't win with a losing hand. '

I guess Zimmie only plays metaphorical poker these days, not REAL poker, where it is, in fact, very possible to win with a losing hand. It's called BLUFFING. (Wink wink nudge nudge say no more.)

Favourite Letters of the Week

Here is my favorite quote, Joe...
My good friend Sharon B. said this:
"Corporations are the last refuge of the sociopath." Jan K.

Dear Joe,
The only remotely clever original 'saying' I can come up with is politically incorrect and unemailable. However in an attempt at inspiration (not plagiarism!) which didn't spur any original thought I sifted through several lists of 'cliches' on the net and found these gems under 'animals':

* Never pet a burning dog.
* The sun don't shine on the same dog's behind every day.
* You can't swing a dead cat without hitting one.

and . . . .

* As helpful as a screen door on a submarine.

Happy Sunday! Robyn
Movie Cliche List

(Note: Robyn, a fun link - an itemized list of the cinematic license you see in films.

In movies:
* Dogs always know who's bad, and bark at them.
* Whenever someone looks through the binoculars, you see two joined circles instead of one.
* At least one of a pair of identical twins is born evil.
* Whenever anyone knocks out anyone else and takes their clothes, it's always a flawless fit.

Vinni Vidi Cimentum!
(They came, they saw, they concreted it!) Emilius F.

(Note: Emilius, Latin Rockus! Here are some others:

A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi - A precipice in front, wolves behind (between a rock and a hard place)
Ab asino lanam - Wool from an ass, blood from a stone impossible
Absum! - I'm outta here!
Acta est fabula, plaudite! - The play is over, applaud! (Said to have been emperor Augustus' last words)
Ad augusta per angusta - To high places by narrow roads
Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit - To boldly go where no man has gone before
Ad fontes - To the sources (motto of Renaissance Humanism)
Adversus solem ne loquitor - Don't speak against the sun (don't waste your time arguing the obvious)
Alma Mater - Nourishing mother.
Amantes sunt amentes - Lovers are lunatics
Amantium irae amoris integratio est - The quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love. (Terence)


Da Vinci's Mother was a Slave, Italian Study Claims

John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian

The seemingly far-fetched theory that Leonardo da Vinci was of Arab descent has been given new backing in a study, published this week, that suggests his mother was a slave. It is known that Da Vinci's parents were not married and that his father was a Florentine notary, Ser Piero. In a tax record dating from 1457, five years after the Italian polymath's birth, his mother is described as one Caterina, who by then was married to a man from the Tuscan town of Vinci. It was assumed she was a local woman. But, according to Francesco Cianchi, the author of the study, "There is no Caterina in Vinci or nearby villages who can be linked to Ser Piero. The only Caterina in Piero's life seems to be a slave girl who lived in the house of his wealthy friend, Vanni di Niccolo di Ser Vann."
In his will, the Florentine banker left Caterina to his wife. But on his death in 1451, his house went to his friend and executor, Ser Piero.
The fact that the banker's widow continued to live in the house, soon hiring a new servant, forms the basis for the theory that Ser Piero allowed her to stay in return for freeing Caterina. The slave woman disappears from the Florence records thereafter. On April 15 1452, Da Vinci was born in Vinci. A few months later, his mother married one Acchattabriga di Piero del Vaccha.
The study casts light on slavery in Renaissance Italy. At the research's launch, Alessandro Vezzosi, a Da Vinci scholar and founder of the Museo Ideale at Vinci, said: "A lot of well-to-do and prominent families bought women from eastern Europe and the Middle East. The young girls were then baptised. The most common names were Maria, Marta - and Caterina."
Last year, a study by an Italian academic of a fingerprint left by Da Vinci found that it included a configuration normally only found among Arabs.
(thanks to Stefan Abeysekera)



To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance. Oscar Wilde
Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong. Oscar Wilde
While we look to the dramatist to give romance to realism, we ask of the actor to give realism to romance. Oscar Wilde
In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience. Oscar Wilde
It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned. Oscar Wilde
Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one. Oscar Wilde
Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not. Oscar Wilde
No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly. Oscar Wilde
Nothing is so aggravating than calmness. Oscar Wilde
Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both. Oscar Wilde
Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities. Oscar Wilde
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. Oscar Wilde
Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow. Oscar Wilde
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go. Oscar Wilde
The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray. Oscar Wilde
The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic. Oscar Wilde
The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. Oscar Wilde
The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means. Oscar Wilde
The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates. Oscar Wilde



Beowulf (2007). Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Robin Wright Penn, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and British actor, Ray Winstone as the mighty Geat hero (now, modern Sweden). Winstone has always fascinated me. His father and mother ran a fruit and vegetable business when he was young, and he started boxing at the age of twelve at the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club, was three times London Schoolboy Champion and fought twice for England, UK. In ten years of boxing he won over 80 medals and trophies. He is a perfect Beowulf!

The film is shot in 'motion capture' which is the technique of recording the actions of human actors, and using that information to animate digital character models in 3D animation. This film is the most advanced use of this technique yet. Some of the characters look exactly like twisted versions of the actors who are portraying them. ( ie. Malkovich is a shorter version of himself) and some, like Winstone, as he says, 'despite being a little on the chubby side, I can appear as a blonde, blue eyed Viking with a six-pack." But it is amazing to watch how his acting skill drives this life-like character perfectly.

I liked this movie even though it is a bit Hollywood, like '300.' Unfortunately, Angelina Jolie, as Grendel's mum, uses the same woeful accent that she had in 'Alexander'. But she looks damn good with her hyper-super-real motion capture golden body! The scripting is where the genius lay: screenwriters, Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary, have, in my opinion, actually improved on the original myth, by filling in some of the waffling gaps. As they say themselves in the Special Features, this tale - one of the oldest stories in recorded history - was originally transcribed by religious monks and priests who would have naturally edited and cleaned up the truly horrific and sexual nature of ancient pagan oral tale. These guys have put all this good stuff back in! And then some. In the classic story, Beowulf has to kill three monsters: Grendel, Grendel's mother and a flying dragon. Gaiman and Avary tie in the killing of the dragon in an almost Freudian way, with the killing of Grendel. The entire story becomes an epic parable of how absolute power corrupts. I've seen the film twice and it has rekindled my interest in the Beowulf legend which I still remember from school. The violence - bodies torn limb from limb and heads chewed off by Grendel - are the most accurate depiction of what it actually FELT like reading the stories of Homer, of Ulysses, and of the Cyclops, when I was a child. The slightly animated nature of the filming technique reinforces this. It's like a kids story for the adult mind. Crispin Glover, as the giant, Grendel, is astounding. He literally screams his way through every scene and although he is wreaking havoc and mindless violence on 'men', you still empathise with him because of the amount of physical pain he is in while he is doing it. It's as though he is compelled to act this way despite a better nature. Glover also employs a brilliant olde english accent that will awaken the mystical and primal nature of the English language for you. Here's a translation of one of his emotive dialogues with his mother:
(Grendel returns to his lair)
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: Grendel. My son. My poor son.
GRENDEL: Mother. They hurt me, Mother.
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: Sleep now, my son.
GRENDEL: He murdered me, Mother.
GRENDEL'S MOTHER. Who murdered you, my son?
GRENDEL: He ripped off my arm.
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: He will pay, my darling. Who was the man?
GRENDEL: He was so strong. So strong.
GRENDEL'S MOTHER: Who was the man?
GRENDEL: His name . . . .
His name . . . . Beowulf.



With space for burials scarce and cremations bad for the environment, UK ministers are considering radical solutions for disposing of the dead

By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor
Sunday, 6 April 2008

Traditional methods of laying the dead to rest can no longer cope with the disposal of the 500,000 people who die in England and Wales each year.
The Government is considering radical measures as burial grounds fill up and crematoria are increasingly under scrutiny because the fumes produced by burning bodies contribute to environmental pollution.
Led by Harriet Harman, ministers have launched a concerted effort to find a solution. With options shrinking, the Government has turned its attention to the possibility of "boiling" bodies down to a handful of dust.
While it is hardly what is traditionally described as "a good send-off", "resomation" can at least claim to be kinder to the planet than some traditional ways of disposing of the dead. The process, developed in the United States, speeds up decomposition by immersing bodies in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide and heating to 150C (302F). More than 1,100 people in the US have already opted for resomation.
British pioneers of the practice claim it is "an environmentally responsible, flameless, water-based 'biocremation' process which sympathetically returns the body to its constituent elements".
The body enters the "resomator" ­ named after the Greek for "rebirth of the human body" ­ in a silk coffin and leaves as white bone ash, which is then returned to relatives.
Water Resomation Ltd, based in Glasgow, has talked to up to 15 local authorities that are struggling to find other ways of handling their dead. But because resomation is not accredited as a legal option for corpse disposal in the UK, the firm has struggled to convince the Government to let it begin its work in earnest.
Until now. "We are... aware of the growing interest in resomation as an alternative method of disposal," said Bridget Prentice, a justice minister, in response to an inquiry about the new technology in the House of Commons last week. "In view of this interest we are giving consideration to the representations that have already been made to us and are exploring how best to engage more widely on this issue."
The Independent on Sunday understands that the Government is in advanced legal discussions over how resomation could be licensed.
"I am encouraged that the Government is moving in our direction," said Sandy Sullivan, Water Resomation's managing director. "The Government has spoken to the [funeral] industry and knows that they are very supportive."
He added: "Cremation takes up to two hours to dispose of one body. We think we can do it in two hours, but we are telling people we can do it in three hours. Anything better than that will be a bonus ­ it would amount to three for the price of two."
The scheme could provide much-needed help for a growing problem. Local councils are advised that, at two burials per grave, an acre of land will accommodate only 2,000 corpses over a 70-year period, meaning that the biggest cities are quickly running out of cemetery space. In Greater London, half the graveyards are full and remaining capacity is disappearing at a rate of 10,000 interments per year.
A report from the Commons environment committee seven years ago railed at the "sheer magnitude of the problems facing our cemeteries" ­ and said the Government's handling of the crisis was "inexcusable".


Lift and Deepen: As justice minister last year, Harriet Harman allowed the deepening of 100-year-old graves to make room for up to three more coffins.

Burial Standing Up: The Ministry of Justice's investigation of the burial crisis also saw the potential for corpses to be interred vertically to maximise plot space.

Aeration: A number of cemeteries are planning to drive poles into older graves to allow more air in and speed decomposition. Plots could then be reused more quickly.

Promession: Local authorities are investigating a "freeze-drying" procedure, where bodies are dipped in liquid nitrogen and vibrated for 60 seconds until they shatter into powder.
(thanks to "Dai" Woosnam)

(Note: You can also opt for the Hallstat Burial:

Burials in Hallstatt, Austria

The Austrian village of Hallstatt is located between a mountain and lake, so therefore has very limited burial space. To solve this problem they would allow for the remains of their dead to lie in the cemetery for 12 years only. When the time was up the bones would be exhumed and moved to a charnel, but the skull would be kept. It would be tastefully decorated with the name of the deceased, a cross and plants. It would then be displayed in a chapel. Although cremation has now been allowed in the village this custom still takes place.



Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 2-pound red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 12 cups)
6 Tbsp sugar
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add cabbage and sauté until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Add sugar, toss to coat evenly. Add vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover, simmer until cabbage is tender, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 6-8.


Jellied Moose Nose

1 Upper jawbone of a moose
1 Onion; sliced
1 Garlic clove
1 tb Mixed pickling spice
1 ts Salt
1/2 ts Pepper
1/4 c Vinegar

Cut the upper jaw bone of the moose just below the eyes.
Place in a large kettle of scalding water and boil for 45 minutes.
Remove and chill in cold water.
Pull out all the hairs - these will have been loosened by the boiling and should come out easily (like plucking a duck).
Wash thoroughly until no hairs remain.
Place the nose in a kettle and cover with fresh water.
Add onion, garlic, spices and vinegar
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the meat is tender. Let cool overnight in the liquid.
When cool, take the meat out of the broth, and remove and discard the bones and the cartilage. You will have two kinds of meat, white meat from the bulb of the nose, and thin strips of dark meat from along the bones and jowls.
Slice the meat thinly and alternate layers of white and dark meat in a loaf pan.
Reheat the broth to boiling, then pour the broth over the meat in the loaf pan.
Let cool until jelly has set. Slice and serve cold.

("Northern Cookbook," from the Ministry of Indian Affairs, Ottawa, Canada, edited by Eleanor A. Ellis. Collected by Bert Christensen, Toronto, Ontario.)
(thanks to Ramon Sender)



My Clothes Lie Folded for the Journey

Dreamed some rain so I could sleep.

Dreamed the wind left-handed
so I could part its mane and enter
the dance that carries the living, the dead, and the unborn
in one momentum through the trillion gate.

Dreamed a man and woman
in different attitudes of meeting and parting

so I could tell the time,
the periods of the sun,
and which face my heart showed,
and which is displayed to a hidden fold.

Dreamed the world an open book of traces
anyone could read who knew the language of traces.

Dreamed the world is a book. And any page
you pause at finds you
where you breathe now,

and you can read the open
secret of who you are. As you read,

and other pages go on turning, falling
through the page before you, the sound of them the waves
of the waters you walk beside
in your other dreams of the world
as story, world as song, world
you dreamed you were not dreaming.

Dreamed my father reading out loud to me,
my mother sewing beside me, singing
a counting song,

so I wouldn't be afraid to turn
from known lights toward the ancestor of light.

~ Li-Young Lee ~
(Behind My Eyes)





Revival Meeting - Aussie-style

Bazza listened to the spruiker at the revival meeting and when the preacher asked those with needs to come forward for prayer, Bazza got in line.
When it was his turn, the preacher asked, "What do you want me to pray about?"
Bazza said, "Pray for my hearing, preacher."
The preacher put one hand over Bazza's ear and his other hand on top of Bazza's head and prayed a while. Then he removed his hands and asked, " Now how is your hearing?"
Bazza answered, "I don't know. It's next Wednesday at Broadmeadows court!" (boom! boom! Order in the court!)
(thanks to Jim Testa)