Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bringing the Bees Back for Breakfast

The phenomenon of the continued decimation of bee populations signals an additional burden for the already difficult times ahead. The pollination of edible plants and vegetation is largely dependent on these busy insects whose efforts impact on food supply, including those that are used for animal feeds that breed livestock for human consumption. It would not matter one bit if the population of politicians globally were the ones being decimated, there's more than enough of them to endanger global harmony. But the bees are the better breed whose quiet productive activities and sustained contributions are not bound by race, country, ideology nor political party.

Members of the European Parliament have raised the alarm over the critical actions needed to save the world's bee populations, joining a growing number of scientists, non-government institutions, and citizen's organizations who have echoed the concerns of bee keepers all over Europe. The threat to Europe is very alarming as two of their largest beekeeping countries (Italy at 1.09 million hives and France at 1.2 million hives) have registered a bee mortality rate of 40% to 50%. These are countries with industrial scale bee keeping industries that have been reduced to about half of their normal production output. The threat is so serious that a name has been given to it: Colony Collapse Disorder.

Decline in bee populations does not only affect the supply of honey, but also the much heralded European institution known as the Continental breakfast - which could become a bleakfast. Bees pollinate almond trees whose nuts provide the filling for almond croissants. The one Euro cup of coffee, as well as the orange juice would increase in price since bees pollinate the majority of coffee plants and orange trees. Bees also pollinate most types of plants used for animal feed, and if livestock producers resort to cereals, the price of milk would also escalate.

Scientists suspect a kind of mite that suck the blood of bees as the culprit behind the bee mortality rate. Also considered are changing weather conditions such as the amount of rainfall in the last two summers. The Members of the European Parliament are looking at the creation of special recovery zones of arable land full of nectar rich plants that could help the bee populations to recover. Although a bit late, the beekeeping industry is happy with the attention obtained from the European politicians.

If the European politicians would busy themselves with this threat and work as hard as the bees they intend to save, the Continental breakfast will surely survive. However, if they take their normal pace, Europeans will be eating dead bees for breakfast - and the politicians will be eaten alive by the people because of it.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Bewildered By A Blank Belly Button

The fixation people have about what is normal is a powerful framework that often generates bewilderment when confronted with a deviation from an accepted standard. The absence of something as minor as a belly button could trigger wild speculations in an attempt to find a suitable explanation that would placate their mindsets; or satisfy their mischievous and derisive nature.

This was the furor that greeted Czech Supermodel Karolina Kurkova when she climbed the catwalk to model the underwear line of Victoria's Secret. Her non-existent belly button puzzled the audience and sent the press into a frenzy of conjecture that prompted the model's agent to declare that she's not an alien. Questions like "How was she fed when she was in the womb without an umbilical cord"? "Was she a test tube baby fed intravenously"? " Did she have it erased because it was unsightly"? Or, "Is her belly button located somewhere else that remains unseen even when wearing only undergarments"? "Isn't that freakish"?

Scientific explanations have been put forward about the phenemenon of the missing belly button or navel. One speaks of a weakness in the abdominal wall after developing a small hernia, which requires removal; or as part of a tummy tuck procedure. Ms. Kurkova herself has not offered any explanation why her abdomen is smooth and without any trace of where an umbilical cord used to be. Some argue that a belly button coud be made surgically to complete the body structure, as if one would be an incomplete individual without it. Others say it has much lesser sex appeal, elevating the belly button to the stature of a sex organ when it is merely the severed skin from which chewed food passed through direct to the infant's stomach.

Other people's notions of what should and what must be present need not be dictated upon those who choose to be without these "natural" body elements. Besides, she's modeling outer wear and undergarments, and there's no such thing as a garment for the belly button, unless they begin to invent one. Kurkova is withinn her rights not to reveal any reason for its absence, even if she happened to swallow her navel at a point in her life when she was hungry and without means.

The missing navel has not diminished her career one bit, but has even enhanced it. It is not far fetched to expect other models to follow suit.
At the rate she's earning from her modeling career, around 2 million pounds a year, she could easily have a navel or two crafted if she wants to, or even fill her entire body with belly buttons for those who are interested in "pressing her right buttons".

In the lull between the much awaited end to the Bush Administration and the anticipation of the Barack Obama inauguration, the American press is trying to entertain itself with inanities that measure the depth of their mental abilities.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Prelude to the Pied Piper's Peak Performance

The resurgence of rats in the town of Hamelin, coming at a time when Germany's mighty economy slipped into recession, may be an ominous sign of unsavory events about to impact on the German nation. The rat infestation that plagued the town over 700 years before has reemerged from its legendary past, in an eerie development that seems to challenge the community's resolve to contest their existence. The rats have consolidated to do battle with the 21st century Pied Piper, and in the process, seek to alter the outcome of that classic deception and change the legend that has stood for more than seven centuries.

In the year 1284, based on the legend that sprang from Hamelin, this German town was overrun with rats that wreaked havoc on the its growth, development and regular activities of daily living; creating dysfunctional social relationships, conflict among citizens, and misery for the entire population. A pied Piper was hired to rid the town of its misery with a promise of compensation. The Pied Piper played music that entranced the rats and lured them in the river to drown. After his success, the townspeople reneged on their promise to pay, which compelled the Piper to teach them a lesson by luring all of the town's children in a cave and locking them inside with him, never to be seen again.

This year's rats are in an abandoned allotment site at the edge of town, but threatens to spread to neighboring housing estates. The rat population has exploded on the site and the town has sought outside assistance for its control and elimination. Response has been coming in, but this battle is a mere speck that the people of Hamelin, and Germany as a whole, need to fight. Germany's enviable economy had been infested with rats in investment banking clothing who feasted on the bounty and wealth of the country. As the economy suffered by the sheer volume of their insatiable greed and growing numbers, they infected adherents in government as well. And when the collapse was declared last Thursday, these rats even attempted to take a huge chunk of what was left for the winter of their avaricious lives.

A Pied Piper is indeed needed, not only for Hamelin but for Germany; to lure these dirty rats out into the open where they can be drowned - even from the spit of the entire German population. Next year, Hamelin plans to celebrate the 725th anniversary of the Pied Piper's conquest of the plague, together with a huge children's procession - even if the children were sacrificed by the Piper in the original story. Today, it is the citizens that are being sacrificed by allowing the rats to remain free and enjoy their spurious wealth. It would do well for the citizens and the government to celebrate the Pied Piper's anniversary by identifying these rats and locking them all in prison, never to be seen again. Or perhaps, to send them over to Hamelin, bound at the allotment site, to be feasted on by their ilk.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beautiful Butterfly by the Blogsite

A butterfly has metamorphosed on The Spitting Vessel courtesy of Jenaisle, site owner of Gewgaw Writings. The recognition is for being one of the "coolest" blogs known to the endorser of the award. Unknown to many perhaps is what a butterfly symbolizes.

A butterfly in folklore is a keeper of secrets. Once a secret is whispered to it, the butterfly carries the secret straight to the ears of the Great Spirit. Butterflies freed helps restore the balance of nature, which helps fulfill man's wishes. It is also a symbol of change, and the dancing pattern of its flight is a reminder for man not to take things too seriously. The most powerful symbol a butterfly represents is transformation, an excellent imagery for one contemplating change or is in the midst of change; where change need not be distressing nor painful.

Butterflies have also been used in many faiths and religions; as in a soul seeking reincarnation, or the soul of a loved one visiting family to send a message, or to provide warnings of impending danger. In its most profound form, a butterfly is a symbol of the transformation of the soul.

So to Jenaisle of Gewgaw Writings, the Spitting Vessel thanks you very much for the symbolism that this recognition represents.

Source: Vlinder, Butterfly Symbolisms.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Communion of Church and Citizens

Whoever brought up the idea that those people who were once under communist regimes were themselves godless have not been to Russia. In Komarovo, a small village located some 300 kilometers from Moscow, there is an acceptance of the fact that the Church is their savior - that it will deliver them from poverty and hunger - by keeping faith in the tradition of taking Church property and religious icons to sell to collectors; and using the structures to build their homes or sell it off as construction materials. It's durability tested by the number of decades or centuries it has survived.

Remote rural churches have been the favorite target of thieves, but this time their religious fervor seemed to have risen to great heights. A whole church, which was built in 1809 and owned by the Russian Orthodox Church, has disappeared. What was left of the 200 year old two-story building are the foundations and some wall sections. The Church of the Resurrection, as it was known, had miraculously ascended into Heaven. The structure was intact when last seen in July, but thieves must have dismantled it brick by brick after emptying its interior contents religiously. By October, the Church had vanished.

Investigations will not reveal what was done or who took part in it, perhaps because all of the villagers have benefitted from its disappearance. No one is claiming any miraculous act of God about the now invisible Church, and all villagers could be solemnly praying that attention is drawn away from them and their village to ease whatever guilt they might have. The incident could be another unsolved crime as far as authorities are concerned. They are not hopeful that the Church would Resurrect in the same place or in other locations anytime in the future; but could appear in bits and parts in areas where the market for these items are faithfully sold, miraculously presented, and spiritually priced. These have always been prized items that brought citizens closer to the Church, and which has proven the power of the motto "In God We Trust" - for their survival and well being.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Practice of Promoting a Pleasure Paradise

If promoting hedonism in its most basic form is an excellent idea for combating the credit crunch and global recession, people will enjoy the pursuit of pleasure even if they're penniless. The question of how man can live in pleasure if he is without means can be achieved by enjoying life in abject poverty - it's one of the few things money can't buy and free for all to experience. As insane as this may sound, this is the same logic being promoted by a resort in North Queensland, Australia. The nudist resort is heralding a month long "anything goes party" in March 2009, to combat the current financial difficulties.

The White Cockatoo in Mossman is not to be confused as a place for whites only, regardless of its name. Cockatoo is a parrot specie, not a crotch appendage. Resort owner Tony Fox has lifted the three year ban on partner swapping "because tough times call for stiff measures". This obviously intended pun is perhaps part of his promotional practice. Yet the nudist paradise has been deluged with inquiries from couples who would like to escape from the harsh realities they face with nothing but their bare essentials and the basest of intentions. It may well be a release of tension by indulging the ups and downs of carefree living and pursuing the ins and outs of pleasure seeking - performed with a stiff standing capital and pushing ambition - even if the only results would be fatigue, jealousies, broken unions, unwanted pregnancies, dreaded diseases, and an exposure of their shortcomings.

Cairns Mayor Val Schier was not opposed to the month long feast for as long as "it is between consenting adults". Assuming they come with their real wives or husbands, both consenting to break their vows to each other, this alone is anathema to continue being married. And what of the partner others bring along, are these safe alternatives? Even while they have the opportunity to scan the menu with their naked eyes (not the only thing undressed though), the old adage of the "proof of the pudding is in the eating" can be a dangerous threat to healthy living. The irony is that these people profess to seek pleasure yet enjoy no real lasting satisfaction out of it. The concept is pathetically flawed. And so are the hedonists.

Misplaced concerns were aired by Cairns Bishop James Foley (very close to Folly) about the code of moral behavior of people going to the feast. There is absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of moral code...they haven't got any.

Haaaarrrrrrwwwk...Twoooooooooph Ting!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Performance for a Presidency in Peril

Barack Obama's triumph was favored by history. The conditions that emerged at the precise point of his arrival and the sentiment of the youth long jaded by their disdain for politicians, joined by the more enlightened older citizens who risked the familiar standards for leaders, to invest in hope; have ushered him into the limelight of the global stage. His success or failure will determine whether or not a non-white will ever again be elected President of the United States. The times called for a historic moment, but the moment will come when it is time for his performance to be judged by history. And therein lies the peril.

Today, he is a symbol of change, but transforming the symbol into more concrete and meaningful terms for a deeply divided society after a bitterly fought contest remains vague. Its timetable indefinite. Other sectors of American society have, like the African Americans, also experienced discrimination - perhaps not as extensive as the slavery and persecution of the other half of his race - but substantially significant. All these sectors have high expectations that his call for unity of all classes and races, genders and faiths will translate into a rebirth of American society that will afford them the equality that has long eluded them.

Mr. Obama's promised tax cut to 95% of Americans, access to better health care for over 45 million citizens, a huge number of teachers provided with better salaries to improve the school system, are all money draining efforts that go on top of a budget deficit of around $500 billion and a national debt that could breach the $11 trillion mark. Foreign policy is a defining area for any President, and here he will be faced with two wars that cannot be won conventionally nor ended definitely. Both wars burden the economy, yet he must fulfill the Afghanistan promise of an end to the conflict that has already spread to its ambivalent Pakistan ally. He must also mind the nuclear ambitions of Iran and seek a withdrawal from Iraq without unduly enhancing Iranian influence in the region. A task that requires the strength of Hercules and the wisdom of Solomon.

There are, however, two elements that could tide him over - the goodwill that he generated worldwide and his masterful eloquence in communication. How far that goodwill will take him by way of getting the international community to support his initiatives may be dependent on trade-offs he may have to negotiate. Whether these trade-offs would be acceptable to a yet divided but watchful nation deserves serious consideration. He will then have to use his gift for communication - especially when events turn dark, promises are deferred, or doubts persist - to synthesize situations and extract its essence; and to outline the country's directions to overcome any obstacle in its path to a just and humane society. He will need all the graceful eloquence of his words to uplift the spirit of a nation broken by the unconscionable acts of the high and mighty.

For President Obama, failure is a gargantuan luxury, and there will always be those lurking behind dark intentions to see that success is kept at a distance, while scandal is a breath away. It would seem that an African American holding a powerful position would safely deliver all other ethnic groups on the road to equality. This is an illusion at worst and wishful thinking at best, for it will be a Presidency that will perform in constant peril. If not from the enemies of America, it will be from the enemies of hope and change.


Thursday, November 6, 2008


Jenaisle of Gewgaw Writings is collecting "Inspirational Stories from Bloggers All Over the World", which she will publish in a book of the same title. Bloggers interested in joining, or having their articles/posts included, may visit her site to submit their stories.

The book is scheduled for publication on August 2009. The site provides a generous incentive for articles/posts submitted and accepted. She also posts each of the accepted stories.

For the past week, Gewgaw Writings has posted the Spitting Vessel's story published last May 2008 for Mother's day. The post title is "Memories for my Mother".

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History's Hour of Hope

At approximately 11:14 GMT on the 4th 0f N0vember 2008, amidst throngs of supporters drawing their last ounces of strength, history of undeniable global proportions was made with the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Nations of the world eagerly awaited the outcome, together with people of all races and social standing, because deep down, this election will have an impact on their lives and their existence. It was an exhausting contest that witnessed Americans speak with their votes, that in this period of its being, hope triumphed over fear.

This hope must however be translated into positive endeavors if it is to work for America. The promises made and the needs that must be filled are not dependent on one man alone. Hope must be grounded on the reality that not all can be achieved in a single term, nor could all goals be possibly attained. Americans face tremendous challenges which need to be dealt with when the euphoria of celebration dissipates, or the unimaginable disappointment of defeat is overcome. They must come together, be vigilant, and participate in the redirection of their country, its policies, and its resources; to restore its prestige in the community of nations.

It is in the interest of the victors and those defeated to heal the wounds that emerged from the hate, intolerance and ideological differences that may have been generated by the arduous and bitter campaign; and those wounds re-opened by racial, religious and gender prejudices should be laid to rest eternally. Americans must seek ways to unite the nation, rather than divide it; exert efforts to provide social justice, rather than social inequities; create the means for all sectors, segments, races, and opinions to be heard and considered, rather than quashed and discarded; in order to reclaim its title as the bastion of democracy.

Republicans must consolidate to rebuild their party and reinvigorate its base with new visions that are relevant for the 21st century, and ideals that relate to progress for all Americans, rather than the protection and preservation of a status quo enjoyed by a few. The GOP must reconstruct to fiscalize since there is danger for democracy in the centralization of power in a single , dominant party.

It is up to Americans to muster their vaunted energies, natural resilience, national pride, and ability to close ranks - to harness their limited but enormous resources for a united purpose and meaningful set of objectives: their faith in themselves as a people, their dignity as a nation, and their decency as members of the human race. They must eliminate the fantasies that clouded their judgments and the myths that caused their recklessness. Americans have the capability to take their country to the heights of glory or the depths of despair. And whatever they do, whether they realize it or not; wherever they take their country, they will inevitably take the world with them.

The United States may or may not emerge as the most powerful nation on earth, nor the most prosperous, but it will continue to be a major player in the balance of power in the world, with the ability to influence how this balance is sustained for the benefit of peace and survival of the planet.

Americans have spoken withn the selection of a new leader, but the message of hope awaits fulfillment. The single, most immediate, and most powerful message sent by its citizens to the world with the election of Barack Hussein Obama is that indeed, in America, all men are created equal.

Whether they can remain equal, safe, and secure after their creation is the more profound message that needs to be expressed - in a future without uncertainty, in a world without inequality.


Gratitude for a Great and Generous Gift

There is no greater honor than being recognized and awarded by one whom the Spitting Vessel has the highest regard for as a human being, a mother, a genteel woman, and artist of immense talent and generosity. Kim Barker of Laketrees, has conducted one of the most meaningful competitions on the blogosphere; and, for the third time, has offered a portrait of the winner's choice of subject, which she will execute herself and pay for its transport to the winner's location. Beyond the monetary value of the gift that goes into thousands of dollars is the priceless meaning of this creation that will last several lifetimes. The competition for this overwhelming Christmas gift this year was won by the Spitting Vessel.

The gratitude that this site has for this valued gift cannot be expressed in words, since the meaning and purpose of this victory represents a symbol between parent and child, father and daughter, baby boomer and generation X; where bonds of deep affection and respect will be enriched by trust and faith. Trust in the choice made for a lifetime partner and in the manner in which that choice was nurtured by discernment, resulting from sound parental guidance; and faith in the efforts exerted to provide the proper upbringing for children within one's capacity and means, regardless of how imperfect the provider is, or the number of missteps and flaws that transpired in the process. And in this symbol, the Spitting Vessel is privileged to to say that Kim Barker has serendipitously contributed much to its fulfillment. Her kind nature and innate generosity has crossed paths with the need to seal these bonds, to blend perfectly with the unspoken message that required a wordless representation.

To Kim Barker and Laketrees, thank you very much. To Jan Dean who judged the entries, the Spitting Vessel realizes it was a difficult choice and anyone could have won. But this site thanks you for the criteria you made and for the decision you have arrived at. :-) --Durano, done!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Masterful Maltreatment by McCain

NOTE: This was received via e-mail today. It is a first person encounter with John McCain by Mary Kay Gamel, a literature and classics professor at UCSC. She is asking people to disseminate this letter to shed light on the character and attitudes of candidate John McCain.

My Holiday with John McCain

It was just before John McCain's last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island, in Fiji, with John McCain, Cindy and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).

It was not our intention, but our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself my first thought was "If he likes this so much, why hasn't he memorized any of these yet"?

I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his "readings" which became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but peoples buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately, this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-China women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn't meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high, and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.

McCain's appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David, the American economist, had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain, as McCain kept aggressively flirting with her and touching her. Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day and his response was shocking. "Oh that was Cindy's idea - I didn't have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can't imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona. No it wasn't my idea at all".

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day, he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, "If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson". Given McCain's personal experience with the horrors of war, I expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during World War ll - but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it were up to him, he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn't seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning he was leaving Turtle island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy she shouldn't be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He bacame very angry and abusive towards me, and said, "Don't you know who I am"? I looked him in the face and said, "Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met", and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch, I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain's bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I didn't act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel that it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story.

I can't imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitude toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.

Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature and Theater Arts
Cowell College, University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz California 95064
831-459-2381 (office); 831-429-8803 (home)