Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Traveling Today

But I am gaining time, so I hope to post something later.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

I Have a Great Idea

California should pass a law forbidding elected officials from consuming tobacco.

Then Governor Arnold would have to pee in a cup every week to prove that he in not toking on those huge cigars he enjoys so much. (And you know what Freud said about that).



Of course Gov Arnold has already been working out ways to get around existing anti smoking laws. I guess this is just another example of the elite having their own private laws.

As a matter of fact, is there any elected official who has to take a drug test before assuming office? How about any elected officials at any level of government who have to pee in the cup on a regular basis?

You have to pass a drug test to get a job at Jack-in-the-Box, but you can get elected governor or president without having to pee in the cup of truth. What's up with that?

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Get Your Ass to the Back of the Bus

Another Step Toward Corporate Slavery

There was an interesting article in today’s LA Times, it seems that some corporations have started a policy of refusing to hire smokers, and firing employees who smoke.

Personally, I am opposed to smoking tobacco. It does kill people, it is more addictive than heroin as far as I am concerned (and I have detoxed people from both), and the whole tobacco industry is reprehensible.

The problem is that tobacco is a legal drug for adults in the US. Not that anyone cares.

For years now smokers have been America’s nebbishes, the one group of people who it is safe for anyone to dump on, or prey on.

As I remember, the persecution started when various States realized that they had a bunch of addicts that they could tax to the nines. (I have always wondered what happens to all the tax money collected, there seems to be very little oversight) So a campaign that cynically turned smokers into the one group of Americans that everyone can safely dump on. Think about it for a second, if an ethnic minority were treated like smokers are treated, the ACLU would be yelling foul at the top of their lungs.

So now, various corporations are starting to discriminate against tobacco users (even though what they are doing is completely legal) to the extent of refusing to hire them even if they are smoking only when off work and in the privacy of their own home.

Imagine if some corporation were doing the same thing for drinking, the boss tells you that you may not have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with Saturday afternoon football. But we have already put smokers into the classification of “The Other” so no one really cares. But perhaps you should.

According to the information I can find, if corporations are successful in getting rid of smokers, the next group to go will be obese workers. That of course is about half of the US workforce.

Then what? Will you end up getting fired for reading the wrong type of books? Going to the wrong movies? Dressing the wrong way outside of work?

What corporations want (and have always wanted, it is the nature of the beast) is slaves. You don’t think so? Take a look at how they operate in third world countries.

So in a few years, if something is not done now, our lives are likely to be controlled not by the US Constitution, but by corporate policy, all because we have marginalized a group of citizens who have broken no law, who became addicted to a drug that is part of a major industry, who have been robbed by the government through excusive taxation and treated as pariahs by their fellow citizens.

All we have managed to do is give the big multinationals a wedge to drive between us and our freedom.

(where is all that tax money anyway? Something like $3.00 a pack in a lot of places)

If we are not willing to protect the people we dislike the most, then this is not a democracy. (And you are next fat boy).


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Success

Steve Barnes just posted some very interesting comments on the subject of sucess by Harlan Ellison® Who is one of the Sci Fi Greats. Check it out, it is good stuff.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Perks


I am not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow I over the years I have managed to become friends with several very good writers, the kind of writers that I actually like to read.

I remember quite vividly the very first writer I had ever met. It was my friend Steve Barnes. It was many years ago at a martial arts camp in the high desert that I had been invited to teach at.

I had read his first two solo novels, “Street Lethal” and “Kundalini Equation” and had really liked them. They were fresh, different, and made you think while being “house rocking” adventures.

Steve had come to the camp with his brother-in-law because of another teacher (no accounting for taste) and I was there with my Bro Tim, I was teaching “how to be sneaky 101” and I was also helping Tim with his class, “Small unit maneuvers for the terminally Californian”.

I am going to save exactly how Steve and I met for another time, but I will tell you that it was interesting.

We became fast friends, and I suspect that I have met most of the other writers I know through him.

There are a few perks to having writers for friends, the best of which is that from time to time you get a call, or an email asking it you would like to read a draft of a new book.

Every time I have been asked to read a draft it has been a delight, but some have that extra little something.

A week or so ago I got an email from Steve Perry asking if I would like to read the manuscript of his new book.

Now I would read anything Steve writes. He is one of those writers who I am pretty sure is somehow wired into just exactly what I like to read the most.

But this was a bit more special than that.

While Perry is known for a lot of different books, some of us hold that his “Matador” series is his very best stuff.

So when he told me that the novel he wanted me to read was a new story in this series. (I think I actually danced a jig around my office when I realized that there was going to be a new addition to the story).

Now I am not going to tell you anything about the story, other than it was really, REALLY, good, and that it fills in an important section of the Matador universe.

Trust me, if you have read any of Steve’s books you are going to want to read this one.

As a matter of fact you should really re-read the whole Matador series starting with “The Man Who Never Missed” just to refresh your memory.

You never read any of Perry’s works? Well now is the time to start.

If you are into martial arts, and you have any interest in them beyond the “hit them up-side the head” level then the Matador series is for you. If you like to think about the important questions then you will love these books. If you like “can’t put it down” adventure, well here ya go. If you like books that take a deep look into human relationships, then grab these and read them.

The Matador series should be in the library of every martial arts school, and did I mention that they are very good?

Have you gotten the idea that I want you to read these books? You will want to be caught up on everything that has happened in the series before the new one hits the stands.

Tell your friends, they will thank you for it.

And there will be a test on this material later.



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People have Asked

What the heck I am doing hanging out in the middle of all these snow drifts.

Well I am not at liberty to go into details, but it has a lot to do with this innocent looking barn.

The Barn

Things are often not what they seem.

{Insert Maniacal Laughter Here}

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Where is the Music?

While on my impromptu trip to Up-State New York I have been giving a lot of thought to why there has been such a poor effort to encourage the government to stop its war in Iraq and to back off from the other evils that it is perpetrating on America.

The anti war protests I have seen, and the couple that I attended, were thin blooded passionless affairs compared to the protests during the Viet Nam war.

(“Kids these days!” he muttered under his breath, “In my day we knew how to have a protest.”)

It really seems to me that the people who would be (and should be) taking the US government to task for killing off our young men and women in a pointless war of aggression that we are not likely to ever come close to winning are beaten down under a cloud of collective shame for not being “good Americans” according to the “New Right”.

The Robber Barons, Neo Nazis, and Religious Fanatics who have taken control of America seem to have broken the back of all constructive resistance to their plans. Everybody seems too afraid that Rush Limbaugh might speak harshly about them.

As far as I can tell, there is no effective opposition to the present regime of blood suckers because of two things. One, there are no leaders with the charisma to rally enough support to effectively oppose the economic and spiritual strip mining of America.

Two, and most importantly, where is the Music????

During the time that America made real headway in recovering human rights the movement was lead by musicians and poets. Their words and music were the glue that held us together in the face of the tear gas, night sticks and bullets.

Bob Dylan was our poet laureate, he was able to articulate the thoughts and feeling of a generation who realized that we had been conned from birth.

Joan Baez sang like a heart broken angel, bringing out emotions that we were never taught to understand by watching Ozzy and Harriet.

Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant” did more to help end the enslavement of American citizens through “Selective Service” (That would be press ganging the poor and middle class into the army to be cannon fodder) than all the deep political debates ever did. (“How?” you ask. He focused the nation’s attention on the problem in a way that only Bards and Story Tellers can).

The list goes on.

During the great uprising of American youth that encompassed the Free Speech Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti War Movement, our lives were constantly informed by the music that carried the heart and soul of our collective endeavor.

Today I see nothing like it.

The new “Right” had successfully cut the heart out of America. There is no “Left” in mainstream politics anymore as far as I can tell. It was murdered In Dallas with a bullet to the head and buried in Chicago at the ’68 Democratic Convention.

I have spent this week listening to Radio, looking for the music that would help effectively mobilize people to confront the Bush regime and their plans for the New Christian Empire ™, but I find nothing.

So the poet laureate of this generation is that obese parasite Rush Limbaugh. You get what you deserve I guess.

I do know that the one thing that Bush-Corp fears more than anything else is someone with the passion and charisma of Martin Luther King stepping up to oppose their efforts to turn America into a Slave State. They fear a poet like Dylan shining the light of truth on their plans with the torch of music.

If people want to save our nation from the so called “conservatives” that are gutting us from both inside and out, we are going to have to find our poets again, and that means that we have to find our passion, if we have any left.

Personally, I don’t want to see the flower of American youth ground up for the greed and religious mania of a few power hungry individuals yet again.

So where is the music?



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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Chris from over at small flightless bird asked some interesting questions about my environmental considerations post. They seemed important enough that I am dragging them up level and addressing them here.

Chris asks,


Mushtaq,
You often seem to imply that you're more focused on studying martial arts not for artistic, historical, or competitive purposes but for actual real-world self-defense.

That is, I suppose, quite accurate. The “natural theatre” of martial arts is found in extreme physical conflict with another person or group. Martial arts are after all literally “The Arts of War”.

My question is, have you ever found yourself in a situation where these skills have saved your life, or prevented injury?

Many times over the years, mostly in a professional capacity, a few times in a private capacity.

I have worked, and sometimes still work, in what are called “high risk professions”. I have done all manner of bodyguard work and I have picked up money when needed by working as a bouncer in all manner of establishments (from high class strip joints to seedy biker bars. I knew I was very desperate for work one time when I took a job at a bar called “The Bearded Clam”, three fights a night was considered a quiet evening).

The reason I'm a bit confused is that although you seem to be a thoughtful, peaceful person, you often advocate being ready to defend yourself, which seems to me to be based on a high level of mistrust of those around you.

Well, (he said, slipping into “teacher” mode) I wonder if you could come up with some other reasons that a person might have for being ready and willing to effectively defend themselves?

I ask this because the assumption that one must have a high level of distrust is erroneous.

Let me offer you a thought. The level of real freedom you have is in direct proportion to your ability to prevent yourself from being physically coerced. In more civilized parts of the world, the coercion is most often implied rather than overt, the local government tells people how to behave in a very polite way, but has men with guns to come and take you away if you do not follow the rules. This is not a big problem as long as there are to things in place. One, the government needs to be controlled by its citizens, two, the citizens have to be willing to allow enough room for a difference of opinion on matters that do not have life or death consequences. (For instance, drinking and driving have life and death consequences for the society; your choice of religion does not).

The problem is that every government on the planet would like to have all its citizens be dependent, and most people, in my experience, are too lazy to pay much attention to what their government is doing.

Outside of the “first world” this sort of thing is a bit more in your face. In Tanzania, assaults and robberies happen on a daily basis. You as an Mzungu (person of European decent, including the descendants of African slaves) will be a prime target. I would bet good money that you could not walk by yourself from one end of Arusha (which is really quite a nice town) to the other without getting robbed.

Most of the world outside of North America and Western Europe is in fact quite dangerous.

So trust people.

Trust your friends to watch your back.

Trust strangers to act in their own self interest.

Trust people to only do what they think they can get away with.


I'm speaking, of course, from the point of view of a young Canadian whose life has probably been much different from yours (not to mention shorter, so far). But I'm sure I would rather not live in a perpetual state of readiness and fear; and I wouldn't like to live in a society where everyone around me is just waiting for me to jump them.

I would not want to live in a state of perpetual readiness and fear either. That is not the only choice.

I try to live in a state of awareness of the real. One of the things I have learned about people (including myself) is that the hardest thing for any of us to do is see what is really there. If you can see what is really there, then you will be afraid when appropriate, relaxed when appropriate, and you will not be blinded by the content of your own habits.


I'm sort of skipping around some of your earlier posts (e.g. on gun control, etc) but I still feel that this is a sort of fundamental question I always want to ask people who learn, one way or the other, more effective methods of hurting or killing other people.

Being more effective at killing other people is military martial arts. I am more interested in civilian martial arts, which is much more about the ability to prevent violence being done to you.

Let me suggest that you do a self assessment.

Are you able to stop someone from dominating you without recourse to police protection?

Are you able to provide for your basic needs (food, shelter, water, etc.) without recourse to an externally controlled infrastructure?

How effectively can you spot dangerous situations and avoid them?

The degree to which you can answer each of these questions is the degree that you have real freedom.

Or so it seems to me.



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The blizzard

This is what "the blizzard of the century" looks like at midnight through a 50 mm lens. I opened the aperture as far as I could, used the fastest shutter speed I thought I could get away with and a bright flash so I would get snow flakes rather than blurs coming down.


storm
A lot of snow coming down


There is this kewl thing that happens when you photograph snow in natural indirect light. (At least I like it). The light is shifted towards the blue as it is reflect from and refracted through the snow.



trees_night
The forest at dusk


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Monday, January 24, 2005

Environmental Considerations

I spent a good deal of Sunday shooting photos after what people tell me was the worst blizzard of the last hundred years.

As environmental ass-whippings go, this was not so bad from the place I was sitting, though it sounds like it was no fun for plenty of other people. I have to admit, after several years without a real winter I have been enjoying myself all too much.

As I was plodding about in knee deep snow, in my heavy winter parka, pac boots, hat, and other bits of protection from the -20 F. temperatures (with wind chill), the thought went through my mind that it would be extraordinarily challenging to have to fight under such conditions.

So just out of curiosity I found a safe place for my camera and experimented a bit. I began going through my Jurus and lankahs (small kinetic chains of movement from which the martial art I practice derives techniques). It was very interesting.

Footwork changes radically when you have to move through knee deep powder snow, not knowing what may be hidden underneath, and with a lot of slipperiness.

Have you ever tried to quickly draw and open the pocket knife clipped to your pants pocket, under a thigh length parka while wearing heavy ski gloves? Moving through snow really tests your aerobic capacity as well.

My first FMA (Filipino martial arts) teacher was a great believer in environmental training. He never had a school as such. We trained all over the place. Sometimes we would train on grass, sand, heavy brush, the slope of a hill, the rocky bank of a creek.

He used to insist that a fight had the same chance of happening in a favorable environment as beating the House in Las Vegas. That was maybe just a bit of overstatement on his part, but it got the message across.

If you are training for sport competition this is not so important. The environment is pretty much set for you whether it is a ring, a mat or an octagon. But even so, environment training can give you an edge since it will tend to improve balance and such.

Where environmental training really becomes important though is in the more combat oriented arts.

If you are training for ”real world” altercations, then you really need to train in environments that can approximate a real life situation.

If you are training in a combat art you need to get out of your school as often as you can. Get out onto challenging ground, deep sand, knee deep in a creek, in the dark on slippery grass, use your imagination and see what happens. Then take your experience back to your school and work out ways to improve the areas that you have found could be improved.

When in a school I have always enjoyed taking a few wave bags and placing them at odd points on the mat, and maybe a couple of heavy bags laying about as well, then having my students spar. Way too many fights and assaults take place around all manner of interesting obstacles, so it makes sense to train like you are libel to have to fight.



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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Winter

I realized today that it has been a while since I have seen a winter.

Right now I am sitting in a small farm house at the foot of the Berkshires watching a heavy snowfall. It seems that I have gotten here just in time to catch the big blizzard of the year.

For the last three or four years I have managed to be either in the southern hemisphere or in the warmer parts of the northern when October rolled around. I had almost forgotten what winter feels like.

I suspect that I will be snowed in for a day or so (which is just fine)

I managed to get what I hope will be some very nice photos of the farm as it was getting covered with snow. I will post some as soon as I can.

More Later

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Friday, January 21, 2005

To my Thousands of loyal Fans

Or at least the two guys I pay to read this thing

I will be traveling extensively this next week, so posts here may be a little slow. I will have my trusty laptop with me though, so if I can find a connection I will try to get something interesting on here.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bad Guys

especially those who prey on women

The thread of comments on the subject of women's self defense has gotten real interesting so I am moving some of it up here to the main blog so that it might be more useful to the greatest number of people.

First I have to apologies, because this is not a pleasant subject to talk about, and I am going to speak as graphically as I need to in getting my message across.

Now as it happens, I have known a number of rapists, both casual and serial in my life, as well as child molesters, murders and other truly unpleasant people. I put myself through college and Grad school by working as a psychiatric technician is some of the more interesting State and county hospitals on the West Coast. During the ten years I worked in that field I spent all my time in the locked wards working with "mentally disordered offenders".

I made a special study of these guys, just as I would any other predator. All predators, including humans have habits, if you understand them you are better off in coping with them.

So Let's take a look at what is going on.
Thanks for your comments. Do you have any references for the claim that grappling has the lowest percentage of successful defense against sexual assault? I find that very hard to believe. Most men studying BJJ are amazed to find themselve getting choked out rapidly by women half their size.
Salaam Alaykum Omar,

Let me introduce you to Todd, the guy you have been talking with. Todd, with his wife Tiel run one of the best women's self defense programs in the Pacific North West, and has been doing so for several years.

I am sure that Todd is putting together some data for you, but he has always done his homework, so we can be pretty sure that if he says it he knows what he is talking about.

Personally, I think that BJJ (Brazilian Jujitsu) Is a good second line of training for self defense, but it may not be as good as you think for first line stuff. This is not because of any lack in the art, but because of its primary focus, which is as a combat sport. BJJ will over time build some very useful attributes, but the progression is too slow for primary self defense training, and because of the sport focus it may not address some things that a woman needs to get down quickly.

Only about half of what needs to be learned in a good woman's self defense course involves dealing with the actual attack, a school with a focus on ring sports will often not address the other half of what needs to be learned.
Just because it is your focus, it does not mean that you do not study other things as well. The point of studying BJJ is to become comfortable handling an attacker in the WORST possible situation. This makes you much more comfortable in fighting from your feet, because you are no longer scared of being wrapped up close with your attacker.
The worst possible situation is a bit different for a woman being attacked. There are some serial rapists that will think nothing of shanking their victim a couple of times and raping her while she is bleeding out. It goes down hill from there. The sport focus of BJJ just does not address these things as much as they need to be, nor does it address them as quickly as they need to be addressed. That is why I tend to say it should be the second line of training, I would say the same thing about any martial art.
Running and yelling do not need any training. We know how to do those already.
You have been misinformed about this. An untrained person will very often not run away very effectively at all. Some people will even freeze in the face of danger and not be able to run away or yell. Even when a person does run, often they can run in a direction that is unsafe (Like down a blind alley with a dead end).

I recommend "Street E&E" by Marc MacYoung for some useful pointers on the fine art of "running away fiercely".
The slow and staedy approach is only necessary with skilled people. A woman's attacker is almost certainly going to be untrained. And a lot of experience shows that untrained people get submitted very quickly by more experienced people.

Now this is an assumption that will get someone killed. The fact is that many rapists have some skills. Serial rapists have a lot of skills, and often a lot of experience. We are talking about some guy that has raped women before, who, when he is not raping someone is thinking about raping, or planning a rape, who is someone who has successfully raped ten, thirty, maybe even a hundred women. This is what he does, it is what his life is all about.

A lot of these guys are big on planning ahead, they will often study a martial art, mostly in the more misogynist schools. He may have a weapon and be willing to use it.

I knew one guy, he always wore a cup and protective goggles when he went after a woman.

One of the worst fights I ever had in an institution was from a serial rapist, he had been doing some sort of Chinese grappling art for a few years. I had to really hurt the guy, and that is bad form.

Assuming that an attacker is unskilled, unarmed, or unwilling to do you grave bodily harm just for the fun of it will get you killed.


For me, what I have seen work very well is for a woman to do a good serious self defense course that has padded attacker work and a lot of awareness training. After she has finished that then she can go into a martial art that will refine those skills. It is sort of like Going through boot camp to gain the basic skills then going into Airborne Ranger school to get more sophisticated skills that are built on top of the basics.

I have been talking about BJJ, but that is only because you brought that art up. I would recommend the same regardless of the art you name. Get the specifics down first, then go for sophistication.

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Eid Mubarak

Today (or tomorrow depending on who's calendar you use) is one of the two Eids, or holy days for Muslims.

This is the Eid of Sacrifice, which commemorates Abraham's willingness to surrender to God even to the point of sacrificing his son.

On this day it is the tradition to feed the poor and hungry.

So Eid Mubarak everyone (blessings of Eid)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Did You Ever Wonder

Why we get so upset when a natural disaster like the tsunami strikes,

But so many other thing even more horrible don't phase us at all?

Now don't get me wrong, I am all for doing whatever we can to help the victims of our latest natural disaster, for going all out to the people who's lives were crushed under that wall of water.

But at the same time, malaria kills as many people as the tsunami did every month, no one seems to notice.

I remember the first time I saw a malaria death in Africa, a thirteen year old girl, her father was a friend, he was a strong, powerful man. He had fought for his country when Edi Amin invaded it. He worked hard to provide for his family. His daughter's death crushed him just as if it were a tsunami.

There are all these people who were left homeless after the tsunami, and the US pledges $350 million to help them build new homes.

Today I met a woman who lives with her two children in an old Chevy station wagon. How did she get there? Her husband died, the insurance company refused to pay, she had no money for a lawyer , the bills piled up, soon she was on the street.

All around us are people suffering who we turn a blind eye to. People who are hungry, homeless, cold, in pain, we try not to see them. But when there is a disaster far away we are happy to help.

I never could get my mind around that one.

At times like this I think on The Letter of James, the Khalifa of Jesus (as) written to the various Churches of his time.


What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? 2:15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 2:16 and one of you tells them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled;" and yet you didn't give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. 2:18 Yes, a man will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. 2:20 But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? 2:21 Wasn't Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 2:22 You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness;"* and he was called the friend of God.

2:24 You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. 2:25 In like manner wasn't Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.


I try to remember that helping people is not just something we do once in a while, to make ourselves feel good. It is something we should have in mind as an ongoing task.

Or so it seems to me.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Fine Print

Once there was a man who desired eternal life beyond all else.

His name was Joe, and there came a day in his life when he realized that he was going to die.

Before, he had a sort of vague intellectual idea about his own death, but on that day it was driven home to him that there was going to be a day when he would not exist.

He was walking down the main street of his town. It was no much of a town, the streets were dirt, with ruts from the wheels of the cars, trucks, and wagons that had passed during the last rain, but it was a good town as towns went.

On this day, as Joe was walking, a truck came speeding around the corner just as one of the numerous stray dogs was crossing the street. The truck's fender struck the dog with a sound like a baseball bat being slammed into a watermelon.

The dog was thrown through the air and it landed right at Joe's feet. The dog looked up at Joe, took one bubbling breath, shuddered and died. Joe could see the light go out of the
Dog's eyes. He thought "That could have been me." then it struck him, "One day it WILL be me." and Joe's soul shuddered.

Joe had a wife and a son. His wife was a young woman with large dark eyes and black hair, she had a simple way about her.

Joe went to her and told her "I know I am going to die, I don't want to die."

She tried to comfort him, she held up their son and said, "All things die my husband, but look at your son, here is your immortality"

But that held no comfort for Joe.

After weeks of thinking over and over to himself "I am going to die, one day I will NOT BE! I can not stand the thought." Joe left his wife and son, he left the town there he had been born and had grown to manhood. He went in search of a way to escape death.

Joe went to the city, to the places where the learned men lived.

He spoke with a poet. The man showed Joe a book and said "here is my immortality, if I speak my truth clearly enough my words will endure." This gave Joe no comfort.

A doctor told him "one day we will defeat death, but not today, or tomorrow."

A Priest told him "Obey my words and God will bring you back from the dead" but Joe did not want to go to death in the first place, so he turned his back on the priest.

In his search, Joe began to hear of an old Shaman who lived high in the Mother Mountains. It was whispered by the locals in the towns that nuzzled up against the foothills of the mountains that the old Brujo had been alive in the time of their father's father's fathers, and that he knew many secrets, especially the secrets of life and death.

So Joe set out into the mountains to find this old man.

After many days of hard travel Joe came upon a camp, and sitting by the fire in front of a brush hut was an old man. Joe eased himself down by the fire, and reaching into his pack pulled out a can of tobacco and a can of coffee, which he sat in front of the old man.

The old man opened the can of tobacco, and taking a piece of corn husk from a pouch by his belt, rolled a cigarette. He lit it using a smoldering stick from the fire. After taking a few puffs, the old man passed the cigarette to Joe. He didn't want to take it, Joe had heard that "Smoking Kills", and he was afraid. But Joe realized that he was even more afraid if this old man, so he took the cigarette, and puffed it tentatively.

"Good, good" nodded the old man. "Tell me boy, why have you come here?"

So, starting hesitantly, Joe explained his feelings, his fears, how he had left his wife and child, his village and his work to find the answer to his dilemma. He looked at the old man and said "please help me, I don't want to die."

The old man sat and stared at Joe for a while. Then he said "So you have abandoned everyone and everything in the faint hope of finding immortality?" Yes Joe replied. "You have abandoned the woman who you took to wife, and your child in hopes of living forever?" "Yes" Joe said.

"You are willing to give up everything to escape death?" "Yes" Joe replied.

"Know this boy". "There are many paths to immortality, and the way we hunt it determines which path is the correct one in the end". The old man gazed into the fire for a time, then said to Joe, "Your hunt will demand much from you, but you are willing to leave everything, so this will not be a problem for you". The old man sat in silence again for a time and then abruptly said "For you there is only one way now, you must find El Lugar De Las Ranas Llorosas."

"The place where the frogs weep?" Joe asked.

"Yes" the old man replied. "Far to the south is a rain forest, and in the center of that is a swamp, and in the center of the swamp is what you seek".

"Now go." The old man said, "we will not see each other again".

So Joe traveled south, and in every place he stopped he asked after El Lugar De Las Ranas Llorosas. Sometimes he would get blank stares, other times people would turn their faces from him and cross themselves, now and again he would be driven from a village.

Finally he came to a great rain forest.

After several days travel through the forest he came to the swamp. And building a raft of reeds he began to pole to towards the center.

Joe came to an island in the center of the swamp. He could see something at the island's center, and slowly he approached it.

It was an idol sitting on a pedestal. It was the most hideous thing that Joe had ever seen. It looked like some unholy marriage of toad and octopus. When Joe looked at it too long his head swam, it was as if the tentacles of the thing did not exactly live in the spaces we know, but somehow twisted through them.

Joe moved closer to the thing, and saw that there was writing on the pedestal, at the feet of the idol. Joe read it.

Kiss Me and you will live forever.........

was carved in large crude script. "This is it" Joe thought. "Do I have the courage to do this thing?"

Joe steeled himself and pressed his lips against the twisted mouth of the statue.

It was like being struck by lightening, Joe's body twisted and writhed on the dank grass in front of the idol. Joe felt like his body were being cooked, rendered for tallow. He could feel something oozing from every pore. He realized through his agony that death was being cooked from him like so much rancid fat, and that his death was being absorbed into the ground in front of the idol. With that, Joe passed out from the pain.

Joe woke up some time later. Things were different, he could not see well. His vision was fine from the sides but he had trouble focusing directly forward.

He thought he had been transported to another place. All around him were giant fronds, and in front of him was a huge version of the idol. The one he had kissed had been about the size of a man. This one was several stories high.

Joe saw that there was writing carved into the pedestal of this one as well, smaller and near the ground, he could not quite make it out.

Joe tried to get up and walk over to see what it said, but his legs refused to work correctly.

After a time Joe crawled over to the enormous statue. He read the words carved into the stone,

...... You will be a frog, but you will live forever

And Joe wept.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Adivinanza De La Guitarra

En la redonda
encrucijada,
seis doncellas
bailan.
Tres de carne
y tres de plata.
Los sueños de ayer las buscan
pero las tiene abrazadas
un Polifemo de oro.
¡La guitarra!


Federico García Lorca

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

K-BEAR

The Voice of Radio Free Native America

The European side of me is a wanderer, it is never so happy as when I am seeing new places and meeting new people. Its bread and butter is being where I have never been before.

My Apache half on the other hand, is like a compass in my heart that constantly points to the mountains and deserts of my home. It knows that the only real colors are the ones found in a New Mexico sunset.

This as you can imagine, will sometimes create conflicts, because as you may have noticed, I do a lot of traveling.

When I am in the States it is not a big deal, I think it is because I know that if I had to, I could walk back home. And I do manage to get back to New Mexico once or twice a year if I am in the US.

But if I have an ocean between me and my homeland I get really "antsy" after a time. This was even true when I lived in Sweden, even though that is where my mother's people came from, though it was not as bad there as it has been in some places.

So, when I had been living in Tanzania just over two months I started getting homesick.

It is a strange feeling. I would look around and feel in my bones that this was not my "place", the land did not know me, and I did not know it. Now this is not to say that I did not like Africa, I love Africa, and I think that Africa likes me as well. But I will never have the same connection that Africans have to their land. In watching the Maasai, it is evident that they have the same sort of connection to their land that I do to mine, something of the blood and bone.

My grandfather used to tell me that our land itself would teach me everything I needed to know to become wise in the way that our old people were wise. My grandfather was right. Every part of our land holds a story, every rock and plant, every stream and mountain is a teacher. The stories that were connected to our land were told to me by my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, until they took root in my bones, and connected me to the land of my people.

As I grew older and traveled about a bit more I began to learn more of the stories that the land told. I have spent considerable time on the Navajo reservation, and my friends and family there introduced me to the stories of the land that define them as a people.

During my twenties I traveled extensively with my adopted father (most Native peoples have two families, their blood relations and the family they make by adoption. in some ways the family you adopt has more importance, because you make those relations by choice) to different reservations all over the US. He was a healer, and he would get calls from reservations all across the US and we would spend weeks traveling from place to place so that he could work on the people who needed him. And in every place I heard the stories from all the different tribes about this place or that place on their land, the stories that told them who they were and their place in the universe. After years of this it is as if what you are made of is the very stuff of your home land.

So when I get homesick it is a major illness.

One of the things that I have found that relieve the symptoms of homesickness is music. So I gave a list of Native artists to a friend who was a music pirate to see if he could put a CD of Native music together for me. It was no luck.

So I started looking around the internet for whatever I could find.

It was not much. The Microsoft Media player has a "native" station listed under "New Age" but it was pretty limited.

Then one day, quite by accident I ran across Live 365, and on a chance I looked for Native American.

I found K-BEAR
I recognized the reference to "Northern Exposure" one of the very few TV shows that justify the medium.

So I tuned in.

How can I describe it?

It was like the smell of creosote bush and sage after a summer storm. It was the taste of cowboy coffee at sunrise, boiled in an enameled pot over a juniper fire. It was fry bread and watermelon made by my grandmother and eaten under the cottenwoods in front of her house.

It was as if God had made a radio station just for me, a combination of contemporary Native Artists, Traditional tribal music, and the best Rock and Roll ever played.

The traditional music is important.

My adopted father could speak about six different Native languages and sing songs from more tribes than I can remember.

This was because he was sent to one of the Indian boarding schools, run by missionaries, that the US government supported.

This was a place where young natives would be educated and civilized so that they could take their rightful place in American society, as servants and menials to the Anglos.

When a child arrived at one of these schools, he would have his hair cut and be dressed in a uniform and be given a "Christian" name. He would also be forbidden to speak his language or do anything "Indian".

My father and his friends taught each other their languages in secret so that they would not lose them, and they would sneak off into the fields, tie a piece of inner tube to an old coffee can for a drum, and teach each other their traditional songs. This was no small undertaking, if someone was caught speaking an Indian language they would be beaten, locked in the attic and starved by the missionaries.

My father always said that the songs helped him keep his identity through the years that the missionaries tried to turn him into a second class white man.

And K-BEAR had some truly great traditional music.

I think I have listened to this station every day since I found it. Wherever I am it is like having a small piece of home with me, and that is a comfort.

So when you have a moment, tune in and check out Radio Free Native America, for my money it is the closest you will ever come to a perfect radio station.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Learning the Cane

One of my favorite Bloggers, Jennifer St. Clair, asked an interesting question in the comments section of my article on the Fimbo.

She said:

"So if I wanted to learn how to use a cane as a weapon, how would I go about doing that?

I am a collector of canes/walking sticks. If I go on a walk, I have one with me, but I don't really know how to use them as a self-defense device."
I wanted to comment on this question in a main article because it allows me to address a few different issues that I feel are important, so I hope Ms St. Clair will indulge me in making her question a bit more public. So here is the answer (or at least an answer)

Jennifer,

Thanks for a really good question, and there are several options available to you, I hope that you will not mind me exploring each one in some detail.

The best way to learn is to find someone in your area who can give you hands on instruction. Of course this is not always possible, but you may be able to find someone in your area who can give you direct instruction.

The first thing I would look for is a Filipino martial arts school. These would have words like Eskrima, Arnis and Kali in the name. Filipino arts are stick and blade oriented so you get to learn what you want from the beginning. Other martial arts may sometimes teach cane length stick work as part of their curriculum, but often not until late in the training and sometimes the skills are not so practical.

Of course there are other benefits to studying a martial art, which may be useful to you.

If you find someone in your area, give them a call and ask to observe a class. If they are hesitant to let you watch a class the find someone else. The whole "secret" martial art that you have to sign up for without a proper investigation are of dubious value. The person teaching may have good skills, but the emotional baggage that comes with a school like that is not worth it in my opinion.

When you get to the school, look at the ratio of women to men in the class. If there are no women at all this could indicate a couple of different problems and you should be very careful about joining such a school.

Pay attention to how the teacher and students interact. There should be a sense of mutual respect between them. If the respect is all one way (student to teacher) this is also an indicator of problems. Be cautious of someone who insists on titles, someone who introduces himself as "Guru-Goro-sifu-sensei-shehan-soke MASTER Smith" should be viewed with a skeptical eye.

Pay attention to the number of women in the class. It will almost always be less than the number of men, but if there are no women you might want to look elsewhere. Some martial arts teachers have trouble with women being in their class, and you don't want to be in one of those.

Make a chance if you can to speak with any of the women students and get their take on the school.

Above all else though use your feelings and intuition, if the place does not feel right to you listen to to yourself. On the other hand you may feel very comfortable and that is a good thing.

If there is no one to study with directly in your area then another alternative is to take a seminar being given somewhere not too far away from you. While this is not as good as ongoing instruction, you can still learn some interesting and useful things.

If that is a direction you would like to check out drop me an email and I will see who I can recommend to you.

Your next option is video instruction. There are some good tapes and DVD's out there that can help you to pick up the basics.

The very best one will not be available for about two months (made by myself and my students) :-) It will be an Indonesian/African approach to the use of the cane length stick with self defense in mind. There are other good video instruction as well, again drop me an email and I will recommend some to you.

Those are your basic choices in a nut shell.

Now I am going to exercise one of the few perks that being an old (if still charming and debonair) guy, I am going to presume to give you a bit of advice.

Before you pursue any other martial training, find and take a good women's self defense course.

I have read through the archives of your blog, and so I have seen the entries about the abusive relationship you suffered with your ex.

The thing is, that sort of abuse leaves scars that can't bee seen from the outside, wounds of the heart and spirit. These sort of wounds will get in the way of being to defend yourself from attack sometimes (often really).

A good woman's self defense course is one of the very best ways I know of to regain the "fighting spirit" that is so essential for being able to effectively defend yourself.

A person is only as free as they are able to keep from being physically intimidated, it is a weird primate holdover, but it is something that women have had to deal with for much too long. Knowing that you are able to stop someone from physically dominating you is very freeing. A good women's defense course will give you that. The physical skills to defend yourself are one part, the will to do so is two parts.

You can get a some information on the subject from this Women's Self Defense Site run by two friends of mine who are very good at this sort of thing. You can also contact The American Women's Self Defense Association Which is a first rate group.

If I have overstepped I trust that you will not hold it against me.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Someone figured it out

Rich Gulf Arabs Are Cheap!

The New York Times has published an account of an article in Al Qabas, a Kuwaiti newspaper suggesting that the rich gulf countries are being cheap about giving aid to their Muslim Brothers and Sisters in SE Asia.

The Times Article states:
The newspaper Al Qabas in Kuwait set off a debate spreading throughout the country and beyond on Monday by suggesting that Kuwait deserves its reputation for being cheap and oblivious to people who go there to work as servants, given the relatively low level of aid it has donated to the tsunami victims at a time when the state treasury is bursting with an oil bonanza.

Noting that the bulk of the nannies, drivers, menial laborers and other servants who keep most households running in the emirate come from Southeast Asia - imported workers easily outnumber the native population - some Kuwaitis agree that the country and its Persian Gulf neighbors need to be doing much more.
(Read More)

The history of the relations of the rich gulf states with the muslims of South East Asia has always been one of exploitation. As mentioned above, SE Asians provide virtually all the menial and service work for rich Arabs (at salaries that make the worst American sweat shops, big farms, and janitorial services look generous by comparison).

Neither the Times nor the Al Qabas articles mention the other thing that the Gulf Arabs are notorious for when it comes to the exploitation of SE Asian workers, which is using young Filipino, Indonesian and Malaysian women as sex toys.

(You can read a bit more about Saudi Arabia as a slave holding state here).

While the Saudis and Kuwaitis are the worst (known) offenders, all of the oil rich gulf states are guilty to one extent or another.

(I will save the observations about how the greed of the rich gulf Arabs is driving the conflict in the Sudan for later).

So while some of the hardest hit countries were predominately Muslim, and provide the people who do the work that Arabs think are beneath them, the rich gulf states contribute almost nothing to the relief efforts.

But the Gulf States are not always so cheap. Last year Saudi Arabia donated 150 million dollars to support the families of suicide bombers (who kill themselves along with men, women and children non-combatants in direct defiance of the instructions of the Quran and the Prophet (saws) as to the limits of ethical warfare for a believing Muslim) while only coming up with 30 million US so far to help hundreds of thousands of people who, according to the instructions of the Quran, the are morally obligated to help.

I am minded of a comment a friend (from the Sudan) made to me once, "The whole world would have embraced Islam by now, except for the example of the Arabs."

On the other hand, the Afghanis, who after decades of war, invasion, and civil strife, have almost nothing, have managed to be outstandingly generous in their efforts to help those who are in desperate need. While the Afghanis have little in the way of material goods, they are giving of themselves (literally) to provide aid. Which tells me that not even the Taliban could crush the true spirit of Islam, which seem to still be alive and well in Afghanistan.

You can read a bit about the Afghan efforts here
.

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

African Lessons, the Fimbo

"When told that you may not be armed, it is best to be armed"
Machiavelli

You see them everywhere in East Africa, a stick about a meter long, tapered, made from any number of local hardwoods.

fimbo

In Kiswahili they are called "Fimbo" which means a staff or club. It is a walking stick, a cattle prod, a back scratcher, a tool for self defense, a snake killer, it is an "everything stick". Rural Tanzanians grow up with them, The Maasai use them every day pretty much from the time they can walk.

One of the Nice things about the Fimbo is that it is a "non-lethal" weapon, unlike the panga, (machete) rungu (war club) or sime (short sword). So if one has to use it for protection there is a spectrum of force that can be applied.

This is something that some people do not understand about weapons. Take for example the pistol, it has only one propose, to kill whatever you shoot at. If someone uses a pistol in an attempt to wound, or even worse intimidate, it is very much like trying to use a pair of pliers to drive nails, but often with more dire consequence.

A knife can wound, but trying to use it to wound or intimidate will also get you in trouble. A knife is used in a combat situation to incapacitate, which usually means that the bad guy will die unless he gets quick medical attention. (Often that will not even help).

A "cane like" stick can however, incapacitate with a greater likelihood of the attacker surviving. This can be important in some places, and is good for peace of mind in others.

Even more importantly, given the efforts by governments all over the world to disarm their citizens, the cane is the only self defense tool that is available to law abiding people in many places.

Just recently, England has taken steps to make carrying a pocket knife a mandatory five year sentence, and I have heard that there is talk (I do hope that this is not true) of putting a ban on potato peelers because they are carried by gangs. I am told that in Hungary there is a waiting period before you can buy a baseball bat. What we see more and more around the world is that if you abide by the laws of whatever place you are in, you are often very limited in means of self defense. (A problem that criminals never seem to have for some reason, go figure)

But a cane, or walking stick, is universally recognized as an orthopedic device. You can even take one on an airplane. (Though a cane would not be my first choice for an in-flight weapon, but we will save that for another article). You can even get your doctor to write you a prescription for your cane and keep it in your wallet if you like.

While a walking stick is not as effective as a 12 gage pump loaded with #00 buck, it is quite useful in a pinch.

There are a number of martial arts that can be useful for learning walking stick self defense. French Savate has skills specifically for the cane, as does Korean Hapkido and Indian Lathi. The Filipino and Indonesian martial arts are easily adapted to a walking stick, and African stick fighting skills are second to none.


mashaka
Me and my friend Mashaka Uthman sparring Fimbo


In Tanzania, the most skilled people with a fimbo are the Maasai, but there are good stick fighters in every group I encountered.

As I mentioned before, one reason that the Maasai are so good with their fimbo is that they are using them constantly from as soon as they can lift one. The Maasai method of using the stick makes use of one and two handed grips and is very rhythmic and full body in its movement, you really need to see it to appreciate it.

A couple of notes on canes and walking sticks.

First, if you want to use a cane as a self defense tool you need to practice with it constantly. It needs to become a part of you, and that will not happen with a few lessons or working out with it once or twice a week. Secondly, you will not get really skilled with one unless you work against someone who is not cooperating, in other words you need to spar with your cane.

There are a few people who are making "Combat Canes", I recommend that you stay away from them, they look too much like a weapon, and you don't want that.

Personally, in the US or Europe I carry a plain "stockman's cane" made from hickory. A stockman's cane is a bit thicker through the shaft that your basic cane, and its hook is a bit wider, but it still looks like nothing more than a cane, and that is the important thing. When I am in Africa I have a fimbo that is a constant companion, and because they are so common there, no one thinks twice about it.

Another good choice is a stout umbrella, like a "golf umbrella" with a solid Fiberglas shaft, no one looks twice at them but they are a good self defense tool if you practice with them.

Why should you care? Because it is a fact that an armed citizen who is competent with his or her weapon is much less likely to become the victim of a violent crime.

Yes, I know that there are people who say that this is not true, but they do so from superstitious rather than scientific reasons. All one has to do is look at crime rates in States that allow concealed carry of a handgun and contrast them with states that do not in order to see that this is true. (Criminals are predators, and predators prefer to attack the weak, an armed citizen is not usually seen as weak). It is also true that all attempts by the State to disarm its citizens are only effective for the honest, law abiding ones. Criminals, by definition, tend to ignore such things.

So if you want to get around the often draconian weapons laws found around the world get yourself a good, stout, orthopedic device and learn to use it, because Machiavelli was right.


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