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Sunday surprise — mourning, a global view

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — starts with an anthro DoubleQuote inspired by this morning’s readings & a Steve Martin tweet — though in sensitive times it might be best not to chuckle, let alone guffaw, at strangers’ strange ways ]
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One: The tearless eye of a NASA camera on the occasion of the Challenger blow-up:

One of our reporters, who happened to be at a distant nasa base at the time, tells us that afterward a television monitor for nasa’s own internal satellite service kept on its screen a view from a camera on the beach at Cape Canaveral which had been following the spacecraft’s ascent. Now that camera simply stared searchingly out over the blue-gray sea to where it met the blue-gray sky, like a sailor’s widow gazing endlessly at the horizon. Twenty-eight years into the space age, the sea is as much a symbol of eternity as the sky. Both have swallowed up the Challenger and its crew, leaving behind a double emptiness of sea and space.

Two: The professional Ghanaian substitute for tearless eyes:

Here’s an account in the news:

Ami Dokli is the leader of one of the several groups of professional mourners in Ghana. In a recent interview with BBC Africa, she said that some people cannot cry at their relatives’ funerals, so they rely on her and her team to do the wailing. Dokli and the other women in her team are all widows who, after their husbands died, decided to come together to help others give their loved-ones a proper send-off to the afterlife. But crying for strangers is not the easiest thing in the world, so professional mourners charge a fee for their services, the size of which is in direct relation to the size of the funeral. If it’s a big funeral, their tears cost more.

And here’s an American FB version of the ad Steve Martin’s tweet captured:

Do you want to boost your funeral? Hire me….the professional mourner to come and cry at the funeral. Below are the “Summer Special” prices:
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1. Normal crying $50,
2. Bahamian hollering $100,
3. Crying and rolling on the ground $150,
4. Crying and threatening to jump into the grave $200,
5. Crying and actually jumping in the grave $1000

That’s my DoubleQuote for the day.

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A clutch of videos:

Ghanaian Professional Wailing mourners:

Promotional — funerala with a white lady mourner, extra:

Ghanaian troupe of Dancing Pallbarers:

Chinese professional mourning performer:

N’Orleans Second Line:

On Mapping the Varieties of Risk

Monday, August 6th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a theoretical question or suggestion, with serious or curious personal implications ]
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This will get personal, but I’m aiming for a question or suggestion regarding the mapping of risks, in terms both of human life expectancy and of any and all other forms of risk assessment.

moments to flatline — but enough of that

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Well, well, I guess some predictive nethods may be better than others. Prophecy has the divine seal of approval, so there’s really no contest except When Prophecy Fails, as Festinger had the audacity to suggest.

Fallback methods, in that event, include prediction, medical prognosis or actuarial life expectancy, mortality or maybe just morbidity, fortune-telling of various sorts — cookie, cookies, tellers, aura readings, tarot..

And for myself, personally, there are various levels of risk that if mapped together would provide a graph with several nodes — to name the obvious, geopolitical risk, life expectancy, expectancy without dialysis, and bleed out.

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Let’s takee a stab.

By geopolitical risk I mean roughly what the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists implies — not the time in minutes to Doomsday, but the risk that we’ll be fried in the next year or eight, three, fifteen.. forty-eight.

The year just past proved perilous and chaotic, a year in which many of the risks foreshadowed in our last Clock statement came into full relief. In 2017, we saw reckless language in the nuclear realm heat up already dangerous situations and re-learned that minimizing evidence-based assessments regarding climate and other global challenges does not lead to better public policies.

Eight years or forty-eight?

Let’s hope Doomsday’s a long time coming, or indefinitely postponed.

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Life expectancy:

actuarial life table simplified, simplified

Zeroing in, there’s my life expectancy / prognosis. A couple of years ago, a physician friend gave me (informally) fifty-fifty odds of living the year out, and revised his guesstimate upwards as the year inproved my condition. Okay, five years would get me to eighty, which considering my state of health (morbidity) may be a bit optimistic (mortality). I’ve heard of people on dialysis for sixteen years, and then there are those who get transplants..

But if for some reason, my access to dialysis was cut off, I’m told I’d have eight to maybe twelve days — and Russians toppling the grid, or the President and Congress pulling appropriate insurance might switch me from optimist to Soli Deo Gloria

— in double quick time.

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And then there’s arterial bleed out, against which precautions are believe me taken. A minute? four? The equivalent, perhaps, of stepping on a jumping jack in Afghanistan? Kiss your Self goodbye.

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So a number, a length of time, can be assessed for any one of these, and when people who study in the assessment of risk can give that number, backing it up with whatever persuasions they find appropriate. A number. 50-50. Three years. By my calculation, the Book of Revelation. By their calculation, the Doomsday Clock of the Atomic Scientists. What, as the younglings say, ev. But a single number, or more expansively, range.

But here’s my question: does anyone have a graphical method for mapping all the variants of risk, say the ones I listed for my personal case?

It feels a bit like a ratcheted system – failing death by nuclear annihilation or Yosemite blowing, there’s my prognosis, hopefully a matter of years. That can jum suddenly to days in the grid goes don (think Puerto Rico) — and leap toi a handful of minutes if, Black Swan forbid, a procedure fails and I’m unexpectedly bleeding out.

So does anyonbe make ratcheted graps of how one risk slips to another?
soli
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>And my suggestion, if nobody has such a mapping scheme that I could give a look-see to, is that we should think about how to make such a mapping systen=m available.

Thank you for reading, considering, responding to question or suggestion.

Hunger, in the closing lines of a poem

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — of the space race and children unborn, hungry ]
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Here are the closing lines of the poem, The Earth is a Satellite of the Moon, by Leonel Rugama:

The children of the people of Acahaulinca, because of hunger,
are not born
they hunger to be born, only to die of hunger.
Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the moon.

I find these lines quite striking.

Rugama’s moon is a bleak moon, but that’s a function of Rugama’s comparison of the cost of moon shots with the fate of generations hungry in Acahaulinca, wherever that is. I can point you to the moon, though — with the mandatory zen caution.

Ouroboros, btw.

Sunday surprise, my ashes when the time comes

Monday, August 14th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the poem as guided tour ]
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So, my son Emlyn asked me where I would like my ashes scattered when I’m gone, offering to do me that service, and the ensuing discussion made it clear I had an opportunity not only to send him to some places I’ve loved where he’d be likely to find adventure, but also to provide him with reading (or listening) along the way — again, close to my mind and heart and potentially revelatory for his.

^^

I was tossing this around in my mind a day or two ago, and this poem announced itself:

Paradise or Pasadena, since you asked

I should like my ashes scattered in the upper atmosphere,
in Bach to be precise,
in deep feeling, in the St Anne Prelude and Fugue,
in “not of this world” in other words,
believing that if met by JSB
at the General Resurrection, I was most choicely planted.

Bach, seriously, is the mountain range I have assiduously
climbed since early youth,
and the St Anne not the most obvious,
but among the most glorious works therein,
though I am also vastly taken by Contrapunctus IX
and the Dorian Toccata was my first love.

More practically, fold me between pages of Yeats or Rilke,
and leave me on a bench in the Huntington Gardens.

That’s by no means my final response to Emlyn’s question, I look forward to many more hours of pondering and reminiscing. But it’s a thought..

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Here, for your delight and enrichment, are the musical offerings the poem mentions:

The St Anne Prelude and Fugue, played here by Peter Hurford:

Contrapunctus IX from The Art of Fugue, played by Glenn Gould on piano, his usual instrument:

and, in a rare instance for Gould, on organ:

— and the Dorian Toccata and Fugue, my first Bach love, which I bought, treasured, and binge-listened to back in the late 50s (?) on a 45 rpm disc:

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Noteworthy, the second of two images of Ton Koopman accompanying that last recording — which shows the fierce nature of Koopman when he was young — fading in right at the end of the Toccata:

Ton Koopman

I would love to have known him back when..

**

And place — the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, which include a garden of flowers named in Shakespeare’s works, a Japanese garde, rose garden, and — my absolute favorite –the Desert Garden, containing 5,000 varieties of cactus and other xerophytes across 10 acres..

I suspect that losing oneself in those 10 acres is the closest thing to visiting an alien planet to be found on this one…

Once you’re in the garden and have escaped the lure of the cacti, the cool of the Huntington Library is nearby — with some stunning William Blake illuminations perhaps, and both a First Folio Shakespeare and the remarkable “bad” First Quarto of Hamlet which preceded it.

How has the mighty soliloquy been truncated:

To Die, to sleepe, is that all?

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Cacti, roses, Folio, scholars, tea rooms — heaven, in its earthly approximation…

My heart goes out .. on both sides of the aisle

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Senators Hirono, McCain — and death shall have no dominion ]
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You have probably seen Sen. John McCain‘s speech, so I’ll begin with Sen. Mazie Hirono. She too, like McCain, has a severe cancer diagnosis, she too flew in to vote, she too made an impassoned speech on thr Senate floor. Here’s a clip from her speech:

Here, from the other wise of the aisle, with similar dignity and depth, is McCain:

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And death shall have no dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas


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