Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I confess that I am fascinated, perhaps for reasons I'm not entirely proud of, by the case of little Lakshmi Tatma of India. For those who didn't follow the story, Lakshmi was born conjoined to her identical twin, who didn't develop a head; as a result, Lakshmi appeared to have a second torso attached to her own, with four additional limbs.

If you're going to be born with multiple appendages, make sure you're born in a Hindu country. Some people in Lakshmi's region assumed she was an incarnation of the goddess of wealth (for whom she was named). However, her parents obtained surgery for her when A) it became clear that she would have serious health problems down the road, and B) a circus offered to buy her. The 40-hour operation has apparently been a success, but in keeping with the divine parallels of Lakshmi's story, it took place on Diwali, a Hindu festival that pays respect to the goddess Lakshmi.

Part of me wants to gape at the freak in the photos, but part of me is fascinated by the way human beings come together.
In any case, I'm glad she's doing well, even if she's no longer a divine incarnation.

And the final parallel: The day Lakshmi was shown to the public following her recuperation from her surgery, the U.S. Senate passed a measure honoring Dewali. Praise be to Rama!

Friday, November 16, 2007


The millions of visitors to my blog will notice that the Tone-man's brain makes some oddball connections from time to time; the latest association of two not-at-all-related things came this week, during frequent readings of Green Eggs and Ham to the little guy. For those who don't know the story, it concerns a furry, top-hat wearing repressed individual tormented by desires that he can't admit to himself. His appetites take the form of a mischievous sprite, called Sam-I-am, who hounds our protagonist until he indulges in--and enjoys--the things he has forbidden himself from having for so long.

Funny that I should be reading this book just when my mind had been comparing Greek myths to Calvinism. The thing that amazes me about the tales of the Olympian gods is how excessive and unrestrained Zeus & co. are, even when they know that breaking down and giving into passion or rage will cause grief in the long run. For all of their amazing abilities, they lack any kind of control over themselves, and even an eternity's worth of counseling wouldn't make them change. The contrast with the modern version of Abraham's God is striking, especially given the Protestant drive to stifle outbursts and tantrums of any kind.

The ancient Greeks seemed to acknowledge the limits of human nature even among divinities, and accept an idea that strikes me as wiser and wiser all the time; don't get between the heart and what it wants. But bowing to this philosophy means the gods and everyone else gets a blank check from the bank of behavior. The Puritans' stern disapproval and urging to make themselves better has a certain comfort to it--and it also seems a tad unrealistic.

Yet let us return to Dr. Seuss, whose moral is this--it's perfectly okay to consume green meat and poultry products.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This past month has been a big one for developmental milestones in the Master Blaster household. Remember how I said that the kid had two modes, staring into space and fussing because he wasn't comfortable? He shot past two modes and is now enthusiastically embracing human complexity, jumping from amused, expectant, restless, dissatisfied, ecstatic, sluggish, startled, observant, and many other moods, all in the space of a few minutes. He's getting better with manipulating things, and keeps his fingers in working order by alternately having one hand touch and pull at the other, in the universal gesture for 'crafty.' He's developed an appreciation for books, and even though he clearly can't understand what we're doing when we read to him, he patiently gives each page his full attention, as if he knows that it'll all soon make sense. And he still lets rip with farts that would stun a bull rhinoceros.

My frequent attempts to amuse him can take simple forms. The other day, I had him in stitches just by sticking my tongue out. The next day, that wasn't flying; but I still got a look of adoration from him for making a noise like a motorboat. But I gotta work on my schtick; the motorboat noise will only work for so long.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


As most folks know, Halloween has traditionally been a time when the dead return to the earth to stir up trouble. Such was the case even back when the day was called Samhain. But this provokes the question: Why do the dead want to cause trouble? Why is it that dead people typically have it in for the living?

When this question popped up in my cluttered mind, I plowed through my conceptual clipping files until I came across two memories, one of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos festival, and the other of Kenyan professor John S. Mbiti's book African Religions and Philosophy. For the Mexican celebration, the dead are depicted as impish, hyper, and numerous. The grinning skulls in Posada's drawings look identical, especially when he draws the dead as mobs of skeletons. Mbiti, writing about African conceptions of the dead, pointed to a similar idea across sub-Saharan African cultures, the idea that if someone living can remember a dead person, than that dead person is not truly dead. According to Mbiti, the recent dead exist as "living-dead," and as long as those who remember the departed continue to pay the soul respects and make offerings, all is well. However, when the last living rememberer dies, the departed becomes truly dead. Personhood is snatched away, and what was once an individual's spirit now becomes a faceless part of the mass of unremembered dead, an IT. These dead resent being forgotten, and, since their humanity has vanished, tend to be vicious to the living.

It's a sad idea, that even if there is an afterlife, we really don't get to enjoy it for very long, because we are eventually transformed into something inhuman and destructive. Don't look to the Bible for solace; Sheol never struck me as appealing.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


1. The person with the largest cheeks is boss.

2. When Master Blaster smiles, he gets what he wants.

3. When Master Blaster cries, he gets what he wants.

4. Master Blaster gets what he wants.

5. Burping and farting are adorable when performed by someone under 3 feet tall.

6. Henceforth, smears of spit, snot, and milk-barf shall be worn on all articles of clothing, as signs of allegiance to Master Blaster.

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