T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
A personal blog with diverse topicality and multiple interests!

On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!

Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Je suis un francophile .... Bienvenue à tous!

* Your comments and evaluations are appreciated ! *

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not so Glamorous - by Jim Toomey

Not so Glamorous
by Jim Toomey
("Sherman’s Lagoon") *

April 20, 2014
Sherman’s Lagoon is a comic strip set in an imaginary lagoon inhabited by a cast of sea creatures whose lives are curiously similar to our own.

click to enlarge

 click the strip to enlarge

* Source: http://shermanslagoon.com/


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When You Are Old - by W. B. Yeats

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

When You are Old
~~~~ /// ~~~~
by W. B. Yeats  


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Obsessed with Potholes - by Bill Lindeke

If potholes could talk, would we understand them? **
///// ~~~~ /////
by Bill Lindeke (04/11/14)

Lately, I’m obsessed with potholes. It all started late one night. I was bicycling home from a party, a ten-mile trip from South Minneapolis to the West Side of Saint Paul. (Note to mom: I do this trip quite often, and it’s perfectly safe. In fact, late night riding is often blissful, because cars are rare.) My usual route goes along Summit Avenue, South on Victoria Street, East on Saint Clair Avenue and up the High Bridge to where I live. Victoria Street in Saint Paul is a hot mess of potholes, and there’s a dark stretch South of Grand Avenue where its not lit well. I sped along my way, thinking I’d surmounted the crumbling gauntlet when *bam*! Before I knew what had happened, I was laying on the hard black ground. I’d been potholed.

What are potholes? They are nothing. They are the absence of a thing, a gap in the street. Like donut holes, they are an emptiness. An absent presence until you hit one, then a present absence.

Studies have shown that people are somehow creeped out by holes. It’s called trypophobia. I’m not making this up. Our aversion to holes is strange because our lives, our worlds, and our bodies are full of them. My nose has holes which I use all the time. As Steven Hawking pointed out, the Universe is a hole. But still we resist holes, and categorize them as problems.

We resist holes because our minds [are biased] toward continuity. Our brain fills in the holes around us until they become invisible. We imagine our streets as smooth spaces flowing uninterrupted and seamless over the Earth. We take our roads for granted until the moment of breakdown or collapse. Then the invisible asphalt appears. The thick plane of black matter reveals itself in the hole, in the absence of continuity. A bridge falls down, and you see the river for the first time, its steep banks and moving water. Once you learn about gusset plates, you see them all around you. So too, potholes reveal the unnatural nature of the road system. How great our efforts have been!

And potholes are democratic. They do not discriminate. Potholes level the playing field by making it uneven. How hard we try to change people’s minds, get them to slow down with ad campaigns and policing, signs and lights and laws! Meanwhile the pothole works wonders, the sleeping policeman that [is] slowing everyone without fail. Each suspenseful thud is a reminder to care, to pay attention, to calm ourselves. I might not stop at every stop sign, but since our rude introduction, I slow myself at every pothole. Potholes do more work than all the police forces combined.

Potholes are cracks that reveal the connections that form the system of automobility. With each jolt, we realize the complexity of the system: the car, the springs, the tire, the asphalt, the packed dirt, the exploding oil, the water freezing and expanding and filtering down again and again … my small bicycle. The hole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The metro’s only pothole factory sits next to a playground in a lonely corner in the North End of Saint Paul. Each year it resumes its work, as our patchy road budgets stretch and flex. And each year we fill our holes and pretend they’re gone. We push them from our minds and resume our lives of smooth momentum. But they’re still there. And they will return, worse than before.

**This post was written by Bill Lindeke and originally published on streets.mn.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flat tire? No problem! - by HCQ

Tire gone flat? No problem!
by Hastings Crazy Quilter *
======= <<< >>> =======
I believe a touch of creativity can improve almost anything, even commercials. I have especially been enjoying a Toyota commercial currently running on the TV. It shows a young woman, apparently alone in a parking lot, struggling to change a tire. Just as she finishes, a man steps out and tells her: 'I knew you could do it.'

That man reminds me of my dad. He had three daughters, and by golly, they were all going to know how to change the oil, drive out of an icy skid and change a tire all by themselves. I managed to change the oil and learned I would gladly pay to have someone do it for me. I benefit from the knowledge of how to drive out of a skid every winter here in Minnesota.

But I've only had to change a tire once, so far.

My mother, older sister Linda and I were driving from South St. Paul to Newport, going over the bridge. Just as we got out onto the bridge, the back right tire went flat. We had plenty of room to pull over, and all three of us got out of the car to inspect the damage. There was no hope for that tire; it was a goner.

Just then, it started to drizzle. It was just before rush hour, and my mom stepped a little ways away and began waving at the passing cars. She figured amongst all those cars, someone would stop to help us.

Linda and I looked at each other and simultaneously turned back to the trunk. Yep, everything we needed was in there. It's amazing how much faster you can change a tire with another set of hands. And it was a real tire, not those toy tires you find in cars these days.

In a short time we changed the tire, threw the old one in the trunk, collected our mom (who was still waving at passing cars) and went about our way.

When we got home, Dad had to tighten things up a bit, but he was proud of both of us.

Our mother was just amazed. Thanks for the lessons, Dad.


* Source: Bulletin Board, St.Paul Pioneer Press, 04/21/14

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"The Boxer" - by Krauss & Colvin

click to enlarge
"The Boxer" 
 by Krauss & Colvin
(i.e. Alison Krauss / Shawn Colvin)
/////// *** ///////

"The Boxer" *
=== // ===
I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I've squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles
Such are promises

All lies and jests
Still a man hears
What he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared
Laying low, seeking out
The poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know

Lie la lie ...

Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare,
There were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Lie la lie ...

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me
Bleeding me, going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains

Lie la lie ...
* Music and Lyrics by Paul Simon

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tësh-lok-lâki-wotch [The Slitherers!] - by Dr. Fikré Tolossa

"The Slitherers" - designed by Henock Gugsa
(click on image to enlarge)
[The Slitherers!]

by Dr. Fikré Tolossa *
=== ~~ === ~~ ===

Engulfed by Terror's raging flames,
As we slither  and glibly side
No blaze or flicker ever touches us.
We pay no mind to revolution's lightening,
While senseless chaos scatters

And displaces the innocent
We continue to slumber in our own silence.
We are camped inside the flames,
And we know how to feint, how to deceive
Until the burning blaze is cooled.
And when the soot breaks down
And the sound and the fury subside;
When the sky and the air are clear and safe,
We raise our heads and announce our presence:
"Here we are! We're tested. We are ready to serve!"
And all the while we care not a whit
whether we are summoned or not.

The fools, and the guileless
They've fallen by the wayside
Or else have gone to nothingness
Or ended up in exile
Or slaughtered under Terror's rule.
The few survivors still clamor: "Conscience, oh Conscience!"
They beg and cry out: "Justice! Truth! Liberty!"
Yet they loath power, they find it too dirty,
They'd rather watch from the sidelines.
But we're smart and quick on our feet
And we climb and take hold of the reins
Paying lip service to absence of chains.

Lying in wait for our victims
We're scheming and plotting
The best ways to stir up the naif
Dooming them to death or misery.
No sympathy or conscience have we
As we step heavily o'er the blood-stained ground.
We monitor society's vital signs,
We take its temperature, its pulse.
We herd and prod the fools to the fire,
We use them as torches
To illumine our paths and freshen our lives.

The guileless are our shield.
And sitting astride our horse of power,
We ride fast as the wind.
The virtuous and the truthful are trampled as dust.

We usurp the voice of the masses
When it damn well suits us;
But we know when to shout out in our own
And when to come out of our caves.

We will prattle till our neck veins stick out
We'll talk non-stop till our mouths are frothy.
Talk and talk is all we do all day
And we only know how to naysay

Woe to the whistle-blowers
Woe to honest public servants
Should they attempt to uncover us
Should we be bravely denounced.
We've got the temperament, skill, and speed
To deal with these finger-pointers.
They won't know what hit them.

We have ... special ... merchandising talents
We know how to mine public outrage
How to exploit the masses' sentiments.
It is our occupation ... squelching the weak
But we take smart care with the strong.

While havoc
-n-melee rules mankind,
We make sure to stay spared.
But even more, we stay focused
Whoever or whatever is in power.
We will more than survive
We'll prosper and flourish.

The heroic farmer will slave and toil at his farm
But at harvest time ... will he then profit?
Nay, not he. It is we who prosper
Without fear, without batting an eye.

All comforts of life are given to us
The world is indeed a
t our feet!
No place here for the virtuous,
For he who burns for "truth, justice, and liberty!"
* Free verse translation by  Hénock Gugsa

Afterword by HG
The above poem by Dr. Tolossa is obviously of great significance and meaning to the people of Ethiopia ... especially those who directly suffered fifteen plus years of misery under Mengistu and his minions. What struck me keenly was the intensity of the cynicism, the irony, and the sociopathic glee of the ruling class. Yes, they were there even under communism, and they are still around us even here in the land of the free! 

It is a bitter and dismally universal reality:   
Negativity and selfishness are the bane of humanity!

Thank you, Dr. Tolossa, for forever opening our eyes and showing us some of humanity's unpleasant natures. Through your poem, you've given voice and immortality to our tragedy. And, in my opinion, you have done it as effectively as the old masters, Orwell and Solzhenitsyn.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Mask Of Evil - by Bertolt Brecht

The Mask Of Evil
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)
----- /// -----

On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating
What a strain it is to be evil.

"The Nightingale" - by Jo Stafford

Jo Stafford (1917-2008)

"The Nightingale"
Jo Stafford

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

China's Greatest Asset - by TPO

a Chinese farmer
China's Greatest Asset : 
Its Industrious and Resourceful People
- by TPO -
/// ===== ///

No doubt, respect for tradition and authority is an almost ingrained part of China. Its people have undergone thousands of years of submission to invading marauders, tyrants, and even to the ravages of the forces of nature (i.e. floods, earthquakes, plagues, and famines). The endurance and resilience of the Chinese people is something not only to be marveled but to be emulated and replicated by developing nations everywhere as well.

The following writing about China's victory over famine is extracted and compiled from two sources - 1) Brian Palmer, "Why Does China Not Have Famines Anymore?"    and    2) NPR, "The Secret Document That Transformed China"

Brian Palmer

[There are] two competing explanations for the end of 2,000 years of starvation.

Explanation #1 - The greatness of "Capitalism"

Up until 30 years ago, Chinese history could have been summarized or encapsulated in three words: The Great Wall, Maoism, and famine. The normal state of affairs known as "famine" started to crumble beginning in 1978 when farmers in Xiaogang signed a secret document to seal an economic pact of their own. It was dangerous and in its own right a counter-revolutionary act of desperation against a rigid, impractical, and insensibly dogmatic communist ideology (Maoism). Somehow, those dissident farmers
succeeded not only with their quest, but in also swaying the government's mood in their favor. Major reforms were implemented nationally, and private ownership of land became a reality in a communist land. The Chinese began to reap the fruits of their industry through the peaceful, smart and persistent  application of their resourcefulness. But, the great tribute here is laid at the feet of capitalism. [ In summary, the lack of personal property and the squelching of individual economic incentives never fail in bringing communism to its knees. ]

Explanation #2 - A combination of reasons (the setting, the timing, and luck)

The Chinese communist rulers were aware of the problems they were dealing with for a long time. Various actions were taken and some of these were good, wise, and useful - eg. the great infrastructural projects that helped agriculture (irrigation among them). [Other actions such as purges and forced migrations of populations were tragically destructive. They were only distractions at best.]

There were slow but sure reform movements within the communist party - a new generation of rulers with a pragmatic and/or progressive world view started to come to power right around 1978.

China also was blessed with "the best years of farming weather" in the 1980's that helped the country get transformed into a land of agricultural miracles. " [Today] China feeds 20 percent of the world's people using less than 10 percent of arable land, with plenty of food left over to export. Food has fueled the Chinese miracle."

* http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/feed_the_world/2014/04

NPR (National Public Radio)

The year was 1978, and in a small Chinese village called Xiaogang, something momentous happened.

A group of farmers secretly met inside "a mud hat to sign a secret contract." It was a highly risky and dangerous document that could have gotten them executed as public enemies.

In Xiaogang there was never enough food, and the farmers often had to go to other villages to beg. Their children were going hungry. They were desperate. So, in the winter of 1978, after another terrible harvest, they came up with an idea: Rather than farm as a collective, each family would get to farm its own plot of land. If a family grew a lot of food, that family could keep some of the harvest.

At the end of the season, they had an enormous harvest: more, [the contract's writer and a signer] Yen Hongchang says, than in the previous five years combined.

 ** http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/01/20/145360447/the-secret-document-that-transformed-china