JULY 2015

JULY  2015
Float Like a Butterfly. Sting Like a Bee.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

TOILET HUMOUR - TWO

I find it odd that although almost every American knows his name, almost no one knows he invented a device you use - we all use - several times a day. His father, the senior John Harington, was an acquisitive accountant, who for ten years relieved the King of money intended to feed the starving Royal army. Instead, Harington piped the funds into his own accounts, to buy a poo-pourri of properties for himself, far from suspicious noses - estates such as Oakham, Lordshold, Burley, Exton, Ridlington, Cottesmore, Stretton, Clipsham, Greetham, North Luffenham and Leighfield Forest . But these feculent felonies came to an abrupt end in 1548 when a religious fanatic named John Bradford turd him in, and Harington had to wash his hands of some of the money. His bum deal got worse in January 1549 when our patriarchal hero was arrested for treason, because of the stupidity and treason of his boss, Sir John Seymour.
Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
It took two swings of the ax to separate Seymour's treasonous head from his shoulders, but it proved even more difficult to taint John Harington as privy to any of Seymour's reginacidal plots. Harington was finally discharged in the spring of 1550, still holder of his properties, which were earning almost £6000 a year in rents. Out of power, Harington gambled, and inserted himself in the household of 15 year old Elizabeth Tudor, even writing her poetry when Bloody Queen Mary locked the Protestant princess in the Tower of London in 1554. Harington was ecstatic when Elizabeth was released a few months later, but I doubt he gave a shite when Bloody Mary sentenced his old servant, the moralistic John Bradford, to burn at the stake in 1555 (below)
Said he could wish, and did (as for his part) All Cuckolds (drown) in the Thames, with all his heart. But straight a pleasant Knight replied to him, I hope your Lordship learned how to swim.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
In 1559, John Harrington senior married Isabella Markham, Maid-of-Honor to now Queen Elizabeth Tudor. As a wedding present Good Queen Bess gave John an estate called Stoughton Grange (above), about 70 miles northwest of London. In was a small compared to those he had acquired with his ill gotten booty, but it was the royal thought that counts. Then, in 1661 Isabella Harington gave birth to a son, John junior, and Queen Elizabeth pledged at the boy's christening to stand as God Mother for her “Boy Jack”.
Best fishing in troubled waters.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
John Harington junior (above)  was educated in the law, but when John senior died in 1582, the ambitious and handsome young man dropped out of school and concentrated on becoming a success at court, where everything depended on Elizabeth's mood. He once wrote to a friend, “The Queen doth love to see me last (jacket) and said “Tis well enough to be cute." I will have another made liken to it.” Rising and falling by his wits and his poetic wit, he was alternately famous and infamous at court for his clever risque poetry and epigrams. After ten years of such effort John decided his family had passed through the sphincter of history , and come out smelling like a rose. And in 1596, John decided to share with humanity what he had learned in the passing.
A Courtier, kind in speech, cursed in condition, Fell to a flattering and most base submission, Vowing to kiss his foot, if he were bidden.My foot? (said he) nay, that were too submissive. But three foot higher you deserve to be kissing.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
John's most lasting work was titled “A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of the Ajax” - the Greek hero whose constipated ego (“No man but Ajax can conquer Ajax!”) drove him to fall on his own sword. According to John, the name Ajax was a synonym for “A Jake”, meaning a joke, and so often referring to toilet gags that the name became pseudonymous with the toilet itself. John noted in his essay on Jakes, “...many had recognized the problems of “a stinking privy” but little had been done to correct it” So in his little book John progressed from documenting “privy faults” to suggesting improvements to “privy vaults” - to the design of the Jake itself.  John believed that if he built a better toilet, the world would beat a path to his bathroom door.
New friends are no friends; how can that be true? The oldest friends that are, were sometimes new.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
John's instructions for a better toilet, what came to be called a “water closet”,  were relatively simple. “In the privy that annoys you, first cause a cistern... to be placed either in the room or above it, from whence the water may, by a small pipe...be conveyed under the seat in the hinder part thereof ... to which pipe you must have a small cock or washer, to yield water with some pretty strength...Next make a vessel of an oval form, as broad at the bottom as at the top...place this very close to your seat....” Even John had to admit that his water closet was not a radical new invention, writing   “...it is but a standing close-stool easily emptied”. But, “..this being well done, and orderly kept, your worst privy may be as sweet as your best chamber.”
Fair, rich, and young? How rare is her perfection, Were it not mingled with one foul infection. I mean, so proud a heart, so cursed a tongue, As makes her seem, not fair, nor rich, nor young.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
The book was immediately popular, and went into three printings. I can even imagine Queen Elizabeth (above), reading John's book while sitting on the flush John she had installed in her palace. But she thought John's John too noisy - it frightened her. And the book was also a failure as a sales tool for flush toilets.. You see, John was not a plumber, he was a poet. To poets, everything is an analogy, even poop. So John spent most of his book drawing the analogy between the sewage that clogged the Thames River, and the sewage that clogged the Queen's court. John considered his political opponents literal shits. But Queen Elizabeth had learned at an early age that to keep her head she could never completely trust or completely offend the powerful and wealthy egos constantly maneuvering for her affections. And John's “New Discourse” had offended too many. She ordered her “Boy John” to leave her court.
Fortune, men say, doth give too much to many: But yet she never gave enough to any.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
John was allowed back in a few years. Elizabeth could never stay mad at her “saucy Godson” for long. But neither could she trust him for long. Sent to keep an eye on an Irish military expedition headed by the Earl of Essex, John accepted a knighthood from the ambitious Earl.  The expedition was a failure, and Elizabeth suspected a plot was brewing. Essex was thrown in the Tower, and John was once again exiled from court.
Faustus finds fault, my Epigrams are short, Because to read them, he doth make some sport: I thank thee, Faustus, though thou judges wrong, Ere long I'll make thee swear they be too long.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
When good Queen Bess died in March of 1603, she was succeeded by James I, the son of Elizabeth's greatest rival, Mary Queen of Scots. John Harington tried to attach himself to the new king, but it was a bad fit, and he was never invited to court.. John Harington, inventor of the flush John, died in 1612. He left behind nine children. But his invention of the flush toilet never caught on because he had solved only half of the number one problem, which is where do you put number two. If humans were ever going to return to the Garden of Eden toilet, they must solve both halves. The pipe that carried the poo from the loo, would have to end someplace - meaning someplace else.
From your confessor, lawyer and physician, Hide not your case on no condition.”
Sir John Harington 1561 - 1612
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

AMERICAN MURDER Part One

I don't want to call the lady a liar, but I don't believe any of the stories Priscilla Grinder told about that night.. Maybe she was exhausted from another day of drudgery and wallowing in filth. Maybe she was drunk. Maybe she spoke out of fear of her husband, Robert, or of someone else, or maybe she concocted the unbelievable stories to cover her own sins. But whatever the truth was, I simply do not believe this woman heard two gunshots shatter the early morning darkness, heard her only guest begging for help at her door and never investigated. In short I can not say exactly what occurred that pitiless night. But maybe it was murder.
Grinder's Stand, as it was called, stood along the ridge route called the Natchez Trace or “The Devil's Backbone”. The road - to give it a generous title - began where the first high ground above New Orleans, touched the Mississippi River, at a human den of inequity called Natchez. Following ancient buffalo trails "The Trace" then meandered through a dense macabre forests 445 miles, twenty days by horse and foot, to Nashville, Tennessee, where it joined Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road to the east. Under the progressive President Thomas Jefferson, the U.S. Army was set to work clearing the trace to 8 feet wide and removing all tree stumps above 16 inches tall, so "The Trace" could be used by high riding Conestoga wagons. But each stream and river still had to be forded, even if the traveler could afford to pay a toll along those short parallel sections improved by local entrepreneurs
In 1802, when Louisiana was still French territory, the customs house in Natchez reported a million dollars worth of tobacco, flower, hemp, cider and whiskey on its way down the Mississippi to New Orleans. By 1804, after the Louisiana Purchase, "The Trace" saw as many as 1,000 travelers a year -  the crews of flatboats and rafts returning home on foot with their profits. And where there are profits, there are those who would steal them. Each ominous river and stream crossing on "The Trace" was reputed to be the unmarked graves of boatmen who had been set upon by gangs of “Land Pirates”. There was no law on "The Trace". And while the level of violence never approached the legends, meeting a group of strangers at an isolated ford or forest clearing, or blind turning in the trail was still be an unnerving experience.
Robert Evans Grinder and Priscilla Knight were each born within sight of Moore's knob (above), the 1,700 foot high granite mountain that looms over Stokes county, North Carolina. As teenagers they ran away together, and in 1799 were married in Nashville, about the time their daughter, Parthenia, was born. They were living examples of the new nation, young, illiterate, hard working and hungry to succeed.
So as the soldiers hacked and sawed their way south along "The Trace", the Grinder's followed. And in 1807 they came to the Tennessee “Barins”, high ground between the Duck and Tennessee Rivers, sixty miles southwest of Nashville. Here the Grinders enlarged and hacked out a couple of clearings amidst the oaks and dogwoods. Back in the woods they planted corn and rye, built a cabin, and a barn and a stable. In a clearing along "The Trace" they built three one-room structures. Two stood at right angles to each other, their front doors opening on "The Trace". The third building was a detached kitchen, and stood behind the first two. This was Grinder's Stand, one of seven such “Stands” along The Trace in 1807, where for thirty cents you could rent a bed or part of a bed or just a roof for the night. For a few cents more Priscilla could supply a bowl of warm gruel. But after a toll road by-pass opened, the Grinder's income dropped off. So the Grinders depended on their fall-back industry, selling corn mash whiskey to the Chickasaw Indians, whose nation's border lay just a few yards beyond Grinder's Stand's front door.
This failing wilderness hostel was unexpectedly confronted by a tall, gaunt man who materialized out of the gathering cold rainstorm, in the dusk of 10 October, 1809.  Priscilla Grinder must have greeted him warily. Why was this man in an expensive blue and white stripped duster, traveling alone? Why had he not taken the bypass when he could obviously afford it? According to Priscilla, he tried to set her mind at ease by telling her that his two servants should be arriving shortly with pack animals. But that only added to the mystery. And if she had known her weary visitor was one of the most famous men in North America, it likely would not have eased her mind .  In God's name, why was such a man stopping at her door, seeking the sad comforts that she could offer?
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Friday, July 24, 2015

EASTER EGG

I don't believe there ever was a person named Jesus. There was, however, a man named Yeshua. A thousand years after Yeshua died, the first hand-written English translations of the New Testament used the letter “J” to represent the Hebrew sound for “Yod” . Then, in the 400 years after Gutenberg printed his first bible, the entire English language went through “The Great Vowel Shift”, and the vowel “Y” lost its Hebrew roots and sound wise became the consonant “J”. A few more linguistic adjustments and “Yod-shu-ru” became “Gee-zuhs” Back in the first century one in every ten males in Yehudah (Judea) was named Yeshua. And there wasn't anybody named Jesus. But for convenience we'll keep calling him that.
There is only one reliable reference to Jesus outside of the New Testament. At the end of the first century a Roman book appeared, “Antiquities of the Jews”, written by Joseph ben Matityahu, known in the Roman world as Titus Flavius Josephus (above). He was the son of a priest at the Jerusalem temple and his mother claimed to have the royal blood of King David in her veins. In other words he was a snotty entitled rich kid.
In 67 A.D, during the Jewish rebellion, Josephus became the prisoner of the Roman General Vespasian. Hearing that Vespasian was looking for prophets willing to predict his future success, Josephus had an epiphany, and predicted Vespasian would be named Emperor. When that actually happened, Josephus was rewarded with his freedom, moved to Rome and became an historian and a soothsayer. In short, his successful second career was built entirely on telling powerful rich people what they wanted to hear. So everything he writes has to be read with a jaundiced eye, including what he wrote about Jesus.
In his book “Antiquities”, Josephus says that in the spring of 62, Ananus was named the new high priest of the Temple. Josephus describes him as “rash”, but then Josephus knew it was better to blame the Jewish priests for destruction of their temple, rather than the Romans, who had actually knocked it down. But what he says Ananus did, was logical. Seeking to quickly establish his authority and silence those calling for a suicidal Jewish uprising, Ananus ordered the arrest of James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ...” Josephus says James was tried, found guilty of heresy and stoned to death.
Most historians suspect that Jame's execution was quickly followed by the elimination of all of Jesus' apostles still in Jerusalem, which is why the only apostle we definitively hear from after the year 62 was Peter. Earlier he had been sent north to deal with the troublesome new convert, Paul. And this also explains why Paul was able to have such an influence over early Christianity . He was wealthy and connected, while Peter was poor, and connected to nobody but Jesus. The mass execution of first generation Christian leaders also explains why Ananus was high priest for less than four months. All of this supports the accuracy of Josephus' brief mention of Jesus.
There seems no reason to think Jesus was not crucified. Lots of people were crucified by the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, even Judea had been nailing people onto wood long before the Romans took up the practice. When the Persian king Darius I captured Babylon in 519 B.C., he claimed to have crucified 3,000 people. But the Romans got it really organized. After the slave army of Spartacus was defeated in 71 B.C., Crassus crucified 6,000 captives along the 120 miles of the Appian Way between Rome and Capua. So the Romans crucifying Jesus would have been as common-place as Texas executing a random African-American. What made the execution of Jesus special, according to Christians, was that three days later Jesus rose from the dead. But that was not unheard of either.
The most Christ-like of all the born again gods was Mithra (above). He was the son of the virgin Anahita, born in a cave on 25 December. He became a traveling celibate Zoroastrian priest, and carried his ministry of peace and forgiveness out of India into the Persian empire. Sacred texts say that having angered Persian authorities in 600 B.C., and after a last meal with his 12 followers, Mithra was crucified on a cross. After he was taken down,  Mithra's dead body lay in his tomb for three days, until the spring equinox, when “...the light burst forth from all parts, the priest cried, Rejoice, O sacred initiated, your God is risen. His death, his pains, and sufferings, have worked your salvation." So the idea of resurrection was not new, either. It was a neat literary invention - turning a god into a living man, rather than the usual device of turning a man into a living god.
Robust Mithraism was adopted by the Roman army, who spread it across Europe and North Africa. Mithra was even worshiped at midnight services on Vatican Hill and at military outposts along the Rhine border and Hadrian's Wall. The omniscient Mithra was the Good Shepherd, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah, the god who became a man so he could die to atone for your sins. Standard Catholic theology is that Mithria was a false god sent by Satan to confuse Christians. That seems to me a convoluted logic, on Satan's part, and it assumes that God's motives can be quantified and comprehended by humans. And requiring such proof seems to prove a lack of faith. But that's just my opinion.
Doubters often suggest that Jesus survived crucifixion by trickery or drugs, and that is certainly possible. But considering the standard crucifixion protocols, it is unlikely. Crucifixion was not just a form of execution. It was also a form of theatre. First, in public, the convicted was stripped, tied to a post and scourged, jaggedly opening his back down to the muscle and bone. It was a bloody mess. This would have left Jesus, in the words of one medical expert, in the initial stages of shock, and in “at least serious and possibly critical” condition. The intent was not to kill him, but to so weaken him so as to make the next day's execution certain and smooth.
After recovering overnight the condemned would have been striped naked again, had a 100 lb cross beam tired across his shoulders, and then carried it to the site of execution. There he would have been thrown to the ground onto his back – reopening his wounds - and either had nails driven through his wrists or more likely had his hands tied to the cross beam. The cross beam, with the prisoner attached, was then lifted up and set atop a post, creating either the Roman cross or more likely a “T”. It need only been tall enough to get the victim's feet off the ground.
The Roman guards would remain on watch until the man died. If the weather was unpleasant or dinner awaited them, the guards might break the victim's legs or even stab him in the side, to hurry the process along. Other wise death would eventually occur because of cardiac failure, shock, acidosis, asphyxia, arrhythmia, dehydration, sepsis, suffocation , or even being torn apart by vultures or wolves. You do not survive crucifixion because friends slip you a mickey after you're on the cross. In fact a sedative would more likely suppress breathing and hurry death along.
During the siege of Jerusalem , our old friend Josephus saw three of his frat brothers hanging off their own crosses. He begged the Romans for their lives, and the officer in charge “immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to ensure to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician's hands, while the third recovered.” So even with the best and prompt medical care available, the survival rate, once you were up on the wood, was only 33%. And the best was certainly not available to Jesus.
So, to put it all together, there very well might have been a man we call Jesus, and he might very well have been a significant religious leader, who might very well have died on a cross. And people were willing to believe such a man, if he existed, had died for their sins. There is no proof that any of that happened, and no proof it did not. It depends on what you believe.
And every Easter, that all depends upon.you.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TOILET HUMOUR - ONE

I advise you, if you are anxious to be read of, to look for some boozy poet of the dark archway who writes verses with rough charcoal or crumbling chalk which folk read while they shit”.
Marcus Valerius Martialis” Rome, 70 C. E.
The average healthy human produces an ounce of poo for every 12 pounds of body weight, dropping a log anywhere between 3 times a day to once every three days. Our foul, stinking meadow muffins are so putrid a blind leopard with a head cold could track a human through a stink weed swamp. The only reason we were not hunted to extinction is that we used to live in the trees, where our “stinkies” magically disappeared when dropped.
What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before?’ Answer: A key.
Sumarian joke, 2, 500 B.C.
This “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” hygiene worked until 3 million years ago when we started to spend time on the ground. It must have been a short transition, as proved by our still smelly merde. But as long as our populations remained mobile we could usually outrun the lions and tigers and bears, and defecate away from where we hunted and gathered. When the ice ages restricted our outings, our Cro-Magnon siblings filled so many sheltering caves with aromatic and putrescent paleo-feces, we drove our Neanderthal roommates to prefer the cold outdoors to our proximity.
Strepsiades ; “Do you see this little door and little house?...This is a thinking-shop of wise spirits....
These men teach, if one give them money, to conquer in speaking, right or wrong.....They are minute philosophers, noble and excellent.”
Act I, Scene I. The Clouds by Aristophanes 424 B.C.
Then, about 10,000 years ago, humans settled down in settlements and started farming. Human populations mushroomed, as did our fecal matter. This led to the first great invention to deal with scheisse – sewage. Whoever was running the palace at Knossos on Crete 3,000 years ago, could pass a BM without ever having to see or smell it, as the constantly running water in the palace pipes instantly removed the royal turd from proximity to the royal nose. This may be the origin of the Robert's Supreme Court legal precedent that rich people's poop don't stink. But, of course, the palace pipes had to end somewhere, and the property values just downstream must have plummeted, along with the the owner's odor and ardor.
Eat lettuce and soft apples eat: For you, Phoebus, have the harsh face of a defecating man."
Marcus Valerius Martialis 70 C.E..
It was King Tarquin in 600 B.C.E. who first mixed socialism and sewage, when he built Rome's 16 foot wide Cloaca Maximum, aka the central sewer, aka “the big poop hole”, atop the cities' 100 foricae, public latrines, where King and commoner alike could discharge a brownie without having to give it a second thought. 
This sanitation reduced the city's death rate to a mere 30,000 a year, allowing the population to top one million during the first millennium. But that didn't last. After the Romans threw out the Etruscan Kings, they privatized new additions to the sewer system, producing some very rich crap merchants – from the Latin “crappa” meaning chaff, or rejected material. But squeezing every ounce of profit from the poop populi left the sewers leaky and often in disrepair and disconnected. Thus Rome suffered a series of plagues that killed over half the population every few decades. Where upon the patricians took their money and fled to the suburbs, like Ravenna and Constantinople.
Apollinaris, doctor to the emperor Titus, had a good crap here.”
Graffitti on a wall in Herculaneum, Italy 79 C.E.
The fall of Rome brought on the dark ages, which meant even royalty were reduced to making night deposits in a chamber pot, a sort of portable latrine. Of course the wealthy had servants to dump their “cacha” (Latin profanity for poop) , usually in the nearest street, which became a sewer, from the old French “seuwiere”, meaning a drain cut in the ground. This was also the origin of the “High Street”, as the most valuable address, because, as any populist will tell you, shite runs downhill.
With your giant nose and cock, I bet you can with ease When you get excited, check the end for cheese.”
Marcus Valerius Martialis 70 C.E.
By the 16th century, the 200,000 subjects living in the fetid putrid sewer of London, then the largest city in Europe, were dropping dead daily from anthrax, measles, whooping cough, strep throat, syphilis, child bed fever, malaria, polio, tetanus, and cholera, to name but a few of the infectious endemic illnesses. In addition there was an epidemic of influenza from 1557 to 1559 that killed 5% of the city. The first half of the century saw five waves of the “Dreaded Sweats” or “English Sweats” that killed tens of thousands within 24 hours of affliction. The Black Death or Bubonic Plague swept through London in 1563 (17,000 dead), 1578 (3,700 dead), 1582 (3,000 dead) and 1592 (11,000 dead). And the cause was obvious, even without a viable germ theory.
This Nicholas just then let fly a fart, As loud as it had been a thunder-clap, And well-nigh blinded Absalom, poor chap; But he was ready with his iron hot, And Nicholas right in the arse he got.  Off went the skin a hand's-breadth broad, about, The coulter burned his bottom so, throughout, That for the pain he thought that he should die, And like one mad he started in to cry, "Help! Water! Water! For God's dear heart!”
The Millers Tale – The Cantabury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer 1478
By 1600, the largest tributary of the Thames, the Fleet River (old Anglo-Saxon “fleot”, a tidal inlet), once called “The river of wells”, had been an open sewer for two centuries. Ben Johnson, Shakespere's contemporary, penned a tribute “On the Famous Voyage”, praising two lads who dared to boat down the 100 yard wide “ merd-urinous” stream. In the stone lined channel “Hung stench, diseases, and old filth, their mother...pills and eke in potions, Suppositories, cataplasms and lotions...the grave fart, late let in parliament.” At last a dead cat floats to the surface and curses the travelers. “How dare Your dainty nostrils (in so hot a season, When every clerk eats artichokes and peason, Laxative lettuce, and such windy meat) Tempt such a passage? When each privy's seat, Is filled with buttock, and the walls do sweat Urine and plasters?” But the waters of the Thames barely noticed the Fleet's filth, so contaminated were its own. The only thing more dangerous than being a child raised in sewage soaked Elizabethan London, was being Elizabeth in the the same place.
In vain, the Workman showed his Wit, With Rings and Hinges counterfeit, To make it seem in this Disguise, A Cabinet to vulgar Eyes...So Strephon lifting up the Lid, To view what in the Chest was hid...So Things, which must not be expressed When plumped into the reeking Chest; Send up an excremental Smell, To taint the Parts from whence they fell. The Petty coats and Gown perfume, Which waft a Stink round every Room.”
Jonathan Swift “The Lady's Dressing Room” 1732
After years of living under the constant threat of a charge of treason, Elizabeth Tudor put on the crown in 1558 as a 25 year old paranoid anorexic, subject to panic attacks. Living just above the level of common sewage, the nobility survived eating slightly spoiled food, prepared by unwashed hands, unevenly cooked in polluted water. This lead to repeated bouts of stomach cramps, mild fevers, headaches, watery diarrhea and vomiting, which lead to dehydration. This gastroenteritis would rarely prove fatal to an otherwise healthy adult like Elizabeth, but it killed one in four of all infants and a quarter of all surviving children by the age of 10. However salvation from this rising tide of poo was offered in 1595 when a member of Elizabeth's court invented “The John”. Except he called it the “Ajax”, for a very punny reason.
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