Sunday, March 27, 2011

A description of the Estrucans

I found The Etruscan Chimera - an archeology mystery by Lyn Hamilton in a coffee shop where I regulary leave my magazines and unwanted paperbacks. It was free for the taking.

The following excerpt is from p. 27 - 30 (paperback version)

"What I found interesting was how much, yet how little, we know about the Etruscans, or the people we have come to know as Etruscans. It is unlikely they ever referred to themselves that way. That name came from the Romans, who referred to their neighbors, occasional allies, and in the end, intractable enemies, as Tusci or Etrusci. The Greeks called them Tyrrhenoi, after which the Tyrrhenian Sea is named. The Etruscans called themselves Rasenna or Rasna.

Their language, a rather unusually one that, unlike almost all other European languages, did not have Indo-European roots, has been deciphered to a large extent, but when it comes right down to it, there is very little to read, other than inscriptions on tombs and such. They may have had, indeed must surely have had, a rich body of literature, but it is lost to us, so what we know about them comes from archaeology or the writings of others: Greeks and Romans for example, whose own particular biases are reflected in their accounts. They also must have had a complex ritual and religious life, because we know that long after the Etruscan cities came under the domination of Rome, Roman citizens were still calling upon Etruscan haruspices, diviners, to aid them in important deliberations and decisions. The number and elaborate nature of their tombs indicate that there was a social structure, including a wealthy elite, but that also they believed in an afterlife. What exactly they believed, however, is, to a large extent shrouded in the mists of time.

What we do know is that people who shared a common language, customs and beliefs, dominated a large part of central Italy, what is now Tuscany - the word itself speaks to its Etruscan roots - part of Umbria and northern Lazio near Rome between about 700 B.C.E. until their defeat and assimilation by the Romans in the third century B.C.E. Their territory was essentially bounded by the Tiber River on the south and east, and the Arno to the north. To the west was the Tyrrhenian Sea. They lived in cities and used rich metal deposits along the Tyrrhenian shore to develop extensive trade by land and sea. In time, a loose federation of twelve cities, the Dodecapolis, grew up. The ruling elite of these cities, city states, really met annually at a place called Volsinii, to elect a leader.

During their heyday, before the birth of the Roman republic, there were Etruscan kings of Rome - the Taquins - who, between 616 and 509 B.C.E, were instrumental in building the city that would ultimately defeat them. The last king of Rome was Tarquinus the Proud, who was explected from Rome in 509 B.C.E. From that time on, Rome and the Etruscans were enemies, fighting over every inch of ground.

In the end, the Etruscan federation could not hold against the might of Rome. For whatever, reason the cities did not band together to protect themselves, and one by one, they fell. Their cities were abandoned, or fell into ruin, or were simply replaced by others, until they were reborn, in a different form, as medieval cities, some of the loveliest in Italy: Orvieto, Chiusi, Cortona, Volterra, Arezzo, and Perugia amoung them.

As mysterious as these people may have been, I noticed that many had opinions on them. Indeed, I would say that the Etruscans presented a blank slate, in a way, on which later people found a convenient resting place for their own hopes, beliefs, and desires. Cosimo de Medici was hardly the first to use the people's rather vague notions about the Etrucans for his own purposes. A Dominican friar who when by the name of Annuis of Viterbo, determined, in the fifteenth century, that the Etruscans, a noble and peace-loving people, according to him, had helped repopulate the earth after the Flood. To prove his point, he argued that their language was a version of Aramaic Despite his rather outlandish views, Annius's theories may have helped save some Etruscan antiquities from destruction by the church as pagan symbols. The Etruscans could have used Annius a century later, when something like six tons of Etruscan bronzes were melted down to adorn a church in Rome.

Lawerence, of Lady Chatterley's Lover fame, also thought the Etruscans were his kind of people, in touch with nature and their natural selves. He saw phallic symbols everywhere on his visits to Etruscan sites and wrote glowingly of what he saw to be their refreshingly natural philosophy. On the other hand, the philosopher Nietzsche, who arguably kewn something about angst, called them gloomy - schwermutigen - although what made him think that was not clear. The art critic Berensen dismissed all Etruscan art as being non-Greek and therefore unworthy, even though, if I'd interpreted what I'd read correctly, the Greeks living in Italy had been responsible for some of it, and some of the art prized as Greek and Roman had later been revealed to be Etruscan. By the end of my reading, it was pretty clear to me that views expressed about the Etruscans said more about the holder of those opinions than about the Etruscans themselves."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Information in Bb - YouTube Poetry

By Daniel Donahoo (2009)

YouTube Poetry by essforgee

She closes the lid.
And unplugs a device no bigger than her thumb from the computer.
"My life's work" she says.
But it isn't her life's work.

You see we store information like an Escher Painting.
It shouldn't all fit in there. But it does.
And every day we manage to fit more and more into smaller and smaller spaces.
"Until one day, she says, "we'll be able to fit all the information that the world has. Everything that everyone knows and believes and dreams into nothing."

It will all be in there;
stored and filed, tagged with any key words you might imagine.
Our hard drives will be thin air.
It will make nanobots look like elephants.
And elephants will be in there too.
Accessible by search terms like
grey, ivory and the largest land dwelling mammal.
We'll process away at nothing and understand everything.

We'll think of of word and the information will slip in,
not through our ears or eyes but straight through out skin.
Information will breathe in and out of us, permeate our skin.
Our knowing will be as deep as it is wide.

You see our work here is to learn so much, to be so full of knowing,
that there is left is to do is unlearn.
Humanity must get to a point where we let go.
We leave the useless ideas and the spent ideologies in recycle bin:
like an adolescent brain shedding neurons,
like a snake slithering from its old skin,
like an old man who's come to understand so well
the point where reality meets the intangible
that he's able to decide which breath will be his last.
And he will enjoy that breath more than any that he has taken in his entire life.

And Her life's work is more than a 4 meg flash drive
"My life's work", she says, "is the impact that this has.
"This is not about what I produce.
It is all about what others receive."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saints Joseph, Partick, Big Chief & Spy Boy

New Orleans is such a mash up of cultures that we have

Irish-Italian Parades in 3 parishes (for everyone else in the USA this is the equivalet of 3 counties)


The Indians (Mardi Gras Indians) hold their Super Sunday around the same time, which is intrestingly enough....

The Spring Equinox

Chapter 41 - Pool Party

Owen had adjusted his pool party to Thursday evening. It was a combination work gathering and client gathering. Nola said she would come, as the landscape specialist, if it was a Thursday. Folks had been busy or out of town with the Memorial Day holiday the weekend before so Thursday actually worked well for a not quite work gathering. Nola, Joe, Maurice, Roger and Louis would be there early, 5 PM, for the client and potential client visits. The rest of the staff and their family and friends would be showing up later around 7PM.

Since it was a pool party they were to come dressed to swim. When she got there Maurice met her in the driveway. Owen was inside with the caterers. "Hello Goddess."
She smiled, "Hello Maurice. Ready to float in the pool?
"Yes, but I have to work the clients first."
"I know. Me too."
Roger came from the back yard. He was opening the gate so that people could literally circle Owen's entire house. He whistled at her.
"Hello Roger, how are you?"
"Fine but not as fine as you. I'm sure we'll get some new clients just because of that get up."
"Stop it. I have on a conservative one piece suit and am completely covered from my waist to my toes."
And Joe over heard as he came around from the front yard. He had been opening the side gate. He whistled. "Yeah but it makes us crazy when your leg peaks out."
"Hey Joe. Not you too?"
"You're Owen's secret weapon."
Owen came out of the kitchen door. "Perfect. You came dressed exactly like I expected."
"Jezzz, I had no idea that I was part of some show. I think I need to get paid extra!"
And Owen said, "OK."
And she rolled her eyes at him. "You guys need to stop it. I'm conservative enough."
And Maurice said, "Yep, just conservative enough not to piss off the females and just curvaceous enough to draw the males. Absolutely a secret weapon."
"Ok, that's it. I'm going inside."
Joe said, "What do you have there?" and he pointed to the papers in her hands.
"Oh it's a client questionnaire. I'm hoping that it can be used before we do site assessment so that we can recommend fruit tree types and know ahead of time if they are interested in a vegetable garden. I think it will make the site plans Owen draws up better on the first pass. Less recycle time. Here take a look." And she handed out the questionnaires.
Owen and Roger looked over the questionnaire. Maurice took one and looked at the section on hardscaping.
Owen said, "This is good. I think it will help."
Maurice said, "I like that you're asking upfront about their preferences for pathways. This question about garbage can and recycle space it good. Before you those were always after thoughts and a second round of form building."
Nola asked Joe, who wanted to learn to do site assessments, "What do you think?" and they put their heads together and started talking and walking to the fountain.
Roger nudged Owen. "Smart, nice to look at, low maintenance."
Owen just smiled. And the first client came to the gate. They took their places and Owen started working. Nola and Maurice waited to be introduced at the fountain. Nola could talk about the no lawnmower approach. Maurice could talk about the pathways. Joe was supposed to be on the back patio. Roger was to work the driveway and make sure that folks could get in or out of the gate. Owen's house was open and sample plans were laid out on the dining room table. There was a bar on the back patio.

There were hugs from folks whose houses they had worked on already. This made chatting up the new clients easier. And Nola realized that Owen had been smart to include both old and new. There were a number of clients who only had their homes worked on and who didn't know about the landscaping. Owen had before and after pictures of his yard set up by the fountain. Nola could see the light bulb come on for folks and figured that they would definitely get new clients for No Lawnmower Landscaping. It was almost June so the seeds she had planted in March were not quite in full flower but close. Folks were consistently amazed that so much of the landscaping was from seed. When they realized how inexpensive this was they were even more interested. Most folks were really nice but there was one guy, Mr. Leblanc, who had a number of houses around town that Owen's crew had worked on who made Nola uncomfortable. She couldn't quite put her finger on it. But he was a large client so she was doing her best to be nice. It was his third time around and his third time to the bar. He came up to Nola and Maurice and said, "Hello Maurice."
"Hello Mr. LeBlanc, enjoying yourself?"
"Yes, I am. I was wondering if Nola here could give me a tour of Owen's yard."

Maurice looked at Nola who said, "I'd be happy to. Do you have any specific questions?"
"Well I really like the idea of not having to pay for grass cutting. It seems that if I landscape I could almost eliminate lawn care."
Nola said, "Almost is right. You'll still have to do weeding and watering and check up on the landscaping to keep it healthy but once the landscaping is established the weekly maintenance is eliminated."
"So if I get Nola Landscaping, then I effectively reduce my overhead."
"Well we don't call it No Lawnmower Landscaping for nothing." She laughed. "Maurice's pathway work is critical. It's the bones of the design."
He took her by the arm and said, "Well most of my properties already have pathways. I think I'd like you to talk me through the plant layouts."
"Oh" and she looked at Maurice who shrugged and sat down on the fountain edge. "Ok. Are you interested in flowers?" And she started to walk toward the driveway.
He said, "No not really. I want the landscaping to be as easy to maintain as possible."
"Ok, well then the gardenias and sweet olives can work in most places. Mulch is key to keeping the maintenance down...."
And he turned her around and said, "You know I think I'd like to have you to tell me about the side yard."
Nola said, "Ok, sure. That area is a good example of what can be done with areas that get heavier shade."
"Ah, good, I have properties with heavy shade" and they headed past Maurice who watched as they went through the open gate and how Leblanc put his arm around Nola's waist after they got through. Maurice perked up and watched carefully but more closely than he was before. Nola handled herself and said, "As you can see we've used redbuds, which are native understory trees that change with the seasons" and she stepped forward slipped from his grasp and turned back toward Maurice as she said, "And over here a variety of ferns for textural interest." She walked ahead and said. "We've also have a walkway but it allows for drainage. It's important for the planting and the property to allow for natural drainage."
She kept moving toward the back pool area. But LeBlanc caught up to her and put his hands back on her waist again and said, "What is this under our feet?"
"Oh that's a combination of creeping fig closer to the walkway and jasmine off the walkway."
And he said as he held her there, "Why 2 different types?"
"Well the fig is better in the sun and sturdy to walk on. The jasmine does a bit better in the shade and creates a more lush carpet."
"Lush. I like that."
And Nola didn't like the way that sounded or felt. So she kept walking and
LeBlanc took his hands off of her as they came around into the back patio area. Nola thought as she looked across the pool. Where is Joe? What she said, "Back here we have an area that I planned to look as much as possible like a forested area. It's heavily mulched and there are lots of understory trees and closer to the center of the yard a fig and a peach, because Owen likes peaches. Do you think that you would be interested in any fruit trees for you property?"
"No probably not."
"Oh well, they can be fun and appealing to tenants and many are fairly easy to maintain. It's of course your option."
Leblanc looked over to the far side of the pool and saw there was no one else over there right now and said, "Why don't we walk over there and you can tell me about the tree choices."
"Ok." And she walked between the pool and the garage and commented that one of the ways to make some of the small yards in typical shotguns and shotgun doubles more appealing was to use vines on the fences and she pointed to the passion vine and clematis on the garage.
Leblanc asked, "What kind of vine is this?"
Nola said, "Passion Vine."
And Leblanc said, "I could probably like Passion Vine."
Nola kept walking until she got to the far back corner. She was hoping Joe would show up soon.

Maurice watched Nola until she stepped out of view onto the back patio then he made his way into the house. He saw Owen talking to some perspective client over plans on the dining room table. He thought better of saying anything to Owen just yet and moved toward the kitchen where he bumped into Joe coming out of the bathroom. "Joe."
"What's up?
"You're not in the back yard?"
"I just took a bathroom break man. What's the matter?"
"I don't like the way LeBlanc is putting his hands on Nola. I'm pretty sure she doesn't like it either but she's being a good sport."
Joe's eyebrows went up and he said. "Where are they?"
"In the backyard I think."
"Let's go see from the back porch. I think that Nola can handle herself."
"Yeah I'd rather not get Owen involved."
They went out to the back porch. They could see that Nola was doing her best to show LeBlanc the plantings and stay away from him at the same time and that LeBlanc kept getting closer than he needed to and putting his hands on her to stop her and ask her questions. He had just put his hand around her waist again and was moving her under the oak tree and she was smiling and pointing toward the driveway.
Joe said, "Shit. He's got more than 20 properties and we've already done work on 10." Maurice said, "I'm going to get Roger. I think that you should find Owen and let him know that he needs to be cool and professional but that Leblanc has probably had too much to drink."
Joe nodded and Maurice said, "But stick with Owen in case he get's all protective over his woman." Joe nodded again.
"This is large shady area under the oak is nice." he said.
"Yes, it is especially in the summer heat. Owen was very careful to ensure that the root system wasn't harmed when the pool went in." She hoped that if she kept mentioning Owen's name that maybe LeBlanc would back off.
"What's in the corner?"
"Oh just a basketball court. There are really no plantings back there. Let's go take a look at the side yard. Shall we?"
"Ok," but he didn't take his hand off of her waist and he didn’t let her move. "What will it take to get you to come and do a site assessment at my properties?"
"Well if you give Owen a list, I'll be able to let you know. I'm training Joe, You've met Joe?, to do site assessments so since you have multiple properties he'll be able to do some site assessments as well."
"Ok. When are you available to do site assessments?" and now he had both his hands on her waist and was moving her deeper into the shadows.
"Mr. LeBlanc. I think..."
"Jeff, Mr. Leblanc, perhaps I've given you the wrong impression." And he moved his hand up to her breast and moved in a little closer.

Joe was waiting anxiously for Owen to finish with his clients. Maurice had moved to the side yard and found Roger and they were moving to the back yard. But there was a crowd of folks at the bar near the gate and they were having trouble getting through. Joe had managed to get to Owen in the dining room.
"Hmm Owen, I think that LeBlanc has had too much to drink."
"Well, he does like his cocktails."
"Hmmm, Owen... he's got Nola in the backyard and we think..."
And that was all Joe was able to get out before Owen started moving toward the kitchen past the stairs and Joe moved through the other passage way toward the back kitchen door. Roger and Maurice had finally decided that going through the kitchen was probably faster and ran right into Owen.
"Damn, Why aren't you all with Nola!"
Maurice said, "I got this" and stepped in front of Owen and said. "Roger, Joe, get outside!" and they moved.
"Now, Owen calm down. You know Leblanc likes women and alcohol and it seems he's had plenty of alcohol and Nola is definitely all woman." And Maurice looked around as some clients came in through the kitchen. He smiled at them.
Maurice moved Owen toward the porch. Owen managed to keep it together and said quietly "So why are you keeping me in here?"
"Because I think that Nola can handle herself and Roger and Joe can handle Leblanc. Let's just move here to the porch and see. Ok boss?"
"I can't see her. Where is she?"
"Under the tree. Look Roger and Joe are right there."
"Damn it Maurice!"
"Look here she comes. She's ok. Settle down."

It was all Roger and Joe could do not to laugh. LeBlanc had managed to put his hand on Nola's breast and was trying to kiss her. She grabbed the index finger of the hand on her breast and bent it back. LeBlanc had backed off in pain. "Owww, what are you doing?"
"What I have to Mr. LeBlanc. I'm sorry but I'd rather you didn't touch me like that. I'm the landscaper. I don't provide the kind of services you seem to be looking for." And she saw Roger and Joe. Who tried to pretend they hadn't seen anything and she walked past them toward the house.

LeBlanc sat down in the chair under the oak tree. Roger headed back to the house and Joe turned his back and pretended not to see LeBlanc. Then when he walked toward the chair and acted surprised to see him and asked if he could get him another drink.

Nola went straight to the kitchen door, in and through the kitchen toward the downstairs bathroom but the door was closed so she stepped into the dining room. There were clients around the table looking at plans so she moved slowly up the stairs. She needed some space to calm down. Roger came in right behind her and closed the door and looked questioningly at Maurice and Owen who had just come in from the porch.
"Where did she go?"
Roger just pointed.
Owen was pissed. "Roger move. I'm going out to give LeBlanc a piece of my mind.
Knowing that was a bad idea, Maurice said: "Oh no. No, you're not. You're going upstairs to take care of Nola."
Roger said, "What's wrong? She looked Ok."
Owen pulled it together and asked, "What happened?"
"She practically bent Leblanc's finger off his hand and told him not to treat her like a hooker. She's fine."
Maurice said, "Owen go talk to her." Roger was still standing in front of the door. Maurice said again, "Go talk to her. Roger and Joe will take care of LeBlanc. I'll stay down here to manage the clients."

Owen was torn. But Nola won. He went into the dining room and saw Nola at the top of the stairs. He went straight up the stairs and she could see he was upset so she stepped into his bedroom. He followed.
"Are you ok?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Don't shout. You'll scare your nice clients. Close the door."
He closed the door and went to her and closed her up in a hug. "I'm sorry."
"You should be."
He didn't expect that so he released her slightly.
"Why didn't you tell me you had an octopus for a client?" And she walked toward the French doors. "It would have been nice to know a head of time. I would have never put myself in a position for that to happen."
He smiled, "I hear you did ok."
"Yes and bless Maurice for getting Joe and Roger. What that man thought he was going to do me under that oak tree with so many other people around... I just don't know. But I'd really rather not be pawed like that. It's embarrassing."
"Pawed? What the hell! I'm going to..."
"No." and she grabbed his arm.
Roger knocked on the door. "Owen?"
Nola said, "Come in Roger."
Roger looked at Owen and then at Nola. She said, "Tell him it's OK, Roger."
"Owen, I already told you Nola handled herself just fine. Leblanc was bragging to Joe that she was a fine woman and that he was going to get her out to do some site assessments real soon." And the way Roger said site assessments made LeBlanc’s intensions perfectly clear.
"Gott Dammit. I'm going to throw him into the pool!"
Roger laughed. Nola smiled and said, "No, you're not. When he calls and asks for site assessments, and I'm pretty sure he will, you will pretend like you have no idea what happened. You'll say sure Nola will be glad to come and do the assessments. Then you and Joe come with me. We are never going to say another word about what just happened and you are going to take his money."

Roger raised his eyebrows. Owen looked at her like she was crazy.
"Don't you two look at me like that. He is obviously a man who has a lot of money and who isn't used to being told no. The last thing you want to do in this town is upset someone with money and power. Don't embarrass him and he owes you. He'll owe me. It's the best revenge."
Roger said, "Damn Owen, You sure have some woman!"
"Well she's right. That is the way rich folk in this town work."
"I'm still going to throw him in the pool." he said forcefully.
Nola said, "Excuse me Roger." And she moved to Owen and he automatically put his arms around her and she moved closer and gave him an impressive kiss. A kiss Roger didn't even try to not see.
Then she said, "You will not throw him in the pool. Right?"
"I don't know."
And she gently kissed him again. "You will not throw him in the pool. Right?"
"Right." And she slipped from his arms and put her hand on Roger's arm.
"Roger I'm going to freshen up in Owen's bathroom. Please take him downstairs and make sure he mingles with clients who aren't Leblanc until Leblanc leaves. Please?"
"Anything you say boss." And he winked at her. She smiled and slipped into the bathroom and they heard the water start running as she did her best to calm down.

"Damn. That is a one of a kind woman. Where did you find her?"
"On a plane to Pennsylvania."
"What? She's a native right? Sometimes when she talks it sounds like she is from the 9th Ward."
"She is."
"On a plane?"
"Yes, on a plane to Pennsylvania, last November."
Roger just shook his head. "Some guys have all the luck. Come on you have to mingle." And he moved Owen toward the door and the stairs. "I have to make sure that you don't mingle with LeBlanc. Maurice and Joe will get him out of here. Don't do anything that will upset your woman. I don't want her mad at me."

Nola calmed herself down. Then she called the Grigori and the elementals and the Gods and wove a spell that would get Leblanc to leave quickly. He was hungry. He wanted to be where he could pay women would let him put his hands on them. He was going to call.... call his driver or a cab and he would be gone in less than 15 minutes. He would also be left with an overwhelming desire to have No Lawnmower Landscaping work on his properties. She worked the spell for 5 minutes and then let it go. 10 minutes later she was watching from the French doors in Owen's bedroom as he left. As soon as he did she smiled and turned to go back downstairs. Owen met her at the bedroom door and pushed her back in.
"He's gone."
"I know."
"How do you know?"
"I wished him gone. I watched him leave."
"You wished him gone?"
"You twitched your nose?
"Remind me not to make you mad."
"I don't usually do things like that but I believe I was protecting myself and you and your business. We're allowed under those circumstances."
"I see. Maybe I do need to consider doing magic."
"Yes. You should practice on small things so it is there for you when you need it. I keep telling you it's a tool."
And he kissed her. And she kissed him back releasing the pent up fear and tension. Owen thought, Roger was absolutely right. Nola was some woman. He was still kissing her and moved her on to the bed. When she realized where they were she said, "No, Owen. You have clients downstairs."
"They are leaving." And he kissed her neck. "I have missed you. It's been weeks since you've been here."
"I have been here every week."
"Yes, But not long enough."
"You have clients and guests downstairs. Just what do you think you and I are going to do up here?"
And he flopped back onto the bed. "Argh. You probably don't want to know. I need all my fingers."
And she laughed. "Get up Big Man. You need to go downstairs. It's your party. It's bad enough Roger saw me kiss you. I don't want the rest of them wondering what we're doing up here." And she got up and he watched as she retied her sarong.
"Well since that's all you leave me."
"You are incorrigible. Come on let's go."

When they went downstairs and out back, Maurice was in the pool in the inner tube.
"Maurice, now everything is as it should be. You definitely belong in a pool. Where is your lovely wife?"
He smiled at her and waved to his wife who waved back to them.
Joe came up to her. "I'm sorry."
"For what Joe? LeBlanc? Don't worry about it. We're going to make a fortune off of handling his properties. You watch."
Joe raised his eyebrows. Roger came up to her.
"Owen seems very relaxed. What did you do to him?"
"Nothing," Which was true. "Tell Joe how we're going to take LeBlanc's money." And she slipped away to talk to Maurice’s wife knowing that she need to say hello to everyone before she could leave.

She was sitting with Owen on the far side of the pool. He was content and had his arm draped around her on the back of the chair."
Maurice was getting a drink and so was Roger.
"Look at them, Maurice."
"I know. Do you think he knows just how hooked he is?"
"It's hard to tell. Owen's never had any trouble getting women."
"No, that's true. But I don't think I've ever seen him like this with another woman."
Roger laughed. "He was going to throw LeBlanc in the pool."
Maurice laughed. "I would have liked to see that."
"She talked him out of it with a kiss. Well two actually. If she does the rest like she kisses...."

And Nola whispered in Owen's ear. "It's been interesting and fun. But I'm leaving now."
Owen turned to her, "No. Stay until everyone else goes."
"No, I'm leaving. Your crew knows they can start later tomorrow. I have to go to work tomorrow." And he kissed her lightly and hugged her and whispered in her ear. "Stay."
"Owen please, everyone is probably looking at us."
"So what? It's my house. As far as most of them are concerned you're my girlfriend."
She shook her head and laughed and said, "Incorrigible. But charming. And I'm still leaving." And she stood up, held her hand out and said. "Walk me out, please."
He reluctantly stood up and walked her to the gate as they went past Roger and Maurice, Nola said, "Take care of Owen fellas."
"Sure Nola. You're leaving?"
"Yep, I have to be at work for 7:30AM." And she headed for her truck in the driveway.
Roger told Maurice, "Watch this." and they watched as discretely as they could from the gate between the pool and the driveway.
When Owen and Nola were finished, Maurice said, "I see what you mean."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Biggest Full Moon in Decades

Moon gazers are in for a treat this weekend when the full moon will appear 14 percent bigger.
Article taken from DiscoveryNews

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Once Upon a Time - Mardi Gras

Once upon a time: Mardi Gras a look back at the history of it all
Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 11:44 AM
Updated: Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 12:20 PM
By The Times-Picayune

SOURCE: The Times-Picayune's Mardi Gras 2011 Special Section.

It was the first time for the group of Mardi Gras newbies visiting from out of town. They headed down Bourbon Street surrounded by the kaleidoscopic shock-and-awe that is Fat Tuesday in the French Quarter.

One of them was costumed like a recent headline-making serial killer while her friend's elaborate outfit was designed to resemble a disgraced congressman who was caught with his pants down - literally - in an airport bathroom. Slightly more family-friendly attire included the group's small contingent dressed in "Mama Mia!" T-shirts, which broke into song at the drop of a hat.

Somewhere down the street a stereo was blasting "Carnival Time."

Two scantily attired men dressed up like cherubs hung on to a street pole while pretending to shoot "love arrows" in our direction.

And it wasn't even noon yet.


The ancient roots of Carnival can be traced to the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6 - aka Kings' Day or Twelfth Night (as in the 12 days of Christmas). In some places around the world Jan. 6 celebrates the arrival of the three wise men at the birthplace of the Christ child.

In New Orleans, Kings' Day simultaneously ends the Christmas season and fires the starting pistol for Carnival. This festival of fun finds its roots in various pagan celebrations of spring, some dating back 5,000 years. But it was Pope Gregory XIII who made it a Christian holiday when, in 1582, he put it on his Gregorian calendar (the 12-month one we still use today). He placed Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday, the final day of the Carnival season) on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first of Lent's 40 days preceding Easter. That way, all the debauchery would be finished when it came time to fast and pray.

Much of the first part of the Carnival season is made up of invitation-only coronation balls and supper dances hosted by private clubs known as krewes. The public portion of Carnival comes to life a couple of weeks before Mardi Gras when the krewes hit the streets, staging more than 60 parades in metropolitan New Orleans.

Mardi Gras arrived in North America with the LeMoyne brothers, Iberville and Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France's claim to the New World territory of Louisiana. The explorers found the mouth of the Mississippi River on March 3, 1699, Mardi Gras of that year. They made camp a few miles upriver, named the spot Point d'Mardi Gras and partook in a spontaneous party. This is often referred to as North America's first Mardi Gras. However, it is just as likely that the weary explorers were simply celebrating the fact that they were still alive.

A couple of decades later, Bienville founded New Orleans and soon Carnival celebrations were an annual event highlighted by lavish balls and masked spectacles. Some were small, private parties touting select guest lists, while others were raucous affairs open to the public. Collectively, they reflected such a propensity for frolic in the local citizenry that historian Robert Tallant wrote in his book "Mardi Gras" that "it has been said that the natives would step over a corpse on the way to a ball or the opera and think nothing of it."

Parades officially became a part of the festivities in 1838. On Ash Wednesday of that year, The Commercial Bulletin read: "The European custom of celebrating the last day of the Carnival by a procession of masqued figures through the streets was introduced here yesterday."


Over the next 20 years, Carnival became an increasingly rowdy event defined by drunkenness and violence. Eventually, churches and even the press began to call for its demise. In 1857, Mardi Gras found itself on the verge of death (having already been outlawed twice under Spanish and early American rule).

Then along came Comus, a group whose tale actually began 27 years earlier in the wee hours of Jan. 1, 1830 as a group of young men walked home from a New Year's Eve party in Mobile, Ala. They passed a general store featuring an outdoor display of rakes, hoes, shovels and cowbells. Making the kind of decision inebriated young men are apt to, they picked up the supplies and headed to the mayor's house where they caused quite a stir. An obviously patient man, the mayor invited them in, sobered them up and, according to historian Buddy Stall, made the motley krewe's leader an offer.

"Next year," hizzoner suggested, "why not organize yourselves and let everybody have fun?"

Led by Michael Kraft, the group called themselves the Cowbellion de Rakin Society. They paraded the following New Year's Eve and were so successful that the procession became an annual event.

Now, jump ahead to 1857 when New Orleans city leaders were on the verge of canceling Mardi Gras for good. Six Cowbellions now living in the Big Easy proposed forming a new private club to present a parade based on a theme, with floats, costumed riders and flambeaux (torch carriers who lit the way) - an orderly alternative to the chaos that Carnival had become. They chose the name Comus after the Greek god of revelry and coined the term "krewe." City leaders agreed and Comus was credited with saving Mardi Gras.

It wasn't until after the Civil War that the second Carnival krewe made its debut in 1870. The new group chose Jan. 6 to present its parade and ball, giving themselves the name Twelfth Night Revelers. Although they no longer parade, the Revelers ball (along with the Kings' Day streetcar ride of the Phunny Phorty Phellows) marks the official start of the season.

During the Revelers first fete, an innovation was brought to Mardi Gras - a queen. Well, almost. After their tableau was presented, court fools carried out a giant king cake, the traditional pastry of the season, in which had been baked a golden bean. The plan was that pieces of cake would be presented to a group of young ladies and the one who found the bean would be crowned Carnival's first queen.

However, it seems that the fools were quite drunk and instead of presenting the cake, they either dropped it on or threw it at the young women. When the flour cleared, none of the appalled females would admit to having the bean. So, the first Carnival queen - wasn't, until the following year.

By 1872, new troubles were brewing in the city. Postwar carpetbaggery had reached its zenith and rumblings of revolt against the city government could be heard. As Carnival approached, fears of masked reprisals surfaced. Then came the diversion city leaders needed. News arrived that Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff Alexandrovitch, brother of the heir apparent to the throne of Russia, had accepted the city's invitation to Mardi Gras.

A plan was hatched.

A new krewe of prominent citizens from both the government and its opposition would be formed and a King of all Carnival would be chosen. The group would call itself the School of Design and its ruler was to be Rex.

What no one knew was that the duke had accepted because his visit would coincide with the New Orleans opening of singer Lydia Thompson's touring musical, in which she performed a nonsensical ballad called "If Ever I Cease to Love." (Supposedly, she had also sung the number privately for the duke during a Big Apple rendezvous.) When news of Thompson and the duke hit the local grapevine, public interest in the visit grew enormously.

Mardi Gras morning found the duke sitting in the official reviewing stand as Rex, atop a bay charger, led 10,000 maskers in a line more than a mile long. Among them were a number of bands, all of which broke into "If Ever I Cease to Love" as they passed the duke. Alas, the romance was ill-fated, but after 137 years, Rex remains King of Carnival and "If Ever I Cease to Love" is still the official song of the season.

The oldest parading African-American krewe is the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which first took to the streets in 1909. Not taking themselves as seriously as the staunch white krewes, the group dressed its first king, William Story, in an old sack and a crown fashioned from a lard can. A banana stalk was his scepter. Over the years, Zulu has become a perennial favorite and the krewe's gilded coconuts (painted gold and decorated with glitter) are one of the season's most prized throws.


By the 1950s, the truck parades, composed of floats built atop flatbed trucks (usually by families), had become well established. The late '60s saw the advent of the "superkrewes" Endymion and Bacchus, which broke with tradition by offering open memberships, larger floats and celebrity kings.

But Carnival faced new foes in the latter half of the 20th century. A 1979 police strike caused parades to be canceled in the city, just to see a number of them pop up in the suburbs. The City Council's anti-discrimination ordinance of 1988 called for krewes to either open their ranks or get off public streets. In response, three of the four oldest krewes - Comus (1857), Momus (1873) and Proteus (1882) - took their floats and went home. Rex remained and the other slots were filled. Proteus returned in 2000 and the following year became the first krewe to parade in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

In 2002, the 9/11 tragedy led to an extension of the NFL season, meaning that the Super Bowl set to be played in New Orleans the week before Carnival began, would now take place in the middle of the festivities.

With some maneuvering, a number of parades were rescheduled to accommodate the game.

Just a few years ago, with the city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, the Carnival season was somewhat compacted but only a handful of krewes opted out of parading, most of whom returned for 2007.

And in 2010, as the Superbowl Champion Saints added spice to the already joyous season, Mardi Gras seemed more triumphant than the usual celebration of the end of winter.

Krewes shifted days, times and even halted parades so as not to conflict with the events.

Though not an obstacle, the Super Bowl sensation Saints were another layer of Carnival.

So, it seems that in New Orleans, no matter what the obstacle or the celebration, the Greatest Free Show on Earth has always found a way around it.

As Stall writes in "Buddy Stall's New Orleans," "It has been said that the people of New Orleans love Carnival and Mardi Gras parades to such an extreme that if a catastrophe were to occur and only two people survived, at the next Mardi Gras one of them would be in costume marching down the street, beating a drum and holding a banner, while the other would be standing on the side in costume, drinking a Dixie Beer and hollering, "Throw me something, mister!"

SOURCE: The Times-Picayune's Mardi Gras 2011 Special Section.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chapter 40– Insights

Owen was soaking in the hot tub. He had worked out in his weight room and then had swum laps for 30 minutes. He was trying to keep himself busy and wear himself out. It wasn’t working. Nola should be here. But she had called on Wednesday to apologize because she would not be at his house this week. She had just found out that Thursday was Jamie’s last performance of the school year. His mind kept jumping from one Nola thought to another. He knew that she was a good mom and that her daughter had to come first. But this felt worse than when she had gone to Houston for a week. It would still be only a total of 10 days. He had just seen her on Monday. But she had come, done the initiation and then left immediately afterward. Damn the woman. Her visit pre-initiation had been short. The initiation ritual had been short and intense and no visit this week. He was missing her even more.
“Why do you think that is son?”
“I don’t know, because I know her better now?”
“Why would that matter?”
“I don’t know, because I have more to miss? Her flirting with me like she did before dinner at Galatoire's. How totally absorbed she is when she is planning or planting a garden. How thoughtfully and honestly she answers questions. How she makes me think and teaches things, like learning how to be still and listen to you. How she is pleased with the smallest things: wine, a fire in the fireplace, moonlight on the pool, trees in pots waiting to be planted, the koi. How she smiles when she dances. How she says thank you with kisses. And the sex. Oh god, I miss the sex.”
“Well that is quite a list son. You could get sex from other women.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you want to do that?”
Owen hesitated. “Fair question. Why wouldn’t I want to do that? …. What is it about women that does this to us?”
“Does what son?”
“Makes us… makes us…. Makes us like I am right now?”
“And exactly what are you right now?”
“I don’t know happy, anxious? I feel like I’m on the brink of something new. I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Why not?”
“Because I’ve never felt like this before.”
“You don’t say.”
"Why is she so.... so close and yet so distant?"
"She answered that question once before, the same day we talked her into dinner with Jack and Abby."
"Oh. But that was a complicated answer."
"Well son, maybe it is more complicated for her. She is the main provider for her family. They depend on her. She is a mom. She is a wife. She doesn't strike me as someone who takes any of her commitments or responsibilities lightly."
"No, she doesn't.
"Not even the one she's made to teach you."
"You're right. She's is fully committed to that."
"Think about the commitment she made to work with you on the landscaping business. She cares about and now feels she has responsibilities to Joe and Louis and Maurice and your business reputation. You toss her in the truck. You drag her out to a job site with no warning at all. And she immediately understands how important the work could be for your crews and why they would want this as well and she's all in and committed."
"It was pretty damn impressive."
"Now think about the commitment she made to her husband."
"Yeah, Oh. You've never been in love. She has been in love."
"Been in love? Past tense?"
"Maybe Owen. Maybe. I'm not sure she's ready to decide whether she can be in love with her husband, or anyone else, ever again."
"I remember her saying, 'I am only so strong'."
"Right. You have to give her time to figure it out. She doesn't want to see this issue as one she has to deal with. She is a problem solver by nature. You can see that right?"
"Right, that's what she does when she landscapes, that's what she did when she taught me how to listen to you."
"This is a problem she's refusing to see. Give her time to see it. Only then can she solve it."
"Ok. Ok."

And Owen got up out of the Jacuzzi wrapped a towel around him and spent the next 20 minutes letting the shower beat on him and then he tried to read himself to sleep. It wasn’t working so he shut off the light and leaned into the pillows and imagined himself in at the trailhead to the ridgeline. He worked his way up the trail and found the flat rock and opened his mind …

He was sitting on the flat rock talking to Papa Eric.
“A friend of mine has something she wants to say about you and Nola.”
“I’m listening.”
And a voice that wasn’t his grandfather’s said, “You are good for Nola. Very good for her. She is good for you. She is serious about her commitment to teach the ways. You have been an exceptional student. We are glad that you were able to find each other. This does not always happen in your short physical lives. There is much that you can teach each other. Right now Nola is resisting the lessons she needs to learn. You are helping her confront her issues and drag them out into the open so she is forced to deal with them. But these lessons will be painful for her. She will try to run from them and from you if you are not gentle with her.”
“What are these lessons?”
“She has to determine where her responsibilities to care for others stops and her responsibility to care for herself starts. She has to learn that her heart can be safe. She has to learn to let another care for her. Do not rush her. She is committed to teaching you for one year. She will not leave you before the year is up unless you change your mind and choose not to walk this path. But in addition to all the lessons you are learning as a stregone, there is one other thing you too must grasp in this lifetime and Nola can help you there as well. You must be still and listen. Listen with your heart.” And it felt like a warm kitten had curled up in his hands and Owen fell deeply asleep.

As Meana sent Owen off to sleep, Bellaria looked at Papa Eric. He said, “The signs are clear. I’ve seen this in his father and uncles and brothers. I’ve experienced it myself. If I were corporeal I would be drawn to Nola like a moth to a flame. You can see he is. He can tell he is. He just hasn’t named it yet. He is an easy going boy. He loves his pleasures. Nola is exactly right to leave him to his own devices. Even though when she does she is running from her heart. Only when he misses her does he begin to realize how much he needs her. And Tago nodded. Patience. He is not the only one who needs time.

Owen woke refreshed. He had plans to complete for new jobs and meetings with the owners next week Monday and Tuesday so he would be busy enough today. He grabbed some coffee and settled into his office to work. He had been at it for about 2 hours when he stretched and looked out of the window and noticed the redbud trees. And thought about hanging and planting the pouches. And the conversation with Papa Eric recrystallized in head. Nola needs to figure out whether she can ever be in love with her husband… or anyone else… ever again! And Tago gave Settrano a very intense 'Pipe Down!' look. And Papa Eric stepped in with "And you need to figure out what being in love really means before you interfere, son."

And Owen thought 7 more days. That woman!
Then he got an idea. He tried calling her at work but she didn't answer and he knew better than to leave her a message. He tried calling her on her cell phone but she had said her cell didn't work all that well in the refinery and that she wasn't good at having it with her or if it was with her it wasn't always charged. He finally decided to send her an eMail saying that he had worked up the plan options for the owners on 2 of their recent landscaping proposals and he'd like her to come and take a look if she had some time. He really wasn't meeting with the owners for 2 weeks. But he had drawn up her suggestions as soon as they'd finished the site assessment and if it got her back sooner maybe this ridiculous feeling of withdrawal like anxiety would go away. Tago nodded to Settrano indicating that was better and Bellaria did her best to provide clear, clean energy so Owen could focus on his work.

He checked his eMail the rest of the day on Friday. Nothing.
He checked his eMail Saturday. Nothing. Until 6PM:
I can swing by either on Sunday morning (earlier is better) or Monday after work. Let me know which works best for your schedule."
And Owen thought "Both." But wrote: "Sunday anytime you want."
At 8PM Nola posted back: "See you 8:30AM tomorrow. I need to be home by Noon to make sure my daughter doesn't sleep all day."
And Owen relaxed more completely than he had in almost a week.
And he heard Papa Eric chuckle.
"That woman is like a drug to you, son. You can only go so long before you need a fix."

Owen had been up since 7AM. He'd done 30 minutes weight work, then showered and was dressed and waiting on the front porch with a cup of coffee when Nola pulled into his driveway. He met her at the truck door and swept her into a hug. "I hate it when I don't get to see you every week."
She laughed. "Owen you really need to find more toys to play with. I can't be the only one. I did see you last week."
"Yes, on Monday and then only for the initiation ritual and then you left."
"Well, I thought it..."
"Yeah, I know you thought it was best. Why is it that you think it best to leave me alone for extended periods of time?"
"Because I can show you the path Owen, but YOU have to walk it."
He shook his head and managed a smile, "Yes, Yoda."
And she smiled at him.

Owen made her a cup of coffee while she looked over the plans.
When he handed her the cup she said, "These are good representations of the options we talked about when I visited the site with you. But the design can only be finalized after we talk to the owners. We need to know what they think they want, other than a no lawnmower yard. Do they have kids? Do they want an outdoor entertainment area? Are they planning a pool?"
He smiled and said. "I'm working on getting that kind of information."
"It's great that you've laid out areas for Maurice's pathways and where we can get the trees and larger bushes in right away. But we need to work with their budget on how they use seeds as in fill or whether they can afford the vision all at once. I don't even know what kind of fruit trees they like."
"Well these are just the first pass." And he was still grinning.
"You know, maybe I should work up a questionnaire for you to give perspective landscape clients and then these preliminary plans would be closer to something they would like without so much rework." And she paused to take a sip of her coffee and said, "Owen what are you grinning about?"
"I have a confession."
And she looked at him and waited.
"I really didn't need you to look at the plans. It is too soon and I'm hoping you can meet with them next weekend to get the answers to your questions. I just didn't want to wait until Thursday to see you."
And she was surprised but managed to joke with him, "We really do need to get you another toy."
"You woman are not a toy. Let's go to breakfast at Elizabeth's."
"But I just got here."
"Yes and there isn't a damn thing you can do with those plans right now and I'm hungry."
And she sighed and smiled and thought for a few seconds before she said. "OK, I really don't have anything else I have to do."

They had returned from breakfast and she insisted that she had to get home to Jamie. Owen gave her a hug before she climbed into the truck and drove off. He wandered back into the house and picked up the plans and organized his thoughts and his paperwork for next week's work. A number of jobs were midway to completion. He had 4 new jobs he was lining up behind them so things were looking good. He decided to go get groceries. He had gone out to breakfast because there was too little in the fridge. It was now early afternoon and he didn't have a think to do. So he was soaking in the hot tub when something Nola said popped in his head. It wasn't the first time that she had referred to herself as his toy and indicated that he needed more toys, things to keep him occupied. Was she teasing or did she really feel like he treated her as a toy?
"Well think about it, son. Don't you just a little bit?"
"No? You decide you want her to come here. You actually trick her into coming here. For what? Because it made you happy. Right?"
"Well, yes... but it's because I like spending time with her. She makes me happy. She's interesting. She's fun to be around."
"Like a toy. You needed something to play with and you thought of Nola. "
"Now that's not fair."
"Isn't it?"
"You know I care about Nola."
"I know you aren't a cad. I know that you have a kind heart. I think you care about Nola when Nola is making you happy. But do you care about Nola as Nola?"
"Well sure."
"Papa Eric?"
"Papa Eric?"
"I know it will come to you if you just open you mind. Think about it."

“Papa Eric?”
Think about what? I like her. I’m not the only one. The crew likes her too. They would probably do anything she suggested just because she suggested it. What’s not to like? She’s one of the lowest maintenance women I’ve ever known. It doesn’t seem like she expects much, she works like one of the guys and she is pleased with the smallest things. She’s independent and capable of taking care of herself and providing for her family. Why wouldn’t I want to be around someone like that? She’s not a toy she’s my friend. And he smiled thinking, she is my girl friend in practice and as far as the guys and my family are concerned. His ridge experience from last night came back to him in a hazy memory and he cupped his hands in the shape used to call Meana and thought about a kitten. And then a question formed in his head. What in the world could he possibly teach Nola?

And the phone rang. It was Roger asking if him to come to a crawfish boil. He said sure and spent the rest of the day hanging with guys who were his crew and his friends.