April 29, 2018

Mary Magdalene and the rights of sex workers

There has been a powerful move in recent years to redefine Mary Magdalene as anything except a prostitute. I find this movement deeply troubling. Jesus always treated her with respect and courtesy. She does not appear often in the Bible, but when she does, the writers are clearly not comfortable describing her presence and the way Jesus treats her. The morning of his resurrection, Mary Magdalene was the very first person he appeared to and the only person he actually took the time to comfort. This is why it is so important for us to acknowledge her chosen profession. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Knowing the time and culture, it is safe to assume she worked her trade from a temple dedicated to Ishtar (Astarte). Jesus never reviled her, never condemned her, never criticized her, appeared first to her on the morning of his resurrection, and even comforted her in her grief. This is why so many people want to believe she was his wife, a rich merchant, a wealthy widow, a Roman noble, or anything at all except a temple prostitute. They want to be free to denigrate, humiliate, criticize, and condemn women who work in the modern sex trade. Even worse, there are far too many men who seek to denigrate women in general. I cannot fathom this thinking. If it were not for their mothers they would not even exist, and yet, they hate women?

I am no longer a fan or supporter of CNN. Ever since the nomination of Senator Barack Obama for the presidency they have slavish transformed themselves into the propaganda arm of the American Democratic Party in order to support a DNC platform based on identity politics. They have turned themselves into a platform dedicated to spewing the most disdainful, elitist, condescending, anti-American, anti-modern, primitive ideology known to the modern world: Neo-Marxism disguised as "liberal progressivism". There is nothing liberal or progressive about insisting women are better than men, blacks are better than whites, and the most oppressive people in the world are white, American businessmen. By the very same token, any man who denigrates women, treats women like sex toys, humiliates women, beats women, demands women "know their place", and so on, is also delusional beyond my ability to comprehend. Not all white American businessmen are pigs, but yes, some of them are, too many of them. Collectivism that lumps all white American businessmen into the same category as Bernie Madoff or Harvey Weinstein is just as despicable as the behaviors and choices of those men. This is important to note: their behaviors and choices are despicable. The men themselves are just men, neither better nor worse than any man or woman or child.

It does not surprise me in the least that one of the strongest platforms advocating for an end to sex trafficking is the CNN Freedom Project. It is important to recognize that all of CNN's proposed solutions are related to "freeing" and "reforming" sex workers. They call it "freeing" and "reforming", but what they really mean is imprisoning them in a "safe house" and "re-educating" them to perform any form of commercial slavery possible except sex work. In line with this globalist agenda, CNN advocates for greater international treaties that outlaw and stigmatize sex workers of all kinds, regardless of whether those sex workers are slaves or independents. CNN's Neo-Marxism is fully on display here. They parade true stories of violence and humiliation and then insist the only possible solution is increased violence and humiliation. This is typical of almost every political platform being pursued by the "liberal progressive" movement in America and Europe. They insist there is widespread corruption and oppression of women and minorities and then state point-blank that the only possible solution is increasing the level of corruption and oppression by applying it to everyone else. How is the destruction of mainstream cultures "liberal" or "progressive"? It isn't, and that is entirely the point. The real purpose of all this talk of "globalization" and "open borders" is to get everyone so riled up that they happily and voluntarily enslave themselves to "wiser", "better qualified" political leaders. (It is no coincidence that this is also one of the key doctrines of Maliki Jurisprudence, nor is it surprising that the vast majority of sex traffickers in today's world are Maliki followers. If you want to make something even more valuable and desirable, simply propose international treaties prohibiting it.)

In Denver in my youth I lived next door to a prostitute. At first, I was just as judgmental and critical as my family, my society, and my church had taught me to be. It did not take long for me to see the error of my ways. She was someone's daughter, someone's sister, and she had a boyfriend who loved her. She was just an ordinary young woman forced to earn her living by renting out her body by the hour. Sometimes she borrowed sugar or milk from me. Once she offered me some homemade biscuits (and they were very delicious, by the way!). Her boyfriend brought me a six-pack of beer to thank me for treating her kindly. When I told him I did not drink (in those days, I did not drink any kind of alcohol), he returned an hour later with a six-pack of A&W Root Beer, which I loved then and still do now (although I seldom drink it now because at my age it does terrible things to my body). Living next to her forced me to re-evaluate all of my attitudes toward women in general and sex workers in particular. That is why I do not condemn the LGBT movement for their lifestyle, only for their insistence that the government pass laws ordering everyone to accept it as "normal" (whatever that means).

When the post above popped up in my Twitter newsfeed I was neither offended nor shocked. For some bizarre reason over the past year the Twitter algorithms have been dropping call girls, cam models, and other sex workers into their "Suggestions". I am not certain why, exactly. I suspect it is partly because about two years ago a cam model I'd never heard of liked one of my Tweets and started following me. Before long, I had a dozen of them following my Twitter feed. I guess there are sex workers out there who love guns and conservative politics, because that is the vast majority of what I post about on Twitter. The post above was just another in a long line of similar posts. However, this one cut me to the core. I was not scandalized by her desire for a partner who accepted her. Just the opposite, in fact. It hurt me deeply that she felt so ostracized she needed to post about it on Twitter.

I went to her Twitter feed and read a couple dozen of her posts. I learned she used to work in New York City in broadcast journalism. She did not make enough money to support herself, so in the evenings she accepted money in exchange for companionship, casual dates, and sexual favors. I am not certain if she became a full-time sex worker simply because the money was so much better or because her company forced her to leave. In far too many ways, either option amounts to pretty much the same thing. Criminalization of the sex trade is one of the reasons that escorts and call girls can charge so much for their services and fully expect to receive it. As long as the sex trade is illegal, sexual favors or paid companionship will remain an extremely rare commodity that is both risky to offer and difficult to obtain. Legalization of prostitution would not destroy the escort and call girl business, but it would certainly force them to revise their business model in some way if they hope to receive the same payment for their services.

Yes, I support the legalization and regulation of prostitution. Health checks, worker's rights, consumer protections, all need to be applied to the sex industry in the same way they are applied to every industry. Sex workers need to be protected from predatory owners/operators and sex clients need to be protected from predatory sex workers. This cannot be achieved in any meaningful way unless the sex trade is legally regulated, morally acceptable, and socially recognized. Preachers should be free to hire a prostitute on Friday night and then rail against the evils of prostitution on Sunday morning. Freedom is freedom, after all. But the sex worker should be paid fairly and the preacher should be protected from blackmail. We cannot protect both the sex worker and the preacher until prostitution becomes both legal and socially acceptable as a chosen profession.

If prostitution is legal and socially acceptable, then we can also protect both male and female workers from being secretly coerced into offering sexual favors in exchange for promotions, pay raises, and bonuses, or even simply for keeping their job. By the same token, businesses can maintain sex workers on their staff for entertaining stubborn clients, comforting stressed workers, or whatever. As long as the sex worker is a volunteer who is protected from physical abuse, emotional trauma, and social ostracization, why would this be a problem? Legal protections and avenues of resolution need to be in place to insure that no one would ever be forced or coerced into prostitution and sex workers would never be treated like property. Regulations also need to be in place that would always give the sex worker the freedom to decline to serve clients who they fear, despise, distrust, or simply don't like.

Christianity became politicized in the 4th Century. One of the first initiatives it undertook was the criminalization of the sex trade. They did this for several reasons. First of all, this allowed them to capture the revenue stream that went to the temples of Diana and Ishtar. Yes, sadly, it really did boil down to money. Secondly, it allowed them to better control the leisure activities of their followers. It became both illegal and immoral to patronize any faith other than the official Christian faith. In my never humble opinion, this dual approach of becoming officially sanctioned and outlawing the sex trade in the name of religion was one of the first great mistakes made by the Church. If they could not compete on the basis of their theology and their ideas, then they did not deserve to survive. Yes, that's harsh and many of my Christian friends will be appalled, but facts are facts. If Christianity was truly the best choice among the thousands available, then it would not have needed Imperial Roman Law to protect it and nurture it. Thirdly, and almost as important as the first two, by transforming itself into the official religion of the Roman Empire they were able to end once and for all three centuries of torture and martyrdom. I wish I could claim this was the most important reason, but diaries of believers from the era are very clear on this point: martyrdom and persecution were desirable qualities of Christian life because it verified the "truth" of their teaching. Numerous Christian writers opposed official sanction because it would end the persecution and persecution was their best tool for self-affirmation. We see this same kind of thinking in the Maliki Jurisprudence school of Islam which inspires and fuels the martyrdom complex of terrorists. Where do you think Malik ibn Anas got his ideas from? He assumed if it applied to Christian "truth", it applied even more forcefully to Islamic "truth". He explicitly states this in his writings.

Jesus respected Mary Magdalene as a person. He did not condemn her chosen occupation. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself never spoke out against any other religion. The only theology he opposed was the corrupt teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul was the one who first began condemning all of the other religions and belief systems of the Roman Empire. This was part of his teaching because he took the gospel out of Judaism and into the broader world. Paul is the new testament writer who explicitly attacks homosexuality, temple prostitution, pagan feasts, and so on. Paul's writing is logical, precise, and direct. However, in my old age I am less inclined to take everything he writes at face value. Paul had a very human agenda and oftentimes his writing has more to do with his personal agenda than it does with expanding on the words of Jesus. (This is a sad reality that more theologians need to address if they expect the world to regard them as intellectually honest.)

The real reason so many modern scholars and theologians are struggling to redefine Mary Magdalene has nothing to do with how she is presented in the New Testament. Their real problem is they cannot accept sex work as a legitimate profession. Part of this is related to Paul's condemnations of temple prostitution. Part of this is related to the very real violence that permeates the modern sex industry. Healthy, mature sex workers who entered their industry voluntarily are few and far between, but they are also very real. Unfortunately, criminalization of the sex trade has banished it to the shadows. Anything that resides in the shadows becomes the providence of human predators because this is where they live. Now, more than ever, as we move daily closer to a one world government and a global society, we need to be very careful about the rights of individuals. We are either going to build a world where every individual has the freedom to maximize their potential in their chosen line of work, or we are going to build a world where a handful of prominent families live completely above the law while condemning to death anyone who disagrees with them. It does not matter how you personally feel about sex workers. They have been with us from the very beginning and they will be with us until the very end. As globalization gains speed, we need to demand that global elites be subject to the very same laws as the rest of us. A world where prostitutes and other sex workers are slaves controlled by elite families will be very bad for everyone, but it will be a complete hell for the sex workers. The only way to avoid that world is to start accepting sex workers as real people entitled to pursue their chosen career free of condemnation and social ostracization.

The first person Jesus appeared to on the day of his resurrection was a whore. And how did he greet her?

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

April 27, 2018

Awesome Birthday Present

Today is my birthday. Today a war is ending that began before I was born. This war defined the four years I spent in the United States Army. I realize that none of the leaders involved even knows I exist. Nonetheless, this is still the best birthday present ever!

April 26, 2018

Dragon Brothers: Kanye West and Donald Trump

The first time I ever heard the name, "Kanye West", was when a viral video circulated around the internet of him charging onto a stage, grabbing a microphone from the emcee, and announcing that giving Taylor Swift an award for her music video was a racist outrage because Beyonce's competing music video was "the greatest music video of all time". This did not make a good first impression. Now, years later, I don't even remember which award show it was and which music video had just been awarded. I had heard the name, "Beyonce" before this, but this was also the first time for me to hear the name, "Taylor Swift". At the time, I found both videos on YouTube and immediately fell in love with the music of Taylor Swift. Beyonce is a skilled singer, and a masterful dancer, but her style does not resonate with me. If I were to award "the greatest music video of all time", I would probably give it to Taylor Swift's masterful, charming, and always entertaining, "Mean" or perhaps Brad Paisley's equally charming and equally entertaining, "Online".

In the years since, I have seen a lot of Kanye West. He seems to enjoy the spotlight as much as anyone in his business and takes advantage of every opportunity to monopolize it. This is good marketing on his part and is at least partly responsible for his massive success. I suppose he's also a highly skilled musician, but I wouldn't know. I've never listened to his music. I have, however, seen far too much of his politics. Most of the time when he pops onto my television screen he is praising himself, bragging about his success, or lambasting Republicans. Naturally, this has not endeared me to him and has not inspired me to go check out his repertoire. For one reason or another, his name and image have faded from the daily news in recent years. It has been three, maybe four years since I've heard anything about him. So when the post above popped up in my Twitter feed this morning, I was beyond shocked.

As usual while I am in Tokyo, the family cat woke me up at 4 a.m. demanding breakfast. I got up. I used the toilet. I washed my hands and face. I fed the cat. Then, as always, I sat down on my recliner to scroll through my social media. The first notification on my phone was from Twitter and it linked straight to Kanye West's tweet about he and Donald Trump being "dragon brothers". I am in Tokyo, so "dragon brothers" has quite an impact at a little after four in the morning. In point of fact, this might be the most shocking opening to my day social media has ever given me. Flabbergasted, I took a screenshot, chopped off the extraneous, and sent it out through Instagram to Facebook and my own Twitter feed with the added comment, "Kanye loves Trump? They are "Dragon brothers"? What kind of weird alternate reality did I wake up in?"

I then went about all my normal social media morning ritual. Posted a few things, tweeted a few things, shared a few things, and so on. When I'd finished my own online social obligations, I went back to Kanye West's tweet, followed it to his Twitter feed, and read through the other things he'd tweeted recently. That was how I found this:

Kanye West recently got married and had a child. Let me tell you a secret: Nothing in life will change your perspective as fast and as completely as raising your own child. Absolutely nothing.

My wife and I came home from a social event at Sophia University several years ago. As we were on the train, she was even less talkative than usual. Suddenly, out of the blue, she said, half to me and half to herself, "There is so much difference between people with children and people who stay single."

Raising a child is more work than anything in life you will ever do. It is a twenty year career at a 24/7 job that never ends. Not when you are sleeping. Not when you are sitting on the toilet. Not when you are on vacation and your kids are staying with their grandparents. It is not until they finally get out in the world on their own that you have your life back, and even then, sometimes they falter and wind up back home. Having an adult child in the home is much different than when you are raising them, but they are still your child and they still carry an enormous assumption of dependency. At least, if you have nurtured them with love and constant emotional support this is true. If you have done your job as a parent, then you will always be the parent until the day you die. This is emotionally unlike anything else you can experience in life. There are countless times when you swell with pride at what they accomplish. There are equally countless times when you wonder how your parents managed not to drown you. You develop a keen sympathy for those parents who murder their own children, but at the same time, the actions of those parents shocks you so deeply you cannot comprehend how they could do such a thing. Being a parent is the most nerve-wracking, agonizing, stressful dichotomy of emotions possible. It changes you in ways you never expect and cannot imagine beforehand. The more children you have, the larger the toll on yourself.

So this is what I think has happened between the scandalous event that introduced me to Kanye West and the world-shattering tweet he made yesterday. Kanye West has grown up. Raising and nurturing a child has awakened in him responsibilities and obligations he had no tools to comprehend beforehand. The future has extended from two or three years down the road to decades because now he is aware of the impact any decision he makes today will have on his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It's not about the next record anymore. It's about who will be collecting the royalties half a century after he has died and will there be enough for them to live on? Kanye now understands that his life and his influence has a direct, immediate impact on the lives of other children just like his own. He knows now what it means to be a parent to tens of millions of adoring teenage fans. Every single day he is imagining how his music and the music of future performers will impact the decisions his child makes when they are a teenager. Kanye West finally understands that the world does not revolve around him, regardless of how genius he is, how famous he is, and how rich he is. Kanye West is worried about what kind of world he will leave for his grandchildren, and that has shaken him to his very core, leading him to re-evaluate all of his assumptions about life, art, and politics.

Kanye West has already lost millions of fans. Apparently, this is not his first expression of support for Donald Trump. It is the first one I have encountered, but I do not follow his social media or his career. Over the past five or six hours I have also learned he is about to release a new album and the rumors are that it is going to be enormously different than anything he has done before. There are several talking heads speculating that all of this support for Trump has something to do with preparing his audience for his new album. They seem to believe it is nothing more than a promotional stunt. I suppose that's possible, but I don't think it's true. I am a father. I have two sons who are both adults now. I went to high school in California immersed in liberal politics and popular entertainment. Raising my sons completely changed my perspective on reality and I suspect Kanye West is going through something very similar.

Perhaps he and I now have more in common than I ever imagined would be possible. Perhaps he and I are now "dragon brothers".

April 25, 2018

Leahi, a.k.a., "Diamond Head"

Just about one year ago (I don't remember the exact date, but it was spring of 2017) Amazon.com sent me an invitation to apply for a new kind of merchandising program. I had just recently uploaded "Shards" and I was very disappointed at how badly my books were selling (only about thirty total as of today). Not certain what to expect, I followed the link and read the brief, very vague, description. They did not specify what kind of merchandising it would be, only that they were thrilled to be adding this opportunity for current sellers and were accepting applications to beta test the system. So I filled out the brief online form and forgot about it.

A couple of months later I received notice that I was being accepted into the new merchandising program and I could find out details by following another link. I clicked on the link and read through all the information describing how much work had gone into creating the system (thank-you Amazon product team!). As a first run beta tester I was allowed to upload five tee shirt designs (one per day) provided the graphics complied with their aesthetic guidelines and conformed to the required file dimensions. This seemed like an interesting way to both promote my books and expand my sales potential, so I set about locating some useful graphics software capable of producing the required file specifications. On September 24th, I uploaded my first tee shirt designs. Three shirts featuring the covers of my current books: "Magic Lessons", "The Yellow Hummingbird", and "Shards".

It took about 72 hours for the designs to be reviewed and go live. I was quite pleased that all three were accepted. I never really considered myself much of an artist, but I had worked hard creating those covers and this seemed like a good way to get some additional exposure for my books. Two months later they added the option of creating long sleeve tee shirts, two per day up to a total of ten, so I uploaded the same graphics for three more shirts, this time long sleeve tee shirts. Unfortunately, "Shards" did not meet their quality standard. The design of the cover is amorphous and indistinct. This is intentional, but apparently unsuitable for the long sleeve tee shirts which feature a larger print area. Still, by Thanksgiving 2017 I was quite pleased with myself.

Then the beta test ended and the system went fully live. I was invited to submit up to 25 different tee shirt designs in either standard tee shirt, premium tee shirt, or long sleeve tee shirt. Now I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. This was an extraordinary opportunity. Never in my life has anyone given me this level of creative control. I absolutely wanted to take advantage of it, but how?

One of my long term passions is photography. True, I can't draw a straight line to save my life, but I'm a pretty fair photographer. I've even had a little bit of professional training. While I was in the Army I took a correspondence course from New York Institute of Photography. Back in the 1980s they offered a single photography course with six units covering all the basics of professional photography. It was a great way to burn up my spare time and it allowed me to acquire a skill I had always admired. I bought a Pentax K-1 and completed the course using that simple, basic, fully manual camera and two lenses: 55mm and 135mm.

Now I realize, of course, that companies like Crazy Shirts can spend millions of dollars on a single design. Each design represents hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of hard work by professional graphic designers and artists. I personally love Crazy Shirts and keep at least a dozen in my wardrobe at all times. I am always happy to replace one that wears out with another, newer, more current design. I have no intention of ever trying to compete at that level. Nonetheless, I am a pretty good photographer. As a result I am overly proud of many of my photos. Plus, I'm a writer. Putting the two together ought to yield something worth wearing, right? So I went back through my digital archive (I switched to digital photography in August 2001, starting with an Olympus C-2000Z Digital Camera). After a bit of searching, I found a few photos that I was proud enough of that I wouldn't mind wearing them on my chest.

Now some people are going to wonder why the chest and not the back. It's simple: this is the selfie generation. I wanted to be able to take selfies and have the design be in the picture.

Just the photo alone seemed kind of anti-climatic. It needed a caption. I wanted to use something universal and timeless. An expression with the instant recognizability of "Hello!" I definitely wanted to avoid anything profane or derogatory or political. Not only would it be unlikely to pass the Amazon aesthetic standards, there were already countless variations of "F$(K U" in the market. I saw no reason to add my own. After some tweaking, some photo editing, some copy editing, and some genuine anxiety, I created the design for "Cedars Dance". Unfortunately, the day I planned to upload it there was a terrible windstorm near my house. Trees were knocked down across the power lines feeding my lot, leaving me in the dark from early afternoon to almost midnight. On the plus side, there in the dark on my battery-powered laptop I came up with a special poem about the black out and sketched an idea for the photo to go with it. The next day, I took the photo with my phone, edited it to the size and shape I wanted, added the poem, and uploaded it. That is how "Old School" wound up being uploaded first on November 26, 2017. I uploaded "Cedars Dance" the next day even though I'd actually created it first. "Old School" inspired me to start thinking about new, original compositions and designs. That was the design which convinced me I could honestly call myself a "tee shirt designer".

Remember, I don't have any professional training in this field. I stumbled into it after receiving an invite from Amazon to beta test their system. Some of these designs can take weeks or months from conceptualization to finished graphic. Then I have to upload it once for the standard tee shirt and again for the long sleeve tee shirt. Yesterday, I uploaded my latest design (which is why I'm writing this blog post!) and discovered I now had permission to design sweatshirts and pull-over hoodies, up to 100 designs total, and up to 10 uploads per day! I have no idea how many designs I will eventually come up with, but I am beginning to feel both excited and trepidatious. Whether I like it or not, completely without any planning on my part, I am now officially a tee shirt designer. I wonder if this means I can honestly call myself a "graphic designer"? Scary thought for a guy who can't draw a straight line!

Now then, this latest design was in so many ways the first genuinely original from scratch design I have come up with. Even more than "Old School". It began around Christmas time when I started thinking about Hawaii. I lived in Hawaii while I was in the Army. Hawaii was where I studied photography. In so many ways, Hawaii was my first "overseas" experience. The culture and people of Hawaii are unique in all the world. It is a fascinating place and I love it dearly. The most iconographic place in Hawaii is Waikiki. This is very unfortunate, but also very helpful. There have been many years where I spent my week-long annual vacation in Waikiki. I have thousands of photos of Waikiki and Oahu. Thousands of them.

The first decision I had to make was which visual I wanted to use. As I reviewed my files it became very obvious why Diamond Head is the most iconographic location in all Hawaii. It appears in the background of almost every photo, regardless of where in Waikiki the photo is taken from. It sits there in the background, brooding, angry at the overbuilding, annoyed by the crowds, disgusted by the trash and pollution. Diamond Head represents both the exotic aspects and the tragic aspects of modern Waikiki. So I pulled a very old photo from my archive. This happens to be a scan from a photo taken during a vacation in the 1990s. Which vacation and which year I do not know. A pretty good image, actually.

There are multiple problems with this image. Diamond Head is too faint, the detail is too vague, and the crowded beach does not evoke both "exotic" and "tragic". After spending four or five days transforming the color original into the black and white image above, I put it aside to think about what kind of copy I wanted to accompany it. I wanted something that would carry the spirit of Hawaii. Not the touristy Hawaii, the old Hawaii of carefree natives, harsh taboos, omnipotent kings, mana-wielding kahunas, and glowering idols. I wrote out a series of haiku, but destroyed them all. Nothing captured the Hawaii that lives inside my heart and imagination.

Another stroke of luck happened when my wife decided to take the family to Waikiki for vacation "one last time". Both our sons are grown men now. She and I are not getting any younger. Waikiki has changed so much I don't even recognize the place anymore. Nonetheless, off we went to Hawaii. While I was there I was able to watch some fascinating documentaries about Hawaiian music, Hawaiian musicians, and the history of Hawaiian musical arts. I learned about "oli" and "mele" and "mo'olelo". I bought some books, talked to some local musicians, and remembered why even after decades of overdevelopment and destructive liberal politics, Hawaii is still one of the most magical places on Earth. I wrote some more poetry (some good, some bad, some in Hawaiian, some in English, and a couple in Japanese). On the last day there, the sky was overcast and stormy, Exactly the mood I was looking for. I walked out to the very edge of the Hilton Hawaii property, walked along the stone tidal barrier, and took a dozen pictures of Diamond Head in the rapidly changing light. Back home, after reviewing all my images, I settled on this one:

Unfortunately, that image is kind of crowded. The boat in the foreground diminishes Diamond Head to a footnote, even though it captures the dichotomy of modern and traditional. After a great deal of digital editing and experimentation, I settled on this:

Things in Tokyo became busy and chaotic. They always do. One of the reasons I hate this city so much is time is out of sync here. When I am trying to work it flies by relentlessly. When I am sitting on a train it drags on and on and on, until a monotonous ten minute train ride somehow magically consumes half a day.

Last week I finally found an opportunity to sort through the poems I'd written in Hawaii and settled on this one:

ke poʻo o diamond head
ku'e i kaʻino
ke ku mau loa i ka pohaku
he akua, he koa, he po i kalo

diamond head reigns
against the storm
eternity carved in stone
a god, a warrior, a poem lost in time

However, when I put the two together I did not like the effect at all! Just for starters, what is the Hawaiian name for "Diamond Head"? The whole point is to bring out the magic of Hawaii and I could not do that by using the haole name. Diamond Head is somewhere around 300,000 years old. It was here long before the Hawaiians. It will be here long after the last human has died. And that photo...the only good point is the boat is gone. Diamond Head still looks overwhelmed by hotels and resorts. It's also not very sharp. It needs some serious attention to truly shine.

Last week I spent a couple days going through my books and doing online research. I changed words, changed metaphors, changed almost everything. I went back and forth between the Hawaiian and English versions, first revising one, then the other. I did not want a strict translation. I wanted something that would evoke similar emotions in both native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. The two versions speak to different audiences so they need to embody the different cultural and metaphorical values of those separate audiences. The downside, of course, is I am not Hawaiian. I had to rely on the words and stories of genuine Hawaiians and try to distill their metaphors into something uniquely my own. This is what I came up with:

leahi ku ikaika
e pale ana i ka'ino
ke ku mau loa i ka pohaku
he akua, he lehua pua,
ua nalowale ka mele kahea i ka manawa

diamond head stands strong
defying the storm
eternity carved in stone
a god, a warrior,
a plea for attention lost in time

I still cannot know how people will react to having this on their chest, but I personally would be proud to wear it, have people ask about it, and tell them, "I wrote it. Both the Hawaiian and English are my original poems."

Naturally, that left the photo. Okay, first things first. I cleaned it up as best I could.

Better, but Diamond Head, "leahi" to the Hawaiians, was still not prominent enough. So I got annoyed at myself, chopped everything out and jacked up the contrast. It was just an experiment, really, a way of venting and pouring my annoyance into the photograph. This action is very similar to someone who after a bad day at work stops by the gym and pounds on a boxing bag for an hour or two. I hacked away at the image, cutting and chopping and forcing it into something it was never intended to be. I felt better, and went to eat. When I came back, I was shocked at what I had created by accident. This was exactly the image I was seeking.

When I put the two together, I realized I had finally arrived at where I had intended to be way back in December when I first started thinking about this concept.

All that was left was to upload it to Amazon, write some descriptions, and submit it for review.

April 05, 2018


For perhaps the millionth time since 2003, I am strongly tempted to delete this blog. I won't, of course, but the temptation is very strong.

I was born into a world obsessed with dystopian futures because everyone from the smallest child to the oldest senior citizen knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their life could be vaporized at any moment, without warning, and there was nothing they could do about it. Living during the Cold War was living on borrowed time. We all knew it. We each responded to it differently. Denial was commonplace, and it is merely luck that their perspective won out. Pessimism was also common and revealed itself through drug use, heavy drinking, and an addiction to life on the edge. If you know you will die in the morning there is no reason to hold back from doing whatever you want to do.

A few of us looked death in the face, then threw an arm around her shoulders and invited her in for family dinner. We embraced the idea and went with it. We told people we loved them. We ate that second piece of pie. We took days off from work whenever we felt like it. We stopped and smelled the flowers along the path. Living in the company of death become completely natural.

But this mess we are in the midst of now. I have never seen anything like this. Hatred is everywhere. Greed is normal while generosity is considered insane. There are only two classes of economic achievement: superstar and abysmal failure. Not only are robots running restaurants and hotels, they will soon be driving taxis, trucks, and trains! We stand on the verge of discovering the power of immortality, but heroin overdoses are killing more people than traffic accidents and gang wars combined. Some American cities (Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, etc.) are more dangerous than war zones. Privacy is non-existent. Social media companies like Facebook and Google not only monitor our online lives 24/7, they sell the data to major advertising firms. Google, Amazon, and Facebook all want to put a speaker in our house manned by an A.I. to turn on and off our lights, find television shows we like, and give the advertisers direct access to our bedrooms.

I have published three books and created 19 tee shirt designs. Breaking into the global market is easier than it has ever been in the history of humanity. Selling to the global market, on the other hand, now that is a completely different scenario. In five years I have sold about 30 books and 2 tee shirts. Yes, my stuff is out there for anyone with an Amazon account and a bank card. That doesn't mean anyone is interested in buying it. Apparently I don't know the characteristics that "normal" consumers enjoy. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me. I have never been "normal". To be quite blunt, I don't even know what the word means.

So this rant is quite possibly the last blog post I will ever make. I know I'm not ending on a high note here, but after fifteen years I'm too old and tired to even care.

God help us all. For the first time in my life, I am not optimistic about the future.