Archive for October, 2014


danse macabre


Danse Macabre_01.


Ein Totentanz, W Draesner, 1922 b.









Happy Halloween!


Groove of the Day

Listen to La Pieta Ensamble performing “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns


witch = bitch


One of the truest things I have read on the Internet is that we call them “witches” on Halloween and “bitches” the other 364 days of the year.

Whether through the teachings of the Abrahamic religions (including Christianity) supporting the dominance of men over women, the efforts of (male) doctors to stamp out midwifery and herbal healing, or the proclivity of psychologists to diagnose mental illness in women more often than in men, these actions—as well as the famous witch trials of the 15th through 17th centuries—are the result of a steady current of misogyny that’s no less reprehensible than that of the Taliban and has run through our civilization since the Bible (in Exodus) said: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

This gallery of images is a testament to the centuries of propaganda, ignorance, and hysteria that have been an almost constant part of our cultural fear of strong, intelligent, and emotionally-mature women.













triora-witch-town (18)[2].


Groove of the Day

Listen to Richard Thompson performing “Season Of The Witch”


the mummy


In case you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been using horror movie genres as a run-up to Halloween.

The effort would not be complete without paying homage to the 1932 horror classic The Mummy, from Universal Studios, directed by Karl Freund and starring Boris Karloff as a revived ancient Egyptian priest. It was the first horror movie I ever saw, on my grandmother’s round television screen. To this day, it remains one of my favorite films and the quintessential image of the romance of this area of personal fascination.

No remake of this horror classic has, in my opinion, ever held a candle to the original, no matter what special effects have ever been used to tell the story.

This is the story-line, according to Wikipedia: “An ancient Egyptian priest called Imhotep (Boris Karloff) is revived when an archaeological expedition in 1921, led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron), finds Imhotep’s mummy. Imhotep had been mummified alive for attempting to resurrect his forbidden lover, the princess Ankh-es-en-amon. Despite the warning of his friend Dr. Muller (Edward Van Sloan), Sir Joseph’s assistant Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher) reads aloud an ancient life-giving scroll–the Scroll of Thoth. Imhotep escapes from the archaeologists, taking the Scroll of Thoth, and prowls Cairo seeking the modern reincarnation of Ankh-es-en-amon.

“10 years later, Imhotep is masquerading as a modern Egyptian named Ardath Bey. He calls upon Sir Joseph’s son Frank (David Manners) and Prof. Pearson (Leonard Mudie). He shows them where to dig to find Ankh-es-en-amon’s tomb. The archaeologists find the tomb, give the mummy and the treasures to the Cairo Museum, and thank Ardath Bey for the information.

“Imhotep encounters Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann), a woman bearing a striking resemblance to the Princess. Believing her to be Ankh-es-en-amon’s reincarnation, he attempts to kill her, with the intention of mummifying her, resurrecting her, and making her his bride. She is saved when she remembers her past life and prays to the goddess Isis to save her. The statue of Isis raises its arm and emits a beam of light that destroys the Scroll of Thoth, thereby reducing Imhotep to dust. Frank calls Helen back to the world of the living whilst the Scroll of Thoth burns.”

In truth, if judged by objective standards, this film was probably not the prettiest girl at the dance. But she was my first love, and I will cherish her forever.



Groove of the Day

 Listen to Michael Levy performing “Awe of the Aten” on the Ancient Egyptian Harp




And I thought that modern-day cannibalism was just something that Hollywood had concocted to titillate us and relieve us of our boredom. Shows what I know.

Oh, sure… I was aware of people like the Donner Party (1846-47) who were snowbound in the Sierra Nevada and the Stella Maris College Rugby Team (1972) who were stranded on a mountaintop in the Andes mountains. In both cases, some of the unfortunates resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness. Extreme measures in an emergency situation. Not what they would normally choose.

And then there are those primitive tribes in the far reaches of the “uncivilized” world where the practice of eating the flesh of departed ancestors or enemies survives as a kind of “communion.” One of the most famous cases of this kind of cannibalism is the death of 23-year-old Michael Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller’s son, who was killed and ritualistically consumed by the Asmat tribe along the coast of southwest New Guinea.

Cannibalism is perhaps the ultimate cultural taboo in the civilized world. So what kind of sicko today and in the recent past eats other human beings for pleasure?

These examples demonstrate it’s not some distant savage crime or a far-fetched tale for harrowing entertainment–it’s something that still goes on around the world, and fairly regularly too.



Alferd Packer

1842 – 1907

Packer was an American gold prospector who, in 1874, left with five others for an expedition in the Colorado mountains. Two months later Packer returned from the expedition alone. When questioned of the whereabouts of the men that had been with him, Packer said that he killed them in self defense and was forced to eat their remains in order to survive the elements. His story was not believed. He hid from justice for 9 years before he was captured and soon after signed two separate confessions. He was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Packer won a retrial and was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison for manslaughter. Amazingly he was granted parole because sufficient doubt remained about his innocence.


albert fish

Albert Fish

(1870 – 1936)

Albert Fish was a true life monster in every sense of the word. He was sadistic, delusional and worst of all he received gratification from his repulsive acts. Besides being an admitted serial killer and cannibal, he was also a rampant pedophile and a deviant. He boasted that he “had children in every state”, and at one time stated the number was about 100. However, it is not known whether he was talking about rapes or cannibalization, less still whether he was telling the truth. He was a suspect in at least five murders during his lifetime. Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace to a known homicide, and he confessed to stabbing at least two other people. Fish kidnapped, murdered, and consumed a 10-year-old girl from Manhattan named Grace Budd. Six years later Fish taunted the innocent girl’s family by sending a letter to them graphically detailing his crime and the pleasure he received committing it. The letter was traced back to him and he was arrested, tried, and convicted. Fish was executed by electric chair at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

. revolutionary united front
Revolutionary United Front
(1991 – 2007)

RUF was a revolutionary group that fought a failed eleven-year war in Sierra Leone. It was a long bloody campaign to topple the central government. These insurgents terrorized rural Sierra Leone in an effort to control the nation’s diamond mines. Aided by factions of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, these groups committed horrific atrocities which included forcing children to become soldiers, amputations of limbs, and cannibalism of enemies, which included peacekeepers and United Nations personnel. Their motives for eating their enemies were to receive “strength” from eating human flesh and as a tool for intimidation. The exact number of victims is unknown. The three most senior surviving leaders, Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao, were convicted in February 2009 of war crimes and crimes against humanity.


issei sagawa

Issei Sagawa
(1949 – )

Sagawa was a Japanese student completing an English Literature degree in Paris. In 1981 he met and then shot a Dutch co-ed named Renée Hartevelt. After her death, he proceeded to cannibalize her over the next two days. Sagawa was eventually arrested by French authorities but deemed unfit for trial due to insanity and was deported. In one of the worst examples of injustice in legal history, a paperwork error allowed Sagawa to simply check himself out of a mental institution after a little more than a year of confinement. He is now a free man living in Japan. He has become a minor celebrity in Japan and has made a living through the public’s interest in his crime.



Andrei Chikatilo
(1936 – 1994)

Chikatilo was a Ukrainian born serial killer and rapist. He was nicknamed the Butcher of Rostov, the Red Ripper, and the Rostov Ripper. While in custody, Chikatilo confessed to a total of 56 murders of women and children. He befriended, killed, and ate his victims. He admitted that his motives were solely for sexual gratification. Chikatilo was tried for 53 of these killings in April 1992. He was convicted and sentenced to death for 52 murders in October 1992 and subsequently executed in February 1994.

Czech Woman As 12-Year-Old Boy
Klara Mauerova and Family

(1978 – )

The Mauerovas are a family of cult members and cannibals from the Czech Republic. Over an 8-month period in 2007, relatives and fellow cult members participated in acts of cannibalism against two brothers. Seven-year-old Ondrej and his nine-year-old brother Jakub were locked and chained in the cellar for months by their 31-year-old mother Klara. Ondrej was kept in captivity as relatives hacked off pieces of his flesh to eat. He was beaten and gagged to stop him screaming. The two boys told how their mother and relatives had stubbed cigarettes out on their bare skin, whipped them with belts and tried to drown them. By a remarkable chain of events, the truth about the Mauerova family was discovered on May 10, 2007 when horrific images on a baby monitor (which they had installed in their house to view the crimes from the comfort of her kitchen) where picked up by a neighbor who had the exact same monitor. A total of six people were eventually convicted.

Armin Meiwes
(1961 – )

By most accounts Meiwes was a depraved and pathetic individual from Roteburg, Germany. It took 29 years and 430 e-mail contacts to make his dream come true. Looking for a willing volunteer, Meiwes posted an advertisement on the website The Cannibal Cafe (a website for a restaurant located in Canada) in 2001. Meiwes’s post stated that he was “looking for a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes, an engineer from Berlin, then answered the advertisement. Many other people responded to the advertisement, but backed out; Meiwes did not attempt to force them to do anything against their will. The two men met on Christmas Day. After Meiwes and the victim jointly attempted to eat the victim’s severed penis, Meiwes killed his victim and proceeded to eat a large amount of his flesh. Meiwes was arrested after revealing details of his crime. He is currently serving a life sentence in a German prison.


jeffrey dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer
(1960 – 1994)
Jeffrey Dahmer, the most famous cannibal of recent years, was also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal. He was an American serial killer and sex offender who would lure young men to his apartment where he would rape, murder and dismember them after sedating them with alcohol or drugs. He killed 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with many of his later murders also involving necrophilia, cannibalism and the permanent preservation of body parts. Diagnosed by psychologists and prison psychiatrists as suffering from borderline personality disorder, Dahmer was found to be legally sane at his trial. Convicted of 15 of the 16 murders he had committed in Wisconsin, Dahmer was sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment on February 15, 1992. He was later sentenced to a 16th term of life imprisonment in relation to an additional homicide committed in the state of Ohio in 1978. On November 28, 1994 he was beaten to death at the Colombia Correctional Institution in Milwaukee.
pakastani cannibals
Mohammad Arif Ali and Mohammad Farman Ali
(2013 – 2014)

Two brothers previously jailed for cannibalism and then released, have been arrested again after police discovered a child’s severed head at their home in a remote village in northwest Pakistan. Mohammed Arif Ali was arrested early Monday after neighbors alerted police to a “foul smell” coming from his house in the village of Kahawar Khan in the Bhakkar district of Punjab. When they went to investigate, they discovered the decapitated head of an infant next to a burning stove. The head, examined at a hospital in the nearby village of Darya Khan, looked to be around five days old. Police said both men confessed to eating human flesh. They are said to have eaten over 100 corpses. The brothers were released from prison last year after serving a two-year jail term for similar offenses–they admitted dismembering a woman’s body they had stolen from a graveyard in Darya Khan where they lived at the time. With no explicit law on cannibalism in Pakistan, the two men were convicted of desecrating a dead body and other public order offenses in a case that provoked widespread revulsion across Pakistan.


katharine knight

Katherine Knight

(1955 – )

The first Australian woman to be sentenced to a natural life term without parole, Katherine Knight had a history of violence in relationships. She mashed the dentures of one of her ex-husbands and slashed the throat of another husband’s eight-week-old puppy before his eyes. A heated relationship with John Charles Thomas Price became public knowledge with an “Apprehended Violence Order” that Price had filed against Knight. She stabbed Mr. Price 37 times with a butcher’s knife before skinning him and hanging his hide from a meat hook in their lounge room back in 2000. She then decapitated the man and put his head in a pot on the stove, baked flesh from his buttocks, and cooked vegetables and gravy as side dishes to serve to Mr. Price’s children. Police found the macabre cannibalistic dinner before the children arrived home.


mao sugiyama

Mao Sugiyama

(1990 – )

In 2012, a Japanese man had his genitals removed and then seasoned them before cooking them for five paying dinner party guests. Mao Sugiyama, 22, who is asexual, had voluntarily undergone surgery to have them removed. However, the illustrator took his frozen penis and scrotum home from the hospital and organized a grim party. He charged guests around $250 per person to eat his severed genitalia in Tokyo, Japan. They were garnished with mushrooms and parsley. He cooked the genitalia himself as he was supervised by a chef. In a Tweet, he offered to cook his penis for a guest for 100,000 yen. However, he ultimately decided to split the “meal” between six guests. In total, around 70 people attended the event in the Suginami ward in Tokyo. While five people tucked into Mao Sugiyama’s genitalia, the rest of them ate beef or crocodile. The people who ate his genitalia were a 30-year-old couple, a 22-year-old woman, a 32-year-old man, and Shigenobu Matsuzawa, 29, an event planner.


january jones

January Jones

(1978 – )

January Jones, who plays Betty Draper Francis on AMC’s “Mad Men,” probably wouldn’t admit to cannibalism, but after the birth of her son, she disclosed in an interview with People magazine that she had joined in the trend to dehydrate her placenta and have it capsulated into vitamin pills. Says Ms. Jones: “It’s something I was very hesitant about, but we’re the only mammals who don’t ingest our own placentas.” Jones has taken the capsules every day since right after she had her son, and also anytime she feels tired or down. Jones insists, “I suggest it to all moms!”


There are lots more examples of cannibalism in our modern world, but I’m developing a bad case of indigestion just thinking about it and can’t go on.



Empire of the Sun is an Australian duo from Sydney, formed in 2007. They consist of longtime collaborators Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. This 2013 song is from the duo’s second album and is, to my way of thinking, reminiscent of the sound of the band MGT.

Their award-winning, 2008 debut album Walking on a Dream shot the duo to international success and to date has been certified double platinum in Australia and gold in the United Kingdom.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Empire Of The Sun performing “Alive”


how cruelty is learned

Our kids are not the only ones abused by a cruel and unthinking system.



by Simon Rich, The New Yorker

April 10, 2013

They buried my wife in a shoebox in Central Park. I like to imagine that the service was respectful, that her body was treated with a modicum of dignity. But of course I’ll never know. I wasn’t invited to her funeral. Instead, the guests of honor were the students of homeroom 2K.

Her killers.

When the children returned from the burial, they drew “tributes” to my wife in magic marker—maudlin scribbles of halos, wings, and harps. It was hard not to vomit as Ms. Hudson taped them up above my cage. I’ve never seen such tasteless dreck in all my life.

Hailey, I noticed, was crying as she drew. The irony. It was her responsibility to refill our water bottle last week. Instead, she spent all her free time with Alyssa, practicing a clapping game called “Miss Mary Mack.”

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack!
All dressed in black, black, black!

It was that inane chant that provided the score to my wife’s final moments. She was dying of thirst, but never cried once. It was only later that I realized why: her body was too dehydrated to produce tears.

Pocahontas was her name.

My name is Princess Jasmine. I am a male, so this name is humiliating, but I’m aware that my situation could be worse. The other homeroom, 2R, has a guinea pig named Homer Simpson and an elderly turtle named New Kids on the Block.

Pocahontas left me with three sons, and it’s for their sake alone that I keep up my struggle. Every weekday morning, when the monsters run screaming through the door, I hide my babies under scraps of newspaper. Whenever food and water are scarce, I give them my whole portion. Their faces are an exact copy of my wife’s, and when I look at them, it helps me remember just how beautiful she was. Their names are Big Mac, Whopper, and Mr. T.

Mr. T was born with developmental problems. He was so small during infancy that we had to shelter him each night, wrapping our bodies around his shivering frame so that he could fall asleep. I’ve been through so much. If I lose Mr. T, I’m not sure I’ll have the strength to carry on.

It’s morning now. The square of sunlight on the blackboard grows and grows. Soon the gremlins will run in howling, hopped up on Pop-Tarts and primed for violence. For months, I assumed that this school was reserved for children with “special needs.” Sociopaths and the mentally deranged. But during parent-teacher night, the mink coats and charcoal suits told a different tale. It turns out this school is a private one, an “élite” institution for the children of millionaires.

I can hear the nannies muscling their way through the lobby, dragging their little terrors toward my family. My sons are still asleep. I lick their faces and conceal them the best I can.

The bell clangs harshly. The nightmare has begun.

Monday, 8:25 A.M.

“What time is it?”

“Jobs time!”

My fur bristles as Ms. Hudson takes out the Jobs Board. This laminated poster, with its seventeen colorful squares, rules my family’s existence. It determines everything: whether we feast or starve, live or die. I rub my paws impatiently while Ms. Hudson assigns the week’s tasks.

“Pencil organizer this week is… Dylan! Line leader is… Max! And our two table wipers are… Kristen and Sophie!”

Eventually, she gets to the one job that matters.

“Hamster feeder is…”

I scan the room. There are still some good candidates left. Maybe we’ll get lucky and end up with Caitlin? Last time she gave us double portions. If we get her this week, Mr. T can gain some weight in time for winter. It’s while I’m enjoying this fantasy that Ms. Hudson clears her throat and—with one little word—sentences my family to death.


My eyes widen with horror. Simon Rich is 2K’s “class clown,” a pudgy, hyperactive boy with some kind of undiagnosed emotional problem.

“Hamster feeder?” he shouts. “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis!”

The other children laugh hysterically.

My God, I think. This is it. This is how it ends.

11:25 A.M.

“Free time’s almost over,” Ms. Hudson says. “Don’t forget to do your jobs!”

I sigh with relief as Simon finally walks over to our cage. He doesn’t feed us, though, or replenish our water. Instead, he picks me up by my tail, which is connected directly to my spine. The pain is so searing, it shocks me into a kind of perverse laughter. I did not know my body could hurt this way—that God would allow one of his own creatures to suffer on this level. He swings me through the air, while singing nonsensically in his high-pitched nasal voice.

“Gotta go to Mo’s, gotta go to Mo’s yeah…”

I glance at my babies, hidden safely under newspaper. Even at the height of my agony, I am grateful that Simon has focused his sadism on me. Otherwise, it might be one of them who suffered.

hamsterFree time ends and Simon drops me back into my cage, from several times my own height. My sons poke their heads through the newspaper. They look around confusedly, then stare at me in dismay. They’re used to receiving food at this hour, but I have none to give. Simon has forgotten to do his one basic task. There is still some water left in our bottle from last week, but all it can do is prolong our agony. Without grain, we won’t live long.

Our long, slow death march has started.

2:30 P.M.

During science class, Ms. Hudson unveils a large, glossy map of the solar system.

“There are nine planets in the solar system,” she says. “Which one do we live on?”

“Mars!” Simon shouts. The other children howl uproariously. This is what passes for wit among them, the basic substitution of one word for another.

“Very funny,” Ms. Hudson says, smiling indulgently. “But of course, we really live on Earth, the third planet from the sun. Mars is the fourth planet. And after that one comes Jupiter, Saturn…”

I sigh with misery. It’s obvious what’s about to happen.


There is a split-second pause and then the class erupts into full-fledged chaos. I try to shield my sons from the noise, but it’s too late. The monsters have heard a “dirty”-sounding word and cannot contain their excitement.

“Uranus!” Simon screams. “Uranus!”

I glare at the teacher, silently willing her to beat him. But all she does is walk across the classroom and turn off the fluorescent lights. Her ploy does nothing. The children’s shrieking laughter is so deafening I can feel my eardrums throbbing in my skull. Some of the students are standing on their desks, swinging their arms around in a kind of mania.

The chaos gradually subsides, but only because the children grow exhausted. The utterance of the word “anus” has produced in them pure ecstasy. Several are crying real tears.

Ms. Hudson turns the lights back on and I glance at the clock. The Uranus hysteria has lasted thirteen minutes. Before the lesson can resume, the bell rings. The students run laughing through the door, another day of inanity behind them.

I watch as my children drink our last remaining drops of water. We’ll be lucky to make it through the night.

Tuesday, 8:15 A.M.

I awake to the sound of screeching laughter. Sophie and Alyssa have made a dress out of pink construction paper and taped it to my sleeping body.

“You’re a pretty girl, Princess Jasmine!” Alyssa says. “A pretty, pretty girl!”

I try to remove the costume, but the tape is double-sided and my paws are too weak to detach it. I must wear this “dress” indefinitely, in the presence of my own sons. I avoid their eyes, and they avoid mine. Whatever dignity I had is long gone.

During attendance, everyone says “here” except for Simon, who says “not here.” Somehow this gets a laugh. For the first time in my life, I think seriously about the option of suicide.

Ms. Hudson starts the day with a geography lesson. She spends ten minutes explaining the concepts of north, south, east, and west. Then she asks the class which country is “north” of the United States. The children stare up at her, completely baffled. Eventually, Jeffrey raises his hand. “Mexico?” he whispers. The teacher smiles at him encouragingly. “Almost!” she says. I watch in stunned silence as she hands the little moron a sticker, as a reward for “trying his best.”

“What do we say?” Ms. Hudson asks her other students. “When someone tries their very best?”

The children smile and break into a chant.

“That’s all right, that’s O.K., we still love you anyway!”

I vomit bile onto my own legs. I’ve heard a lot of treacle in this classroom, but this new cheer is so cloying it nearly pushes me over the edge.

The children continue to chant, their voices growing louder and more confident. It’s no wonder they’re such monsters, I think. They’ve been taught that they’re infallible, as perfect and blameless as gods.

You forgot to feed the hamsters? That’s all right, that’s O.K.

You sprayed a thirsty hamster with water from his own bottle, as he was trying to drink from it, the ultimate degradation? We still love you anyway.

I can feel myself on the verge of becoming insane.

2:30 P.M.

During snack time, Simon and three other obese boys have a milk-drinking contest. It’s not easy to watch as they gorge themselves just inches from my starving family’s faces.

Mr. T has begun eating newspaper to dull the pain in his stomach. My other sons sleep all day to conserve energy. For the first two days of our ordeal, I fantasized constantly about food. I hallucinated mounds of grain, piles of nuts, and luscious chunks of apple. Lately, though, I’ve stopped feeling hungry at all. It’s as if my body has given up and braced itself for death.

Teddy wins the contest by drinking seven milks. He immediately throws up.

Ms. Hudson sends him to the nurse and calls for Carlos, the janitor. He arrives within seconds, holding a tattered mop.

“Hola!” the children shout in unison.

Carlos is a native English speaker, but the little racists assume that he is foreign-born.

“Hola,” Carlos says.

“I need you to take care of something,” Ms. Hudson tells him, gesturing at the pile of brown puke.

Carlos nods and gets to work. He’s still scrubbing twenty minutes later, when the final school bell rings.

“Adiós!” the children shout as they run by him. “Adiós!”

“Adiós,” he says, his eyes on his work.

Ms. Hudson peeks over his shoulder, her skinny arms folded at her chest.

“Are you going to disinfect the area?” she asks. Carlos forces a smile. He has already begun to disinfect the area, but does not want to contradict her.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says.

“I don’t want that smell hanging around.”

“Of course, ma’am.”

When the children are all gone, she puts on some lipstick and changes into a pair of high heels.

“My dad’s making me see opera,” she complains.

Carlos nods awkwardly, unsure of how to respond.

“Don’t forget to disinfect the area,” she repeats, on her way out.

Carlos finishes mopping and then walks from table to table, cleaning up after the fat beasts. The Jobs Board is a total farce, I think, as he sponges up their filth. Kristen and Sophie are table wipers in name only. At the end of the day, every job on the board belongs to Carlos. The only exception is line leader, which of course is a privilege that he will never get to enjoy.

When Carlos sees us, he curses under his breath. I avert my eyes with shame. Our cage is full of feces. I know we’re not responsible for the condition of our prison, but it’s hard not to feel mortified.

I look on with pity as the janitor collects our soiled newspaper. He has several tattoos on his forearm, I notice, a few cursive names and a large, ornate crucifix. I, too, am a Christian. Although lately I’ve struggled to make sense of God’s plan. I wonder if Carlos’s faith is as battered as mine.

He refills our water bottle, and, for the first time in days, I allow myself to feel hope. Before he can find our feedbag, though, Principal Davenport has run into the room.

“Carlos, there you are! A kindergartener shat himself in dance. Would you please take care of it?”

Carlos forces another smile and reaches for his mop.

“Of course, sir.”

The principal gives him a thumbs-up. “Gracias!”


The water tastes so rich it brings tears to my eyes. As I drink it, I can feel it coursing through my body, giving my parched veins life. I look over at my sons, asleep in their clean cage, their wet little noses twitching with contentment. Carlos has saved our lives. But for how long?

Mercifully, the children are gone this morning. They’ve been given a break from their arduous studies to enjoy a “field day” at Randall’s Island.

The classroom is blissfully quiet until lunchtime, when the hobgoblins return. Their flabby, red faces are streaked with grime and sweat. The smell is almost unendurable. Every child, regardless of fatness, has somehow won an athletic trophy.

39363_ropehamster“Boom shaka laka!” Simon shouts, as he thrusts his golden prize over his head.

When he walks by my cage, I peak at the engraving on his trophy. “Participation,” it reads. I wonder if Simon is aware that his trophy has no meaning, that all he participated in was a mass delusion?

“Great job, everybody,” Ms. Hudson says. “That was some great teamwork today.”

“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis!” Simon says.

Everybody laughs, including Ms. Hudson.

The children spend the afternoon playing with their trophies. Simon comes up with the ingenious gag of holding his trophy in front of his groin, in an imitation of a penis. The other boys applaud him and rush to follow his example. The girls, meanwhile, busy themselves by making “clothes” for their trophies out of construction paper. Ms. Hudson encourages this madness, passing out glue and jars of glitter.

Finally, at 3:15, the nannies come to take the creatures away.

“Don’t forget to do your jobs!” Ms. Hudson cries. Simon doesn’t even look in our direction. This makes three straight days without food. It’s official: we are going to starve to death.

I glance at my three sons. Their bodies still have breath, somehow, but I can see that something else has died inside them. Mr. T hasn’t moved in hours. And this morning I caught Whopper leering at him with a look I wish I could block out of my mind. Taboos are breaking down. If food doesn’t come soon, I know, we’ll have to make our own.

Thursday, 8:10 A.M.

As the sun rises on another hellish day, I gather my sons around me. I’ve rehearsed my speech all night, but it’s still hard to utter it. Eventually, with painful effort, I manage to force the terrible words through my lips.

“If Simon forgets to feed us one more time… I want the three of you to eat my body.”

Mr. T breaks down and weeps. But Big Mac and Whopper merely nod.

They know it’s the only solution we have left.

I can hear Simon’s voice before he even enters the classroom, as piercing and abrasive as a siren.

“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis!”

His use of this catchphrase has spiked in recent days. Its effect on the other students has waned and often the quip fails to elicit any laughter at all. In response, Simon has taken to screaming the phrase at full voice, in the mad hope that volume might somehow restore the gag’s appeal.

“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout! Whatchu talkin’ ’bout! Whatchu talkin’ ’bout!”

He presses his face against the bars of our cage and chants the phrase, again and again, until the words bleed together and begin to lose their meaning. His noxious Dorito breath engulfs me and I can feel the fury mounting in my chest. I think of the sound of my son weeping and the look my wife gave me as she drew her final breath.


I have only a little strength left. But it’s enough to rise up and sink my teeth into the monster’s flesh.


“Words can’t express how sorry I am! Safety is our top priority—I’m as appalled as you are that something like this could occur at our school.”

“He had to get three stitches! The plastic surgeons say that the scar could be visible for months!”

I roll my eyes as Simon’s mother starts to cry.

“He’s just a little boy,” she says. “And you let him be exposed to wild animals!”

I glance at my sons. They’re still alive, but their breathing is shallow and erratic. Our cage has been moved to the principal’s office, but they don’t seem aware of the change in our surroundings. They’re barely conscious. I can see their hearts fluttering in their rib cages, trying to eke out a few extra hours of survival.

“I’m considering pressing charges,” Simon’s mother prattles on. “My lawyer says I have a real case. Simon had to take a rabies test, and when the nurse pricked his thumb, he cried and cried. The doctor said he’d never seen a boy cry like that.”

I smile proudly, thinking of this scene.

“He’s going to need therapy,” the woman continues. “Lots of it.”

“Is there anything I can do?” asks the tired principal. “To help regain your family’s trust?”

Simon’s mother turns toward our cage, her eyes narrowing with rage.

“I want those animals out of the classroom.”

Principal Davenport nods.

“We’ll move them to homeroom 2R.”

“That’s not enough,” she says, her voice lowering. “I want them destroyed.”

Principal Davenport clears his throat.

“Of course,” he says.

He picks up a phone and calls for a janitor. Carlos arrives within seconds, mop in hand.

“Hola!” the principal says. “Listen. I… uh… need you to take care of something.”

I can smell the Dumpster before I see it, an overflowing bin of putrid trash. My nose twitches painfully as I process all the stenches: decomposing Dunkaroos and mold-encrusted Pop-Tarts; rancid, soggy Lunchables and spoiled Nesquik. The monsters have accumulated so much waste this week, and now we’re to be added to the pile.

“Sorry, little guys,” Carlos whispers.

He scans the alley to make sure no children are watching. Then he pulls a hammer from his tool belt. I lick my children’s faces one last time. I know my act of rebellion has hastened their deaths. But my guilt is assuaged by the knowledge that their suffering will soon be at an end.

Carlos holds the hammer over Mr. T’s tiny skull. My son looks up, his eyes half-lidded. I pray that he doesn’t grasp the situation, that his final moments aren’t consumed by fear.

“Sorry, little guys,” Carlos says, again. “Sorry.”

He raises the hammer high and his sleeve slides down his forearm, exposing his tattoo. He stares at the three cursive names. Then he puts away his weapon, grabs our cage, and runs.


I awake to the sight of three girl humans, gobbling pancakes and chatting rapidly.

cute-hamster“What do we name the babies?”

“Snap, Crackle, and Pop!”

“The mommy should be Mrs. Fluffy, or Mrs. Furry, or…”

“It’s not a mommy,” Carlos interrupts. “It’s a daddy.”

He pours some Cheerios into our cage.

“And we’re going to call him Hercules.”

The girls all laugh.



Carlos crouches down and looks into my eyes.

“Because he’s tough. And strong. And he works long hours, even though it’s a living nightmare.”

His daughters look at each other nervously.

“O.K.,” whispers the oldest. “We’ll call him Hercules.”

Carlos clears his throat and wipes his eyes roughly with his sleeve.

“O.K., good,” he says. “Thanks. Now finish your breakfasts, I mean it.”


Simon Rich is a screenwriter and novelist. His newest book is a collection of love stories called The Last Girlfriend on Earth.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Smiths performing “Meat is Murder”


georgia on my mind

kenney 1

“Georgia On My Mind” is taken from Nostalgia—the new album from Annie Lennox, which had an October 21st release date in the US and will be released October 27th elsewhere.

For me, the title of the song is literally true because there is a baby in Savannah that I have never met and three other children who are growing up (and I’m sure doing fine) without me. One of my greatest regrets since the stroke and being unable to travel any more, is it’s inevitable that their memories of me will fade into obscurity. The best I can hope for is to not be completely forgotten—but my relationship with these kids has been such that I think there’s little chance of that. There was a time when a neighborhood playmate assumed I was their grandfather.

Said the composer John Williams: “So much of what we do is ephemeral and quickly forgotten, even by ourselves, so it’s gratifying to have something you have done linger in people’s memories.”


Groove of the Day

Listen to Annie Lennox performing “Georgia On My Mind”




The other night Alex told me that he would describe me as a “martyr”—a term I don’t like very much, but I can see how he can characterize me as such. Lone Heron says that if I get $100, I’ll spend it on the kids before I spend it on me. That’s true I guess, though it is the result of low income and a stubborn dedication to our mission more than to any self-sacrificing instinct. I like creature comforts as much as the next guy. At this stage of my life, though, I just don’t need much for myself. I get more selfish satisfaction from attending to the needs of others.

I asked Alex if that makes me a rube in his eyes, and he gave me a noncommital answer that could very well have been evasive. So I don’t know what Alex really thinks of me. But in a way, I really don’t care. Actions speak louder than words, and Alex is still here. I don’t need any expressions of touchy-feely emotion to keep myself motivated to keep soldiering on.

Anyway, touchy-feely is not a part of his repertoire (nor has it been for his whole life). The normal distance with which he interacts with other human beings has no doubt been intensified by growing up in prison where everyone is on the take. Alex’s life experiences have taught him that trusting other people is truly one of the most dangerous things you can do. He has responded to this conclusion by constructing a rigid set of boundaries around himself that you dare not transgress.

When he first arrived on the train, I gave him a hug of greeting and immediately knew that I had done the wrong thing. The other day I gave him a pat on the shoulder as I passed by, and he told me that he doesn’t like being touched in any way. So I’ve been told in no uncertain terms.

This is fine with me. Putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own needs (or what you regard as normative) is a fundamental aspect to spiritual hospitality, basic to the vision of what Estrella Vista should be about. Every new resident here will have his or her unique boundaries. Respecting the boundaries of others will make Estrella Vista a safe place for anyone to be.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Depeche Mode performing “Martyr


hate begets hate


A comment to yesterday’s post bothered me a little. BobH said that I should have taken the “soft approach” first with Teri Wadsworth, and asked her first for the reasons why she thinks the way she does. You know, things like evidence and stuff.

I like BobH a lot; what he thinks carries a lot of weight with me. And yes, I will admit that sometimes (not very often though) I have a pretty short fuse. But I am not the kind of guy that responds to a punch in the nose by asking my assailant, “Will you please tell me why you did that?” I’ll strike back first and ask questions later. Maybe it’s a flaw, but we’re all imperfect and I’m willing to live with myself as I am, warts and all.

Sometimes leading with a punch to the nose and following up with an offer of reconciliation is the best strategy, especially in the rough-and-tumble world of prisons. I can think of at least one instance where this approach led to a mutually-respectful relationship with a high-level prison administrator. It continues to this day.

It seems to me that the important thing—the bottom line—is that the kids we represent know that they have a fierce defender in their corner, come what may. Even if the act that got them in trouble with the system is indefensible, they are being rigorously defended, no matter what. Even if all their former friends and family have abandoned them, we will be the last man standing. Without question. Without judgement. Without hate for anyone on either side of the bars.

Thinking about haters, do any longtime readers remember a guy named Steve Piantedosi, a corrections officer from Hartford CT, who publishes a particularly offensive blog called “People You’ll See In Hell”? He first appeared on my radar screen several years ago during the early days of the Jordan Brown controversy. He claimed that Jordan was an “evil little fucker” and I (and, subsequently, the courts) took the opposite view. He and the readers of this blog got into quite a comment war that went on for hours and 62 comments until I cut it off.

Out of curiosity I went out to his blog last night and saw a radically toned-down site. It seems that someone (not me) hacked his site about a year ago and trashed everything that was out there. As one who writes a blogsite, I can imagine how devastating this must have been for Mr. Piantedosi, and I empathize with him. Regardless of what you think of his site, this shouldn’t have been done.

But it was predictable. You reap what you sow, and Mr. Piantedosi trades in hate—the same kind of hate that brought down his site. I guess if you wait long enough, if you’re patient enough, Karma works in this world after all.


Groove of the Day

Listen to John Lennon performing “Instant Karma”



too stupid ti insult

Yesterday I called my friend Mary Ellen and asked her to save me from doing something stupid. I explained that I’d received a hateful email from a woman named Teri Wadsworth about one of our kids:

“He’s guilty as sin he needs to serve his sentence he shows no remorse cocky and creepy a serial killer in the making I will start a campaign to keep him in prison he knew what he was doing let him be it’s the best place for him and society.”

I rarely receive such vitriolic emails, and the few I do receive bother me more than they should. I am upset by such expressions of unmitigated hatred being vented towards someone the hater obviously knows nothing about.

Where does this woman get off using words like “cocky” and “creepy?” Her assertion that he is “a serial killer in the making” is completely unfounded by scientific fact and is said simply to inflame others who are as ignorant as she is. The child she has targeted for her fury has been shielded from the media and has done or said nothing that could be interpreted by any rational person as anything but remorse, regret, shame, and embarrassment.

I told Mary Ellen that I wanted to write back to Teri Wadsworth and say that the only creepy person I could see in this picture is Teri Wadsworth.

Mary Ellen said that while most advocates would advise that I just let the comment pass and not engage the hater, ignoring the comment does nothing to diffuse the hate. She surprised me and said maybe I should engage this Teri Wadsworth. But how?

In the past I have “outed” these haters, drawing public attention to their dark hearts and lack of compassion, forgiveness, and understanding… and I can think of no reason not to do the same in this case, too. There are only four Teri Wadsworths on Facebook (my apologies for drawing attention to the innocent people who share her name), and she goes by the email moniker of “ladybug.” But on reflection, it seems to me that pointing out the shortcomings of others does only half the job.

Last week Matt sent me this link to a story of forgiveness that provides a positive example that has received a lot of praise in the media. If the parents of a slain son can see fit to take in their son’s killer, why can’t an uninvolved person like Teri Wadsworth find a place in her heart to feel compassion for a young boy who made one terrible mistake in his life?

To view this remarkable story, please click here.

I don’t know whether Teri Wadsworth will even get by the fact that I have used her name extensively in this post and go on to explore her motives for being so angry, but I really don’t care. There are lots of people in the world whose views create an unflattering impression, and I consider myself fortunate to have so little to do with them.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Brendan MacLean performing “Stupid”