Category Archives: Places

On the road


 

Kickstarter update on the road away from prohibition.

This is an account of a one-day side-trip on the road in pursuit of the “Tales of Mary Jane”. Every day of that year-ending five-weeks was as interesting and satisfactory as (I hope you will agree) this one.

The first four chapters of the book have been distributed to the backers, and I’m polishing chapter 5 for posting soon.

Here’s to 2015 being better for you, and more productive for me.

Sincere best wishes,
Jack Large

PS to backers of either or both of my Kickstarter projects: Forgive the appearance of multiple identical updates, if you will. It takes a lot less time to apologize in advance than it does to forestall it when your tech skills are as sketchy as mine.

Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition


A year ago, I took my first step into the world of crowd funding. A success, the backing I received enabled me to present a collection of photographs I took while living in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, as a gift to the Seattle Public Library. In return for their help, I promised backers a “reward” in the form of a book with information about the images in the collection, including a narrative about the period (1966-’68), places, people and cultural context portrayed.

Today, minutes ago, I launched a second appeal titled, “Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition”. The campaign will run for 14 days. The money goal is modest, far less than will be required to produce the best quality outcome. I may be over-optimistic in thinking the project will capture the interest of anyone who marvels, as I still do from afar, that states of Washington and Colorado (two of my favorites), have legalized recreational use of marijuana since I launched the first campaign.

This is significant because it shapes my perspective on the first Kickstarter effort (“KS1”). Some, a few dozen, of the images in the slide collection show people engaged in various activities associated with casual or habitual use of marijuana. Because this was a criminal activity then (and in most places still is today) the photographs, like the drugs, might have been considered contraband, or at the very least, evidence to support prosecution and, upon conviction, incarceration if we had been so careless as to be caught, as many have been, and are still.

In writing the story of the slide show while poring over the pages of slides in the collection for the purpose of tagging and logging them before sending them on to Seattle, a small but prominent group of images expanded in my mind. They are shots of the small children whose parents were the adults shown smoking pot. The adults were a light-hearted group then and now, and the photos suggest nothing sinister or fear inducing, contrary to the expectations of what at the time was called “straight society”, before the more explicitly sexual connotation attached to the phrase.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned more and more to those children. I wondered, what became of them? A few of them, I know today. For the most part, they grew strong, intelligent, worldly, capable, even accomplished citizens. To all appearances, they were wholly unimpaired by the conditions of their childhood. I can’t say, nor do I have any basis to speculate, what has been the fate of the others. The questions that have grown in my consciousness while writint of them are intensified by not knowing.

Is it possible to predict the mindset of one who grows up gradually more aware that those closest are, crudely put, habitual criminals? How does such knowledge shape one’s interaction with the contrastive world beyond the front door of the family home? Does it influence their choice of friends? Does it make them more or less likely to indulge in a subculture of marijuana use or other proscribed behavior themselves? Are they more sophisticated about the whole range of substances and their abuse? Do they form coteries of peer support outside the traditional systems in their communities.

I intend to gather and tell these “Tales of Mary Jane”. I will find these possessors of unique insight, elicit their stories, and share the stories with a world several generations behind them in its awareness of what, although illegal, has been pervasive. All those having deep familiarity with marijuana and its use, and effects on users are in a position to help inform those who lack it.

A majority of US citizens now agree that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. I will present the evidence I find for and against that conclusion, through the personal narratives and detailed accomplishments of those who understand the much-maligned herb better than can any other, in their way: the children of prohibition. I will need all the help I can get, to do it justice, and justice is really what it’s all about.

Ways I contribute to climate change


Driving A Big Car All Over The Place By Yourself
Having LOTS Of Kids
Idling Your Car
Eating Lots Of Meat
Voting For Climate Change-Denying And Pro-Oil Representatives
Taking A Really Long Shower
Buying Things From China
Wasting Paper
Flying
Wasting Food
Eating Out Of Season
Using Lots Of Power When Your Electricity Comes From Coal
Air Conditioners
Owning Pets
Not Sealing Your House

A slide show illustrating each of fifteen “Ways I contribute to climate change” appeared online at Huffington Post, May 12, 2014. Tempted to share it on FB immediately, I was stopped by its being imbedded in another page that showed up with the “front end” for sharing, where I would include any intro snark/remark I might like to add. That gave me enough time to think a little more about the list as a whole, about some of the individual items on it, and about what I could see from what is not on it that makes of it a troubling and troublesome list, indeed.

Personally, it’s a matter of small satisfaction that it takes me all the way to China before being hooked by the barbs on the list. Mostly, though, I had to admit that the main reason I get a pass on the previous ones is because of my age. I didn’t have a lot of kids; I have two. Maybe two is the new six, like my parents had, so again, I don’t deserve a pass. Anyway, who am I to look at someone else’s kids, if they’re loved and cared for by their families, and society, and say, “You shouldn’t have!” It’s not in me.

I waste paper. Yes, I do. It isn’t easy to stop, despite a better Korean approach to recycling paper than to limiting wasteful use of it to begin with. Paper laminates, product wrappers, handbills, towels and napkins and all forms of paper products considered “contaminated” if adhered to organic residues of any kind, are not recycled often, if at all. These go into landfills or incinerators, where they degrade into pollutants of great quantity and variety. Publications and large cartons and containers make up most of the recycled content.

Flying. Ah well, I am an expatriate, living on a peninsula from which there is no land exit. To come and go from Korea is to fly. There is the sea, but ferries to China, Japan and Vladivostok are the only ones running, and they contribute to global warming, too. Ticket prices have done wonders to curtail my flying will force me to do it. It breaks my heart to tell friends and loved ones abroad that reducing my carbon footprint means I must withdraw the open invitation to visit. Although my need and desire to extend affectionate hospitality to them overwhelms in certain seasons and mental states, I feel cornered by it, having accepted that the climate science is accurate. Before scolding others about their travels, I must look too my own. That mobility is a cornerstone of our personal liberty doesn’t free us from being judged by the same standard that apply to all.

I waste comparatively little food in this phase of my life. In the main, it is a result of choosing a combination of healthy level of consumption, and a minimal amount of waste. The Korean approach to food waste, such as it is, has us paying collectors who process it into livestock feed, compost, etc., according to the weight of our discarded waste. I have speculated that some form of odorless drying devices will appear, but maybe not. Few substances are more malodorous than kimchi gone too far off. We use a key card to open a bin with an attached scales to keep track of our “contributions” of collected wet waste. I call it our “crap account”.

Eating out of season may be a category in which I am more culpable than others. Dietary changes I’ve embraced as a part of my inevitably futile attempt to live forever are the cause. The avocados from New Zealand, the factory salmon from Norway, Florida orange juice, chickpeas and lentils from the sub-continent, it’s a long list; all are seasonal, imported or both. I’m determined to learn to live without them without sacrificing the pleasure of delicious food, imaginatively prepared, but it’s harder than one thinks at first glance, to find a lot of encouragement at the market.

Of the remaining four conditions, only one applies to me. I have two small dogs. When the last one is taken by natural causes, we won’t replace them, despite our sympathy for the unfortunate creatures cared for by pet rescue services and clients. Pets are wonderfully satisfying, crucial even, to the very young and very old, but until I have reached that stage of aging where I am unable to go about on my own, I will put off adopting another animal friend to keep me company. A certain grey-to-rust colored miniature poodle may outlast me if I don’t penetrate the secret of local foods only (another item on the list), but if not, he’ll be the last pet I have for most of the time I have left.

Air conditioning, though desirable during the hottest summer months here, we have lived without it for so long that it no longer appeals, for it would mean blocking the circulation of air between inside and outside. Our location at some distance from the center of the urban metropolis that is Seoul is, on most days, more refreshing than not. There is no water shortage (yet), and a cold shower in clean, cold water three times a day is not such a bad fate in semi-tropical conditions, so that’s what we do. It’s also nice to go without most clothing whenever we can, so we do that too.

Korea is moving toward renewable energy, mostly solar, some wind, but is still too dependent on gas and nuclear generation for electricity. Coal, to the extent it is still in use, is primarily for winter “ondol” heating by burning the cylindrical briquettes called “nine-hole coal” with a boiler heats water to circulate through a grid of plastic pipes in a cement floor. The coal isn’t always necessary, but private homes will keep it as an optional way of heating the boiler. No matter how the house (apartment in our case) is heated, cold season weather sealing and insulation reduce energy costs. It’s also possible to dress more warmly indoors, and to heat only rooms of heavy use.

But there is an elephant in the room, once we accept that what we’re really talking about is decreasing human contributions to the greenhouse effect, the pollution of air and water, and environmental damage from the industries that cater to one or many of our appetites that lead to our doing these things. Presented in the form of a question, what would happen if we didn’t? The answer is why we almost certainly won’t change and stop doing them, unless their availability is curtailed by circumstances in or out of our control.

In the real world, driven by material values dictating that, to enjoy any semblance of a “lifestyle” in popular parlance, most of us have no choice but to exchange our labor for pay, which we then spend on the “things we do”, which are, technically, the “things we buy”, that is, “our shit”, as we refer to our purchases. In a nutshell, then, the algorithm of our lives becomes “no job, no shit”. That’s the problem. There are very few jobs today that can’t be connected to, or related to the Big Industries that are based on our continued embrace of these products and services. If we stop doing these things, without some clear plan for what comes after, then they, and eventually we (many of us, anyway) will cease to be. There is no time to waste on preparing such a plan, and we are wasting almost all of it.

Pepper Seeds


Something is tugging at my eye. It’s not unlike the way a toddler grasps the nearest familiar hem as a form of polite but insistent request for attention. “Hey, I’m down here!”.


Now is the eve of the harvest moon. Signs of the season are everywhere; the drying blooms of wayside flowers hang from stalks that droop in the lingering afternoon heat. The day is the color of near-ripe heads of rice, while in all the clandestine gardens appear fresh plantings of hardy late varieties: radish, garlic, greens. Lining every thoroughfare, the riotous stands of cosmos and daisy sway in gentle breeze; first-turning deciduous leaves are appearing everywhere, to be followed soon enough by the larch needles and the robust pointy trampoline-covers of the sycamore. There is so much to see of the rewards of horticulture and harvest around us, and we inspect all of it as we walk with the dogs through our thus-variegated neighborhood surroundings.


The Old Ones know things here, big things that the young ones can’t be bothered to hear told of, lest their stride in life’s latest marathon be broken. Only old ones know how unwise it is to let any square centimeter of soil go unbroken, unplanted, unwatered and unwatched, alert against the predations of man and nature hereabouts.

The prices of household vegetables rise almost daily; the choicest ones already gone beyond the means of more and more of those who now find themselves alone in a personal season to match the cooling and desiccating weather. It is their own winding-down marathon in the industrialized, capitalized world of their long now, the making of which has consumed every part of them but their withering husks, yet they garden on. They are indomitable, almost. Their efforts still inspire and educate those of to whom they are still visible, usually those of us who follow them most closely on time’s heels. Their example reminds us, their suburbanized, apartment-packaged neighbors and offspring, that food only grows on trees purposefully planted, by hand, and not in the marketplace, but here in the margins of our being.
The Old Ones are like the picked-over chili pepper trees, compact, robust, sturdy, always having produced more fruit than their harvest accepts for taking. Now that humidity has left the air, dried up and blown away by the last typhoon of the season, the peppers mature and change color rapidly. The harvest window is a small one, so rapidly do they fill out and mellow; not all do. When they are ready, they must be harvested quickly and spread to dry. For that, a secondary processing step hastens the finish. Each fat, spice-red finger is deftly quartered lengthwise and fanned out over any flat surface of adequate size, most often a sidewalk with good solar exposure. Any roll-up sheet or mat will do to hold them, or nothing will do, where the pavement has been washed clean by sun and rain. The days are still long enough, and the rays strong enough that two or three days of it will suffice. We stand admiring a spread of mats thickly strewn with the scarlet strips on the sidewalk across the roadway that winds among the dozens of 25- and 30-story apartment blocks just beyond. I shoot a photograph of that scene, half-aware of that nagging urge or…what IS it!? … tugging at the hem of my consciousness.
Then I see it, unobtrusive, contrastive, clear as the flowers at the end of their green stalks and stems. The pepper seeds are strewn in disorder where they have fallen, forgotten, beside the reed mat on which is spread the shards of pepper already wrinkled and shrinking from irradiation. The first stiff breeze will blow the tiny papery seeds away like so much dust, if the next rain doesn’t wash them down the nearest storm drain first. Whatever may happen to them, though, I know a few will survive to germinate voluntarily in the wild, to be discovered the following season by the penniless and opportunistic gleaner at the bottom of the human food chain. I have seen these things.
I ponder the meaning of the seeds, these tiny powerhouses of nature; I remind myself that all of the seeds of a single pepper are sufficient for enough seedlings for an entire forest-in-rows of new pepper trees. Thus I am reminded that in but two generations, a single seed is capable of producing a million new pepper trees, each with the potential to yield a million times a million more. I ponder this trove of potential and remember that this reproductive capability of the pepper tree has not appeared solely as the result of Nature’s untroubled workflow. It is an enhanced fecundity produced not entirely on its own, but aided and enhanced by the hand of a thousand generations of Old Ones, whose offspring advanced with those of the peppers, both nurtured together. It was this help from the Old Ones, just as children and grandchildren are still helped, that brought these crops to be. The seeds came, too.
They must be carefully kept, both seeds and children, until the ground is properly conditioned to welcome them. They must be nourished and watered, the pests shooed and plucked and slashed and gouged away from them as they strain toward the same sun that made us all. Most of their seed, like these are, will come to little or nothing, yet more than enough will remain and thrive and ensure that their reputation for quality and uniqueness is deserved. And the peppers will make their way around the world in the same way as the people do who cannot thrive without daily sampling the peppers’ gift of tang and flavor, all of it from a single one of these tiny wisps of stuff.

Stop a Head when Flashing


[note] I wrote this for a publisher who wanted something about the people, days and events in it. After he accepted it, I checked it with Charlie and he objected to what, in his memory (admittedly somewhat more acute than mine, for reasons that will become apparent). I pulled it, so you’re reading it fresh. Rather than change it, I’ll just call it a work of pure fiction, and add Charlie’s objections in the home stretch. Let the reader make of it whatever he or she likes.

Charles Potts and I met in Pocatello not long before he left for Mexico, so I didn’t get to know him well until he showed up months later in Seattle. Charlie and LSD came on me at about the same time. Acid was stronger, but had nowhere near Charlie’s legs. He was staying with a friend in Olympia, intent on starting a poetry magazine in Seattle. I had quit my job at Boeing the day after dropping my first acid. I had a room in Abie Label’s “artist’s colony” on the eleventh floor of the Frye Hotel at 2nd and Yesler.(It wasn’t all altruism-the elevator went only to 10. The rooms on 11 were just over 6 ft high on one side, sloping up to about 7 and a half on the other to allow for drainage from the roof.)


I had been reading publications like Screw and Fuck, a lot of Ed Sanders’ and Tuli Kupferberg’s stuff, and other arcana of hipness at Jean Andre’s Id Bookstore on 1st Avenue at Yesler, kitty corner Pioneer Square. Sitting around the Id a lot, one lighthearted day (if that’s the right body part), I wrote a send-up of Poe, encountering his eponymous Raven on acid.

Everybody I read it to thought it was cool, naturally, so I was having my 15 minutes when Charlie came back from Mexico with poetry, or more accurately producing a poetry mag on his mind. He didn’t have a name for it yet, and in my new-found acid consciousness, I reached down into memories of my boyhood and found “Litmus”, with its cool dual entendre of the little strips of paper chemists use to test solutions for acidity, and the alliteral allusion to literature. This account is disputed by the estimable, and otherwise absolutely dependable Larry Kent,  also present and the time, and making the same claim for himself. Maybe we had become the same person in that moment. The difference was that I knew exactly what the idea had sprung from.

My father had given me a chemistry set for Christmas back when you could still get one with everything needed to make black powder. His demonstration of the use of litmus paper was magical, indelible in my memory. I’m not sure Charles is ready even now to acknowledge that I named Litmus. I let him down in the stretch, leading up to the appearance of #1, by failing to get the big old multilith printing machine into orbit, that I had acquired in hopes of ensuring book quality printing work.  I was also smoking a lot of weed by, and during, the time he was laboring herculanimously to get #1 out, and off, and on multiple fronts. He took a job at a motorcycle tire dealer to save enough to move to Seattle from Olympia, where he had, in a very short time, become a popular reader in the [name?] coffeehouse.

I’d had friction with some of the artists at the Frye by then. Their underwear bunched up at my plan to move a noisy printing machine into their Zen sanctuary, as it might disrupt the flow of lissome art groupies fluttering in and out of their ersatz ashram. With no appetite for another war, ‘Nam nowhere near over yet, I bailed from there.

Charles and I took an apartment together for a couple months in Belltown, on 2nd Avenue. We found it tastelessly ironic that our new pad was directly above the navy recruiter’s office. That any of our crowd had to pass the “Go Navy” sign to reach our door, tickled us nonetheless. It was there where I took the photo of Edward Smith in the same bathtub where Charlie has written elsewhere that he had found his roommate breaking up a “key”, and it was also there where I shot the picture of Charlie uprooting the Space Needle, both hands under the cap as if it were a great metallic fungus.

Edward Smith was one of several persons that Charlie and I met in the poetry workshops we led together for the Magic Mountain’s Miriam Rader and her Free University of Seattle project, who would become influential in our lives. I was a farce as far as being a poetry teacher goes. I was a humorist abusing the privilege by pretending to write poetry. While the occasional jokes might amuse, they didn’t make for good poetry. A redeeming fact, perhaps, was that I recognized this before anyone else, with the outcome being that I dumped the A B Dick lemon on a guy eager to strike a blow against the man in the form of a magazine for transvestites, and I bailed.

This left Charlie holding the growing poetry bag-Litmus, poetry class, and all, but with with a pair of good hands. I moved into the back room at Jack Cabe’s Zig Zag Gallery in the Pike Place Market, where I would still be in a position to help Charlie host the “Theodore Roethke Gladness Wake” (he still has the flyers!) About that event I can say that on that evening, Charlie, Edward and another former Pocatellan, Clair Oursler, showed me how exciting a live poetry reading could be; it really had to be if it was to do more than merely derive from others’ earlier work, however magnificent.

Of course I did my Poe turn, which was already tasting stale in my mouth. Edward read his feminist call to arms, “Rise up my cunted ones”; Charlie read “I dream of Oaxaca” (which I had been the first person to hear, earlier, when he finished writing it in Belltown), and Clair, astonishingly enough, read the product liner notes from a package of VA douche powder, by the light of an electric lint remover. Whatever one thinks of Roethke, his name lost some of its luster that night, or if not, at least the 30-odd poets and hipsters who attended the readings left less inclined, probably, to use reverential tones when dropping the name.

Another poet who read was David Hiatt. Because I didn’t know him well, I lost complete memory of him and his reading until recently, although I was always aware that there was a hot poetry connection between him and Charles Potts. I recently got a Facebook friend request from David, and in a subsequent exchange of messages he debunked my presumption of propinquity between him and the too-soon-gone poet, Ben Hiatt, he reminded me that I had given him a small amount of “walking around money” at that reading. Maybe Facebook is as close as we have yet come to the global electronic village promised us all those decades ago by Marshall McLuhan and Tim Leary.

My Poe takedown appeared in Litmus #1, which also used my B/W photo of a spider on a chrysanthemum on the cover. From then on, as a result of having met David Horton, already a master photographer espoused to another of the dozen or so brilliant attendees of the poetry class, he became my mentor in a visual art form for which I thought I had more aptitude than for writing poetry. Prose was always more “my thing”, and we all know its not the same.

I was probably a little jealous of the bond I watched grow so quickly between Charles and Edward; they are, or were, now Ed is deceased, both eminently loveable men. The final cooling stroke in the relationship between Charles and I was delivered in the person of Janice P, a lively Nordic blonde, with  a large Alsatian, and  also in the poetry class. We thought of her as our groupie, as she had put a lip-lock on Charlie before you could say “fellatio trumps cunnilingus”. In the end, she threw us both over for a guy who “could beat her at tennis,” but I chalked it up to a rough first acid trip. Twenty years later, either one of us would have accepted the tennis challenge, switching gender roles for the Bobby Riggs-Billy Jean King Classic match-up result, but I didn’t come here to take up sports writing.

For awhile, as time was reckoned in the Summer of Love, it was fair to say she was Charlie’s girl. One day she came around the gallery looking for Charlie, so she said, and I don’t claim otherwise. Charlie wasn’t there, nor was he usually, for if not at his job, he would be very busy working to get Litmus out. Before anyone but the rare clearheaded person realized what was happening, Janice and I were putting the wood away on the gallery floor while the Alsatian licked his balls in the corner.

I felt a little self-conscious about it afterward, all our fashionable pretensions about the correctness of free love notwithstanding. I didn’t think Charlie was too pleased about it either when I told him later, but the damage was done. A few months, a thousand poetry publishing headaches, and a few issues of Litmus later, and Charlie was off to meet his alter ego, Laffing Water in Berkeley (cf. Vol II, Valga Krusa, Green Panda, 2007, Cleveland).

It’s been said that if you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there, and there may be truth in it. I sent the above text to Charles, expecting his memory to be as good or better than mine. Our versions don’t match, but I have neither an argument against his, nor an inclination to vary mine, since I remember it. Even so, I concede to Charles’ account of his motivations, intentions and actions. His mind wasn’t nearly as addled with weed, wine and psychecelics as mine, then or ever. His account of the time follows:

“Per the biography, my memory is substantially different from yours. I did not return from Mexico or move to Seattle obsessed with publishing a poetry magazine. When we re-met in Seattle, you and David Wagner and others whose names escape me were planning an anti-war anti-establishment magazine that was to be called Shrapnel. For which Wagner had made a proto typical cover misspelling the word as Scrapnel I believe.

What I offered in those late days of August was to procure some poetry for this magazine as I had left Pocatello feeling slightly guilty that I had let Bob Serpa talk me out of including Dawn, Clair, and Mary Heckler in an anthology Serpa and I published called Do You Want to Be in Our Zoo Too? which contained the works of Serpa, CP, Zig, and Geoffrey Dunbar.

I had read Ford Madox Ford’s It Was the Nightingale which was a nightmare about publishing The Transatlantic Review and I had determined never to be the editor or publisher of a magazine.
As time went along, and the name of the projected magazine changed to Litmus, it became apparent that you and Wagner weren’t going to be able to produce. I was perfectly willing to let down my friends, Oursler, Dawn, and Mary Heckler one more time and let the project languish. It was only after the 3rd meeting of “Poetry—Language—Now” at the free university when Ed Smith read “The Queen of the Blue Fox” and we had a poem that had to be published, did I become obsessive about getting the first and second issues out, and subsequently took over the publishing in order to finish it.
Those are the most substantive objections to the portrayal of me in those days. Per the Theodore Roethke Gladness Wakes, the first one was you me and Clair. Ed Smith read at the 2nd one along with Paul Malanga and Bobby Byrd. [Charles Potts, personal email, 11 March 2009]

Sequelae: I sought Charlie out in Berkeley alongside a “buying trip” I had undertaken, as necessitated by seekers from Seattle in those early days of designer chemistry. I arrived at the airport early in the morning, bought a newspaper and took the bus into Berkeley. The headlines blared the the cops raiding Black Panther headquarters in Berkeley, killing two men, including Bobby Seale, and arresting Eldridge Cleaver and Huey P. Newton. It was not unexpected push-back by the police, and was viewed on the streets as the cops getting even for the Panthers well-established habit of “patrolling the pigs”, or cruising the streets of Oakland and Berkeley with serious firepower protruding from every window. It was a policy ostensibly designed to awaken all to a perceived need to protect local citizens from being harassed by police for walking while black.

Reaching Charlie’s room, I woke him up to read him this news, as he had as yet no inkling of it. It was a delicious moment for me, that rare one when any of his friends learned a salient fact before Charlie, always so diligent in his pursuit, and rarely forgetting anything. I imagine it enabled me to somewhat refuel Charles’ esteem of me as a reliable participant in our scene. I have been lucky in that way.

If you have read this far with any interest (and how could you not?)  and yet are unfamiliar with Valga Krusa (in 2 vols: The Yellow Christ, and Laffing Water, which details the hair-raising and heart-rending experiences of Charlie in Berkely, culminating in his descent into psychiatric hell, and subsequent (and quite brilliant) recovery, the book is available by contacting this space.

Dogpatch Spy Provocateur: An American Original


There are so many holes in this story, it’s hard to know where to push in the probes. It began, the public part, with an incident Jan. 27, in Lahore, as reported in the New York Times.  An American driver stopped at an intersection, suspected two men on a scooter of being armed, and firing “through his windshield” with a Glock 9mm, killed both. He then emerged from his vehicle to photograph the corpses with his digital camera. Soon afterward, he was arrested by Pakistani police. A search and preliminary interrogation turned up a lot of suspicious gear and eyebrow raising documentation, setting in motion a chain of shadowy exchanges between US and Pakistani officials, and the New York Times.

Meet Raymond Davis, identified as the American at the center of this brewing storm in relations between the two countries, and a figure so enigmatic at this point that one is hard-pressed to think of his equal in international spy fiction. An International (Express) Tribune story has identified him as either a CIA spook, or a US State Department adjunct working out of Lahore, Pakistan. He certainly looks like the sort we became so uncomfortably familiar with in the bad old days before  Blackwater, forced by a growing number of incidents eerily similar in type to the present one, rose Phoenix-like from its own ashes, reincarnated as Xe (pronounced “Kaiser Seozay”).

What is wrong with this picture?
What is wrong with this picture?

David Lindorf, writing on the growing debacle in Truthout,makes it very clear that, although the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post were all slow to seize on this story, perhaps due to pressure from the Obama administration, the story is so far out ahead of the traditional news outlets that, whatever damage it has the potential to do US-Pakistani relations is unlikely to be mitigated anytime before a lot more damage-causing information, and possibly disinformation, has been revealed.

Raymond Davis seems a most unlikely choice to be out in front of the kind of covert shenanigans he is being accused of perpetrating in behalf of whoever his shadowy masters are. At first glance, he seems utterly lacking in either the formal education or cross-cultural sophistication, to pull off anything nearly so tricky. And that is precisely why the story, focusing as it does on dueling spy agencies carrying out leftover missions from the W Bush era, seems so abjectly plausible. Stay tuned. This story is going to get a lot uglier before it goes away.

The Best of the Billionaires


Since I put the idea out there for them to embrace with the alacrity and verve we find so appealing in them, America’s billionaires have been slow to recognize the real opportunity my plan represents. This is hard to explain. After all, who’s better known for seizing an opportunity to become even more financially rotund than the commercial behemoths produced by the US system of trickle down, Hoover up freemarket capitalism.

The plan in a nutshell, you may remember, is a unique combination of reality TV and game show, with an American Idol twist. It starts with a move every billionaire can get behind, and divides up the planet between a number of the most competitive billionaires (weaklings under $2bn net worth need not apply.) Each billionaire is allowed to compete with up to one billion of his or her own money, and whatever profits are gained from their enterprise in the competition are theirs to keep, after all expenses have been settled.

Every day brings new ideas and insights to the scheme, and today’s come from the sale of the Shine Group, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, to the mogul himself, price tag: $672 million. The old fellow wants the company, we are told, because of all the great things it’s goint to add to the content-creation arm of his behemoth media empire. He may envision improvements to his FOX Broadcasting unit, where the need for help with quality content is sorely needed, if we can’t believe what we’re hearing and seeing there, and it seems we can’t. Good luck with that.

So here it is, Ms Murdoch, here is the gem that will help ensure that the new Shine on the Murdoch fortunes is real, and not just a reflection of the stage lights on Dad’s ego. Pick up the option on this program and produce an instant hit. I say start with the 50 states and give one each to a billionaire with no current financial holdings in that state. Charge them with building a team of idea people, researchers, managers and engineers, and public relations and marketing people who are presently unemployed in that state. Start by landing one or more of the many unemployed human resources professionals wandering around looking dazed and confused and go from there.

All they have to do to get started is to verify that they have placed $US one billion in escrow for the project, and the game is on. Round up the local media teams to keep an eye (and a camera) on their their every move, as they begin to shape a new industry for the state, or to improve its existing resources to a level of fiscal productiveness. Make sure they all get exactly the same breaks, in terms of obeying the local laws. Air weekly or even daily reports on the action, answering questions on the minds of local viewers: Who’re the players? What’s the action?; How much is being spent, and on what?

Empanel a group of experts to evaluate the moguls’ projects in terms of whose ideas are generating the most good for the most citizens of each’s respective state. Finally, set up a method, a la American Idol, where the citizens can make their own opinions count, in terms of how they are receiving that which is being put in place for them. Use an algorithm combining the findings of the panel with the votes of the public to allot a number of points per week to each player. The billionaire with the most points for the week is the “Best Billionaire”.

I’m looking your way, Ms Murdoch, for the same reason I first offered the idea to Donald Trump. I figured he’d jump at the chance to do it, and earned a well-deserved Nobel, thus putting him a giant step closer to the US Presidency that he feels so uniquely qualified for. He’s ignoring me, possibly because it’s easier to just keep building projects that shave money off those of his own class. Who can say?

I reckon that, if you know anything at all, Ms Murdoch, you must know media. I think you will see the merits in this plan, if your imagination is as good as we imagine. This project has the potential to produce more media revenue in the first year alone, than Diddums is forking over for your Shine Group. Here’s your chance to build another one, even bigger and better, and in less time, without even breaking a sweat. Call it Spit Shine. Call it whatever you want, once it’s yours. Call me.

Jack Large

Seoul