Support Your Local Musical Theater

Support Your Local Musical Theatre

Aya Katz

[This pub was first published on Hubpages in 2010. Due to the current ban on dueling by Hubpages management, I had to move it to PubWages.]

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The first musical I ever saw was עוץ לי גוץ לי (pronounced Utz Li Gutz Li). I was five years old. I liked it so much that I asked to see it again. My parents bought the record, and they copied it onto reel to reel, and I listened to the songs over and over again throughout my childhood, no matter where we lived.

The book and lyrics to Utz Li Gutzli were written by אברהם שלונסקי (Avraham Shlonsky), and the music was composed by Dubi Zeltzer. The play is based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm called Rumplestiltskin, but it’s really nothing like the scary children’s story, except in the bare bones plot. Instead, it is a satire and a social commentary. And the intended audience? Children and their parents.

Shlonsky was warned that it would be a flop. They tried to convince him to simplify the language, so that children “would be able to understand it.” He used the very highest kind of Hebrew, the kind you find in the old testament, and he used it to poke fun at politicians. How could children possibly understand what a deficit is or that trying to balance the budget by printing more money might be a questionable practice? Who would even want to see such a play? The lyrics were not just peppered with archaic words, they were grammatically challenging. Who even uses the dual anymore? And does it really seem like a good idea to make fun of local place names, substituting “House of Womb” for “House of Bread” (Bethlehem)?

Shlonsky insisted on the original text. And the play was a great success. I was there. I was five years old. And from that day forward I was hooked on musical theater.


The Advice Song

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Utzli Gutzli is derived from Rumplestiltskin

The first musical I saw was an original Hebrew language play by Shlonsky based on the Grimm story "Rumplestiltskin:

The first musical I saw was an original Hebrew language play by Shlonsky based on the Grimm story “Rumplestiltskin:

My Fair Lady

The next musical that made a really big impression on me was My Fair Lady. The play was by George Bernard Shaw. The lyricist was Alan Jay Lerner. The composer was Frederick Loewe. I was ten years old. The location was Ann Arbor, Michigan. My music teacher in the local school took the whole class to see the dress rehearsal for free.

For a fictionalized account of that event, you might want to read my short story The Punky-Wunkies.

Again, this play was not really written for children. It deals with complex social issues. It speaks of the idle poor, the idle rich and middle class morality. It has lyrics like “A man was made to help support his children, which is the right and proper thing to do, but with a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck, with a little bit of luck, they’ll go out and start supporting you.”

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With A Little Bit of Luck

The cover to the book by Shlonsky

I own the book by Shlonsky (אברהם שלונסקי)

Living Without Theatre

It seemed that my early years were spent in an atmosphere rich in culture, where important works were readily accessible, and where going to the theatre was a very normal and natural part of life. Nobody I knew thought children were too simple minded to understand satire or to care about social issues. And it did not require a superhuman effort to get to the theatre. It either didn’t cost much or it didn’t cost anything. It was no big deal.

And then we moved to Grand Prairie, Texas, and all that came to a grinding halt.

I don’t really know why it happened. It’s not because of the location. We were in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. There was theater in Dallas. There was theater in Ft. Worth. We could have gone. But for some reason we didn’t.

I remember distinctly that my mother said she might take me to see Yul Brynner in The King and I, but then when it turned out that it would require us to drive to Dallas, she changed her mind. Something happened to us. We just stopped going.

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Current Day Production of Utz li Gutz li

It is in production in the Cameri Theatre.
It is in production in the Cameri Theatre.

The Cameri

The Cameri Theatre
The Cameri Theatre
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The Dream of Broadway

For years now, I’ve had this dream of taking my daughter to see a Broadway play. When I got confined to the pens, I even thought of sending my daughter to visit a friend who lives in New York  so that they could attend a Broadway play together. Then my friend told me that she has not  seen a Broadway play herself in years, since the tickets are way too expensive.

Do you have to be rich to enjoy theater? Since when? And if that is the case, is it any wonder that the arts are languishing?

But there’s also another issue. There’s the content.

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Modern versus Ancient

Among the literati, there are a lot of left-wingers. This doesn’t just affect their politics. It seems to affect their language, too. The idea that children could not understand archaic Hebrew — one suggested to Shlonsky, but rejected by him — is closely related to the idea that the “masses” can’t understand anything, and you have to dumb things down for them.

As a result, much of modern theater isn’t really like Utz Li Gutz Li or My Fair Lady, and it’s not worth the inflated prices they are charging for it. Rather than making modern drama accessible to the masses, they have succeeded in making it inaccessible to anyone.

If they made it something that everybody might like to see, they could probably afford to lower the price of the tickets.

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Support Your Local Theater

Forget about New York! Or Tel Aviv! Or London. Or Paris. Wherever it is you live, there is a local theater within driving distance. Why not go there? That’s what I’ve decided to do. Tonight, I am taking my daughter to Springfield, Missouri to see the opening night production of Treasure Island, a musical. The cost of the tickets? Twenty dollars.

We have a choice. We don’t have to buy into expensive and pointless drama written by and for the intellectual elite, who for some incomprehensible reason live in large, crime infested cities with a high tax rate and vote against everything we believe in. We could go local. And instead of letting them think for us, we could be trend setters.


(c) 2010 Aya Katz


6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana


I don’t think it is fair to blame the decline of theatre on the preeminence of the left.

Bernard Shaw and Shlonsky were both leftists, the former a utopian socialist and the latter a member of the marxist wing of the Israeli labor party. You could say that the problem is that the left’s standards have been dropping.

This is a phenomenon not confined to the left. How do Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin compare to Ayn Rand and Barry Goldwater? If this is a false comparison, what prominent figure on the right do you see as comparable to Ayn Rand or to Barry Goldwater?

I think the real problem is a change in the way intellectuals see their role. Shlonsky was a leftist, but at least, he was a pioneer.

Aya Katz 
Aya Katz
6 years ago from The Ozarks

Nets, you may be right. I knew that calling the current intellectuals “left-wing” was problematic, but I just didn’t know what other term to use, since that’s how they identify themselves, and they are clearly nothing like George Bernard Shaw, not just in their writing, but in their politics, too.

The far right of today aren’t anything like Rand or Goldwater, but then, didn’t Ayn Rand say that she wasn’t a conservative? Wasn’t Goldwater a different breed of politician? In what way was he right wing?

Utopian socialist, huh? I’ve heard that about Shaw. But… isn’t he the guy who proposed to solve the poverty problem by putting to death all the poor? Is that utopian? For that matter, is it socialist?

Doesn’t make me like his play any the less, but I tend to think of him as an eccentric free thinker. I doubt seriously if he were alive today if any current day leftist would want anything to do with Shaw.

As for Schlonsky, aren’t there parts of his play that seem to hint at the idea that a balanced budget is a good thing and that excessive government expenditure is a problem that rulers and commoners alike are responsible for?

6 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana


Is supporting a balanced budget inconsistent with being a leftist? Can’t you be for a budget that is balanced but big?

The most striking parts of Shlonsky’s book for me are the ones that mock concern with national security.

Pri frbi qi ge nhfz

Lzbe eecne sl ofz.

Aya Katz profile
Aya Katz
6 years ago from The Ozarks

Nets, I have yet to meet a leftist who supports a balanced budget in the sense of not inflating the currency. But then, maybe I haven’t met enough leftists. Anyway, Schlonsky made the king’s spending seem frivolous, including the money he wanted to send to the poor woman who had triplets, but he seemed to think that spinning gold out of straw to solve the problem was also somehow wrong.

As for the injunction to be fruitful and multiply for the sake of the army, I’m afraid that one went right over my head. I took it literally. But then, I was just five…

Aya Katz profile
Aya Katz
6 years ago from The Ozarks

Mixim mixim fofd mixim, fla hxim ol ekixim.

Sounds like a tax protest.

6 years ago from USA

Aya, thank you so much for this hub. I totally enjoyed The Advice Song. Though I am on the level of a child with Hebrew (10 years in Israel gave me a nice Hebrew, but now 10 years of not using it …), but I understood and enjoyed every word of it! “Zanavotaim”- loved it! Was it young Zeev Revach singing?

You are so right about the high level of understanding children are able to possess. My mother took me to see a ballet for the first time when I was 8. I loved it so much!

My son manages to attend some of the performances in Milwaukee (and they have great theaters there!) only thanks to his student ID ($10 student rush), otherwise we won’t be able to afford it.

Our local community theater is very good (I volunteer there as a stage crew when I can) and they perform on a very high level!

drbj and sherry
6 years ago from south Florida

You were lucky, Aya, to have been exposed to theater as a very young child. That love of the theatrical, whether professional or amateur, will sustain you forever. Thanks for this fascinating read.

Aya Katz profile 
Aya Katz
6 years ago from The Ozarks

Reuvera, thanks. Glad you enjoyed “The Advice Song”. Yes, it was Ze’ev Revach and Yosi Gerber performing it. It’s great that you are able to be involved in your local community theater. I wish we could, too, but it was a two hour drive to the theater.

Aya Katz profile 
Aya Katz
6 years ago from The Ozarks

Dr. BJ, thanks! It’s odd, but I never really focused on this love of the theatrical before. I just took it for granted.

6 years ago

I agree–we can just support our local theaters instead of forking out costly sum. Another reason for supporting them?–they’re in dire need of funds. Thanks for sharing.

Aya Katz 
Aya Katz
6 years ago from The Ozarks

Anglnwu, thanks. I agree. The same money applied locally could make so much more of a difference.

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Posted in Composers, Lyricists, Music, PubWages Staff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Primates and Primatologists

Primates and Primatologists

Note: This is a Vlog Post. The text comes from the video embedded below. It is in a spoken register of English.

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I have a lot of comments on my videos, especially the videos of Bow. And a lot of them are very positive. And most of them are about — you know — how cute he is, and how wonderful it is to work with him, and how somebody else might like to experience that. But I also receive some negative comments, and if they’re really nasty I delete them, but I don’t delete every critical comment. And recently I had one that I think needs addressing.

It was basically: “You are not a real primatologist. And you are not engaged in an official study.” You know, with any university or any other official place, and I don’t remember what the rest of it was.

Okay, so first of all let’s address what a “real” primatologist is. A real primatologist is a scientist who studies primates — usually nonhuman primates, but lately the primatologists that I know have been forced to study humans, because those are the only primates who are available to study.

The primatological studies happen in a number of disciplines, which include biology, psychology, anthropology and, in my case, linguistics. So I have a PhD in linguistics from Rice University in Houston. And my PhD is about as “official” as it gets. But you’re right. I am not engaged in an “officially” sanctioned study. And neither is anyone else. [When it comes to ape language studies.]

So what’s happened is that there has been a political movement that said that humans and apes, or other nonhuman primates, should not interact with one another.  The kind of primatological studies that are now being allowed to take place, usually not on university campuses, because the great apes have been pretty much banned from university campuses, but at other institutions such a zoos and other research facilities, they are studies involving cognition, studies involving biology. Oftentimes, if it’s anything resembling language, it is computer mediated. And the researchers are not allowed to form a relationship to the research subject.

For some things, that’s fine. If you’re just giving them intelligence tests, if you’re just trying to see if they can solve a problem, even a linguistic problem, in a very formal way, then, yes, it’s fine not to have a relationship. But if you want to see whether they can develop language — not become linguists and solve a linguistic problem in a very abstract way — but develop language for the purposes of communication, then you need to replicate the situation that is available to humans when they acquire language.

So if you take a child and separate the child out from society, from other people, make sure that all the child’s needs are met, and go in there with a mask to feed the child, and you treat the child as if it were some kind of biological object, not a person, and you don’t talk to the child, and you don’t allow the child any means to talk to you, then that child will not develop language. It’s true for humans, and there’s no reason to suppose that it’s not true for chimpanzees , [bonobos], gorillas, orangutans and lower order primates.

So, if your particular interest is language, and mine is, it’s important to have that relationship. And right now no official study is doing that! And those people who used to have official studies — and there are people, and I’m following in their footsteps — have been forced to leave the academic world in order to pursue these things, and often they are forced out of their institutions, and they lose custody of their apes, because they are not allowed to own them, and all of this is going in a certain direction. And it’s not a direction that will ever allow us to test the hypothesis that other apes are capable of language.

So while this is not an official study, this is a study that is very important to the development of science. And believe me, science is not an “official” thing. It never was, and it never will be!





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The Parents Behind the Relationship

This cartoon from the New Yorker, posted on Facebook by a friend, and shared by the Vacuum County fan page had a caption saying: “Before we go any further, I should let you know that I have parents.”

Everyone, at one time or another, has had parents. Or parent surrogates, if the actual parents were not around.    But sometimes it is hard to imagine that someone we are having a relationship with also has parents.  Do the types of parents we have had determine the way we view love? Can we look at someone’s parents and learn more about their way of loving?

They say that what we experienced with our parents as children affects what we expect from a romantic relationship — that the sort of love we got affects the sort of love we expect to receive  — and to give —  in the future. Here in the video embedded below is the School of Life’s take on this issue.

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A salient excerpt from the video suggests that our first glimpse of  love was with a parent:

Our idea of what a good loving relationship should be like and what it feels like to be loved, doesn’t ever come from what we’ve seen in adulthood. It arises from a stranger, more powerful source. The idea of happy coupledom taps into a fundamental picture of comfort, deep security, wordless communication and of our needs being effortlessly understood that comes from early childhood.

At the best moments of childhood, if things went reasonably well, a loving parent offered us extraordinary satisfaction. They knew when we were hungry or tired, even though we couldn’t usually explain. We didn’t need to strive. They made us feel completely safe. We were held peacefully. We were entertained and indulged. And even if we don’t recall the explicit details. the experience of being cherished has left a profound impact on us. It’s planted itself in our minds as the ideal template of what love should be.

This conception or gestalt of what love consists of is by no means as universal as “The School of Life” would have us believe. But there is a certain segment of the world’s population that does hold to this view and that  can conceive of no other type of love.

Here are few properties of this kind of love: 1) It is one-sided 2) It’s a feeling of “satisfaction” with another’s perceived state of mind  and not the feeling of love for another, because  it’s the experience of “receiving”  love rather than the emotion of loving and 3) it involves having basic needs like food and shelter being met by someone else in return for nothing. There is the fallacy of the stolen concept here, because the satisfaction of being loved presupposes a   perceived love by another that remains undefined. But also, it’s an appeal to attachment love, as opposed to limerent love. 

There is a developmental fallacy inherent in supposing our first experience of love is of being loved by a parent, rather than loving that parent ourselves. Babies are born without a concept of self and other. When they first discover that the parent is not a part of themselves, they have still not yet worked out for themselves a theory of mind. So it is much more likely that the baby first loves the parent, before ever realizing that the parent returns that love. To feel your own love for another, it is not necessary to read another person’s mind. The raw feeling of  loving someone is directly linked to physical sensations from the reward center of the brain. To determine that someone else loves us is a much more convoluted act of abstract  inferencing, based on indirect evidence. A baby can experience preference for a particular caregiver’s face at about six months of age. Having a complex theory about another person’s feelings and thoughts does not happen until much later.So despite popular opinion to the contrary, we probably experienced being in love before we experienced being loved.

Even if we do get our first taste of a satisfying experience of being loved from our relationship with a parent, it’s not necessarily the nurturing, mind-reading all powerful being who took care of us in early infancy. It’s not always the one who held us peacefully and indulged our every need. That maternal, “unconditional” love that so many assume is the only “real” love gives way to other pleasures. There is the parent who threw us up in the air and excited, rather than calmed us. The one who encouraged us to test our wings, who engaged us in logical argumentation when we were only in preschool and corrected us when we erred, who when the other parent was trying to force us to cower indoors,  told us that, yes, we could go out walking alone at night, and here was a gun to protect ourselves with. There is the parent who treated us with respect, like a real person, while the other parent wanted to spare us all suffering,  stunting our growth.  In short, we could model our view of love on the typically more paternal parental role.

Not all mothers are nurturing, and not all fathers empower children toward greater independence. Sometimes the roles are reversed. Sometimes children have only nurturers and no challengers. Sometimes there is only the challenging parent, and not the nurturing one. But whichever way being loved is first experienced, our model for adult love should not be of an all powerful person who filled our every need and asked nothing of us in return. This is not because adults and children are so different. It’s because even chidren are not nearly as passive and dependent as this model assumes.

In our modern society, when people speak of love, they often have a skewed model of what love is, based on a misunderstanding of the parent/child relationship. Not only is the adult relationship nothing like the ties between a newborn infant and its mother, but also most of childhood is nothing like the helplessness of the newborn. Even at a few weeks old, an infant starts to give back to a caretaker and is not only and merely ever taking. If you’ve ever cared for an infant, you know it’s not all selfless service to a clueless, entitled being. They do give back first with smiles and teasing glances, but later with offering to help sweep the floor and wash the dishes, before they ever conceive of those tasks as a chore.  Toddlers long to grow up and be contributing members of the family. Unfortunately, in today’s society, children are seldom given a chance to make real contributions before adulthood. A parent’s ideal relationship with a child is not all giving and no taking. The more the parent respects the child, the more the relationship will be a two way street. Even when their positions are inherently unequal, good parents empower children to face difficulties and challenges, rather than fixing everything for the child so it goes smoothly.

The gestalt of love is not the same for everyone. Failing to define what you mean by love can lead to many misunderstandings.  There is great danger of miscommunication in assuming  that love is universally experienced as selfless provision of service by a being far superior to ourselves. This view of love creates an undesirable effect of turn-taking in adult relationships. Since adults are expected to give as well as receive love, lovers who conceive of love as selfless take turns being the “good, giving” partner, instead of giving and taking simultaneously based on the pleasure of  complementary, though somewhat asymmetrical sex roles. That is, such partners assume they can’t both be happy at the same time, and that one person’s happiness is at the “expense” of the other.

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The fallacy at the heart of this view of love is a misunderstanding of “taking and giving” as necessarily consisting of two separate acts. It is very difficult to give someone a hug and not get a hug back somehow. It’s not possible to touch someone and not be touched in turn.  Even in unreciprocated love, there is a great pleasure that comes from loving someone else. The idea that “getting” must involve exploitation of a “giver” is at the heart of this misconception.

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The selfless conception of unconditional love has ramifications well outside the family and sex roles. When people speak of universal love as a desirable goal for society at large, this can often be a shorthand for socialism and the nanny state. That’s why when someone starts waxing eloquently in praise of “love” and how all the world’s problems can be solved “by love, sweet love”, it might be a very good idea to ask them which kind of love they mean exactly. If it’s the selfless kind, ask them how they think everyone can sacrifice himself selflessly to everyone else and how any society could possibly function that way.


Reciprocity and Turn Taking in Love

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Distinguishing Dogbane from Milkweed

When I was writing about the species of milkweed that is found in the Middle East, the Sodom’s Apple plant. I mentioned that I had spotted something that looked like milkweed in my pasture.

This is Dogbane. It is not Milkweed.

But it was not milkweed. It was dogbane — Apocynum cannabinum.

Dogbane buds before they bloom.

Dogbane and milkweed look very similar, before they bloom. They both have waxy leaves and both give a milky discharge if they are injured. Here are some tips for telling them apart.

Milkweed plants (asclepias) are bigger than dogbane and their leaves are broader. There is a slight reddish tinge to the vein that runs through the middle of the leaf, dividing it in two. The leaves are more “waxy” on the milkweed than the dogbane.

Even before the flowers bloom, the flower buds are bigger on the milkweed than on the dogbane plant, and they are placed much closer together, to make a composite flower. The dogbane cluster is looser, and there are fewer individual buds in each cluster.


When the leaves of the milkweed are injured, the white sap that comes out looks like Elmer’s glue.

The dogbane flowers, when they open, are usually white.

Dogbane flowers opening

In contrast milkweed flowers are more colorful. The can  be purple, pink or orange, depending on the variety.

Milkweed flowers have bright colors

Dogbane flowers are tiny and delicate. They are easy to overlook.

A tiny sweat bee is bigger than a single dogbane flower

A sweat bee when it lands on a dogbane flower entirely obscures it from view, the flower is so small. Large butterflies, like spangled fritillaries, can sit on milkweed flower, and still most of the flower is visible. Of course, those are composite flowers we are looking at.

Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies on purple milkweed

Even though the flowers are arranged in clusters on the  dogbane, too,  they don’t quite form a larger composite flower, as their stems are longer, and they each seem to be going a different way.

Each tiny flower in the bunch seems to be going its own way Dogbane florets are individuals

But even when in bud, the milkweed flowers form a collective, single entity.

The milkweed flower buds are bunched so closely together that they seem to act as one. Different bunches will form different composite flowers on the same plant.

By the time the flowers bloom, the difference between the the dogbane and the milkweed is unmistakable. But before we see the flowers, a closer examination of the leaves can help.

Copyright words and images 2017 Aya Katz

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Recognizing Milkweed

I  have been fixating on milkweed. Two years ago, I found  plenty of milkweed on my property. There was purple milkweed, with its pinkish blooms. There was common milkweed, with its less brilliant kind of purple. And there was even butterfly milkweed, which was sort of orange. But all the milkweed disappeared last year. And along with it went the butterflies that I used to watch feeding on the milkweed flowers.

This year there has been massive flooding in our state, and with the rain, there also came a lot of growth. In a completely different spot in my unmown pasture, a bunch of plants have come up that have leaves just like my old milkweed. Well, not exactly like my old milkweed, and they have yet to flower. So I am hoping they are milkweed, but I’m not sure.

Yesterday I trudged in the rain-soaked pasture in high boots to get a closer look. Those look like flowers developing in the middle, at the top if the plant.

Then today a Facebook friend, Dave McClure,  a Scotsman who lives in Doha, Qatar, posted a photo of a plant and asked what it was.

Photo by Dave McClure

Photo by Dave McClure

Anybody know what this plant is? The seed pods are about lemon sized and puffy to touch and the leaves are round and waxen. Obviously it likes hot climates or it wouldn’t be wasting its time in Qatar,” Dave McClure wrote on his Facebook wall.

 It looks like a plant I saw in Israel, I thought to myself. But then I also thought, no, the leaves remind me of milkweed. So Missouri Aya kept insisting it was milkweed, like the rain soaked plant in the pasture, and Israeli Aya kept thinking it was a plant she had seen in her arid native land long. long ago. I had split brain syndrome. But wait, could it be both?

Attribution: Wilfredo Rodriguez

I looked up “milkweed, Qatar” and here is what I found:

“Found only in Doha” the site said. But not really only in Doha.  That’s just if you are looking for it exclusively in Qatar.  The asclepias procera is native to “North Africa, Tropical Africa, Western Asia, South Asia, and Indochina.”

The plant is a milkweed. It is even called “Giant Milkweed”. But it also goes by a number of other names: “Asclepias procera, mudar, osher, Sodom’s Apple, stabragh, ushaar, ushar”. The name Sodom’s Apple comes from the Hebrew תפוח סדום. And the fact that it even has a Hebrew name is a pretty good indication that, yes, this version of milkweed does grow in Israel as well.

In his Biblical Researches in Palestine, Edward Robinson describes it as the fruit of the Asclepias gigantea vel procera, a tree 10–15 feet high, with a grayish cork-like bark called osher by the Arabs. He says the fruit resembled a large, smooth apple or orange, hanging in clusters of three or four. When pressed or struck, it exploded with a puff, like a bladder or puff-ball, leaving in the hand only the shreds of the thin rind and a few fibers. It is filled chiefly with air, which gives it the round form. In the center a small slender pod runs through it which contains a small quantity of fine silk, which the Arabs collect and twist into matches for their guns. From the Wikipedia

If you look Sodom’s apple up in the Hebrew wikipedia, you will find that the plant has another name: פתילת המדבר הגדולה. Which loosely translated means “great wick of the desert.”

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That just goes to show once again that everything is interconnected. All flesh is kin. And when your intuition says it’s a milkweed — no, wait, I’ve seen it in Israel! — the answer should always be: Why not both? It’s a small world.

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Sign That Petition, Donate To This Charity

There seems to be a petition for everything these days, and although many have merit, there have been some ridiculous ones as well. Remember the petition to deport Justin Beiber because of his antics drinking and driving a few years back? I cannot believe people even signed that. So for all the meaningful petitions that actually do some good, I wonder, are we ever going a bit far with petition signing. What does it mean when we share we signed a particular petition, or that we donated to a specific charity?  Are we better people because we share this information with the world? So I had recalled that in the Bible is specified we are not supposed to brag about charity, and I decided to scout out the reference to this. Here are a few references from the King James Version:

Matthew 6.1:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise, ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 6.2 

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

I am not telling anyone what religion to follow, but if you are promoting charity because of your faith or beliefs, this might be something to keep in mind. Even in secular society, we are made to feel the more exalted citizens volunteer for this organization, sign this petition, or donate to a specific charity. But lately I have been wondering, why is it in day to day life we are not more supportive of our friends or take more interest in what they are doing? I am not talking about doing this because you have to, but many people who boast about giving to charity or signing petitions do not seem otherwise interested the cool blogs or subjects their friends are writing about. People bump into each other and always say they should do lunch, but why just talk about it? There are many ways you can support others, and those doing it a bit more quietly because they want to just seem more authentic to me. I think giving to charity or signing petitions is cool if that is something you believe in, but in my attempt to broaden my scope of thinking in the last two years, I am just beginning to see sometimes it is not always black and white. Some charities and go fund me campaigns are not always what they seem, as well.

Posted in Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged | 2 Comments

I’d Rather Be Free — A Song from THE DEBT COLLECTOR

Not everyone would rather be free. Even if most of us think we would like to be free, very few of us would be willing to pay the ultimate price for our liberty. Not everyone prefers death to loss of a little bit of freedom — or even a lot of freedom. In The Debt Collector, the conflict between those who prefer to be free over those who prefer to be safe is played out in a recurring song. Sometimes the song is called “I’d Rather Be Free.” But in more somber moments, it is called “I’d Rather Die Free.”

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Why would anyone need to own guns — especially assault rifles that are meant to kill other human beings? Why not just join the police force, if you want to fight crime? Or the army and Navy and Air Force if you wan to fight for the common defense? There are pensions and health benefits and you could still do the work you love, fighting for justice.

In the first scene where Blood sings “I’d Rather Be Free”, it’s by way of explanation for why he isn’t a police officer.

Blood does not want to be someone who just takes orders. He wants to be free to pick and to choose what foul foe he will fight. But Blood is not the only person in The Debt Collector who wants to be free.

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Carl Lark is the welfare father, who is facing a battle of his own. He does not want to work only to have his wages garnished. Siren, the social worker, is encouraging Lottie to divorce him, just so she can collect on child support.

Lottie, the children’s mother, feels the need to be safe much more strongly than the need to be free. But Carl would rather live free.

Meanwhile, their daughter, Sophie, who is being held captive, gagged and bound in the basement of a woman who wants to adopt her, would rather die free.

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There is only one person who could save Sophie from her predicament — and that is Blood, The Debt Collector. But when he is injured during the rescue, and Siren wants him to get help, he would rather die free.

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Since not everybody puts freedom above survival, it is very important that people who do love freedom work together with people who long for safety to create communities where relative safety is the result of freedom, rather than allow the enemies of freedom to get us all to trade liberty for their false promise of absolute safety. Otherwise, we will have neither freedom nor safety.

[The Debt Collector is libertarian musical, composed by Daniel Carter and written by Aya Katz. Performing in the demos are Kelly Clear as Blood, Kade Smith as Carl, Mindy Pack as Lottie, Katie Lobrot as Sophie, and Nate Ginsberg as Dexter.]

Posted in Composers, Lyricists, Music, Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Read My Books

You can read my books any way you like, in any order you like. It would be incredibly conceited and unrealistic of me to think I can tell you which way to read my books. But occasionally I meet a reader who has actually read one of my books and responds with a dazed: “I don’t know what to make of this.” This article is meant to help them.

Now, I am not talking about the people who just hated the book. That can’t be helped, and there’s nothing anybody can do about that. Somebody who really can’t stand a book usually puts it down long before it ends, and that’s perfectly okay. We can’t like every book we attempt to read. Some books are not for us. They are meant for a different audience, and not finishing them is the right thing to do.

But there are these other readers, who might actually be intrigued by one of my books and yet, even after finishing it, they have this feeling that the book was trying to tell them something, but they have no idea what. These are the people who I think might benefit from a little help.

Here is an order in which my books can be read that might incrementally get the reader ready to enter my world and to understand what I am trying to say.

  1. When Sword Met Bow
  2. Ping & the Snirkelly People
  3. The Few Who Count
  4. Vacuum County
  5. Theodosia and the Pirates (2 books)
  6. Our Lady of Kaifeng (2 books)

This is not the order in which I wrote them. It is not an order listing them in terms of their importance. This is an order that might enable a reader to master some basic ideas before seeing them applied in other more complex settings. It’s a developmental approach.

What we experience in an encounter with another person is not what they experience in their encounter with us. There is no mutuality of experience.

When Sword Met Bow is the story of how a little girl reacts to a new baby in her house. Yes, the baby happens to be a chimpanzee, but the story would be the same if he weren’t. What happens is universal. It happens in millions of households every day. What makes this story unique is that I address the issue of the development of consciousness directly, in ways that most do not.

There is a fiction that everyone we meet is a person, and that they must have been a person, in terms of cognition, since their moment of birth, if not before then.

But consciousness develops over time through experience. And different individuals are at different stages of that development when they meet. And in fact, we almost never meet others for the first time at the same time as they meet us. One of us  may even perceive the other while the other has yet to grasp that there is such a thing as self and other. This matters immensely!

From this follow some other very important lessons:

  • Just because you can see someone, that does not mean he can see you.
  • Just because you care for someone, that does not mean he cares for you.
  • Just because you have said something to someone, that does not mean that he has heard — much less understood — what you said.

If you do not grasp these lessons, then there is no point in reading any of the other books, because my other books build on these ideas.

 When you learn another person’s language and culture, this does not mean they learned yours.

There are many, many interactions that we can have with  people that can bring us to a better understanding of others. But it is important to remember that just because we have learned to understand another person better than we did before, that does mean that they understand us any better. It can be very lonely to experience this realization for the first time.

For some reason, the recurring fallacy among most people is that these “getting to know you” events are mutual. They are not.

When Ping acquires Olivia’s language and culture by total immersion, she is surprised to learn that Olivia has learned nothing about Ping the whole time. This creates an immense rift between the two girls, even though a “getting to know you” event has taken place. Some people will never get to know us, though we may  come to know them very well.

Not all people are the same on the inside, once you get past superficial differences. It is important not to give someone a vote who has no skin in the game and does not know what he is voting about.

The Few Who Count is the book in which I explain that limited liability for corporations is a violation of the rights of third parties and violates the principles of free enterprise. But the real crux of the matter is that if you allow stockholders who have nothing at stake but their paltry investment to vote on management of a business they know nothing about, the results will be bad, both for the business and for the economy at large.

We can talk about it as an abstract legal issue all day long, but that will not move people to change their minds about it — especially those who believe limited liability is good for business, because it gives incentive for investment.

But if we think of it in terms of consciousness — if we think of all the people we have met but who have been asleep and have never met us — then maybe it will be easier to grasp the principle that nobody should get to vote about something that is none of his business — not because people are malevolent, but because they are not even aware of what it is they are voting on, unless it directly involves them.

People in a community need each other to maintain their freedom against outside usurpers, but the contributions of each in the community are not equal and the responsibilities are not equal.

Vacuum County is my most critically acclaimed novel. People who do not see merit in any of the others have praised it. In that sense, it is possible that if you can only read one of my books, perhaps this is the one you should read.

But having read it, you might still not grasp what it is all about. You might think that it means little, outside of the story of one little lost college girl in a backwards Texas county. You might take it as a kind of “Beauty and the Beast” love story, whose plot it certainly resembles. But it you want to read it in depth, then ask yourself where it fits in with the other books, and what clashes of consciousness can be found in the story. What misunderstandings are there about who is what? How well do the people of the county really know each other? Is there a “getting to know you” event at the heart of this story? Is it mutual? Does that matter? If so, how much?

While war is necessary sometimes, those who pay for it should be allowed to wage it at their own expense. When war is publicly funded, that leads to loss of liberty for all. 

Should people who don’t pay for war — either by risking their lives or by contributing to the war machinery — get to vote about war? Should they get to vote when they literally have no skin in the game? That’s really what the two Theodosia and the Pirates books are about.

The story of Jean Laffite and his contributions to the Battle of New Orleans is a true story. The story of his founding of Galveston is also a true story. The life of Aaron Burr and his persecution by Thomas Jefferson is also history. I have linked these two true stories by a speculative thread involving Theodosia Burr Alston.

At the heart of this tale is a “getting-to-know-you” event wrapped up in a “getting-to-know-oneself” event. Is it possible sometimes that we don’t even know ourselves as well as we think we do, until we can see ourselves through someone else’s eyes? Can learning to know someone else ever help us to know ourselves?

Internally motivated people are rare. Most people conform to social reality, which is formed from their collective choices. This is why over time societies tend toward socialism.

What does it take to teach just one person a new language and culture? Total immersion. It’s what worked for Ping. She had to be separated from a social world where everybody looked and acted and thought like her and forced to live in another world, where she was the odd one out, and everybody else spoke Snirkelly. Anyone, if taken at the right age and forced through this experience, can come to understand others better, but the process is painful and not always reversible. And that’s just to get one person to change!

Most people are so immersed and assimilated into their own group that they can never stand apart and judge their culture and their norms from the outside. But into every society are born special people who don’t assimilate that easily. Those are the people who are called madmen and saints. They are the ones who don’t expect everything to be mutual. They can love without being loved in return. They can know without being known. That is the story of Marah Fallowfield.

In today’s world, if we do not assimilate well into our first language and culture, then that is called a developmental disability. If we do not assimilate well into a second language and culture, then we are just foreigners. But there are those who walk among us who are not exactly foreigners and not exactly disabled, who can see what other people can’t see, because they are not blinded by the collective consciousness.

The idea that we can vote about personal and financial matters involving other people, their bodies and their assets, presupposes that we’re all the same on the inside, and we can reason about things that are none of our business, because we are all the same. But in fact, our ability to reason is very much tied in to whether or not we have skin in the game. And we are not all the same on the inside. Each of us is very different from the others. Language and culture, when they are shared, give us the illusion of uniformity and mutual understanding. But on the inside, we are each different and very much alone.

Poetry and Song

So what about your other book?  you might be asking. What about In Case There’s a Fox? Well, that book is really just a poem. It should be read with my other poems, once I publish a book of my poetry. It also goes well with the lyrics of the songs in The Debt Collector, a musical with Daniel Carter as the composer. Here is a playlist of song demos:

Posted in Books and Authors | 2 Comments

Scrapbooking The Memories

It is enjoyable to start a scrapbook around holidays such as Christmas, but these volumes can be a great way to keep your memories year around. I like put photographs, my artwork, and cards in my scrapbook as a way to document my art journey, and to keep things organized in one place. You can always buy a more expensive scrapbook at the crafting store along with stickers and other embellishments, but I am happy with the simple one I found with heavy cardstock pages at the thrift store for around two dollars.

Awhile back I did purchase a scrapbook from the craft store, but I am kind of frugal and cannot see the point of spending almost thirty dollars on a simple book that did not even come with embellishments. As I said you can buy stickers and other decorations to dress a scrapbook up with, but I prefer to just put my own artwork in mine. Today, at the Dollar Tree I noticed they also sell stickers there, so there are many affordable places to purchase these. Also, when it comes to my website I see it as a digital scrapbook of sorts since I have decorated it with my drawings, so if I do not print out all of my pictures, I can still visit the online format. It is nice to have both a paper and digital scrapbooks to showcase your artwork and photographs.

Here I am adding black and white photos to my scrapbook. I used photo editing software to turn my color photos into black and white ones.
Here I am adding black and white photos to my scrapbook. I used photo editing software to turn my color photos into black and white ones.
Here is a print out of a tropical sunset painting I created back in the spring of 2009.
Here is a print out of a tropical sunset painting I created back in the spring of 2009.
I am gluing the print out of my painting and a print out of my cat illustration into my scrapbook. Often I scan pictures I draw and give to other people, which allows me to keep the image for future use.
I am gluing the print out of my painting and a print out of my cat illustration into my scrapbook. Often I scan pictures I draw and give to other people, which allows me to keep the image for future use.
Here I have glued my cat drawing and my flower drawing into a scrapbook. These used to be framed, but I change out my frames every so often, and decided to put these in a scrapbook.
Here I have glued my cat drawing and my flower drawing into a scrapbook. These used to be framed, but I change out my frames every so often and decided to put these in a scrapbook.

Sepia Scrapbook Images

One thing I enjoy creating for my paper based and my online scrapbooks are sepia images, which have a nostalgic old fashion look that I often crave.  There is just something lustrous about looking at old-timey images, and sepia conjures up memories of the past.  Here are a few of my colored pictures that I have turned into sepia pictures for my scrapbooks.

Sepia image of a picture I took at Waikiki Beach.
Sepia image of a picture I took at Waikiki Beach.
Sepia image of looking off the Rim of the World Highway.
Sepia image of looking off the Rim of the World Highway.
Sepia image of looking out towards the Pinnacles.
Sepia image of looking out towards the Pinnacles.
Sepia image of a large tree in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia image of a large tree in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia image of a sunset.
Sepia image of a sunset.
Sunset from a different angle.
Sunset from a different angle.
Sepia inspired sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia inspired sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Car driving down a road near an orange field. This old fashion car and sepia imagery makes the picture look like it was taken before World War II, but it was really taken in July of 2009.
Car driving down a road near an orange field. This old fashion car and sepia imagery make the picture look like it was taken before World War II, but it was really taken in July of 2009.

Creating sepia imagery of Hawaiian vacations, sunsets, and orange fields are all quite inspiring for me.  I love to select special images that go in my paper scrapbooks.  Others go in my online scrapbook to share with the world wide web.

Brilliant sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains with snow that has not melted.
Brilliant sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains with snow that has not melted.
Sepia image out by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia image out by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Sepia imagery of trees and a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The sepia imagery of trees and a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains. | Source
Here is a sepia image I created of a few flowers.
Here is a sepia image I created of a few flowers. | Source

I especially have enjoyed creating sepia imagery of landscapes and flowers, which are some of my favorite things to take pictures of.   Give me landscapes any day!

Sepia imagery that I created of a morning glory.
The sepia imagery of morning glories.
Here is sepia imagery of sunflowers.
Here is sepia imagery of sunflowers.
Sepia imagery of a picture I took of a palm tree. I took this picture with my cell phone and cropped it, but I really love how it turned out.
The sepia imagery of a picture I took of a palm tree. I took this picture with my cell phone and cropped it, but I really love how it turned out. | Source
Here is a sepia image I created of a picture I took of Grass Valley Lake.
Here is a sepia image I created of a picture I took of Grass Valley Lake. | Source
Here is sepia imagery I created of a picture looking out towards Hesperia.
Here is sepia imagery of the view looking down on Hesperia.

I love to take spooky images for Halloween and turn these into sepia images to remember.  See what I did with a couple of my photographs below.  Oh yes, and I have also included a couple of images that I took out at the Pinnacles, which have been edited to have sepia effects.

Here is a sepia Halloween scrapbook image I created. The picture I took of the rising moon was perfect for this!
Here is a sepia Halloween scrapbook image I created. The picture of the rising moon was perfect for this!
The full moon look especially creepy in sepia, and almost like an image out of a scary black and white film.
The full moon looks especially creepy in sepia, and almost like an image out of a scary black and white film.
Here is another I took of the full moon where I used photo shop to a Halloween imagery. This would even make for a fun Halloween card to give for friends.
Here is another photo the full moon turned into a Halloween image.
Here is a picture I took in the San Bernardino Mountains facing out towards the Pinnacles.
Here is a picture I took in the San Bernardino Mountains facing out towards the Pinnacles.
Here is a picture that I took hiking out at the Pinnacles in 1988! I scanned my photo and used sepia effects to create this amazing image.
Here is a picture that I took hiking out at the Pinnacles in 1988! I scanned my photo and used sepia effects to create this amazing image.
Here is a picture I took looking out by the Pinnacles.
Looking out past the Pinnacles towards Hesperia.
Another breath taking image taken out on the desert side of the mountain, which is by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Another breath taking image taken out on the desert side of the mountain, which is by the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Here is a picture I created of a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Here is a picture I created of a sunset in the San Bernardino Mountains.

You can use photo editing software to create you own amazing sepia or colored images for your scrapbooks.  I hope you have fun playing with pictures you have taken over the years.

Posted in Arts & Crafts | Tagged | 1 Comment