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Archive for February, 2010

Anatomy of a Prayer©

Mrs. Gladys comes home with a package tied with pink ribbon.

She lays it carefully hidden from her daughter. She is a single mother whose life is arranged about her daughter on whom she hopes much. While waiting for her to come home she has time to finish her chores for the day. After setting the table for two she kneels down in prayer. This time her prayer takes a keen and urgent tone. The reason she has bought with a dollar she could spare a ticket.

She prays devoutly. Angel of peace hears it and addresses Father of Time,’O Father hear her prayer.’

She prays,’Please Lord I have paid my last dollar for a ticket. Let it win the lottery. A million I could do for her future. So she may bring glory to Your matchless name.’ The angel once again approached the Ancient of Days saying,’Think she could further your will on the earth. Grant her wishes.”

God answered,’I have set the O’Reilly the beggar to win the prize. ‘ The angel was sure that the lottery would only hasten his end’. ‘Do not speak of things before time. His free will must abide with my will. ‘ God refused to answer her prayer.

Later the angel reported the disaster that came on O’Reilly as a result of his winning.’

Before the angel could speak something ill of Majesty God corrected him and the angel knew that it was his free will and not God”s Will was at fault.

Angel of Peace in a flash saw the events that were set before the worlds began into which His Will had entered every gap, space and fields of action where His Will let events take their course but also kept his Majesty in wisdom and Power intact.

Still the angel had a doubt. He asked,’Mrs Gladys prayed earnestly for a million, a measly million to you, but would have changed her life completly. How did you set her mind at rest?’

Not in a way you would have foreseen. That is for sure,’ God answered.

Mrs. Gladys with trembling hand opens the paper to check whether her ticket won the sweepstakes or not.’Oh no!’ she has wasted one dollar. But somehow bravely she assures God would take care of her and her daughter.

Before hitting the bed she reads as was her practice the Bible. The promise,’My Grace is sufficient for thee,’ somehow gives her an extra power. She had read the line often but that night the promise takes something of a personal bond. Next morning  she dismisses the idea of instant riches as something not worthy of her.

She herself explains her foolish notion of lottery as a solution to her problems thus ‘Granting me one million because I prayed would have meant for God  taking back His Will for a trifle.’

She also realized if God wished, had million ways of granting her prayer than a lottery win.’How foolish to think lottery as my salvation?’

Mrs. Gladys that evening gave a new change of dress for her daughter. It was her present before she went to study medicine in the University of Dublin. Because He knew what was the burden of Mrs. Gladys he preserved her daughter while terrorists struck at random. The Catholics rained death and the Protestants did all they could. While the country went mad with hatred, Glady’s daughter kept her head, treating the wounded and helping both sick and the helpless. She didn’t make millions either for for herself or for her mother. Mrs. Gladys worked for her living that she could without much difficulty. Her life was ordinary but she had a sneaking suspicion that her life was on a higher ground. Simple questions of living, -paying rent, clothes to be purchased, groceries to be had weekly and how to handle her workplace and neighbors were vital but in discharging her obligations to herself and others she saw God’s loving Hand. It was as though in her lowly station of life He himself came down to give a hand. She could experience in the mundane the Highest: for God indeed was her support and comfort.

Glady’s daughter worked her art healing and comforting as long as she could. She was well into her work neck deep,- too much involved in her service, to ask herself if she were happy or not.

Prayers are not answered in the way you plan, but prayers are the means to taste His goodness on everyday basis. Right kind of prayer shall  make you experience His presence even when you have hit the low.

Those who pray merely for things shall only see things when their prayers bring desired results. His glory shall only be seen by those who wait for His mercy and Lovingkindness.

‘Let thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven..’ Do we really mean what we pray every day? Or are we merely giving  lip service to God?

benny

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The Studio Years by Gerald Mast

(notes taken from the essay as titled above.b)

The System came up along the slow evolution of cinema as an art. In 1916 Adolph Zukor( Famous Players-Lasky company) assumed control over Paramount distributing company. In 1924 Marcus Loew set up MGM studio with Louis B.Mayer as head of Production. By 1925 the Warner Brothers Company,the Columbia Pictures Corporation,Universal Pictures and the Fox company had been set up.

Like the production of Ford motor cars out of Detroit the heads of the Production planned an entertainment factory from which a large number of goods(films) of consistent and dependent quality were to roll out without any snarl. Like any factory, guiding principle of a studio was division of labor, by which each department contributed to the whole. Writers, actors,technicians and mechanics were all part of it. Studio publicity was another that pitched the finished product to the public. Time saving devices were more welcome than inspiration a human quality that made writers or stars at time excel themselves from their usual. There was a front office that planned the year’s production,managed all the budgets and kept the assembly line smoothly running.

Introduction of sound system meant a bigger financial out lay that only big studios could afford. Conversely it made the studio more rigorous with their production costs. The informality of early silent films was gone and in the complicated technically savvy world of dream factory nothing was left to chance or human tantrums. The stars emoted come what may according to detailed shooting scripts that went dead against the intent of the author and script writers who still nursed certain literary integrity. Their principles and feelings had been bought by the studio when they signed the carefully worded contracts prepared by their lawyers. The studios had also battery of legal firms that helped them to control the production all along the line.

From 1930 to 1945 the Studio system reigned supreme.

When films found their feet among masses the need was to produce more while the demand was very strong. With the crash of 1929 and lives of men growing desperate, films as an escape from everyday circumstances were real. Those who produced them knew they had to account for every cent they spent. They knew the commercial need for large quantities could only be justified when these were of good quality and technically competent and also were entertaining. After the World War II the studio system died when television came into vogue. It brought entertainment right into homes of Everyman. There was no more need for such quantity as the studio system planned for a year.

2.

The Hollywood Studio system was uneven. Take two giants as MGM and Paramount studios. In the former Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg had much more control than the other . Paramount was a studio of directors and writers-Ernest Lubitsch, Joseph von Sternberg,Cecil B. DeMille and Billy Wilder. This also had such names as WC Fields and Mae West. MGM was the studio of stars- Greta Garbo Jean Harlow Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. MGM inherited the Marx brothers and made their zany chaotic routine fit with their intricate production numbers and trite plot and the result was lacklustre. Similarly Buster Keaton was flattened out when MGM took control. In the 1930s the MGM policy seemed wiser of the two. Audiences treated MGM films as the most impressive and artistic of their day and Paramount’s chaotic individuality ran the studio into severe financial difficulties and imposed restructuring of the studio in 1935 . Paramount lost in the process WC Fields Marx Brothers to name a few. Today the MGM films look flat and dead besides the exuberant vitality of Paramount’s.

The studios also differed in the genres they handled. RKO was remarkable for the smooth comedies with Cary Grant,and both the adventure films and comedies directed by Howard Hawks.Warner Brothers was most remarkable for its gangster,musicals and biographies. 20th Century Fox excelled in historical and adventure films directed by John Ford,Tyrone Power,Henryhathaway,Henry King. Universal excelled in the horror films-Frankenstein,Dracula,WolfMan, and the comedies of WC Fields.

Most directors were staff directors-competent,proficient and unimaginative technicians who took every script the received ,shot it and then passed the footage along to the editing department for shaping into its final form. There were exceptions to these those who were to individualistic that they like great stars could do films for other studios other than the ones thy had signed their contract. Walt Disney and Charley Chaplin worked for themselves. Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir and Clair made films for the studios and were imported from abroad. Maurice Stiller, Orson Welles( destroyed by the studio) couldn’t work within the system. Then there are directors like Lubitsch, von Sternberg, Hawks,Ford,and Capra who were products of the system and could work within it. In order to do their own Ford and Hawks had to make a number of mediocre films. These great directors avoided the Hollywood clichés and infused so much life about them to give the cliches a fresh cast and color.

Ernest Lubitsch for example could avoid formulas of what to say and how to say it. He even enjoyed playing with them. Central Lubitsch subject was sex, something that the studio system accepted as a necessary evil. In 1933 the formal code was to eliminate sex from the movies. In the studio years a woman was pure or fallen and a gentleman either faithful or a rake. Lubitsch could show that even faithful husbands have their rakish streak and women were not statues but women with powerful drives of their own. In an era of plaster-cast idealism of American male his cynicism was not as grotesque or bitter as of Erich von Stroheim.

On the whole studio system helped great many directors hone their skills and learn the craft. It was a liberating experience for them to make some good films if not the films that we treat as classic films. Mervyn LeRoy din’t direct a film as The Graduate of Mike Nichols. LeRoy made more films between 1930 and 1933 than Mike Nichols will make in a lifetime.

About the system there are two opposite critical opinions. The system created a very clear tension between art and commerce. Art defies mass production and assembly lines.The system bred popular entertainment, a myth as people who lapped up everything that flashed in front of their eyes. They were in awe of the stars, the glamor and the glossy perfection of a system that made the problems of life go away at least for a short while. The system played upon the wishes and dreams of the masses : the poetic justice worked too well and the crime paid in the end. Optimism of the good despite of every bad thing that visited them and reward of suffering the greed of crooked bankers, politicians gave them a false sense of American idealism as distinct from the way things worked in Europe. In a sense the system played too safe to displease public opinion and the powerful lobbies.(in the way the Motion Picture industry handled the Hollywood Ten during the Red Scare of 1947 one cannot miss fear of commerce than morals among the studio heads. They created a blacklist of their own.) The system stoked the gullibility of the masses and made them participants of a communal experience and a religious affirmation of the society. Such optimism which we see now by hindsight was based on misplaced naivete. Most films produced under the system are more interesting sociologically than aesthetically. The system ironed out what it considered as

too individualistic and no wonder MGM could not stomach WC Fields who,ripped up the sentimental cliches of propriety,Protestant ethics, or Marx Brothers who ridiculed high finance,higher education democracies and everything that the studio bosses held in mortal awe.

benny

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Notes made from Griffith to Eisenstein and Back-Peter A. Dart

Griffith and Eisenstein stand out in the history of modern motion picture as two giants, both were innovators who advanced the basic form and structure of motion pictures.Both came to films from theatre backgrounds.

Griffith’s influence on Eisenstein and V.I Pudovkin, Lev Kuleshov. But how much has Eisenstein influenced American film form?

Films of 1908 when Griffith began directing motion pictures films were crude: 10 minutes in length one reelers were made cheaply and sold cheaply to mass audience.In six years Griffith mastered the craft He realized Edvin S. Porter had only understood partially the basic storytelling . He shot one individual scene and edited, arranged in context of other shots. Griffith realized he could photograph each part of the scene with the final arrangement in mind, These details could then be arranged successively by which the audience could make their inferences. It involved them as well. In 1908 the scenes were shot as though film was like a stage play transferred into film. The close-up was unheard of. But Griffith began moving his camera for closer shots. He also tried extra shots of the surrounding locale for ‘atmosphere’. In case of dense action like a battle or a chase he used long shots or extremely wide angle shots. He began to move the camera while it shot a scene. Iris mask to block out extraneous details were also used by him. Selection of a scene arrangement of shots keeping in mind tempo pace rhythm and action added to the story telling new richness. Parallel cutting was the next innovation where two scenes one after the other giving an impression both were happening simultaneously. Emotional impact of two scenes was that the sum of parts were greater than the whole scene. Each scene resonated in the minds of the audience and gave emotional impact that was more than a straight story telling of Porter or other film makers before him.

Of his great films Intolerance(1916) had the greatest impact on Russian film makers.

Montage was the result.Montage of parallel scenes progressing where each detail of a scene though unrelated in its progression acquired a depth of its own:dynamic juxtaposition of these parts made them greater than single scene. Emotional, ideological and artistic power arising out of montage was the gift of Soviet film makers.’The school of Griffith before all else is a school of tempo. However he didn’t have the strength to compete with the young Soviet school of montage in the field of expression and of relentlessly affective rhythm.” Sergei Eisenstein

please refer pen portraits#46 for DW Griffith

benny

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Over the years I have found that I know much more than I give credit to myself. The only area where I had to be careful was in the timing and how I put them into action.

At a time when my first marriage was sliding into a point of no return I sensed my ex was setting traps  about me. One of that was in using our daughter against me. There was another issue, that of divorce. This was frowned upon in our society where religion was made a big thing and breaking commandments as serious as sin and damnation!After my first marriage I had  switched to Pentecostal worship as a sop to the belief of her.( Of course being among these closed in community I felt playing the part in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I fell among thieves, literally.)

I had to take counter measures against the stratagems of these. With the passing of my father I was on my own. In a way it opened up a way out. I could think of asking for divorce, a matter which my father as a Christian would have found uncomfortable.

I had no problem with it. Only that there was a daughter to take care of. She was, as I sensed rightly, my ex-wife’s trump card. I knew it. Months before the split my ex was sending her to her parent’s house every weekend so I may have little chance of seeing her when I had time and leisure for it. I could see the way the game was progressing.

I was set that I would not allow myself to be emotionally blackmailed. My daughter was old enough to know her mind and make her wishes known. Since she was a willing tool I didn’t wish to make an issue of it. Mentally I gave her away to her mother.

In 1994 I decided to marry my old pen pal. I sent a letter to the last known address ( I had not heard from her for 23 years), and it reached her! It was a wild card but it hit the mark. Coincidentally I had a chance to go abroad and meet her. The chains of events were all showing in my favor.   I decided her children would be my children. It was indeed the case. After marriage I closed my practice and went to live with her. I could easily establish a friendly relationship with them. Because of this choice I could enjoy the best period of my life watching five of my grandchildren grow. Nothing else could match except the love and warmth I enjoy in my marriage. The manner in which events developed I could seize my chances and come out of what might have been a terrible situation.

Looking back I see that my mind could sense the way to effect an emotional healing. The cure was all in me.

benny

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As a child I lived under the thumb of my father. My mother was the  silent one. She was in a way a shadow, who nevertheless managed the household silently. My father taught what he thought I ought to know. It was dinned into me even at times with a rod. My adolescence was in unlearning a few things that I thought didn’t bear my seal of approval. Everything that he taught me for my own good  somehow went underground so to speak. Now I’m surprised it has become part of my behavior.

For all that parental imposition of values, as an old man I see my father more as a shadow and without emotional coloring a faded image in my memory.

With years my mother of whom I knew very little looms larger. I saw very little as she passed her self effaced in the glare of my father’s personality, and later as she faded progressively by illness to her end.

Now my thoughts often dwell on her and think, ‘I could have got to know her better if only I tried?’ Is it a mystery that love and life could work at cross purposes? While there is room for both life that is on the go takes love for granted and when it is too late love luxuriates in the ‘what might have been’.

2.

Before sending me off to boarding school, at the age of twelve, my mother gave me a few words of advice.

One of which was this,’Mon, you are on your own now. We are not around to pick up the broken pieces. If you break things you have got to make good of the loss. You are on your own among boys who may not have love for you. They may hurt you. We are not around to wipe your tears or comfort you.’ I managed to rely on myself and avoided getting into trouble.  My boarding school days helped me win quite a few friends. (Even now I have kept them as friends.)

If my father was all harsh hiding his love my mother was all love in silence. It is her advice that rings still in my ears.

It is a mystery of love or whatever has become of it.

Benny

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In my previous posts where I examined the Big Picture I had formulated several principles to underpin my theories. Conjugation principle,Inversion Principle,Uncertainty Principle,Cluster Principle and so on. There is one principle of which I had till now held back. What is Clean Slate principle? In order to explain it let me point out from the night sky.

There are several billions of stars, light of  which when added up must make the sky bright. Yet it does not. Supernovae of star sends materials helter-skelter across space creating new stars in its wake. Background radiation of the Big Bang still reaches us. With such persistence cosmic events leave their signature around. This being the case why we see the night still dark as though the light sent forth from stars is blotted out by an unseen hand? The sky, in a manner of speaking has become a clean slate.

Science explains this  as due to the nature of universe expanding at a rate that starlight shall not make the night seen as day. The nature of Day is as distinct as Night is the exclusion of light is. Day and Night are distinctly apart.  Nature of Truth as distinct from Falsehood is. In  short we have to see in the Objective Lessons of Nature, what makes them valid. Nature as a mirror to Truth. Man makes truth of Nature, truth of Experience, and Truth of Action  to justify himself. Absolute Value of Truth is not what he can demonstrate. Even so it is in context of Truth.

The Clean Slate Principle refers to Absolute certainties against which every finite value has to come up against. Thus we use our free will to explain the nature of evil. Do we not use sophistry to explain that God as Omniscient Being must have known evil beforehand?  If He knows evil He cannot be Good? We weave our own ropes of reason to hang ourselves with.

In the analogy of night sky light supplied by various sources is still rendered as though these were null owing to the expanding sky. Similarly in the run off of march of events supplied by good and evil motives, consciousness of evil on God’s part is negated by power and wisdom of God. He is not the conscience keeper of the evil one. Bad motives come from a different source than good motives that a man keeps and acts upon are in keeping with His commandments. So man who suffers like a wrongdoer for the good that he did out of good conscience is in His keeping.   Clean Slate principle makes God free from any unfairness or *impartiality(cf.post of 8 May 2010) .

The Clean Slate principle states that we create evil, result of our finite nature. According to Cluster principle evil creates much more:  misery is another byproduct. The Clean Slate Principle states that evil resulting from man’s free will remains at finite level. Absolute value of Truth is undimmed by finiteness of truth we demonstrate.

God remains inviolate because of this principle.

God as Truth is not made any whit less because of truth as demonstrated by man.

It is in the nature of God, because God is  Love, to exercise this principle. Though our sins be as scarlet the Clean Principle can render as white as snow, to use a Biblical expression. This principle is in conformity with conjugation principle.

PS. Day is distinct from Night. Light of the Sun makes Day and Night though littered with stars and visible to us, is still Night. In this connection let me point out some men due to some accidents in their biology may be effeminate or genetically feminine. Has God gone wrong? In His eyes they are as distinct as man from woman is. God looks at the soul that is according to the Clean Slate Principle makes man and woman, distinct and clean. To God there is no confusion as we may have.

benny

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A Quote:suicide

“There is only one area where no one is considered a failure: death.

Unfortunately lessons learnt in life make some cheat here as well. Suicide it is called”.

benny

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(This story follows The Pirate’s Story-1. b.)

Elixir Of Life ©

The night still hung over the Atlantic. Open End suddenly shot up in his bed and eyes snapped open. If there was a scream it just trailed away in a whimper. It was a bad dream all right and Snake-Eyes his valet was at hand to get him come out of it. Snake-Eyes, the man from Memphis, was also the bo’s’n, his physician and spirit counselor all rolled in one. “ Is the ship on course?” Open End asked. Snake-Eyes nodded and said he would fix him a jug of toddy. Open End drank. It tasted unlike anything he had ever tasted which went under the heading of toddy. Sheepishly the man from Memphis said it was a new concoction. In the end he volunteered to explain it was the food of the gods.
After a pause he asked, “You don’t like it Cap’n?” The pirate said it was indeed the food of the gods and he had nothing against the drink. “Only that S.E, I just dreamt a dream, a terrible one at that.” Open End moped his forehead and his bewilderment was still obvious. “In my dream I was the food for the gods.”
Before Snake-Eyes could digest this he asked in a puzzle,” What is a pulque?” No man came more superstitious than the man from Memphis and he
knew the matter was serious. He explained, ”It is a beverage made from the sap of Maguey or century plant.” Next moment he wondered loud, ”Those plants are only found in Mexico!”
“Why on earth would I want to think of pulque?” Open End still remained amazed. He had never for once tasted the fermented drink or heard the name mentioned; and yet he was speaking of matters real. “But it is a dream. What has it got to do with the real?” Open End considered his ship as real as his treasure chests that he had buried in places Snake-Eyes would have never dreamed of.
Had the man from Memphis said the drink was the favorite drink of a Huastec god it would have made the pirate nervous; and the thought it was what a sacrificial victim got to drink before being dispatched to the underworld would certainly have made him squirm. Snake-Eyes said instead,” Pulque is grown in Mexico and it is very much part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain; and we are in that world which explains your dream however fanciful…” Open End waved him away unable to stand some abstruse nonsense that did not peel an onion, as far as he was concerned. However. He was still shaking. Only the thought his dream was vivid and he was in a fancy dress playing some game in order to please some god was revolting enough.

2.
While Snake-Eyes had perked up with their narrow escape from death, Open End remained troubled all the way to Trinidad, Cuba. He cast anchor in the open sea and put out a skiff to land ashore. Dusk had already fallen and he concealed his boat among a mangrove. He made off towards the town.
Cuba Trinidad. Nestling below the mauve cool shadows thrown by the Sierra del Escambray he had got in time to lose himself among the festive crowd. Every night seemed an occasion for some procession of sorts, only that they did not wear any masks or elaborate dresses of sequins or flounces.  Music blared from the white washed haciendas and shacks and those who had some cash wended to the bars and got some louder beats that came in an unbroken wave after wave. Either you danced or drank to senselessness or retreated to some darkened spot hoping to give the ears some rest. Open End went to a sidewalk and sat like a lord before a low slung tiled house. It had windows with wooden balconies. Cheek by jowl stood some four houses more or less of similar façade each reflecting Moorish influence on the south of Spain. It did not bother what his present surroundings had to do with some style imported from Old Spain anymore than his dream had to do with some drink of Mexico. What struck him was his awareness of the folding doors all louvered and opened. He could see flaming flambeaux inside and customers dressed in their every day clothes taking in the passing show. Open End was hungry and he looked around.
Immediately came a mulatto who said he would take the order. Even as he asked for specialty of the house a table was quickly set complete with service, cutlery and napkins. The hot steaming plate of sweet potatoes done to a crisp with dollops of chocolate which he had never had tasted (till the time the Man from Memphis had used it to spice up his toddy) put him into high spirits. “Here be the food of the gods!” he drooled at the thought it only cost him next to nothing. ‘Should I order anything on the side?’ he asked himself. It was such simple questions as to how he should wear his bandanna or what side dishes to order were the most difficult to answer. Before he could pursue it any further he saw a hand reaching from the blur of crowd towards him. As large as life. He could only watch it slowly develop. The calloused hand did not end there; and he shuddered to imagine it was on him the hand had taken a fancy. He drew back. Yet the fiendish hand sought him out. Then another, the good hand of the same faceless phantom, for all the start his other hand gave him, made its appearance.
The good hand that held on to his table was all that good and the rest as he could see was determined to make itself shown with all its sorry state. He knew the fellow was almost coming apart but for his inhuman will which somehow held it all together. He was decidedly for a chat. ‘I don’t know him. Why me?’ He felt it was unjust.
The uninvited guest was not a pretty sight.
The stranger was diseased and broken down on the wheel of life. His left hand was in splints and head was swathed in lint and was dirty as his person, which was obviously unwashed for days. Never had he seen a man so utterly abused by every day life. He would not have cared to touch even with a ten-foot barge pole. Open End winced at the figure who stood large in his line of vision and who did not fade though he pretended not to notice him.
His appetite somewhat evaporated.
His sympathy would have made a wave but the man who stood before him began shouting the foulest words of abuse once he had found his feet. Such words he had never in his own low life heard, quickly dried up what pity welled within. Having unburdened himself he said, ”You whoreson, did you not bring some cargo for me to sell last autumn?”
As the invectives streamed forth in a jet Open End was matching every blackguard from his Identity-kit of memory studying whom the beggar matched most. The only time he had sailed as far as the New World was the time he had some human cargo to sell in Jamaica. But he was in Cuba! ‘So the stranger must be someone who is connected with that sale’, he thought. That made his search narrowed down to a few. ‘Did he cut in to someone else’s deal?’ He could not think so. ‘Or did he make any enemies on that deal?’ He thought hard. ‘Those 230 grinning slaves from Benin glowing with rude health were thankful.’ he recalled. Slowly his forehead furrowed, “No it cannot be?” It came all in a flash. Suddenly his eyebrows shot up. ’Miguel, you mickle of Mickey Finn!” he exclaimed trying hard to play cool. It did not make Miguel stop his invectives, which like the deluge once opened up kept pouring down on Noah. “Fine thanks I get!” the pirate groaned.
Open End as matter of precaution drew his chair farther back. A mistake. Miguel stuck his good hand into his steaming plate. Open End could only look on. The only consolation was while he attacked his dinner he had forgotten him altogether. Open End was surprised he could watch him eat it all; and even while he gorged on chocolate in a disgustingly self-indulgent manner he realized he and Miguel could never rekindle the old magic as was in Mondego Bay.
He had on that occasion made his millions on a sale, which gave Miguel towards brokerage a tidy sum. What of him? All that he got on that deal went for so many recurring expenses, depreciation and incidentals as his steward would say, ‘enough to make minnow of a whale’. Whereas the man who called him names had no office or incidental expenses. Did he grudge that? No. After the sale he had paid for the wining and drinking. Two days of binge! He did not mind it. All because of friendship! ‘What Miguel was griping now for?’ What his brokerage firm was but his own person whereas he had to maintain a ship and an insatiable crew, for God’s sake!
He mused while Miguel said,” You palmed me off with dead meat, you scoundrel!” The pirate let out a groan knowing his dinner only gave him a fresh start. Before he could launch into another tirade he held his hands to stop him, “You, yourself said to the contrary. You don’t remember it uh?”
” Yes I was tricked at Mondego bay, you rascal!” he screamed,” Those slaves were polished to look healthy. Tricks of the trade!” Miguel explained,” Hardly had I sold them to my client who had put them in sugar cane plantations than the slaves began to show what stuff they were made of.” He gulped hard and Open End could see it was difficult for him to speak. ”The sun beat them hard and it was not sweat but lard oozing out of their pores.” He screamed hard,” What kind of slaves were you trying to palm off anyway? So well fed, what was the idea? So calculated that they would die off like flies once you got your money?” He gasped for breath and said somewhat subdued,” they were not good for working in the heat. So my client had them taken from working.”
“What became of them?”
“Carrion meat! That was what they became!” He once again keened like a banshee. Those who strolled along the street jumped like rabbits to keep out of trouble.
“My client was so wroth and wanted to give you a good whipping down,” Miguel shuddered and he spat out,” You had cleverly left the scene, and I had to face the music!”
“You made him see reason, I suppose?“
He convulsed severely in reply to the pirate’s query and his hideous face showed what he felt so tellingly. He cried. “ I was whipped, tarred and was hauled into his boat only to be keel-hauled.” He sobbed till he had the tocsin of his memory cleared off, ”Again I was in his boat for keel hauling. Why must I suffer for your sake?” Miguel began howling and tears poured out and he said, ”I wanted only brokerage and not expected to be broken down as this.”
Miguel launched into a fresh bout of weeping to which the pirate said under breath, ‘End of a beautiful friendship.’ There was still a touch of regret. They had come to the parting of ways. Open End casually asked if he could do anything to make his situation somewhat lighter. “I want to go to Havana. I heard there is a place, which dispenses the elixir of life. A swig of that fixes whatever is broken. Including hearts.”
Open End would have laughed outright had he not seen the man before. Nothing of frivolity came through when he brokered a deal last time. He was an eager beaver from his head to toe. It was now as then. Even in gutter as he found himself at the moment, he would have taken his percentage had he something of a deal.
Open End nodded to indicate Miguel spoke the truth. If a handout made it somewhat easy for one he would part with some money; If it would make one come out all right, one who looked no better than a piece of sugarcane drawn through a press one time too many, he was all for it. He caught the eye of the waiter and paid him. He had not the heart to think of eating. What with Miguel still burping over his order.
After he had his fill Miguel said he was for taking a passage in his ship bound for Havana, a piece of news which the pirate had never told any one. Miguel asked him,  “Take me with you, to Havana!” he wailed, ”for sympathy sake!”
Open End felt uneasy. His sympathy did not run that deep. He flatly refused to take Miguel along. Open End feared his presence would only jinx his own future. Promising him to meet him the next day by ten in the morning at the place (where the present Casa del Obispo stands) he went into the night.
Soon he heard footfalls in the night and he stopped dead on his tracks with his cutlass ready to use. It was the mulatto who had a little while ago served him. He said he had some piece of information that could save him. “It is for sale!” he said with some trepidation. “I guessed as much,” Open End said casually.
“Just a doubloon will do.” he offered. “No deal till I hear what kind of news I am getting.” The pirate was certain. The waiter said the man who had come to his table earlier in the evening was onto voodoo magic.” It does not work then, ”Open End said with a leer,” if practicing voodoo will make me so beggarly. Obviously?”
“It was a case of displeasing some Vodon (* spirits)”the mulatto replied. Open End said “No deal as I said, no deal.” and walked off.
Next morning Miguel came for a hand out which the pirate tossed with disdain and waved him away. Miguel left.
3.
Three months later Open End sailed into Havana and without making a fuss he had taken a villa by the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Next morning jauntily he walked along the esplanade keeping all the time his eye on the landmark (where El Morro presently situates) at Punta Barlovento, he saw someone coming towards him with a whoop. It was a hombre on two feet all right. He was in no mood to be run over by any one with the power of a whirlwind. His hands instinctively moved to his rapier, hell bent to stop the nuisance in his tracks. There were a few enjoying the salubrious autumn sunshine and they curiously looked at the man in motion then at one who just stopped dead. Many eyebrows were raised to see the man in motion in a flash stopping short before the one with his hand on the hilt.
“Hola!” the man said.
“Ditto!” replied the man curtly. His hand was still on the hilt. A pause. His hand fell on his sides and he said, ”Is it you Miguel?”
“Yes,” Miguel said seriously,” As I told you last time I just got out after my treatment.” Open End recalled something about the elixir. He waited. Miguel put his hand with a familiar air on his sleeve and said,” The elixir of life. It cost me only five pesos!”
Miguel looked chipper and full of bounce and he invited Open End to a restaurant on King’s Street and said the treat would be to his account. Open End would not hear of it. He insisted he would pay and was in no mood to be contradicted. Thus they strolled to the assigned place. Later in the evening Open End said he would also take the cure and admitted he at first thought it was some quackery. “But Miguel, I cannot but admit my foolish reservations. You glow with rude health and not a sign of disease clings to you as far as my eyes can detect; and your bones as far as your grip goes, well, carry some punch!” Open End asked to be taken to the place where he might buy elixir of life. Only one question he still had and he was all the more perturbed for it. Many times words came and died half expressed. He did not know if there was any deal.
“What are you sounding like a tinkling cymbal?” Miguel asked exasperated,” Speak up!” Open End came to the point. “Do you think I can buy the elixir lock, stock and barrel?” Open End had sensed his Midas touch in the little tremor of his left hand. The same tremor he had felt when Bozo first came to him with human cargo. If that deal had netted him millions he was here looking at his billions. ‘Who would not pay dearly for eternal youth?’ Open End asked him again.
Miguel frowned but he gave the question his full undivided attention and said,” I could perhaps swing it in your favor. Needless to say my brokerage as usual, is assured. Is it not?” Open End suddenly pulled back. “Agreed in principle. But I shall not deal until I know what figure we are talking about.” They parleyed even as they turned to a dingy darkened alley. “Yes I will part with hard cash.”
“Is that all you can speak of?”
“In thousands of reals.”Miguel just stopped and was a bit peeved. “Don’t be vague,” he said, ”You are playing with matters of life. The elixir of life is at stake here.” He also explained the entire stock lay in barrels and if they were to run off it would run on for one full year. “Not by drips and drabs, man!” Miguel was certain, “by gallons!”
Open End had a knack for arithmetic. He calculated mentally and divulged his highest offer would be anything between one million and 1,7 million. “That is reasonable, I suppose.” Miguel clapped his hands to press home a point. Unlike the last encounter Miguel was fit as a fiddle and his clapping reverberated through the alley. “You must be precise to the last peso.”
Open End fumbled and said, ”My limit is 1,705,350 reals. I can throw in say eighty pesos by way of some change.”
Open End had already seized the prospects of all titled heads including sultans as his clientele. It was a sure-fire operation that showed nothing but profits. Whichever way one dispensed the elixir
it made money.
They stopped in front of a house, which was unusual. It had only one door a heavy door studded with nails and Miguel rapped the knocker against the wood. At last the door creaked and a colored servant in livery opened. Seeing Miguel he let them inside. Open End saw a house typical of the domestic architecture in colonial style transplanted from Old Spain. The whole house was a half moon in masonry and wood. The façade painted in old Havana blue was beginning to show its age. Doors and windows painted in pink were open to let in sea breeze. There was an imposing colonnade that defined the front verandah that curved all the way. What struck the pirate were those who lounged. They were like zombies and looked as if they were past their present circumstances. ”They are waiting for their cure.” Miguel confided,” You are lucky you get preference over them. I spoke well on your behalf.” Miguel with a short laugh slapped on his back and said,” Cheer up. I am all for you!”
Open End felt the mood oppressive. The hairs on his arms prickled and he thought those who lounged sent shivers down his spine. Instinctively he clutched his sword. Miguel showed no change in his emotion but continued as ever voluble to paint the superlative merits of the treatment the house offered. Casa Half Moon strove not only for soundness of body but soul and spirit as well. He was certain. Miguel pointed to some cluster of stones that lay strewn here and there within the compound. “So much of stones lying waste!” Open End opined. “No, they are gods my friend.” Miguel nearly laughed at his ignorance. “There a harpy eagle with eyes of bones and in obsidian; and there a reclining figure a deity named Chacmool (* a divinity favored by the people of El Tajín in Meso-American times) and here are Elegguá, Changó, Yemaya and Ochún (four divinities in the Yoruban pantheon)”. Before the pirate could digest all these Miguel was expressing his amazement how the house could keep the practice with such low fees. “Mind you, only five pesos all I had to pay!”
Miguel’s effusion suffered a hiatus as soon as a giant of a Mestizo (of the Indian and Spanish stock) ambled towards them. His head was a melon size and it sat rather awkwardly on a massive body skipping the neck altogether. His eyes were gimlet like studying the newcomer. Miguel whispered to take note how he exuded health and vigor. “They don’t make people like him these days except in Casa Half Moon!” While the pirate was lost in a reverie he also reminded he was scrawny like every one else before he came there for the treatment. “He just stayed on!” and Miguel said in wonderment, ”he is the número uno!”
Open End in hushed voice conveyed his uneasiness at the way he was looking him over.  Miguel could not help laughing, ”Do not be silly. He is sizing you up. May be a regimen to get rid of all those poison from your system. You look, pardon my saying so, a little yellow around your eyes and there is a nervous tic on the left eye which is beginning to get out of line.”
Open End replied. ”I suppose it is in order if he just concentrates on my health. Something tells me he is sizing up my worth in pieces of eight.” The head of Casa Half Moon received them with a smile and said,” You can call me Vodun! I am the presiding spirit over your well being.” Without further ado he shepherded them into the cool depths of the house. Within the time taken for them to be registered before an Indian, a tall figure with a tonsured head and a wooden cross on his bare chest the director had arranged his entire personnel to the sole purpose making a new being out of Open End who they all seemed to have concluded was a disgrace to humanity. The motto “Man like unto gods!” was carved here and there. Miguel seemed to have come out with no complaint. ‘In such a case I ought not gripe about the place or the people.’ Open End tried his best to fight certain dark suspicions that welled from within. While Miguel spent quarter of an hour with Vodun he sidled up to the man who was behind the wooden table. He stopped writing and closed the thick book and laid his quill aside. Pleasantly he introduced himself, ’I am Dom Orteguilla, at your service.’
“Is this real or am I imagining things?” Open End asked. It was a long shot. The tonsured Indian glanced at Vodun and at Miguel and swung his glance towards the speaker. It was done so slowly as if it were a hint. Open End could have drawn his own conclusion. Among so many heathen gods and animistic spirits, which were installed in the Casa Half Moon, the image of a cross worn by Dom Orteguilla was somewhat familiar. Open End thought he had found an ally.
Miguel at last came out. With a laugh so broad and a cheery wave he said he would be around to pick him up after he had the elixir of Life, drinking of which signaled the end of the treatment. “Don’t forget a rooster for Elegguá!” Open End saw him race through the drive way and into the alley. The door closed behind him.
4.
Open End within days realized what really meant with the expression of being shipshape. Keeping his mortal remains afloat after a regimen prescribed by Casa Half Moon just described it. The first day was spent in sweating out in sweltering heat, only to be thrown the next day into a box packed with ice ‘to keep a heat exchange between body and mind’ which sounded a load of nonsense to him. He did not die as much as the weekly bill which Vodun produced for his attention. There stood a figure of 40,000 reals! Open End could not believe his eyes! As much as he blinked the figure did not disappear or become any lesser. Open End would have liked to remonstrate with the número uno of the highhanded treatment that made any further attempts to pump life in him highly risky. Vodun looked at him as if he had been hurt really bad. He said with finality ”Impossible!” In somewhat subdued tone Open End asked how high would the expenses would be.
Vodun stood there as if he were lost in thought. If he called it thinking Open End knew thinking must be no more difficult than sneezing. He came up with a figure. 1,705,350 reals.
“But Miguel assured me it cost him only five pesos. I allowed myself your treatment only on the same charge.” “Five pesos for three months of cure, ”Vodun said with his saucer eyes ever widening,” and not to mention the elixir of life! AYSOS(* What planet are you from)?” Vodun laughed so hard that his assistants came to take in the hilarity of their chief. Before he strode off he said, ”We shall thank you for eighty pesos towards gratuity. Those poor fellows who serve. They deserve some consideration. No?” Open End felt small and his rage would have spiraled out of control had not he caught the eye of Orteguilla who signaled him to go easy. When they were left alone the pirate said, “At least I can carry the elixir of Life with me and make some money out of it.” “You must have been dreaming.” the Indian replied.
Open End thought perhaps he might go home. But he would have to pay still for the whole course was no option. Miguel had got his pound of flesh and it rankled. If he could at least get that robustness which Miguel rubbed on him rather heavily he would live to get his own back. Some day. He managed with great self-control to go through with motions of the cure offered to him. At the end of each week a bill was presented and he cried ’murder’ seeing he was paying a percentage to Miguel. He promised he would skewer Miguel next time he came across him.
One night Dom Orteguilla came to his cabin and chatted about various things. Slowly they established some kind of bond and got to talk of their past. Orteguilla said he had joined them purely from a scholar’s point of view. He spoke of his stay in Vera Cruz with some satisfaction. It was where he came across huachinango a la veracruzana, red chilies which were to become his life passion. At the moment he was busy examining the cult of orishas (divine beings of African animism). Suddenly he announced he was ready to go into the world to try new experiences. Open End did not take the hint. Before the day of drinking elixir of Life Orteguilla insisted Open End should empty his mind of every thing other than what positive good the elixir could ever do to a man.” Remember, Open End at what cost you have come this far. Drink it and you shall live to fight another battle.” Open End merely groaned.
Last day Vodun came to the cell where Open End was lodged and pressed him to pay up. The bill in all stood at 1,705,350 reals. “Not a real more, not a real less!” The burly Vodun declared. Open End gritted his teeth and said, ”Wrong!”
“How do you mean?” Vodun turned his eyes blazing and his nostril flared (and his milk white teeth were no less impressive and he looked threatening. Open End said, ”Wrong! You overlooked the little matter of eighty pesos. No?” Vodun relaxed and he said he would send Dom Orteguilla to him so they could discuss and arrange the bill to be paid at his earliest convenience. Shortly thereafter the Indian was sent to fetch his money from his caravel hidden below the Punta Barlovento in one of the coves. He was in a trap and if it could only be sprung by implicit trust in a total stranger who went by the name Orteguilla he had no choice. By noon he had settled the bill in full. He was so overcome with rage and dismay at being made a fool of. Even while he downed the elixir of Life all he could was to damn Miguel.
When he reached the door he accosted Orteguilla who said he was waiting for him to come. “You see a man who just blew a fortune goodbye, Orteguilla!” The pirate whined, ”So depressing”. “Buck up man,” the defrocked Indian said sternly, ”you just had the elixir of life!” But at what cost! In millions!” Open End was so upset. Dom Orteguilla gave a sweet smile and said, “ You got me instead!”
“I sincerely hope,” said he,” you are worth half as much!” The Indian jauntily closed the door shut behind him and followed the pirate who felt the effect of elixir had already begun to wear off.
The End
Total word count: 5061

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The first time I visited the British Museum in 89 one item that captivated me was the autograph of Beethoven. Alongside was that of Mozart. The tidiness of the latter was totally missing in the work of Beethoven. Comparing these is easier than analyzing why one is distinct from the other.
Yet both have been essential to me. Though I have no musical training to appreciate the merits of a composer from his style, in the manner one uses melodic, rhythmic or textural elements, my responses to both composers have been varied. Whereas one has smoothed my troubled spirit by life’s inconsequential hammerings, as an infant satiated by it mother’s milk, Beethoven has supplied more than ample muscle to keep me going through day’s chore. I require both. Even as I get on with tasks on hand, snatches of his themes are ever in my mind. I can smooth day to my liking. 
Is there anything that I may pick out from works of Beethoven as infinitely of high order than others? Given the temperament and cast of my mind second movement in symphonies, the slow movements touch me deeper than others.  Whatever I may be doing while the music goes on the background I pause in order to take the delicious passages: Seventh symphony, the third piano concerto are cases in point.
After becoming acquainted with his music for years my ear can note development of a theme, tonic major and minor relationships how bits and pieces of it are scattered throughout the work. Such juxtapositions of key and dynamics give the piece its variety; themes when restated are like memory playing tricks, a sunny brisk passage when restated is in minor key nevertheless balance is achieved.  His music almost mirrors life in that that sunny outlook of a child derived from its influences may be transformed by tragic aspects of life. But such major minor relationships do not make life seen separately; overall unity of a Beethoven symphony is in its variety despite the motive force of life merely lets each of us to touch highs and lows of joy and sorrow. If the music has its structure and unity is neither of joy nor of sorrow of life can be isolated. They are part of a design. As long man is subject to such tempests of life music of Beethoven must be relevant to him.
As long as my ears can note the difference between a violin and drum I shall listen to Beethoven. If totally deaf with age I hope my memory shall continue to give my ruined state some semblance of sparkle. I shall end with a quotation of Lenin, ‘I know nothing which is greater than the Appassionato…It is marvelous, superhuman music. I always think with pride –perhaps it is naïve of me-what marvelous things human beings can do. (Maxim Gorky-Days with Lenin)’

benny

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Humphead Wrasse

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