Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning the Totalitarian ABC


George Orwell lived here...
George Orwell lived here...

Quite recently I was warned more than once that I had to be careful what I wrote and published. But why? I am not engaging in any subversive activities or conspiracies of any kind so why should I be careful what I say? I am a free thinker and do not feel comfortable wearing a muzzle. Never did and never will. 

I love to share my opinion and wish I had more time to write. I love honesty and courage and most of all, I love intellectual discourse. Great things can happen when intelligent minds meet together to explore possibilities that open with every new twist and turn of the mind.

But things are not really that simple. If you have thought you were living in a free world where eloquent opinions were highly valued, you might have to consider some adjustments of your worldview. You are neither free, nor is your opinion highly valued. What really counts is your ability to self-censor your statements. Better even if you were able to self-censor your thoughts, because sooner or later a slip of a tongue might spark an outrage or worse. And you better start early in your life so that nobody could sue you for something you said or wrote twenty or thirty years ago...

The subject of this article is so vast that I do not really know where to begin so let us start with the definition of totalitarianism. 

Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever it is necessary. 

Europe had its affair with totalitarianism and it did not end well. Till today the remains of the totalitarianism hunt the collective European mind. 

For the freedom-loving Americans totalitarianism is simply inconceivable. And yet, every person in America is subject to scrutiny thanks to the Patriot Act that was introduced by Congress and signed by President George Bush in response to the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

People were not extremely over-joyed about the Act, but most were and still are willing to give up their privacy in exchange  for their own safety. The Patriot Act made totalitarianism palatable to Americans: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about, and when you see something, say something."

The Patriot Act gave birth to many conspiracy theories since no one in his right mind could imagine that something like that was even possible in America. "They" could only control free people through fear of another attack. Whether this was the case or not, Patriot Act is a success. More than a decade later we are still taking off our shoes at the airports and allow complete strangers to go through our personal belongings every time we want to travel. And the NSA scandal does not really shock anybody. We kind of knew that "they" were listing to our phone conversations. They only did it for our own good. 

The way it looks, Patriot Act is here to stay. Surveillance is part of our reality and it might be expanded in the future as new technologies will be applied to monitor every move we make whether we want it or not. 

However, what worries me even more than the "physical" monitoring of my whereabouts is the coercion to a particular form of thinking. It sells as "political correctness" and is practiced diligently by all "enlightened" minds who never question the stupidity of it and willingly apply self-censorship to prove their superiority. Anyone who disagrees with the current popular view will be shut up. To make sure that any person submits to their pressure, a race card, a gender card, or any such means of coercion is used. The fear of public ridicule or even punishment leads to a behavior modification. Sooner or later the recalcitrant person, for his own sake, starts applying self-censorship or stops voicing critique altogether. And this is exactly what is desired of a respectful person in an enlightened, tolerant society. You only say and think what is allowed. 

George Orwell would have been very proud. His disturbing vision of a dystopian society is coming true in modern, visibly confused, America. Although the politically correct liberals never describe themselves as fascists, they use methods of coercion and indoctrination that would make the brown shirts and the red shirts blush. And mind you, the indoctrination starts as early as the kindergarten where kids as young as four years old get suspended for doing or saying something the thought police disapproves of. This is quite scary development and should be stopped if America is to remain the land of the proud and the free.

By Dominique Allmon ©2013

         

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Longest Day - Celebrating the Summer Solstice


Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Since the beginning of mankind people of many cultures regarded the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year as a major celestial event. This is the day that marks the triumph of light over darkness.

Mesmerized by the great power of the sun, civilizations all over the world have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer, the Saint John's Night, or Litha. The Chinese honored the Goddess of Light Li. The Slavs and the Celts celebrated the longest day of the year with dances and bonfires

Saint John's Night celebration in Poland

In Poland the Saint John's Night is celebrated as a magical feast of purification and fertility. Celebrations are rooted in ancient pagan rituals that honored the mystery of water and fire. To this day people all over the country dance and sing around bonfires until midnight. They make wreaths out of wild flowers and herbs and let them float on water after attaching candles to them. Young lovers set out in search of the magical fern flower that only blooms once a year during the Summer Solstice. The flower is supposed to bring great fortune to those who find it.



In England hundreds of people from all over the world typically gather at Stonehenge, the ancient megalithic circle in Wiltshire, to see the sun rise. The Heel Stone and the Slaughter Stone, set outside the main circle, align with the rising sun giving an incredible spectacle of light that affects people in the same way as it did thousands of years ago when the stone circle was first erected there.  

By Dominique Allmon

Image credit here and here

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Joy of Living with Small Animals


Baby Sonora

About a year ago we were abandoned by our cat Madame M. A bit more than two months later we had to bid farewell to our beloved Agent Orange. It was a very difficult time for us. The pain of losing them both was unbearable and we decided that we would not have any pets for a long time. 

The "long time" lasted for a bit more than eight months until James went to see eight husky puppies at a friends house. One was prettier than the other and he could not resist a temptation. He was free to chose one of the babies. He picked up a girl and  we named her Sonora. Like the desert.

 Sonora

We also wanted to have a kitty. Black if possible. But we did not want to have an  alley cat anymore since we were told by a veterinarian that most feral cats in Roswell are infected with feline aids. The loss of Agent Orange was very painful and we did not want to repeat the same experience with another stray cat. 

James made a trip to Humane Society and spotted a beautiful black baby cat who was very friendly and seemed to like him right away. The sympathy was returned and we decided to take her home. We named her Lulu. 

 Lulu and Sonora - first encounter

Lulu was about four months old and unlike Sonora she was bathroom trained. She had a home before, but for reasons unknown to us she and her mother were given away and ended up at Humane Society. Someone adopted her mother, but Lulu was locked up in a cage and still needed home. We did not even have to think twice. Especially after we discovered that Sonora liked Lulu and Lulu wasn't afraid of her at all.

This is how our adventure with small animals began. 

It is years since we both had  dogs. Cats learn fast, but puppies need special attention so  James bought a book that would help us  train and understand Sonora. Like two thirsty sponges we also soaked up all the tips from friends who already have dogs.

As days passed we questioned our sanity more than once. One must be mad to willingly get up at 2 a.m. to walk the dog in the backyard, but the alternative of stepping into a puddle first thing in the morning was even less appealing. 

Sonora is learning fast and our night trips to the backyard are becoming a rarity. Soon  we  may even miss getting up in the middle of the night.

Our pets have toys to play with and seem to never get bored. Sonora chews on everything she can find: cushions, cat's tail, sticks, tennis balls, small birds she caught in the backyard...

One day James discovered that Sonora chewed up his favorite summer shoes. The only question we had was how did she get them. She was too small to grab them from the  shelf. But when James saw our tiny, shiny Lulu dragging his slipper from the bathroom, everything become clear. The dog was in cahoots with the cat! Nothing seemed to be safe in our house anymore. Especially, since Lulu decided to redecorate our home and Sonora was willing to help.
 
Lulu with her teddy

The window curtains are in shreds now and the couch proved to be a perfect place for cat's manicure. There is not a day that we are wondering about here daily activities. How come Madame M and Agent Orange ignored our curtains and Lulu seems to obsessed with them? They did not even bother much to scratch the sofa. And they did not even touch the Christmas tree once... 

Lulu

No matter what, life is so much more interesting with our two baby animals. The puppy loves cat food, the kitty eats dog food. They play together and sometimes we would see Lulu running for her life as Sonora loves to chase small, furry things that move. My heart stops out of fear that Sonora might snap Lulu's spine with her sharp teeth. Minutes later we see the kitty teasing the puppy and everything becomes clear. They are both guilty and innocent at the same time. 

Everything is well again when they collapse exhausted from all the mischief and go to sleep at least for a while... 

By Dominique Allmon

         

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Strong Desire to Wander



Days and months are travelers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives traveling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind - filled with a strong desire to wander. - Matsuo Bashô

Image source here

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pesto Genovese!



One of the simplest ways to add a little summer to your dishes is to use aromatic Mediterranean herbs. One of the most popular and probably easiest to grow is basil.

Like most kitchen herbs basil has some important health benefits. The herb is very rich antioxidant polyphenols, beta-carotene compounds including zeaxantihin, vitamin K, iron, potassium and manganese. 

Basil is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes. One of the most popular is the Italian pesto sauce.

Pesto was first mentioned by a Roman writer Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC), better known as Vergil, who wrote about this olive oil based sauce in his work "Bucolics". 

The name pesto derives from the fact that was originally made by crashing - pestando in Italian - the ingredients in a mortar.


Ingredients:
  • small bunch of fresh, organic basil leaves
  • handful of raw, organic pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 Tbsp of virgin olive oil
  • small chunk of parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • sea salt to taste 

Method:

Remove basil leaves from the twigs, wash them and dry gently with a kitchen towel. 

Crash garlic with salt. Add the pine nuts. After the nuts have been crashed, add the basil leaves little by little. Blend.

Break the cheese into small chunks and put them into blender. Add the olive oil. Blend again until pesto is nice and creamy. Add more salt if needed. 

Remember, that the longer you blend the darker the pesto would become as the basil leaves undergo the oxidation process. 

Use mortar and pestle if you have one, but a good blender will do the job just as well. 

Many people use grated cheese. I prefer to break it into smaller chunks. I also use raw pine nuts, but most recipes will ask you to slightly roast the nuts in a pan. While roasting nuts makes them more aromatic, it also alters the molecular structure of the fatty acids making them less beneficial to health.

You may add some freshly ground pepper, although the original Ligurian recipe does not ask for any.

Enjoy your pesto with freshly cooked pasta or on a warm focaccia bread. Buon appetito!

By Dominique Allmon ©2013

P.S. Your pesto will stay fresh for a few days in a refrigerator. Place it in a clean glass jar. Pour some olive oil to cover it up. This will prevent it from spoiling. Close tightly with a well fitting lid.