The Convict Grave – A Perspective

Perspective inspired by the photo beneath.

Mortar, clay and cedar, tarnished moist and dead. No grass, clover, dew or air. Despoiled of distinction for an age. Prying shards of lamp light slash the aperture where no epitaph can be found, carved for the wretched anon beneath the crumbling brick sod. The hand that struck to snatch the life – for whatever reason – we cannot know. No purpose acquaints us, connects us with her humanity. No birds sing blissfully unaware of what travesty may have befallen, what tragedy may have ensued for peering eyes to bare witness to in perpetuity. Only nameless silence, solitude, bound to hidden remains forever unsung with nary a crusty word chipped into rock. What history was lived will remain obscured: the lineage, the trials and tribulations, the injustices or just desserts. No dignity here, only inevitable death and peering eyes, calculators, slide rules, plans. Lamp light. Ignominy in life and death. RIP.

 

In 1991, Sydney Town Hall underwent major restoration works. During excavations to lay new stormwater pipes under the Lower Town Hall, workmen discovered evidence of burials. Archaeologists were employed to excavate the site and record their findings.

Of the four graves discovered, only one was relatively intact. This grave is shown in the photograph. Excavation revealed a brick vault enclosing the remains of a wooden coffin set in clay. The coffin was made of Australian red cedar, and fastened with iron nails and brass tacks. Forensic examination of the skeletal remains revealed that the bone fragments belonged to a woman. Following the excavation, the remains were re-interred during a simple ceremony conducted by the Anglican Dean of Sydney. The grave was filled in with sand and the bricks rebuilt across the top of the vault.

2 Comments

January 25, 2010 · 11:40 pm

A footprint In Every World

How often do you hear the line “I can’t be in two places at once?” The internet’s functionality is so broad and all encompassing that it makes this line virtually redundent. We can be and ARE in several places at once. With the click of a mouse we can move from one window into a favourite world to another. But a question comes with this. Why do we feel the need to spread ourselves so far and wide? What drives us to put our footprint in so many turn offs along the super highway?

Human interaction: it is a compulsion that cannot be denied us. Unless one is a hermit or a monk, we all insist on having our say on matters of personal interest/importance or simply relating our daily lives to others. To deny this is to deny the ego impulse that shapes who we are. Ego is not a dirty word in this regard. Our lives would lack direction without interacting with others because to each other we are yardsticks and life belts.

The speed and proliferation of information in the 21st century makes it almost essential for us to have a foot in many camps because of this inner drive to know and relate. Information overload? Perhaps but there is no sign that people are turning away from it, quite the reverse, we are embracing this new technology that opens the many worlds of interconnectivity to us. Each world serves a purpose. We compartmentalize them, we sort, collate and assign to each  so that we can interact and reflect ourselves effectively. And for the most part we do it well.

Multi-faceted we are but not only out of neccesity but from need. Herein lies a beauty, rare in past times, but now laid before us in commonality. The opportunity for a collective social bonding without parallel in history; to be flung further and wider in the coming years as China and Africa come further into the social networking mainstream.

Me? I write, and I make videos, and I compose, largely to please myself. But behind this is a need to be accepted as a worthwhile contributer to online global information chatter. Whatever that chatter is, we all want to be a part of it to make our mark no matter the size or impact. WE ARE SOCIAL ANIMALS. We must never withdraw from expressing this for fear of losing the simplicity of the past. Thx for reading. Enjoy your pie. 🙂

NOTE: Subject suggested by  @SixPaws

5 Comments

January 5, 2010 · 1:50 am

Celebrity Worship

A recently tweeted article is the prompt for this blog. In short the article said that Ellen DeGeneres was using the feature list function at Twitter to manipulate other users into following her. The end purpose of this no doubt is exposure/ self promotion ultimately translating into bargaining power come $ contract time. You can read the article here:  http://bit.ly/1ajkxR

That DeGeneres or any other “celebrity” has the right to promote their product or themselves is not in question. It is the underhanded manipulation of a star struck public that is wrong. That a “social networking” site like Twitter is the instrument used for this self promotion is also wrong. These social sites are for the purpose of connecting, expressing, making friends. They are the greatest of opportunities for people to unite in friendship and self expression. For them to be used as commercial vehicles of exploitation or money spinning ventures is to pervert this purpose.

It also speaks loudly of what is happening to society in general. Think in terms of the new demi-gods: those ordinary people whom other “ordinary” people place on pedestals for the two fold purpose of hero worship and identity. Celebrities are indeed ordinary people. Ordinary people with hundreds of thousands of followers? With the benefit of scripting, production and direction, lighting, make up, marketing and advertising they of course become something else. They become idols for worship.

People seem to have a deep psychological need to put something or someone above themselves, or conversely place themselves under or below. Some fans do the fan thing simply for fun and nothing more, but for the majority of fans, celebrity worship is a way of life. A substitute for their own lives. It is instrumental in creating their own identity and building ego via an imagined umbilical cord with their idol. Most people at Twitter, for instance, follow their fav celebs in the desperate hope that the star will tweet back to them. The fan-celebrity symbiosis is built on mutual need:  one is to be worshipped and adored, the other – the worshipper – is to feel gratitude and just a lil bit special ;).  To me this is a belittling, demeaning attitude.

Karl Marx said “Religion is the opiate of the people.” If he was living in the 21 st century he would have changed  it to “Hollywood.” I think it’s time the “ordinary” people, the “masses”. the “peasants,” so manipulated and controlled for hundreds of years in every aspect,  stopped looking up to others while looking down, and started looking straight ahead. A coiffured, perfumed, manicured, maufactured, air blown celeb is not someone we should place so much value on when we have doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, soldiers, scientists and so many others saving lives and building our world. They are the true million dollar babies…and THEY are YOU.

7 Comments

November 5, 2009 · 12:57 am

Letters of the Ancient Romans

We all share an appreciation of what is good in both the very old and very new.

These days we worship at the temple of the techno-geek god who rewards us with an endless smorgasboard of new and improved whiz bang toys – the soft and the hard. With this comes the promise of convenience- a reduction in time wastage thereby giving us more leisure time, so we are told…Ironic considering  now we not only work more hours per week but even our leisure time is owned by these toys. It seems our age is increasingly becoming articulated by information overload as we take the many tantalizing turn offs along the super highway. As enriching as it is, it also has it’s drawbacks, but it is our thing in the 21st century.

On the other hand we are fascinated by the lives and technology of antiquity and it’s inherent simplicity, it’s uncomplicated nature. Perhaps what also holds our fascination is the intuitive glimpse it provides, a deep recognition of what we are losing in our own time: a *long hand* way of living as opposed to our twitterized, shorthand cyberworld; supersized, and with instant everything. At a root level perhaps there’s a little bit of Amish in all of us; a yearning for a simpler, closer knit community of people we actually know rather than a thousand and one aquaintances we only think we know. How can we relate to that which we don’t understand?

In my opinion, the technology of any era defines the sociology of the day. The two go hand in hand – contemporaries – and reflect eachother. But even so, technology doesn’t change the psychology of people. We are what we are because of our humanness. I think this is well illustrated by the personal epistles of the ancient Romans. The letters show how little difference there is between peoples, no matter what time in history we belong to. Their virtues and vices, noble endeavours and petty jealousies are our own. And regrettably some of their more dignified qualities are less and less our own. By and large though it is the customs and culture of the ancient worlds that differentiate us.

While reading these ancient Roman letters I was immediately struck by their salutations and closes. With a few exceptions the salutations were formal, lengthy affairs while the closes ended with just one word, “Farewell.” Today we’d probably begin a letter with…”Dear Agnus, how are you?” Compare this with an opening from the 5th century Egyptian Claudius Terentianus, a soldier in the Roman legion:

 “Claudius Terentianus to Claudius Tiberianusl, his lord and dearest father, very many greetings. Before all else, I pray that you be strong and cheerful and well, together with our entire family, and I am pleased whenever I have news from you.”

With time to pause and think in a less complex world there is a deliberate consideration in their words that have a distinct charm all their own…and yet that practical Roman soul still show’s itself with that one stoical word at the end: “Farewell.” Roman heads are always held high in their letters.

The following is a letter from Tabetheus to her brother Claudius Tiberianus, in which our 21st century angst can be seen in hers even though the letter was written around 1,600 years ago. Different civilizations but same concerns.

“Tabetheus to Claudius Tiberianus, her brother, very many greetings. Before all else I pray for your health and I make obeisance for you in the presence of the lord Souchos. I was happy that you sent my son in order that I might greet him. But you have not . . . . For Saturnilus has not found out what I did for him. I bought three minai of linen and I sent them. Do not blame me if you did not deliver them to Metellus the soldier. I want you to write concerning a friend; deliver them to him immediately. I was much annoyed. I was able to send you the robe this year; I did not send it last year(?), but I sent and sold them to Kabin the attendant. When I went down from our home at Tonis and came to Saturnilus’s lodging and saw our things – may the evil eye not touch them, I did not approve that he, my son, should trust Menas. And after he had killed him, he told me not to be distressed; I told Saturnilus that I was sleepless from worry. Since you caused me damage to the extent of twelve hundred drachmai, let them go to my son’s ransom. And I went down to Alexandria with my son. For this reason a madness took hold of him, because he did not approve that he [i.e. Menas] and his family should consume the rations. If god wills and you receive the rations that I put up for you, do not you also . . . them. Concerning last year’s rations, I did not prepare them; . . . prepared them last year. I sent them from Alexandria as late as the second shipment upstream. And he became ill. I was tortured with the grief that he caused me, but I was utterly happy that he remained alive. I have insistently urged him, “Take a taste of Alexandria,” and he says to me, “I don’t want to.” I thank the gods that he is like you; no one can mock him. Salute all your people, each by name. How much damage have I incurred this past year on account of Saturnilus! Neither was he(?) liable for it nor was I, but I have incurred damage on every side. Farewell.”

We flatter ourselves about the advance of our species but it’s really our technology that progresses. People remain people throughout the timeline of history, regardless of the state of their civilizations. The only true differences between now and then are values and the speed of life. Here are a couple of casual letters fired off by Pliny the Younger in the 1st century AD of a still pagan Rome.

” TO CANINIUS RUFUS.
How is Comum looking, your darling spot and mine? And that most charming villa of yours, what of it, and its portico where it is always spring, its shady clumps of plane trees, its fresh crystal canal, and the lake below that gives such a charming view? How is the exercise ground, so soft yet firm to the foot; how goes the bath that gets the sun’s rays so plentifully as he journeys round it? What too of the big banqueting halls and the little rooms just for a few, and the retiring rooms for night and day? Have they full possession of you, and do they share your company in turn? or are you, as usual, continually being called away to attend to private family business? You are indeed a lucky man if you can spend all your leisure there; if you cannot, your case is that of most of us. But really it is time that you passed on your unimportant and petty duties for others to look after, and buried yourself among your books in that secluded yet beautiful retreat. Make this at once the business and the leisure of your life, your occupation and your rest; let your waking hours be spent among your books, and your hours of sleep as well. Mould something, hammer out something that shall be known as yours for all time. Your other property will find a succession of heirs when you are gone; what I speak of will continue yours for ever — if once it begins to be. I know the capacity and inventive wit that I am spurring on. You have only to think of yourself as the able man others will think you when you have realised your ability. Farewell.”

And the other side of Pliny:

” To Septicius Clarus.
What a fellow you are! You promise to come to dinner and then fail to turn up! Well, here is my magisterial sentence upon you. You must pay the money I am out of pocket to the last farthing, and you will find the sum no small one. I had provided for each guest one lettuce, three snails, two eggs, spelt mixed with honey and snow (you will please reckon up the cost of the latter as among the costly of all, since it melts away in the dish), olives from Baetica, cucumbers, onions, and a thousand other equally expensive dainties. You would have listened to a comedian, or a reciter, or a harp-player, or perhaps to all, as I am such a lavish host. But you preferred to dine elsewhere, — where I know not — off oysters, sow’s matrices, sea-urchins, and to watch Spanish dancing girls! You will be paid out for it, though how I decline to say. You have done violence to yourself. You have grudged, possibly yourself, but certainly me, a fine treat. Yes, yourself! For how we should have enjoyed ourselves, how we should have laughed together, how we should have applied ourselves! You can dine at many houses in better style than at mine, but nowhere will you have a better time, or such a simple and free and easy entertainment. In short, give me a trial, and if afterwards you do not prefer to excuse yourself to others rather than to me, why then I give you leave to decline my invitations always. Farewell.”

I’ll end the letters with this simple note from Aline to her husband (she calls him “brother”) who has gone off to fight in a Roman civil war:

“Aline to Apollonios her brother greetings. I am terribly anxious about you because of what they say about what is happening, and because of your sudden departure. I take no pleasure in food or drink, but stay awake continually night and day with worry, your safety. Only my father’s care revives me, and I hope to see you safe, I would have lain without food New Year’s Day, had my father not come and forced me to eat. I beg you to keep yourself safe, and not go into danger without a guard. Do the same as the strategos here, who puts the burden on his officers…”

The rest of the letter is fragmentary. No doubt it would have ended with one word. Farewell.

Empathy is the best word to describe what I feel; a recognition of myself in the letters. The times and social customs, though of great interest, are secondary to an affinity with these people who lived thousands of years before us. The papyrus that transports their world through time to us is also a bridge. And their words flag to us what must not be forsaken – the importance of truly touching one another – even as it is ironically being lost as our global village shrinks too fast for us. In the rush for global unity and oneness, perhaps true community is the thing that will suffer most.

Some useful links: 

http://tinyurl.com/m6lfts Women’s Letters From Ancient Egypt 300BC-800AD

http://tinyurl.com/nc4dod Roman Letters- History From A Personal Viewpoint

http://tinyurl.com/m8qcd8 Letters of Pliny the Younger

http://tinyurl.com/nsvnhv Claudius Tiberianus

http://tinyurl.com/m6sz3c Letters by Pliny (Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus)

http://www.vroma.org/ The VRoma Project

Leave a comment

September 21, 2009 · 12:18 am

Devil’s Brew

A home made punch from hell for only the most discerning atheists.

Ingredients:

4 bottles of gin

4 bottles of vodka

 4 bottles of tequila

4 bottles of fruity red sacramental wine

3 vials of LSD

1/2 bottle of essence of sex gland from the very rare East Madagascan Boner Monkey

5 packets of viagra

1 packet of sun dried foreskins (excavated and imported direct from the shores of the Red Sea)

1 midget

1 apple

Plutonium extract

1 teaspoon of fruit juice

In a large cauldron add gin, vodka, tequila, and foreskins.  Stir thoroughly then set aside for 10 minutes. Transfer midget from fridge to greased chopping block. Truss tightly with string and place apple in mouth. Put midget in large, shallow tray with 2 bottles of red wine and roll around while splashing liberally with remaining wine till soaked thoroughly. Add midget to cauldron with LSD, viagra and plutonium.

Before serving remove midget and dispense with. Add Boner Monkey essence and teaspoon of fruit juice for taste.

Enjoy.

Leave a comment

September 4, 2009 · 12:45 am