In the well of understanding

In the well of understanding

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Night, an Ode

I kiss her velvet lips
tasting exiguous dew
from withering buds
preparing to slumber,
shuttering stamens
against ravages of wind

I lay on silky skin
feeling soft enclosures
as the veil is drawn,
and the sun winks out
of existence, revealing
tresses delicate to touch,
supple strands bearing
pearls of luminous strength

I hear the calls
of fowls in flight,
the lowing of cattle
in the fields,
and the scurrying feet
of mice just beginning
their nocturnal quest,
her lovesong of dominion
where she reigns without peer

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flawed Efficiency

Since the arrival of graphically-interfaced operating systems the promise has been timely capability to complete tasks and increased efficiency through the facile manipulation of "windowed" functionality. This is all well and good in most cases.

But when subtleties of behavior are not implied in the interface, not handled explicitly, or not communicated so that the user is aware that he or she must deal with them, we find ourselves on a slippery slope. The features of the operating system can become a hindrance to getting the job done.

Last week, I was setting up a server to use as a development environment. Because remote access to the server was a requirement I installed a copy of RealVNC on the newly-minted XP box. I configured the software to allow access to the IP addresses on the subnet our machines reside under. I then tried testing connecting with the VNC client from my laptop. It kept timing out without connecting. I rechecked the configuration; opened Windows XP Firewall settings and made sure that RealVNC application was listed in the Exceptions tab and pointing to the correct executable.

Retested connecting and still no cigar. I tried several more passes, becoming anxious that such a simple task was consuming so much of the day. I searched online to see if the error I was getting had been encountered and if a solution might be listed. I found some documentation mentioning that upgrades of RealVNC which did not import certain settings could be listening on the wrong port; but confirmed that in fact my installation's configuration had the correct port. I pulled out the heavy guns and went command line, invoking netstat to see what connections were at play. Finally after the day was halfway over, I realized that the XP Firewall might not be interpreting what port the application was intended to run on. My expectation, which I don't believe was farfetched, was that if I add something to the Exceptions tab, XP would use the configuration settings to direct access.

And that was the mistake. The Firewall actually requires that you explicitly make a separate port declaration in addition to the application one already in existence, and besides the naming label there is no specific tie between the two. Once I did that things went without a hitch. However, I found myself wondering what would possess anyone to design a firewall which did not require that pervious points be bounded with the application?

Something as inconsequential as a port number can have wide-ranging impact. That I had to scale the walls of XP, scouring for a foothold to achieve realization of a temporally significant assignment, does illustrate that how a user utilizes a tool is as important in design consideration as the physical elegance of the interface.

Now I am sure there are more hills to climb before I find the Valley of Hallowed Bliss, where interface and design dovetail and dance a sprightly flamenco in syncopated, coordinated steps. I just hope I have enough hooks to sustain me on the trek.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Am I Not A Semite Too?

While engaged in my usual reading of political and cultural goings-on this week, I came across an interesting article in The Nation. The subject of the article - "Warriors for Zion - in California" by an editor of the periodical, Jon Weiner - dealt with allegations by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) that the administration and faculty of the University of California at Irvine had failed to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic remarks and offensive acts. The piece goes a long way to disprove any concerted effort by any party to misuse, terrorize or subject to ritual condescension, collegians of Hebrew ancestry and, in turn, demonstrates the rather extremist position of ZOA, who ubiquitously indict any - Jews and Goyim alike - who do not pledge slavish devotion to the Israeli state and label them without reserve as "anti-Semitic". After I finished digesting the article, I could not help but ask myself do these people even know the meaning of the word? Are they aware of who the Semites are?

True, the term anti-Semitic was brought into being by uber-nationalist journalist and critic Wilhelm Marr in his polemic against Jews and their supposed degradation of German civilization. For Marr, all of the ills of German society could be laid at the door of ethnic distinction; Jews could never be assimilated as blood-in-the-bone Deutschlanders. And they were with celerity, in his opinion, laying waste to what had once been a noble and ancient kingdom. The problem was irreducible beyond the barrier of race.

If we fast forward to our age, the institutions of the Jewish state similarly have decreed that the plight of the Palestinians is circumscribed by ethnic and cultural derivation. Consider that Palestinians who are citizens of Israel are not allowed to rebuild areas or expand to the erstwhile habitations of their forebears; yet Jewish expansion is encouraged in these same places. How different is this than the pogroms which the Jews once languished in? Never mind mentioning the strife and ravages which are part and parcel of life in the West Bank.

There is a germ in all of this which is rarely voiced: Semitic refers to Arabic peoples as equanimously as it does to Jews. The eponymous nature of the word stems from the Greek variation of the name of a son of Noah - Shem. In Biblical tradition the Hebrews applied it to all of those nearby who approximated language and norms identifying them as having a common ancestry; and ethnographically it was linked with those groups belonging to a root family of languages (i.e., Afro-Asiatic, in this case).

So when we speak of Semitic peoples, we cannot escape being all-inclusive, and by logical extension anti-Semitism applies to vituperative commentary and acts towards Arabs as well. The Middle East is truly a conflict featuring family members, cousins, unable to see that beneath the veil of violence the blood of the other is just as precious and initiates from the same wellspring.

[As complexity is part of human evolution, certain groups - such as the Amorites and the Caananites - though not, according to Hebraic tradition at least, the children of Shem spoke languages which belong to the Semitic category. While the Lydians and the Elamites, marked as the seed of Shem also, used tongues not related to Semitic branch.]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bringing Rome to San Francisco

It was the name which caught my attention. Chiaroscuro. The art form from the Renaissance, which evokes Baglione's Sacred Love or Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin, made an early impression on my sensibilities. The interplay of shadow and light, the tension of opposites, attracting and repelling with the same magnitude, has a certain allure. Primarily, because we see in it that those things which lie at different ends of the spectrum are reflections of one another, each existing in the contrast of its counterpart. So I could hardly pass up the opportunity to partake of the fare of a ristorante bearing this name. I knew it would either be an audacious, robust meal of epic proportions or a colossal, bombastic failure dishing up sub-standard fare under the banner of underivative grand cuisine.

Fortune smiled. It was a sublime kiss from the steps of Rome which had been planted on the brow of the City of St. Francis. The decor is elegant, the ambiance sweetly mellow and the staff as inviting as any Italian mother welcoming you to her table. The flavors of the food are bright, lively and bold; sometimes starting with subtle hints which explode out into full notes of savory goodness.

While it is quintessentially, undeniably Roman, innovative additions express nouveau gustatory melanges which enliven the palate, and court the tongue to relish repeatedly the offerings. The calameretti affogati and the fritturina di pesci both offer calamari in two different (dare we say contrasting) styles, equally succulent. The bruschette is a sampling of diversity, each one served portraying its own theme. The pastas are ascending clefs rising to the stairwell of heavenly lightness and boundless taste; homemade bread leaves one hunkering after more. And the veal burger, nestled between two slices of focaccia, topped with brie, crisp leeks and celery, is divine. What is amazing is that this only a subset of what is daily proffered.

The wine selection is no less impressive than the food. A number of excellent Italian varietals are available (I am partial to the honeyed Primitivo from Puglia). To be on even keel here in wine-soaked California, choice spirits from Sonoma and Napa have their place in the proverbial rack. Dessert wines are also of a high quality and not overly cloying in their bouquet.

Probably the most surprising revelation was the caliber of the desserts. Usually restaurants with great chefs only have incredible sweets if they have a dedicated pastry chef; but Chef Campitelli is sui generis, and manages to create an array that is eclectic and distinctive. His take on beignets is refreshingly creamy, and the strength of them lies in the custard with which they are infused. His mother's apple cake is hearty, his chocolate tort resplendent, and the mousse smooth as whipped butter.

If you don't have the serendipitous luck to visit Rome this season, you can still have an archetypal experience of what she has in the way of culinary fineness by habitually stopping over to break bread and toast at her emissary to the West Coast.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Journaling: Counting Myself

I am often at a loss when it comes to dealing with myself. Connecting with others, assuming responsibility for items in their lives and bridging gaps unasked is the mode that I have lived in for the bulk of my existence so far. For the past three years, I have been working, at least ostensibly, with a facilitator to assist me in seeing what I create repeatedly experientially, how (and why) I sustain it, and understanding what is requisite for change. This has been my, at times wavering, commitment to myself.

There have been pitfalls; ones I birthed to justify why things cannot change, to explain my depressions and my exaltations. Because we are powerful and the ultimate primogenitors of our experience, illusion and delusion are tools we employ to convince ourselves of the steadfastness of our convictions or that an altered scenery is a shift in where we have been standing prior.

For me, a character in Where Angels Fear To Tread solidifies a summary of perfection: The brother-in-law speaks of how he is always absent when things are occurring, how he lives outside of life itself. His is a tremulous reality and I am his empathic brother-in-arms. Nor is the satiric twist lost on me that I most identify with a fictional character lamenting a fictional non-existence. The French Surrealists would probably take consternation at the notion and yet eke out some mirth at the absurd, comedic quality of this conundrum.

Of late, my facilitator has been more pressing on evidentiary manifestation of my willingness to deal with self. Specifically, the fact that I have not furnished my apartment after being here over 6 months has become a focus of my capacity to give to myself. I gave a party at the end of last month, and there was no place for the attendees to sit. People enjoyed the food and the interaction but many were squatting on the floor. So the gauntlet was thrown down. Research furniture and set a plan in motion to get it situated.

Tonight, I came to a crossroads. I had my session and my facilitator, after reviewing the research, gave me until the end of this month to get the living room established. Panicked, I came home, checked credit cards and then calmed myself. I surfed the Net for awhile. Then I took action: I decided on a couch, two massive chairs, a coffee table with a marble top, a side table in the same mold, a rather artistically abstract rug, stylish modern floor lamp, two accenting pillows for the couch, a silver tealight holder, two vases, whimsical candle stands and two trunks handcrafted by Chinese artisans.

And it felt good. I have always had an aesthetic but I usually ply it in only the service of others. This time I was doing it for me and the more I looked the more enthused I became. A chore transformed into an act of self-caring and worth. I was counting myself as equal.

I still have to secure the flatscreen tv and entertainment center this weekend. However, the trepidation of too much change too fast has taken wing, and I am stepping into my own power. The simplest, mundane things sometimes have the greatest amount of magic, and reawaken the wizardry of one's imagination. Or as J.K. Rowling writes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, " It's a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Unequal Independence: Deletion from History

As we celebrate the intellectual birth of the United States this Independence weekend, the airwaves patriotically extract select portions of Thomas Jefferson's momentous document to reinvigorate national pride. Unfortunately, Americans are not great students of history. We are the culture of taglines and sound bites, easily swayed by summaries packed with expectations and select truths.

Most don't, for example, realize that Jefferson's original submission was heavily edited by revolutionary Congress; nor are they familiar with what was amended, added or extracted. Even a cursory read of what was produced and codified for public consumption is dichotomous - on one hand it is indeed a declaration but it rests much of its argument on the grievances of King George (III). One's declaration of self never requires justification because it has nothing, even remotely, to do with anyone else. However, this joint declarative and complaint directs us toward an unmitigated belief and fear that haunts the US to this day: that we can never be masters and mistresses of our own fate without intervening forces beyond our borders seeking to circumscribe our experience. (Indeed, Washington's farewell to the nation years later volubly demonstrates the continuation of this trepidation - "Beware foreign entanglements" - and drove US policy into the modern era).

The great irony of Jefferson's words become obvious when we learn that a paragraph condemning slavery was removed wholesale:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivatng and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.

The delegates from Georgia and South Carolina were the instrumental forces responsible for this deletion. Of course, the paradoxical aspect of this passage is that Jefferson is blaming the British for the importation and commercialization of slavery without acknowledging the implicit agreement of the colonists to participate. Though Jefferson's archives hint that this removal troubled him to the end of his life (which incidentally was 50 years later on July 4th), he himself never freed his slaves. Jefferson's character was inherently flawed in that his emotions and intellect pressed him toward liberty but his circumstances allowed him to choose to sustain this immoral turpitude. He similarly writes of the cruelty and misuse of Native Americans, pardoning it regrettably as the cost of modernity.

Naturally, women are ghosts and no mention is made of their rights in this venerable text. Can one help but wonder if this declaration meant anything more than the bitter invective of one interested party, who had accrued wealth stolen from new lands they had plundered and wrested from the aboriginal inhabitants, against another interested party staking the same claim?

It would seem that even before we coined the term sound bite, our Founding Fathers were practiced at the art of smooth recitations which explain away American self-interest under the guise of the importation and exportation of freedom.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Movie Review: Savage Grace, Detached Space

Thursday evening, on the eve before Independence Day, friends were either absent or otherwise engaged Roaming about online, I checked to see if anything interesting was playing in my area, and discovered an art-house (my favorite genre) film starring Julianne Moore running at the Albany Twin, minutes from my place. I quickly threw back on my work clothes, grabbed my briefcase and headed out.

This biopic ventures into the bizarre woods of a wealthy family. From the offset, one imagines that it will revolve around the son's homosexuality but that is only one subtext to the meandering rough road this irresolute clan wends its way across.

Julianne Moore dazzles the socialite world as Barbara Baekeland, warm in the vaunted graces yet chilling with her unnerving laughter. She is assuredly the most passionate of the characters in the film. (Though Hugh Dancy and Unax Ugalde shimmer in minor but significant roles). And saying that is saying quite a lot. The mood, the pacing, the shooting, all bequeath the viewer a sort of crystallized detachment; almost as if the characters are being glimpsed through a dull prism which light can only penetrate as listless rays of bright shadow. This detachment finds it ultimate expression in Tony (played masterfully by Eddie Redmayne), the couple's emotionally anemic son. His life's pursuit is the careful and careless construction of a broken bridge: he is quite literally "the steam" between his mother's "heat" and his father's "cold". In seeking to navigate the storms of their marriage, and the internecine battles during and after the divorce, Tony shows like a pale, weak watercolor, soon to be devoured by the raging sea. He embodies absolute disregard because he disregards his own needs. His sexuality is at best a limp worm, burrowing sightlessly; cavalierly destroying the link with the one spark of passion in his world - Ugalde's lovely, leather-clad wastrel character - in a meaningless tumble with Dancy's polished gallant.

The detachment becomes the subsuming force as the film crests, and follows the descending helix of the intensified but emotionally mute interwoven narratives. The father, Stephen Dillane as Brooks Baekeland, begins as a pompous drone, obviously aware that he is the lesser light. He basks in the accomplishments of his grandfather, eschewing his own father, and desperate to prove his mettle despite being an empty vessel. He is glacial, bristling and watery before the hauteur of his clever wife. He is born to money but she is heir apparent to the throne. And this chafes him to undying enmity towards her, planting seeds of bitterness which he will draw on to chasten her in his departure from formal family life. Even in such a state, his hatred is conducted in a sang-froid manner. Barbara reacts by retreating at first, reawakening her artistic impulses with Dancy's encouragement, and finally setting in place oedipal circumstances which can only lead to tragedy. As the decades crawl, her dress remains stylish and fashionable. Yet the clothing looses it warmth and elasticity as if reflecting the staleness encroaching on her life. She is calculating in public and neurotically needy in private. Tony shifts his energies toward his mother, writing unanswered missives to his father, and moving closer to a separation (a deterioration) between his emotional, mental and physical spheres. The culmination of his aloofness brings the film to conclusion and presages his final destructive acts.

In the midst of it all, one is not so much horrified as bewildered by the pluperfect disassociation of self and community which accompanies the happenings. There is an utter sense of removal which makes the lens appear to be telling a two-dimensional tale with three-dimensional cutouts. If detachment was the aim, it is achieved.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Development Wars: Misperceptions of Front-End Development

I am convinced that something went awry in programming (or maybe in programmers) at the genesis of the World Wide Web. Prior to the meteoric rise of the Net, developers understood with abundant clarity creating applications required software engineering principles be applied from the server through the client fully. But with the advent of the Web, the front-end became relegated to the domain of template-makers and snippets of code not organized in any specific methodology. It was a reduction which did not concentrate flavor, as in cooking, but compounded egregious loose habits, rendering front-end efforts a thin soup of muddled HTML, CSS and Javscript .

Proper separation of presentation and core business logic is a necessity for good software development. We all worship at the temple of the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern. However, there are nuances to the MVC faith. In the early years, one faction found favor and was embraced unstintingly - the Controller was wholly the purview of the server-side, and the View essentially became a slave, a thin client without any cognizance or idiomatic expression. Indeed, the state of affairs became so dire the back-end generated HTML and spat it back to the View for display. Here, the pattern was obviously blurred. Why should the back-end care about display? The Model exists to preserve state, and sufficient decoupling from appearance allows the Model to serve as a engine for many Views of the same data to be displayed contextually as per user/role requirement.

Besides, on the presentation side, logical flows which enhance user experience required some mechanism to enact a microcosmic MVC expression. Enter the XMLHTTP Request Object. The ability to make requests to the server without reloading all the scripts running in a page opened a host of potentialities and catapulted the front-end into the arena as a possible contender to share the Controller with the back-end. Further, these interactions on the front-end made it absolutely essential that there be an overall coding strategy adopted.

Javascript up to this point had been widely used to compose scriptlets dealing with form validation and some level of event handling; but its capability far outstripped these utilizations. Due to its open nature and flexibility, it is a powerful tool which can see the realization of true object-oriented code for extensibility. This necessitates creating wrappers and idioms for things like classes, object instantiation, inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation. Quintessentially, behaviors native to Java and C++ can be simulated by nurturing the construction of a framework to guide and gird developers from unsafe practices with Javascript.

The greatest challenge has been that whatever virus the back-end developers caught at the beginning precludes them from grasping that exactly what they construct on the server-side is infinitely possible on the client-side. Design patterns are solutions no matter which code they reside in and can be emulated without regard to programming language. Scripting languages should not be regarded dismissively because they are interpreted. Java, usually the principle argot to the back-end, is both compiled (to an intermediate format) and interpreted. So if one casts stones then one must be careful to not crack the house of glass in which one resides.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Journaling: Racism alive and thriving in San Francisco

It was set to be a regular evening out in the City with friends, commonplace yet a bit exotic as it was happening mid-week. Dinner at the Salt House was pleasant, if a bit hurried as we had tickets for a show. The four of us, three African-Americans and one African, alighted on the threshold of the New Conservatory Theater, and descended into the basement to be regaled by the fresh tragicomic play Men In Uniform. From the moment we walked in it was obvious that we were a bit of an oddity: the audience was overwhelmingly of the Caucasian persuasion. This, too, is commonplace in San Francisco and we really did not pay much attention, even as stares were passed like a collection plate through the small assembly. The show got underway and we laughed and balled uproariously. One of the principal players was coincidentally African-American which is of no special note except for what occurred afterward. As we emptied out of the theater, we ran into a friend from the East Bay, exchanged greetings, and two of us proceeded to the restroom. When I returned, one of our crew related an interesting interaction. Apparently, one of the two ladies who had sat above us during the performance approached them and inquired if they were waiting "to give their friend a hard time." Receiving blank stares, she continued and made it clear that they thought we were friends of the Black cast-member and were lingering to josh him. Let me state that I don't think this woman meant to be offensive; but the assumption that we had only been present due to what seemed to them an obvious prerequisite speaks to how prevalent the persistence of racial stereotypes remain. If this is happening in San Francisco, the soi-disant bastion of left wing politics, imagine what spooks exist in the hinterlands of America. This also seems to be to one of the most pernicious forms of racism. The white-hatted KKK are obvious and unsubtle in their hatred. The insidious nature of racism unbeknownst to itself, where someone is not even aware that they have this issue can easily garner a perch in institutions where the individual is authorized to hire, fire and dispense compensation.

It is never the evils which are most evident that hold the greatest threat: the silent serpent which slithers in a benighted haze, striking without knowledge, is far more destructive.

A Man with the Music of All Seasons - J.M. Coetzee

There is music in writing. The greatest of writers capture it, wrestle and shape the form, and transmit it undiminished to our ears, bearing the full symphony of emotion which may be evoked.

Two seminal American novelist come immediately to mind; the blues, jazz-infused and soulful surging of James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison sings throughout their work, shifting and weaving within the unfolding stories and the lives of the characters who are the denizens of those worlds, which are all microcosms of our own. The sad refrains, the joyous abandon, the temerity and the trepidation cantillate on in the voice of others: the canorous oeuvres of Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, Achmat Dangor and Vikram Seth ply us with universal compositional mastery which partakes of the particular but never relinquishes the catholic quality of human understanding and expression.

And then one happens on the deft mandarins of the art. These wizards of air, water, earth and fire direct with subtle flourishes so delicate that they nearly escape the unrefined ear suffused with the cacophony of the witless and the unoriginal. One almost must strain to hear the dulcet tones they produce with rudimentary instruments, like wisps of the sea's orchestra emanating from shells which only hint at its power and majesty.

J.M. Coetzee is of this order of high mages. His work is lyrical from the initial, inculcating paragraph to the final trilling sigh of the remaining period. No matter the subject it rings of a classical gamelan, bridging the remnants of Western, African and Oriental cultures; banding together the disparate elements into a mettlesome chorus alternating between the susurrations of solitary reflection to the roaring onslaught of common brotherhood to the despondency of people blinded by personal rosaries they chant to themselves.

His novel Disgrace is so melodious that it is Shakespearean in lilt, gentle but persistent, compact but emotionally exhaustive. Its sheer capacity for reflection and similitude of an act performed by its protagonist with the correlation of equivalent acts of others from which this protagonist suffers, reaffirms that station in life is meaningless in the heady halls of human experience

Timeliness, or rather timelessness, flows from his art. In Waiting for the Barbarians, an early novel, Coetzee creates a tale of separation, distinction and counterdistinction. The necessary "other" which makes conquest a singular course with a singular mindset is shown to be simply the living fear of man, and the internal conflict of the magistrate pro-an-tagonist is the central harmony which flares to an ascending crescendo and reverberates throughout. The problem of offensive defense, like our topical, disastrous Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, is dealt with handily, and the beguiling euphonic harmony of his invocation is not lost even amidst the despair and misery empires bring to themselves with selfish expansion.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why Americans are "hopeful" about Obama, Part II

When the picture we have painted begins to show age, wear and signs of decrepitude, one of the likeliest trains of action is to create a new mural; and hope that the finest oils marketed may preclude deterioration in a nascent picturescape after we hang up our brushes. Unfortunately, frequently this "new" work is inscribed over the pre-existing one. Thus, subject to the flaws of the canvas: the small, not immediately perceptible, rents in structure and form. Reuse without reconstruction in foundational cases serves merely as extension with the appearance of differing modus operandi.

So if we draw ourselves to truth in the upcoming elections, the embracing of the wunderkind Obama is one such gambit. We are dismayed by the face we present to the world and to ourselves in all the current crises. We want to redraw the landscape, ritually cleansing the stains of dishonor and blood, renewing the commonweal; but our effort is made in the same frame, unchanged, from which the pain of the past arises. We are restructuring without restructuring. Ours is an age which nears the apex of the diametrical opposition between the written promise of its founding as a nation and the reality and veracity of how we have behaved historically and exercised our will. In a furor of this magnitude, what better champion than one who embodies simultaneously the fruitless antecedent legacy of disenfranchisement and the fruitful pregnant hope of sanitized race reconciliation.

Figureheads make fine statues; but they are metaphoric cyphers, representing without the capability of action. If we are aiming for change, the system must be dismantled completely. Only then can we begin the work which we crave that will be in alignment with the picture of ourselves as we are. The temple of our body is rotten, and must be razed. Like the phoenix, our death in fire can be our renewal in spirit.

One thing is certain: emblems, even those emblazoned in gold, tarnish with time and are subject to all the ravages of natural progression. Better it would be to leave off with representations and plainly be what we are and transform as we choose.