Wednesday, December 28, 2011



For Christmas my wife gave me Christopher Hitchens’ last book: Arguably Christopher Hitchens.   As I read the Introduction I immediately latched on to his essay on the art and science of blowjobs.  The title of the article, first printed in Vanity Fair in July of 2006, was: As American as Apple Pie

Hitch follows the evolution of the blowjob from Pompeii to the New World (America); and he makes the argument that in this day and age, America really owns the blowjob.

Makes you proud to be an American.

The two most told lies by men are:
1.   The check is in the mail
2.   Honest, I won’t cum in your mouth.

THE Ol'Buzzard 



To be truly free would be: to be free of all government constrains – to live a life of independence and make choices without conformity to other people's ideas and desires.   This sounds wonderful, but would require a regression to a hunting and gathering society. 

A free man - Jim Bridger - mountain man

Interaction with society is a necessary evil, and societies need governments to organize and run infrastructures, protect resources, oversee commerce and establish a judicial system that looks out for the rights of individuals.  

Corporations are not people – they are not individuals:  they are gangs or cults that are in the business of exploiting the needs of people in order to make a profit.  Their natural inclination is to make a profit at any cost.  Like any gang, mob or organized group of people, corporations have a persona and the person characteristics of an individual; and, just like individuals, it survives through the Darwinian principal of adjust to change or die.   No corporation operates for the benefit of man kind unless it is convenient for its business model. 

The ideal purpose of government is to furnish and maintain the things that an individual is not capable of alone: roads, bridges, mass transit, health care, police, fire and rescue services and protection of the environmental; but also for protection of the individual from the exploitation of corporations and other cults and organized groups. 

No government has ever operated primarily for the good of the individual.  Our government is no exception.   But now, more than ever, the United States is in real danger of being co-opted and moved in the direction of authoritarian rule. It is not operating for the welfare of the individual, but instead has become the tool of corporate greed and religious cults - whose goal it is to exploit and subjugate the individual.

The trend of the U.S. government at this time, especially as driven by the Republican right, is to go far beyond servicing the individual.   The government is now being manipulated by the class of wealthy people, who profit from the corporations, in order to accumulate more wealth.  

Even more dangerous is the cult of religious extremist who, through the Republican Party, are attempting to co-opt influence in the government, with the aim of creation a Christian theocracy.  Under the banner of ‘less government and family values’ these organized mobs, like a moral Gestapo, would insert themselves into our most private and personal lives; decreeing what we should believe, what we should learn, what we should read, and controlling our sexual and reproductive choices.   They would legislate laws giving preference to ‘White Americans’; they would establish English as the national language and Christianity as the national religion.  These extreme Christian groups are no longer a minority voice, but are represented by the Republican majority.  They would revel in an opportunity to establish Christian Shariah law and bring back the inquisition to persecute those who dare to believe or think differently.  

The parallels to Orwell’s 1984 are startling.   We have lost the guarantee of trial by jury under the hypocritical name of The Freedom Act.   The government now has the authority to access our e-mails and track our internet activity, they can read our letters and even monitor the books we check out at the library without proving just cause and seeking judicial approval.  We can be arrested and held indefinitely without trial and even detained by the military and tried by a military tribunal. 

The loss of these Constitutional rights is trivial when compared to the America proposed by the Tea Party – fundamentalist Christian co-opted Republican Party.   We could find ourselves moved back – not to the 1950’s – but to a new Dark Ages where the Bible would replace our Bill of Rights. 


During the Stalin era the Communist Manifesto claimed that war with the America was not necessary because the U.S would fall “like an over ripe plumb” because of the inequality among its people. 

Communist Russia in no longer a threat and the economic inequality has surely increased; but the real threat is ignorance and religious fanaticism.  

the Ol'Buzzard

Monday, December 26, 2011


Instead of making bull shit resolutions that, we all know, I are not going to keep; on some of my blogs I am going to include things that bug the hell out of me - and that I would like to see change in 2012.   I am going to call it:


Sunday morning I went into the local Hannaford grocery store to pick up some salad makings and a bottle of wine.   I got to the checkout and the young cashier told me I couldn’t buy wine before twelve-o-clock (noon.) 

 “Why not?”  I asked.

“Because it’s the law,” she replied.   

Now, it didn’t take me but a moment to reason that Christian church services run until noon on Sundays.   If the law stated that all Christians could not buy wine until after noon on Sundays – I would have no problem with that.   But, I am not a Christian, so why the hell shouldn’t I be able to purchase wine on Sunday morning?   Hell, the Catholics and Episcopalians are drinking wine in church on Sunday mornings – but I am not allowed the same freedom to access a good bottle of red.


The Ol’Buzzard 


For Christ sake let’s end the Republican debates. 
It is like being forced to sit in a pre-school room and listen to a bunch of  four-year-olds.

Moderator:  What are your thoughts on Global warming?
Candidate:   The science isn’t in yet.

Preschool teacher:  Those are not bugs in your peanut butter, they are peanuts.
Preschooler:   No they are bugs.

Moderator:   What are your plans to improve the economy?
Candidate:    Lower taxes for the ‘job creators’, downsize the government workforce and cut social programs.

Preschool teacher:  What can we do to make our pre-school better?
Preschooler:   Give all the toys to me.

Moderator:   Who’s your hero?
Candidate:    Ronald Reagan

Preschool teacher:   Who’s your hero?
Prescherool   Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

Moderator:   What will you do if you are elected President?  
Candidate:   I call it my FREEDOM PLAN.  I would Invade Iran;  pass a Constitutional Amendment to prevent gay marriage; get rid of labor unions;  allow unchecked pollution from the ‘job creating’ industries; phase out Social Security and Medicare; outlaw all abortions and government funded prenatal  care; cut back all government services for the unemployed and welfare recipients;  do away with taxes for the ‘job creators’ and ‘job creating’ multi-national businesses; require everyone speak English; land mine the Mexican/American border; outlaw Shariah law; require the teaching of Creationism in school; allow all white men to carry a concealed weapon without a license; and make every one wear a “I Love Jesus” button every Sundays.
Moderator: You would really do all that:
Candidate:   Yes, because I love Freedom and I love Jesus; and God bless the United States of America. 

Preschool teacher:  Can we all be very very quiet and take a nap?
Preschooler:  WAAAAAAAAAAA!

It is not like I watch the debates - but I can't get away from them.  When I watch the news it is always the main topic.  
the Ol'Buzzard

Friday, December 23, 2011


A Christmas Greeting from the Ol'Buzzard

Christmas:  Utter Crap.

But the best wishes to you for the holiday season anyway.
The Ol'Buzzard

Sunday, December 18, 2011



When I was in Vietnam my military pay was $1,600 a month; plus, I was making a fantastic $75.00 a month extra for hazardous duty combat pay.   After the war was over I read that the war had actually cost $32,000 per enemy killed.  The cost in American lives in Vietnam was:  58,178 killed, 153,452 wounded and 1,711 missing in action.  

Today I read that, not including the actual cost of the war being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is spending $80,000,000,000 (eighty billion dollars) a year on counter terrorism efforts.   Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.) who served as director of national intelligence for the Obama administration estimates that there are between 3,000 to 5,000 actual al-Qaeda members.   This means that we are spending between $16,000,000 and $27,000,000 (sixteen to twenty-seven million dollars) per year on each  al-Qaeda suspect.

My question is, why don’t we just contract out the wars?  We should hire mercenaries and pay them per head.  Hell, for a sixteen million dollar bounty you could count me in on the hunt. 

the Ol'Buzzard 

Thursday, December 15, 2011



I am trying to stay away from politics on this blog, because I feel like I am beating the same horse to death – over and over and over.   But, sometimes I just can’t ignore the blatant facts when they seem to fall into line to form an obvious conclusion.

As far back as I can remember, since Roosevelt, the Republican Party has always existed to pass preferential legislation to benefit the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations.    Since the time of Regan the party has stayed in office by manipulating the fundamentalist Christians and least informed in our society.  They have exploited racism, religious bigotry, and the red neck mentality to sustain a reliable voting block that they could count on, without actually having to represent them when elected to office.  Their cry has always been divisive; they use patriotism, the troops, gays, God, guns and people not like us as their firebrand catalyst to inflame this constituency and heard them to the voting booths.

Two years ago Republican think tanks found they could mobilize this “base” of their party to visibly disrupt Democratic town meetings and reelection campaigns.   Many Republican Congress persons actually aligned themselves with the movement (Tea-Party) and encourage near-violent dissent. 

The Republican’s aim was never to placate this base, but to use them to gain seats in the Congress and Senate and eventually take over the Presidency, in order to pass legislation to further benefit the wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, and with the aim of creating a Republican dynasty.

The 2010 election, where Tea-Party members defeated the Republican National Convention’s choices for election, set the rank and file Republican hierarchy back on their heals – and they are yet to recover.   

The Tea-Party took on a life of its own; financed and choreographed by wealthy individuals looking for a coup and take over of the Republican Party.

The Republican Party has always placed partisan politics above concern for the people’s welfare, and they have governed by cementing a disciplined caucus.  Now, with Tea-Party Republicans in office they have lost that cohesiveness.

They have definitely created a Political Frankenstein Monster that they have no idea how to control.   It is a new era for the Republican rank and file; and we have yet to find out if the inmates will run the asylum. 

A butterfly flaps its wings in South America....

the Ol’Buzzard



My beautiful young wife and I have lived ‘off the grid’ for most of our married life.  We were married after I retired from the military, and moved into a 200 year old farmhouse without electricity, water or sewerage.  We carried our water from the stream behind the house,  read by lamp light, heated with wood, and supplemented our food with our garden; all while attending college for four years.
After our graduation we moved to Alaska and taught school in the remote Indian and Eskimo villages of the sub-arctic, arctic and south-west interior.    We now live in a small post-and-beam cabin (about 800 square feet) in north-western Maine.  We still heat with firewood and have gas lamps installed in the living room and kitchen as a back up for when we lose electricity – which often happens during winter snow storms.

During much of the time we have lived together we have made our own bread.  We now use a commercial bread machine (the Breadman Ultimate) and are completely pleased with it.     I was raised eating white bread (Wonder Bread) but I also ate spam, vienna sausage, lots of gravy and bought Old Crow whiskey by the gallon.   Wives tend to change a man’s habits.

To get on with it, our bread of choice is now a multi-grain.   I am including the recipe here for anyone that would like to try it.

Most of the ingredients for this bread will be available at a health food store 

  • 1 ½ Cups of water at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp of molasses: stirred in until dissolved
  • 1 1/3  Cups of wheat flour
  •  ¾ Cups of Rye flour
  • ¾ Cups of white bread flour
  • 1 ¾ Cups of six grain flour
  • 4 tbsp of six grain cereal
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp gluten
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
Select the two pound wheat bread setting on the bread machine.

There is a secret to making good bread in a bread machine.   First of all you must measure ingredients carefully.   Second, after the mixing begins you should open the top and check the consistency of the mixture:  if you see flour in the bottom of the pan that is not combining you should add one tablespoon of water (one tablespoon is usually good - the tendency is to add too much water at this point.)   If you see the dough is wet and sticking to the side of the bread pan you should sprinkle one or two tablespoons of flour until the dough is spinning free off the sides of the bread pan. 

The cycle for most bread machines is: kneed – rise, kneed – rise, kneed rise, and then bake.  Check the time of the last kneed cycle and at that time remove the dough from the bread pan, extract the paddle, kneed the bread on a lightly floured surface for about fifteen seconds in order to close up the cavity left by removal of the paddle.  Then reshape the dough and place it back in the bread pan and put the pan back in the bread machine for the last rise cycle and bake cycle. 

You should get a good loaf.   Bread machines vary so some tweaking of the recipe will improve your bread.  

Bread should sit for cooling on a rack for about an hour before cutting – usually I can’t wait that long.  Hot bread slathered with butter is difficult to cut, but taste great.

The Ol’Buzzard

Friday, December 9, 2011



My wife and I work out at the gym at the University here in western Maine about three times a week.   After our work out we often grab a bite at the UM cafeteria.

It’s not ease-dropping but you can’t help overhearing some of the conversations, and they go like this:
Hi, like it’s been a long time since I have seen you, like weeks.   I told Jim, ‘Like, where has Joy been?   Like, I use to see her in class.’  He was like, ‘Wow I don’t know, like maybe she’s sick’.”

“I have been, like really sick for over a week.   Like, I could hardly get out of bed; like Ohhh, I’m dying.   My roommate was like, ‘I don’t even want to be in the room with you – like you should go home.   But, I’m like over it now. Like, not completely fine, but like able to go to class…

And the conversation continues.

I love the University and the kids that attend here are great, and a positive asset to the community. However, I couldn’t help but ask my wife, “What the hell kind of word is like?”   What part of speech is it? Being old school, I wonder how you would diagram it in a sentence; and if you could magically remove the word from English usage would these kids still be able to communicate?

Like, I know it’s not important.

But, like, I’m Just asking.

the Ol’Buzzard

Monday, December 5, 2011



The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act, bars mortgage lenders from foreclosing on active-duty military personnel serving overseas. But in complete disregard for the law, there have been thousands of cases of military families facing foreclosure while a family member was serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Bank of America foreclosed on 2,400 service men during 1010 and 2011. Now that it has been made public and they are trying to quietly pay some restoration.

If you hold a credit card from Bank of America – refinance the son-of-a-bitch with a local credit union and close the account.

The Ol’Buzzard

Friday, December 2, 2011



Hoo hoo hoo
the Ol'Buzzard

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Legacy of the Supreme Court


Now that I have got your attention...

We often hear about a president’s legacy.   In reality, a president’s legacy may only last to the end of his or her term.   The next president, along with a supporting legislature has the ability to overturn and undo much of his predecessor’s accomplishments.   The only real and lasting legacy a president can leave (or in some cases inflict) is his or her choice of an appointment to the Supreme Court.

The basic purpose of the Supreme Court as designed by the founding fathers was to guard our basic human rights and to act as an arbiter against rash legislation.

However, the idea of impartial judges interpreting the law flies in the face of real politics.   At present, and not for the first time, our Court is divided by strict political party agendas.   Thanks to the appointments of George W. our court is leaning decisively conservative, and conservative courts tend to champion conservative legislation.

Franklin D. Roosevelt constantly fought a conservative court in the 1930’s.   That Court , under Chief Justice Charles Hughes, moved to invalidate much of Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act.   Their opposition included the right to form unions, the right of collective bargaining, minimum wage, child labor laws and social security.   One of the early court’s claims was that the National Recovery Act was an attempt to redistribute the wealth from one class to another. Does that sound familiar?

Soon our conservative leaning Court is scheduled to hear arguments against Obama’s Comprehensive Health Care Reform.   Conservative Republicans are claiming the Individual Mandate, requiring the purchase health insurance or payment of a fine, is unconstitutional.   Now one of the most important legislations in history will stand or fall by a decision from this divided assembly.

The question before the Court is whether Congress exceeded its authority, or whether the Mandate is legal, through the right of Congress to control interstate commerce.   The Obama administration justifies its Mandate on the findings in Wickard v. Filburn (1942.)   In this case the court upheld a penalty on a farmer that was paid, by the government, to limit his wheat crop production, but grew extra wheat for his on personal use.   The court found that if all farmers receiving subsidy grew extra crops for their own use it would affect the economy of interstate commerce.

If the Court overturns the Health Care Mandate it will bring into question literally hundreds of New Deal cases based on the authority to regulate commerce.   It would seem the common sense finding would be to uphold the Mandate; however, in a court with strong ideological leanings the Justices may very well vote their personal political prejudices.

This brings me to the conclusion of this post: The next elected president will most likely appoint one or perhaps two new Supreme Court Judges.   If a Republican is elected President it is likely that our Supreme Court will be skewed to the far right as represented by the current Republican Party.   We stand to see our country move backwards sixty years, to a time of corporate power and limited personal freedom. Ultimately we will see the undoing of Roe v. Wade and Gay rights; a supression of freedom of speech, a move to control the internet, a laxing of integration reforms, a crackdown on immigration; and a move toward a religious theocracy.

So be afraid, be very afraid: and get out and vote.

the Ol’Buzzard

Monday, November 28, 2011


I received the following in an e-mail from a friend, and I pass it along to you.   Wish I had thought of it.


The Economics of Abbott and Costello

Posted: 11/28/11 07:37 AM ET Huffington Post

By Barry Levinson, Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter and producer

Unemployment as reported is at 9 percent. But it's actually more than 16 percent. Some smart statistician came up with a distinction. A slight of hand to make the unemployment number tolerable rather than frightening. The concept was simple: 9 percent are unemployed and are actively looking for work. The 16 percent includes those who gave up and are no longer actively looking for work. So those casualties are no longer counted. They cease to exist. The 9 percent is a fake. A sham. And worthy of an Abbott & Costello routine. If that great comedy team were still alive, the routine on our unemployment woes might go something like this.


I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.


Good Subject. Terrible Times. It's 9%.


That many people are out of work?


No, that's 16%.


You just said 9%.


9% Unemployed.


Right 9% out of work.


No, that's 16%.


Okay, so it's 16% unemployed.


No, that's 9%...


WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 9% or 16%?


9% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.


IF you are out of work you are unemployed?


No, you can't count the "Out of Work" as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.




No, you miss my point.


What point?


Someone who doesn't look for work, can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair.


To who?


The unemployed.


But they are ALL out of work.


No, the unemployed are actively looking for work... Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.


So if you're off the unemployment roles, that would count as less unemployment?


Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!


The unemployment just goes down because you don't look for work?


Absolutely it goes down. That's how you get to 9%. Otherwise it would be 16%. You don't want to read about 16% unemployment do ya?


That would be frightening.




Wait, I got a question for you. That means they're two ways to bring down the unemployment number?


Two ways is correct.


Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?




And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?




So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.


Now you're thinking like an economist.


I don't even know what the hell I just said!

I added the picture, I hope Huffington Post and Barry Levinson won't object to my use of their material.  It is offered without comment - almost everybody loves Abbot and Costello.
the Ol'Buzzard

Monday, November 21, 2011


Today I read that Michelle Obama was booed at a NASCAR rally in Florida.

I decided a few weeks ago not to blog on politics, as it is so redundant in nature that I have begun to see it like Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment where it took him pages to beat this poor horse to death.

However, it is hard not to be incensed by the actions of the far right (which is now becoming the Republican center.)

Whenever a Republican appears on a talk show he/she never fails to make the point that the Democratic far left is equally extreme as the Republican right – and that is of course bullshit.

The republican extreme show up at rallies with pistols and assault rifles, they shoot abortion providers and congresswomen – and their actions are encouraged and condoned by the extreme right political figures; they spit on congressmen and senators they do not agree with. The list could go on – intimidations, lies and insults: booing gay soldiers, picketing military funerals, applauding executions, denigrating the poor and needy.

Booing the First Lady is just another low to add to their list of venomous hatred.

It pisses me off when this group is compared to the Democratic left – such as the 99% and other peaceful demonstrators and political activist.

“Most of those racing fans are soldier-sniffers and patriotic halfwits… They’d be honored to have the occasional military jet slam into the croud and send a couple of hundred of them off to be with Jesus.”

George Carlin

the Ol'Buzzard

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The optimist thinks his glass is half full; the pessimist thinks her glass is half empty: the realist thinks he should use a smaller glass.

It is a bummer being a realist: knowing that point c logically comes after points a and b, takes away the amazement of discovery.

When the leaves start to turn I put in my wood supply, change the oil in my truck, store my lawnmower, put in a new plug and change to oil in my snow blower, and at the last possible minute add gas stabilizer to my motorcycle and pull the battery and store it under the sink in the bathroom: With a feeling of regret I took care of the bike today.

I have friends that seem absolutely astonished at the first snow fall – it’s like they didn’t realize winter would come this year.

the Ol'Buzzard

Thursday, November 17, 2011



I just read the post by MRMACRUM in the blog LOST IN THE BOZONE.   He was blogging about how things had changed in his lifetime, and not necessarily for the better. This got me thinking about all the things I have seen during my 70+ years that have gone by the wayside.   I found myself scribbling items in an old notebook – then decided to post them for what they are worth.

OK, it is just a list, and lists are boring – but hey I old and self-absorbed, and  it's two-o-clock in the morning – so here are a few things I can remember:

Automobiles: Plymouth Fury, DeSoto, Nash Rambler, Rambler American, Packard, Hudson Hornet, Kiser, Henry J, Studebaker and the first T-Bird. Cars had distributors and car tires had inner tubes.

Motorcycles I have known: Service Cycle, 650 Triumph Bonneville, Snort-n Norton 750, Royal Infield, BSA Lightning, BSA single cylinder 500cc, Indian Chief, Harley 45, Kawasaki three-cylinder, Suzuki water buffalo; and, You meet the nicest people on a Honda.

Telephones connection with live operators that would ask you:” number please.”   If you didn’t know the number you just asked for the person by name.

Telephones in our town in Mississippi had single, double and triple numbers – our number was 26.   There were also party lines and later dial telephones.

At one point we had a real Ice Boxes; and ice was delivered by the ice-man in 25 and 50 pound blocks.

My grandmother and I lived in a shotgun house in Mississippi that had Linoleum floor covers with floral decoration that looked like a rugs.

We had lights that hung from the ceiling and you turned them on with a pull cord; we also had push button light switches on the walls.

Before television there were console radios – every home had one.   Later there were transistor radios. The first TV I saw was black and white and had a nine inch screen.

Before calculators we used slide rules.

Kids and working men carried lunch boxes

Back in the 50’s everybody smoked.   The cigarettes available were Lucky Strike, Camels, Chesterfields, Old Gold, Philip Morris and roll your own.

There were 5cent Cokes, 10c movies, 25c sandwiches, 15c for a small loaf of Wonder Bread and 25c for a large loaf, Milk was 25c a quart, ice cream cones 5c; there was penny candy, 5c candy bars and 15c gasoline. Cokes, Pepsi, Orange Crush, Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Dr Pepper were all in 6 ounce bottles – Upper 10, RC Cola and Nehi Cream Sodas; also Nehi Orange, Grape and Strawberry came in 10 ounce bottles. The bottles were kept cool in the grocery stores in a water bath coke box.

The alternative to sodas was ice tea and Cool Aide (“Cool Aide, Cool Aide can’t wait. We want Cool Aide, taste great.”)

I had a Red Rider BB gun and a JC Higgins bicycle (I was paid $2.50 cents a week to deliver 25 papers, seven days a week.)

The barber shop was a man’s world.   There were stuffed fish and deer heads mounted on the wall, along with calendars of scantily clad women.   Old men sat and smoked and spit in the spittoons while they discussed politics, women and hunting and fishing.   Haircuts were 50c and you had your choice of Lucky Tiger, Vaseline or Wildroot Cream-oil hair tonic.

Men shaved at home with straight razors or the Schick safety razors; and they lathered from soap cups with animal hair brushes.

My grandmother kept a can of bacon grease on the back of the stove for frying and she made coffee in a percolator on top of the stove.

Women wore girdles, stockings with garters, and pill box hats.

Hell I could go on and on and on, but even I get tired of list.
the Ol'Buzzard

Wednesday, November 16, 2011



But Hell, you can refuse to pay your taxes.

When you live next to a cemetery you cannot weep for everyone

Old Russian Proverb

The death industry in our culture is not to service the dead; but, its purpose is to exploitate the grief and to play on the guilt of family members of the deceased in order to bilk them for as much money as possible. This is a billion dollar industry that never has a recession.

There is the transportation to the funeral home, the embalming (now that’s a macabre business,) clothing, setting the hair, makeup, the coffin (that can cost as much as a small car – or a Mercedes if you’ve got the cash,) the viewing, the service, the trip to the cemetery, the plot and perhaps a wake. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Though some of this may seem necessary, it is all done by someone else – for pay. It is impersonal, and as a result it does not lend to closure.

In our culture we don’t want to be involved with the dead anymore than necessary. There is an unhealthy attitude of dread, disgust and fear attached to the dead – regardless to how close we were to the deceased. Especially for kids, in a time of mass media zombies and vampires, being forced to see a dead person is scary as hell.
They're comming to get you Barbara...

Death rituals in different cultures may seem bizarre when viewed from our removed cloistered and cultural mindset, but what is considered normal is a matter of cultural perspective.

In Athabascan Indian villages throughout Alaska, death is viewed as a natural passing. Native people grieve for their lost but they do not have the fear and revulsion of the dead that exist in our society.

Athabascan villages are matriarchal societies: the clan is counted through the mother line. When a death occurs, the women of the extended family bathe and clothe the dead, the men build a coffin which is then decorated by the women. The coffin and body is placed open in the living area of the home, and for the next few days (until the day of the funeral) the whole village comes to visit and to show concern and support for the family.

Beginning the day of the death the family of the deceased is expected to prepare breakfast, lunch and supper for the entire village. The extended family chips in with food and provisions but the preparation and serving is done by the women and children of the immediate family. Visitors come and fill their plates and sit and eat and talk in the room with the body, while the adults and children of the household are busy with the preparation and serving of food and the cleaning up. People, including children, come and go all day and into the night.

There is a constant vigil of the body and the house is always full of people talking and laughing, drinking tea or coffee, and recounting memories of the deceased. The body is never left alone.

By the day of the funeral the family of the deceased is exhausted. There is a Christian funeral of some denomination in a village church or hall before the coffin and body are buried ( In the far arctic the bodies are often kept frozen, either in the village or at Fairbanks, until the ground can thaw enough for the final burial and grave side service.)

Grave yard in an Athabascan village.

After the body is buried there is one more service to be performed: usually a potlatch is held.

A potlatch is a ceremonial get together and feeding of the entire village. Butcher block paper is rolled out on the floor of the village hall or meeting place. People bring their own plates and silverware and sit on the floor or on chairs on each side of the paper. The extended family, or group giving the potlatch, served moose head soup, wild meats, pasta salads, berry deserts and other cultural delicacies. Often at funeral potlatches guns, bandanas, and clothing are given away as gifts to the people attending. Potlatches always end with elders speaking or lecturing the assembled; and, at certain celebrative potlatches there is Indian singing and dancing. (It is worth noting that at one time the government, at the urging of churches, outlawed potlatches.)

You have heard that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to bury the dead.

The Athabascan death ritual may seem strange or even bizarre when viewed from our cultural perspective. But the village has its own culture. In the village death is a natural occurrence and dead bodies are not feared. The body of the deceased (we seem to prefer that word to dead) is prepared and viewed and honored by the family prior to the funeral; and by the time of the funeral the family is exhausted from its obligation and homage to the passed family member. There has been support from the entire village, exhaustive labor and there is personal, family closure.

In my next and last post on death and culture I will discuss the handling of death in the Yup’ik Eskimo villages of southwest Alaska.

the Ol'Buzzard

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I wanted to continue my post on DEATH and how it is viewed differently by different cultures.   The only other cultures I have been submersed in, other than my own, are the Indian and Eskimo cultures of Alaska.

For eleven years my wife and I taught school in the remote interior villages.   Before I can discuss the way death is dealt with in these cultures I first have to give a little background on the cultures themselves.

All native cultures are not the same.   They have different languages, different traditions and different spiritual beliefs – and they do not like each other. The Athabascan (sometimes spelled Athapascan) Indians of the Interior were never subjugated by the “white man.”   In the traditional villages they are a proud and somewhat defiant people who do not take well to outsiders.   A village is a third world country that operates within its own set of cultural norms.   There is a high incident of drug and alcoholism - child and spousal abuse.   When my wife and I went into our first village, where we taught for seven years, we were made to feel as outsiders.   The villagers spoke of “white man” as the cause of all their problems and the root of all the shortcomings of the village.

It took about three years for the village to get comfortable with our presence and accept us as “their teachers,” though we were never fully accepted.

Truthfully, the villages have a good reason for their prejudice against “white man” and the government, which they identify as one and the same.   Until recently the government through the Department of Indian Affairs had a heavy hand when dealing with the villages; and as might be expected Christianity has done its share of exploitation.   In Sally Carrighar’s book Moonlight at Midday she describes how the Christian missionaries running the school in a costal Yup’ik Eskimo village railed against women being topless in their homes, which was the accepted custom.   Now, years later, the villages are permeated with a mixture of Christianity and shaman beliefs.

The Stick Dance to placate or communicate with the dead.


In Alaskan Native history we find a perfect example of the evils of a consolidation of Church and State. At the turn of the century, Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian minister cum missionary working in Alaska, was placed in charge of Alaska Native education by the Federal Government. Jackson’s idea was to assimilate the Native cultures by creating white Christian clones of the Natives.   He divided up Alaska into school districts and assigned a district to each of the Protestant faiths requiring they set up missionary schools that would discourage Native traditions and teach white Christian values.   Later Jackson established a series of boarding schools and forced many Native children to leave the village and attend his schools.   At the schools, children from different villages and different Native cultures were mixed together, and speaking their Native languages was forbidden and resulted in corporal punishment.

Over the succeeding decades many Native students lost their language and cultural identity.   This condition continued until 1972 when Molly Hootch vs. the State of Alaska and the results of the 1976 Tobeluk Consent Decree declared Native children had the same right as white children to have public education available in their home villages.   Many parents and grandparents, who had children in school, were the product of these boarding school educations and harbored great resentment.

Though there are churches in all the villages, the people still cling to many traditional beliefs, and these beliefs can very greatly from village to village.   In our village children were told if they became lost Raven would guide them back to safety.   Men believed animals could understand human language; if a man showed up at his uncles house with a gun it was understood he wants to hunt: If he asks his uncle to go hunting the animals would hear and hide. Girls were told to bare their breast if they encounter a bear while berry picking and when the bear recognized they were female it would not feel threatened.   The potlatch was the center of traditional cultural participation.

Children learning Native Dance from their elders in preparation for Potlatch.

A potlatch is a ceremonial feed, complete with singing and dancing, that involves the whole village.   The potlatch is modified for different occasions including honoring a distinguished visitor, marriage, celebrating a particular village member or event, communicating with the dead and for, of course, funerals.

In my next post I will describe the death traditions in the interior Athabascan villages

Friday, November 11, 2011



Our Yearly Dementia Test-- only 4 questions

It's that time of year for us to take our annual senior citizen test.

Exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. As we grow older, it's important to keep mentally alert. If you don't use it, you lose it!

Below is a very private way to gauge how your memory compares to the last test. Some may think it is too easy but the ones with memory problems may have difficulty.

Take the test presented here to determine if you're losing it or not - The space after each question separates the answer so you are not tempted to peek..

OK, relax, clear your mind and begin.

1. What do you put in a toaster?

Answer: 'bread.' If you said 'toast' give up now and do something else..

Try not to hurt yourself.

If you said, bread, go to Question 2.

2. Say 'silk' five times. Now spell 'silk.' What do cows drink?

Answer: Cows drink water. If you said 'milk,' don't attempt the next question. Your brain is over-stressed and may even overheat. Content yourself with reading more appropriate literature such as Auto World.

However, if you said 'water', proceed to question 3.

3. If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house is made from blue bricks and a pink house is made from pink bricks and a black house is made from black bricks, what is a green house made from?

Answer: Greenhouses are made from glass. If you said 'green bricks,' why are you still reading these? If you said 'glass,' go on to Question 4.

4. Without using a calculator - You are driving a bus from London to

Milford Haven in Wales. In London, 17 people get on the bus.

In Reading, 6 people get off the bus and 9 people get on.

In Swindon, 2 people get off and 4 get on.

In Cardiff, 11 people get off and 16 people get on.

In Swansea, 3 people get off and 5 people get on.

In Carmathen, 6 people get off and 3 get on.

You then arrive at Milford Haven ..

Without scrolling back to review, how old is the bus driver?

Answer: Oh, for crying out loud!

Don't you remember your own age?

It was YOU driving the bus!

Oh well, I got 100% wrong. At least I can name three departments of government I'd like to get rid of: let's see, there is the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy the Department of .......let me see.........somebody help me........I will remember it later.

the Ol'Buzzard

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Back to the HOKEY POKEY
I know that people don’t care to sit down and read long post.   Like everything else in this time of computers, twitter and cell phones, people want to read a few paragraph from a blog they are following, make a comment and then move on to the next post.

For this reason I have decided to breach the subject of DEATH in two or even three installments.

"The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far from being on a cruise ship.   Most of your time is spent lying on your back.  The brain has shut down.   The flesh begins to soften.  Nothing much new happens and nothing is esxpected of you." 
STIFF, by Mary Roach

I recently attended the funeral of my wife’s aunt.  It is not the first funeral I have attended, but the first commercial funeral I have attended in a long time.   That funeral and my approaching birthday (no. 72) have me rethinking about death; and how death is handled by different cultures and how it is perceived by different individuals.   As I have said before: Death is the final debt we owe to nature for our time alive on this earth – but that’s bull shit.   I don’t question so much why I must die; but the real question seems to be why have I lived?

The only answer I can surmise seems to be that at some random point in time, one of the millions of sperms in one of my fathers random ejaculations (who ever the hell he was) happened to connect with a random egg passing through my mothers uterus.  The whole thing seems perfectly random: I am here via the butterfly effect described in the Chaos Theory.   I am a random male, that had a random birth, that has made random choices in life, that has led me to be a random old man, expecting a random death at sometime in the random future.

Without getting any more metaphysical than that, in the following post I will write about how death is handled in our culture, and how it differs from the death rituals I experienced while living in the Indian and Eskimo villages of Alaska.

But first a little background.

From the earliest times death has been feared and misunderstood by man.   Early humans left their dead for the animals and the environment to consume, as evident by early archeological finds.   Early man was fearful of the unknown, fearful of death and fearful of the dead; and somewhere along his cognitive development the idea of gods and ghost and an afterlife evolved.

Early Neanderthal burial vaults have been discovered that contained weapons and personal artifacts, evidence of a belief in an afterlife.   Pharoses of Egypt were entombed with riches, personal belongings and even slaves.   Michael Crichton describes a Viking funeral pyre in his book Eaters of the Dead in which all preparations were made for the Viking chief’s journey to Valhalla. (Though fiction, Crichton researched his material thoroughly.)

Now we have the advent of major religions and their drive to take control of death

Ars Moriendi (The art of dying), a Latin text dating about 1415, contains woodblock prints presenting the Christians’ dilemma at the time of death.  

The dying man is surrounded on one side by the demons of hell and on the other side by saints and angles.   A battle is in progress for the dying man’s soul.   The only chance this man has is for the last rites to be administered in order to purify his soul so that he might be received sinless by the body of angles.   Early Catholics feared the prospect of sudden death because dying unconsecrated could result in being abducted by demons into the inferno of hell.

The early Catholic Church, with its doctrine of purgatory, was able to manipulate huge financial benefit from the policy of priest receiving money to pray to the saints for the deceased’s speedy trip through purgatory.  The more someone paid the more prayers the priest would offer – thus insuring the rich man a prominent place in the heavenly realm.

(Side note: even today the Catholic Church is one of the biggest individual owners of funeral homes in the city of New York – again profiting from death.)

Notice the early church was all about men going to heaven – the Christian church has never be overly concerned about women, other then to pose them as wanton, temptresses, debasers of men and the cause of original sin.

The image of The Church as the protector from death was lain bare during the mid-14th century when the Black Death swept through Europe, killing perhaps half the Continent’s population.   During that time traditional burial customs collapsed as most victims were consigned to mass graves.   It has been claimed that not only the dead, but also the dying were buried in public pits in an attempt to stem the contagion.

Today death is a big business.   Funeral homes are never short of business and they prey on the grief of surviving family members to sell the biggest and most elaborate death ritual the family can afford.   Cemetery lots increase the value of land from cost per acre to cost per square foot.   Massive cemeteries blanket our country and tie up valuable land from productive use for the many centuries to come.

The dead in our culture are feared and considered an unnatural macabre spectacle to be endured, avoided and dispensed with as fast as possible.   Death is a damn profitable business, and the major recruiting tool for religions of the world.

I know reading a post about death is a bummer - but maybe it can help you

The Ol'Buzzard

Monday, November 7, 2011


IN GOD WE TRUST: Give me a break.

With all the financial, social and political problems facing the United States, Congress finally decided to act: this week they passed a resolution, with only seven dissenters, confirming that the country’s motto is still IN GOD WE TRUST. 

What ever happened to, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”  This, by the way, is part of the first amendment of our Bill of Rights.

We worry about terrorism, global warming and the financial melt down; but the real threat to this country is creeping Jesus.   Systematically and covertly Christian fundamentalist are moving our country toward a Christian theocracy. 

In Mississippi there is a law proposed to define human life as existing from the time of conception.  This law has been proposed and championed due to the fundamentalist influence that permeates Mississippi and the rest of the south.  Besides outlawing abortion under any circumstances the law would also make the use of some popular birth control methods a crime; and could result in a woman using identified birth control methods being charged with murder. 

At this time oral and anal sex between consenting adults is a crime in thirteen states.   The religious right regularly edit our school books and in many states have passed laws insisting their religious metaphoric creationism be taught in place of, or as an alternative to, the hard science of evolution.   Touting pious morality the amoral Christians have been successful in limiting aides and stem cell research.   They regularly attempt to ban books and movies and they would like to censor the viewing of sexual material on the World Wide Web.

A Christian theocracy would move our country back into a new dark ages; a time of repression, ignorance and inquisition.   Christian fundamentalist must have identified enemies to unite and motivate their flocks.  Moslems, atheist, dead soldiers and homosexuals are their present bitter enemies.   In Maine the Catholic church of Portland was the prime organizer and fund raiser that defeated the Maine Legislature’s Equal Rights Amendment.  Fanatical fundamentalist populated the balcony at the State House and screamed obscenities and scripture verses at the people appearing before the legislature who testified in favor of the amendment.

To paraphrase George Carlin: The Christians are coming and they are not very nice people.