Friday, July 30, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - July 30 - The Common Store

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"We lived in the bishop's house like those spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles: No one possessed anything personally, but they had all things in common. We sold our possessions and gave to the poor, so that we would live from the common store. And common to all of us would be the exceedingly great property, God himself."

-- Sermon 355, 2

Prayer. Lord, whatever you give me is too little for me. Be yourself my inheritance! I love you without reserve: with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind. Of what value is anything you give me that is not yourself?

-- Sermon 334, 3

July 30

Christian Heritage - July 30 - The Church is a Garden Extending Over the Whole World

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"Christ became all things in order to restore all of us in himself. The man Christ received the mustard seed which represents the kingdom of God; as man he received it, though as God he had always possessed it. He sowed it in his garden, that is in his bride, the Church. The Church is a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labor of the apostles, fragrant and lovely with perennial flowers: virgins' lilies and martyrs' roses, set amid the pleasant verdure of all who bear witness to Christ and the tender plants of all who have faith in him.

"Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the patriarchs the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up, with the apostles it grew tall, in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist's dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to reap for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter."

Peter Chrysologus (AD 400-450), Hom. 98: PL 52, 475-476

Peter was the bishop of Ravenna. He was, above all, a pastor and preached many sermons to his people. By his beautiful words I am once again reminded how thankful I am, to recall a phrase from Augustine's *Confessions*, to have been raised in the wings of the Church my whole life.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Fisher King

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Bobby Fischer fights deportation from Japan

Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer has asked to be released from custody at a Tokyo detention center while he appeals against a Japanese move to deport him, a Canadian advising Fischer said yesterday.

Fischer, 61, wanted by Washington for defying sanctions by playing a match in Yugoslavia in 1992, was detained at Tokyo's Narita airport on July 15 when he tried to leave for the Philippines on a passport U.S. officials have said was invalid. ...

Fischer, one of the great eccentrics of the chess world, has been wanted for arrest by the United States since 1992 when he played a match against old rival Boris Spassky - and won - in Yugoslavia despite U.S. economic sanctions.

My roommate told me Fischer has made some pretty, ahem, bold statements about 9/11 and, of all things, "the Jews." I had no idea Fischer was such a nutjob (his mom was Jewish), but I guess it goes with being a mega-genius. It might also have to do with still being called Bobby at the age of 61. (No offence to any Bobby readers out there; I just think it's the lil' kid of an otherwise solid cluster of names.)

Augustine Day by Day - July 29 - Chaste Fear

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"Just from the fact that you try to avoid evil, you improve yourself, and you begin to desire what is good. When you begin to desire what is good, there will be a chaste fear in you. That fear by which you fear being cast into hell with the devil is not yet chaste, since it does not come from the love of God but from the fear of punishment. But when you fear God in the sense that you do not wish to lose him, you embrace him, and you desire to enjoy him."

-- Sermon on 1 John 9, 5

"...fear God in the sense that you do not want to lose him..." Hmmm, a strange and exciting idea. Cud also worth a good mindchewing.

Prayer. Lord, I now love you alone, I follow you alone, and I seek you alone. I yearn to be possessed by you.

-- Soliloquies 1, 1

July 29

May You see and smile upon even my failed efforts to avoid evil, O Lord, and make me strong. And may I, O Lord, see even better your powerful grace to love me.

Christian Heritage - July 29 - Martha

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"You, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveler to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarreling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?

"No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them."

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermon 103, 1-2.6

Not sure what I think of this quote. Striking. Worth a good rumination.

The Darfur Spiral

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Sudan issues threat over intervention

Egypt said yesterday it would try to prevent adoption of an American-drafted resolution threatening U.N. sanctions on Sudan, aiming to temper international pressure on its neighbor over bloodshed in its western provinces.

With talk of international sanctions and military intervention growing, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Sudan needs more time to fulfill its promises to disarm militias and restore order in the Darfur region. Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, standing at his side, said there wasn't much time to spare. ...

The U.N. Security Council was expected to vote tomorrow on the U.S.-drafted resolution, which is likely to include a direct threat of sanctions against the Sudanese government if it doesn't rein in Arab militias known as Janjaweed. The 25-nation European Union also was considering backing the sanctions threat. ...

The Sudanese government warned Tuesday it would retaliate if foreign troops are dispatched to bring the situation in Darfur under control.

The Sudanese Cabinet, in an extraordinary meeting Tuesday, condemned the prospect of foreign military intervention, saying Sudan could solve its own problems.

I'm not sure how to draw any parallels, if such there might be, between Sudan now and Iraq of two years ago -- but there seems to be a strange connection betweent hese two cases. With Sudan, I am encouraged by the much greater, much less contested *international solidarity* in this movement. (Of course, maybe it's just my Eurocentric arrogance to subjugate Egypt and Sudan's resistance to the solidarity of Europe and the USA.) I'm also stirred to action by the obvious threat Janjaweed is in Sudan. They are a living, breathing WMD and it has not taken us almost two years to find them. It's time to move in.

As I've said before, my biggest disagreements with *the timing of* the Iraq War II were 1) the shaky, confused and contradictory claims about Irqa's WMDs and 2) the loner attitude Bush flaunt in the face of so much international caution and opposition. On the assumption Iraq was construed as a threat for the USA in particular, I can better understand Bush's gung-ho attitude. But insofar as Iraq was, I believe, presented as a broadly global threat, I think it was recless to stampede most of Europe for the sake of ousting a dictator not shown to be as big a direct and imminent threat as the elusive bin Laden.

Okay, open fire.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - July 28 - Love Reaches Out

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Moreover, this is the rule of love: the good that we desire for ourselves we desire for our neighbor also; and the evil that we are unwilling to undergo we wish to prevent from happening to our neighbor. All who love God will have such a desire toward everybody.

-- True Religion 87

Prayer. O Lord, my God, let my soul praise you that it may love you. Let it recount to you your mercies that it may praise you for them all.

-- Confessions 5, 1

July 28

Christian Heritage - July 28 - Be Eager to Serve God in Humility

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"If you see anyone better adorned than you, do not in eagerness of mind ascend above him, saying, 'I want to be above him or like him!' If you exalt yourself so, are you a faithful servant, since you are provoking the Lord to anger by opposing yourself to him? But if you see that someone has stronger resources than you, and out of envy disparage him, you are not walking in the plain road but going by trackless ways.

"So be eager to serve God in humility and do not give yourself up madly to pride; and do not exalt yourself in vain pretense over one who, if assessed justly, shines with a greater desire of eternal life than you burn with yourself, and who for his heavenly ardor is invited to the height of blessedness by him who loves all lovers of truth. For if you do, he who by his inspiration summoned you to the service of humility and the other to the gift of charity may come with the eye of knowledge and judge you with his righteous judgment, saying, 'You lifted yourself up in eager pride to a place for which you are not fit; leave your vainglory and submit in duty, and give this beloved one of mine the place of honor you so rashly seized!'"

Hildegard of Bingen (AD 1098-1179), Scivias II, Vision 5, From Classics of Western Spirituality, Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, Paulist Press, 1990, 219

Hildegard was a German nun, mystic, prophet, and political moralist, was widely consulted as an oracle, and wrote prolifically on doctrinal matters. Not too shabby a CV.

I once heard a young fellow (a religious) say, "Heaven is not a democracy." His point is that God, even in Christ, is not unblinkingly, impersonally egalitarian in dispensing His chastisements and rewards to His adopted children. God sees *us* in Christ, not merely Christ in or over us, like a radiant cloak over rotting corpses. "Well done, my good and faithful servant. ... Not as well done, my good servant" (cf. Mth 25).

As a consequence, some paths within and into God's Kingdom, as a matter of sheer spiritual fact, intrinsically (but not necessarily) draw us deeper into God's grace and His embrace. Certainly, all paths and vocations in Christ have the potential for the attainment of full heavenly glory; but certain paths, certain responses to God's unceasing call of grace, have an intrinsic "edge" on other ways of serving Him. It's a thought well worth considering. I'd be happy even just to be the scum of Heaven. "Well done, my decent and fairweather janitor."

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Lions and Lions and Tigers and Tigers and Bears and Bears

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Freaks of the Animal World

Sooooo many groaner puns are waiting to be made from this page... but I have no time. Hooray for you, my dearies.

One of the scariest things I've seen in a long while

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I can't explain why, but this massive rabbit sends a shiver of incontinence through my bowels and bladder.

Roberto the 2-year-old Continental Giant is almost 4 feet long and sleeps on a dog's bed because he can't fit into a normal-sized hutch. Roberto is larger most 3-year-old children....

All I see is him implacably eating a massive carrot - which actually turns out to be some dead veterinarian's handless arm being nibbled away as the megalomorphic Roberto perches on his lifeless chest like a long-eared dog.

Not much more than meets the eye

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Soldier becomes Optimus Prime

The only thing exempting this guy from an irrevocable and totally laughable throne in Geekdom is this:

Prime says the toy actually filled a void in his life when it came out.

"My dad passed away the year before and I didn't have anybody really around, so I really latched onto him when I was a kid," he said.

Laugh if you want but Mr. Prime's is a sentiment I can understand all too well. I've never lost a parent, nor any close family members, to death, but I have had my share of loneliness and disorientation as a child of divorce. I'm not sure why but I have a very deep affinity for Logan (aka Wolverine). Until I lost my wallet, I even kept a Marvel collector's card of Wolverine in there, among my credit cards and personal photos. That X-man inspires and comforts me.

Now, it may just be Wolverine's kickass chops, but I think my connection with him has more to do with three of Wolvy's traits: 1) his feral power is always lurking just beneath his human veneer - much like his razor sharp claws ready to spring from beneath his skin, 2) he has a virtually indestructible skeleton (coated as it is in Adamantium) and heals extremely quickly, a skill I've had to rely on more than once, and 3) his painfully confused history - who is he? where does he come from? where does he belong? what is his "lair"?

Augustine Day by Day - July 27 - Two Cities

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"There are two cities, the city of the godly and the city of the ungodly. These have been with us since the human race began, and they will continue till the end of the world. For the time being, as far as outward appearances go, they are indistinguishable, but their aspirations are very different. On the Day of Judgment they will be separated bodily for all to see."

-- Catechetical Instructions 31

Prayer. O God my Father, I am seeking you, not making statements about you. Help me and guide me.

-- Confessions 9, 17

July 27

Could there anything more Augustinian than "the two cities"?

Christian Heritage - July 27 - Weakness Becomes Strength

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"I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Those were strong people who taunted Christ's disciples because their master entered the homes of the sick and ate with them. Why, they asked, does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners? O you strong ones who do not need the doctor! Yours is not the strength of health but of madness! God grant that we may never imitate that kind of strength. We should dread the possibility of anyone wanting to imitate it.

"The teacher of humility, who shared our weakness and gave us a share in his own divinity, came to earth in order to teach us the way, even to be the Way himself. It was his humility, above all else, that he impressed upon us. He willingly submitted to baptism at the hands of one of his servants, so that we might learn to confess our own sins and to become weak in order to be truly strong, repeating with the apostle: When I am weak, then I am strong."

Augustine of Hippo, Expositions of the Psalms 58, I, 7: CCL 39, 733-734

Augustine Day by Day - July 26 - Hungry for God

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"Additionally, I sought for something to love, for I was in love with love. There was a hunger within me from a lack of inner food, which is none other than yourself, my God. Yet that hunger did not make me hungry. I had no desire for incorruptible food. This was not because I was already filled with it but because the more I was empty of it the more it was loathsome to me."

-- Confessions 3, 1

Prayer. O God, be my inheritance; I love you totally. With all my heart, with all my mind I love you.

-- Sermon 334, 3

July 26

Christian Heritage - July 26 - Having Been Forgiven, Be Merciful to Others

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"A third time the girl repeated: You too were with that man yesterday, but a third time he denied it. Finally Jesus looked at him, reminding him of his previous assertion. Peter understood, repented of his sin, and began to weep. Mercifully, however, Jesus forgave him his sin, because he knew that Peter, being a man, was subject to human frailty.

"Now, as I said before, the reason God's plan permitted Peter to sin was because he was to be entrusted with the whole people of God, and sinlessness added to his severity might have made him unforgiving toward his brothers and sisters. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord's forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them. This was God's providential dispensation. He to whom the Church was to be entrusted, he, the pillar of the churches, the harbor of faith, was allowed to sin; Peter, the teacher of the world, was permitted to sin, so that having been forgiven himself he would be merciful to others."

John Chrysostom (AD 347-407), In SS. Petrum et Heliam: PG 50, 727-728

Chrysostom was the patriarch of Constantinople and was a masterful preacher, earning him the title of "the golden-mouthed."

This quote is simply stunning. What we mean for evil God uses for good. What we view as weak and frail - like Peter - God deigns to build His whole Church on.

Completely unique, like everyone else's

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Completely unique, like everyone else's

The following are some things from my roommate, Erick, on computers and their digital ilk. I've learned a lot from him this year about PCs (and gaming), so it's always cool to hear his from-the-hip take on, well, computers and their digital ilk.

First and foremost, most people don't need computers. The average user ([l]user?) has little important/necessary work to do on one. Not only that, but the average user also has a complete lack of knowledge as to how one even works. Now granted I have no idea how a... well I guess I can't think of anything I use and don't have a basic idea of how it works... maybe Windows... I don't really know how that program works now that it's not a command line interface... anyway... most users write e-mail, play games, watch movies, listen to music. None of these activates was native to computing, granted they manifest themselves differently on a computer (multiplayer online games for instance, and electronic greeting cards etc.), they don't necessitate the use of a computer. I read an interesting article (can't remember for the life of me who wrote it or where) that showed that the speed at which people use word processors hasn't increased for the last 10 years or so. Sure, when I had my blue-screen copy of Lotus works running on my 286 I couldn't change between 105 different fonts, but now that I can, by using Word XP, how much faster am I typing? How much more productive am I? And, because Word has all these bells and whistles it isn't actually faster than my 286 copy of LW. Point is, most people don't need computers (me included), and most people who have them are using them for tasks better suited for a computer half the price they paid for the one they own. Using a modern computer to surf the net and write e-mail is like using a sledge hammer to drive a nail.

Second, computers are almost worthless without an internet connection. Or more accurately, computers for the common user are almost worthless without an internet connection. In the early days of my computing existence I played games on my Apple //e and listened to 4 channel audio renditions of Mozart. That's about it. Even during the x86 (here where x=2 or 4) days (c. 1992) I could live without connecting to the odd BBS now and again (whattup Nitrous, the Matrix, and the game of choice "Tradewars"). However today, even if I wanted to do the same things I had done with my //e I require a connection to the internet. Games? Forget about it if you don't have access to download the latest patch (but that's a whole 'nother rant), music, well you need to get it from file sharing programs from... the internet. And who writes mail these days ($.37 a stamp?... whatever) e-mail is the preferred method of communication, that or online chat. Heaven forbid I pick up a phone, then I can't pretend I'm really listening to someone while I play videogames or my guitar, or smack on my rice and chicken nuggets. The fact that an (often precarious) internet connection is mandatory ticks me off.

Third, I have a feeling that arcades are going to come back like they were in the 80's... actually I have a sneaking suspicion that all things 80's are going to come back en mode. I don't know how I feel about this. Granted the music was cool when I was a kid, but will it remain as cool now that it lacks that original nostalgia?...

Monday, July 26, 2004

Augustine Day by Day by Day by Day -- July 22-25

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July 22 -- Our End

"Our prayer is 'Make known to me, O Lord, my end.' The end is where we are going to stay. When we left our houses, our end was to come to church. Again, from here each of us has the end of going home. We end in the place we are going to.

"So now here we all are, engaged in life's pilgrimage, and we have an end we are going toward. Toward what are we going? Toward our home country. What is our home country? Jerusalem, mother of the faithful, mother of the living!"

-- Sermon 16A, 9

Prayer. You, the Omnipotent and the Good, care for each of us as if each was your sole care, and for all as for one alone!

-- Confessions 3, 11

July 23 -- Love, the Guardian of Virginity

"Hence, it is God alone who both gives virginity and protects it. And God is Love! Love, therefore, is the guardian of virginity, but humility is the dwelling place of this guardian. He indeed dwells there who said that the Holy Spirit rests on the humble, the peaceful, and the one who fears his words. Humble spouses more easily follow the Lamb than proud virgins."

-- Holy Virginity 51, 52

Prayer. Walk along the path of sublimity with the feet of humility.

-- Holy Virginity 52, 53

July 24 -- The Needs of the Church over Contemplation
If the Church should request your services, do not accede to this request out of a desire to get ahead, nor refuse it moved by pleasureful idleness. Obey God, rather, in simplicity of heart, submitting yourselves humbly to him who directs you.

Neither should you prefer your peaceful leisure to the needs of the Church. If there were no people to minister to her as she gave birth, not even you would have found a way to have been born.

-- Letter 48, 2

Prayer. Lord, those are your best servants who wish to shape their life on your answers rather than shape your answers on their wishes.

-- Confessions 10, 26

July 25 -- My Purpose Is to Reach My God
Fervently, I seek my God in the material things of heaven and earth, and I do not find him. I seek the reality of him in my own soul, and I do not find it. Yet I am determined to seek my God.

In my yearning to understand and look into the invisible things of God by means of created things, I pour out my soul within me. I have no other purpose henceforth but to reach my God.

-- Commentary on Psalm 41, 8

Prayer. I call upon you, my God, my Mercy, my Creator. I had forgotten you, but you held me ever in your sight.

-- Confessions 13, 1

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Christian Heritage -- July 22-25

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July 22 -- Forgive and Give
"There are two works of mercy which will set us free. They are briefly set down in the gospel in the Lord's own words: Forgive and you will be forgiven, and Give and you will receive. The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity. As regards pardon he says: "Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness." Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar too in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God. We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a gift — the gift of God himself.

"What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ who said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive."

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermon 83, 2.4

July 23 -- Humility and Charity

"To what place are we to follow Christ if not where he has already gone? We know that he has risen and ascended into heaven: there, then, we must follow him. There is no cause for despair—by ourselves we can do nothing, but we have Christ's promise. Heaven was beyond our reach before our Head ascended there, but now, if we are his members, whey should we despair of arriving there ourselves? Is there any reason? True, many fears and afflictions confront us in this world; but if we follow Christ, we shall reach a place of perfect happiness, perfect peace, and everlasting freedom from fear.

"Let me warn anyone bent on following Christ to listen to Saint Paul: One who claims to abide in Christ ought to walk as he walked. Would you follow Christ? Then be humble as he was humble; do not scorn his lowliness if you want to reach his exaltation. Human sin made the road rough but Christ's resurrection leveled it; by passing over it himself he transformed the narrowest of tracks into a royal highway.

"Two feet are needed to run along this highway; they are humility and charity. Everyone wants to get to the top—well, the first step to take is humility. Why take strides that are too big for you—do you want to fall instead of going up? Begin with the first step, humility, and you will already be climbing."

Caesarius of Arles Caesarius (AD 470-543), Sermo 159, 4: CCL 104, 653-653

Caesarius was the archbishop of Arles. He was very much influenced by Saint Augustine and combated semi-pelagianism at the Council of Orange in 529.

July 24 -- Recognize the Giver of the Gifts
"You who have wealth, recognize who has given you the gifts you have received. Consider yourself, who you are, what has been committed to your charge, from whom you have received it, why you have been preferred to most other people. You are the servant of the good God, a steward on behalf of your fellow servants. Do not imagine that everything has been provided for your own stomach. Make decisions regarding your property as though it belonged to another. Possessions give you pleasure for a short time, but then they will slip through your fingers and be gone, and you will be required to give an exact account of them.

"What am I to do? It would have been so easy to say: "I will feed the hungry, I will open my barns and call in all the poor. I will imitate Joseph in proclaiming my good will toward everyone. I will issue the generous invitation: 'Let anyone who lacks bread come to me. You shall share, each according to need, in the good things God has given me, just as though you were drawing from a common well.'"

Basil the Great (AD 330-379), Homélies sur la richesse, Courtenne, pages 15-19

Greory was the bishop of Caesarea, organized Cappadocian monasticism, and left many writings as his legacy.

July 25 -- James, The Apostle
"We salute you, James, fervent preacher of the gospel truth, who with Peter and John hold the highest position and the chief dignity among the apostles. We salute you, as one who drank Christ's cup in advance of your fellow disciples, and were baptized with the baptism of your Savior as he promised you, and are adorned with the double crown of apostle and martyr!

"We salute you, blessed eyewitness of the Word, you who see God, for you have changed one fishing-ground for another, one desire for another, and one inheritance for another; in place of things unstable you have gained those that last, and in place of an earthly passing world you have gained a changeless heavenly world.

"We salute you who, as you formerly had direct physical contact with the God-man on earth, so do you now, united with him in spirit, converse with him face to face in heaven."

Nicetas of Paphlagonia (AD 904-963), Oratio 5: PG 105, 89-100

Nicetas wrote much on the saints and the feasts of the Church.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Taiwan touch your heart!

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Well, the blogging is done. Time to pack for Hualien and Taroko Gorge. You shan't hear from me for, at least, three days, not until Sunday. Do try to hold up.

And always remember: if it's not worth emailing, it's not worth reading. ;o)

In This One Wall (part 5, THE END) -- by Elliot Bougis

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part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4

* * *

Early the next morning, Giti and the other two were led the few miles across the desert into the bustling Qwuadril courts. Life churned in the courts from dawn to dusk. Because the whole city rested on a massive, relatively flat bedrock, the moistening had no effect on life inside Qwuadril’s sturdy boulder walls. But the Stro survivors didn’t even notice the exotic markets and clothes and customs swirling around them. Their taste for extravagance had died in Huyi. Likewise, they were unaware of how much or to whom they were sold. Freedom, bondage, all that mattered was that the honeytar was coming.

The new slaves were herded into a rickety. Inside, the other glug slaves stared at them listlessly. Vesa wrapped his arms around Giti’s arm as he stared through the gaps in the rocky cell.

“I don’t see the sparkly sandstorm yet,” he whispered back to Giti.

“Don’t look out there, Vesa. Sleep,” she answered.

Vesa did lie down, but kept his eyes open for a while, repeatedly mouthing “sparkling sandstorm”.

One of the slaves, Vaziti, spoke from a dark corner. “What’s the young glug talking about?”

Kasex looked over to Giti, unsure how to answer. It was hard for Giti to get her words out, but she eventually explained their story to Vaziti.

“You mean it’s coming now? We can’t do anything?” Vaziti asked, a little condescendingly.

“Not here, in this cage. Our only hope is to keep moving,” added Kasex.

“I’d leave with you if I could. Rather die a fugitive than a slave. Fat chance, though” retorted Vaziti.

Actually, though, he and the three Stro glugs would get their chance to escape. For that night, while they slept, miles to the north, the honeytar was encroaching and the Huyi glugs were panicking. By the morning they were sold, the honeytar had reached the Huyi outskirts. Now, as they slept, the honeytar was inexorably seeping into the border Huyi caves. Later, when they awoke from their first night as slaves, the honeytar was at the Huyi camp center, and the remaining Huyi glugs were now running to Qwuadril.

Giti heard shouts at the city gate. She recognized Mojed, the Huyi chief, and a few of the other Huyi glugs. They were all shouting at the dazed Qwuadril glugs as madly as the Stro glugs had before Gossa died. She caught only snatches of what Mojed was shouting.

“...coming ... saw it kill my best ... a trench, build ... have to stop it!” Mojed led his frenzied Huyi chorus.

Other slaves were watching through the rocks too. Abruptly, a soldier swung the heavy door open and called them out.

“Slaves! You’re building a trench, move! Dig!” the guard barked.

When Mojed saw Giti and the slaves being led outside the city, he stopped speaking, and coughed roughly. “There, she knows it’s coming. And those two,” he shouted, pointing at Giti, Kasex, and Vesa.

Soon after the Giti and the three dozen other slaves began digging, Mojed called out, “It’ll take more hands than that! We all have to dig. Hurry!”

So the Qwuadril glugs shuffled confusedly out of their city, down the sloping bedrock onto the sands, and began digging, in their own way. Many tripped over their beautiful robes, while others halfheartedly lifted handfuls of dirt and flung them to their sides. Fortunately, the Huyi’s frantic warnings motivated the inept glugs. By midday, with so many glugs digging, there was an impressive eight-foot deep trench girding the Qwuadril bedrock. Glugs were taking their homes apart and putting the wooden boards into the trench like mine struts. The Qwuadril leaders, Mojed and other nosy glugs were assured this measure would prevent the moistening from completely erasing their trench in the night. Soon all the glugs – all but the three Stro glugs, that is – anxiously perched on the city walls waiting for the sun to set and the desert to liquefy. Would the trench hold? The question was answered when a victorious shout burst from the city. The boards were holding! Glugs across the city – excepting three, of course – slept happily that night. Mojed and the Huyi glugs had made everything sound so terrible, but now there was nothing to fear. The trench was holding against the moisture!

But it wouldn’t hold against the honeytar.

Life would have gone on happily that next morning, but instead the Qwuadril glugs were awakened by a deep bellow from the top of the city wall. It was Mojed. The trench was still intact, but the honeytar was moving closer. While glugs scrambled to the top of the city wall, Vesa and the other slaves sat staring out pensively at the horizon, all of which now gleamed yellow. A soldier opened the door to the slaves’ quarters. “You can go watch from the wall,” he said sheepishly.

The honeytar tide was only a couple of miles away. It was easily a mile wide. And it was coming. Panicked shouts rose from the Qwuadril glugs. They argued and ran along the wall and return to their dismantled homes, trying to decide on their own what to do. Some said the trench would hold; if it could stop the moisture, it could stop this shiny mess. Others knew the knots in their stomachs meant they were doomed.

The glugs could argue only so long. Within a few hours, the edge of the honeytar had reached the upper lip of the trench, which was studded with regularly fastened boards. It tumbled slowly over the sands like spit in the dust. Glugs bit their lips, squinted their eyes, and wrung their hands. Would the trench hold?

As the honeytar crept forward and pressed against the trench struts, a dull creaking emanated from the trench. A few nervous shouts broke out. Then, once over the top boards, the mass of honeytar avalanched into the trench and visibly spread laterally, filling the once-sturdy trench. Because so much more honeytar was now rushing into the trench, it spilled over the ends of trench like soda fizzing out of a glass. The honeytar was already oozing left and right to encircle the bedrock. Glugs scrambled down from the wall. They ran through the rubbish of their homes, gathering what they could, throwing thick robes on their shoulders. It was only a matter of time before the honeytar tide rose and the city was swallowed.

That time, however, Giti had decided to use. “Kasex, we have to leave now.”

He nodded solemnly, and then asked Vaziti, “Vaziti, are you coming?”

“Of course! A fugitive, not a slave!” he answered.

Giti fought against the rush of glugs running down as she climbed the steps to the top of the wall. Vesa, Kasex, Vaziti, and a handful of other slaves and observant free glugs followed her. They all ran to the back of the city wall. It was a long way down, Vesa thought to himself. He wasn’t the only glug who worried. It was an eighty-foot drop to the sands. Giti swallowed hard, and then began climbing down the wall. Vaziti followed fearlessly, but the others needed a few moments to gather the courage. Loose rocks tumbled down as they descended, but in a few minutes they were safe, on the sands.

Kasex was the first to remind them that they needed to find a cave, soon. The slaves, unused to such freedom, began running away from the city, their arms stretched out at their sides, like children running into an amusement park. Fortunately, the troupe found an abandoned cave within a few hours. They all scrounged for food before the sun set. The food was flavorless, and words were few. The slaves fell asleep – while back in Qwuadril, glugs could do anything but sleep.

At sunset, there was already a deadly ring of honeytar around the city. Qwuadril’s front gates were creaking slowly inward as honeytar quickly built up and strained against them. Flat tongues of honeytar seeped under the doors and spread over the pocked bedrock. The sweet smell of the honeytar drenched the city. It’s saccharine stench swirled in the glugs’ lungs, in their blood, in their brains. Throughout the city, glugs – some from hunger, others from a blinding frenzy to survive, and still others from the maddening sweetness of the honeytar – began massacring one another. The honeytar slithered over the nearest corpses and homes and rubbish, locking them all forever in their places of pain and disarray and loss. Blood and honeytar mixed sinuously. In the pale blue moonlight, you couldn’t have told them apart: colorless, shiny, cold to the touch. Within weeks, the honeytar had happily swallowed Qwuadril, the great city, the great city of violence.

* * *

Giti and the dozen other slaves could run no longer. They had run from one cave to another for the last three weeks. The glugs with whom they stayed each night were friendly enough, but none of them heeded their warnings. They simply avoided eye contact with the ragged glugs, and gave them directions to the next nearest cave they knew.

None of the former slaves had spotted the honeytar for weeks. They were travelling so quickly that they had in fact made ground on the honeytar. Day by day, seeing no sign of the shiny serpent, a desperate feeling of hope grew among the slaves. Eventually, they became so confident (not to mention exhausted and hungry) that they settled in the largest Pinjani cave they could find.

The atmosphere was much gentler here in the south, in the Pinjani cave region. The glugs, for the first time in weeks, began to enjoy life again. They slept and ate. They talked. They laughed. And they all gradually forgot about the honeytar, which was, unbeknownst to them, sweeping over the planet like a titanic wave of syrup over a gigantic scoop of ice cream. But for now at least, they lived comfortably, peacefully.

Reality, though, came back to them abruptly one morning. As he’d had done every morning for the last week in their new Pinjani home, Kerfa, a young former slave, woke up early to gather yeed cactus. He loved munching on the fresh yeed cactus leaves in the morning, the sweet moisture dew nestling on them. Kerfa thought about this as he hopped out of the cave onto the sands. But he didn’t land in sand. His feet were stuck in a thin puddle of honeytar. Speechless, he shook his knees desperately, which only made him fall over. When he felt the coldness of the honeytar, he gasped. Terror squeezed his heart mercilessly, and Kerfa died whispering how cold it was, so cold, s-s-so c-c-cold.

Giti awoke when she heard Kerfa gasp and went to see if he was all right. She screeched dumbly as soon as she saw the honeytar winking up at her in the rising sun. She realized only dimly that the honeytar had already spread past their cave mouth. The other glugs, too, understood quickly enough what that meant. They were trapped.

By the end of the day, Kerfa’s corpse was fully submerged. While the other glugs sat mournfully in various shadows of the cave, Vesa perched at the cave mouth, watching Kerfa neutrally. He furrowed his brow a little when he noticed the dark ribbon that had formed in the last few hours and trailed from behind Kerfa. Although he didn’t know it, the dark ribbon forming behind Kerfa (and behind every trapped glug across the planet) was a hybrid of a reversed umbilical cord and an embarrassing tail. Within the amber, these streaks were hollowing out, and becoming a highway for, and of, nutrients. The honeytar weaved nearby glugs into a symbiotic labyrinth, in which each glug provided the other with essential nutrients. In addition, deep below the planet surface, the honeytar IV’s dredged buried nutrients up into the surface bound glugs. Until the honeytar suffocated them, glugs could stay alive while never eating any solid food.

Vesa left the entrance disinterestedly. He had never seen a body inside the honeytar, but his curiosity, like his smile, had died somehwere between Stro and Qwuadril.

* * *

The night after Kerfa’s death, the honeytar had poured into the cave and, rolled over the cave floor. The glugs met the honeytar standing so they would have the longest time to live. Their cozy Pinjani cave was filling up quickly like a bathtub. Within two days, Golphez, another former slave, sat hunched up to his nipples, trapped in the amber-colored cement. Just yesterday he had been able to scratch his belly. And only two days ago, Golphez had been sane. Now, he looked like some kind of unshaven, hastily crafted bust in a dimly lit museum. Now, he was insane.

For the last week Golphez had been sculpting tiny amber figurines from the sticky film of honeytar that condensed and hardened every day. Like a doting baker, Golphez rolled his hands over the slowly rising surface to form thin, soft snakes of amber glue. Making sure to vigorously rub off any excess tar from his callused fingers, he then molded the quickly hardening balls, lightly squeezing their bulbous heads and limbs into shape.

On many nights, other glugs would be awoken from their immobile sleep by Golphez’s rasping laughter as he gently poked and smoothed each figurine into a new friend. Each figurine he gave a name. By now he had an entire colony of faceless, plump dolls scattered around him. Sometimes in fits of giddy hysteria, Golphez would fling one of his unwitting tar subjects at a nearby glug trapped in the tar.

This situation was particularly uncomfortable for Doot. On more than one occasion, the unmentionably old and pitifully short and terribly fat Doot, who was already trapped up to his neck in the golden cement, squealed painfully as a zooming honeytar baby struck him in the face. Inexplicably, Golphez had chosen Doot as his main target. Nicks and scrapes speckled Doot’s wide forehead. Dried rivulets of blood streaked down his face, caking his eyebrows and darkening his nose.

The other glugs pleaded tonelessly with Golphez to stop hurting them and Doot. Doot, who was timid, and completely paralyzed in honeytar on top of that, could do nothing to stop Golphez’s insane capriciousness. Vaziti, on the other hand, was determined to do something. He repeatedly screamed at Golphez to stop. Most of the time, Golphez replied by flinging a honeytar baby at Vaziti. But Vaziti was determined to stop Golphez.

Seething in immobile rage, Desakop began crafting a spear out of the honeytar. He gingerly rolled his hands over the smooth honeytar surface at his waist, like a child rolling a clay snake on a table. Every time Golphez cackled, Vaziti inhaled sharply. With every breath, the rich sweet, smell of the honeytar drove him into a keener madness, closer to violence. At last, unable to restrain himself any longer, Vaziti hefted his hard arm-length spear above his head.

He shouted in Golphez’s direction. “Golphez, you wallal dropping, just remember, I killed you first, not this sticky tar. I did.”

On the word “did” Vaziti hurledhis spear at Golphez, who held his arms in front of him like a feeble shield. A mushy thunk! echoed in the cave and was followed by a plastic clatter. The spear went clean through Golphez and struck the wall behind him. Although no one noticed, a brittle shower of rocks rattled onto the honeytar. When they fell,they uncovered a tiny, blood-covered hole in the wall, precisely where Vaziti’s spear had struck. Golphez gargled and died.

Vaziti’s hoarse guffaw rumbled inside the cave. While he laughed, Giti wept thinly. She rested her elbows – forever – on the honeytar and buried her face hopelessly in her hands. There was nothing she could do to stop Vaziti. There was nothing she could do to stop the honeytar. There was nothing to do but weep.

Vesa gazed at her through the night. As the sun rose, so did the honeytar, quickly sealing over his small mouth and nose. Darkness swallowed him as he wondered which would be worse, the honeytar or a spear.

* * *

After two days of careful sketching and lively discussion, the archaeologists were ready to pack up. Wells had decided to take one more brief tour of the whole cave, in order to gain perspective on the cave as a whole site.

Tibbon, as usual, trailed behind the others. And, as usual, he didn’t listen to a word Wells said. In fact, he stopped once he came to the wall painting, while the other three went on to the back. The wall was all he had looked at for the last two days. He was always drawn to the thin, beautiful figure. And a chill always crawled his neck when he saw the brutal spear-brandishing figure. And he always smiled briefly at the tiny figure who seemed to be staring at the beautiful woman figure. Tears filled his eyes and, for a moment, the figures shimmered with life, a life long gone.

Suddenly, in the back of the cavern, a sudden shower of small rocks rattling down the wall startled the archaeologists.

“Bloody hell!” shouted Givmore.

All heads whipped left, sending a pack of orange flashlight beams cutting through the dusty air to the source of the noise. Someone dropped his clipboard, sending a plastic twang! through the cave.

Hunt tried to calm everyone down as Wells investigated in the back of the cave. “Don’t worry, everyone! It’s just some loose rocks. But don’t move, this cave might be less secure than we thought,” called Hunt

“Some rocks must have jarred loose somehow. It looks all right,” added Wells.

“Bloody hell,” murmured Givmore again as he wiped sweat from his forehead. Everyone’s nerves were already tense, so it was tacitly decided the day was over.

A few pebbles and a torrent of dust had rolled toward their feet, followed by a single larger rock that bumped against Tibbon’s boot. Tibbon couldn’t help but notice how the rock made an almost hollow, fragile sound as it rolled. It sounded more like hard wood or bone than rock. The shape of the rock as well caught Tibbon’s eye. It didn’t seem natural, natural for a rock at least. For one thing, it was perfectly symmetrical, and oblong. The stone also had shallow grooves running along it, like deep seams on a rugby ball, or channels carved in a coconut. It looked almost as if it had not been molded by time, but rather by a more careful hand. The two shallow divots at the front of the rock stared right up at Tibbon’s face, almost pleading with him.

Tibbon didn’t hear the tired shuffling of his partners leaving the cave. He was jarred from his macabre daze when Hunt called back, “Come on, Tibbon. We’ve had a full day. Let’s eat. I bet your cot’s more comfortable than this place anyway.”

Tibbon absentmindedly mumbled a “Right” back at Hunt. He had to strain his head away from the mutely insistent divots in the rock nesting at his trembling foot. As he staggered away from the cave painting, glancing at the sketches of a hunt, of a tribal dance, of a meeting, he realized all of it was gone. These cavemen were trapped forever on a cave wall. Their dreams frozen in time. Their injustices forever forgotten. Their triumphs buried under the weight of progress. And the spear-brandishing figure’s stark act of violence immortalized in this one wall. Tibbon’s eyes watered. And just then, through the blur of tears, Tibbon noticed two small dots on one of the inken faces, mutely pleading with him...

He scrambled toward the light at the cave entrance. He ran out into the light, frantically huffing and puffing. For one terrifying instant, Tibbon looked over the desert, orange in the setting sunlight, and was sure he was the only human left alive.

Devastated, he feebly moaned, “They’re all gone. We’re all gone.”

Givmore’s whiny tenor, however, proved him wrong.

“Hurry up, chap! Some of us know when to call it quits and eat. Follow our lead, old boy.”

Tibbon hopped down the rocks and trotted to the Hummer like a worn out child. He had the weight of a distant world hanging from his eyes, on his shoulders, around his ankles.

Inside the jeep, on the way back to camp, Tibbon looked at every face in the jeep. He darted from face to face, more sure with each glance that their heads were shriveling up into the bony permanence of skulls.

And during the whole ride to camp, as Tibbon was slowly unraveling, Wells absentmindedly picked at the curious drops of hard shiny plastic that had gotten stuck to his boot when he had inspected the tumble of rocks in the cavern. It’s like amber or petrified honey, Wells distractedly thought to himself, too intent on the marvelous sunset to care what was on his boot.

“One of a kind. Never again...” he murmured admiringly.


The Ties That Bind -- by Elliot Bougis

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For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of the last century. With the increasing extension of the press, which kept placing new political, religious, scientific, professional, and local organs before the readers, an increasing number of readers became writers…. [T]oday there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. … At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer.

– Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936)

You’d think the field would be exhausted by now. After centuries of meticulous bookmaking, you wouldn’t expect to hear about a new bookbinding technique. But that didn’t stop Sheila Summers from binding a book in an all new way. Though her method has no trade name (yet), Summers reports,

I developed this technique myself -- it is not a traditional method for bookbinding. … It is not as complex as traditional case bindings, but still fairly durable. … My method doesn’t require special skills, tools, equipment or materials. The equipment for traditional binding is expensive, even the home-made versions may be unpractical for a person who only wants to do this as a craft project.

The basic materials you’ll need include fabric for the outside covering, ½ yard of heavy-duty paper-backed fusible webbing, heavy weight thread, a small sewing needle, two pieces of matting board, craft glue. (Be advised: Glue guns and glue sticks are not suitable!) Summers says you’ll also need 25 sheets of 8½ by 11 inch paper (she prefers the slightly heavier 22# paper, but standard copier paper works well), a standard file folder, a ruler or yardstick, an iron and an ironing board. All in all, it sounds like a humble, rather quirky affair.

Yet, for all its summer-camp ordinariness, there’s an air of commercial zeal, even aesthetic pride, in Summers’s writing. There’s a strange ambivalence about boasting, like a sleek sales agent, that a binding technique has all the benefits of durability without the burdens of expensive equipment and admitting that the technique is ideal for a mere “craft project.” But ambivalence – between ordinariness and splendor – is at the heart of bookbinding.

Books have come a long way. An online encyclopedia states the

art and business of bookbinding began with the protection of parchment manuscripts with boards. Papyrus had originally been produced in rolls, but sheets of parchment came to be folded and fastened together with sewing by the 2d cent. A.D. In the Middle Ages the practice of making fine bindings for these sewn volumes rose to great heights; books were rare and precious articles, and many were treated with exquisite bindings: they were gilded, jeweled, fashioned of ivory, wood, leather, or brass.

These words capture the central ambiguity of bookbinding. Books were invented as a dully practical means for storing information, but they would not settle for such meager ends. They rose to great aesthetic heights and became a centerpiece of advanced culture, a metonym for intelligence. But books have rarely been purely vessels of knowledge. Most people see books as the utilitarian devices they were invented to be. But ask any bookbinder and you’ll know the truth: a book is a work of art among blind critics, a gourmet meal among anorexics.

Grab a book. Not only are you holding a tiny estuary of the massive, ancient river of human wisdom, but also, less obviously, the fruit of centuries of master craftsmanship. The Victorian Bookbinders’ Guild, Inc. (VBG) asks, “What are the principle parts of a book?” Answer: Pages, Sections, End papers (blank or decorated pages between the text block and covers), Boards or Cover (or Case if made of cloth or leather), Spine (back), Foredge (front edge), Head (top of book), Tail (bottom of book), and Head Bands (colored strip at head and tail of book), to name a few. Bookbinding is as detailed as bloodless anatomy. The skeleton of a book is the section, which is “a printed sheet of paper where the printing is set in such a way that when the sheet is folded properly and trimmed all the pages run consecutively. Sixteen pages are common but there can be eight or twelve or even thirty two using very thin paper.”

How are a book’s organs surgically assembled? What’s the physiology of bookbinding? First, the experts at VBG explain, collate the pages and sections and then sew them together with any of a myriad of thread options. Next, tip on the end papers, glue the spine, and round the pages. Then, cut the boards, make and title the case, and, finally, glue the text block into the case. All of these particular steps fall under two categories: Forwarding and Finishing. Forwarding, a writer at the Dennis Gouey Bookbinding Studio explains,

covers collating, cleaning, sewing, backing, head-banding, putting on the leather, everything, in fact, that prepares the book for decorating and lettering. ‘Finishing’ comprises the designing of cover decoration, tooling of sides and back, as well as whatever decoration is done on the inside of the cover.

The more advanced student faces an array of strange terms and technical conundrums. How exactly do you want to bind your book? There is full binding (in which the book is covered in one material), half binding (in which the spine and corners are covered by one material and the rest by another), quarter binding (in which one material covers the spine and another covers the rest of the book), blind tooling (in which a leather cover is titled and decorated with a foil), and even the optional doublure (a decorative fill-in often pasted on the inside of the front and back covers of a leatherbound book). For commercial binders, even more options abound, including wire binding, plastic binding, glue binding, and fabric binding.

For the dedicated bookbinder, no detail is too small, no glitch too insignificant. One inquirer laments, “When sewing my text block, I find that the pages and the text block curls and does [sic] not hold square.” Fear not, the VBG book master knows best: “Before sewing, check that the paper has the grain running vertically. This helps the book to lay [sic] square and folds [sic] flat.” When faced with the apparently innocuous question, “What is the best universal glue to use in bookbinding?” even the most experienced bookbinder must concede the profundity of this riddle: “There is no easy solution to this.” (Fortunately for those of us without the luxury of contemplating the sticky mysteries of glue, archival PVA can be used for most purposes.)

Clearly, bookbinding is an intricate craft, with its own professional tricks and theoretical lacunae. Alas, the commonality of books smothers the richness of their production. Bookbinders are perhaps the least recognized artists in the contemporary world (surpassed in artistic ingratitude perhaps only by car interior designers). Despite their general obscurity, however, many bookbinders maintain a strong sense of their noble pedigree. There is often a strain of elitism among bookbinders, almost as if their obscurity proves they are the purest of artists. Bookbinders seem to enjoy working unseen, underappreciated, as they guard an ancient craft without which, they know, the world would never have survived. Bookbinders are the smirking stoics of the art world.

Inasmuch as it’s a common trait among bookbinders (but who could keep psychological tabs on such a subtle league?) their stoical attitude may have its roots in their greatest forerunners: medieval Christian monks. A writer for the British antique and collectible book shop, P&D Doorbar, notes that until 1450, monasteries had a virtual monopoly on book production. While the books were exquisitely handmade, they were, largely due to the economic and technological unfeasibility of producing many such books, rare treasures of a few parishes, monastic scriptoria, and well-off Church leaders. A millennium later, bookbinding has not fully outgrown its religious, cloistered bent. For example, the writer of the Dennis Gouey Studio’s introduction to the craft muses:

One of the first questions asked by the seeker after knowledge … is, what constitutes the difference between a well bound book and the ordinary book of commerce? It is surprising how small the percentage is of persons who have any definite knowledge as to what the elements of a good binding are. Knowledge on this subject has spread very slightly, and only among a very limited class of people; so it is always necessary to explain carefully to the inquirer just what makes this difference.

There is a decidedly Gnostic flavor to these words. With every word, “the seeker after knowledge” (the religious neophyte?) senses she is about to be shown dread secrets of the universe. How does one escape the evil world of “ordinary” commercial books? Heed well, and thou shalt learn. “The ordinary book of commerce,” quips Gouey’s biblio-Gnostic,

which is generally sold in boards with a cloth or paper cover [i.e., glue-bound], is really not bound at all. The book is sewn by machinery, and the cover, which is technically known as a casing, is also made by machinery…. The connection between this so-called “cover” and the book itself is of the very slightest nature. The tapes or cords on which the book is sewn are held to the cover simply by one thickness of paper, and in some instances by one thickness of “crinoline.” … A well-bound book, on the other hand, is properly sewn with linen or silk on linen cords; these cords are laced into each board in so firm a manner that it is impossible to remove the board without cutting the cord or tearing the boards to pieces. … The boards are then covered either entirely or in part with leather, which is a further strong connection between the cover and the book proper. … The book is then properly decorated either with a simple title or with whatever elaboration or decoration is desired.

“Really.” “So-called.” “The very slightest nature.” “Simply.” “Properly.” Read in a cynical light, these words betray artistic snobbery at its finest (or worst). The marks of a well bound book are known only by “a very limited class of people” – the rest are ignorant outsiders. Read in a more charitable light, however, a tone of philanthropic condescension comes through: “Pity the masses! They don’t even know ‘the elements of a good binding’!”

On either reading, the religious character of bookbinding is clear. Just as bookbinding has its own anatomy, it has its own ethics. There are devotional standards and artistic maxims:

The amateur who begins work with a view to becoming a good binder should in every possible way cultivate a liking not only for the special work he undertakes, but also for allied lines of art, and will do well to observe the following maxims:

1st.. [sic] Learn to care for really well-bound books by familiarizing one’s self with such bindings and with fine editions of good literature, worthy of fine bindings.

2d. To make careful study of the details of mechanism, beauty and adaptation of fine binding; and also to gain accurate knowledge of the discrepancies and dangers that beset inferior work.

3d. To make perfection the goal of every effort. To do one’s absolute best with every stroke of work, from least to greatest, and to condone no failures save through renewed knowledge, ability and effort to do better.

The Benedictines – or the Boy Scouts – would be proud. The bookbinders’ rule of faith is chipper and clear. Learn from the best-bound books. Study technique diligently. Strive for perfection from forward to finish. Repent of every binding sin, venal or mortal, and transcend it through renewed knowledge.

The soul of bookbinding is religious, even mystical, but what about its body? Though the religiously artistic ethos of bookbinding has remained fairly stable, the craft’s techniques and visible results have undergone radical changes in the past millennium. While bookbinding’s soul has been, for the most part, content to rummage for thread and vellum in monastic solicitude, its body has restlessly adapted to its surrounding environment. Indeed, the form and face of the bound book is and always has been a barometer for a society’s progress. The way we make books tell us a lot about ourselves.

Around 1450, during the monastic incunabula (“infancy”) of bookbinding, books were handmade and uniquely exquisite. But the craft was too individualistic and tedious to create a publishing industry. Thus, in medieval Europe, the book was a tangible reminder – a kind of sacrament – of both the literally manual nature of life and of the rare value of fine things in a world too long beleaguered by barbarian feuds, Viking attacks, disease, hunger, and political disunity in the wake of Rome’s collapse.

By the 16th and 17th centuries, printing technology had advanced with the use of intaglio book plates, and the first commercial publishers appeared. During the 18th and early-19th centuries handmade binding was at its peak. The craft had moved from secluded monasteries to the workshops of master craftsmen that oversaw every stage of production. Although books were still the almost exclusive property of the wealthy, chapbooks (small, cheap religious or comical pamphlets) were sold to the poorer masses. Publishers were often also book sellers in their own shops, but mass, mechanical production did not come into its own until the middle and end of the 19th century – which is precisely when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. It was during this time that the excellence of master craftsmen succumbed to the efficiency of information proliferation, resulting in terribly bound books. The former connection between craftsman and seller was broken by a network of private retailers. Bookbinding, like society itself, began focusing more on sheer production than the product itself. Books, like laborers, were but reproducible pieces in a larger economic machine.

By the beginning of the 20th century, as photographic techniques advanced, topographical books became common – just as society tried to keep pace with the global discoveries harvested by colonialism. It also became popular to produce Christmas gift books, which signals the beginning of seasonal marketing as we know it today. One major development in the tradition of “chapbook” mass literature was the establishment of the Everyman Library, which reprinted scores of classic and rare works – some of which that have never been available elsewhere – at reasonable prices for “the common man.”

Predictably enough, the onset of the First World War and the ensuing Great Depression, led to austerely bound, cheap books, in which artwork was confined to disposable dust jackets. Eventually, however, good color lithography became normal, especially in Europe. (Think of Jean de Brunhoff’s “Barbar” books.) The publication of Penguin books in 1935 was perhaps as significant for the preservation of quality bookbinding as the Everyman Library was for the encouragement of public literacy. Penguin’s early editions were stitched like hardbacks, and, like hardbacks, had their own designer dust jackets. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Penguin was an oasis for bookbinding, which quickly – but briefly – resorted to inferior paper and binding. By the middle of the 20th century in USAmerica – in the general postwar boom – book clubs were common and provided inexpensive reprints. Bookbinding thus achieved a precarious balance between the horns of its historical dilemma: well bound books versus readily available books.

And then, in a flash, it seemed as if the old dilemma was exploded. The supremacy of private choice and radical diversity propelled by the European and USAmerican cultural revolutions brought a liberating chaos to the bookbinding world – and to the world at large. “The development of modern presses and compositing,” says the P&D Doorbar historian, “meant that there was now almost no limit to the ways in which text and illustration could be combined on a page.” Likewise for the world, commercial limitlessness, sensual variability and diversity for diversity’s sake have become de rigueur. The paperback became – and still is – the dominant form of book. The age of hardbound posterity and traditional craftsmanship was over. The age of information, flexibility and low-cost utility had dawned.

Where does bookbinding stand today? It is being rent in two directions. On the one hand, the juggernaut of global capitalism has commodified information to such an extent that books are becoming little more than storage vessels for any and all information. Today, for example, a technique called “print on demand” (POD) is rising in popularity. Want a copy of Stanley L. Jaki’s exorbitant and hard-to-find Uneasy Genius, or that one elusive volume of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, both of which you’ve been hunting for months? Simple. Just stop by your local bookstore, request the titles, and enjoy a mocha frap while your books are printed and bound at low cost – in about fifteen minutes – in the back of the store. Would you like that hardbound or paperback? What color cover would you like? Would you like that gift-wrapped? (Would you like fries with that?) In 1936 the famous German cultural critic, Walter Benjamin, noted the increasing intellectual permeability between readers and writers, which the Internet apotheosizes. In much the same way, the barrier between bookbinders and customers is disintegrating. The barbarians are at the gate.

On the other hand, there is a chivalrous impulse among purist binders to restore – or at least protect – the artistic allure bookbinding has always had. Books are being shunted by mass society back into their original servitude to information. But the bookbinders’ unsung resistance is strong. Just as in the Middle Ages monks sought shelter in monasteries, and thus preserved the world, so today’s bookbinders find shelter in the excellence of their craft while the commercial barbarians wage war beyond the hallowed walls of fine crafts.

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art…”

Summers reports,

The basic materials Summers says

An online encyclopedia explains

The Victorian Bookbinders’ Guild, Inc. (VBG) asks

Forwarding, a writer at the Dennis Gouey Bookbinding Studio explains,

For commercial binders, even more options abound,

One inquirer complains,

When faced with the apparently innocuous question,

A writer for the British antique and collectible book shop, P&D Doorbar,

For example, the writer of the Dennis Gouey Studio’s introduction

There are devotional standards and artistic maxims:

Around 1450, during the monastic incunabula (“infancy”) of bookbinding,

“The development of modern presses and compositing,”

Today, a technique called “print on demand” (POD)
“The Victorian Bookbinders’ Guild, Inc. Newsletter,” Volume 21, Number 4 (May 2002), pg. 7

I was in Taiwan when this article was due so my access to offline resources in English was limited; hence the over-abundance of Internet resources. Eh, I get by.

Taiwan Webloggin, Vol. II

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Tuesday 20 July -- Got up late (surprised?). Remembered real shoes and went to greenhouse rain forest at Nat'l Science Musuem (ke1xue2 bo2u4guan4). A great deal for $NT20 a person. Lots of interesting plants to see up close and personal. A ridiculously small "aquarium" for some of the biggest fish I have ever seen: two or three redtail catfish, two doras catfish (ripsaw catfish), about three tiger catfish, a dozen or so parapatinga, a silver dorado, and three MASSIVE red-aft brown-bow osteoglossidae (which from my beggar's Latin means "tongue's bone"). Then we walked to Caves and read the news; caught a taxi home and then rode to Victor for class 1700-2000. Rode home, very tired and hungry; no sign of peeps. After some confusion Erick, Allison and I ate at Salut's. Late night blogging (vom vom vom).

Wednesday 21 July -- Out the door about 1130. Taxi to gym. Pleasant chat with taxi driver: ABCs, ABFs, etc. Good workout; met foreigner, English school owner, Mark from Seattle. Got cell phone recharged. We walked to a great wen4 tuen1 (?) soup and bao1zi5 place. Then to train station, met Janet, bought tix for Taipei. WIll catch train in Taipei to Hualien tomorrow c. noon, God willing. Then Janet, Allison and I bummed at Chongyou mall, then to Ichung shopping. I got trial contacts. (Did I mention touching the cornea causes some strong blinking reflexes, makes me tear up, shiver and makes Allison and Janet laugh at me?) I've been fairly exhausted since getting the lenses in. Time to bury the blogging and pack up.

Augustine Day by Day - July 21 - The Devil's Entry: Cupidity and Fear

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"Now the devil does not seduce or influence anyone unless he finds that person already somewhat similar to himself. He finds someone coveting something, and cupidity opens the door for the devil's suggestion to enter. The devil finds someone fearing something, and he advises that person to flee what is feared. By these two doors, cupidity and fear, the devil gains entry."

-- Sermon 12, 11

Prayer. Lord, you have saved my soul from the constraint of fear, so that it may serve you in the freedom of love.

-- Commentary on Psalm 30 (1), 8

July 21

"A man that avoids sin to escape hell does not fear sinning but burning." -- Augustine

Christian Heritage - July 21 - Love Follows Knowledge of the Good

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"The prophets had a clearer knowledge of God, just as the splendor of sunrise surpasses that of dawn and the first half-light of day. They knew God as the supreme being, eternal, self-subsistent, infinite, the sole origin of all things. Unlike the philosophers, however, they knew him to be the source not only of nature but of grace as well, and the ruler not only of the world but also of the people of God. They knew him as Lord, the most holy, just, good, and great king and judge, of infinite power, wisdom, benevolence, mercy, justice, and love. Yet they had no clear knowledge that God is both one and three, that he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"It is our privilege that God has revealed to us this divine, incomprehensible, and ineffable mystery, and given us sublime knowledge of himself so that we should love him with the highest, most perfect kind of love. For just as warmth follows the light of the sun, so love follows knowledge of the good. An unknown good cannot possibly be loved, but a known good is loved in proportion to its goodness and our knowledge of it. Now God is infinitely good, he is all goodness, just as the sun is all light and fire is all heat."

Lawerence of Brindisi (AD 1559-1619), Opera Omnia, VIII, 451-452

Lawrence was a Capuchin and preached throughout Europe before dying in Lisbon, Portugal.

In This One Wall (part 4) -- by Elliot Bougis

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part 1

part 2

part 3

* * *

If you had the eyes of a wallal bird, keen as binoculars and shiny as diamonds, you could have seen the nebulous, granite-colored smudge creeping across the Geveldar sands. And if you had been watching a while, you would have seen this rough-edged smudge coalesce out of the Stro sands like frail iron flakes moved by a careful magnet. And if – while gliding a little lower, the winds dancing merrily under your papery yellow wings, and then leisurely soaring back into the air, occassionally diving down and snatching up a mangy sand rat to devour – you kept your eye on the boring smudge, you would see this strange little smudge start to split up. All of a sudden, a gray or black dot would split from the bigger smudge and freeze on the black desert below. If the winds were right, you might hear a faint moaning sound rise up from this single speck. You might hear the smudge yelp and then grumble faintly. Either way, your small, flinty eyes would see the clump of iron chips would keep trudging through the sand, leaving a black speck behind.

But, let’s say you didn’t have such good eyes. Perhaps, instead, you had the eyes of a juufas, your skin leathery, dull and red like a faded jacket. Then – as you slithered blindly through the sands, your wafer-thin dorsal fin occasionally spitting up sand, your wedge-shaped eel’s head sometimes ramming into a buried rock, your flat teeth grinding sand – you’d have to wiggle right up close to the tattered smudge. But then, so close, your opaque green, marble, pea-sized eyes would dimly recognize that the smudge is no smudge at all. It is a group of glugs. Sand crunches minutely in your jaws. Your smoky eyes don’t shift. These glugs are staggering someplace under the brutal brick red sun. One of them yelps and points at you. The others make loud noises; some fall down. One of them doesn’t get back up. You hear a wallal screech far above you.

But regardless how keen or dull your eyes are, the glug smudge bores you. The winds swirl around and under you. You grind sand in your teeth, or munch on a fragile bone. It is hot, and so you move on. Wherever your eyes rove next, it is at least past the glugs. Soon you forget about them as you slither or glide past the Huyi caves, which stick out of the sands like orange-brown rainbows. To some glugs, the caves you just passed look like giants’ hollow eyelids, stuck in the sand, staring into the sun. But they need not stare much longer. The sun is setting. The sand is softening. The giants fall asleep and their eyes fill with darkness as the sun fades. The empty eyes did not see all of the glugs leave the distant Stro caves this morning, and they will not see all of them reach the Huyi caves tonight.

* * *

Kasex felt his back trembling in protest. The sun struck him maroon and heavy. He was dragging three full truvets behind him; Giti’s orders. When they had left the Stro caverns that morning, Kasex was leading the group. He’d been edgy and ready to leave any second. He’d had the same feelings as a man who must decide between running from a slowly burning house – only to escape onto a long, rickety bridge over a bottomless cavern. To stay is to die. To leave is to die – probably. Eyes closed, he was whispering to himself, “It’s not mud. It’s sand. It’s not mud. It’s sand …”. He hadn’t opened his eyes for an hour, and he didn’t care either. Somehow, he was sure they were headed in the right direction. But he was not so sure they would get to the Huyi caves before the – well, before nighttime.

Memories of the day tumbled languorously through his mind. The faces of those who had fallen behind – Dyup, Lealli, Vytro – flipped through his tired mind like subliminal ads on a movie screen. They had stumbled, moaned a little, insisted they could make it on their own, but never rejoined the group. A few had stayed behind with the fallen, but the others had to keep moving.

Kasex wondered if those who had stayed behind weren’t right. Maybe this trek was suicide. Maybe the Stro caverns would be fine. Maybe the shiny tar would stop. But Kasex instantly remembered watching the slime the night before they left. It had moved so fluidly all night. He was certain it would reach camp.

In fact, Kasex was right. The Stro caverns were not safe. When they decided to stay, none of the stowaways had known that the goo had already half-filled the trench, rolling over the futile blockade as mercilessly as a tank tread. Neither did they realize that during the night, the honeytar had spread its narrow fingers closer into camp. By the time the group had left, one long stream of honeytar had passed Kasex’s empty cave. Neither were the stubborn glugs aware that the honeytar had swallowed Masu. So, in the predawn darkness, when Giti and Kasex and others had pleaded with these stubborn glugs to escape with them, they had refused. We’re fine here, they insisted, ignorantly. The Huyi caves were too far away, they protested. Die if you want to, some had whispered from their caves.

Kasex’s eyes snapped open when his foot made a faint splash. His other foot made the same mushy sound. He stopped abruptly and dropped the truvet sacks. “It’s coming,” Kasex moaned to himself.

“The mositening!” a strident voice called out.

“We have to hurry. Pick up your legs!” Vollo commanded.

In the mad dash, Wafpu fell down. A few nearby glugs stopped to pick him up. Vesa shrieked when he saw a juufas pop up from the sand. It clicked its teeth and submerged. Gudry strained his neck up to see the wallali shrieking high overhead. Mud spattered on the glugs’ faces as they sprinted. Drops of gritty mud blinded a few of the weary glugs. They staggered aimlessly, but stumbled into rapidly softening desert, never to rise again. The brick red sun sank frighteningly quickly. Thin green mist was hovering on the horizon.

“I see a cave,” squeaked Vesa.

His strained shout spurred the glugs on. But then Vollo, poor old glug, fell behind. He moaned sadly, too exhausted to move. No one noticed him as they trampled headlong toward the cave. Giti dropped her pack and hoisted Vesa onto her shoulders. Everyone was jogging now, some supporting the weak.

Kasex sprinted in front of the others, but accidentally dropped his truvet pack. Buudi tripped over the bag, and was trampled in the shin deep swamp by the other glugs, who were sprinting blindly now. Just as he heard Buudi scream and trip, Kasex clumsily dove into the nearest cave. The exhausted and terrified mob of glugs tumbled on top of him. They were all huffing and weeping in the dark on the cave floor. The only other sounds across the desert were those of the other glugs drowning outside, in the distance. Pathetic moans, mixed with faint gurgling, slapping noises of hopeless escape, echoed into the cave.

* * *

A hollow moan howled across the Nevada desert. Tibbon jerked awake. Disoriented, he heard faint gurgling, slapping noises outside his tent. His eyes bugged in horror. It sounded like death laughing. Tibbon rubbed his eyes roughly and embarassedly realized where he was. The gurgling was just Hunt snoring contentedly. The slapping noises were just loose pebbles skipping along the plains, occasionally scraping against his tent.

He plopped back down on his sleeping back, but was too wired to sleep again for a while. So he wriggled over to his tent door and unzipped it. He rested his head outside the tent on the sea of sand beneath to gaze at the sea of stars above. His mind wandered aimlessly. He wondered if life was going on up there, too. Were “they” watching TV up there? Was it dinner time?

Tibbon’s grin evaporated when he realized something. Many of those stars were already exploded. He was watching balls of fire that just hadn’t faded out yet. They didn’t realize they were dead. All of those lives vaporized in one spectacular nuclear belch from the star’s core. He remembered Superman with a little hope. His planet had exploded, after all, and he had escaped. Had anybody made it off of those planets? No, thought Tibbon, the Jetsons, the Robinson family, the Enterprise, anyone else – all of them up there were weightless cinders frozen forever in the cosmic holocaust exploding around him. How soon until our sun burps, he wondered. When will we be embers?

The enormity of his thoughts struck him. He exhaled sharply. He didn’t like thinking about that. So instead he poked his index finger out of the top of his sleeping bag, and began haphazardly connecting the dots. What do they spell, he wondered. Finding no clear pattern, he then tried naming the stars. Mickey Mouse glowed next to Donald Duck, and Spider Man dangled above them both.

Tibbon paused again. It dawned on him that he’d never be on this same patch of sand on this same night to see these silently blazing stars. He wondered if the people, or rather, proto-people, who painted the cave drawings in W-23 had once stood where he now slept to look at these stars. Had the short figure hunched in the drawing seen that one, Tibbon asked himself. Or, had the spear-brandishing figure ever pointed to that tiny, flickering aqua star, over there? Had the thin, beautiful woman in the center ever smiled at the star that now brought a childish smile to Tibbon’s face?

The wind kicked dust into his eyes, and he cried a little. The tears and brown dust made the stars look like amber drops of rain spattering against a dark rock face. He blinked again but now the stars became a dusty ruby-red haze, like blood swirling in water. Tibbon blinked hard once more and the sky became a flat, honey-colored canvas, frozen in time. There were no stars, Tibbon realized groggily. There was only the yellow. Tibbon slept fitfully that night.

* * *

The exhausted clump of glugs didn’t move for nearly a day. Their bodies had settled into relatively comfortable positions and shut down, hibernated, for through the next day.

Gradually, the next night, they woke. Thick eyelids blinked in the dark. Flat arms stretched out in the darkness. Narrow feet scraped along the cave. Truvet shirts creaked and thoughts spun. None of them knew where they were, but that was irrelevant. They were alive. Yet, even that fact had a hollowness to it the glugs had never known. They were alive, but that was a mere consolation to what they were feeling. Exhausted, bruised, hungry. Lost home, lost friends, disorientation.

As yet, the glugs weren’t suffering the deep depression that followed in the next few days. In those next few days, the reality of their near-death and their total loss struck them at different levels. For now though, they were emotionally numb.

“Who … who made it,” Giti asked hoarsely. “Who’s here?”

Sore groans and shuffling was the response. Some glugs, Kasex among them, crouched at the cave mouth, scouting for other caves. The rest of the glugs migrated near the cave mouth, which let in faint blue light from the moon. Friends clumped together. Families, or what remained of them, found each other. Some glugs stepped through the group, looking for a friend or a neighbor or a relative. But the friends and neighbors and relatives weren’t in the crowd; they were in the desert. At final count, there were about thirty glugs left.

“Where are we?” whispered Vesa. He hovered around Giti’s legs like a cat purring against a woman’s legs.

“These must be the Huyi caves,” answered Avret, one of the oldest Stro glugs to make it. “There aren’t any other cave camps before them.”

“But we must be on the outskirts. I saw a couple other caves father south,” added Kasex. He didn’t look up when he spoke. He was filled an aching shame. During the long sleep, he had woken up several times to count the glugs around and on him. He always got the same number, and then inevitably listed to himself which glugs had died in the desert. Many times he couldn’t get past the first name on his list: Buudi. Guilt made his eyes squint and his lips purse and his stomach clench. He knew, he knew, his truvet bag had tripped and killed him. Every time he woke up, he was still mumbling the words he mouthed in his sleep: “My brother … brother … Bu … Buudi…”. Each time he awoke, while the sun beat down outside, he stood up and strained his eyes trying to find both of them, his brother and Buudi, in the jumble of glugs.

While in his nightmarish nostalgia, staring across the moonlit swamp, hearing his brother’s long ago cries rolling over the landscape, Kasex didn’t hear the other glugs talking.

“The sun’s almost up, so we can find the rest of the Huyi caves,” advised Avret.

“They’re south,” chimed in Foog.

“Wait, though, we need food,” reminded Sonop.

They debated and haggled for a few more minutes. Then, as soon as the sun rose and the sands firmed, ten glugs were sent out to gather any food they could find. Another ten glugs were to guard the cave while the last ten headed toward the other Huyi caves. By midday, these tattered diplomats reached the Huyi camp center and told the Huyi chief their plight. Meanwhile, pickings were scarce for the scavenger glugs: a few cacti, two dead sandy truvets, and a withered wallal carcass. Fortunately, though, the Huyi chief had plenty of food and shelter to spare. Within an hour after regrouping, the glugs left their abandoned cave and headed for the Huyi camp. For the first time in the last few days, the glugs smiled and chatted lightly. They left their cares and mediocre food behind. Not one of them thought of the golden tide of honeytar that still inexorably devoured the world behind them and crept its way toward them.

Only Vesa lagged behind. When she turned around to make sure all the glugs were coming, she saw him slowly, resolutely, mechanically thrusting his arms up and down over his shoulder. Small clouds of dark sand landed flatly behind him like graphite trout leaping against a violent river, straining forward for life. She approached him from behind and grabbed his small flat arm when it rose above his shoulder. In his hand, he held his spoon. He was digging. He stared coldly up at Giti, and yanked his arm from her.

“I need to dig,” he droned lifelessly.

“But why, Vesa? We’ve got to go stay at the Huyi caves,” Giti consoled him warmly.

“It’s still coming. I need to dig, a trench,” he answered bluntly.

“No, we made it here. We’re safe,” she answered, now a little nervous.

Vesa didn’t answer. He dug mechanically.

“Come on, now,” chided Giti.

She tugged at his shoulder but he bent deeper into his work. Frustrated, and getting more nervous with every dry slap of his spoon, Giti bodily yanked him away from the shallow hole between his legs. He hung limply as she carried him on her hip to the Huyi caves. His empty gaze never left the pale green horizon to the north. It’s coming, he whispered to himself, as he waved his spoon threateningly at the uncaring desert behind him.

* * *

For a few days, life in the Huyi camp was wonderful. As soon as the tattered Stro glugs were safe inside the Huyi caves, their worries melted away. The terrible memory of the honeytar left them. Surely, the desert buried it. Certainly, it must have run out. Besides, the sun was unusually mild during those first few days, and the air was moist and breezy. Having lost everything when they left Stro, the Stro glugs thrived on the endless novelties of the Huyi camp. The more sheltered Stro glugs marveled at the bustling cave life of the Huyi camp. The Huyi caves, so much larger than what the Stro glugs were used to, were populated with attractions of all kinds – shops, puppet shows, storytellers – like a subterranean downtown. Plus, the Huyi caves were near enough that narrow rope bridges arced between them so Huyi glugs could move from cave to cave, even at night. Also, because the Huyi glugs lived near the magnificent Qwuadril courts even farther to the south, their fine food and clothing dazzled the more primitive Stro cavers. Some Stro glugs traded goods for exquisitely crafted Huyi clothes, while others learned delicious new recipes from the savvy Huyi glugs.

Admittedly, the Stro glugs did briefly brushed against what we might call the dark side of the Huyi camp. Despite their amazing marvels and foods, the Huyi glugs were noticeably more belligerent than the simple Stro glugs. The reason for this unsettling discovery was that the Huyi camp was located near several competing cave cities. These cities formed a rough circle around the hub that was Qwuadril. Usually, these cave cities traded peaceably in the Qwuadril markets. Depending on the item and the season, however, the camps ran into fierce competition. There had been wars before, and the Huyi cavers knew there could be wars again. Hence they were well-trained and well-armed just in case. A number of times, a Stro glug would grimace watching the Huyi spar each other and sharpen their brutal weapons. But, their grimaces were short-lived compared to the charming sedative of Huyi life. The Stro glugs were too happily immersed in marvel and market to dwell on the unpleasant, brutal side of Huyi life.

Only Vesa seemed uncomfortable in the Huyi oasis. The morning after the Stro glugs had slept in the Huyi camp, Vesa woke up early, and tramped directly to the outskirts of the Huyi camp. The young glug had planned ahead: he was wearing a large truvet shirt to protect him from the sun and carried a full flask of moisture. He would need both. For the sun beat down on his puny frame while he crouched stoically in the sand and dug. And dug. All day. By midday, he had carved a three-foot deep trench ten feet long in the hot sands. At times during the day, he would stand tense like a bloodhound on a hunt. His speckled gray eyes scanned the horizon a few moments until he dropped again and calmly began flinging sand behind him. Not even Giti realized Vesa was missing the whole day; her eyes were filled with too many Huyi delights to notice. When the sun began to set, Vesa stood up, gave the horizon one more stern gaze, and trodded mutely back to the distractions of the Huyi camp. By sundown, he was asleep, unconscious to the reverie in the caves around him. He was also unaware that the moisture had melted his puny trench almost as soon as his eyes closed. When he returned to the outskirts the next day, he saw where his trench should have been. Numbly, he tapped his spoon in his hand, looked back at the Huyi camp, looked at the silent green horizon, thought of Giti, and began digging again. Vesa was the unnoticed exception to the rule. The rest of the Stro glugs were indescribably happy. Yes, for a few days, life in the Huyi camp was wonderful.

But that was only for a few days.

One day, the last of those wonderful days in Huyi, Vesa stood to inspect the horizon as he often did. The sands shimmered under the sun like caviar in firelight. A gust of wind swept around Vesa, flicking dust into his eyes. He blinked and wiped his eyes. When he looked at the opalescent sands this time, he noticed a razor-thin slit of gold sandwiched between the ebony sands and emerald sky that hadn’t been there before. His spoon dropped to the sands. Slowly, he turned toward the Huyi camp. Then he turned back to the shiny slit of honeytar cresting the horizon. Giti’s delicate eyes floated in his mind, and he sprinted back to the camp to find her.

Vesa tore through the noisy markets, pushing glugs from behind, shouting Giti’s name. When he finally found her, he clung to her waist like a drowning man. A number of annoyed and curious Huyi glugs converged on the trembling little glug. Giti bent down, trying to get Vesa to tell her what had happened. While she stroked his cheeks and whispered to him, the burly Huyi chief stomped through the onlookers. He had heard the ruckus, and was expecting to find a testy wandering glug, eager for a fight. But there was only Vesa cowering on the sand in Giti’s arms.

“What’s the meaning of all this trouble?” the chief shouted.

“He’s scared. Something happened to him,” answered Giti, defensively.

“If that glug twerp thinks he can disturb our markets and push our glugs, he’s got another thing coming,” exclaimed the chief, pointing his sausage finger at Vesa.

Vesa’s eyes, dully out of focus, stared at the ground. He began mouthing something. His words became louder as he churned his lips.

“What’s the glug saying?” demanded the chief.

“…kly … ansorm … sarkly sandsorm … sparkly sandstorm,” Vesa chattered.

Once he was chattering loudly enough for the chief to hear him, he stalked over to Vesa and bent down to look in his eyes. He shook Vesa until his eyes focused again on his.

“What are you saying?” he asked belligerently.

Vesa paused a second, and then whispered in chief’s lined face, “The sparkly sandstorm’s coming. It’s coming again.”

The chief, completely mystified, stood up to ask Giti what Vesa meant, but she had sprinted to the outskirts as soon as Vesa had spoken to the chief. She came to Vesa’s little trench and stopped at the edge. On the horizon, she too saw the gleaming line of honeytar. Already it appeared millimeters thicker on the horizon. Giti covered her open mouth quickly. Tears filled the rim of her thick eyelids. She hopped backwards a few steps, but soon sprinted back the camp.

She ran in shouting. “Chief Mojed, Vesa is right! The shiny – it – but we left it behind…”. Giti choked on her words.

Nonplussed, chief Mojed put his blocky hands on his hips and spit at Giti’s feet.

“What are you talking about now? First this boy terrorizes my glugs, and now you’re screeching like a wallal! I demand an answer,” roared the chief. One of his guards yanked Giti by her arm to the chief. She was still unable to speak clearly, and could only look at the chief, weeping, her head rolling left and right. Vesa darted to her side. Out of the stunned crowd, Kasex also ran to her and grabbed her face in his hands.

“Do you mean…? Did you see it again? Is it still coming? Please, tell me, Giti,” grumbled Kasex.

“Yes, it’s there. I saw it. It shined,” Giti trailed off.

Kasex turned to Mojed to explain.

“Chief Mojed, we have to leave now. We left the Stro caves because some sort of sticky ooze was coming into our camp. It killed one of our glugs. We were sure we had left it behind. But it’s here again! We have to leave!” Kasex shouted, partially speaking to the chief, partially to his fellow Stro neighbors.

The other Stro glugs walked out of the crowd, some silently, others talking loudly. They grouped together and debated frantically. Weeps and shouts and the stamping of feet spilled from the jumble of Stro glugs. They grew louder as they began shouting at the shocked Huyi glugs. To the Huyi glugs, they were a frightening, incomprehensible mob of prophets and poets.

“It’s coming! … it killed Kirt Lo! … escape! … help us! … we will die, we have to move!” the tangle of glugs exclaimed.

The outraged Huyi glugs shouted back at them to be quiet. The chief clapped violently, silencing the Stro glugs with a furious roar.

“Silence! Shut your mouths! You are all insane. You are all disgusting to me and my glugs! If, I say, if, there is anything to your pathetic rambling, we will stop it,” shouted chief Mojed.

Proud Huyi glugs clenched their jaws and pounded their fists like spectators. These Stro glugs were weak-necked simpletons. The Huyi ruled the Qwuadril desert. They feared nothing. To prove it, chief Mojed regally summoned his greatest warrior, Gossa. Gossa’s skin was as dark as the sands. He was a head taller than most glugs, and his muscles were knotted dangerously like grenades. Knives and other deadly weapons dangled from his truvet shirt like rubber dock-bumpers on the hard face of a boat. He beamed before his neighbors like an Olympian.

“Gossa is as fast as the winds. As strong as a deklar. As ruthless as a hungry juufas. He will face your chimerical terror. He is Huyi,” boasted Mojed.

The glugs reverentially followed Gossa to the outskirts like ducklings. The Stro glugs broke into moans and choppy shouts when they saw the strip of honeytar cresting the horizon. Huyi glugs, as well, when they saw the shiny line of honeytar, lying on the sand like a giant plastic noose, stopped short in instinctual fear. To rebuild the quickly draining morale, Mojed clapped above his head and cheered, “Gossa will face these weak glugs’ fear. He will prevail. Huyi reigns!” Glugs echoed their chief excitedly, “Gossa will face the fear … Gossa will prevail …”. Spurred on by their cheers, Gossa deftly vaulted Vesa’s little trench. His sharp figure receded into the horizon as he trotted bravely to the honeytar. After an hour of resting under the scorching sun, the glugs returned to their camp to wait in the shade for Gossa’s return. Meanwhile, the Stro glugs packed their meager belongings. Another hour passed.

Then, suddenly, a screech cut through the camp. The glugs hopped to their feet and began running to the outskirts. Shocked gasps shot from the group of glugs when they looked at the horizon. Gossa had faced the Stro glugs’ fear, indeed. And now he was pinned to it like a fly on sticky tape. He was stuck on his knees like a pauper. Next to him, his spear stood askew. He jerked angrily and shouted a warrior’s curses at the flat wave of honeytar. Then, Gossa shouted so violently that he fell on his side. He must have landed on his mouth too, for the last noise the glugs heard from him were his weapons jangling beneath him. If he was alive, though, that was a moot point. The sun was setting.

Mojed’s face flushed a deep purple and he pounded his wrists on his chubby thighs. The Huyi glugs instantly surrounded the stern-looking Stro glugs. They circled slowly like hunting dogs. Mojed unexpectedly bellowed something unclear and terrible. Instantly, the rest of the Huyi glugs dove upon the Stro glugs. Sharp daggers hacked at powerless limbs, spears drove into mottled brown flesh, Stro blood splashed onto the sands. And in the distance, already sealing away Gossa forever, the honeytar inched forward eagerly. It was as if it fed off the spilled blood and the leapt forward at the savage shrieks of battle. It oozed covetously, as if it was desperate to get to the glugs before they could get rid of each other. Which would be worse, I wonder, honeytar or a dagger?

“Enough!” screamed Mojed, his face streaked with blood. “We have avenged Gossa! Seize the survivors.”

Only three Stro glugs, Giti, Kasex, and Vesa, rose from the carnage. Their hands were quickly lashed behind them. The three survivors were pushed in front of the angry Huyi cavers as they hurried back home, aware of the setting sun. Once inside the main camp, Mojed decided to spare their lives by selling them into the slave markets in the Qwuadril courts. They would be sold tomorrow to the first bidder. Mojed pompously ignored Kasex’s admonitions to escape. The Huyi would never leave. They would reign forever. Mojed’s shouts still ringing in their ears, the three survivors fell into fitful sleeps. It was the last time they would be the Huyi caves. Then again, it was the last time any wandering glug would be in the Huyi camp.