Friday, October 31, 2003

Tonight is Halloween for people, but last night there was a Halloween party for dogs on my block. I missed the best part of it, because I was at Temple, but I caught the tail end of it when I came home. Over fifty dogs participated, some wearing costumes (there were prizes, and photos were taken), others came as themselves. I saw a large bulldog in a frilly tutu full of sequins, very fetching.

The dogs paraded up and down the street, accompanied by their owners, naturally, and they stopped at every building that has a lobby and a doorman, and had a good time doing their party tricks. In my own building, Joe the evening doorman had come to work with a big bag of dog treats, and he reported that: "Wow! Some of those big dogs... snapped up... I thought for a moment my arm was going to come off!"

The three dogs from my building who attended didn't wear costumes.

Sam is a stunning six-year old cocker spaniel, who was rescued by his present owner from a dismal home, where he had been shackled in a dark, damp basement on the end of a very short chain, never taken out for a walk or a run. Six is fairly old, for a dog, but looking at Sam you would never guess his age. Every day is now a day for rejoicing for Sam, he is never jaded about this new feeling of being free to run and do whatever he wants, to investigate every package, explore every smell, whatever his little doggy heart wants. I want to know what Sam eats for breakfast, maybe I should eat the same, maybe I would be as full of pep as he is, if I did. Whenever he has had a bath and has been groomed, he truly is a beauty, a wonder of nature. I have to admit, however, that his energy level is so high that I avoid riding the elevator with him, because he makes me feel nervous, after a while.

George and Jack are retired racing greyhounds. Talk about the exact opposite of "silly little dogs", these are canine aristocrats. Jack is a soft, allover caramel color, while George is a zany white with random grey spots. George got his name because he is curious about everything, he's always looking around for what else might be going on that possibly could interest him, he doesn't want to miss anything, whereas Jack is more one-track minded, which is to say he just wants to manifest his friendliness towards you, every one of you human beings, and be petted and caressed by you, every one of you, in return. Both of them look at every human being with liquid, loving, understanding eyes. Considering the way they have been treated all their lives by human beings, until their recent "retirement", they are a miracle of the triumph of the heart over the vicissitudes of experience. "Retirement", for a racing greyhound, means that whenever they reach the point where they no longer can run after that mechanical "rabbit" for the pleasure of the sporting gambler, whenever they become useless and not worth their keep anymore, they get put to sleep.

Jack and George's present owner is a woman with a big heart, part of a growing movement of people who rescue these dogs from certain death, and give them love and a home until their natural time to die arrives. Granted, it may not be an ideal environment for a greyhound to be living in a New York apartment, but believe me, Jack and George look to me to be having a happy time of it, as do all those other greyhounds from the neighborhood who drop by for play dates.

Anyway, I don't know why Trixie, and Mabel, and Emma and her brother whose name I don't remember, and Teddy, and Romeo, and all the other dogs in my building, didn't participate. Maybe their owners thought the party was for today.

The thought that occurs, when one sees the love lavished on pooches makes one wonder all the more at the great unkindnesses other human beings have towards each other elsewhere. There is now quite a famous case, infamous would be a better word, of a couple who have been accused of starving four adopted children, the eldest of whom is 19 years old.

This 19-year old boy has been so malnourished in this particular home that his growth is stunted and he appears to be half his actual age, weighing a mere 45 pounds (about 18 kilos).

You have to wonder how this could have happened. The couple apparently had two of their own children living with them in the house, plus two more adopted children, all of whom appeared to be healthy and normal. Some 38 visits were made to this couple's house in recent months, in connection with their planned adoption of a seventh child, and nobody saw anything wrong. You tell me how this is possible.

The whistle blower was a neighbor, who caught the 19-year old foraging for food in a garbage can.

The couple, when confronted with the state of the four starved children, declared that they had "eating disorders". And yet they had not been examined by a doctor for more than five years?

When you read about the adoption process in America, the overriding impression given is how difficult it is to find a child for adoption over here, plus how difficult it is to be approved for one. This is one of the reasons people go and adopt Rumanians, Russians, Koreans, Chinese, Thais, Vietnamese, etc., orphans, very often the ones that are not easily adoptable by their countries of origin because "damaged" in some way, or too old (everybody wants to play happy families, they all want to bring home a brand new baby, just like birth parents).

How did this couple manage to get a second, then a third, a fourth, a fifth child, a sixth child? Did nobody ever ask to look at the previous adoptees, to see how they were being treated?

Whenever you read about the terrible lives lived by some children, the truly horrific, lonely and scary deaths they experience at the hands of people who, theoretically and legally, were those who were in charge and responsible for their wellbeing, whether it happens here in America, or in the UK, or anywhere in Europe, and possibly in other places, but I mention specifically those places I read most about, it always comes down to the simplistic conclusion that "The system failed little so-and-so", followed by the question, "How could little so-and-so have been saved?"

Ah, but you see, it's too late now, little so-and-so is dead. There is not much point in pointing the finger, identifying who is responsible for what will always be called the "system failure", unless we plan to take remedial action.

There is always going to be a gig gap between theory and reality until each human being accepts the fact of the relationship between cause and effect. People must come to realize that you can't keep making the same cause and expect suddenly to obtain a different effect.

In a world where the largest proportion of the resources, the wealth, is being squandered to develop more sophisticated weaponry and other military paraphenalia, where less and less of the wealth is allocated to the wellbeing of the living human beings who share this planet, in terms of housing, education, health care, the normal human requirement of working at a decent job for a decent wage, can it really surprise anyone that the "system fails" the most unfortunate, the unimportant, the forgotten, the unloved, at the bottom of the human heap?

Lest we forget, the world is a perfectly safe place, except for human error.

And now, for something completely different. Here is a playlist for everyone. It is the story of my heart, a journey in space and time.

1. Sirocco - Christopher Goze (from Momo's album "Arabesque")

2. Caravane - Radar (from album "Arabesque")

3. Istikhar (Prelude) & Ombre'Elle - Gnawa Diffusion; vocals: I could have sworn it was Khaled, but it's Rachid Ksentini (from album "Arabesque")

4. Journey Itself - Manuel Iman (from Album "Flowers in the Desert")

5. Nostalgia - Nitin Sawhney; vocals: Tina Grace (from album "Beyond Skin")

6. Khamratou, Part I - Ibn Arabi-Bistami/Philippe Eidel; vocals: Hayet Ayad (from Philippe Eidel's album "Mammas")

7. Anthem Without Nation - Nitin Sawhney; vocals: Devinder Vikyat Singh (from album "Beyond Skin")

8. Caravan-Shai no Shai - Olga Helm/Laurence Martinez/Joachim Cohen/Thierry Cote; vocals: Olga Helm (from album "Exotica")

9. Shamsou L'Habib - Al Hallaj/Philippe Eidel; vocals: Aicha Redouane (from album "Mammas")

10. Desert Roots - Hamid Baroudi (from album "Arabesque")

11. Flowers in the Desert - Manuel Iman (from album "Flowers in the Desert")

12. Khamratou, Part II - Ibn Arabi-Bistami/Philippe Eidel; vocals: Hayed Ayad (from album "Mammas")

13. Ki Kounti - Khaled (from album "Sahra")

14. Der Bauch - McSultan (from album "Arabesque")

15. Letting Go - Nitin Sawhney; vocals: Tina Grace (from album "Beyond Skin")

16. Shashkin - Omar Faruk Tekbilek (from album "Arabesque")

This selection is guaranteed to get blood flowing to your brain and to every last little toe in your body. There may be some doubt about this, because this the third time I have typed in this information, and I always hit the wrong button and lose everything, but maybe that's actually because I am listening to this combo right now, it's on a loop and the floor is shaking!

Anyway, you would need to access six albums, but the bonus is that almost every one of them is worth listening to in its own right. One more time:

Arabesque - Restless 73753 - Momo 2002

Momo is Mourad Mazouz, originally from Kabylie, Algeria, now working from London since 1997. This album is great. www.restless.com.

Beyond Skin - Outcaste Records - Nitin Sawhney 1999

I couldn't find the album number anywhere. This is another great album to listen through. www.outcaste.com.

Flowers in the Desert - Eversound MXD-2120 - Manuel Iman 1998

Manuel Iman says: "This album is a musical mixture of cultures. A blend of Flamenco, classical, and Eastern music is fused with a jazzy atmosphere and contemporary colors. That, to me, is what this music is all about." www.eversound.com.

Mammas - RCA Victor 74321-47770-2 - Philippe Eidel 1998

As the title indicates, this a bunch of hot female vocalists.

Exotica - RA Victor 09026-68988-2 -

This is another RCA Victor selection of "World Music Divas", but I don't listen to it quite as much as I do to the Mammas.

Sahra - Island 314537 5102 - Khaled 1996

I have to admit, Ki Kounti is the best cut on this album and you might get it on a better album. The cover photo of Khaled has such a smile, however, that it's worth having. You can see how anyone would be able to suspect he was the singer for Ombre'Elle.

That's all for now, and if I lose my post again this time, I won't do it again, believe me!
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