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Cyril Blythe Nov 2012
I followed Delvos down the trail until we could see the mouth of the mine. The life and energy of the surrounding birches and sentential pines came to a still and then died as we left the trees shelter behind and walked closer, closer. The air was cold and dark and damp and smelled of mold and moths. Delvos stepped into the darkness anyways.
“Well, girl, you coming or aren’t you?”
I could see his yellowed tobacco teeth form into a smile as I stepped out of the sun. It was still inside. The canary chirped in its cage.
“This tunnel is just the mouth to over two hundred others exactly like it. Stay close. Last thing I need this month is National Geographic on my *** for losing one of their puppet girls.”
“Delvos, ****. I have two masters degrees.” I pulled my mousey hair up into a tight ponytail. “I’ve experienced far more fatal feats than following a canary in a cave.”
He rolled his eyes. “Spare me.” He trotted off around the corner to the left, whistling some Louis Armstrong song.
“I survived alone in the jungles of Bolivia alone for two months chasing an Azara’s Spinetail. I climbed the tallest mountain in Nepal shooting Satyr Tragopans along the cliff faces. In Peru I…” Suddenly I felt the weight of the darkness. I lost track of his lantern completely. I stopped, my heartbeat picked up, and I tried to remind myself of what I had done in Peru. The mine was quiet and cold. I wiped my clammy, calloused hands on my trail pants and took a depth breath.

In through the nose. Out through the mouth. This is nothing. I followed a Diurnal Peruvian Pygmy-Owl across the gravel tops of the Andes Mountains, no light but the Southern Cross and waning moon above. I am not scared of darkness. I am not scared of darkness.
I stopped to listen. Behind me I could hear the wind cooing at the mouth of the mine.
Taunting? No. Reminding me to go forward. Into the darkness.
I shifted my Nikon camera off my shoulder and raised the viewfinder to my eyes, sliding the lens cap into my vest pocket. This routine motion, by now, had become as fluid as walking. I stared readily through the dark black square until I saw reflections from the little red light on top that blinked, telling me the flash was charged. I snapped my finger down and white light filled the void in front of me. Then heavy dark returned. I blinked my eyes attempting to rid the memories of the flash etched, red, onto my retina. I clicked my short fingernails through buttons until the photo I took filled the camera screen. I learned early on that having short fingernails meant more precise control with the camera buttons. I zoomed in on the picture and scrolled to get my bearings of exactly what lay ahead in the narrow mine passageway. As I scrolled to the right I saw Delvos’ boot poking around the tunnel that forked to the left.
Gottcha.
I packed up the camera, licked my drying lips, and stepped confidently into the darkness.

When I first got the assignment in Vermont I couldn’t have been more frustrated. Mining canaries? Never had I ever ‘chased’ a more mundane bird. Nonetheless, when Jack Reynolds sends you on a shoot you don’t say no, so I packed up my camera bag and hoped on the next plane out of Washington.
“His name is John Delvos.” Jack had said as he handed me the manila case envelope. He smiled, “You’re leaving on Tuesday.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don’t look so smug, Lila. This may not be the most exotic bird you’ve shot but the humanity of this piece has the potential to be a cover story. Get the shots, write the story.”
I opened the envelope and read the assignment details in the comfort of my old pajamas back at my apartment later that night.
John Delvos has lived in rural Vermont his entire life. His family bred the canaries for the miners of the Sheldon Quarry since the early twenties. When “the accident” happened the whole town shut down and the mines never reopened. . There were no canaries in the mines the day the gas killed the miners. The town blamed the Delvos family and ran them into the woods. His mother died in a fire of some sort shortly before Delvos and his father retreated into the Vermont woods. His father built a cabin and once his father died, Delvos continued to breed the birds. He currently ships them to other mining towns across the country. The question of the inhumanity of breeding canaries for the sole purpose of dying in the mines so humans don’t has always been controversial. Find out Delvos’ story and opinions on the matter. Good luck, Lila.
I sighed, accepting my dull assignment and slipped into an apathetic sleep.


After stumbling through the passageway while keeping one hand on the wall to the left, I found the tunnel the picture had revealed Delvos to be luring in. Delvos reappeared behind the crack of his match in a side tunnel not twenty yards in front of me
“Do you understand the darkness now, Ms. Rivers?” He relit the oily lantern and picked back up the canary cage. “Your prestigious masters degrees don’t mean **** down here.”. He turned his back without another word. I followed deeper into the damp darkness.
“Why were there no canaries in the mine on, you know, that day?” The shadows of the lantern flickered against the iron canary cage chained on his hip and the yellow bird hopped inside.
“I was nine, Ms. Rivers. I didn’t understand much at the time.” We turned right into the next tunnel and our shoes crunched on jagged stones. All the stones were black.
“But surely you understand now?”
The canary chirped.

When I first got to Sheldon and began asking about the location of the Delvos’ cabin you would have thought I was asking where the first gate to hell was located. Mothers would smile and say, “Sorry, Miss, I can’t say,” then hurriedly flock their children in the opposite direction. After two hours of polite refusals I gave up. I spent the rest of the first day photographing the town square. It was quaint; old stone barbershops surrounded by oaks and black squirrels, a western-themed whiskey bar, and a few greasy spoon restaurants. I booked a room in the Walking Horse Motel for Wednesday night, determined to get a good night’s sleep and defeat this town’s fear of John Delvos the following day.
My room was a tiny one bed square with no TV. Surprise, surprise. At least I had my camera and computer to entertain myself. I reached into the side of my camera bag, pulled out my Turkish Golds and Macaw-beak yellow BIC, and stepped out onto the dirt in front of my motel door and lit up. The stars above stole all the oxygen surrounding me. They were dancing and smiling above me and I forgot Delvos, Jack, and all of Sheldon except its sky. Puffing away, I stepped farther and farther from my door and deeper into the darkness of Vermont night. The father into the darkness the more dizzying the star’s dancing became.
“Ma’am? Everything okay?”
Startled, I dropped my cigarette on the ground and the ember fell off. “I’m sorry, sir. I was just, um, the stars…” I snuffed out the orange glow in the dirt with my boot and extended my hand, “Lila Rivers, and you are?”
“Ian Benet. I haven’t seen you around here before, Ms. Rivers. Are you new to town?” He traced his fingers over a thick, graying mustache as he stared at me.
“I’m here for work. I’m a bird photographer and journalist for National Geographic. I’m looking for John Delvos but I’m starting to think he’s going to be harder to track than a Magpie Robin.”
Ian smiled awkwardly, shivered, then began to fumble with his thick jacket’s zipper. I looked up at the night sky and watched the stars as they tiptoed their tiny circles in the pregnant silence. Then, they dimmed in the flick of a spark as Ian lit up his wooden pipe. It was a light-colored wood, stained with rich brown tobacco and ash. He passed me his matches, smiling.
“So, Delvos, eh?” He puffed out a cloud of leather smelling smoke toward the stars. “What do you want with that old *******? Don’t tell me National Geographic is interested in the Delvos canaries.”
I lit up another stick and took a drag. “Shocking, right?”
“Actually, it’s about time their story is told.” Benet walked to the wooden bench to our left and patted the seat beside him. I walked over. “The Delvos canaries saved hundreds of Sheldonian lives over the years. But the day a crew went into the mines without one, my father came out of the ground as cold as when we put him back into it in his coffin.”
I sat in silence, unsure what to say. “Mr. Benet, I’m so sorry…”
“Please, just Ian. My father was the last Mr. Benet.”
We sat on the wooden bench, heat leaving our bodies to warm the dead wood beneath our legs. I shivered; the star’s dance suddenly colder and more violent.
“Delvos canaries are martyrs, Ms. Rivers. This whole town indebted to those tiny yellow birds, but nobody cares to remember that anymore.”
“Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Delvos and his, erm, martyrs?” The ember of my second cigarette was close to my pinching fingertips.
“Follow me.” Ian stood up and walked to the edge of the woods in front of us. We crunched the dead pine needles beneath our feet, making me aware of how silent it was. Ian stopped at a large elm and pointed. “See that yellow notch?” he asked. Sure enough, there was a notch cut and dyed yellow at his finger’s end. “If you follow true north from this tree into the woods you’ll find this notch about every fifty yards or so. Follow the yellow and it’ll spit you out onto the Delvos property.”
“Thank you, Ian. I really can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am.
“You don’t have to.” He knocked the ash out of his pipe against the tree. “Just do those birds justice in your article. Remember, martyrs. Tell old Delvos Ian Benet sends his regards.” He turned and walked back to the motel and I stood and watched in silence. It was then I realized I hadn’t heard a single bird since I got to Sheldon. The star’s dance was manic above me as I walked back to my room and shut the door.

The canary’s wings and Delvos stopped. “This is a good place to break our fast. Sit.”
I sat obediently, squirming around until the rocks formed a more comfortable nest around my bony hips. We had left for the mines as the stars were fading in the vermillion Vermont sky that morning and had been walking for what seemed like an eternity. I was definitely ready to eat. He handed me a gallon Ziploc bag from his backpack filled with raisins, nuts, various dried fruits, and a stiff piece of bread. I attacked the food like a raven.
“I was the reason no canaries entered the mines that day, Ms. Rivers.”
Delvos broke a piece of his bread off and wrapped it around a dried piece of apricot, or maybe apple. I was suddenly aware of my every motion and swallowed, loudly. I crinkled into my Ziploc and crunched on the pecans I dug out, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I’m not a parrot, Mr. Delvos, I don’t answer expectedly on command. You’ll tell me if you want.” I stuffed a fistful of dried pears into my mouth.
Delvos chuckled and my nerves eased. “You’ve got steel in you, Ms. Rivers. I’ll give you that much.”
I nodded and continued cramming pears in my mouth.
“I was only nine. The canaries were my pets, all of them. I hated when Dad would send them into the mines to die for men I couldn’t give two ***** about. It was my birthday and I asked for an afternoon of freedom with my pets and Dad obliged. I was in the aviary with pocketfuls of sunflower-seeds. Whenever I threw a handful into the air above me, the air came to life with wings slashing yellow brushes and cawing songs of joy. It was the happiest I have ever been, wholly surrounded and protected by my friends. Around twelve thirty that afternoon the Sheriff pulled up, lights ablaze. The blue and red lights stilled my yellow sky to green again and that’s when I heard the shouting. He cuffed my Dad on the hood of the car and Mom was crying and pushing her fists into the sheriff’s chest. I didn’t understand at all. The Sheriff ended up putting Mom in the car too and they all left me in the aviary. I sat there until around four that afternoon before they sent anyone to come get me.”
Delvos took a small bite of his bread and chewed a moment. “No matter how many handfuls of seeds I threw in the air after that, the birds wouldn’t stir. They wouldn’t even sing. I think they knew what was happening.”
I was at a loss for words so and I blurted, “I didn’t see an aviary at your house…”
Delvos laughed. “Someone burnt down the house I was raised in the next week while we were sleeping. Mom died that night. The whole dark was burning with screams and my yellow canaries were orange and hot against the black sky. That’s the only night I’ve seen black canaries and the only night I’ve heard them scream.”
I swallowed some mixed nuts and they rubbed against my dry throat.
“They never caught the person. A week later Dad took the remainder of the birds and we marched into the woods. We worked for months clearing the land and rebuilding our lives. We spent most of the time in silence, except for the canary cries. When the house was finally built and the bird’s little coops were as well, Dad finally talked. The only thing he could say was “Canaries are not the same as a Phoenix, John. Not the same at all.”
We sat in silence and I found myself watching the canary flit about in its cage, still only visible by the lanterns flame. Not fully yellow, I realized, here in the mines but not fully orange either.

When I first walked onto John Delvos’ property on Thursday morning he was scattering feed into the bird coops in the front of his cabin. Everything was made of wood and still wet with the morning’s dew.
“Mr. Delvos?”
He spun around, startled, and walked up to me a little too fast. “Why are you here? Who are you?”
“My name is Lila Rivers, sir, I am a photographer and journalist for National Geographic Magazine and we are going to run an article on your canaries.”
“Not interested.”
“Please, sir, can I ask you just a few quick questions as take a couple pictures of your, erm, martyrs?”
His eyes narrowed and he walked up to me, studying my face with an intense, glowering gaze. He spit a mouthful of dip onto the ground without breaking eye contact. I shifted my camera bag’s weight to the other shoulder.
“Who told you to call them that?”
“I met Ian Benet last night, he told me how important your birds are to this community, sir. He sends his regards.”
Delvos laughed and motioned for me to follow as he turned his back. “You can take pictures but I have to approve which ones you publish. That’s my rule.”
“Sir, it’s really not up to me, you see, my boss, Jack Reynolds, is one of the editors for the magazine and he...”
“Those are my rules, Ms. Rivers.” He turned and picked back up the bucket of seed and began to walk back to the birds. “You want to interview me then we do it in the mine. Be back here at four thirty in the morning.”
“Sir…?”
“Get some sleep, Ms. Rivers. You’ll want to be rested for the mine.” He turned, walked up his wooden stairs, and closed the door to his cabin.
I was left alone in the woods and spent the next hour snapping pictures of the canaries in their cages. I took a couple pictures of his house and the surrounding trees, packed up my camera and trekked back to my motel.

“You finished yet?” Delvos stood up. The mine was dark, quiet, and stagnant. I closed the Ziploc and stuffed the bag, mainly filled with the raisins I had sifted through, into my pocket.
Delvos grunted and the canary flapped in its cage as he stood again and, swinging the lantern, rounded another corner. The path we were on began to take a noticeable ***** downward and the moisture on the walls and air multiplied.  
The lantern flickered against the moist, black stones, sleek and piled in the corners we past. The path stopped ahead at a wall of solid black and brown Earth.
The canary chirped twice.
It smelled of clay and mildew and Delvos said, “Go on, touch it.”
I reached my hand out, camera uselessly hanging like a bat over my shoulder. The rock was cold and hard. It felt dead.
The canary was fluttering its wings in the cage now, chirping every few seconds.
“This is the last tunnel they were digging when the gas under our feet broke free from hell and killed those men.”
Delvos hoisted the lantern above our heads, illuminatin
Julian Jun 2018
The ******* of embezzled glory staunchly defend their counterfeit stature by defalcating the public trust of industrious societies governed internally by compunction and sabotaged externally by the tempests of acerbic fate met with inclement aleatory convergence. To supply a society with ingenuity without being complaisant or officious with unctuous pleas to the overlords we must fashion a new vogue that taps the bustle of giants and aggrandizes the margins to oversee their own creative destinies with scaffolded arrangements of titanic promise and justifiable fluidity to conquer the blinkered dogmatism of a dissolute chastity to inveterate apocryphal tenets of factitious but unmerited perspectives. Democracy crumbles when the convenience of sensationalism supplants the resolve of those that fossick hidden wealth and promulgate validity instead of undergirding pomp with precarious prevarications of duplicitous omission guarded gingerly by the gatekeepers of a ****** sanity that whitewashes the discussion with invented hobgoblins and purblind catharsis. To defeat simplicity and enshrine byzantine elegance as the paragon for voguish commentary rather than abide by a bowdlerized decorum for appeasing simpletons with divisive balkanization through identity politics we can overcome the impediments to human progress that are engineered to persist because of the inertia of the listless and the stubbornness of doctrinaire politicization and invent vivacity and festivity anew. We need to divorce ourselves from pedestrian quibbles of hero-worship that endanger the vitality of the common discourse because of fastidious pedantic disempowerment that ravages us with debased dreams by underscoring nuisances and tolerable nightmares that emasculate the virulence of the liberated individual and subvert his ambitions to contend with a picaresque world of limitless promise and self-motivated internal wealth.
      The bane of modernity is how chary the world becomes because of fractured histories intersecting with controversial destinies and the antidote to that poisonous self-defeating self-censorship is the audacity of brazen challenges to expurgation through assiduous resourcefulness and delicate diplomacy in wrangling controversies with outspoken courage rather than whispered resentment. Temerity waged in inclement circumstance is justified and curiosity stoked by lambent flames of fulgurant individualism should be fortified to the extent necessary to conquer the feckless spoilsports of unctuous puritanism and institutional obedience. The quacksalvers that blather about inconsequence strand the imagination in a desiccated desert that is ostracized from the palettes of the artistic whim to wield efflorescence rather than squander life in pursuit of perfunctory lucre or tenuous solidarity around banal idealism promised by social justice warriors that forget the biggest war being waged on humanity is on the ingenuity of the common discourse and the liberty to opine about real issues rather than saccharine conventions of emasculation through linguistic imprisonment and epicurean slavery to fashimites who relish the buzzword but never the enlightened audience that scoffs at feeble attempts at cultural commentary like Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video. This particular artifact is a demonstration of how childishly fickle the plebeian mentality really is, stitching together a bricolage of violence to engineer controversy and serenading it with the most banal music imaginable and exhorting people to herald it as a high artform while inundating the world with unimaginative comic book movies and Star Wars rip-offs because of the lucrative business of formulaic replication. “This is America” should be regarded as a parody of itself because of how hackneyed its design is and how cacophonous it sounds and mocks its audience with lowbrow tactics of adding tinsel to trash and marketing it as the glory of tatterdemalions rather than the refinement of true cinematic achievements that have been relegated because Warhol’s Campbells-Soup-consumerism trumps true belletrist in the public view.
        Cultural watersheds punctuate our history with salient achievements in experimentation, but the formulaic profiteering of buzzword sensationalism and yellow journalism and the ostentatious glorification of promiscuous boasting and fancy cars tantalize the mice to continue playing slot machines rather than penning a novel or doing something promethean. The world scoffs at Trump but ignores the bigger institutional caveats that endanger us much more than a pragmatic albeit unconventional pontificator who is complicit in constructing a false narrative to enslave mindless people to fret about eminence rather than delight themselves in the consequential nuances of established refinement that used to serenade the world with flourish and spectacle. The world kowtows to the crusade against flavor-of-the-week enemies of the liberal-conservative syncretism because it has been conditioned to believe that synthesis is the only logical solution for the polarized worldviews of churlish people that become parvenus not on their merits but on their marketable pitfalls and their public foibles. Peccadillos are more important to people than virtues and this makes society morally bankrupt if we loiter around Astroturf causes that have been infiltrated by corporatism and venal debauchery and acquiesce as disempowered gossip hounds that hunt in packs to find jest in aberration rather than achievement in self-created narratives that defy the stupid purblind boorishness of the mainstream media and its haughty liberalism or the persnickety condemnation of priggish conservative moralities that had an expiration date 50 years ago. Who the **** cares about transgender-touting-gender-fluidity quidnuncs and the snooty obsession with lurid personal endeavors of reputable people that made minor ****** transgressions in a world policed by wide-eyed feminazis that seek to ransack men of their vital virulence to spotlight their unjustifiable oppression. Women are oppressed but the carnal nature of their calumniation and their vindictive powers of persuasion are deployed with such vehement vigilance and such distaste for the majority that the world relegates itself to quibbles of celebrities rather than substantive issues. There is a systemic feminization of society occurring that seeks to demarcate despotic uxorious pleasantries as an incarceration of vocal dissent against supercilious women and their tamed men that slavishly grovel in repudiation of anything prickly.  Men historically have oppressed women but the solution to this quandary isn’t a reverse discrimination where the minority concern is spotlighted as a majoritarian issue that overshadows the disproportionate nature of our society where nominal accreditation is afforded in a non-meritocratic way to absolve people of their carnality and demote the vigorous defense of human liberty as secondary to compromise solutions that appease more people than they offend but simultaneously result in suboptimal conditions that reward arbitrarily coachable people while jettisoning anyone witty enough to be capable of insubordination of a hedonistic epicurean world obsessed with appearance and ravaged by the decadence of formulaic profiteering at the expense of originality and true promethean art that is herculean enough to defy hackneyed tropes and siphon the best elements from a piecemeal world variegated with complexity but stifled by fomented hatred.
The solutions to these problems is to create a watchdog group of artistic critics who become eminent and ubiquitously heard enough to offer creative consultation to the artistic endeavors that we consume and the music that is curated for fastidious ears that crave euphonic originality rather than the banality of easily dovetailed bass-heavy cookie-cutter garbage and the gaudy tactics of talentless rappers whose swagger derives from  the intersection of opportunism and the divestiture of an industry that rewards gloated supercilious epicureanism and meretricious marketability. Am I the only one jaded by second-rate superhero movies that infest the cinemas that borrow from Michael Bay while thrusting pulse-pounding but narratively bankrupt movies down the throats of consumers that might prize the cinematic originality of the heyday of filmmaking? Is it always high art to invent controversy that is witless or half-witted just because it will create buzz? Shouldn’t we condemn the laziness of society in acquiescing to the penury of the modern cultural narrative which belabors the dead horses of racism and sexism ad nauseum? Shouldn’t we fight the war of against inequity through legislation rather than hibernating about scandalous eminence and testy malfeasance?
          Liberty should be championed above all else and we are turning our backs on the future unless we muster the resolve to diminish the sway of the common narrative and aim our spotlight at consequential endeavors rather than the tropes of prosaic and pedestrian bastardization of art and culture. We need to fight artistic laziness which has ravaged our culture and castigate the tactics of wannabee celebrities that use lurid tactics to attract an audience by bedizening themselves with Pyrrhic ostentations and rampant fakery to create more melodrama in a world that needs to be less histrionic. YouTube celebrities swarm us as they get high on ******* and lean-- at our expense-- and vandalize property and convincing nine-year-old’s like Lil Tay to flex her money like it is infinitely renewable in a finite world where all our attention is wasted on artless artifice of less talented people that know how to engineer a ruckus by strutting themselves beyond all decency and selling out to a corporatist nightmare of enslaved convenience. We need to be more vocal about the dissolution of artistic merit and the formulaic repetition of successful formulas that jade us and make us yawn about another retread of a previously successful idea that is milked to the point of cruelty.                                                         ­                       
       Let’s change the narrative and focus on creating true art rather than reacting to the meretricious tinsel of the vogue consensus which is so impotent in its ability to rivet audiences because it has become so notoriously lazy. Fight laziness in art, dismiss your news feeds, be resourceful, seek true happiness rather than find yourself hoodwinked and duped by the idea that Trump is the most important issue or getting caught in thought loops and brooding about sexism and inequality. Let us strive to be egalitarian but within limits that would also appease hominists rather than just the hypertrophy of the leftist narrative that seeks to cage us with the doublespeak of complaisant conformity.  Reject the unctuous charlatans that pretend priggishness when their banausic purpose is barbaric but beguiling to be a lullaby for laggards. We need to fight for the future of civilization rather than hobnob with convenience and loiter around decrying false perpetrators rather than systemic injustices that could otherwise be rectified if enough people fought for it. We can invent a future that is a great festivity serenaded by cultivated artistic refinement and forget about the trifles that divide us. United in ambition and fueled by ingenuity we can defeat artistic laziness and be resourceful with how we decide what is newsworthy. Spurred by the argosy of proactive motivation we can change the world in a substantial way by deciphering the subtext that governs the world. The subtext is everything!
Aaron LaLux Sep 2018
Connect like comets,
got thoughts but won’t comment,
controversial as a result of being honest,
honestly sick of the politics & sick of the nonsense,
actually I’m sick of it all to be honest but still I won’t *****,
conflicted by the conflicts that’re inflicted on my conscience,
from the constant onslaught of plots that they’ve got that I’m barraged with,
in this enormous orbit that we’re all in it’s ugly & gorgeous I’m nauseous but conscious,

just wishing they’d stop it & I’ve lost my train of thought but haven’t yet lost consciousness,

at,

a house party in The Hamptons,
July 6th. 2018,
last week D.C.,
next week Miami,

bless the vibes like we bless the mics,
that’s why they want us around,
if I get the invite & have the time I might take that flight,
because I’ve been all around but still up to get gown,

buzzing off of a mixture of different chemicals,
feeling Sharon ****** operating off of basic instinct,
Semi-Quasi-Serious-Centennial-American-Millennials,
wer­e are what is in so we tell them to get out with their doubts & we dismiss what they think,

live big & still get enough to give more than a little bit away to various charities,

with 3rd Eye Vision that’s 20/20 so they can’t pull a fast one on me,
in the perfect position I see everything while most of them can barely see anything,
not kidding but we do play no kids no way,
our artistic creations are what we will leave behind as our living legacies,

staying grounded at the same time we’re all stars outta this world like a fabulous galaxy,

where we connect like comets,
got thoughts but won’t comment,
controversial as a result of being honest,
honestly sick of the politics & sick of the nonsense,
actually I’m sick of it all to be honest but still I won’t *****,
conflicted by the conflicts that’re inflicted on my conscience,
from the constant onslaught of plots that they’ve got that I’m barraged with,
in this enormous orbit that we’re all in it’s ugly & gorgeous I’m nauseous but conscious,

just wishing they’d stop it & I’ve lost my train of thought but haven’t yet lost consciousness…

∆ Aaron LaLux ∆
Kagami  Sep 2015
Is it?
Kagami Sep 2015
Our analysis of the human race
Will forever burn itself into our minds.
The controversy.
The world itself and its ****** up society
Like a cold, smooth granite countertop with
Grey/ green mold and sharp stench from
Spilled milk. The rustles of a silent wind
Knock, KNock, KNOCKing on the windows at night,
The fear.

Is it something about religion, the fear?
My God is right while yours is wrong,
None of us steal, but a few of yours murdered, so
You all must be killers.
Do you cast spells, have you cursed me?
Ive had this stabbing pain in my side, do you do voodoo?
What if I knock, knock, knock on your door and
Shove it in your face because I am right and you are wrong,
Is this controversial enough for you?

Is it something about teeenagers, the fear?
Their whininess?
"They know nothing of the real world,
The hardships.."
*******.
"They're looking for attention, they are manipulative thieves,
Taking money from their parents,
Why can't they get a job?"
Because its *******!
There are no jobs,
School is based on answers, not trying,
Whining? Because we accept that the world will
Carve out our stomachs with spoons
And blame us for the red graffiti on the side of the train?
What about the adults and even some of our own that tell us to
Hole up and die because of the music we like
Because of our mental disorders,
“They cut for attention. Why dont you
Carve a little deeper and paint a pretty picture?
Feel the sting like being *******, motionless, next to a hornets nest.”
Is it controversial enough for you?

Could it be something about ***, the fear?
The clubs, the ****** and prostitutes,
The millions of dollars going toward their single parenthood every year?
The reality shows depicting teen pregnancy
Yet shunning *******?
It’s exhilarating, but it is a sin,
It is an instinct, but I am going to hell?
A boy tells his friend he got laid and he is the
Most popular kid in school, He receives a metaphorical blue ribbon.
His fifteen minutes of fame.
A girl tells her closest friend that she lost her
Virginity and she is known as the school ***** for the
Rest of the year, and maybe even onward.
Age thirteen after the first *** ed class,
"Momma, how does ******* work?
Do lesbians use ******?
Why is lesbian **** okay, but the other kinds are disgusting?"
Is that controversial enough for you?

Is it something about politics, the fear?
The money we do not have funding ****** in a war,
We have no place in.
Stronger guns with less of a kick.
The continuous binding of church and state,
Despite the promise from two and a half hundred years ago
That it would not happen,
Why can we not marry the people we love
Or cure ourselves of deadly disease without spending
What we do not have?
Is it controversial enough for you?
ESSAYS ON
LEADERSHIP FRONTIERS OF AFRICAN LITERATURE
By
Alexander   k   Opicho




Alexander K Opicho
(Eldoret, Kenya; aopicho@yahoo.com)

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Contents                                                                                                                Page
TABAN MAKITIYONG RENEKET LO LIYONG AND PREFECTURE OF AFRICAN LITERATURE 4
THE CURRENT EAST AFRICA IS NOT A LITERARY DESERT 27
AFRICAN WRITERS HAVE CULTURAL RIGHTS TO FORMULATE AND CREATE ENGLISH WORDS 31
LIKE PUSHKIN, AFRICAN WRITERS MUST CREATE THEIR OWN PROFFESSION OF LITERATURE 35
THERE IS POWER IN THE NAME ‘ALEXANDER’ 40
KENYAN COURTS AND PARLIAMENT ARE BETRAYERS OF HUMANE GOVERNANCE 47
AFRO-CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO RADICAL LITERATURE IS GOOD AND SWAGGERISH 50
YUNUS’S SOCIAL BANKING IS A GOOD BENCHCMARK FOR THIRD WORLD ENTREPRENEURS 54
HEROISM IS NOT GREATNESS BUT HUMILITY IN SERVICE TO HUMANITY 57
KENYAN STUDENTS; YOUR MOBILE INTERNET CULTURE IS ANTI- ACADEMICS 61
WHAT IS THE MAGIC IN THE WORD ‘DRINKARD’ OF AMOS TUTUOLA 63
SOCIETIES IN AFRICA HAVE TO MENTOR BUT NOT CONDEMN THE LIKES OF JULIUS MALEMA 66
AMERICA WILL NOT WIN THE WAR ON GLOBAL TERRORISM 69
AFRICA CAN OVERCOME A MENACE OF **** IN EVERY 30 MINUTES 71
COMPARATIVE ROLES OF AFRICAN-BRAZILIAN LITERATURE IN THE POLITICS OF RACIAL AND GENDER DEMOCRACY 76
NEO-COLONIALISM IS NOT THE MAIN VICE TO THE GAMBIAN POLITICS 85
RELATIVE MEDIA OBJECTIVITY IS ACHIEVEABLE IN AFRICA AGAINST POWER CULTURE AND TYRANNIES OF TASTE 89
READING CULTURE IS GOOD FOR BOTH THE POOR AND THE RICH 96
VIOLENT DEATH IS THE BANE OF AFRICAN WRITERS AND ARTISTS 100
AFRICAN WRITTERS AND ARTISTS MUST ASPIRE BEYOND A NOBEL PRIZE 104
WHAT ARE CULTURAL RIGHTS OF AFRICAN ENGLISH SPEAKERS? 109
WHY IMPRISONMENT OF WRITERS CONTRIBUTED MOST TO AFRICAN LITERATURE 113
DORIS LESSING: A FEMINIST, POET, NOVELIST, WHITE-AFRICANIST AND NOBELITE UN-TIMELY PASSES ON 121
Amilcar Cabral: Beacon of revolutionary literature and social democracy 127
How the State of Israel is brutally dealing with African refugees 131
Historical glimpses of language dilemma in Afro-Arabic literature 146
THIS YEAR 2013; IS THE YEAR OF GREAT DEATHS 153
AFRICAN LITERATURE WITHOUT POETRY IS LIKE LOVE WITHOUT VAGINAL *** 156



















PROLOGOMENA
BARRACK OBAMA READS MOBY ****
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
American president is reading Moby ****
Ja-kogello is reading Moby ****
Ja-siaya is reading Moby ****
Ja-merica is reading Moby ****
Jadello is reading Moby ****
Ja-buonji is reading Moby ****
His lovely Oeuvre of Melville Herman
And what are you reading?

Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because untimely death took his father
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because untimely death took his mother
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because untimely death to his brother
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because untimely death took the grannies
His lovely Oeuvre of Melville Herman  
And what are you reading?

Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Baba Michelle is reading Moby ****
Baba Sasha is reading Moby ****
Baba Malia is reading Moby ****
Baba nya-dhin is reading Moby ****
Sarah’s sire is reading Moby ****
Ja-sharia is reading Moby ****
The ****** is reading Moby ****
His lovely Oeuvre of Melville Herman
And what are you reading?

Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because here ekes audacity of hope
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because here ekes dreams of fathers
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because here ekes yes we can
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because here ekes American dream
His lovely Oeuvre of Melville Herman
And what are you readings?

Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because American president is like whale hunting
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because Obama is a money making animal
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because hunting Osama is whale riding
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because hunting Gaddaffi is whale riding
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because coming to Kenya is whale riding
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because Guantanamo prison is a bay of whales
Barrack Obama is reading Moby ****
Because Snowden is a Russian whale
Because launching drones is whale riding
His lovely Oeuvre of Melville Herman
And what are you reading, Moby ****?














CHAPTER ONE
TABAN MAKITIYONG RENEKET LO LIYONG AND PREFECTURE OF AFRICAN LITERATURE

I am writing this article from Kenya on this day of 23 September 2013 when the Al shabab, an Arabo-Islamic arm of the global terrorist group the Al gaeda have lynched siege on the shopping mall in Nairobi known as the West Gate where an average of forty people have been killed and a hundreds are held hostage. The media is full of horrendous and terrifying images. They have made me to hate this day. I hate terrorism, I hate American foreign policy on Arabs, I hate philosophy behind formation of the state of Israel and I equally hate religious fundamentalism. Also on this date, all the media and public talks in Kenya are full of intellectual and literary tearing of one Kenyan by another plus a retort in the equal measure as a result of the ripples in the African literature pool whose epicenter is the Professor Taban Lo Liyong .He is an epicenter because he had initially decried literary mediocrity among the African scholars and University professors, Wherein under the same juncture he also quipped that Kenya’s doyen of literature Ngugi wa Thiong’o never deserved a Nobel prize. Liyong’s stand has provoked intellectual reasons and offalities to fly like fireworks in the East African literary atmosphere among which the most glittering is Chris Wanjala’s contrasting position that; who made Liyong the prefect and ombudsman of African literature? This calls for answers. Both good answers and controversial responses. Digging deeper into the flesh of literature as often displayed by Lo Liyong.
Liyong is not a fresher in the realm of literary witticism. He is a seasoned hand .Especially when contributions of Liyong to east African literary journal during his student days in the fifties of the last century during which he declared east Africa a literary desert. In addition to his fantastic titles; Another ****** Dead and The Un-even Rips of Frantz Fanon, Professor Taban Lo Liyong also humorously called Amos Tutuola the son of Zinjathropus, what a farcical literary joke? I also want to appreciate this Liyong’s artfulness of language in this capacity and identify him in a literary sense as Taban Matiyong Lo   Liyong the son of Eshu. He is an ideological and literature descended of the great West African Eshu. Eshu the god of trouble which was dramatized by Obutunde Ijimere in the imprisonment of Obadala and also recounted by Achebe in the classical essays; Morning Yet of Creation Day. I call him Eshu because of his intellectual and literary ability to trigger the East and West Africans into active altercation of literary, cultural and political exchanges every other time he visits these regions. Whether in Lagos, Accra or Nairobi.
Now, in relation to Ngugi and intellectual quality of Kenyan University literature professors was Liyong right or wrong?  Does Liyong’s stand-point on Ngugi’s incompetence for Nobel recognition and mediocrity in literary scholarship among Kenyan Universities hold water. Are Liyong’s accusations of East Africa in these perspectives factually watertight and devoid of a fallacy of self-aggrandizement to African literary prefecture as Professor Chris Wanjala laments. Active literary involvement by anyone would obviously uncover that ;It is not Liyong Alone who has this intellectual bent towards East Africa, any literary common sense can easily ask a question that; Does Ngugi’s literary work really deserve or merit for Nobel recognition or not ? The answers are both yes and no. There are very many of those in Kenya who will readily cow from the debate to say yes. Like especially the community of alumni of the University of Nairobi who were Ngugi’s students in the department of English in which Ngugi was a Faculty during the mid of the last century. Also the general Kenyan masses who have been conditioned by warped political culture which always and obviously confine the Kenyan poor into a cocoonery of chauvinistic thought that Ngugi should or must win because he is one of us or Obama must win because he is one of us or Kemboi must win because he is the son of the Kenyan soil. These must also be the emotional tid-bits upon which the Kenyan Media has been based to be catapulted into Publicity feat that Ngugi will win the Nobel Prize without reporting to the same Kenyan populace the actual truths about other likely winners in the quarters from the overseas. I am in that Kenyan school thought comprising of those who genuinely argue that Ngugi’s literary work does not befit, nor merit, nor deserve recognition of Nobel Prize for literature. This position is eked on global status of the Nobel Prize in relation to Ngugi’s Kikuyu literary and writing philosophy. It is a universal truth that any and all prizes are awarded on the basis of Particular efforts displayed with peculiarity. Nobel Prize for literature is similarly awarded in recognition of unique literary effort displayed by the winner. It is not an exception when it comes to the question of formidability in a particular effort. However, the most basic literary virtue to be displayed as an overture of the writer is conversion of theory into practice. This was called by Karl Marx, Hegel, Antonio Gramsci and Paulo Freire, especially in Freire’s  pedagogy of the oppressed as praxis.History of literature and politics in their respective homogenous and comparative capacities has it that ;There has been eminent level of praxis by previous Nobelites.Right away from Rabitranathe Tagore to Wole Soyinka, From Dorriss Lessing to Wangari Mathai.Similar to JM Coatze ,Gao Tziaping,Alexander Vasleyvitch Solzhenystisn and Baraka Obama.This ideological stand of praxis is the one that made Alfred Nobel himself to to stick to his gun of intellectual  values and deny Leo Tolstoy the prize in 1907 because there was no clear connection between rudimentary Tolstoy in the nihilism and Feasible Tolstoy in the possible manner  of the times .In a similar stretch Ngugi wa Thiongo’s literary works and his ideological choices are full of ideological theory but devoid of ideological praxis. Evidence for justification in relation to this position is found back in the 70’s and 80’s of the last century, When Ngugi was an active communist theoretician of Kenya. His stature as a Kenyan communist ideologue could only get a parallel in the likes of Leon Trotsky and Gramsci. This ideological stature was displayed in Ngugi’s adoration of the North Korean communism under the auspice of the Korean leader Kim Yun Sung. This is so bare when you read Ngugi’s writers in politics, a communist pamphlet he published with the African red family. By that time this pamphlet was treated equally as Mao tse Tung’s collected works by the Kenya government which means that they were both illegal publications and if in any case you were found with them you would obviously serve nine months in prison. And of course when the late Brigadier Augustine Odongo was found with them he was jailed for nine months at Kodhiak maximum prison in Kisumu ,Kenya .O.K, the story of Odongo is preserved for another day. But remember that, this was Ngugi only at his rudimentary stage. But when Ngugi got an opportunity to get an ideological asylum, he did not go to Russia, nor East Germany, Nor Tanzania, nor China but instead he went to the USA , a country whose ideological civilization is in sharp contradiction with communism; a religion which Ngugi proffessess.In relation to this choices of Ngugi one can easily share with me these reflections; is one intellectually  honest if he argues that he is a socialist revolutionary when his or her employer is an American institution like the university of California in Irvine ?
Ngugi was not the only endangered communist ideologue of the time. There were also several others. Both in Kenya and without Kenya. They were the likes of; Raila Odinga, George Moset Anyona, ***** Mutunga and very many others from Kenya. But in Africa some to be mentioned were Walter Rodney, Yoweri Museven,Isa Shivji,Jacob Tzuma ,Robert Mugabe and others. The difference between Ngugi and all of these socialist contemporaries of him is that; Ngugi went to America and began accumulating private property just like any other capitalist. But these others remained in Africa both in freedom and detention to ensure that powers of political darkness which had bedeviled Africa during the last century must go. And indeed the powers somehow went. Raila has  been in Kenya most of the times,Anyona died in Kenya while in the struggle for second liberation of Kenyan people from the devilish fangs of Moi’s dark reign of terror and tyrany.Walter Rodney worked in Tanzania at Dare salaam University where he wrote his land mark book; How Europe underdeveloped Africa. Later on he went back to his country of birth in Africa, Guyana where he was assassinated while in the revolutionary struggle for political good of the Guyanese people. Yoweri Museven practically implemented socialism by fighting politics of sham and nonsense out of Uganda of which as per today Uganda is somehow admirable. Isa Shivji has ever remained in Dare salaam University, inspite of poverty. He is now the chair of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere school of Pan African studies. Jacob Tsuma and Robert Mugabe they are current presidents of South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively. The gist of this reference to African socialist revolutionaries as contemporaries to Ngugi wa Thiong’o is that a socialist revolutionary must and should not run away from the oppressor in to a zone of comfort. But instead must remain and relentlessly fight, just like in the words of Fidel Castro; fight and die in the battle field as long as it is a struggle against the enemy of the revolution. This view by Castro is pertinent as it’s a Revolutionary praxis which actually is redolent of practice of an ideology that has to be held for ever above ideological cosmentics.Ngugi scores badly on this. So if the Nobel academy looks at Ngugi in terms of defending human rights then it must be reminded that Ngugi have no marks on the same because he only ran away from the practical struggle. Anyway, Politics and ideology has its own fate. But let us now come back to literature. Ngugi and his books. As at  this time of writing this essay  Ngugi has published the following works; Weep not Child, The River Between, A Grain of Wheat, Black Hermit, Petals of Blood, Devils on the Cross,Matigari,Homecoming,Decolonizing the Mind, Writers in Politics, Ngugi Detained, Pen Points and Gun Points, Wizard of the Crow,Globalectics,Remeembering Africa, Dreams in Times of War and I Will Marry When I Want as well as the Trial of Dedan Kimathi which he wrote along with Micere Githae Mugo.Out of this list the only works with literary depth that call for intellectualized attention are ;A Grain of wheat, Wizard of the crow and Globalectics. The Grain of wheat is simply a post colonial reflection of Kenyan politics. Its themes, plot, lessons and entire synechedoche is also found in Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomie as well as Achebe’s Anthills of the savannah. My argument dove-tails with those of Liyong’s stand that rewarding Ngugi’s Grain of wheat and forgetting Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah and A man of the people would be a literary ceremony devoid of literary justice. Wizard of the Crow is indeed a magnum opus. I am ready to call it Ngugi’s oeuv
Julius Dec 2013
For all the people who tell me I can't be a feminist

My feminism ruins my chat up lines
So much so that you couldn't call them that
I feel pathetic, ironic
Less of a man
Because I haven't touched a girl without her permission
Girls spill their drinks on me in clubs (with no apology), boys don't
Boys ask permission before they touch my entertaining hair
I love women, they're better to be around
I'm not gay, bi maybe but don't stick labels on me
Actually girls do that to me all the time
Literally, they rub their wet hands on my clothes
And stick stickers on me like I'm an object
But no a man is not objectified
Male equals misogynist
Equals creep
I can't criticise a woman's actions, thats sexist
They're in the struggle
This makes me wish I was a girl
I want informal privileges
I'm a ****** is that clear by now?
I don't know if I can **** a girl with my *****
With all of HIStory behind me

I suffer under patriarchy, but not like you do
I understand even non feminist girls,
Or bad feminists,
Still products of this gut wrenching, repulsive system
I'm crying now, an emotional wreck
My mates, some female, will tell me not to act like a girl
But that joke isn't funny anymore
It's too close to home and it's too near the bone
(or *****)
Literally the **** in my trousers is a curse I can't control
An animalistic cage that traps me within expectations
As I write outside a club, three people grab my hair
One male, so I'll take back the generalisation that they ask first. He didn't.
Girls look cold out here
They've come out like this for me
And I shouldn't feel guilty but I do
In the club I'm genuinely objectified
Girls get slurs, sexually abusive labels, they're human there
I'm literally shoved aside like a door by girls eager to look hot at the bar
The only feminist in a room full of chicks

I tolerate this because I love women
Is that sexist?
Is that gay?
If so that's very disappointing
But I've masturbated to **** involving girls
Is that sexist?
Female friendly ****
****** **** - Is that sexist?
I'm academic, I 'get' the gender binaries
Transcend sexuality labels - Is that arrogance?
Why don't these ******* love me?
Note the ironic slur
(Males can be ******* too)
So maybe I'm just the *****
But...I'm sorry
This is poetry, or prose dressed up like it
Emotional inadequacy dressed up like it
I've seen like minded men dispense with the term 'feminism' in pursuit of popularity
That tears me apart because women do the same
I'm not gay
I'm not gay
Stop with the labels
**** me with a strap-on if you have to
Get us back
But I'm not submissive, just overly dedicated
It'll hurt because my **** is virginal
Pure
Sure, I'm a feminist
But stop with the labels
This has become obscene
Put me on page 3 and call me a hero

I'm being sexist here
By noticing gender
Real feminists, please improve me
Fake feminists, how dare you use my views against me?
If I wasn't ugly I wouldn't be a feminist
(Product of my environment and all that)
Like you but with a rather different inferiority complex
As I said, please love me?
Or at least, let me be your friend because the average boy repulses me
Maybe we have at least that in common?
These men cause me to
Try to emasculate me
Women too even but it's understandably rarer
Though on the rise in our modern age
As feminism "succeeds"
But this is my pathetic emotional venting
My male sense of self importance
Or am I too harsh on myself?
Ok so I'll self aggrandise
I transcend your petty, completely logical movement
Look at yourself in the mirror
Metaphorically
(I'm fat too, and some girls make me feel the pain of it)
Yeah I'm a feminist ally
But I'll school half of you

"You've" made me leave the club now
I can't look at these amazing women the same way they want me to anymore
But by 'you've' I mean 'I'VE'
The emphasis is on me to remain rational,
Calculating (my chances with who in the club),
Hardy,
The breadwinner
The one with the jeans
Look, I'd wear a dress if it wasn't for the connotations
Ramifications
I'm ahead of my time, let's agree on what we can
I'm on your side can't you see?
I'm big, I could hurt you and I hate myself
For representing what could be
What is
What my brothers do behind my back
(Because my sickly chivalry would have me try my hardest to pummel these ******* into the ground to protect the damsel in distress)
But I'm not a violent person
As I text, I cant go back into the club but to say goodbye
to my female friend who I came out with alone despite the ****** undercurrent
I half notice two men try to charm this girl
I hear echoes of 'This Charming Man'
(Later I will go and stand on my own, leave on my own, go home, cry and want to die)
These ******* 'gentle' men

But here I'm being arrogant
Self indulgent
Assertive
Typically 'male'
I see a fight break out
The women aren't allowed to be involved
Their voices are drowned out though they push themselves between combatants
Men, we are responsible for wars
**** all of you (*some)
I'd trade social and political male privilege for free 'freedom from guilt'
I'd trade my **** away so I'm not called one callously
(You could even use it as a ***** if you wanted, but its not as big as the shop-bought alternative)
And the funniest thing is, I think my words are important
Think I can say all this and be a controversial,
Exciting
Challenging figure
Asserting my intellectual dominance
Now that's ironic
Ironic to the core that eats at me
That makes me feel like your plaything
Because these ironic jokes like me calling you ******* are too close to home, too near the bone
The bone I gave away, possibly to you (but it hardly matters)
I'm too 'above it all' to be loved or to love faithfully (like Morrissey?)
But all I ask is for your love

That's all I ask
For me to **** on the **** of your respect and trust
Like I did my mother, using her for milk
For sustenance
So my kind survives
And now I go back to the wild,
To the looks that barely notice me as they smash or glance off me
That label me a pig
Or a creep
Or a ****, a *******
Or a gay,
Or a man
Or a feminist

---

So next thing I know I'm with a load of girls again
(Rugby playing girls my mate knows)
I'm the only 'lad' (Irony really hurts)
I'm told my presence makes them claustrophobic
I give them five minutes
(Because my male voice counts for nothing when deciding on a club)
I tell them I'm a feminist
The more honest way out than pretending I'm gay
Its OK now
Thanks, labels.
I swallowed and dealt with the rejection because I'd just had this emotional vent
Thanks vent
And thanks girls for trying to make me feel small and unwelcome at your table
Because it makes me better
Makes me stronger (like men desire to be)
Only I was a step, a poem, a vent ahead this time
So I wasn't crushed or pierced under your high heel
High horse
You weren't willing to flip the tradition on its head and buy my entry to the club
When I couldn't pay
But it's OK.
At least you were real with me
And I'll be there in spirit
In my dreams
Checking you out while you buy drinks
Then wake up and hate myself again

Tears were in my eyes when the girl said that to me
But I, like a true misogynist,
Fought them back and remained a gentleman
Polite and robotically rational
Pliable
But really, how painfully ironic are these semantics?
To 'fight' emotion
To 'fight' honesty?

Like men do, because we're all the same
SS  Jun 2013
it's not worth it
SS Jun 2013
Buddha (may or may noy have-its controversial) once said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  I am a strong believer in this statement.  For as long as I can remember, I have never been able to hold a grudge.  The longest timeframe that I have ever been upset with a person was twenty hours.  I counted back the hours because at the time, I realized that the anger was not worth it.  Being angered by people’s thoughts and actions is a frustrating thing, and in my opinion is not worth any of the stress. Anger is a poison to the body, and causes more stress and pain to yourself than to the person you are upset with.  As a relatively positive person, I have managed to stay as happy and grateful as I can no matter the circumstance. However, I was not always this way.
As a toddler I would get easily frustrated with the smallest things. When I would get upset I would begin having labored breaths, and my chest would tighten.  Sweat would begin beading down my face, and my little fists would contract and expand periodically.  The smallest things could set me off, such as not being able to listen to my own cassettes in the car on the way home from church, or rainy days when I would want to play outside.  Bed times and naps made me want to pull my hair out.  Controlled and healthy snack alternatives would make me zip my lips tight and had me throwing away the imaginary key to the lock that secured my lips against the unnaturally orange carrots.
On a different note, my grandfather on my mothers’ side was my babysitter/partner in crime/best friend as a child and he could bake the best sugar cookies on the planet.  I kid you not.  I always loved having them, and whenever I spent the day with my grandfather, we had to bake sugar cookies.  Days spent with him were always good days, and I loved listening to his stories he would make up about grand princesses and strong princes in far off lands.  My grandfather had been diagnosed with a severe form of diabetes and had several heart attacks and seizures as I was a child, and he was told to stay away from all unhealthy snacks and things with high sugary content.  My mother soon turned into a mother bear and would carefully watch over my grandfathers’ diet, because she was frightened she would lose her father.  As a child, I did not understand their conversations fully and never realized that my grandfather stopped baking and eating snacks because he was not allowed to eat these things.  I would throw the biggest tantrums for his cookies, and generally he would give into my constant bickering and give in to his cravings for sugar.  We would bake, and in the end my mother was always upset with my grandfather for eating sugar, and I was told that sugar was bad for Poppy (that was my nickname for him).  I did not understand how sugar could be bad at that age, because it tasted so good.  I constantly craved the way that the cookies practically melted in my mouth after being taken out of the oven.  I did not mind a temporarily scorched tongue if it meant getting my grubby hands onto those cookies as soon as I could.
One Sunday evening, Mommy and Daddy had a church meeting to attend to after the main service, so Poppy was in charge of me for the evening.  He took me home, and was asked to take care of me for the day.  I begged, screamed, twisted, and shouted for the heavenly cookies that I had not had in what seemed like ages to my childish mind, but Poppy did not budge.  “The answer was, is, and will forever remain to be no, pumpkin.” He calmly spoke to me. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that my Poppy had said no to the cookies.  I remember my chest beginning to feel tight, the labored breathing, and the light headedness that came afterwards as if it was yesterday.  Hot tears streamed down my chubby face, my bottom chin popped out, and my lower lip accentuated until I had a full on pout formed.  ‘No’ just was not in my vocabulary, at least not for that day.  I became so upset with my Poppy and my chest began to hurt so badly that I could not bear to see his face any longer.  I shouted at the top of my lungs, “I HATE YOU!”  I ran up my stairs and locked myself in my room for the remainder of the day and did not bother to come out until the next morning. That next morning my mom received a phone call at 7 AM.  My poppy had gotten a heart attack at about 6:20 that morning and was pronounced dead at the hospital at 6:54 AM.  Help was not reached in time to heal him.
The last thing I said to my poppy was that I hated him.  I will always remember that.  The fury I felt over something as trivial as cookies makes me so frustrated with myself, because in the end I only upset myself more.  Being angry with people does not hurt them nearly as much as it hurts you.  People are not always out looking for intentional ways to upset you, and in fact most humans nowadays only seek acceptance from others.  Whenever I am upset with someone, I always try and look through their eyes to see where they are coming from and what made them do such a thing to upset me.  The girl who called me a mean name? She had been abused at home and the only way she could uplift herself was by putting others down.  The boy who did not like me in the seventh grade?  His mother walked out on him as a child, and he has not trusted women since.  People constantly think that the only opinion that is right is their own, and if someone upsets them that person should disappear forever and feel incredibly horrible about upsetting you.  In reality, we should try to realize why they are thinking the way that they do.  Being upset with a person does you no good.  Forgiveness is always the answer, because you may not realize it at the time, but people generally get upset over the most trivial things that they will not remember anything about twenty years from now.  The anger you feel for a person is not nearly as strong as the anger they had for you when they did whatever it is they did to upset you.  
Anger poisons your body and never makes the other person feel any less sympathetic about what they did.  It only makes you worry more about the past things that you can do nothing about.   “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  It has been twelve years since my Poppy passed away, and no matter who actually said it, I am still a strong believer in that statement.
This isn't really a poem.  I just needed to let this out somewhere.  Thank you for reading, who ever you are.
Rahul Luthra Dec 2013
Imagine a world with no discrimination
A world living in harmony comprising of peaceful nations
The only colour reference would be made to nature
Humans will no longer be judged on their nomenclature
Such is a dream seen by all
But Sir Mandela was the one who took the call
On July 18, 1918, a hero was born
But due to his colour all everyone did was scorn
No one in his family had ever attended school
He was the first one to break this rule
On the first day of school their teacher gave them an English name
This was an African custom due to British bias – how mundane
And that is how Nelson became his first name
He kept it even after he shot to fame
A member of the African National Congress
He gave his opponents a reason to stress
A great politician, revolutionist, lawyer and philanthropist
Served 27 years in jail but never used his fist
Although a controversial figure for most of his life
He won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the South African apartheid strife
On December 5, 2013, this giant passed away
The things that we can learn from him are a lot more than I can say
Lizz Baughn  Jan 2014
Closets
Lizz Baughn Jan 2014
I dream of a day
When "coming out of the closet"
Isn't even a thing anymore.

When "straight" is just a direction,
"Gay" just means cheery,
And "bisexual"
Isn't even a word anymore.

When people look at someone
And see a human,
Instead of a stigmatized word
Defining that person's way
Of loving other people.

I dream of a day
When a man
Can hold another man's hand,
Without the people around them
Whispering "Oh my god, is he gay?"

When a girl can kiss another girl
Without being called *****
Or attention ******
Or "barsexuals."

I dream of a day
When love is simply that,
LOVE.
Not something political,
Or religious,  or controversial,

But just something beautiful
Between two beautiful
Human hearts.
emmaline Apr 2016
Kurt Queller uses narrative criticism to analyze Mark 3:1-6, the healing miracle story in the gospel of Mark.  Queller’s narrative criticism includes “echoes of the Exodus liberation narrative” , echoes of Deuteronomy’s covenant language and Sabbatical provisions , intratextual echoes in Mark , and independent echoes in the other synoptic gospels.  Queller uses these echoes to fill in the gaps he finds in the story of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath.
In the beginning of his criticism, Queller lists the gaps in Mark 3:1-6’s narrative that he seeks to fill: the meaning of the withered hand, Jesus’ reason for healing on the Sabbath, His reason for considering the withered hand life-threatening, why it is a choice between good and evil, et cetera.  He begins filling these gaps by referencing intertextual echoes of Mark 3:1-6 in Exodus.  Jesus’ command to the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:5, “Stretch out your hand,” is echoed in Exodus 14:16 where God commands Moses, “stretch out your hand.” When the man with the withered hand stretches out his hand, his hand is restored. Likewise, when Moses stretches out his hand, the Reed Sea parts, resulting in the restoration of the Israelites’ freedom.
Queller’s reference to this echo in Exodus, paired with other echoes he mentions in Deuteronomy, helped me begin to understand Jesus’ insistence on healing the withered hand. Queller was able to use the echoes to fill in the gaps I previously could not fill. In Deuteronomy 15, God’s covenant requires liberal lending and debt forgiveness to the poor on the Sabbath year. God reminds the Israelites that He delivered them from Egypt in verse 15, and He claims that this is the reason for His liberal Sabbatical law. Thus, this Deuteronomic prescription for Sabbath observance is a continuation of the Exodus liberation narrative. Queller mentions these echoes in Exodus and Deuteronomy to draw a larger narrative framework for understanding Mark’s controversial healing story.
In my initial reading, I recognized that a withered hand is not necessarily a matter of life and death. Like Queller, this was a gap that I initially set out to fill. However, I was unable to fill this gap in a way that completely satisfied my confusion on the matter. Queller’s larger narrative framework for this passage led me to a better understanding of why Jesus considered the withered hand worthy to heal on the Sabbath.
According to Queller’s filling of the gaps, the withered hand is an affliction that can be compared to the Israelites’ enslavement in Egypt. The withered hand also embodies the economic predicament of the poor, who remain enslaved to their debt to the rich.  Such enslavement could be a death sentence, which is why the Sabbath requires the liberation of slaves and debt forgiveness of the poor. It seems plausible to me that a withered hand could cause a man to be enslaved and/or perpetually poor. This line of reasoning, provided by Queller’s larger narrative framework, allowed me to truly see how the Sabbath could require Jesus’ healing of the withered hand.
Another gap Queller and I similarly set out to fill is the question of what constitutes as doing good and what constitutes as doing evil on the Sabbath. This gap also arises from Mark 3:4, in which Jesus asks, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to ****?” (Mark 3:4 NIV). In his analysis of this particular part of this particular verse, Queller points out a small important detail that I originally missed. Mark 3:4 does not set the frame for a passive, inner choice between good and evil.  The literal wording says, “to do good or to do evil.” The choice between good and evil on the Sabbath thereby requires action.
While recognizing that required action is problematic for the restful nature of the Sabbath, Queller supports his assertion by referencing Deuteronomy 30. Deuteronomy 30’s prescription for obedience of the Sabbath repeats the active command, “do it.”  Queller illustrates the parallelism between Mark and Deuteronomy by placing Deuteronomy 30:14 and Mark 3:4-5 in a figure side-by-side.  Deuteronomy 30:14 says, “The word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, and in your hands, to do it.” With this commandment as the framework, Mark 3:4-5 spells out the Pharisees’ failure to do good; It says, “But they were silent . . . grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man: ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out.”
From this, Queller concludes, “The ‘word’ to be done is already ‘in [their] mouth’ – but they refuse to say anything in response; it is ‘in [their] heart’ – but their heart is hardened against it. It is ‘in [their] hands, to do it’ – but as Jesus turns again to address the man, our attention is directed back to an inert hand, that, in its current withered state, seems unlikely to do anything.”  From this I am now able to conclude that which constitutes as doing “good” on the Sabbath is acting on the word. The word is completely accessible to us, and we must use our mouths, hearts, and hands to act upon it.
This gap of good and evil action that Queller helps fill also provides further evidence for the necessity of Jesus’ healing of the withered hand. Since the hands are required to carry out good action in obedience of the covenant, the withered hand is an affliction that can breach said covenant. Queller asserts that the withered hand symbolizes “the tangible embodiment of [the Pharisees] unwillingness, despite the ‘nearness’ of the word, to do it.”  Jesus, by necessity, must heal this affliction to show the Pharisees how to act according to the law of the Sabbath; “The stretching out of the hand then becomes a ‘witness against’ those who have chosen to forgo or even prohibit action because of exclusively sacral concerns.”  Without the preceding narrative frame of Deuteronomy, such significance of the withered hand for the Sabbath covenant was impossible for me to comprehend.
Though Queller is certainly helpful in providing evidence that enables understanding of the withered hand’s significance, there are parts of his criticism that I find contradictory and unhelpful. This occurs when he references echoes in Exodus and Deuteronomy to provide a framework for understanding the Pharisees’ silence in Mark 3:4 and hardness of hearts in Mark 3:5. He first relates the Pharisees’ hardened heart in response to Jesus’ plea in Mark to the Pharaoh’s hardened heart in response to Moses’ numerous pleas in Exodus. In my concordance work, I also made this connection. However, Queller and I differ in the conclusions we draw from this observation.
Queller draws from Deuteronomy to provide framework in conjunction with Exodus for understanding Mark’s interpretation of the Sabbatical law. He references Deuteronomy 29:19, which warns against thinking one can receive the blessings of the covenant while breaching it in the inner wanderings of the heart. This passive infidelity of the covenant brings God’s curse to the innocent as well as the guilty. Queller uses this context to explain why his literal translation says Jesus “co-aggrieved”  with the Pharisees because of their silence and hard hearts. The Pharisees’ passive, inner breach of the covenant invoked God’s curse on them, as well as the innocent Jesus, according to Queller.  
When I analyzed Jesus’ reaction to the hard hearts of the Pharisees in comparison to God’s reaction to that of the Pharaoh, I realized that the same Greek word was used to describe Jesus’ anger and God’s wrath. However, the consequences of Jesus’ anger and God’s wrath do not relate as clearly as Queller would lead one to believe. As a result of the Pharaoh’s hard heart, God’s wrath leads to the Pharaoh’s ultimate demise. Jesus’ resulting anger from the Pharisees’ hard hearts, on the other hand, catalyzes his decision to heal the withered hand. This action ultimately leads to Jesus’ destruction alone. Jesus, the innocent character, does not fall to the mutual destruction of the Pharisees, per Queller’s argument. I see no destruction of the Pharisees at all. Instead, Jesus restores God’s blessing of the guilty by becoming the recipient of God’s wrath in their place.
This conclusion, though differing from Queller, is consistent with his interpretation of the withered hand. Queller writes, “The withered hand embodies covenant curses invoked against those refusing to ‘open [their] hands’ in liberal lending, instead killing the poor by freezing credit in view of an impending sabbatical debt amnesty” . If the withered hand embodies God’s curse against the Pharisees, then Jesus revokes this curse when he cures the withered hand. Furthermore, the larger narrative framework of Mark’s gospel echoes this conclusion. Jesus’ crucifixion ultimately pays the debt of sinners and liberates them from God’s wrath.
Kurt Queller’s narrative criticism uses intertextuality, a narrative tool that “evokes resonances of the earlier text beyond those explicitly cited”  and “requires the reader to recover unstated or suppressed correspondences between the two texts.”  Such intertextual echoes he references from Deuteronomy and Exodus provide a larger background for interpreting Mark’s healing controversy. This granted me the ability to fill many gaps in the narrative that I was unable to fill prior to reading Queller’s criticism. In a footnote, he explains that his “metalepsis” uses such intertextual echoes for analysis, and, “In narrative, the resultant new figuration operates at what Robert M. Fowler calls the ‘discourse level.’ Metaleptic signification is thus transacted between an implied narrator and an implied audience – as it were, behind the backs of the narrative’s ‘story-level’ participants.”
The intertextual and metaleptic tools that Queller uses for his narrative criticism have proven to be very insightful and helpful for my understanding Mark 3:1-6 in an entirely new way. Even as I disagree with Queller on certain parts of his argument, these points of disagreement pushed me to deepen my own individual reading of the text. In comparing my argument to Queller’s, I realized just how far my initial interpretation was able to go. This narrative criticism answered a lot of my questions and filled many gaps. However, most of my conclusions about the implications and ultimate consequences of the text remain unshaken.  
Bibliography
Queller, Kurt. “Stretch Out Your Hand!” Echo and Metalepsis in Mark’s Sabbath Healing Controversy. Journal of Biblical Literature 129, no. 4 (2010): 737-58.
This is a narrative criticism in conversation with Kurt Queller's criticism. The in-text footnotes didn't transfer to this website but all quotes are referencing his work, which is cited at the end.
Classy J May 2014
Bonjour, hello to this French revolution, where people fought against the corrupted monarchy and created a new constitution. Hunger, no rights and no respect, they could not seem to solve it peacefully, so they cut off Louis the XVI neck. Marie Antoinette was a heartless greedy *****, she stole the people's food, so now she deserves some punishment, this is a historical moment for these people which they would soon cement. They started the Reign of Terror, which some may say was a costly and unnecessary error. Millions of people were killed and most were wrongly accused, their used to be equality, liberty, and fraternity, but all people saw was death, which is something not to be amused. The French Revolution where the third class fought the monarchy, so everyone could have true equality, liberty, and fraternity. Then came a guy named Napoléon who changed their wicked ways, he founded new ideas which created the future you see today. I know he wasn't exactly the best, he crowned himself the emperor, which no one had a say on, he pretended to respect the church and have meritocracy but really he was just a con, deceiving people as if they were just a couple of pawns. Napoléon is a wimp, he cost millions of lives, he also abandoned his armies multiple times, he may be one of the, greatest strategist's in the world, but really he's just a waste of time. Napoléon should have figured out not to attack Russia at winter time, it never worked out before so why would it work this time. He may be a symbol of France and the greatest self proclaimed emperor, but he died because of his pride just like Maximillian Robespierre. That was the end of the French Revolution, they slowly lost their power but they still hold onto their republican constitution. So aurevoir for now, bon voyage to you grande revolution, till your next controversial decisions and solutions.
judy smith Nov 2016
Shortly after 3pm on September 29, 31-year-old Olivier Rousteing strode through the shimmering, fleshy backstage area at Balmain's Spring 2017 Paris Fashion Week show. Along the marble hallway of a hôtel particulier in the 8th arrondissement, long-limbed clusters of supermodels were gamely tolerating final applications of leg-moisturiser, make-up touch-ups and minutely precise hair interventions from squads of specialists as fast and accurate as any Formula 1 pit-stop team. The crowd parted as Rousteing swept through.

Wearing a belted, black silk tuxedo and a focused expression that accentuated his razor-sharp cheekbones, Rousteing resembled a sensuous hit man. Target identified, he led us to the board upon which photographs of every outfit were tacked.

We asked him to tell us about the collection (for that's what fashion editors always ask). "There is no theme," said Rou­steing in his fast, French-accented lilt. "No inspiration from travel or time. The inspiration is what I feel, and what I feel now is peace, light and serenity. I feel like in my six years here before this, I have tried to fight so many battles. Because there is no point anymore in fighting about boundaries and limits in fashion. Balmain has its place in fashion."

And the clothes? "There is a lot of fluidity. A lot of knitwear, lightness, ponchos. No body-con dresses. But whatever I do, even if I cover up my girls, it is like people can say I am ******. So this is what it is. I think there is nothing ******. I think it is really chic. I think it is really French. It is how I see Paris. And I have had too many haters during the last three years to defend myself again. So, this is Balmain." And then the show began.

Star endorsements

Under Rousteing, Balmain has become the most controversial fashion house in Paris. Rousteing has attracted (but not bought, as other, far bigger houses do) patronage from contemporary culture's most significant influencers. Rihanna, all the Kardashians, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber – a royal flush of modern celebrity aristocracy – all champion him.

Immediately after this show, in that backstage hubbub, Kim Kardashian told me: "I thought it was very powerful…I loved the sequins, and I loved all the big chain mail belts – that was probably my favourite."

Yet for every famous fan there is a member of the fashion establishment who will sniff over coffee in Le Castiglione that Rousteing's crowd is declassé and his aesthetic best described by that V-word. The New York Times' fashion critic Vanessa Friedman reckoned this collection appropriate for "dressing for the captain's dinners on a cruise ship to Fantasy Island". At least she did not use the V-word. When I once deployed it – as a compliment – in a 2015 Vogue menswear review that declared "Rousteing is confidently negotiating a fine line between extravagance and vulgarity", I was told that Rous­teing was aggrieved.

The fashion world's ambivalence towards Rousteing is a measure of its conflicted feelings towards much in contemporary culture. Last year Robin Givhan of the Washington Post wrote of Balmain: "The French fashion house is always ostentatious and sometimes ******. It feeds a voracious appetite for attention. It is anti-intellectual. Antagonistic. Emotional. It is shocking. It is perfect for this era of social media, which means it is powerfully, undeniably relevant."

Since joining Instagram four years ago Rousteing has posted 4000 images and won 4 million followers. The combined reach of his audience members and models at this Balmain show was greater than the population of Britain and France combined. Balmain was the first French fashion house to gain more than 1 million followers, and currently has 5.5 million of them.

Loving his haters

As digital technology disrupts fashion, Balmain's seemingly effortless mastery of the medium galls some. Last year, the designer posted an image of a comment from a ****** follower to his feed. It read: "Olivier Rousteing spends more times taking selfies for Instagram than designing clothes for Balmain." Underneath, in block capitals, he commented "i love my haters".

Rousteing can be funny and flip – doing a video interview after the show, I opened by asking, tritely, how he felt. He replied: "Now I feel like some Chicken McNuggets with barbecue sauce, and then some M&M;'s ice cream."

When at work, however, that flipness flips to entirely unflip. The previous evening, at a final fitting for the collection, Rousteing had paced his studio, his face a scowl of concentration, applying final edits to the outfits to be worn by models Doutzen Kroes and Alessandra Ambrosio. The 30-strong team of couturiers working in the adjoining atelier delivered a steady stream of altered dresses.

"We are ready," he said from behind a glass desk in a rare moment of downtime. "This a big show – 80 looks – and I want a collection that is full of both the commercial and couture. But it's smooth too. All of the girls are excited about the after-party and interested in the music. And eating pizza." In the corridor outside Gigi Hadid – this season's apex supermodel – was indeed eating pizza, with gusto.

The fitting went on until far beyond midnight; Rousteing, fiercely focused, demonstrated the work ethic for which he is famous. When he was studio manager for Christophe Decarnin, his predecessor at Balmain, the young then-unknown was always the first in and last out of the studio. Emmanuel Diemoz, who joined Balmain as finance controller in 2001 and became chief executive in 2011, says that his hard graft was one of the reasons he was chosen to succeed Decarnin.

"For sure it was quite a gamble," says Diemoz. "But we could see the talent of Olivier. Plus he understood the work of Christophe – who had helped the brand recover – so he represented continuity. He was a hard worker, clearly a leader, with a lot of creativity. Plus the size of the turnover at that time was not so huge. So we were able to take the risk."

Clear leader

Which is why, aged 24, Rousteing became the creative director of one of Paris's best known – but indubitably faded – fashion houses. In 2004 it had been close to bankruptcy. In 2012, Rousteing's first full year in charge, Balmain's sales were €30.4 million and its profit €3.1 million. In 2015, sales were €121.5 million and its profit €33 million. Vulgarity is subjective; numbers are not.

Rousteing, who is of mixed race, was adopted at five months by white parents and enjoyed an affluent and loving upbringing in Bordeaux. "My mum is an optician and my dad was running the port. They are both really scientific – not artistic. So I had that kind of life. Bordeaux is really bourgeois and really conservative, I have to say."

After an ill-starred three-month stint at law school – "I was doing international law. And I was like, 'oh my God, that is so boring'" – he did a fashion course that he managed to tolerate for five months.

"I found that really boring as well. I just don't like actually people who are trying to **** your dream. And I felt that is what my teachers were trying to do."

Obsessed with Gucci

Following a three-month internship in Rome – "also boring" – Rousteing became fascinated with Tom Ford's work at Gucci. "I was obsessed, obsessed, obsessed. Sometimes the press did not get it but I thought 'this is like genius, the new **** chic'. Obsessed, full stop."

He wanted to work there – "that was my dream" – but applied to every fashion house he could, and found an opportunity to intern at Roberto Cavalli. "They took me in from the beginning. I met Peter Dundas [then womenswear designer at the brand] and he said you are going to be my right hand – and start in four days."

Rousteing counts his five years in Italy as formative both creatively and commercially, but when the opportunity came to return to France in 2009 he leapt at it. "Christophe said he liked my work and that he needed someone to manage the studio. So two weeks later I was here. I loved Balmain at the time, when Christophe was in charge. It was all about rock 'n' roll chic, ****, Parisian. And he was appealing to a younger generation. You can see when brands become old but Balmain was touching this new audience. I always say Christophe's Balmain was Kate Moss but mine is Rihanna."

When Decarnin left and Rousteing replaced him, the response was a resounding "who?". His youth prompted some to anticipate failure.

"It was not easy at all. Every season I had the same questions." Furthermore, Rousteing (who has said he thinks of himself as neither black nor white) was the only non-white chief designer at a Parisian couture house. In a nation in which very few people of colour hold senior positions, his race may have contributed both to the establishment's suspicion of him and to his powerful sense of being an outsider.

'Beautiful spirit'

As he began to build a personal vernacular of close-fitted, heavily jewelled, gleefully grandiose menswear – fantastical uniform for a Rousteing-imagined gilded age – for both women and men, that V-word loomed.

"They asked, 'But is it luxury? Is it chic? Is it modern?' All those kinds of words. But you know there is no one definition [of fashion] even if people in Paris think there is. And, I'm sorry, but I think the crowd in fashion are those who understand the least what is avant-garde today."

In 2013 Rihanna visited the studio, met Rousteing, and reported all with multiple Instagram posts. "You are the most beautiful spirit, so down to earth and kind! @olivier_rousteing I think I'm in love!!! #Balmain." :')"

Rousteing met Kim Kardashian at a party in New York – they were drawn together, he recalls, because they were both shy – and was promptly invited to lunch with her family in Los Angeles.

An outsider in the firmament of old-guard Paris fashion, Rousteing was earning insider status within a new, and much more influential, supranational elite. He points out that Valentino, Saint Laurent and Pierre Balmain himself "were close to the jet set of their time. What I have on my front row is the people who inspire my generation".

From them, he learned a new way of doing business. "I think it was Rihanna and the music industry that first understood how Instagram can be part of the business world as well as the personal. But in fashion? When we started it was 'why do you post selfies? Why do we need to know your life, see you waking up, see you working? Why don't you keep it private'. And I was like 'you will see'."

Rousteing cheerfully declares his love for Facetune – "I don't have Botox but I do have digital Botox!" – an app that helps him airbrush his selfies and tweak those ski-***** cheekbones.

Reaching new population

From his office around the corner from Rousteing's, Diemoz adds: "When Olivier first proposed Balmain use social media, our investment in traditional media was costing a lot. Here was an alternative costing less but bringing huge visibility. It has been successful, quite rapidly…we decided to be less Parisian in a way but to speak to a new population. A brand has to be built around its heritage but we are proposing a new form of communication dedicated to a wider group of customers."

The impact of that strategy became apparent in 2015, when Rousteing and Balmain were invited to design a collection for the Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M.; Within minutes of going on sale – and this is not hyperbole – the collection, available at vastly cheaper prices than Balmain-proper, had completely sold out. In London, customers fought on the pavement outside H&M;'s Regent Street branch. "Balmainia!" blared the headlines.

You have to move fast to get backstage after a Balmain show. I was out of my seat and trotting with purpose even before the string-heavy orchestra at the end of the catwalk had quite stopped playing Adele.

Rousteing had taken his bow merely seconds before. Still, too slow: I ended up in a clot of Rousteing well-wishers stuck in a corridor blocked by security guards. A Middle Eastern woman against whom I was indelicately jammed looked at me, laughed, shook her head, then said: "We pay millions for a fashion house – and then this happens!"

In June, Balmain was bought for a reported €485 million by Mayhoola, a Qatar-based wealth fund said to be controlled by the nation's ruling family. As so often with Rousteing-related revelations, some declared themselves nonplussed. "Why Would Mayhoola Pay Such a High Price for Balmain?", one headline asked. Yet Mayhoola, which acquired Valentino four years previously for $US858 million, might have scored a bargain.

Clothes key to revenue

Despite its huge, Instagram-enhanc­ed footprint, Balmain is a small, lean and relatively undeveloped business. Most luxury fashion houses today – Chanel, Burberry, Dior, et al – will emphasise their catwalk collections for marketing purposes but make most of their money from the sale of accessories, fragrances and small leather goods like handbags and shoes. One of the big fashion companies makes a mere 5 per cent from its catwalk clothes.

At Balmain, by contrast, clothes bring in almost all the revenues. If Balmain had the same clothes-to-accessories ratio as its competitors, its overall annual income could be more than €1 billion ($1.4 billion).

The company is moving in that direction. New accessory lines are in the pipeline. "Now we have to transform that desire into business activity," said Diemoz. "Sunglasses, belts, fragrances, the kind of products that can be more affordable."

The first bags should be available in January, as will a wider range of shoes, and then more, more, more.

Six days after his show, on the last day of Paris Fashion Week, I returned to the Balmain atelier. Apart from two assistants, Rousteing was the only person there – everybody else had gone on holiday to recover from the frenzy of preparing the show, or was busy selling the collection at the showroom around the corner.

Rousteing sat behind his desk in the empty room, wearing slingback leopard-print slippers, sweatpants and shades. "I am not even tired! I am excited. Because there are so many things happening – and I can't wait."Read more at:www.marieaustralia.com/red-carpet-celebrity-dresses | http://www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dresses-adelaide
Ellen Joyce Jun 2013
My memory beats in rhythm with my heart.
Spilling out snapshot flashes of life like a flick book's muffled cries.
Controversial plastic shell, elastic strap, stick insect mattel covetted for months
until Santa dropped it down the chimney,
almost as fast as she sprogged and regained her figure
- the original scrummy yummy mummy set to spread low self esteem.

My daddy said anyone can crank out a kid like she did,
as my mother ground her teeth to protest on behalf of her traumatised frame.
Strange, I almost became one of the lost - before I grew cells and self,
another fragile foetus swinging on a noose
from gallows where once a ****** failed to stayed closed.
Little life curled tight self soothing sings al na tivke iredem bim'nucha

My memory beats in rhythm with my heart
as I lie beneath my shroud of sadness filled with down shrinking from the light of day
I want to tell you that I love you,
that my heart brays, beats, bleets, breaks, aches for you.
My soul, spirit, self thrice chorus al na tivke iredem bim'nucha
as waters flow from deep to deep
where danger dances and solace is sought
from beyond the fruitless orchards and willows weeping
branches reaching out for you.

My memory beats in rhythm with my heart
surrounded by madonna, ***** and all betwixt
spheres of life protruding, pronounced, announcing themselves;
in streets where bundles, terrors, cherubs, banting, brat and bairn alike
shriek, scream, squeal, shout, squalk, squabble, sing
in a cacophony that makes my heart weep and ache in longing
to sing to self in solitude al na tivke iredem bim'nucha.

My memory beats in rhythm with my heart
pulsating thoughts, dreams, hopes of you through the whole of me.
Brought to my knees I seek wisdom, guidence, strength to let you go.
The river is waiting for you, you who I hold tight in my caul
trying to trust, seeking strength to hakshev le'ivshat haga'lim
holding the thought of you,
the love of you,
the hope of you
tight in my arms crooning my lullaby of lament
al na tivke iredem bim'nucha
Translations
When I wrote this poem to express the letting go of the babies much loved but never to be I thought of a song actually from the Prince of Egypt, a film I first watched in Hebrew, so I looked it up.
al na tivke iredem bim'nucha
hush now be still love my baby dont cry
hakshev le'ivshat haga'lim
sleep while you're rocked by the stream

— The End —