2010, a reluctant last glance

What an awful year! Earthquakes, floods, volcanic irruptions, epidemics, yet more revelations of priestly pedophelia, and finally such a white Christmas that too many who planned to go anywhere were grounded or snowed in. God must be getting angry.

Even Iran finished up having trouble making ends meet, and earlier on in 2010 we were all beginning to think that the one whose name almost everyone now knows how to spell, would begin to carry out his ungodly plans in 'His' name. Nature, by it's own laws, always has the final word. This then must include human nature, therefore it has to apply to money. After all, war is a costly business. The war against the Taliban will therefore be as endless as the unlimited, financial support they obviously benefit from. That Obama finally decided to stretch things a bit more regarding when, in his modest opinion, the war will end, (at least for the USA, which would logically include Nato) won't unfortunately alter the truth of this basic equation.

It seems incredible that civilisation now casts a yearning glance back to the 1930s, when Muslims such as Atatürk had it all sorted out so reasonably, responsibly, maturely and in an up to date way, even then. When Lebanon was a multicultural jewel, the fine example of what can be achieved in the Middle-East.
How is it possible that 75 years or so later, so much of the Muslim world seems to have regressed beyond all hope and reason? Where are the Atatürks of our epoch? The only Muslim authorities who seem to have the most clout, are mad, radical clerics.

While in Europe we still seem to be sadly reduced to counting our euros. The ECB certainly can't be eligible for the first prize for prevision. By not appreciating the real difficulties their strong-euro 'bundesbank policy' would eventually create for southern European countries and 'out on a limb' Ireland, Monsieur Trichet and company seem to have fallen, with the euro, into their own trap. The only positive outcome is that in spite of the belatedly, lowered interest rates still being higher than those in the USA and the UK, the euro, ironically- and sadly too late for too many- has fallen to a more correct exchange value. As dismally, the european stock exchanges have finished the year more or less at the same level they were at the end of 2009 if not 2008.

In France the opposition, if any, has spent the year shuffling about without much conviction. Mme. Royal has tried hard to persuade herself that her time has come once more to figure as the opposition's number one star on their political stage. The only real hope for the party- that appears to be as dated as it's clumsy logo- would be Mr. Stauss Kahn. But he seems to believe that his post with the IMF is more prestigious than representing the Socialists for the next presidential elections. Considering that, plus the precious time needed for his more private pursuits referred to in a book by 'Cassandre', also published in 2010, he might be right.

Assange's assailments also began this year to harass our heads of States. Many of the more important leaks, regarding Afghanistan, for example, should already have been common knowledge. Other, even more important information in this regard, has been openly published in book form, even alluded to on Viewfinder, but as far as I know, although such facts must have been classified, they have never been divulged by WikiLeaks.
Taking on such a weighty engagement of exposing State secrets should require careful and responsible choice-determining consideration. But by all accounts, being careful and responsible doesn't seem to figure among Julian Assange's priorities.

The year is also ending sadly for the Ivory Coast. Laurent Gbagbo refuses to pack bags and go, insisting that the election results were rigged and that he is the victim of an 'international' plot led by the former colonial power France, to oust him. Mr. Ouattara, however, has been recognised internationally as the legitimate victor. The difference is there.
We all know, for example, that the elections in Afghanistan were massively fraudulent, but Karzai is recognised internationally as the legitimate victor. If that creates a problem for the first concerned, the Afghanis, made up of various ethnics, (unfortunate enough not all to be Pachtoun, thus neither adequately represented nor adequately protected) perhaps they will get over it. At least Karzai's opponent, Doctor Abdullah is a gentleman. As the right hand man of Massoud, it could hardly be otherwise. Hopefully his time will time, before it's too late.

Berlusconi has again proved to the world that he, (money and the media) are immortal. This whilst everyone, all political tendencies combined, was hoping that the Italian page would at last be voltata. But even 'incoherent reason' must prevail if there's still no one to replace him or willing to do so. In Italy the year ends on the same, smelly note corresponding with that of the beginning of Berlusconi's PM reign after Prodi's exit. 3,600 tons of Naples' rubbish (recorded in November of 2010) were left in the streets to rot and cause serious health risks again. 1400 tons still remain to add their fetore to the festivities of Naples' New Year's Eve.

But to return to the Ivory Coast. Considering the religious upheaval in the world, it seems curious that Mr. Gbagbo of the Christian south has less International support (which means that of the USA) than Mr. Ouattara of the Muslim North. And this, even without going into what could be a legitimate, constitutional argument on Gbagbo's part. But perhaps it's another sign of our times, or maybe we return to the final word dictated by the laws of Nature, which must include human nature, therefore it has to apply to money..
Might this also suggest yet another case of- l'homme propose, l'Occident dispose..?

In spite of such merciless, malodorous and mercenary notes, let this end with sincere good wishes to everyone for a far more positive, peaceful, prosperous and more pleasantly perfumed New Year!

Text by Mirino. Image by kind permission of artist, David McKee, with thanks. © December, 2010

The Otter

Have you seen the Otter
Skating on the ice?
No one does it better
Or looks quite so nice.

Figures of eight
And pirouettes
Performed with ease and grace,
Vanishing, where it's thin,
Leaving little trace.

Vous avez vu la Loutre
Patiner sur la glace?
Il n'y a pas de doute
Qu'elle a de la classe.

Des figures de huit,
Des pirouettes
Exécutées avec grâce,
Disparaissant où la glace fond
Laissant peu de trace.

Avete visto patinare
Sul ghiaccio la Lontra?
Nessuno può farlo meglio
Con tale facilità.

Figure di otto,
Poi piroette
Eseguite con grazia,
Scomparendo dov'è fesso
Lasciando poco traccia

Text and image © Mirino, December, 2010

A Christmas message

To be there for the first heavy snow at 2000 metres seems a privilege. Early snow that brings the promise of a good season for all those who depend so much upon it.
Virgin snow yet to be furrowed with the criss-cross traces of skis and snow-boards. All in good time for the school holidays that bring the families and queues waiting for the ski-lifts.
Twelve degrees centigrade below zero, but exhilarating, crunching through the deep, new snow in the evening.

Another December, and another Christmas, each one different from the last. This especially when the parents are no longer there. From then on we go our own ways, making our own criss-cross traces, with our own families, and new memories to add to the album.

This is the third December for Viewfinder. Sometimes writing seems like murmuring to oneself in the dark, or better still, throwing personal thoughts and messages out to sea in bottles. One never knows who finds the bottle and is interested enough to pull out the cork to read the message. One has no idea of the reaction one's message might incite, whether it would be boredom or pleasure.

But when the bottle is found and opened, and the message is read, even if it's only by a relative few, according to the statistics it's read all over the world! And the knowledge of this is even more exhilarating than crunching through new snow at 2000 meters!

It also makes one smile, to imagine that even modest messages are getting through the culture barriers. To believe that whatever our differences, we share the messages in bottles. And this increasingly so, as time goes by and the world gets smaller, because of the miracle of our ever improving means of communication. Knowing that the sun sending its last rays to wish us 'good night', is sending its first rays elsewhere to wish so many others, 'good morning'.

Let this then be another little message in a special, celebration bottle..

Merry Christmas, peace and goodwill on earth for everyone.


Text and images © Mirino. December, 2010

Anne Boleyn

She was no ravishing beauty. Anne Boleyn's most striking features were her dark hair, her dark, almond shaped eyes and her long neck. On her left hand she had an exiguous, sixth finger that she deftly hid.
It was said to be an evil omen, or even the sign of a witch.

She certainly bewitched Henry VIII into going to extremes in order to marry her. Sir Henry Percy, heir to the earldom of Northumberland had also fallen madly in love with Mistress Boleyn. The poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder, was totally enchanted by her as well, and wrote 'Of his love, called Anna'.

Wyatt's grandson recorded an anecdote, that in 1527 or 1528 his grandfather took a locket from Anne as a trophy. During the same week, Henry VIII took one of her rings, which from then onwards he always wore on his little finger.
During a game of bowls with courtiers including Wyatt, the king insisted that he had won the final throw. He pointed at it with the ringed finger, and whilst casting a meaningful glance at Wyatt, repeated- 'I tell thee it is mine'.
Wyatt asked if he might measure the distance between the wood (a 5 inch ball) and the jack (a 2.5 inch ball), and used the locket to do so. The king immediately stamped off muttering words of having been deceived, leaving all the players quite perplexed.

The second verse of Wyatt's sonnet- 'Whoso List to Hunt'  (adapted from Petrarch's rime 190, refers to Anne Boleyn.

Who list° her hunt, I put him out of doubt,                       °cares
As well as I, may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about,
"Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame."

('Noli me tangere quia Caesaris sum'  "touch me not for I am Caesar's" was inscribed on collars made for Caesar's hinds before they were set free, thus supposedly safe from hunters).

The Plague also insidiously forced a separation between the King and Anne. In 1528 he sent her yet another message of "wishing myself, specially on evening, in my sweet-heart's arms, whose pretty dukkys I trust shortly to kiss".

Henry was determined to marry Anne Boleyn, also with the intention of fathering the much required son and heir to the throne. However, Pope Clement VII, then subject to Catherine's uncle, Charles V, newly proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor, refused him the right to divorce from Catherine of Aragon. This led to Henry's reaching the monumental decision of renouncing allegiance to Roman Catholicism, declaring 'Henrician Supremacy' by proclaiming himself Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Cardinal Wolsey had to go, also to Anne Boleyn's satisfaction, and Sir Thomas More was the natural choice as the Lord Chancellor's successor. He was much respected, certainly by the king, and already had established an international reputation for his writing. He first refused the honour and responsibility, having his own reservations about the King's 'Great Matter', but Henry coaxed him into accepting the title by assuring him that he would be spared from all such concerns and should 'look first unto God, and after God, unto him'.

It was considered that there never was, nor ever would be a Chancellor more honest and accomplished as Sir Thomas More. But Henry was unable to keep his promise or leave More alone. To try to appease his tormented mind he needed the humanist to renounce his neutrality. But this Thomas More could never do. His refusal to take the Oath of Succession unless it was reworded, was considered as treason, according to the newly devised 'Treason Act', and this tragically led to him being tried and condemned to death.

Could one not reason that due to her effective, 'feminine tactics' and insatiable ambition, Anne Boleyn had inadvertently changed the cause of English history? Henry's initial, fired-up passion for her certainly seems to have determined the nation's acquiring it's democracy and independant parliament sooner than most, if not all, European nations. Yet Anne, of course, fell victim to Henry's tyranny as well, for not having been able to fulfil his obsessive but self-deluding expectations.

Sir Thomas Wyatt wrote his poem 'V. Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei'  (My enemies surround my soul) when he was imprisoned in 1536. It was from the Bell-Tower during his period of imprisonment that he actually witnessed the execution of Anne Boleyn.

History is full of ironic consequences, unprepared for reflections from the deformed mirror of the future. Anne Boleyn's daughter was to become Queen Elizabeth I. Her Golden Era and Reformation was to establish another, particularly important precedent, for the United Kingdom and posterity.

Text © Mirino. Sources- Norton Anthology of English Literature. Henry VIII and his Court (Neville Williams). Image- Wikipedia, with thanks (Anne Boleyn circa 1534. Artist unknown).                                                  December, 2010

The Willow


By the clear, little stream, running over its bed of bright pebbles, grew an old willow tree.

It was stubborn and unsociable. It grew alone and had no desire for any company, other than the little stream, the earth, the sun and the rain.

Many of its old limbs were useless. Long dry shoots still curved up from them, like huge, bleached ribs of a strange animal.

The greater part of the tree was very much alive, priding a full crown of bright orange shoots in the spring, before they were graced with yellow catkins and slender leaves.
The foot of the tree and exposed roots were often moss covered in the damper seasons. It gave the willow a comfortable air, as it it were wearing thick, green, carpet slippers.

There were times when the little stream became so low that it stopped flowing past the willow. Its bed would become quite dry. The old tree would then push its roots deeper in search of water. It would weep a little to itself when it had to make another sacrifice, before the stream finally returned.

The stream always returned.
The old willow tree would sigh and let fall its bright leaves in the autumn. Then the stream would take them riding over the stones down the hillside, like tiny, golden ships.

But once, after a long, hot summer, the stream didn't return.
The old tree bent its back to the sun and used its resources sparingly. More of it's branches were given up, and it let fall its scorched, curled leaves much earlier than usual.
Yet, no matter the loss, the old willow was certain that it could wait. The stream would return, as it always did.

The autumn and winter brought no relief, for there was still no rain. There was only some powdery snow that the cold, dry winds scattered at random.

The following spring the earth was hard and dry. The new grass was thin. The rain showers came, but they were insufficient, and the old tree braced itself once more to face the summer months.

With great effort it had produced some new shoots, but it was weak. It bent lower, old and tired. Yet deep in its heart was still the faith that all would be well. The stream would return, as it always did.

But the drought brought the fire which burnt the fields and hedgerows.
The old willow tree cracked and groaned as it too fell to the flames.

A few of its young branches, somehow spared, were left in the dry bed of the stream, while the fire burned on, up into the hills, destroying everything within its reach. 

After the fire, the rains came.
The parched earth gratefully received the water.

During the winter, the little stream returned, as the willow always knew it would. It rushed happily along its bed, finding its pebbles and polishing them again.
It soon met in its path the last, young branches of the old willow.
They were gently lifted and pushed to the sides of the bank where soft beds were made for them. And there they lay until the water claimed them.

But slightly higher on the bank there was one small shoot partly covered with earth pushed up by the stream. It made strong roots during the spring and gradually grew up on the bank of the stream into a fine willow tree.

It bowed over the charred trunk of the old willow as if in homage, then it grew straight and proud.

And each autumn the little stream would take its leaves to ride over the stones down the hillside, like tiny, golden ships.

From the Rainbow series

Text and images © Mirino (PW) December, 2010

The cause

How to establish a coherent conformity of world history using national records and interpretations must sometimes be a very difficult and challenging task, certainly regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Yet there seems little historical doubt that following the Bar Kokhba rebellion (2nd century AD) the Romans renamed "Provincia Judea" (derived from "Judah") to "Syria Palaestina". Thus the Romans, and not only the Prophet, set a precedent of portentous consequences.

The Palestinians have many supporters in different parts of the world, including Europe, but one sometimes wonders what they are essentially supporting. What is the Palestinian cause? No one seems able or willing to give a precise answer, and this despite the fact that these supporters are fully informed of all the latest details of how badly the Palestinians are being treated by their prepotent neighbours.

When one refers back to the UN agreements of 1947, it seems that the Palestinians had relatively little say in determining their own future, for the Arab League and their Higher Committee assumed the weighty responsibility of deciding for them.

At such a time following the second world war, the world rightly felt that the intolerable injustice to the Jewish people should be properly dealt with once and for all. Since the radical consequences of the Bar Kokhba rebellion, one might reason that the world took its time in advocating that justice should prevail, but such is history.

However one considers the UN agreements of 1947 regarding the Partition Plan and the proposed international administration of Jerusalem, the Palestinians would certainly have benefited more, had those who assumed to represent them, agreed rather than categorically refuse, to ratify the terms of those agreements.
As nothing then was officially settled, it inevitably led to an ungodly and interminable 'free for all'.

The world must have been persuaded that the day after Israel had declared its independence in 1948, and was invaded by five Arabian countries with the militarily support of four others, the Jewish State would have no chance whatsoever. Yet not only it survived, it could probably have benefited far more from military gains of additional territories and spoils of war, but the Israelis were, and still are, only interested in Israel, and being allowed to live in peace.

But to return to the Palestinian cause. Considering how many 'peace negotiations' have taken place during the past half century between the Israelis and Palestinians, the cause, certainly of the 'moderate' Palestinians, seems so obscure as to be non-existent.

In contrast, the cause of the 'immoderate' Palestinians is extremely clear. So much so that again one wonders if it really is the Palestinian cause? How many Palestinian families, who, for example, have been caring for their olive groves for generations, would really approve of the total destruction of Israel and the complete Islamisation of the Holy Land? Wouldn't they prefer to be left in peace as well? Yet this seems to be the only apparent Palestinian cause.

One also wonders why the Palestinians who supposedly have been living in the Holy Land since the Jews were banished by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, have never officially tried to establish their State? Was it because they had doubts about their right to do so, or because they weren't interested and never thought it necessary?

This right certainly exists, but it's dwarfed by the consideration that the territories allocated to them but not ratified in 1947, have constantly decreased due to the effects of endless conflict. It also seems to be considered undesirable by the 'immoderate' Palestinians who might believe that by establishing the State of Palestine, either within the reduced confines or even according to the original partition plan,
the Palestinians would then be obliged to recognise Israel's right to exist.

Is this then the Palestinian cause? Or is it the Islamic cause? Must the Palestinians continue to be deprived and to suffer endless martyrdom for the Islamic cause? Such seems to be their fate, initiated by the Romans, then the Prophet, and finally the Arab League's refusal to sign the UN agreements in 1947.

Let us then assume that fate, as well as Islam, decrees the destruction of Israel in order that the Holy Land be entirely Islamised.
At such a time would there be anything sacred left of the Holy Land worth Islamising? Even if the Muslim intelligentsia would still believe that the land so pummelled by diabolical war was still 'holy', what guaranty would humanity have that the Muslims wouldn't then fight amongst themselves for this tiny portion of the world, by then a bomb-blasted, mini-desert where ancient temples, priceless archives, synagogues, wailing-walls and mosques would all have been pulverised to dust, along with their loyal guardians? And this would only be the initial effect of the cause.

History confirms that the Hebrew religion is the oldest of the monotheist religions. If Jerusalem and the Holy land are to be safeguarded for posterity, ideally there should be real co-operation and agreement between the authorities representing the three religions of Abraham. But despite whatever possible co-operation, is there a people more unified, more qualified and more dedicated than the Israelis themselves, to properly assume this responsibility?

The right to live in peace, to be recognised and respected, naturally should apply to all peoples whatever their culture and religion. The Holy Land seems to be an epicentre. A nucleus of humanity in a sacred place that represents a fundamental part of the history of civilisation and the monotheist religions. This to such an extent that if Israel were invaded, would it be unreasonable to believe that it could foment into 'the final battle', Armageddon? And if Israel and Jerusalem were destroyed, could this not lead to the infernal and irreversible culmination, the Apocalypse?


By Mirino, Satellite photo of Israel by kind courtesy of Nasa, with thanks. December, 2010