Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Proximate Cause

The proximate cause, the judgement noted, was a inherent flaw in humanity
And independent arbitration later confirmed the troubling lack of integrity
For the balance sheet of morality revealed a shortage of spines
Hence the application for blanket coverage was duly denied

Of course there was an immediate appeal, and call for a renewed appraisal
But what book value gives to the brave is but a fickle wind in their sail
That bears little resemblance, in the long run, to notional value
Leaving no protection even as incurred losses continue to accrue

The final auditor's report relied on the coordination of benefits
The surety bond's terms and conditions were adjusted on a valuation basis
Moral hazard observed on the rider raised the issue of contingent liability
The underwriters had stressed upfront this feature of the joint-life annuity

The proximate cause of the variety of perils, again, were those insatiable appetites
Statutory accounting noted negligence in the underlying interest on the surplus line
The risk profile belied the damage, this failure to protect the least of us
A lack of restraint and consideration; injurious exposure was the consensus

The force majeure clause was invoked due to the concurrent causation plainly evident
The claims adjuster rallied, and negotiated a structured settlement
The salvage agent came to terms on the matter of replacement cost
Quoth the soul insurance provider, "What paradise have we lost?"

observers are worried - red

Reasons, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See previously: Soul Insurance and Rhythm of Loss

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Writing log: May 5, 2021

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Soul Insurance (Part 11 Enforcement Actions)

The view from the south... Part 11 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

XI. Enforcement Actions

The people of Agona in the torrid zone were the proverbial black sheep
Typically subject to regional blocks and forever last in the global heap
It was confounding, they were the cradle of mankind, they were that old
Yet always seemingly on the back foot,
   extractive industries pursued their black gold

In times past and present, they were sought after for their labor
Albeit the siren song of slavery was not sung by Mami Wata
No, the mantras of the carry trade and manifest destiny
   came from so-called explorers
Don Diego de Azambuja, for one,
   started a chapter not too far from Elmina

Gold, God and Glory
   - (backed by guns, if you want to be diplomatic)
Peonage in the Middle Passage,
   many were buried mid-Atlantic
But they'd made their peace with it,
   and had solidarity with some of the Ushers
Who faced some of the same legacies in Bloodbath, South Carolina

They'd seen what had happened in minor onslaughts
   at other erstwhile epicenters
And knew that, even if prepared,
   they didn't have the capacity to face the claims adjuster
They wanted to negotiate a settlement,
   for their brand was conversation
And draw on the defined benefit
   of Asase Yaa's excessive liability protection

But it was hard to follow the gospel of germs
   and keep the soul clean
All that washing of hands, that duty of care,
   let alone communal hygiene
Prone to take a few shortcuts,
   their societies loved funerals for whatever reason
They kept playing with fire,
   it takes just one superspreader to bring on grief season

Tedros of Who negotiated some leftover supplies,
   they could wait, they were young
It was a marshmallow test of character,
   of their ability to overcome
To stay the course,
   for restraint doesn't come easily to the human condition
The reverse of the coin however
   is to become subject to a severe enforcement action

prove jesus alive ministry at Dome/Atomic

Long experience dealing with cheerful rogues
   and their deceptions
They had the playlists ready:
   the corruption tango and an awoof conception
This is your daily bread, your reality, when you lack all infrastructure
You know that you are quite vulnerable indeed to the scheming trickster

Rogues of all sorts show up at your door
   to pitch all manner of dubious propositions
Gremlins and parasites will take their pound of flesh
   while peddling potions
Quack cures and get rich schemes are wont to proliferate in abundance
Not for those interlocutors, the safety of something like soul insurance

Unfortunately, the real issue was that
   it was hard to present a united front
The Ushers, prime among the three tribes,
   would never admit that they were wrong
Unlike the keen pragmatism of the Wan,
   and the abject survivalism of the Agonists
It normally took ten bites, rather than the one,
   before they heeded a cease and desist

Thus the dwellers of the torrid zone readied themselves for the Ushers to disappoint
A lion throwing a tantrum doesn't change anything from the antelope's viewpoint
If anything, the usual wariness of the latter turns to resignation
A poor man's son does not brag, they came to terms with the situation

this land not for sale

Enforcement Actions, a playlist

A soundtrack for this tall tale. (spotify version)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions

This cautionary tale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: The Die is Cast

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Writing log: Part 11 April 9, 2021

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Coyote Sighting

Quoth The 9 Year Old after the coyote passed us by,
Strolling down the middle of the street,
Imperious, and barely bothered by our presence:
"I saw the cat running away very quickly."

Indeed. We, all four of us, caught our breath at the near miss
The kids were not the only ones alarmed at the roving beast.
Added The Wife, "That's true. We didn't see the rabbits today."
Ask questions later, they followed nature's advice and ran away

After a pause (it felt like forever) to let the coyote disappear,
We continued down the road on our morning walk.
The kids held on tight to their mother, they stayed near.
For the next twenty minutes, none of us talked.

Later The 9 Year Old added, "I also didn't hear any chickens today".
When a proverbial fox approaches the henhouse, its intent is not to play
Observant child, she'd make a good witness on the stand
Her recall of the smallest detail showed a high command

The coyote had darted out of what we now call Coyote Alley
It is only a block away from Poison Ivy Lane, by that little valley
Where water collects when it floods just by Deadly Nightshade Corner
Where the Asbestos House lies unoccupied and derelict - catacorner

Throughout this pandemic, we've treasured our morning walks
Even as they've sometimes devolved into an urban obstacle course
We'd seen the sign at the start of the Boggy Creek trail: Coyote Warning
Back at the community garden, some ways off from this, our first sighting.

But this was our street, we thought we owned the town
Now we were seeing the effect of the pandemic lockdowns
That was returning wildlife to reign over their former haunts
The coyote might have been silent, but its very presence was a taunt


community garden

Beast of Burden, a playlist

A soundtrack for this wild thing. (spotify version)

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: Sighting: July 1, 2020; May 3, 2021

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Samory's Old Camp

The image was deeply disturbing, archival footage from a colonial scrapbook
Above was the skull garden, and below were the native drummers at Bimtuku
The caption in the Colonial Office's collection mentioned Samory's old camp
The skulls of ninety-odd souls arranged in mostly neat rows on the ground

I had just read that post about King Leopold's ghost and iconic legacy
That laid bare the man's haunting misdeeds and colonial cruelty
The images that had galvanized Edward Morel's campaign to bear witness
The type of experiences that triggered Conrad to write Heart of Darkness

And then I came to this page nestled in the UK National Archives release
Of part of its digitized collection. What was one to make of this?
Certainly it was through a colonial lens that we viewed these images of Africa
But this hit close to home, for these were historical images of Ghana

And now, a century at a remove, I faced the archivist's mystery
I wondered if this image was a colonial record of an atrocity
The archives were soliciting contributions from the public to help update
The records. Perhaps, with millions of eyes on this, we could elucidate

But I could only go by the fickle metadata
I was, as it were, on the horns of a dilemma
I'm no Errol Morris but I can do amateur research
Opened a new tab, off to Google to type in a search

The town of Bimtuku is lost to history,
   as are its striking mud mosques
Although their lore is faded,
   the photos are part of the colonial record
These are the Gold Coast archives
   so we do have a few clues about the location
We know that somewhere in what is now Northern Ghana,
   there was a skull garden


I had come onto this material with a nostalgic but gimlet eye
The archives evoked, in my mind, a wide range of responses to empire
Fodder for addressing uncertainties - albeit never reparations
A longstanding focus of mine being truth and reconciliation

If this was the past as prologue, where, indeed, were the poetics?
Could I detect in those images where the seeds of our troubles were sown?
Or should I focus on surface matters and questions of aesthetics?
And simply savor a fugitive glimpse of a world largely unknown

A treasury in short, 714 photos,
   with the usual suspects, say Nkrumah
Typical images of empire,
   the exploits of His Excellency the Governor
Some chiefs and their retinues
   with whom he occasionally palavered
Enactments of Confederacy,
   signing ceremonies approved by Queen mothers

Journeys up the various rivers, inspecting outposts,
   the trappings of trade
The gold mines foremost, and the timber concessions
   where they cut with saw blades
Architectural details to behold,
   visions of old Accra and the then new hospitals
Beaches, churches, schools,
   and sessions of the Gold Coast legislative council

The names are mostly familiar to me,
   it's a thrill to see the old Kings
Of Mampong, Kokofu and Juaben.
   Not to mention Bekwai, Insuta and Wonki
The ceremonial details,
   witness the bearing of the chief sword bearers
Next to the nubile Adda Girls

   fetching water at the mouth of the Volta River

There's quite a bit of nudity,
   the young girls at Sekasoko were known to be demure
Very easy on the conqueror's eyes
   who came with intentions impure
Some of the photographers also seemed fascinated
   with the hairdressing styles
But just then, you behold another young girl
   dressing her hair by the roadside

She's completely at ease with her body, and you can't avert your eyes
Her photo is next to a Seribe (what is a Seribe?) of Bimtuku
As you ponder, you click to turn the page and behold the photo
Of the skull garden that I shall now endeavor to describe


One of the skulls is mounted on a stick, elevated as if on a pike
One has a tibia or arm bone almost lodged where the mouth would go
Another skull, on the side, sits uneasily on a pile of leg bones
The rest, in their rows, are exposed to the elements, this is their home

They are mostly well preserved,
   only a couple of the skulls have cracks
But you're no forensic scientist,
   and don't really know what question to ask
The skulls were not going anywhere, it is fair to say
But what were they doing in the old camp of Samory Touré?

Many societies have traditions of ossuaries
I've even visited some of the catacombs in Paris
There's a fascination with the norms of death,
   and the intimation of our mortality
Expressed in the way we treat the dead,
   and raising issues of cultural relativity

And we all know of fraternal societies,
   for example the Skull and Bones at Yale
Charles Taylor, at his trial, tried to justify his atrocities
   so beyond the pale
Pointing to the mysticism of Western institutions
   such as the Freemasons
That made use of dead bodies
   for secret rituals and sundry traditions

Skull gardens throughout history have been the epitome
Of that very human heart of darkness and the mystery
Of how, through massacres, we frequently break all taboos
Of love, respect, shame, and our shared humanity

From school, I thought that Samory's empire
   was more to the west of the coast
I knew that it might have extended
   at the easternmost point to Burkina Faso
But it stands to reason that the Wassoulou
   and Mandinka Empire stretched to Ghana
This would explain the interest in the Gold Coast colonial record - they'd conquered

Could one theorize about the image
   when looked at through the governor's eyes?
The colonists were always looking for evidence
   of bloodlust and human sacrifice
The practices of the savages
   that were beyond the bounds of civilization and crude
Thus a skull garden would be fodder for the old saying: exterminate the brutes

Did the photo document an actual relic of ongoing savagery?
Or simply how they dealt with the dead in a commonplace ossuary?
Some societies cremate instead of burying their dead
In Samory's old camp perhaps they just preserved the heads


We do know that in Bimtuku there were dye pits
And not too far from there resided the High Priest
And of course this was the Gold Coast, so there were sellers of gold
But was the fetish priest party to what went on at Samory's camp of old?

There are few other pictures of Bimtuku,
   it must be near Bole in Northern Ghana
Just north of the Bui National park,
   and close to Adarranu near the Black Volta
What is the history of these old villages
   on the Awuna Lagoon, near Kitta?
The colonial record branded these as hinterlands
   that were the home of the Soma

There's a dissertation for sure in expanding the historical record
One that probes whether there is further evidence of anything untoward
Some anthropologist should visit Northern Ghana
   and rediscover Bimtuku
Talk to some people, for it's elusive
   compared to the more famous Timbuktu

Some of the names resonate to any Ghanaian child
They are part of our long and storied history
But, I suppose, to most readers, there are merely exotic and wild
And, in this case, part of the great African mystery

For Ghana finds itself in the crosslines on the Prime Meridian
A through line running right through the center of the world
We fancy ourselves a great civilization, guardians of humanity's home
Proudly located on the gold coast, at the heart of the torrid zone

What to the outside observer appears shocking and unfamiliar
With enough context, may be only natural to the bearer
Those who venture on the pain of others conceive the essential mystery
The ineffable human experience, a photo can leave an iconic legacy

What our soul insurance providers behold as underlying conditions
The landscapes of human drama, the narratives and the fictions
The tale of the lost stories, storytelling is how we learn
Everything is written in sand, to dust we shall surely return

Ultimately, with just a photo in a scrapbook, the rest is history
We're left to speculate on what might have been, and behold the mystery
That sometime in Bimtuku back in the late nineteenth century
In Samory's old camp, there was a skull garden, an ossuary

the skull garden at Samory's Old Camp

Mystery, a playlist

A mysterious soundtrack for the old camp. (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See also: White Graves

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Writing log. Concept: February 2, 2011; May 5, 2021

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

I Daresay

I daresay I love this phrase
I daresay I love your face

I daresay we just met, but I'm canceling all my meetings, I'm delirious
I daresay not just meetings, but all prior engagements, I'm that serious

I daresay I feel myself drawn to you
I daresay I could build a whole life with you

I daresay I hope I'm not overstepping the bounds
I daresay I think you're bound, in short order, to come around

I daresay, stop it, you're making me blush
I daresay this has all the makings of a schoolboy crush

I daresay I'm enjoying this conversation
I daresay I've fallen for your brand of seduction

I daresay you disarm me, I like your smile
I daresay, for you, I would run for more than a few miles

I daresay you move me to excess
I daresay I'd expect nothing less

I daresay you're beautiful and carry yourself with grace
I daresay your voice beholds a wondrous sense of time and space

I daresay I'm losing myself in the contours of your brain
I daresay to lose this heaven would be no end of pain

I daresay I feel like I'm making progress
I daresay I'm momentarily speechless

I daresay this is some kind of flirtation
I daresay I see you moving in my direction

I daresay I think we should dance
I daresay I deserve one more chance

I daresay this is the start of a romance
I daresay I'll pay for soul insurance

I daresay you're making me bring out raps from the old village
I daresay words cannot describe you on this blank page

I daresay love is for suckers like me and you, to quote the soul song
I daresay I've found my comfort suite, a taste of paradise, right in your arms

I daresay meeting you has been the best thing in my life, I can't quite believe my luck
I daresay I made you giggle. Am I going overboard? I'm hopeless. Hyperbole much?

I daresay we're a match made in heaven
I daresay I like where this is heading

I daresay we fit like a glove
I daresay I think I'm in love

lady vendor

Flirt, a playlist

An effusive soundtrack for this flirtation. (spotify version) See previously: Touch, Teenage Love and Janet and the Importance of Bubblegum

I daresay the above could work as some kind of Valentine, Dear Reader
I daresay some of these lines might make her fall hook, line and sinker

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Writing log: May 8, 2021

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Soul Insurance (Part 10 Full Circle)

A cooking session... Part 10 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

X. Full Circle

The smell of kelewele wafted out
   as they gathered just past Atomic Junction
They met outside the Atomic Waakye chop bar - swank,
   this was the original location
Sika's taste buds were getting a workout,
   as were those of Ananse the Spider
For he'd made them wait, and stew a little,
  before he arrived, the claims adjuster

Sika would play the straight woman this time,
   a combination shill and fixer
Her normal role in their plays was as the foil,
   the femme fatale, or the roper
Typically Ananse, with his improvisational skill,
   would work as chief grifter
In reality, they were both versatile in sensibility,
   and could work as any player

Like all women, Sika had an eye for numbers and reverse psychology
An actuary by training, she knew all about risk and game theory
In this instance she agreed that they could proceed with a squeeze play
She'd run the models, humanity were in a tight spot, prime for disarray

Not quite a meeting of minds in the chop bar, this curious triangle
With the claims adjuster on one end,
   Sika and Ananse sought to bedazzle
The proposals came thick and fast,
   again they led with the Magdalene Propositions
When Ananse found a working formula,
   he truly believed there was joy in repetition

The import of their angle was that
   due to the threat of executive sanctions
One could lean on the collective responsibility clause
   and bring up indemnity provisions
That humanity had breached agreements was undisputed,
   the claims adjuster would surely agree
All that remained was to settle
   on the small matter of their transaction fee

The claims adjuster feigned interest
   even as he saw through their short con
He was rather bemused at the games
   these two artists were trying to put on
Did they really believe that they were pulling one over on him,
   what a conceit?
For it was in the bureau's back office
   that he'd designed the original symphony of deceit

Still, their deceptions did belie a core of truth,
   if one took the subtle hint
There was a structural weakness in the contract
   when you focused on the small print
At the going rate for broad form indemnity,
   there was no unqualified obligation
To hold harmless the bearer, humanity,
   from damages with no applicable exclusion

He recalled the negotiation with the Usher's linguist
   in the established church
Who threw the soul insurance certificates at him
   as if it was operations research
It was quite surprising, the assumption that they held any leverage
Quite the spectacle,
   when most hadn't even been through the second wave

The die was cast, the canny would perceive
   that adjustment was a contact sport
If one didn't take proper precautions,
   one would sell oneself short
For all it took was the right superspreader
   to make one lose one's innocence
Take the recent example of that French executive
   at the Biogen conference

Or the case of those two health ministers
   who shook hands, those globetrotters,
With the two doddering princes,
   Albert of Monaco and Charles of Windsor,
Who coughed a few aerosols their way.
   They took back to their countries viral strife
As if to prove definitively
   that irony is the key register of African life

In a sense, it was easier to deal with this odd couple,
   the trickster and the actuary
Than the bureaucracy and huhudious machinations
   of the three tribes of humanity
This kind of nonsense and commotion
   was their brand of frammis
They thought they were rarefied
   using that word instead of thingamajig

The strictures of rigorous enforcement actions
   were their present and future
The restructuring activities now underway
   would remove any lasting traces of humor
Confoundingly, amid the proceedings,
   some tribes were already declaring victory
Well, structural adjustment with a human face
   would be a keen test of their ability


Full Circle, a playlist

soundtrack for this revival. (spotify)
the atomic waakye delivery bagthe atomic waakye

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions

This conclave is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Enforcement Actions

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: Part 10 April 8, 2021

Wednesday, February 01, 2023


There's a script to be written and one of the plot points
Should be about a precious, but illicit cargo
Contraband, now impounded on the big stuck boat

Oakland Container Port 053

An act of God, force majeure clauses
Call it Waiting for Godot in Suez
Imagine a duel with high stakes
Not a tale of pirates but a test of wits
Not on the high seas but on the canal
Not an action heist, not that kind of drama
But rather hardboiled, the theater of the absurd
And, in the background, the big stuck boat

oakland port container crane

The backstory would involve General Sisi's fixer
Four dodgy salvage agents and a claims adjuster
The Japanese owners would be cracking the whip
Ratcheting up the tension as their deadlines slip
On the one side the supply chain enforcers
On the other the logistics operators
And via diplomatic channels, Bonecutter bin Salman
And we'll cut away often to the big stuck boat

Oakland Container Port

Throw in a Moslem Brotherhood angle
A few bellydancers to ramp up the tension
Bond shouldn't be the only one to have gratuitous fun
But in this tale there are no villains
Or, rather, everyone gets their comeuppance
For no one ever paid their soul insurance
The premiums due, to free the big stuck boat

Oakland Container Port 023

Let's pitch it to Netflix or one of the majors
It's provocative and edgy but still heartwarming
We'll bring in Roddy Doyle to doctor the script
Or Irvine Welsh if you insist on a counterintuitive premise
The fresh take on age old issues will seal the deal
And ultimately, at the climax, we'll have the big reveal
The reversal of fortune occurs on the big stuck boat

oakland port 022

There'll be multiple seasons worth, just think: containers!
We'll be taking meetings next, all we need is an agent
They should be hungry these days, the pandemic's got Hollywood idled
Remember you heard it all here first, this scribe's for hire
On the ground floor of the dream factory, the idea production line
The chief toli monger with the crystal ball and batik print
And it all happened, it was written, on the big stuck boat

oakland port 049

Big Stuck Boat, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See also Soul Inspiration

File under: , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: May 7, 2021

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

White Graves

"There are small fortresses on the hills in the background to which the inhabitants flee in times of danger or when bandits attack them.

White graves lie scattered on the slopes lower down."

Those of the Basel Mission captured so much that was striking
From the souls that, through advocacy, they converted to be Christian
To the photos that they amassed, with their typically meticulous bookkeeping
Their legacy is all over the world, they were, as advertised, on a mission

Which is how I came upon the image of the white graves
The tiny speckles that littered that Chinese landscape
Truth be told, this puzzle came by way of a diversion
But I was altogether intrigued by the poetic caption

I'd been searching the archival record for a doctor
Who I'd long known had ties to my grandfather
It's not that I was searching for a (white) saviour
But the title did suggest itself, A Good Doctor in Africa

He was an elusive figure this good Doctor
To whom had been seconded my grandfather
But armed with those keywords, his name and Gold Coast
I quite easily came upon African and Chinese mission posts

The annotation was prefixed by Huppenbauer
And therein lay the little mystery
For there was no known missionary
By that name who worked in China

"We don't know what this means", wrote the cataloger at the mission
This was an affront to their normally excellent record keeping
I guess it was at this point, a century later, that I took a second look
Perplexed, as were those earlier archivists, with the scrapbook

All that we had was the photo and the scraps of metadata
"Black and white positive, paper prints, gelatin silver"
But, you know, browse a little and your attention starts to wander
The trail of missionary Huppenbauers led to the Fophin River


Just past the bridge over the Fophin River
Near the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy
A group of house evangelists gathered
In front of the Basel Mission Station

All bore smiles, some wore hats, while others carried umbrellas
These men were converts, it couldn't have been easy, they were treading water
For they were surrounded by Buddhists who found it hard to relate
Nay, there were anti-Christian placards on one of the town gates

The mission vocation held that, through advocacy, redemption could be found
But there were a few limits: the house for Europeans lay in the background
The station was erected at a remove, a secluded part past the town wall
The mission had an uneasy foothold in the town, especially after nightfall

Still, there were good times at mission station Fophin
The Free Chinese evangelist Lo Wun Tshin
Would play hide and seek with the Meyerholdt's children
Idle moments of laughter in the botanical garden

I then ventured to Limtshai (an outstation of Fophin) on the hills
Navigating past the wet market and river down to the rice fields
The village is not compactly built, with fields between the groups of houses
The vistas laid out in this rural setting, and of course the outhouses

There was more, I continued in that vein, there was no end of material
For the archives were a font of lost stories, fugitive and ephemeral
Imagining backstories of those souls whose likeness had been captured
Conjuring up the rhythms of life of those places and their measure

I guess you could call it an odd form of escapism
To while away my pandemic with rank speculation
To spend time exploring the world of these missions
It might be a peculiar form of cultural projection

I was minded of the ambiguity in the Christian missionary impulse
And the old joke about the encounter with Africa, and our loss
"When you came, you had the good book and we had the land.
Now we have the good book - we read it, and you have all the land"

I would return later to my search for the good Doctor
I am quite hot on the trail but he was not to be found in China
More likely, the note was written by the other Huppenbauer, Hans
Who was on mission in Borneo and pictured teaching knitting class

But back to the striking caption, I beheld at this note's introduction
The small fortresses in the hills didn't look to afford much protection
Flimsy edifices, less robust escape room, and more temporary enclave
No wonder the bandits were wreaking damage as witnessed by the white graves

I was curious about this glimpse of a strange kind of life
The townsfolk regularly having to flee those bandits wielding knives
Only a century ago, at the heart of rural China, during their lost decades
What bothered me was what the missionary observed: the sight of the white graves


Fophin Mission Station, a playlist

A soundtrack for this armchair historian's note. (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See also: Fophin Mission Station in the Basel Mission archives. A mysterious image that troubled this searcher.

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Writing log: May 6, 2021

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


Trained officers
A tough job, we all know,

Jogging. Uppity
A stare. Traffic stop
Or sometimes just reaching

One wrong move
And your life slips away,
Your chest is heaving

Pleading for God and your mother
Or simply lying there

edge by kristin willits

After the killing of Daunte Wright.

Soundtrack for this note


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See previously: Goody Two Shoes

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Writing log: April 13, 2021

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Soul Inspiration

I saw an opening, that was all there was to it
Soul inspiration, I guess that's what you'd call it
Still, I'm not quite sure about my contribution, it has to be said
But I thought that I should join in the conversation, even if it came in verse

Inspiration is like that, when you suddenly have something to say
A stray word, an odd image, and you're off to the races
You're not even thinking about how it ends
It's all about the pleasures of taking up a pen
Or keyboard, or phone or, of old, a typewriter
You've gathered the writing pad or, in extremis, the scrap of paper
You've found the requisite solitude, it can no longer be denied
The detachment needed is on hand, you've sharpened the splinter of ice

And now that you're ready, the idea simply glistens
You'd explain its beauty to anyone if only they'd listen
But now it's down to you, and you're on a mission.
Who knows whether it will be worth it in the final analysis
But, for the moment, you're finally past analysis-paralysis

It's down to execution at this stage but that is its own tale
And when, no doubt, you revisit it, you'll note the irksome detail
That you had discarded even as you knew that it would matter
That plot point, that loose rhyme, that woolly notion
That you knew later readers would brand as imprecision
The failing you thought you could overlook as you rushed to completion
The fleeting doubt as you faltered in your tower of Babel creation

But nothing is amiss, right now there's a creative abundance
You're merely reaping the wages of soul insurance
Remember, the muse wills what she wants
She, it was, that ushered you in this direction
Be thankful for these moments of soul inspiration


Soul Inspiration, a playlist

soundtrack for this note (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 5, 2021

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Soul Insurance (Part 9 Indemnity Provisions)

The game of thrones never ended... Part 9 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

IX. Indemnity Provisions

The claims adjuster was dissatisfied with all the self congratulating
That the three tribes were engaged in now, with nary a trace of misgiving
For there was, in these matters, a failure to make a distinction
Between an insurance agreement and an indemnity provision

Humanity held the former coverage
   with a dubious advance from Ananse the Spider
But it wouldn't do to let them bypass
  indemnity provisions in their risk transfer
Nyame had authorized the adjuster
  to continue pursuing enforcement actions
Although his claims would be circumscribed
   by the ring-fenced soul section

Soul insurance was now to be an open two-sided market, a free-for-all
Any old middleman could now compete,
   even those without the wherewithal
The gains would be manifold
  if they could find the economies of scale
Thus there were perverse incentives
  for operators to behave beyond the pale

They could bundle up transactions
  and approach the reinsurance market for further sales
Complex derivatives and ostensible dispersion of risk but the devil was in the details
If humanity continued their speculation,
   they would risk the wrath of the Regulators
Who would surely call on, at the appointed time,
   parties like the claims adjuster

The weak link would always be the Ushers,
  they were the soul of complacency
First tribe contentment meant that even the most menial lived in the lap of luxury
The opiates of the tabloid scrolls
  anesthetized them from the glaring inequalities
That the masses faced.
  A situation that suited favorably the ruling oligarchy

The chief linguist of the Ushers was a greedy sort
  and could not resist the temptation
He'd previously mooted altogether reneging
  on Ananse's soul insurance compensation
He had a side hustle with the Carlyle Group,
   those black gold industrialists
Well known operators of banana republics
   and social club of monopolists

The linguist summoned his lawyers and accountants, "Take a look at the contract.
Do not leave this room without a legal opinion
   that keeps our options intact
I seek your counsel, for we have to remove Ananse, of that there is no doubt"
They invoked the Capitation Arrangement,
  suffice to say that the knives were out

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Ananse was well aware that these humans were shifty creatures
Those with the backstabbing bent were like common vultures
But he'd had long, vicious experience of such faithless electors
You always had to account for the vicissitudes of the human factor

Thus he'd previously suborned a few in their ranks, strategically placed
Bad actors he could count on whose moral fiber was suitably debased
So short term was their thinking, he marveled, for it was surprising
You could reach, in barely two steps, the extent of their event horizon

His spy, Fifi, had revealed to him that his main antagonist
Was none other than that old rascal, the chief linguist
Ananse cursed his bad luck, he'd been pennywise and pound foolish
He'd skimmed on the upfront bribes in his dealings and been prudish

Vanity, he'd believed that he could get away
   by sheer force of argument
He'd forgotten the maxim:
  Trust in God but always tie your camel up at night
A trickster like Ananse lived by his wits and powers of persuasion
So much so that he preferred to use duplicity over plain corruption

Still, he thought he could see a way
   to double up on the filthy lucre
Even beyond the glorious bounty from the tribes
   that he'd already accrued
Long ago, one of their prophets had asked
  "What profit a man?", that outsider
He had been hinting to them the perils
  of dealing with Ananse the Spider

He'd play both sides again as he'd seen in the b-movie that morn
The great spaghetti western, A Fistful of Dollars, by Sergio Leone
He decided to enlist his good friend, Sika, she was a skilled actuary
Together, they'd approach the claims adjuster, humanity's adversary

He made the executive decision that he would use the ploy of the indemnity provision
The tro-tro mate started singing "Things dey happen" as they passed Atomic Junction
All of the passengers joined in with the chorus:
   "We suffer oh. This austerity."
They were close to their destination now,
   the meeting would be at Atomic City

atomic city

Indemnity Provisions, a playlist

The soul providence of Carleen Anderson's voice form the spine of this soundtrack to this tall tale. Amy Winehouse was not the only one to note that her vocal stylings struck the same kind of nerve as Donny Hathaway. (spotify version)
warning label: suffocation hazard

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions

This revival is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Full Circle

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Writing log: Part 9 April 7, 2021

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 8 A Playlist)

Part 8 of Soul Insurance. Music is our policy...

The previous folktales under the banner of Soul Insurance could be read as the liner notes for this soundtrack of comfort food. My bags are all packed and I have my pandemic bubble playlist. Listen without prejudice. (spotify version)

Soul Insurance, a playlist

  • Soul Insurance by Angie Stone
    Angie sings for the real soul cat and sounds the cautionary note about those who bring out the Xerox.
    It's too many ya'll ridin' in the same boat
    It's getting too heavy and the boat can't float
    Here's a little something to make you think
    You goin' down under if the mother sinks
    She's got our back but will call out those faking the funk. This mellow groove is my pick me up, my great day in the morning, my wellspring of soul inspiration. It bounces along lazily, the harmonies are impeccable and the intent is fierce. I plan to be a believer everytime I hear it and, even if I seem to have taken its theme into a surreal folktale, it continues to make me happy. Nothing hits your heart like soul music.
  • Searchin' for my Soul by Amel Larrieux
    Rendered live, this is a crowd pleaser because she always reinvents this song with an outstanding scat coda, it'a an opportunity to let her voice fly, my favourite bravebird lets loose.
  • Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid by Charlie Hunter
    The claims adjuster delivers the news without commentary. Just the facts, humanity. When I lived in the Bay Area, Charlie Hunter's Home for the Holidays concert was the highlight of the season. I always tried to catch as many shows as I could for soul insurance. The tour in support of that aptly named album, Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid, was phenomenal, the horn section led by Curtis Fowlkes added to the customary jazz-funk guitar virtuosity. You're a good man, Charlie Hunter.
  • Lessons in Love by Level 42
    By the time the horns come in around the chorus I am already happy. Feel good sing-along soul music.
  • Contribution by Mica Paris and Rakim
    Initially this was going to be Should've Known Better, her confection with Omar but it's hard to argue with Rakim Allah, there is no competition. Like his duet with Jody Watley this collaboration is the perfect meeting of hip hop lyricism and conscious soul. Voices in their prime. One world united. All shades invited.
jo bag: ghana must go in South Africa

A reprise. In the end, all we need is Angie Stone's warm voice and soulful groove to fortify the soul. I guarantee it

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See also: The Second Wave and A Covidious Playlist

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle

This soul food is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Indemnity Provisions

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Writing log: Part 8 March 28, 2021