Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Arms on Ghana Plane

I came across this clipping from the spy swap issue in Talking Drums magazine, published in December 1985 when Ghana and the US swapped spies. It's almost an afterthought from the rest of the issue but the story ticks off all my buttons.

The headline, tucked in the back pages, reads Arms on Ghana Plane. You would likely miss it if you focused on the cover story which was full of spy intrigue.

The plane that was found at Dublin airport last week with arms on board has been confirmed as a Ghana-registered plane owned by a Viennese company.

Irish police had been baffled about why equipment similar to that used by the IRA should be on a Ghana plane...

The Boeing 707... is owned by an import-export company called Penetex owned in turn by a Viennese conservative councillor Peter Neuman and registered in Ghana. He is said to have acquired the plane three years ago as payment of a debt.

The plane is said to be regularly used by the Libyan international show jumping team and had just returned from Libya. Police fear that Libya had started supplying arms to the IRA again.
Now, now, now. What do we have here? A small tale of strange bedfellows, arms dealers, rogues, terrorists, Ghanaian coup makers, Austrian politicians, the IRA, British and Irish police, and, of course, He of the Little Green Book

There's surely a novel or script to be written about the escapades of the Libyan show jumping team and their travels in the 1980s, John Le Carre had a surfeit of material to draw on and a cast of characters that couldn't be beaten.

Or perhaps consider this as a James Bond joint, for the mechanics of the affair are piquant. You can imagine the tradecraft at work, the setup of the shell company, the cutouts, the forged documentation and the vaguely plausible backstory. Throw in say Viktor Bout in the mix to heighten the tension. The background of a showjumping or polo competition would be highlighted, the thoroughbreds at work, the elites and the monied, the crates with hidden bottoms and so forth. Great heists have been made out of lesser material.

Ghanaians like to think they are at the periphery of world affairs and keep a low profile - we tend to go for opacity culturally, but the Rawlings-Tsikata crew were neck deep in all manner of dodgy dealings, being convinced ideologues and unafraid of blood. You can find their bloody fingerprints all over the continent. The most explicit was the support for Thomas Sankara's coup in Burkina Faso but elsewhere they were allies with many unsavoury regimes notably the Congo-Brazzaville lot, the Angola heavyweights and so forth. Here though, Ghana was featuring (and being used as a front) in the big leagues; Gaddafi and the IRA are about as high profile in infamy as one can get. The Semtex especially that wasn't intercepted by the British during this period - when Libyan assistance was at it most munificent, made a tangible difference to the terrrorists, and many paid the price with their lives in the ensuing years. Living in exile in London as I did at the time, I can testify to the baleful effect of the emboldened Irish terrorists.

For the longest time in the 1980s, the Ghana government made a quite lucrative trade in end-user certificates. Planes from Eastern Europe carrying weapons destined for hotspots like Angola would fly in to Ghana and briefly pause to satisfy the fraudulent paperwork and turn around to fly to their ultimate destination a few hours later. Episodes like this discovery on the Ghana plane would bring great scrutiny from the great powers.

Sidenote: if Ghanaian planes were used by Libyans to supply the IRA with weapons in 1985, we shouldn't be too shocked to learn that one of the Al Qaeda plotters passed through Ghana on his way to the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and stayed overnight in a government safehouse. Once you entertain the company of rogues, indeed if you actively court their shenanigans, you open the door to deviousness that you can't control. The prospect of being a scapegoat or collateral damage in other people's wars is not something that most would seek out.

Anyway, I've been here before: He of the Little Green Book
Thus, ever since the Flight Lieutenant's arrival
We'd had to develop a new philosophy of survival

At markets, we would fight over corned beef and sardine tins
Throughout I kept asking myself: why are these men laughing?
I suppose this in keeping with the Excellent Discussions they were having.

The moral of course is be careful with the company you keep. Rawlings and company simply failed to heed the Ewe proverb, the goat does not pass the leopard's door.

talking drums 1985-12-02 The spy swap Sousoudis for 8 Ghanaians and families



In the cutthroat world of elite sports
Many go to great lengths to seek out advantages
A few grams shaved off here and there
Aerodynamic styling in Formula One cars
The steroidal cocktails - liquid gold at that,
That underlay the nutrition of East German athletes
Designer drugs, custom feeding regimens
All is fair to avoid defeat

He of the Little Green Book, for his part,
Hearkened all the way back to Buda's wagon
For he was quite minded for revenge
Plastic explosives would be his secret weapon
The show jumping team entered the competition
They would show the world that Libya was best
Albeit with the hidden cargo on the Ghana plane
They also delivered a load of Semtex

Arms on Ghana Plane, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) Bonus beats: You Dropped a Bomb on Me by Gap Band


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

(We'll get to the spy swap in due course, that's another story ...)

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

Writing log: May 30, 2021

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Coyote Point

It was a brief encounter, a coyote sighting in the urban jungle
Just the other day on our walk, it was quite exciting
It brought to mind a time of my life that I'd blocked from my memory
A time, long uninterrogated, that I've thought best left forgotten

But once the beast darted out, I could hardly help myself
The memories of those 18 months at Coyote Point returned
The whims of memory lead one to arbitrary endpoints
And so let me try to recall the tale of Coyote Point...

There's a long line of hotel-like establishments
In the mile stretch that leads to Coyote Point
They range from the upscale Holiday Inn hotel
To the lowest of the low, the by-the-hour motel

As to the motels, suffice to say, there were gradations
I guess you could call it a full spectrum of cockroaches
Thankfully providence lifted me out of the worst situations
I eventually settled on the Best Western Plus

A correction, the high end was a Holiday Inn and Suites
Let me not, on this point, Dear Reader, mislead
I lost my driver's license at one of them,
   was it the San Mateo SFO Airport Hotel?
Or rather America's Best Value Inn,
   where the pimps had so many stories to tell?

The Best Western Plus was quite swank in reality
But the first time I arrived, my eyes were rather bleary
The Nigerian hotel receptionist took one look at me
And assigned me to room 419. Well played, young lady

The Plus in the name makes quite a bit of difference
As our now 9 year old observed, a couple of years ago
We made the mistake, one weekend, in San Antonio
Of staying at a vanilla Best Western. Lesson learned

Those 18 months were trying, it was hard to understand
I was dealing with the whims of a Never Never Man
Who seemed to sabotage my every want and desire
And enjoyed raising the specter of me getting fired

He wanted me, he was adamant, to work in person
Said he absolutely needed me in the office
Yet I was working with people in India and Boston
Why couldn't I go with the remote option?

It was a strange kind of life if you ask me
But you make your own bed, your own destiny
I'd run headlong into an immovable object
And all I could do was protect my neck

Tuesday morning before dawn I'd get on the SuperShuttle
And head to Austin Bergstrom airport before the morning bustle
Four hours on the plane, find a rental car, drive to the office
Then, to add insult to injury, mostly attend teleconferences

I'd call it a day getting to five,
   and make my way to my provisional home
It was always a gamble,
   for I could never remember which was this week's abode
I hadn't expected this to be a permanent situation,
   I didn't plan this contingency
Nevertheless, living on a week by week basis,
   I kept pushing on grudgingly

What is there to say about those 100 days of dismay?
The traveling salesman life I lead, groundhog day
Leaving The Wife with infant and toddler in a new town
33 trips, I counted, before finally I threw in the towel

But back to Coyote Point, I only observed the place after work
After checking in, I'd find the Chinese restaurant
   where I got my roast duck
Because the motel food was little to non-existent
   and, quite frankly, sucked
Some rooms had a fridge, and a microwave for reheating,
   at others I was out of luck

The Mother-in-Law visited once,
   when she was passing through the Bay Area
Checking in on her wayward charge,
   seeing how I was dealing with this hysteria
That week I'd missed a booking,
   and was staying at a rather low rent joint
She might have been less alarmed
   if I'd shown her the best of Coyote Point

Ah right, the lost license, I shouldn't leave that dangling
It's another sad story that doesn't bear remembering
Ever walked up confidently to the TSA counter and opened your wallet
To pick out your license only to realize that it's lost.
   Woe is me, instant regret

Was it in the rental car? Or at the motel?
   Which one? Or was it at the office?
I checked my bags and pockets ten times,
   goddamn, I must have dropped it
The panicked calls to the rental company and the low rent motel
No time to get back to the rental and no ID even then. Well, hell

I'm still surprised that they let me get on that Thursday evening flight
With barely any identifying document, save my company badge,
   what a fright
It must have been the doctor's note that I carried, and my insurance card
Or was it that I looked so broken by that stage, man, times were hard

True they did give me the full TSA treatment
Examined me more closely than my wife after ten
Quadruple searched my bags, my clothes,
   and damn near every orifice
Yet I was so grateful this agent let me on the plane,
   I could have kissed him

Thankfully at the motel, America's Best Value Inn, the one with the pimps
They'd found my driver's license - phew I had escaped an identity crisis
But they were cheap, Mrs Singh and son, they were fixated on getting paid for its return
Man, I sweet talked her, gave a massive reward, paid for the Fedex courier, talk about heartburn

Oh, and after I totalled my car coming out of Walgreens
   in Hyde Park one night
I scrambled and managed to rent a Zipcar for the week
   to placate The Wife
And, at dawn the next day, it was back on the SuperShuttle
   to get on my flight
Praying that Never Never Man and the insurance company
   would do me right (He didn't)

With hindsight this was all plainly ridiculous, the kind of life I was leading
For the exiled soul and the immigrant, diffidence reigns,
   it's a self imposed precarity
Pride and vanity is all,
   we hold on to whatever scraps we hold of the American dream
There's none of the boldness of the American, born-and-raised,
   unafraid to cause a scene

I never once ventured to Coyote Point proper,
   my life was quite circumscribed
Now with Google Street View available,
   I can behold the luxuries I was denied
The motels were only a few blocks south from the edge of the golf course
Virtually browsing vicariously, I daresay I missed out on pleasant walks

It was all work and no play,
   the motels were the extent of my event horizon
Thus I missed out on a good location
   for aircraft spotting and birdwatching
But let me not continue in this vein, I assure you there was only trauma
A liminal life as a theater of the absurd piece,
   or something worthy of Kafka

For whatever reason, perhaps the poorly equipped minibar in those joints
I didn’t drown my sorrows. I remained equanimous, and never got drunk
The only photo I took in 18 months
   was in the hotel parking lot at Coyote Point
It was of a curious normally nocturnal visitor,
   I believe it was a civet, racoon or skunk

civet, skunk or racoon

No Time, a playlist

A soundtrack for a strange kind of life (spotify version) Bonus beats: I Left My Wallet in El Segundo by A Tribe Called Quest


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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

Writing log: May 6, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

File under: , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Writing log: May 6, 2021