Friday, October 21, 2016

Interview with Jodi Dale, Co-Author of 'Love is the Drug: A Mother and Son Memoir' (2016)

Jodi Dale & Dane Jacobs, Love is the Drug: A Mother and Son Memoir (2016). The softcover verison, which costs $19.99, with free shipping, can be ordered at An electronic version can be purchased at A Kindle edition is available at

Absolutely riveting book -- wonderful, very frank and absorbing. What follows is an interview on the subject with Jodi Dale.

Q: Can you tell us about the book?

A: Love is the Drug: A Mother and Son Memoir is an account of my son's spiral into depression and then the drug use that eventually took his life. We began the story as a joint effort before he passed but only got four chapters done together. At the advice of my therapist, I finished the book two years after his death. It has proved to be both cathartic and healing for me as well as a way to honor my son.

Q. Has the writing of this book, and interacting with people about it, changed your outlook? 

A: The writing of this book has been such a positive experience for me. Remembering my son and all the love we shared is now captured in a story as well as my heart. 

Since publishing the book, I have done two television interviews, two radio interviews, and have spoken at numerous events and rehabs. People have been extremely receptive to hearing and learning about addiction -- which has turned into a national epidemic -- as well as the frustration of dealing with the mental health treatment options. 

I have found great comfort speaking with addicts as well as their families. The statement that "everybody knows somebody" has proved to be true over and over. There is strength and comfort in numbers. 

I have since been appointed to the board of advisors of Families Against Narcotics, an organization committed to raising awareness for this epidemic. There is much satisfaction in carrying out our original message of helping just one person in their struggle.

Q. What next?

A: I have no other future plans than to keep up with my book readings and stay in contact with the friends I've made. My story seems to be like a pebble that was dropped into a calm pond and the ripples it has spread are keeping me very busy. I will honor and love my son's memory forever -- that's now my job!

See also: Jameson Cook, "Late son helps mother describe lost battle with addiction," Macomb Daily News (May 31, 2016) here.

Today's Rune: Gateway. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Titus Maccius Plautus: Menaechmi ('The Identical Twins,' circa 200 B.C.)

Pompeii mural, Villa of Mysteries
Titus Maccius Plautus (circa 254-184 B.C.): Menaechmi (The Identical Twins, circa 200 B.C.).

In this Roman comedy, identical twins are engulfed in confusion, forming the basis for William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors (circa 1595, first published in 1623).

To make a long story short, in the set-up for Menaechmi, two identical twins are accidentally separated at age seven, and their father dies within days of this mishap. A grandfather renames the boy he can find the same name as the still missing (and presumed dead) boy, as an honor. Years later, the former, after traveling far and wide and always hoping to find his long lost twin brother, stumbles into said twin's town and a delicate situation involving Matrona (twin's wife) and Erotium (twin's paramour), exacerbated by various in-betweens. 

In the case of Plautus, adapting from a similar Greek play, his tale of identical twins works. The basic groundwork is laid for all sorts of similar -- and similarly ludicrous, comic, or horror-filled -- storylines.

Thinking you know someone and discovering an alien presence can be quite disconcerting. Hence, the ever-enduring fear and dread of zombies, vampires, alien or demonic possessions, clones and reprogrammed memories, pretender-imposters and dementia.  

Such Doppelgänger-type stories that have always impressed me include Nikolai Gogol's Нос / "The Nose" (1836) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Двойник / The Double (1846, 1866). All inspiration for The Twilight Zone, no doubt. 

Identical twins as a device have been exploited in many soap operas, a fine example being Stuart and Adam Chandler (David Canary) on All My Children. Great way to squeeze new arcs out of the same actors. The phantom twin can be haunting and unsettling, too: such as Elvis Aaron Presley's twin brother Jesse Garon, who was stillborn.

Today's Rune: Protection.  

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Titus Maccius Plautus: 'Miles Gloriosus' / 'Major Blowhard' (205 B.C.)

Titus Maccius Plautus (circa 254-184 B.C.): Miles Gloriosus aka Major Blowhard (205 B.C.) 

"The new plays exposed the fledgling audience of Rome to the subtleties of Hellenistic humor: intricate plots, ironic twists of fate, clever slaves, stern fathers, heartsick lovers, pompous soldiers, savvy courtesans." ~ Plautus & Terrence: Five Comedies translated by Deena Berg and Douglas Parker (1999 A.D.), page vii.

Miles Gloriosus plays out like a combination of Mission Impossible and Three's Company. There are decoy dummies, rustic ruses, two-faced trickeries and a particularly crafty courtesan diligently dodging "the Braggart" by pretending to be a pair of identical twins -- a technique still employed in modern soap operas and telenovelas.

There's also the touch of the bizarre. For example, a slave peers into a courtyard while chasing an escaped monkey and espies Philo'comasium, the courtesan paramour of Pyrgo'polynices in the arms of "Nautikles" (in the Deena Berg translation). Hint: it's chasing the monkey that makes this such a strange set-up.

A major assist against Major Blowhard is rendered unto Philo'comasium by Acro'teleutium aka "Climax." Think Bond, James Bond with the name games. In the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "they were just being playful." 

Human nature is more or less the same now as it was 2,200 years ago; only the class structure has changed. Enslaved characters would now be more likely to be represented by co-workers, friends and acquaintances. With some minor tweaking in the details of setting and technology, the plot still stands. We see Plautus' continued spectral presence every day. 

Why, a true Major Blowhard is even now running for president in one whacked-out country or another. As they said back in the day, Make Ephesus Great Again!

Today's Rune: Harvest.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Molière's 'Tartuffe, or The Imposter' and the Texas Constitution

Banned Books and religious tests. The First Amendment. Molière's Tartuffe and the Texas Constitution. What the hell is all that about?

In 1664 in France, Molière wrote the play Tartuffe, ou l'Imposteur / Tartuffe, or The Imposter; it was staged once, then banned from the public eye for fear of disturbing the peace (that is to say, for questioning certain widely accepted practices among the ruling classes). In other words, it's a perfect topic of discussion during Banned Books Week.

Here's what one of Molière's powerful critics wrote about the playwright in 1664 (via this handy English translation extracted from the original French by Virginia Scott). 

According to this critic, Molière was: "A man, or rather a Demon clothed in flesh and dressed like a man . . . the most notable and impious freethinker who has ever lived, has had the wickedness and abomination to bring from his diabolical mind a play ready to be shown on the public stage to the derision of the Church . . . with the intention of rendering it ridiculous, contemptible, and odious. He would deserve, as a result of this sacrilegious and impious attack, to be tortured publicly as an example, and to be burned at the stake, in advance of the fires of Hell . . ."

~Pierre Roullé, curé de la paroisse Saint-Barthélémy, quoted in "The Quarrel of Tartuffe," Molière, Tartuffe (W. W. Norton Criticial Edition, 2009), page 66. 

(For an American context, the Salem Witch Trials began in 1692 -- 28 years later).

Tartuffe centers around the title character, a flim-flam man who exploits religious sentiments for his own gain as he plots to swindle his supporters out of their homes. In the 21st century, he's a cross between a megachurch televangelist and Big Donnie Trump. 

Thanks to Molière's satire (which by today's standards is very mild) and works like it -- right through Voltaire and the philosophes and the Constitution of the United States of America -- freedom of expression and the right to dissent are considered essential rights, not luxuries, let alone something to be tortured publicly and burned at the stake for.

Which brings me to something in the Texas Constitution that needs to be revised in this 21st century. The way it now stands both the wording and meaning is self-contradictory and completely illogical. The way it stands now, any lyin' Tartuffe can be elected to state office in Texas, but not so a single freethinking adult who admits that she or he does not necessarily believe in a Supreme Being.

Article I, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution (in place from 1876 to 2016+):

RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.  

Did you catch the contradiction?  "No religious test shall be required . . . provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being." Having to "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being" IS a religious test, and a very restrictive one.

To prove that Texas does perpetuate a restrictive religious test, all we have to do is find one non-religious belief or one religious belief system that does not acknowledge or require a Supreme Being in order to function.

Let's suggest some:

Secular humanism

Society of Friends/Quakers (specifically the Humanistic Society of Friends)
"Ground of being" (Paul Tillich)

Several of the above may believe in being, but not in "a [single] Supreme Being."

The United States Constitution dealt with this issue nearly one hundred years before the Lone Star's adoption of the 1876 Texas Constitution.

Article 6, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Hence, even a casual reading of Tartuffe will help one realize that the Texas Constitution does require one's passing through a religious test in order to operate in any official capacity and that any hypocrite who pretends to believe in a Supreme Being simply by saying he/she does will be eligible for such offices, while a single reading of the US Constitution shows that the Texas Constitution is unsustainable as it now stands.

The core of Article I, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution should and must be changed to: "No religious test shall be required." Period. 

End of story.  Happy Banned Books Week. Viva Freedom of Expression and the right to dissent!

Today's Rune: Harvest.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

'Pilgrim's Progress' (1978) and 'Christiana' (1979)

Ken Anderson made two interesting film versions of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream (1678), parts one and two.  He streamlines and slightly alters the story lines and projects the "enemy of your soul" as a semi-comical but still-menacing Devil, aided by three imps in Christiana -- in the simple style of a Medieval morality play. 

Pilgrim's Progress has the whimsical production values of an episode of Captain Kangaroo, with significant improvements however in Christiana

What others might find laughable in technical shortcomings, I find endearing. 

Both movies were filmed in Northern Ireland. Liam Neeson's in his first big celluloid roles is fabulous, providing a calm, assuring presence while mellifluously delivering his lines.

Anderson adopts the use of one actor to play several characters -- the Devil in many guises, and the Good impulse in different people. 

Mr. Great-heart (Neeson) is akin to a bodhisattva (in Buddhism) -- he stays in the world to help people become more enlightened and reach their final goal on pilgrimage.  

Neeson also plays The Evangelist, Help, Mr. Good Will, Mr. Interpreter, Faithful, and even, as in a vision, Jesus Christ crucified. 

I also like Jenny Cunningham as Christiana -- a calm, sympathetic portrayal. Anderson uses her friend Mercy as a representative of the more typical person as she wobbles back and forth between good (moving toward self-actualization) impulses and bad ones (self-sabotage).
The use of one actor to play different characters is sometimes used as a device in soap operas and movies (including The Wizard of Oz), but in these two films Anderson goes full tilt, as if to say that many people are of the same archetype or disposition, avatars of forces "in the world but not of the world."  

What think ye of this strange device? 

Overall, these film "visualizations" are wonderful jaunts that can be seen through several filters ranging from psychology, theology, philosophy, folk tale and mythology. However, beware the creepy use of repetitive voiceover whisperings from time to time.  

Finally, to compare again with The Wizard of Oz, there is a difference in outlook.

Wizard of Oz: there's no place like home.
Pilgrim's Progress: there's no place like heaven.
Wizard of Oz: trek from tornadic whirlwind to the Emerald City.
Pilgrim's Progress: pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. 

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy awakens to herself as if from a dream, at home, with better self-understanding. 

In Christiana, Christiana says good-bye to friends and family and crosses the River of Death to reach the Celestial City, never to return.  

Today's Rune: The Warrior. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

John Bunyan's 'Christiana: The Pilgrim's Progress,' Part the Second (1678)

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream. (Wordsworth's Classics of World Literature). Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1996 edition; originally published in 1678.  

In which we focus on Christiana, the sequel to the first part. In this case, the sequel is better than the original. It builds on the first, but adds everything but the kitchen sink, with plenty of excitement along the way. Here, the main protagonist is Christiana as she leads her crew on pilgrimage from the City of Destruction toward the Celestial City. 

Early on, Bunyan prepares us for his style of writing (page 138):

But some there be that say, He laughs too loud;
And some do say, His head is in a cloud.
Some say, His words and stories are so dark,
They know not how, by them, to find his mark.
In Christiana, we are introduced to many strong or bizarro characters, which will remind at least some readers of The Wizard of Oz. They range from Mr. Fearing to Mr. Great-heart, from Mercy to Mr. Despondency, from Giant Despair to Bloody-man, from Maul to Slay-good, from the Shining Ones to Madam Bubble. Many of these or characters much like them still walk among us in the 21st century. Why just the other day I saw Professor Weirdbeard and Mr. Bun. 

I continue to be fascinated by bits and ideas from The Pilgrim's Progress that continue to float around 338 years down the road -- though we may rarely now wonder of from whence they come -- things like Vanity Fair and House Beautiful, expressions like "naughty ones," "[for] the time being," "sweet heart" (now "sweetheart"), "God speed" (now "Godspeed") and "three leaps for joy" (now "leap for joy.")* 

As for generous treats of wine, food, jewelry and other surprising delights allowed by Bunyon in Christiana, there's plenty more for a future post.

Today's Rune: Fertility.   

*(For these in context, see pages 156, 160, 168, 170, 173, 254).  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

'Michael Collins' (1996)

Neil Jordan's Michael Collins gives a good basic overview of events swirling around Michael Collins from the Easter Rising of 1916 through the creation of the Irish Free State and Irish Civil War that ended in 1923. Liam Neeson has the lead role and is well-suited for it. A little less compelling are Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan and Aidan Quinn as Harry Boland, while Alan Rickman has to play (thanks to the otherwise serviceable script) Éamon de Valera as a devious weasel. Still, it works, and anyone watching Michael Collins will consider the Republic of Ireland in a fresh way. 
This year is the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Here, street art in Cork commemorates "The Birth of Our Nation." The artist is on the right, in the front corner. 

In the USA, the word more likely to be used for "centenary" is "centennial." Why the difference?  I have no idea, but definitely I like the term "Roadworks" employed in Ireland better than "construction" in the USA, because its meaning is more specific, maybe even more upbeat. 
Books on the 1916-2016 centenary are ubiquitous in Ireland this year. Note image of Michael Collins in the upper right corner of this picture, taken in June.
Documents and an image (to the right) of what looks like the 1916 Dublin GPO (General Post Office) in flames, on display in Cork, June 2016. 

We were there during the Brexit vote, of which the Republic of Ireland had no part. Indeed, Ireland proper is pro-European Union. Brexit may cause new headaches for Northern Ireland, though. We shall see. 

Today's Rune: Defense.