Monday, October 31, 2016

Celebrity Tombstones

"Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here!
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones."

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I'm Free At Last."

EDGAR ALLAN POE: "Quoth the Raven, nevermore."

CARL JUNG: "Bidden or unbidden, God is present."

WYATT EARP: "Nothing's So Sacred As Honour And Nothing's So Loyal As Love."


DOC HOLIDAY: "He Died in Bed."

 JOHN KEATS: "Here lies one whose is writ in water."

CLARA BARTON: "An Angel of the Battlefield."

New polls show tight Clinton-Trump race nationally, battlegrounds

CNN reported October 31 that Hillary Clinton holds a slim lead over Donald Trump, a new national poll shows.
An ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll released Sunday showed Clinton ahead 46% to 45% -- narrower than Saturday's 2-point Clinton edge.
In CNN's Poll of Polls, which averages results for the five most recently released national surveys, Clinton has a 47% to 42% advantage over Trump. That's unchanged from the most recent Poll of Polls on Saturday.


At-risk Republicans revel in FBI's Clinton email announcement
The ABC/Washington Post poll found that more than 6 in 10 voters say the news that the FBI is investigating newly discovered emails that could be related to Hillary Clinton's private server will make no difference in their vote, while 3 in 10 say it makes them less likely to back Clinton.
Sunday morning also brought a new set of battleground state polls.
In North Carolina -- a must-win state for Trump -- an NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist University poll found Clinton ahead, 47% to Trump's 41%. The same poll found Clinton ahead 48% to 43% in early October.
In Florida, an NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist University survey shows a dead heat -- with Clinton at 45% and Trump at 44%, a one-point drop for Clinton since the same poll's last results in early October, when Clinton led 46% to 44%.
Meanwhile, a New York Times Upshot/Siena poll found Trump ahead -- 46% to 42% -- in Florida. The same poll had found the candidates even at 43% apiece in September.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reflected The New York Times/Siena poll results in Florida.

Knockout loss to Vargas will send Pacquiao to retirement

NEW YORK CITY -- Manny Pacquiao "might be forced to retire" in prizefighting if he loses by knockout in his 12-round title fight against WBO 147-lb titlist Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas on Nov 5.
But owing to his not-so-impressive knockout percentage, oddsmakers are giving Vargas a 50--50 chance to win by KO when he defends his title against the former seven-division titlist at the Thomas & Mack Center, according to writer Jefrey Celiz.
In fact, Vargas has been installed as underdog in the first defense of the title he collected via TKO in March this year.
Taller by four inches and younger by 11 years, Vargas managed to secure only one stoppage victory in his last 12 fights.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, hasn't won by knockout since he scored an 11th round TKO against Miguel Angel Cotto in 2009 also for WBO welterweight fight.
His 12-round unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2, 2015 was viewed by analysts as "the signs of the times" and calls for his retirement reverberated after he claimed he had concealed an arm injury prior to the multi-million bout.


"Normally, boxing aficionados might think this fight is going to be boring since both fighters have not been so explosive in their previous fights, but fans might be surprised to see that both fighters will be aiming for a knockout win," observed Jeff Randall, a boxing analyst from New York.
Randall said since Vargas is the defending champion, he might press the action and wait for the Filipino senator to commit a mistake and unload his bombs.
Vargas has put to sleep 10 of his 27 victims. His last fight ended with a spectacular 9th round TKO over Sadam Alim to claim the vacant WBO title in Washington, D.C. on March 5, 2016.
The only blot in his record was a unanimous decision defeat to Timothy Bradley for the interim WBO welterweight belt in Carson, California on June 27, 2015.
In September 2008, Vargas won his pro debut against the undefeated Joel Gonzalez by first round KO.


Vargas got attention when, during a fight against Trenton Titsworth,  he was kissed on the neck and responded by hitting Titsworth during the break. Titsworth was deducted two points, Vargas one.
In his 12th fight, the Las Vegas-based Vargas knocked out a former IBO light welterweight champion Daniel Sarmiento of Argentina. The bout was the main event of FSN's Fight Night Club. In his next fight Vargas won an eight-round unanimous decision against Mexican Ramón Montaño on the undercard of Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana.
In terms of experience and quality of opponents, Vargas pales in comparison to Pacquiao, who has knocked out 38 of his 58 customers, including a brutal two-round disposal of the feared Ricky Hatton for the IBO lightweight diadem in Las Vegas on May 2009.

How AP rates the presidential race and the Road to 270

Hillary Clinton appears to have expanded her likely electoral college advantage amid strong early vote numbers in key states and national polling that, while tightening, consistently shows her leading Republican rival Donald Trump.

The Associated Press this week moves Nevada, where most recent polls show Clinton leading and early vote numbers appear to be in her favor, to leaning Democratic.

AP also moves Iowa from leaning Republican to tossup after a recent Quinnipiac University poll there showed a tied race.

The analysis is of the map as it stands today. It considers preference polling, recent electoral history, demographic trends and campaign priorities such as advertising, travel and on-the-ground staff.

If Clinton is able to hold on to her current battleground leads, she would win the White House even if Trump sweeps the remaining tossup states.

SOLID DEMOCRATIC: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state (213 total electoral votes).

LEANS DEMOCRATIC: Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (65 total electoral votes).

TOSS-UP: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine 2nd District, Nebraska 2nd District, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah (87 total electoral votes).

LEANS REPUBLICAN: Alaska, Georgia, Missouri, Texas (67 total electoral votes).

SOLID REPUBLICAN: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wyoming (106 total electoral votes).

Follow AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson on Twitter at:


Want to chart your own path along the Road to 270? Figure out how Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can get the Electoral College votes they'll need to win the White House with AP's interactive map: By EMILY SWANSON

We need nature's help

With nature's help, 
humankind can set into creation
all that is necessary and life sustaining.

God's majesty is glorified
in the manifestation of every manner
of nature's fruitfulness.

This is possible,
possible through the right and holy 
utilization of the earth,
the earth in which humankind has its source.

The sum total of heaven and earth,
everything in nature,
is thus won to use and purpose.

It becomes a temple and altar 
for the service of God.

Saving our planet

SAVING OUR PLANET: Club stains away. To keep fresh stains from sinking deep into clothes, immediately apply a little carbonated water bubbles up the stain and the salts keep the color from sticking. Then wash as normal.

SAVING OUR PLANET: Bake off stains. for hard-to-beat, stubborn stains on our kitchen surfaces, let's dampen a sponge and apply baking powder, then wipe cleans as normal. The abrasive powder will get rid of most stains, but if the mark remains, let's try re-soaking the stain with a solution of baking powder instead.

SAVING OUR PLANET: Let's make our own polish. Most mass-produced polishes contain solvents that are harmful to the environment. Many of them come in aerosol sprays, which are wasteful and contain harmful gases.

SAVING OUR PLANET: Let's refresh naturally. Instead of chemical plug-in air refreshners, let's place a few slices of citrus fruit such as lemon or orange in a sauceapan, together with a few cloves. Simmer the mixture gently for an hour or so to refresh the smell of our house.

SAVING OUR PLANET: Don't dispose. Whenever we can, let's swap our throw-away, disposable items for reusable versions. We won't have to pay out over and over again plus we will avoid contributing to landfill.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Happiness)

Don't wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you've got to make yourself.

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental mission statement of any human being. We're happy when our stomach is full; when we achieve inner peace and satisfaction; when our basic needs are met; when our freedom is unrestricted; when our love and desire are unhampered. 

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Words)

A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.

Ugly or insulting words are like shrapnel that pierces into the mind and feeling, thus we are fatally hit and wrecked mentally and emotionally. We will have to agonize if they register in our memory. If we are instantly killed by a sword, all the pains will also die with us.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Knowledge)

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.

If ignorance will produce illiterates, false knowledge will produce idiots.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Spending Habits)

It's not your salary that makes you rich, it's your spending habits.

If we prioritize what we NEED over what we WANT, that's called discipline. If we give weight on what we WANT over what we NEED, it's called disaster.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

God is Understanding

I am life, complete unto itself.
not needing stones to be sculpted,
no needing branches to blossom,
not rooted in human potency.

Rather, all life has its root in me.

Understanding is the root.
The resounding WORD blossoms forth from it.

How then,
is it possible for God not to be at work?
God is Understanding.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Heart)

A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.

Love, however, is not a popularity contest. When the heart performs, it doesn't need a panel of judges. Love, therefore, shouldn't be judged according to public approval, but should be appreciated according to intention and desire to share it without much expectations.

Alex P. Vidal Quotes (Dignity)

When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response.

It's tactical brilliancy when we conquer our enemies in the battlefield. To conquer our anger, irrational behavior and propensity to harbor grudges against those who have offended us, is wisdom. To forgive--but not necessarily forget--and let bygones be bygones, is divine. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Books I 'lost' in Manhattan

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." -- Emily Dickinson

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- Early this year, I received a  gift from a friend, lawyer-historian Boy Cabado: Dr. Ariel Durant's The Complete Story of Civilization epub version.
I don't need anymore to ransack any library each time I want to read some of the stories in that powerful 11-volume set. Amazing technology.
The file shared by Atty. Cabado was so comprehensive that anywhere I go, I can have instant access to the following volumes: Our Oriental Heritage, Life of Greece, Caesar and Christ, Age of Faith, Renaissance, Age of Reason Begins, Age of Louis XIV, Age of Voltaire, Rousseau and Revolution, Age of Napoleon, Reformation with the tip of my finger in my iPad or laptop.
In Upper West Manhattan recently, I nearly bought three of the most important volumes of Fr. Frederick Charles Copleston's influential multi-volume, A History of Philosophy (1946–75), in hard-bound copies.


Because it was sold in a street fair trade, the price was very tempting. It was mouth-watering, to say the least.
I needed to take a subway train back to Queens and couldn't carry more loads in my knapsack, thus, with a heavy heart, I dropped the idea of adding those jewels in my collection of priceless reading materials.
Also, I remember Atty. Cabado's epub. Yes, Virginia. 
No need to belabor myself with those weighty or cumbersome items. Not when I am travelling.
Back in the Philippines three years ago, I remember retired city hall information chief, Boy Espejo, exhorting me to refrain from buying hard copies of great books among other important reading materials because they are now available in ebook, he said.
Fr. Copleston's books I saw during the street trade fair were: A History of Philosophy, Vol. 1: Greece and Rome From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus; Vol. 2: Medieval Philosophy-From Augustine to Duns Scotus; and Volume 3: Late Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy: Ockham, Francis Bacon. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Retired Ilonggo navyman: Filipinos need America

"America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand."     -- Harry S. Truman

By Alex P. Vidal

GROTON, Connecticut -- America can afford to lose us, but we can't afford to lose America.
This was the assertion made by an 82-year-old Filipino-American retired US navy officer, who sharply reacted to reports that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has severed the country's ties with the United States to side with China and Russia.
Reynaldo Adrias Amuan, born and raised in Divinagracia, La Paz, Iloilo City, Philippines, insisted that only the United States can protect the Filipinos in the event of a world nuclear war.
AMUAN younger in the frame and at 82 today.
"No country in the world today can match the military force of the United States," he disclosed. "Even if China and Russia will combine their forces, they can't match the army, naval and air power of America." 
Aside from economic benefits, Filipinos can always rely on the United States in terms of security and protection from bullies like China in the Asia Pacific, he said.
"The Philippines can't afford to lose the United States. Millions of Filipinos are currently enjoying good life because of the United States, something that no other countries around the world can provide," said Amuan, who was assigned in six submarines that carried nuclear missiles stationed in the Asia Pacific, Scotland, Haiti, Korea, Japan, Taipei, and Spain from 1957 to 1976.


Amuan said if not for the US, he and many other Filipino immigrants would not have attained their so-called "American Dream" or the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.
While studying radio operator at Central Radio Electronic School (CRES) in 1953, Amuan worked as casual employee at Iloilo city hall under Mayor Rodolfo T. Ganzon. 
After his graduation in 1956, he applied and passed the examination for the US Navy held at the Naval Station Sangley Point in Cavite, Philippines.
"If I did not make it here, I would be driving a trisikad today in the Philippines. I would not have enjoyed my retirement and would be living as isang kahig isang tuka," added Amuan, who is married to Aida Castro-Amuan, 80, of Ajuy, Iloilo.
They have two children and six grandchildren all born and raised in the US: Pearl Boivin, 55, married to an executive of a multi-national firm in Massachusetts, and Sean, 53, a pilot at American Airlines.
Pearl is an engineer while Sean graduated in the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in 1985.
Amuan, who can still drive a car and maintains a Facebook account, thanked America for "my medical benefits that I could not have enjoyed if I did not become a navy man."


Aside from his retirement benefits in the US Navy, Amuan also receives additional pension in the US Social Security, among other monthly benefits. "Life is good to me. I am now enjoying my retirement because of Uncle Sam," he stressed.
His parents, Jose Amuan and Conchita Adrias, were natives of Divinagracia, La Paz district in Iloilo City. Of the three Amuan sons, only Reynaldo and younger brother Rodolfo, 80, are alive. The youngest, Reynaldo, 78, died in Guam two years ago.
The Filipino American community is the second largest Asian American group in the US at four million.
Filipinos started to arrive in the US in 1898 as laborers, mostly in agriculture and domestic service, and as students. 
The Filipino American population numbered 45,026 by 1930. Since 1970, the Filipino population has grown nearly seven times, from 336,731 to 2,364,815, making up almost one percent of the national population. 
This includes hapas of part-Filipino ancestry, who make up 22 percent of the Filipino American population--the third-highest rate among major APA groups (behind Native Hawaiians and Japanese), according to the Asian American History, Demographics and Issues. 


It is believed that the integration of the Philippines by the U.S. into the world market as an export economy resulted in the loss of small family-owned farms. 
Amid promises of monetary success, young displaced male Filipinos with minimal educations and bleak economic futures readily chose to immigrate to the United States-- especially since their status as American nationals after the Spanish-American War made it easy to do so. 
The first wave of Filipinos to enter and remain in significant numbers immigrated to Hawaii from 1906 to 1935, working in sugar and pineapple plantations and later the farms of California as migrant laborers.
In his arrival speech after a recent state visit in China, Duterte, 72, clarified that he did not cut the Philippines' diplomatic relations with Uncle Sam saying "I can not do that."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Write like Lydia Pendon but don't die like a pauper

"Don't send me flowers when I'm dead. If you like me, send them while I'm alive." -- Brian Clough

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- If she were a college professor, students of Ms Lydia Pendon would have called her a "terror" or "Miss Tapia" (a tough contrabida teacher in a Tito, Vic & Joey comedy sitcom, "Iskul Bukol").
If she were a parent, Ms Pendon would be the "stage mother" type: strictly no boyfriend or girlfriend for my son or daughter; no dating; no courtship. 
If she were a wife, Ms. Pendon, a tall woman, would not hesitate to wring the neck of a philandering husband or send to the emergency room first a wife beater before he can clobber her.
She was ultraconservative and had no mercy for "mga ikratan" (flirt girls) and would side with the accused in rape cases. She hated political butterflies and admired a lot Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, the last person who gave her employment when income in the newspapers couldn't anymore sustain her basic needs.


Ms. Pendon, who did not teach in school, never had a child, and never married, was one of the most "feared" senior media practitioners in the Philippines. Feared both by her colleagues and corrupt public officials.
Colleagues got ribbed with a mouthful if their jokes could not pass her standard. She once devoted an entire column lashing at a city councilor for calling her "la on" (unmarried old lady) in a Christmas party hosted by Vice Mayor Vic Facultad.
She was also among the most popular. Former Senate President Nene Pimentel and former President Gloria Arroyo called her "Lydia"; former Senator Nikki Coseteng addressed her as "Manang Lydia", among other national figures during press conferences.
In 1992, when she quit from Panay News to join us in the News Express, Ms. Pendon stirred the hornet's nest when she convinced business manager Mariano Malones (now mayor of Maasin, Iloilo) to purge the paper with "reds" or "left-leaning writers like Pet and Alex."
Pet Melliza, now a lawyer, was the editor, and Alex was yours truly, then staff member and sports writer.


Atty. Melliza forgave Ms. Pendon when she told colleagues about a joke that she once saw him "carrying a sack full of firearms and grenades" after a press conference in Hotel del Rio, but wanted "to teach her a lesson" for calling us "communists"; ergo we had no business staying in the paper.
To make the long story short, she was in, the "communists" were out. 
The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) awarded us with damages. The "communists" were vindicated.
It was not until 2004 when Ms. Pendon and I were reunited again in one newspaper. Daily Informer publisher Bernie Miaque convinced me to take the portfolio as editor-in-chief, to work with my one-time "assassin" Ms. Pendon, who was the paper's associate editor.
I had no problem working with Ms. Pendon, who was so tenacious and treated her job as her own baby. 
It was in the Daily Informer where we strengthened our friendship and camaraderie until 2008 when the paper made its dramatic exit from the public.
Ms. Pendon, who started her career as photographer during the Marcos years, was a good writer. Her prose and style were so simple that even those who have not gone to school could appreciate her articles. 
She died a pauper. She never had a car. She never owned a house and lot. When she decided to devote her life in mass media, it's tantamount to making a vow of poverty. 


Her life as a journalist was glamorous. Public officials, business leaders, and socialites admired and respected her as a person. Press releases sent to the editorial room carried notes like love letters to "Inday Lyds."
She was a hero to her family. With her meager income as a newshen and, later on, as casual employee in city hall, Ms. Pendon helped sustain her family financially and otherwise--and probably forgot that she, too, had a life to live.
It was retired city hall public information officer Amante "Boy" Espejo who informed me that Ms. Pendon had collapsed in the city hall comfort room several days before she succumbed to brain aneurysm on Oct. 21, 2016 while confined at the St. Paul's Hospital in Iloilo City. He also informed me that she was already 70. She should have retired a long time ago.
The younger generation in Iloilo media lost a "mother" in "Mommy Lyds". We lost a media warrior, a fighter in the arena of public service and journalism.  Rest in peace, Inday Lyds. Thank you for the friendship and for being an inspiration to us.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The woman is the labor of the man

The woman is the labor of the man. 
The man is an aspect of comfort for the woman.
One does not have the capacity of living without the other.
--Humankind: Co-Creators of Divine Manifestation (Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

'First homosexual American president'

"The rights of homosexual people are human rights, and human rights are for everyone." -- Ricky Martin

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- On November 8, 2016, the Americans will make history: either they will elect their first woman president, or they will elect the first president virtually unknown in geopolitics and who came from the reality TV.
The United States will crown either Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party) or Donald J. Trump (Republican Party) as the 45th president.
But it was on March 4, 1857 when the U.S. may have sent to the White House its first "homosexual" president.
The Fascinating Book of History tells us that before he became U.S. president, the unmarried James Buchanan (Democratic Party) "enjoyed a long, close association with his housemate, William R. King--and so close that unconfirmed speculation about the pair still swirls after more than 150 years."
Was Buchanan--the nation's only bachelor chief executive--also its first homosexual president?
The year 1834 was a momentous one for 42-year-old Buchanan. Already a veteran political leaderand diplomat, Buchanan won a seat in the U.S. Senate and formed a friendship with the man who would be his dearest companion for the next two decades.


Buchanan and his chum, William Rufus de Vane King, a U.S. senator from Alabama, became virtually inseparable.
They reportedly shared quarters in Washington D.C., for 15 years. Capitol wits referred to the partners--who attended social events together--as "the Siamese twins."
Buchanan's bond with Senator King was reportedly so close that the future president described it as a "communion." In praising his friend as "among the best, purest, and most consistent public men I have ever known," Buchanan added that King was a "very gay, elegant-looking fellow."
The adjective "gay," however, didn't mean "homosexual" back then. It commonly meant "merry."
It's also useful to understand that it was not unusual for educated men to wax rhapsodic about other men during the 19th century. Admiring rather than sexual, this sort of language signified shared values and deep respect.
Historians rightly point out a lack of evidence that either of the bachelors found men sexually attractive. They note that when Buchanan was younger, he asked a Pennsylvania heiress to marry him. (She reportedly broke off the engagement.) Later, he was known to flirt with fashionable women.


Whatever the nature of his friendship with Buchanan, King reportedly seemed to consider it something more than casual. After the Alabaman became U.S. minister to France in 1844, he wrote home from Paris, expressing his worry that Buchanan would "procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation."
Buchanan reportedly did not find such replacement, but it was apparently not for want of trying. He wrote to another friend of his attempts to ease the loneliness caused by King's absence: "I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them..."
Sometimes the pair reportedly drew derisive jibes from their peers. The jokes often targeted King, a bit of a dandy with a fondness for silk scarves.
In a private letter, Tennessee congressman Aaron V. Brown used the pronoun "she" to refer to the senator, and called him Buchanan's "wife." President Andrew Jackson mocked King as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy." 
Despite the childish jokes, both Buchanan and King advanced to ever-more-important federal posts. President James K. Polk selected Buchanan as his secretary of state in 1845. King won the office of U.S. vice president (running on a ticket with Franklin Pierce) in 1852. Voters selected Buchanan to the White House four years later.


Unfortunately, either of the friends reportedly distinguished himself in the highest office he reached. King fell ill and died less than a month after taking the oath as vice president.
Erupting conflicts over slavery and states' right reportedly marred Buchanan's single term in the Oval Office. Historians give him failing marks for his lack of leadership as the Civil War loomed. 
The pro-slavery chief executive (he was a Pennsylvania Democrat) reportedly opposed secession of the Southern states but argued that the federal government had no authority to use force to stop it.
As a result, Buchanan reportedly made no efforts to save the Union, leaving that task to his successor, Abraham Lincoln. 
Would Buchanan have risen to the highest office in the land if his peers honestly believed he was homosexual? It's hard to say. 
Today's perception is that 19th-century Americans were more homophobic than their 21st-century descendants.  Yet in an era when sexuality stayed tucked beneath Victorian wraps, there was a reportedly de facto "don't ask, don't tell" policy for virtually any profession.
Whatever their private proclivities, Buchanan and King clearly excelled in their private lives--at least until Buchanan got into the White House.
Based on what little evidence history provides, either man's sexual orientation had much, if any, bearing on what he accomplished, or failed to accomplish, in his career.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I have a report for you, Madame Bacchus

"My honour was not yielded, but conquered merely." -- Cleopatra

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- I thank Madame Agnetha Bacchus, a retired Belgian-American language teacher, who goaded me to find out if Cleopatra was real and not a hoax; and if she was Egyptian as what some historians have claimed since time immemorial.
"I knew that there was a 1963 film about Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor, but I am intrigued if she really existed. In the first place, what was she doing there in Rome when Caesar was assassinated, if historians were correct?" Madame Bacchus quipped.
Madame Bacchus, who lives in Manhattan, learned while browsing the internet that aside from writing sports stories, I also wrote some "human interest" stories, scandals, politics, crimes, history, among other subject matters. 
For her, I will write a piece of brief history about Cleopatra and some of the myths that have badgered her name.
"I want a piece of your mind about this woman Cleopatra," Madame Bacchus dared me.


I haven't talked to Madame Bacchus for a long time now, but I am confident she will be able to read this article on her iPad.
Madame Bacchus, I learned--and was able to confirm--that Cleopatra was not a myth. 
Like other historical figures, she once walked on this planet.
And she wasn't Egyptian!
She may have been queen of Egypt, but she was actually Greek, according to the Fascinating Book of History.
Though her family had called Egypt home for hundreds of years, their lineage was linked to a general in Alexander the Great's army named Ptolemy who had come from Macedonia, an area in present day Greece, it was learned.
And she wasn't pretty? Hmmm.
"Cleopatra wasn't a vision of beauty," the book insisted.
"Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. In ancient times, there were no camera's, but people of Cleopatra's stature and wealth could have their likenesses sculpted," the book further claimed. "If the image on an ancient Roman coin is believed to be accurate, then Cleopatra was endowed with a large, hooked nose and was as cheeky as a chipmunk."


Some historians claimed that Julius Caesar allowed Cleopatra to remain queen of Egypt because he loved her.
The fact showed that though not married, Cleopatra did bear Caesar a son, Caesarion. 
"However, that was hardly reason enough to hand over an entire country to her," the book stressed. "Most likely, Caesar felt that any male rule would pose a formidable threat to his empire, whereas Cleopatra was a safer alternative to rule Egypt."
Another myth: Cleopatra died from the bite of an asp after learning of Marc Anthony's death.
Fact: It's unknown exactly how or why Cleopatra committed suicide. According to legend, after hearing of the death of her lover, she had two poisonous asps brought to her in a basket of figs.
The person who found the expired Cleopatra noted two small marks on her arm, but the snakes in question were never located.
"Cleopatra may very well have been distraught about her lover's demise, but it is more likely that rumors she was about to be captured, chained, and exhibited in the streets of Rome drove her to suicide," the book surmised.

A strong man's weakness

"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart." -- Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY -- The hero in Greek mythology, Achilles, who fought in the Trojan war, was invincible in battle except for one little tiny spot, way down near his foot.
His heel was the only vulnerable part of his body, and of course, that was the very spot that his enemies exploited to kill him.
Well, Samson was a hero in ancient Hebrew history, who learned too late that he has an Achilles' heel.
Samson was set apart by God at birth. His mother had been unable to conceive for many years. 
One day an angel appeared to her and told her she would have a son who would be a Nazirite, which meant taking a vow that included no wine and no haircutting, according to the Saints & Scoundrels of the Bible.
Samson would be one of a long line of handpicked deliverers known as judges who fought against Israel's enemies, it added.


Like Achilles, he would be tested in battle. But he would have strength to match that of another fabled Greek hero, Hercules.
"Sadly, Samson was not strong in his convictions. Sure, he could tear apart a lion with his bare hands, but he always picked women who were wrong for him, and he attempted to play mind games with the Philistines--the enemies of Israel and the people he was charged to defeat," narrated the Saints & Scoundrels of the Bible.
Having selected a Philistine wife, against his parents' wishes, Samson reportedly decided to make sport of his wife's townspeople with a riddle related to the lion he killed.
If they could guess the riddle, he would give them 30 new outfits, including 30 items made of linen--undoubtedly a wardrobe to die for. If they couldn't guess it, they would reportedly have to give the items to Samson.
The story went on that when they couldn't guess the riddle, the Philistines threatened to kill Samson's wife and her family.
Obviously there were some sore losers in town. The woman reportedly begged Samson to tell her the riddle, which she then explained to her people.


Samson reportedly lost his temper and killed 30 Philistines to gain their clothing in payment. He also gave away his wife. Samson's experience with his Philistine wife foreshadowed a relationship that  would lead to his doom--his relationship with Delilah.
The Philistine leaders reportedly approached Delilah with an offer she couldn't refuse: find out what made Samson strong. A handsome reward would be hers. Delilah agreed.
So much for standing by your man. When Samson finally gave away his secret, Delilah called in a man to give Samson his first and only haircut.
When Samson woke up, "he didn't realize that the spirit of the Lord had departed. He was quickly taken into captivity by the Philistines. They decided to make an example of him by depriving him of his eyesight and forcing him to grind grain in the prison," added the Saints & Scoundrels of the Bible.


But God had mercy on his wayward deliverer. One of the most promising verses in this sad account is 16:22: "Before long, his hair began to grow back."
Obviously firm believers in the "kick a man when he's down" school of thought, the Philistines decided to have a laugh at Samson's expense, it further narrated.
Samson was taken to the temple where all could see and mock the fallen hero.
"But God had the last laugh," Saints & Scoundrels of the Bible stressed. "After Samson requested that he be placed by the pillars of the temple, God brought the house down with a display of strength--the final act of Samson's life."
This hero was no longer a zero.