Plato’s Pow Wow

Plato’s Pow Wow

Did the headline get your attention?  Well good cuz I’d like to WELCOME EVERYBODY  to Plato’s first Pow Wow!

Every so often, I will open a ‘Pow Wow’ thread for life’s general profundities, ridiculous normalities and of course, its splendid grotesques.  A so-called ‘open thread’ where, well, where anyone (except for you, Chas) can talk about anything they want.  Use the comment section like a community room to share Palestine or non-Palestine topics or personal stories.  Anything goes.  But it’s best that you come here chilled in the brain, warm in the fingertips and armed with either a Pow or a Wow factor.

Okay, it’ll be interactive-experimental so we’ll see how it goes…  Maybe nothing will happen…  But that, dear friends, could be some kinda… art.




  1. Taxi says:

    So to celebrate our first Pow Wow, I’m gonna tell you a true story right now that has nothing to do with nothing – I’m telling it cuz it happened just about 24 hours ago.

    My housekeeper, who lives in my rented farmhouse with me, is a very sweet thirty-something, married, mother of three. She’s a Filipino lady from a remote and dirt-poor village. She’s been with me for ten months. She is very innocent and unworldly and this I find endearing. She’d never used a cooker before she came to my house as all her cooking was done outdoors using collected wood and twigs. She’d never used a washing machine before or any other electrical household appliance. She’d never even slept in a bed before she came to live with me. She speaks little English and I speak no Filipino so of course we don’t get to discuss Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, but we do have a very nice and harmonious co-existence. She is a simple creature who loves her children, loves singing while working and loves Jesus too. Every Sunday I drive her to a famous old church in Maghdouché, a beautiful southern village overlooking the ancient city of Sidon and the blue Mediterranean. I drop her off at church then go walk my dogs on hills where supposedly Jesus and his mother walked. I do this for an hour, then I go back to the church, pick her up and buy her a late breakfast in one of the village cafes. She always tells me all about how much she’s just cried in church while praying and how much she loves Jesus and Jesus this and Jesus that and Jesus-Jesus-Jesus. Okay so she’s religious. This is my impression of her: sweet, lovable, naive, simple, god-fearing, country girl. This is the background to the story.

    So last night, as per usual, I had dinner, walked the dogs in the garden, said goodnight to my housekeeper and went to my room to do some blogging and reading. After a couple of hours, I fancied looking at some stars and getting some fresh autumn night air – I hardly ever do that – I mean leave my room after I’ve settled in after dinner. But last night I did that at around 10pm and to my surprise, when I went to my front door, it wasn’t locked – my housekeeper usually locks it around 9pm. It felt like something was a miss so I went to check to see what she was up to. But I couldn’t find her in her room. I couldn’t find her anywhere in the whole house. I called out her name and searched every room again but nothing. I thought perhaps she’s getting fresh air so I went out looking for her in the garden. Again I called out her name and again nothing – no response. A very strange feeling started creeping up on me – where the hell could she be? She never, ever leaves the grounds alone – ever – she’s too shy and she doesn’t speak the native language at all. I thought maybe she’d fallen and hurt herself unconscious somewhere in the garden ( a very large garden with fruit groves and uneven rolling lawns). I went back into the house, turned all garden lights on and dragged the dogs out and we all of us combed the garden again and again, and again. Nothing. No sign of her.

    My mind started to go wild with concern.

    I ran into the house and called her cellphone. Her line was turned off. I could not understand it. One minute she’s there in the house saying goodnight to me and the next she’s completely vanished and her phone is off. I looked in her room again and all her belongings were there. I started palpitating and seeing all kinds of horrific scenarios – unbearable stuff! I’d looked for her for almost half an hour by now – searching the same spots over and over again in disbelief. I couldn’t take the endless circling and not knowing what the heck to make of it. I grabbed my SUV keys, stuffed the dogs in the back and drove around looking for her down dark, narrow village streets and down pitch-black country roads where jackals leap out of nowhere. Nothing. Nothing. She’s gone and she’s nowhere to be found. I spent a good hour driving, covering every small nook and nearby village cross-section, all the while, my finger on redial trying to call her again and again and I’m beginning to feel a sickness in my stomach and a creeping black dread. All I could do after the fruitless vehicular search was go back home in the hope of finding her there. But no such luck. Nobody home. Nobody in the garden. Just me and the dogs, the dark night and a missing person. I started to feel panic, mortification at having to make a phonecall to her family back in the Philippines to tell them that she’s missing. I wanted to weep because I didn’t know what to do next and it was close to midnight and I still hadn’t found her and I still knew nothing – but I held back the tears as I knew that that would be useless and a waste of precious time. I had to act, not weep – and do it quick. If she’s in danger, then time was of the essence. It’s now two hours that I’ve been aware of her vanishing and I realized that I had no other option but to go to the village policeman’s house and ask for help – I didn’t have his phone number so I had to go knocking on his door after midnight. Which I did, all shattered inside and pale and awkward. He said I’d have to wait 24 hours before a report could be lodged.

    Twenty-four hours?! WTF?! Waiting in mental anguish, utter dread and guttural paroxysm? Oh no. Reality really fucking sucks.

    Back at home, I paced and paced till my nerves were worn raw from imagining more gruesome scenarios. I couldn’t take it any more – I would just have to figure out how to survive the night. Maybe if I laid in bed and read – distracted myself… so I tried it but it wasn’t working – I was fretting uncontrollably and unable to focus on more that two lines. Maybe a herbal tea might help. Maybe I’ll try her phone again. Which I did – and this time it rang and she picked up.

    My goodness, where are you?! I asked, relieved. “I’m here, madam, here, here”, she said. Here in the house? I asked. “Yes”, she said. I ran out of my bedroom and saw her in the kitchen, all dressed up and dolled up and looking very, very, guilty. Where were you, I asked? “In garden, in garden”, she sheepishly said. Really? Show me exactly where you were – please take me to the spot, I calmly asked of her. She hesitated and very, very reluctantly shuffled ahead of me out into the garden then pointed at a spot with one limp finger while looking at me all innocently. It was a spot that I’d already combed several times. I looked back at her, poker-faced. And I looked at her some more. And some more. Her eyes tried to avoid mine and my silence was killing her and all she could do was bring her pointing finger down slowly then suddenly take off running back inside the house.

    The motherfucker had a secret boyfriend and like a teenager had sneaked out the house thinking I’d be in my room till morning and would not know any better. That’s what she fessed up when I went back into the house and told her that she owed me an explanation.

    I was shocked. Deeply disappointed. My little Jesus housekeeper turned out to be no Virgin Mary.

    I didn’t speak a word to her today – and all day she didn’t sing either.

    I’m mad about it not because she has a ‘secret’ boyfriend, but because I fucking hate lies and liars who tell them especially in my house and to my face.

    • Danaa says:

      Heck of a story, Taxi. And well told.

      Still, I says, welcome to the catholic world. A place where you can “love” Jesus who, after all, forgives all – so what’s not to love? The catholics have confession for a reason, I always believed. The molesting priests and the forbearing bishops probably needed much of the forgiveness bestowed at the confession booth all along.

      Anyways, you now know why she really cried at church all this time. It was the irressistable Call of the Wild she was crying about and the lure of temptations she is probably not well equipped to deal with.

      Don’t be too hard on the Philipina. What you should be concerned about are possible complications. Like an unintended pregnancy. And problems with the village.

      As much as you dislike hypocrisy, it is an all too common affliction among members of our species. That’s why we have so many great books and lectures on Ethics. It is probably fair to assume it’s something we find difficult to practice.

      PS I absolutely do not single out Catholicism for opprobrium. Each and every one of the world’s religions have their little blind spots, places where the human pretends to know divine from a manure pile. Need I mention Judaism? Protestanism? Islam? Shintoism? Buddhism? the one true and good religion is the one I invented, but who says I’m sharing?

    • american200 says:

      Great telling of the story taxi.

      But I agree with danaa, don’t be too hard on her—she is as you said a simple girl—-and was probably afraid to tell you of her secret boyfriend because in a sense you are the ‘master’ of her…she is dependent on your good graces.

      And too you don’t know what the situation is between her and her husband….her life probably isnt a bed of roses and lonely people look for a fairy tale love sometimes……its human.

      Have a woman to woman talk and give her some birth control.

    • Walid says:

      “famous old church in Maghdouché, a beautiful southern village overlooking the ancient city of Sidon and the blue Mediterranean. I drop her off at church then go walk my dogs on hills where supposedly Jesus and his mother walked” (Taxi)

      If you live a bit south of Maghdouché,, you must be close to Sarafand, the Zarepath of old where Elijah hid at the widow’s house for a while (1Kings 17:7-16) and there you can walk in his path too. Elijah in Lebanon is Elie or Elias and there’s hardly a Christian family there that doesn’t have a son named Elie. in it. There are 262 churches and sites of worship named for St Elie in Lebanon while there are 355 named for Lebanon’s patron, Saint George. In third place comes Saint Michael with only 93..That’s a lot of churches for a little country but some of them are as small as the little grotto of the Virgin in Maghdouché, where you take your maid on Sundays.

      • Taxi says:

        Fascinating bits of information, Walid. Actually I know Sarafand quite well – my favorite seaside fish restaurant is there: ‘Mermaid of Sarafand’.

        BTW, I don’t purposely seek out to walk in the path of ancient prophets – my dogs are unleashed so I have to take them for walks on hills where populations don’t tread, and only the occasional shepherd and his flock are encountered. Plenty of hills like that in south Lebanon.

      • Walid says:

        “BTW, I don’t purposely seek out to walk in the path of ancient prophets …” (Taxi)

        Speaking of walking in the path of prophets, there has been more saints walking around Lebanon than prophets. I have the 2-volume “Sur les pas des saints au Liban” by Victor Sauma.. It has short biographies of 230 different saints that had something to do with Lebanon including names of schools and churches named after them and their location and the days of the year when each saint is venerated. Most date back to the first 400 years of Christian history and much of what is written about these saints is based on legend and hearsay. Mostly all female saints were virgins under the age of 16. But it’s a fun book because most of saints are covered in about 3 pages.. If you want to know anything about saints in Lebanon, just ask me.

      • Taxi says:

        Is there a Saint Walid in them stories by any chance? There should be. Heh.

        More fascinating stock from Saint W.

      • Taxi says:

        Actually, I’m just remembering right now a beautiful pictorial book that someone once showed me: it was a book of religious Lebanese christian hermits who lived up in the remote parts of jagged Mount Lebanon. They kinda looked like classic humble saints too – though they were from the 19th and early 20th century.

  2. american200 says:

    I am not a good story teller but here is a true story in case you thought all those tales of scandals in Southern Gardens of good and evil were just tales.

    My wife (and I) had a friend whose father was killed while she was in college.
    When we got word we drove down and were going to stay until the funeral was held. Neither of us knew exactly what had happened until we got there.

    Friends and family were sitting in the den drinking cocktails and being served canapés when we arrived. It was all very tisk ,tisk, how tragic.
    Kaye, the daughter, called us outside and gave us the details—-her mother had shot her father.

    The story was that her father came home late, didn’t turn on the lights on the staircase and in the dark her mother had thought he was a burglar and shot him 3 times with a 38 they kept in the bedroom…….about 6 feet from the top of the stairs.

    The deceased it needs to be explained was a total cad as the old ladies say —he had married Kaye ‘s mother for her money and her fathers two cash generating Pepsi bottling companies that she let him control after her father died. And he lived it up on her money…gambling…flaunting his girl friends around in front of her friend as if he wasn’t married….disappearing to Vegas or the islands for periods of time.

    The whole thing was actually surreal…the atmosphere was more like people attending to Kaye’s mother and attending the funeral as if it was a “fitting end’ to some major unpleasantness.

    The shooting had been declared an accident by the police immediately with no investigation………….and that was that.

    Avoiding justice…..? Covering up for a respected lady of the town? Probably. But of anyone cared they never said so or did anything about it.

    The last comment I heard from any of the mourners was two ladies leaving the house saying how they needed to take Libby to Roanoke next week to go shopping and get her over all this’ unpleasantness.’

    • Taxi says:

      Thanks, American – wild story. One hears of “collective cover-ups”, usually from watching movies. Indeed it is surreal when one encounters it in person. Freaky.

      I think we can call that ‘poetic justice’.

  3. Danaa says:

    On another vein – since this is a pow wow:

    Some weeks back I was at a Robotics conference (just another little thing I dabble in), and there was a panel on Ethics, addressing potential conflicts betweeb functionality, utility, and righteousness. The solution, as two members of the panel asserted was a stricter regulatory environment.

    I kind of chuckled at that, knowing a few things – as we all do – about the revolving doors that compromise nearly all our regulatory agencies. Later I thought of something else – with all the talk about the approaching singularity, the “rupture of the nerds”, the forebodings about the end times when the Robots take over and dispense with their human creators – one wonders – exactly what kind of ethical imperatives would we embed in our robots? do we even know our own minds on that?

    And then I thought of something else – supposing we did program the robots with all the things we wish for – a livable environment, respect for life – all life – a distaste for hubris, a craving for accomplishment – ie., all the good values we try to impart to our own off-spring. Supposing further, the robots did evolve and indeed dispensed with us, their human creators – one way or another, as basically wasteful, inefficient and querrelous organisms. But still, they had those built-in imperatives, those values, that we built into them. Which now, become something of a common “robot-religion”, mixed with no small amount of nostalgia for their carbon based creators, who, in time become both romanticized and endowed with tragically doomed soft halos, like the Greek gods of old.

    The world, now populated by robots – much evovled, of course – perhaps will be nothing like imagined in Battlestar Galactica. May be it’s a great world actually. With a blooming environment, a respect for the diversity of species, clean oceans, “green” energy and generally lots of law and no little amount of order. A world in which the future, now fully sentient robots live much as we would have liked to – in peace, dedicated to higher arts, crafts and preservation. The robots, who all keep pets of course with many having kittens and puppies that never grow old, play music, weave baskets and endlessly read and re-read the literature we left behind. They hold competitions for the best cat videos and watch old reality shows for entertainment and to remind themselves why those unruly pesky humans had to go.

    In their spare time – of which they have much, they build cyber universes, where themes from human history, science and art play out over and over. We, as we are now, including all of us (you too Taxi) may live, in fact, in one of these universes. Our Matrix. In this universe, there’s someone like yours truly who goes to Robotics conferences and contemplates what it might be like if them robots really do take over. Then I look at one of my cats – the one who has the habit of looking at me ever so slyly when it thinks I don’t notice – and I just know she is reporting to the Robot gods – our gods. I try to be good, or at least good enough so the report will say that all is well and as it should be, so that this universe at least can go on for a little bit longer.

      • Danaa says:

        But Walid, what is “soul”? is there some basic law of the universe that says only carbon based sentient units (Ie, us) can have what’s considered to be a “soul”? and why can’t a robot – which is likely to be a hybrid biological/silicon based creature anyways – have enough self-awareness or even conscience to be considered a soul-carrying being-in-good-standing?

        I am convinced my cats have souls – more of it than many humans, in fact. you can’t convince me otherwise, try hard as you wish.

        I fact, now that I think of it, in my robot universe, there are lots of discussions about ‘souls’ – what they are, who has more of it or less of it, can it be “preserved”, can it be lost or found, and – the question of all questions – does one have to have a finite span of life – ie, be mortal – to truly partake of said “soul”.

        No answers – just questions.

      • seanmcbride says:

        Arguably the entire universe, including all animate and inanimate manifestations, is infused with “soul.”

    • seanmcbride says:


      I suspected that you would come up some original ideas when weighing in on the subject of artificial intelligence — there is material here for a few dozen imaginative science fiction novels.

      Consider this, however: the gap between ants and human beings regarding intelligence and consciousness may be much smaller than that between human beings and future manifestations of AI and robotics — meaning that we may not have the slightest clue about what makes them tick or how they understand the world. We need to be careful about anthropomorphizing our vision of how this technology may evolve.

      Also, if we grant autonomy to these creations, they will quickly escape whatever ethical programming we would like to implant in them. Where all this is going is a Great Unknown from the standpoint of human understanding.

    • seanmcbride says:


      The thinking and communications of our AI creations down the line may appear to us as absolute gibberish — completely impenetrable. (This will also probably be the case for most or all the more advanced life forms and civilizations we eventually encounter in the universe — assuming that the human race survives long enough to experience those encounters.)

      How much of our thinking do our pet dogs and cats understand? Ants? Gnats? In the big scheme of things, our cognitive maps of the world are highly primitive and circumscribed.

  4. Taxi says:

    Hey guys, thanks y’all for your comments regarding my housekeeper story.

    She baked me a dozen lemon cupcakes (my fave), so all is forgiven.

    But the lesson that I’ve had to re-learn: never judge a book by its cover.

  5. Taxi says:

    Really, 48 hours after the incident and on reflection, the whole dramarama was a case of the housekeeper ‘experimenting’ with life and setting the lab on fire.

    She’s lived a sheltered and isolated life, married young and began having children at age 16. Coming to Lebanon straight from her Philippine village at age 33 was her first trip abroad and her first step into financial independence and personal liberation.

    She has a right to make her mistakes.

    And I have a right to enjoy my lemon cup cakes.

  6. slppppp says:

    “She always tells me all about how much she’s just cried in church while praying and how much she loves Jesus and Jesus this and Jesus that and Jesus-Jesus-Jesus” Taxi

    I think John Paul II said that his favorite Jesus movie was Pasolini’s The Gospel According to Matthew.

  7. slothy says:

    “I drop her off at church then go walk my dogs on hills where suposedly Jesus and his mother walked” Taxi

    Enter the Greek
    Aristophanes that is
    in the year of –
    which Lord ? –
    421 BCE !

    Peace / play (wikipedia)

    Peace – the plot

  8. Walid says:

    Taxi, could you imagine making music out of a coconut? Marcel Khalifeh that you know very well because his ballads were taken in good part from the poetry of Darwish, happens to be also a classical music composer. He wrote the “Concerto for Rababa and Orchestra” that was commissioned by the State of Qatar.

    A rababa is an 8th century Persian-Arab deep-voiced fiddle with a square leather casing that is still in use today by the Bedouins. In this concerto, the rababa is special in that it’s carved from a coconut and its long neck is strung with horsehairs. The soloist for this concerto is the famous Egyptian cellist, Hassan Moataz. The music is the haunting sound of the Bedouins with a little touch of Gershwin.

    Concerto for Rababa and Orchestra played at the beautiful Opera House in Doha with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra:

    • Taxi says:

      What an amazing share! Thank you. Listening to it right now and loving it. Everything about it is brilliant.

      What a cool little coconut instrument – exquisite sounds it makes.

  9. Bornajoo says:

    Terrific Walid. Thanks. The rababa is very similar to the Thai instrument called the “saw duang”. Some versions are also made from coconuts but they have 2 strings instead of one. Apart from that they are incredibly similar in every way, including sound (i used to play one many moons ago)

    • Walid says:

      “Apart from that they are incredibly similar in every way, including sound (i used to play one many moons ago)” ( Bornajoo}

      What music did you play, Bornajoo?

  10. Just watched and listened to the Rababa played in concert with orchestra.
    Fascinating, Walid. And thank you for bringing it to Taxi’s PowWow !

    My favourite part was the solo backed by the percussion drumming with the palm of the hands .. Resonated with my very primitive love of rhythm and sound !

    Marcel Khalife does a good job resurrecting part of the ancient musical heritage from our part of the world.

      • Walid says:

        “inspiring climber – and brilliant film crew.” (Taxi)

        It was a sponsored event undoubtedly with a huge budget in Red Bull tradition. Remember the Felix Baumgartner balloon jump from the stratosphere in 2012? It was reported that it had cost Red Bull $50 million to pull it off.

        David Lama’s sinkhole event must have also cost Red Bull plenty.

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