Saturday, October 30, 2010

Seeking the Soul of America: The Pursuit of Happiness.

The National Football League markets itself as “America’s Passion’ (to distinguish from baseball, America’s “pastime”). We gay American men are passionate and so we love our football (and the chance to dress in drag and make out in public.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Photographic Occurrences


The photo of Paris above is one of the most famous in the history of photography.

Why, because the Nazis were coming and all the Parisians fled?  No.

So why are there no Parisians in this daytime photo?

Historians say there is at least one and that's what makes this photograph one of the most famous in history. He's highlighted in red below.


The man has got one leg up, getting his shoes shined.

He is the first human being certified to be captured in a photograph, which is known as a daguerreotype, for Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the technology. The Boulevard du Temple only appears to be empty. Horses and buggies and people walking by were way too fast for Daguerr's 1838 contraption to record. Things had to be perfectly still, or nearly so, and one is very nearly perfectly still when getting one's shoes shined. Historians think there may be at least one other nearly perfectly still Parisian in this daguerreotype; he is directly across the walkway from Boots, allegedly reading a newspaper.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Greetings to Woyuanwoyuan Shu. Woyuanwoyuan, (as you probably know) sending personal thanks to followers is, like quantum mechanics and why I have so many mis-matched socks, something that is beyond God's gifts to me (and I've had the assistance of the better gifted, another member). So please accept this public appreciation and feel free to email me at

-Benjamin Harris

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Politics & Justice in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

To my friends in the State Attorney's Office,

You slay me. Semper fidelis.

I have moved into my own office at 1333 SW 8 Street. Come visit (incognito). I have also begun to learn Spanish:

L'est mi noevo officino:

("Abogado" means "lawyer.")

Mi nuevo address-o est uno tres tres tres Calle Ocho:)

Los numeros are poquito crooked-o because mi put them on myself. :(

Huh! How about that? Pretty good, huh? I also have a Spanish-speaking secretary in case I forget a word here or there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010


There was a celebration of his life today. It was a life worth celebrating, all snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

A young man died. I knew him as a boy and loved him.

In memory of Alan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Denis Dutton is an amazing guy. How he puts together Arts & Letters Daily, daily, is beyond me.  His eye for the interesting is impeccable but to somehow be able to sort through all of the dross and find the gems that he does is the work of an eye that never strains.  Today there are four great articles he profiles with his trademark squibs:

-Hiding Behind the Screen, by Roger Scruton, published in The New Atlantis examines how personal relationships that begin on the internet are affected by the medium and how those virtual relationships affect the "real" thing.

-The Moral Landscape is a new book by Sam Harris, much respected here (See posts September 22, 24, 2006).  Mr. Dutton features a review posted in

-The German Genius by Peter Watson (See December 7, 2004, January 2, 2005).

-Finally, China's Dilemma, Social Change and Political Reform, an article published in Foreign Affairs (See previous four years).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

China's Great Firewall.


Okay, this I laughed at. So that's what it looks like when someone tries to access Public Occurrences in the PRC. 

Seeing it is amazing. God bless Mr. Mu, I have no idea how he was able to do this. I love his little commentary: "The first second;" then "In less than 3 seconds it changed to this."  I sent him back an email explaining again:

Mr. Mu, it's the "Great Firewall," the internet police. I'm so sorry but I can tell you they're published and are being read, including in the PRC.


Hope he believes me.

It's just comical. I just can't believe they do this. And it's so inept. They can't, or demonstrably don't, prevent emails to and from a Foreign Devil. And what I write--and anybody else writes--eventually gets in, it just takes longer than without the hassle of censorship. But they still do this. They have over 300,000 people whose sole job it is to do this. Amazing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Seeking the Soul of America

Who are these people?  The individuals at left and far right share some common characteristics.  Both are obese for instance. Both wear beanies on their heads.  All three are men.

 Below we have some other men.

They are not obese.  The one whose face is visible is also, objectively and in my subjective opinion, more attractive than the two fat men and the cadaver. The two men above also seem to be happy, or at least enjoying themselves. The two fat men and the cadaver do not appear to be happy or enjoying themselves.

The fat man in the black beanie is a holy man of the Jewish faith, a "Rabbi" they call him.  The fat man in the purple beanie is a holy man of the Catholic faith, a "Priest," the equivalent to a "Rabbi."  The cadaver, appropriately sandwiched in between the two holy men, is an American politician.  All three hate the two guys enjoying themselves. There is no rational reason for this.

There is no rational reason for this hate but then religion is not rational. Religion asks followers to take a "leap of faith" (the phrase is Soren Kierkegaard's) away from rationality, to ignore the evidence before "your lyin' eyes," (the phrase is the Eagles'), to believe that it's (Judaism's, Catholicism's, etc.) way is the true way, that it's holy men are the real holy men.

There is nothing evil about leaping without looking if you just do it yourself and don't take anybody else with you, but religion is not like that. It commands followers to...follow.  And so 900 followers of Jim Jones, a "Reverend," drank the purple Kool-Aid and followed him to wherever he went.  All holy men promise the mostest and the bestest life in the wherever but they can't all be right and it says here none of them are right. Whatever: at least the followers make the decision, rationally or not, to follow.

The real problem with religion is its exclusivity: If you don't do it my way you're doomed. We are saved, those other people are doomed. And not just in doomed in the wherever, doomed in the here and now. The two guys enjoying themselves are doomed because they're not doing it the right way (it's a "sin"). The way you're supposed to do it is with a woman, not a man (unless you're a woman and then you have to do it with a man). So the two fat holy men in the beanies hate the two guys enjoying themselves (but each fat man still thinks the other is doomed).

The cadaverous politician has taken the leap of faith with the fat man in the purple beanie.  He is pictured below leaping into Purple's embrace (it's okay to do it this way).
But the cadaver wants followers (called "voters") too and since he hates the guys enjoying themselves and the fat man in the black beanie hates the guys enjoying themselves he, the cadaver, lept into bed with Black.

The cadaver, Carl Paladino, who it should be said is a "Republican" politician, gave a speech at the the "synagogue" (house of worship) of Black Beanie, Rabbi Yehuda Levin. In fact the speech was co-written by Levin and it represented the combined hatred of Levin, Paladino, and Purple Beanie (Timothy Dolan) toward the guys enjoying themselves (homosexuals/gays). The next day Paladino went on the TV and explained how, "disgusting" the behavior of the two guys enjoying themselves was.  Paladino experienced this upset in Toronto, Canada at a "Gay Pride" parade, which is in fact where the photo of the two guys enjoying themselves, or "grinding," was taken.

Paladino's speech and TV appearance alienated rather than won him followers and so the next day (this all happened this week) Paladino lept out of bed with Levin, who received this unhappy news while--I am not making this up--eating a salami (kosher) sandwich. In fact Levin reported that he was so upset he almost choked on the salami (I did not make that up either).

America is the most religious country on earth. One of the principles the country was founded upon was religious tolerance. Thus Levin and Dolan get to worship and preach what they want. America is also a democracy, thus people like Paladino can run for any political office they want. America has produced its share of Babbitts, like Paladino, and its share (more than its share) of religious bigots like Levin and Dolan. The issue becomes what the tolerant should do in the face of this intolerance. I am intolerant of intolerance, I am very intolerant of intolerance (I have an anger management problem). In the movie Manhattan, Woody Allen suggests the right approach: bricks and baseball bats work best with Nazis.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Joy of America: Bill Mazeroski's Home Run.


Fifty years ago today, at precisely this time, 3:36 in the afternoon, the individual pictured above hit a home run in the game of baseball.  It was the seventh and final game in the World Series and it won the game, and the world championship, for his team, the Pittsburgh "Pirates."  

But that's not all it did. It created the most joyful moment in the history of the city of Pittsburgh in the most joyful country on earth, America. That home run beat the New York "Yankees," the most famous and decorated team in the sport, perhaps in all of sports, a team with infinitely more talent than that Pittsburgh team. 

The man who hit that home run grew up not far from Pittsburgh, in rural West Virginia.  He had what was, for the time, a typical Western Pennsylvania, blue-collar surname, Mazeroski, William "Bill" Mazeroski, for Americans give nicknames to everybody and everything.  It is part of our way of showing affection, and lack of affect.  "Maz" (we give multiple nicknames) is one of the great---defensive--players in the history of the sport, which is America's pastime. That Bill Mazeroski, Maz, hit the home run--perhaps the most famous and dramatic home run in the history of the sport, was a miracle.

One can see, on the face of the fan running behind Maz, the joy that that home run brought. And not only to that man, but to the entire city of Pittsburgh, and to the region.  And for all time. The portion of the outfield wall that the ball cleared has been preserved, while the stadium has long since been demolished. And today in Pittsburgh they celebrate the anniversary of that moment, as they have all this summer.

I lived in that region, about a two hour drive from Pittsburgh, in a coal mining town so small that it doesn't exist by that name anymore (which annoys me).  I was only five years old on October 13, 1960 but I have memories of that day, and of that summer as the "Bucs" (nickname) relentlessly, and incongruously, stayed near the top of the standings and then won it all at 3:36 on that October afternoon.

My memories of that day are glorious ones,* not for myself, for I was too young to attend the game, but for my older brother Don, then 15 years old, and for my Dad, who as a weekly newspaper owner was somehow able to call in some favor or favors and acquire two tickets.

When Don left for school that morning, Dad had not gotten the tickets, and Don was disconsolate.  

Then, in mid-morning Dad got them.  

He called the school.  

He spoke to the principal. 

Dad told the principal, "Send Donny Harris home."  

That was all, "Send Donny Harris home."  The principal got on the loudspeaker: "Donny Harris, report to the principal's office."  That is almost never a good sign (it had never been a good sign for Don in the past or for the remainder of his academic "career.").  But Don knew what it meant.  I don't know if he even went to the principal's office or just bolted out of the high school.  He made it home before Dad did.  He probably made it home before Dad hung up the phone with the principal. 

I remember Don's delirious excitement and joy when he got home.  It actually reminds me of the look on Song Binbin's face when she pinned Chairman...Dear God, I can't believe I let that woman intrude here. I remember when Dad pulled up in his car, the look on his face, knowing what he had just done for his son.  I remember Don bursting out of the front door when he saw Dad pull up. 

That's all I remember. I don't remember watching the game on TV.  I have to think I must have, but I have no memory of it, or of the home run. The memories I do have are quite enough and among the very best in my life.  

For with one brief physical motion, the swing of a glorified stick, Bill Mazeroski brought more great memories and more joy to more people than most people do in a lifetime.

*See also post here January 26, 2003.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Liu Xiaobo's Nobel

Received the following email this morning from a Chinese-American:

Hi, Ben:

It brought tears to my eyes hearing Liu Xiaobo has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
He deserves it. I think Chinese should thank the Nobel Prize Committee for their
decision. I believe it will have a strong impact on the movement for human rights
and democracy. In a way, it is the Chinese communist government that helped make
it happen. I'll wait and see the aftermath.
Let's celebrate it.

Wang Yi

My response was "ABSOLUTELY, my friend!"

I know that this is being celebrated in the PRC (quietly, not with the fireworks as over Guiyang in 2009). The first Chinese Nobel Peace laureate EVER!

I propose a cyber-toast! Let's lift our virtual glasses of Maotai together: Here is to Liu Xiaobo, to Chinese everywhere who celebrate this occasion, and TO CHINA!

Friday, October 08, 2010

is part of the soul of China too.

Liu Xiaobo, the co-author of Charter 08, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

We must try. In our perfect imperfection we may not be able to improve the world but effort is the least that can be expected of us. And the most. For when we try, we will often lose: our jobs, our friends, our loved ones, our freedom, our lives. Liu Xiaobo lost his job, and many of his friends, and his (relative) freedom (repeatedly). One man, standing up to power, for what is right, can expect to lose all of that. But he won't lose his soul. And he will ennoble the souls of the rest of us, and the soul of mankind.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Today is a day of great foreboding. For tomorrow the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.  Which means that for one day too many in the year we must pay a moment's attention to Norway. Last year at this time we did a war dance on the head of Norway, its king ("Harald"), its culture, its latitude, even its women (we ran out of subjects) on the occasion of the award of the Peace Prize to President Obama. We called the Nobel Committee something like a group of  "twee, cloistered, clueless, politically correct elites," (we ran out of adjectives) completely out of touch with reality.

Fortunately, no American that we know of (but then nobody knew President Obama was on the Nobel committee's radar last year either) is anywhere near the top of the list for this year's award. A Chinese is. Today a betting man (Here!) would put down his money that tomorrow the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese dissident. In a preemptive strike against this hostile action the government of the People's Republic of China has informed the government of King Harald that awarding the prize to Liu would, and we quote The New York Times here, "pull the wrong strings in relations between Norway and China."

Every time one thinks one has reached the bottom of all that is dark about the soul of China, there's another trap door leading further down. Chinese are a pain-ridden people, but (or and) a people who are afraid of their own shadow. They are at the same time a vain, xenophobic, people. And a cruel (or a tolerant of the cruel) people. And it is this fear, bed-rocked on their pain, that explains this boorish reaction to the Nobel. Think about this: China is afraid of Norway. Only in China, could there be fear of Norway. Only in China could a website written by an idiot blogger in America be blocked from that government's people. Only in China would there be such misplaced, undeserved, vanity as to presume to tell another government that the award of a prize could harm relations between the two governments. "Pull the wrong strings," huh.  

I missed this year's October day anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. In past years I have posted something on the occasion.  If memory serves, last year I wrote, near the beginning of the attempt to "seek the soul of China," that China, as it has for 5,000 years "continues to degrade" the best that is in man's soul. There is much good (I think) in China's soul, certainly in the souls of individual Chinese but as a generalization of the entire history of this one-quarter of mankind, I stand by that judgment.

Liu Xiabao, a Chinese, is deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. China does not deserve to have one of its citizens, make that imprisoned subjects, so-honored.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An Open Letter to the Countries of the World


Dear Countries,

How are you I am fine.

Have you ever taken a good look at your flags?  Put aside familiarity and national pride, look at them objectively as artistic symbols of who you are.  Do that, and you will see that your flags suck.

Flags are the symbols of your nations and since, collectively, you are mankind you are revealing mankind to be an ugly, unimaginative species with florid, psychotic ideation. The flag at top is not the product of my own florid, psychotic ideation. That's a real flag, of the Isle of Man.

Now, I'll start off with mine:

Most Americans get a tear in their eye seeing the "stars and stripes."  The last time I got a tear in my eye was when the rewind button on my VCR went on the blink during the flashing scene in Basic Instinct but I do love my flag. Viewed objectively though, it's...busy. Too busy.  If someone walked into court dressed in this many stripes and stars the judge would order a psych eval. Plus we have an unsingable national anthem. "And the rockets red glare:"  Only a eunuch can sing that part.

So having established my objectivity let's move on. Below we have, what, a TV test pattern?  No.  It's the flag of Macedonia.

Let's do these by group.  Group one will be called UNIMAGINATIVE.

Okay,okay,okay. You like red, white, and blue. Fine. I like them too. They are what are called primary colors. The kind kindergarten children use.  Most people, when they grow up to be countries, branch out a little bit.  Below is what is called a "spectrum,"  ALL the colors, NOT just rouge, blanc, and bleu.  Aren't some of them nice, too?  You ever think of using any of them?


                                  BORING FLAGS

Wait, wait, don't tell me.  It's the cross!  Yes, it is, it's the cross in different colors. :)  Oh, that's so nice. Sideways too, huh?   Left to right we have Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark. Not that we could ever tell you people apart anyway.  Let me guess, and you're all blonde, right?

Group Two is called CONFUSING.

Confusing can have disastrous consequences. At left is the flag of Italy.  Next to it is Bulgaria. Now,... if you think...that Italians and Bulgarians...can easily distinguish between their two flags,'re NUTS!  If these two great peoples ever got into a war, they'd be shooting their own great peoples.

Same with Iran and Tajikistan...but that would be okay.

Guess whose flag this is?

Give up?

GREENLAND.  Green-friggin-land!  Where's the green?  What does this design mean?  Greenland, you're done, get outta here. You're no longer a country.  Enough.

Group Three. Some flags are easily RECOGNIZABLE.

The Star of David=Jews=Israel. Easy. Simple, clean, design. Nice.

Red. Blood Red. China. Perfect.

Amtrak.  No! Oh my God, it's South Africa. My mistake.

"Space:  The Final Frawn-tier. These are the voyages of the nation St. Lucia."  

Group four is PUZZLING.


There's some weird sideways triangle thing going on here. Maybe everybody who went to flag design school had to pass "sideways triangles" class or something.


On the left, Qatar. On the right, Bahrain. Why I don't know.

Finally, group five is BIZARRE and is led off with the flag of the Isle of No-Man on the header.

"Meet George Jetson. dah-dah-dah dah-dah-dah-dah. Jane his wife. dah-dah-dah, dad-dah-dah-dah. Brazil his country."

Brazil's illegitimate stepchild.

I forget whose flag this is. Could it be anymore busy? Couldn't you guys fit in one or two more symbols there?

British Indian Ocean Territories. It looks British alright, it looks like what a Limey sailor would see when he's had a few too many pints.

What is this, mold?  No, Libya. 

This is vaguely reminiscent of a hockey team uniform. Maybe it's the combination of a Swedish-like blue and yellow and the stars. I don't know.

This is vaguely reminiscent of the vomit of the NBC peacock.

Oh my God.

So countries, there you have it. It's back to the drawing board time, literally.  I am never one however to make a criticism without proposing a solution and in a future post I will give you some ideas for the perfect symbols for who you are. Because clearly you are in need of ideas.