Saturday, June 24, 2017

On "Being Happy": The Debunked Papal Homily


A couple of days ago a dear friend sent me what she described as “A speech Pope Francis gave in yesterday’s homily/sermon. It’s to be read and reread several times.  This is the Pope with the greatest spirituality since Peter.”

I respect my friend, and greatly admire Pope Francis, so I read the portion, and I too was moved, so much so that I decided to feature it in this week’s post as a balance to all that is so very out of whack with our world.  As is my practice, I went on line to see what more I could learn about the Pope’s words and perhaps even their inspiration.

Lo and behold, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a rush of articles and posts declaring the speech a false speech, never given by the Pope! Yes, fake news had penetrated the Vatican, in this case sometime around September 2015. 

Gideon Lasco, MD, PhD

As reported by Gideon Lasco, in a story titled “Putting Words in Pope Francis’ Mouth,” published on, the text of “Being Happy” attributed to Pope Francis is “actually an almost-word-for-word translation of a Portuguese text titled ‘Palco de vida’ (Stages of life), attributed to the renowned poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Only the concluding ‘Life is an incredible show’ was changed from the less-exciting ‘Life is a no-miss obstacle.’”

No, this is not a Melania Trump situation, where a delivered speech is borrowed from another’s work, but a totally made up story baselessly attributing another’s work to a wholly innocent party.  But wait, there’s more.

Fernando Pessoa

As Lasco points out, “There’s an additional twist here: Even the attribution to Pessoa has been dismissed by scholars, citing major differences from his style and the absence of any actual manuscript. They conclude that it was likely a fabrication borne of the Internet,” innocently begun by a Brazilian blogger who’d written the final phrases as his own, only to later learn they’d gained life on the Internet as attached to Pessoa.

Lasco found the text first linked to Pope Francis “in September 2015. The Facebook page of a ‘Missionary Community of St Paul the Apostle and Mary, Mother of the Church’—a Kenya-based Catholic group—shared the same passage in English, attributing it, in what appears to be the first such attribution, to Pope Francis. Given Filipinos’ entrenchment in social media and our collective fondness for the Pope, it did not take long for someone to share it, and the rest is history.”

And, that folks, is how a false Internet story was born.  But wait (once more), because for me, at least, there’s more. 

Yes, Pope Francis never said those words, nor does he claim to have done so, but anyone reading the speech could easily see them as his own, and gain comfort from thinking he had. I know that my friend did, and from the number of Facebook views on pages posting the words as the Pope’s, I’d venture to say millions more around the world have as well.

So, in recognition of one of the few instances I know of where fake news offers at least some palliative benefit, I am reproducing the text of “Be Happy” below.  Be it a poet’s or blogger’s work, or that of some Bobby McFerrin fan inspired by “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” I frankly don’t care. 

Nor do I suspect does Pope Francis, as long as the end result for those inspired by these words is a closer kinship to its promise of Being Happy:

You can have flaws, be anxious, and ever angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.

Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.

To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity. Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.

To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny's author. It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.

Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It's to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a "no". It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us. To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple.

It is to have maturity to be able to say, “I made mistakes.” It is to have the courage to say, “I am sorry.” It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you.” It is to have the ability to say, “I love you.”

May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness ... that in spring may it be a lover of joy … in winter a lover of wisdom. And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.

You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculpt serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.

Never give up. Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.

Thanks, author, whoever you are.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Crime At The University

here is a lovely set of stained glass windows.
and me standing  in front of them.

here is the ceiling above...

and the doors...

and just  to see them to scale...

this is the  main building  of Glasgow University...

 we are on our way to the Huntarian Museum
It's all free folks,  if you  ever wander this way....

I did try  not to dance down this stairway...

I imagine that  Annamaria would  not have been able to resist..

through the opening  to the quadrangle...
all very 'Morse'

Yes the gates say 1451. The Roman empire did not finally collapse until a few years later.

the round reading  room, which was a) round, b) closed,
 We were too late to go in as we had eaten a rather nice cake.

Alan studied here for two  of his three degrees.
He boxed for the university team.

the new buildings are not up to much.

but they  have  lovely lawns with reading slabs.

Glasgow university, height of the summer...

The huntarian getting ready for our event.

The audience getting  crammed in.

the panel getting ready, you  will recognise the  other two I am sure...

Craig has been asked a question, he is looking for inspiration

Happy writers

I would like to point  out that all the writers had been up all night  watching the election. We were wearing red, blue and tartan!!  We had back up authors with us in case we broke down with exhaustion. The event was sponsored by a gin company!

Beautiful !

Caro Ramsay ( I am elsewhere at the mo!) 23 06 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories by Christopher Booker

Michael - Thursday

Thanks to Everett Kaser for pointing out this book on a Facebook post. The title intrigued me, and I downloaded a copy and started reading. It’s a challenging book from various points of view. Booker’s thesis is that all stories—throughout time—fall into only seven rather well defined categories. He argues cogently and at length—the book runs to some 750 pages—that not only is there a reason for this apparent lack of imagination, but also any attempt to depart from one of these seven basic plot structures leads to an unsatisfactory ending for the reader. Further, he postulates why these plots are so essential, speculating on a type of psychological genetic coding that we need to develop our psyches, just as we have a physical genetic coding to develop our physical attributes.

I have to admit that I've only read about half the book so far. Frankly, it could do with some heavy editing. Many of the arguments are repeated in different chapters with a multitude of detailed examples given where one or two would do, and often the same aspects of the examples are discussed again in later chapters. I also felt that the arguments against the stories that don’t comfortably fit into the seven patterns were weak—for example, mysteries are dispensed with in an unusually brief chapter as mere mental puzzles with no depth, mainly because the protagonist is two dimensional, and merely watches the action from a distance and makes deductions. I don’t think I need to argue against that on Murder Is Everywhere! To be fair, it’s the Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie style of mysteries he rejects. He is positive about more psychological ‘mysteries’ like Oedipus Rex and Citizen Kane, which he fits into one of the big seven with no difficulty. Also, he is not blind to anything but ‘serious literature’. Box office hit movies and comic book superheroes make the cut. This doesn’t go down well in the literary establishment. The book was panned by Adam Mars-Jones, who also objected to Booker's seven-sizes-must-fit-all-if-they're-any-good approach and rejected the prescriptive application of these plot structures: "He sets up criteria for art, and ends up condemning Rigoletto, The Cherry Orchard, Wagner, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, and Lawrence - the list goes on - while praising Crocodile Dundee, ET and Terminator 2." 

I actually think that’s harsh and rather misses the point. I don’t think 'art' is as much the issue for Booker as the Jungian approach to the psychological importance and relevance of stories. The question of what we would call the quality of the writing, isn't really central. (Unless that’s in the next 250 pages!)

Certainly Booker is not averse to controversy. He has ‘alternative views’ on a variety of issues, including global warming, passive smoking, and the European Union.

So here are the plots:

Overcoming the Monster

In Overcoming the Monster, the hero needs to slay the monster which is attacking the community. For the hero’s development this needs to be done selflessly, often to rescue a beloved female character. The happy ending is when the hero kills the monster, gets the girl, and usually obtains high status in the community. Booker uses the examples of Beowulf taking on Grendel and the Hollywood blockbuster Jaws. The two stories are strikingly similar although more than a thousand years apart. Both involve a fearsome water monster that stealthily takes as prey members of the community (and eats them), both involve an underwater battle, both involve the eventual triumph of the hero against all odds. 
But, of course, the monster can be human, and may even be the dark side of the hero.

                                         Rags to Riches

In Rags to Riches, the plot is a poor boy or girl who use their own courage and character development to climb to being successful adults, usually marrying the prince or princess as the case may be. Aladdin is the obvious example and discussed in detail, but many, many, stories fall into this category. (At one point I thought Booker was going to discuss them all.)

            The Quest

The Quest is about the hero needing to undertake a journey or project to achieve a particular goal for the good of the community. The Odyssey and The Lord of the Rings are perfect examples. Watership Down and Raiders of the Lost Ark are others from different genres.

                                                                                Voyage and Return

Voyage and Return is rather like The Quest except that there may be no immediate goal for the voyage. The story may be more about the hero’s own struggle to find himself and return to his home. Booker discusses among others Robinson Crusoe and Peter Rabbit.5.  

Comedy is rather more complicated. It usually involves the confusion of a community—including the hero and heroine—and ends when the confusion has been resolved, the hero and heroine have developed, and all ends well. It doesn’t need to be funny, but usually is. Think A Midsummer Night’s Dream.      

Tragedy is when the hero or heroine is tempted and falls, and their dark side takes over. They struggle, but they have fallen too far. Eventually the path they have chosen leads to disaster and death. Dr. Faust and Anna Karenina are good examples.

This is basically Tragedy where the hero or heroine is able to redeem themselves or to be redeemed by an outside sympathetic person. Booker gives The Snow Queen, Fidelio, and The Secret Garden among his examples.

Booker’s thesis is that, in a sense, there is really only one plot and that is the development of the hero and heroine in different contexts until they ‘see whole’ or eventually do not (in Tragedy). Personally, I’m suspending judgment on it for the moment. Admittedly, it is striking how many stories ranging across time and cultures do fit into the seven molds quite neatly. On the other hand, the reasons for this seem more obscure. I’ll let you know in 250 pages time...


Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events


Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, launched June 6.


Wednesday, June 28 at 18:00 Athens time
Book Presentation at 
Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum
Kalisperi 12, Acropolis

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Power of Silk

Sujata Massey

Roopa Pemmaraju and Lily Hargrave's design

A week ago, I walked down to the consignment shop near my house and picked up a fashion mystery.

The mystery came in the form of a long dress of purple-blue printed silk crepe lined in cotton. The stitching was minute and clearly done by hand. Examining the dress, I flashed back to my first long dress and blouse custom-stitched for me at a tailor’s in Hyderabad when I was ten years old.

But the pattern was unusual. The silk was printed with thick black brushstrokes that burst like a tree over my legs. The design was not pretty; it was strong and vibrated in a way that reminded me of something strangely familiar, but that I couldn't identify. The label read Lily Hargraves for Roopa Pemmaraju.

I’d never heard the names, but the funky silk dress fit perfectly and was an unbelievable $68. I snapped it up and was soon on the Internet searching its provenance. 

Within ten minutes I had some solid information that told me I'd made a very special buy. Roopa is an Indian-born designer who’d had her own fashion label, Haldi. She left India to move to Melbourne, Australia, with her husband for his IT job. Roopa became inspired with the idea of bringing Australian aboriginal art into fashion that would be a far cry from the cheap cotton T-shirts sold to tourists. However, her interest wasn't welcomed by gallery owners and artists. I mentioned T-shirts? Many indigenous artists have been exploited by Australians and others who copied their designs without paying them.  

Roopa Pemmaraju

But Roopa had a vision of a business model that was different. I'm going to call it the Indian artisan model. Throughout India, there's been a longstanding tradition of custom clothing making--and certain villages are known for a certain kind of block printing, or silk weaving, or cotton embroidery. 

A Gujarati textile with folk motif has great energy

These niche technique are prized, and the regional artisans are celebrated by contemporary designers who ask them to do finishing touches such as embroidery around a neckline or hem. Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated wearing handspun clothing as a way of resisting the British in the early 20th century, would be smiling today if he could see the "desi chic," "ethnic-cool and "modern handloom" fashions that are the rage.

The Fab India chain that sells clothes for all ages and sizes stitched from silks and cottons hand-loomed by people in rural communities. Also well-known are Anokhi and Cottons Jaipur, retail chains that specialize in fashion made from cotton woven, dyed and block-printed in Rajasthan. A high-end designer, Ritu Kumar, has spent the last quarter century collaborating with Kala Raksha, an organization in India supporting hereditary artists, and several other regional textile weavers and embroiderers. Last year in India, I was pleased to buy a Ritu Kumar kurti (woman’s tunic) with a meticulously hand embroidered placket typical of the Kutch region of Gujarat. But the coloration is subtle and works well with the modern printed silk fabric.

Fine hand embroidery on a Ritu Kumar kurti

Back to the Australian-Indian collaboration: How could an Indian woman new to Australia convince aboriginal artists to work with her?

Here's what Roopa did.   She pledged to give credit where it was due. She offered put the artist’s name on each of her garments. Remember the mystery of two women's names on my dress label? Here is Lily Hargraves, a “desert walker” in her nineties who’s one of Australia’s top aboriginal artists. Her paintings are exhibited around the world and sell for thousands of dollars.

Lily Hargraves

Lily's full name is Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah Hargraves, although she's most often known in art circles by the short Anglo name. She was born in the Northwest Territory in 1930 and having had a number of very hard jobs throughout her life, began painting in the tradition of her ancestors about thirty years ago. Lily is recognized as a senior Law Woman, which means she is an officiant of Waipiri indigenous culture--and her story is fascinating. And here are some of her paintings from the online museums and galleries in Australia. Looking at her work made me realize that's a tree on the front of my dress.

Looking through Roopa’s designs since the 2012 collection that included my “Lily Blue Dress,” I've noticed that indigenous artist names are continuing to decorate the dress labels. Additionally, the design label is donating 20% of her profits to aboriginal groups. And the India connection also helps artists, because the silk is printed and embroidered in India at Roopa's artisan workshop in Bangalore. The subtleties of clothing construction are overseen in India by Roopa's co-artist, the acclaimed designer Sudhir Swain. The most recent collection—Resort 2018—was just shown in Australia a week ago and shows a riot of glorious abstract floral motifs merging with gauzy, gilded Indian silk. 

Roopa Pemmaraju 2018 collection

Roopa Pemmaraju 2018

Some might argue that fusing two cultures like this degrades the original. But fashion by its nature is an evolution.

Mahatma Gandhi told his followers a century ago what you choose to wear delivers power.  Just this spring in Europe and America, women have been attacked for wearing traditional Muslim clothing items like the hijab and abaya. Given this context, wearing the textiles of international designers and artisans feels like another way to show resistance. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

all over like a cheap suit tour

Cara here on Tuesday. I'm having a great time on this book tour and catching up with so many pals, especially our MIE gang or the usual suspects as some might say.
Here's a suspect, doesn't EvKa look guilty of something here in Portland?
Now we come to our Lisa Brackman in San Diego where she gave me a grilling. With us is Marc Ellsberg, who's from Vienna and has written a great thriller - and scary, too. Imagine the power grids go out in we took him out for a craft beer to chill in 'SD'style
 If that weren't enough hot coals, our own Tim Hallinan hit me with a page of questions at Chevalier's books in LA...fantastic store and Tim, fantastic comme toujours.
Along the way I got to hang out with the boss at Murder By the Book in Houston - Jack Reacher and his lovely human, McKenna

Here's the chocolate gateau at the Orange County launch party courtesy of Debbie at Mystery Ink
Chocolate, chocolate and more dense chocolate - as delicious as it looks.
But most of the time the glamorous touring life is fueled by gummy bears, a Léo Malet pulp novel and trusty laptop at the boarding gate and looks like this.

Tonight I'm catching up with Stan in Minneapolis!
Cara on Tuesday