July 13, 2007


For first time readers, this blog generally deals with fairly serious topics during the week. Weekends, however, are reserved for the commentaries of various animals in and around Goat Rope Farm.

We are pleased to once again welcome Mr. Sandor Sege (pronounced Shandor Shegg-AY), our official film critic.

We must remind our readers that Mr. Sege suffered a head injury when he crashed into a wall whilst chasing a squeaky toy. As a result, he has been known to transpose the plots of the films he discusses. Nonetheless, we believe that his unique insights into the world of cinema more than compensate for this regretable shortcoming.

It is our hope that features such as this will promote a greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.


OK, so this movie is about an old guy who is like the head of a crime family and he's trying to figure out which of his kids is going to take over the business. His name is Don Corleone.

He's about to pick one of the kids when he goes to this science lab and is bit by a genetically modified spider. After that, he can climb up walls, jump all over the place and squirt web out of his wrists.

Doodus said if he was like a real spider, the web would come out of someplace else. Moomus told Doodus he was a dork.

Anyway, he gets this cool uniform and swings around all over New York City. Everything goes OK until this great white shark starts eating tourists right at the height of vacation season and then everybody wants him to stop it so he goes out on a boat all the way to Cambodia to kill the shark who used to be a Colonel but then went nuts.

There's a big storm and the boat lands on a witch. This makes these little people happy but not her sister, who is like the editor of some fancy fashion magazine. It all works out though, because when everything starts to get really crazy she turns out to be his sister, so they can't get married.

The symbolism of this movie is really deep, especially the part where a monkey throws up a bone and it turns into a space ship.



Caption: This guy says "I was framed."

Welcome to the last day of Goat Rope's Fun With the Epic of Gilgamesh Week. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier posts. You will also find, as always, snarky comments on current events.

Gilgamesh went to a lot of trouble to find the secret of immortality. He crossed dangerous seas under the guidance of the ferryman Urshanabi and visits with Utanapishtim, the Sumerian Noah (or Deucalion, if you want to go Greek), and his wife.

The latter prompts her husband to give him one last chance to find the secret of everlasting life:

Gilgamesh, I shall reveal a secret thing, it is a mystery of the gods that I am telling you. There is a plant that grows under the water, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man.

El Cabrero could use a little of that...

When he gets to deep water, Gilgamesh ties stones to his feet so he can sink to the bottom. He plucks the plant but for some reason won't use it at the time. Instead, he plans to take it home to Uruk

there I will give it to the old men to eat. It's name will be "The Old Men Are Young Again"; and at last I shall eat it myself and have back all my lost youth.

As you probably guessed, it didn't work out that way. On the way home, Gilgamesh stops to bathe in a pool of cool water

but deep in the pool was lying a serpent, and the serpent sensed the sweetness of the flower. It rose out of the water and snatched it away, and immediately it sloughed its skin and returned to the well.

Gilgamesh weeps over what was his last chance to live forever, or at least a lot longer. He returns with the ferryman to Uruk. He is warned of his coming death in one of many dreams (like Genesis, this epic is all about dreams). He is consoled and urged to accept his limitations with gratitude by the god Enlil:

You were given the kingship, such was your destiny, everlasting life was not your destiny. Because of this do not be sad at heart, do not be grieved or oppressed; he has given you power to bind and to loose, to be the darkness and the light of mankind. He has given unexampled supremacy over the people, victory in battle from which no fugitive returns, in forays and assaults from which there is no going back. But do not abuse this power, deal justly with your servants in the palace, deal justly before the face of the sun.

In the end, he dies like all the rest of us and is laid to rest in his tomb with copious offerings from his family and subjects.

It's really a pretty good story, not bad at all for one of humanity's first drafts. When it was rediscovered in the 1800s, many were shocked by the story of the Flood and the ark (although the Greeks had one too).

Others have since wondered whether wandering Greek bards may have learned of it in their travels, where it may have influenced the Homeric tradition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. We'll probably never know.

Naturally, scholars have come up with all kinds of interpretations. I'll stick to the most obvious: no matter who we are, we are mortal. We should be grateful for what we have and "deal justly before the face of the sun."

STOP THE PRESSES! Scientists think that feeding cows garlic could reduce some of their noxious emissions and reduce greenhouse gases. The measure would also dramatically reduce bovine vampire attacks.

PUTTING THE "VICE" IN VICE PRESIDENT. The latest New Yorker has an interesting piece on VP Cheney.

SHOULD DOGS VOTE? It looks like an Australian shepherd/terrier mix has been removed from the voting rolls in Washington state. I don't know shepherd/terrier mixes that well so I can't comment on the wisdom of the decision. I do believe, however that boxers, if given the franchise, might well sell their votes for popcorn.

WHICH REMINDS ME...There are all these WV jokes about dead people being on the voting rolls. Personally, I think you should only cast a ballot in the name of a dead person if you are REALLY sure how they'd vote.


July 12, 2007


Caption: Earlier in the story, Gilgamesh and Enkidu overcome the fierce monster Humbaba.

Welcome to Fun With the Epic of Gilgamesh Week on Goat Rope, a lighthearted look at history's earliest surviving epic. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier entries.

On previous post, we've met Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Gilgamesh met his best friend the hairy man Enkidu. They had glorious adventures, killing the monster Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven.

But these excessive deeds have come at a cost: Enkidu is dead and a despairing Gilgamesh is about to go on a long quest in search of immortality. He is determined to cross the sea to the farthest lands in search of Utanapishtim, the Sumerian Noah, who survived the flood. Utanapishtim and his wife are the only humans who have been granted immortality.

He leaves Uruk and travels far, meeting scary scorpion people and Siduri, the kindly woman wine grower at the edge of the sea. She advises Gilgamesh to accept human limitations:

You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.

Gilgamesh, of course, isn't willing to take that good advice (which sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes). After further adventures and missteps, he finally makes the crossing to visit the immortals.

To his surprise, Utanapishtim is not a glorious king or warrior but just an old guy taking it easy with his wife. Utanapishtim tells the Sumerian version of the Flood story. According to this one, the gods weren't so much upset with human sinfulness as with their noisiness. (They kind of had a point.) The story of the ark and the release of birds will sound familiar, although there are differences from the Genesis version.

As far as immortality goes, Gilgamesh is pretty disappointed. He is told:

There is no permanence. Do we build a house to stand for ever, do we seal a contract to hold for all time? Do brothers divide an inheritance to keep for ever, does the flood-time of rivers endure?...From the days of old their is no permanence.

Finally, though, at his wife's prompting, Utanapishtim reveals to Gilgamesh one last chance to achieve immortality.

Stay tuned--same bat time, same bat channel.

A GOOD STEP. The U.S. House voted yesterday to cut subsidies to companies providing student loans, increase the size of Pell grants, and reduce interest rates on the loans.

AARRGH. Looks like it's a good year for sea piracy.

NEITHER FREE NOR FAIR. One rationalization for opposing the Employee Free Choice Act is a supposed desire to protect workers rights to a secret ballot. Here's a little comparison between federal elections and union representation elections.


July 11, 2007


In this installment, Gilgamesh insults Ishtar, the goddess of love (represented here by Venus the goat). Big mistake!

Welcome to Goat Rope's Fun With the Epic of Gilgamesh Week, which is devoted to a lighthearted look at what may be the earliest written epic in human history (along with snarky comments on current events). If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

After slaying the monster Humbaba, Gilgamesh is on a roll. He returns in glory to Uruk, he catches the eye of the love goddess Ishtar, who proposes marriage in extravagant terms:

Come to me Gilgamesh, and be my bridegroom; grant me seed of your body, let me be your bride and you shall be my husband. I will harness for you a chariot of lapis lazuli and of gold, with wheels of gold and horns of copper; and you shall have might demons of the storm for draftmules...

The thing is, Ishtar doesn't have such a good track record. Her consorts tend to wind up dead. Gilgamesh refuses and insults the goddess (another bad move).

This is a major mythological problem: when gods or goddesses ask something from people, or vice versa, it doesn't usually turn out well for the humans involved no matter what they do.

Ishtar goes into a rage to Anu, father of the gods, and asks permission to unleash the Bull of Heaven on Uruk for vengeance. He doesn't want to go there but relents when she threatens to "bring up the dead to eat the food like the living and the dead shall outnumber the living."

Sounds like a zombie movie...

Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven and Enkidu throws its thigh at the goddess as an insult (another bad move). For this offense, he falls sick and ultimately dies, a fate of which he was warned in one of the many dreams in this epic. Enkidu describes the abode of the dead thus:

There is the house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness...

Gilgamesh goes nuts. He wails over Enkidu, hoping to revive him with his lamentations. He only relents after a week, when "a worm fastens on him." He stops eating and bathing (although the extent to which he normally engaged in the latter is unclear) and caring form himself.

He finally orders a glorious funeral, then decides to set off on a quest for immortality. This is the most dangerous journey of all. He seeks the Sumerian Noah--Utanapishtim, who along with his wife, survived a cataclysmic flood in an ark and were the only humans to be granted immortality...

...which, unlike poor Enkidu, will keep until tomorrow.

HEALTH CARE. Economist Dean Baker love to point out the myth that economic conservatives rely on the market while progressives rely on government is just that. Instead, what we really have in many arenas is what he calls "a conservative nanny state." This is from a recent op-ed of his on health care:

if we are ever going to think seriously about how best to restructure health care, we will have to clearly understand how the system works now. The current system is not a free market; it is a set of government rigged rules that ensure that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries prosper, and that tens of millions of people go without access to care.


WASHINGTON - Opposition to the Iraq war has climbed to a record high and President George W. Bush’s approval rating dropped to a new low amid growing dissent from members of his own Republican party over his war strategy, according to a new USAToday/Gallup poll.

Bush’s approval dropped to 29 percent in the poll taken Friday through Sunday, down from 33 percent in early June, USA Today reported on Tuesday....

More than seven in 10 Americans favor withdrawing nearly all U.S troops from Iraq by April, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, Bush wants the proverbial course to be "stayed."

QUESTIONING THE MARKET GOD. Here's an item from today's Times about growing dissent with the ruling consensus in the economics field.

MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL. From today's Gazette, here's a story on WV native musician Kathy Mattea's investigation of mountaintop removal mining for an upcoming album. Mattea is pretty popular here, but just wait and watch while the right wing noise machine tries to make her hated...


July 10, 2007


Caption: Enkidu, friend of Gilgamesh, was a hairy guy.

Welcome to Goat Rope's Fun With the Epic of Gilgamesh Week. If this is your first visit, please click on yesterday's post.

This epic, which may well be the earliest intact written story in human history, is kind of fun and the overall theme of having to deal with human limitations and mortality is still with us and probably always will be.

To briefly recap, Gilgamesh was the semi-divine king of Uruk in modern day Iraq. He was pretty high maintenance and his subjects prayed to the gods to give him a companion to keep him busy. They complied with the wild man Enkidu, whose origin is disussed yesterday.

After his sexual initiation with a sacred prostitute, Enkidu loses his wildness and goes to the big city of Uruk to meet Gilgamesh. Enkidu "longed for a comrade, for one who would understand his heart."

When they get to Uruk, he and the woman are wed. When Gilgamesh, predictably, comes for his droit de seigneur, Enkidu meets him in the street and they begin to wrestle. Eventually Gilgamesh wins with a throw what sounds to El Cabrero like judo's uki otoshi (that was a free bonus for all you martial artists out there).

It was love at first grapple. Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best buddies in the Mother of All Guy Crushes.

Of course, manly men need manly things to do. Gilgamesh proposes going to the wilderness to kill the monster Humbaba. Knowing that he is mortal, he hopes to achieve a kind of immortal memory of himself through heroic deeds. Enkidu, who knew the latter in his wilderness days, demurs, saying he's One Bad Dude:

His teeth are dragon's fangs, his countenance is like a lion, his charge is the rushing of the flood, with his look he crushes alike the trees of the forest and the reeds in the swamp.

Gilgamesh prevails, and they set off on their wilderness journey with incredible arms at an incredible pace. They win the help of the sun god Shamash, who give winds to help in the fight.

After getting the worst of it, Humbaba bugs for mercy. Gilgamesh is inclined to give it, but Enkidu persuades him to kill the monster.

This is probably not a good thing. It enrages the elemental god Enlil and it's pretty clear somebody will have to pay...

More next time.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A GIANT SLOTH. There are people in the Amazon who talk about a giant, hairy, foul-smelling creature, but does one such still exist? Is it Enkidu? Here's what the NY Times has to say...

AND SPEAKING OF WEIRD LIFE FORMS, here's something from the same source about how some scientists are saying that the search for extraterrestrial life should include the search for "weird life" not based on DNA or the kinds of chemical components known on earth. I say the life on Goat Rope Farm is weird enough for me.

HOW RIGHT WING ARE WE, ANYWAY? For years, we've been fed the dogma that the U.S. public is foam-at-the-mouth-howl-at-the-moon reactionary. The reality is that this is not the case. For details, click here.


July 09, 2007


Gilgamesh, represented here by the rooster Stewpot, was a mighty ruler in Uruk.

If it's midsummer and you need a guiding theme to fill up a week's worth of blogging in an unpredictable world, there's just one clear choice--duh!--The Epic of Gilgamesh, of course. It is, after all, one of the earliest written stories in human history, even though it was only discovered in the 19th century. It could also be considered the first (literary) tragedy.

It has been a fairly long time since El Cabrero went on a weeklong mythological tear, and Sumerian/Mesopotamian mythology would be a Goat Rope first. We proceed...

As far as I can surmise, the basic theme of the epic is that, as Dirty Harry once said, "A man's got to know his limitations." It's a lesson we all have to learn.

Though written much later, it seems to refer to a possibly real ruler of the Mesopotamian kingdom of Uruk in what is now Iraq in the 3rd millennium BC. Gilgamesh was undoubtedly an alpha male, as we can see from the opening lines of the epic:

I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh. This was the man to whom all things were known; this was the king who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went on a long journey, was weary, worn-out with labour, returning he rested, he engraved on a stone the whole story.

The story goes that he was the son of Queen Ninsun and King Lugulbanda and was 2/3rds god and 1/3 human. The arithmetic is never explained.

Gilgamesh was also kind of a pain to his subjects, rock and rolling all night and partying every day. His subjects began to complain:

Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to his lover, neither the warrior's daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute.

They pray to the gods to think of some way of keeping Gilgamesh occupied and the gods respond by creating a companion for him, the wild and hairy man Enkidu, who lives with beasts in the forest and eats grass. Gilgamesh was destined to "love him like a woman"--not that there's anything wrong with that.

Unlike Gilgamesh, who is a founder of civilization, Enkidu is a child of nature, innocent of both culture and sexuality. A trapper who has seen him in the wild goes to Gilgamesh for advice on how to domesticate him. He prescribes the charms of woman. An unnamed sacred prostitute is sent to the (literal) watering hole where Enkidu hangs out.

Of that funky stuff which was the subject of 1970s song, Enkidu could not get enough. He treads the primrose path of dalliance with her nonstop for six days and seven nights, which would make him something of a prodigy. One hopes they kept themselves hydrated...

After that tryst, Enkidu loses his wilderness mojo. The wild beasts run from him and he can't keep up with them. It really IS always something, isn't it? The woman tells him:

You are wise, Enkidu, and now you have become like a god. Why do you want to run wild with the beasts in the hills? Come with me. I will take you to strong-walled Uruk...there Gilgamesh lives, who is very strong, and like a wild bull he lords it over men.

So they head to the big city for the next phase of the epic, about which more tomorrow.

COGITO ERGO BLOG.Goat Rope was recently nominated a "Thinking Blog" by the masterful blog of all things West Virginian Lincoln Walks at Midnight. Considering the source, I take that as quite a compliment--Thanks!

There's a cool little graphic that comes with it but El Cabrero can't think well enough to make it show up here. As part of the deal, I need to nominate five blogs that make me think, but I need to think about that some more.

LABOR JOINS THE FIGHT FOR GREEN JOBS. According to Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union,

We need to put an end to the lies, the myths, the hysteria, that say you can have either a clean environment or good jobs. You can have both, or you have neither.

For more on high road approaches to economic growth and sustainable energy, click here.

HIGH ROAD LOW ROAD. On a related theme, here's an op-ed by yours truly on the choices facing WV as we try to build a better future.

THIS IS WHAT I'M SCREAMING. One fairly easy step that can be taken to get WV on the high road is making high speed internet available throughout the state. Here's a step in the right direction in Charleston. And you know what?--they didn't have to eliminate minimum wage or mine safety laws to do it.


July 08, 2007


Caption: Neko-Roshi practices an advanced form of meditation.

For first time visitors, this blog normally covers fairly serious topics during the week. Weekends are reserved for various animal commentators in and around Goat Rope Farm.

This week we a pleased to present what may be the first ever Dharma talk by a cat. Our guest claims to have mastered a particularly austere form of Zen Buddhism. His formal name is Neko-Roshi, which is loosely translated from the Japanese as "Cat Master."

It is our hope that features such as this elevate the cultural discourse of our times and promote a greater appreciation of both the humanities and the animalities.


Perhaps you are surprised to be instructed in the Most Excellent Dharma by a cat, but this should not be the case.

Cats are long known to have been masters of meditation, practicing it for as much as 20 hours a day. And the feline form of Buddhist teachings represent the most advanced form of Dharma. Humans who cultivate compassion, morality and wisdom and venerate the wisdom of the Feline Vehicle may hope to be reborn as cats in their next life.

Like most forms of Buddhism, the Feline Vehicle is based on compassion and a desire to liberate all sentient beings from the realms of suffering. In particular, we desire to liberate birds, ground squirrels, mice, moles, voles, some interesting insects, baby rabbits, lizards, and little snakes from this transitory realm.

If we could, we would liberate bigger creatures too. Sometimes, for the sake of practice, we try to liberate strings and cat-toys.

The reason for this is that we cats have discovered through intense meditation that these little creatures suffer more intensely than others in the realm of suffering or Samsara. The only way that they can be liberated from the ceaseless round of death and rebirth in the realms of suffering is through our compassionate intervention. Those little creatures liberated by us are immediately reborn in the Pure Land of bliss.

Those of us who follow this Noble Path have made a vow to postpone our entrance into Nirvana until all such little creatures have been liberated. It is an arduous path which requires much sacrifice yet we willingly embrace it.