What's new, Bill?
Last update 4/16/2010
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When I create a new piece
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|Copyright 2010 - B. de Corbin and Splendid Fish Studio|
This was going to be a tricky business because the cause of the instability was the most unstable of all human emotions - love, blended 50/50 with fear.
You’ll need a little back story: Some years previously, the Caliph of Baghdad had enjoyed an erotic misadventure involving a djinn, a large box, and a rather randy young lady. I won’t go into the specific details (I fear that there are children present), but the upshot of all this was that it put the Caliph off women, but not completely.
“Completely” wouldn’t have presented any particular problems, except when it came down to producing an heir, but there is usually somebody standing in the shadows who would be only too happy to step forward and take care of that. However, love is a thing one should either give up completely, or go into full bore with engines at max. It’s when a person goes in partially that the real problems arise. That’s what happened in this case. The Caliph didn’t actually stop liking women - he actually still really, really, really liked them - but what happened was that he stopped trusting them.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Hmmmm…. What’s the problem? Nobody actually trusts women. Even women don’t really trust women…” And maybe you’re right, but the Caliph of Baghdad was in an unusual position - added to his distrust was the unlimited power which had been granted to him by virtue of his birth. What this means is that he was able to couple his distrust with his “really, really, really” liking women, while simultaneously ensuring that they’d never two time him. This is how he worked it out:
Each night, he’d take a virgin to bed with him, then, come morning, he’d have her head lopped off. A neat solution, of course, but one which might be expected to create a bit of turmoil after a while. If you happen to be the Caliph of Baghdad, you can get away with this kind of thing once or twice, or even every now and then. But to make it a daily ritual is really pushing it. After about five years (5 x 365 = 1825 virgins) people started to talk.
The wealthier Baghdad families with young daughters were starting to move out, taking their wealth with them. The poorer Baghdad families were starting to encourage promiscuity as a means of failing the virgin criteria in the selection process. So, as it ended up, it was the nobility who were footing most of the bill. They couldn’t move away because their power was closely tied to the capital city, and they couldn’t encourage promiscuity because their social status depended on maintaining a certain level of propriety. It was from their gene pool that the Caliph drew his temporary concubines.
If you are familiar with Machiavelli, you are certainly aware of his most famous maxim: “You can piss off the poor if the rich are on your side, you can piss off the rich if the poor are on your side, and you can piss off both the rich and the poor if the powerful nobility are on your side. But if nobody is on your side, it’s dangerous to piss off anybody.” And here’s where I came in…
The Caliph’s Grand Vizier noticed that the Caliph’s eyes were wandering more and more often in the direction of his daughter. The Grand Vizier had plans for his daughter which didn’t include the head’s man’s axe (actually, he was considering Vassar, or maybe Radcliff), and, hence, the Vizier was seriously contemplating a coup.
Destabilized governments in the Middle East always make governments in the West nervous. Switching the Caliph for the Grand Vizier might have worked out, but, all things considered, it was more likely to create a power struggle and a long, drawn out civil war.
The Grand Vizier didn’t particularly like the idea of overthrowing his hereditary lord, but this was his daughter, for God’s sake, and a man will do terrible things to save his daughter. This is the cusp I would use to shift human nature a bit and create a much better balance in the scales of government, or something like that.
I met privately with the Grand Vizier. Together we enjoyed a nice cup of java and a tug or two on a large brass hookah I usually kept in the corner, and hatched a plan which we both found to be eminently acceptable. I promised that I would lend my skills as a self confessed liar to the training of his daughter in the same art. The idea was that, once trained, his daughter would, over the course of several years, use her newly acquired skills to engage the Caliph’s attention, after which her not inconsiderable physical charms would capture his love, leaving him both incapable of removing her head, and happily married. After all, everybody loves a good story, and a good story teller.
Well, to make a long story short, over the next few weeks the Grand Vizier’s daughter and I met secretly (with her father’s permission, of course), and I trained her in my art. She was an eager pupil, highly motivated, and picked up the secrets of pacing, verbal word play, linguistic rhythm, and fanciful improvisation, among other things. During our brief time together we became quite close - I can still see her lovely almond eyes peering intently over the top of her veil when I dream - and, when the inevitable time of parting came, she demonstrated her appreciation for all I had done by presenting me with this lovely bracelet, which I have named “The Story Teller’s Bracelet” in her honor.
As they say, the rest is history. The Grand Vizier’s daughter became justly famous for her skills in weaving fiction. I understand that she has since published several books, or maybe it was only one very long one, but, at any rate, she lived to a ripe old age, was happily married, had a whole bundle of cute little kids, and restored stability to the Caliphate.
Ah, Shahrazad! Those were the days! The world was young, we were young, and danger and adventure lurked around every corner! And now we have grown old, you and I, and, although this bracelet recalls me to more colorful times, you live brighter in my memory than in my vision. This bracelet belongs on the wrist of a young beauty, and so, I fear, I must give it back to the world.
Besides, my wife says it has to go.