An Order Muppet in a Chaos Muppet World

Earlier this year, journalist Dahlia Lithwick wrote an essay on the how the world is populated by Chaos Muppets and Order Muppets, and how to tell which one you might be. Here’s an excerpt:

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that changes the way we all look at ourselves forever. […] The same thing is true of Muppet Theory, a little-known, poorly understood philosophy that holds that every living human can be classified according to one simple metric: Every one of us is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet. Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C. Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and—paradigmatically—Animal, are all Chaos Muppets. Zelda Fitzgerald was a Chaos Muppet. So, I must tell you, is Justice Stephen Breyer. Order Muppets—and I’m thinking about Bert, Scooter, Sam the Eagle, Kermit the Frog, and the blue guy who is perennially harassed by Grover at restaurants (the Order Muppet Everyman)—tend to be neurotic, highly regimented, averse to surprises and may sport monstrously large eyebrows. They sometimes resent the responsibility of the world weighing on their felt shoulders, but they secretly revel in the knowledge that they keep the show running. Your first grade teacher was probably an Order Muppet. So is Chief Justice John Roberts.

(I strongly recommend reading the whole article.)

It’s not an outrageous assertion that in the world of this play, Musa — our Iraqi translator with a dark past — is a survivor, an Order Muppet surrounded by Chaos Muppets at every turn.

The Actors Can Look Forward To…

The High and Tight

The high and tight is frequently worn in the military, particularly in the Marine Corps. The sides and back are extremely short, either clipped almost to the skin or shaved with a razor all the way up to the crown of the head. The top is usually worn very short (usually 1/4 inch or shorter, though some guys wear the very front part a little longer) and on the forward part of the head. There is minimal blending between the sides and the top; the amount of blending varies by preference.

A Place Out of Space & Time

Sc.8: A bombed out building, half standing, in the middle of the desert, south of Baghdad. The middle of the night. The place is ghostly, ethereal, haunted. 

Sc.9: The same place, the bombed out building, half standing, in the middle of the desert, south of Baghdad. However, there is daylight, the place is less ghostly. …A strange woman in a tattered black shroud hobbles on to the stage.

Tiger Attacks in the Sundarbans

From our friends at Wiki:

No one is exactly sure why the tigers of the Sundarbans are so aggressive towards humans, but scientists, biologists, and others have speculated about a number of reasons. These include:

  • Since the Sundarbans is located in a coastal area, the water is relatively salty. In all other habitats, tigers drink fresh water. It is rumored that the saltiness of the water in this area has put them in a state of constant discomfort, leading them to be extremely aggressive. Freshwater lakes have been artificially made but to no avail.
  • The high tides in the area destroy the tiger’s urine and scat which serve as territorial markers. Thus, the only way for a tiger to defend its territory is to physically dominate everything that enters.
  • Another possibility is that these tigers have grown used to human flesh due to the weather. Cyclones in this part of India and Bangladesh kill thousands, and the bodies drift out in to the swampy waters, where tigers scavenge them.
  • Another possibility is that the tigers find hunting animals difficult due to the continuous high and low tides making the area marsh-like and slippery. Humans travel through the Sundarbans on boats gathering honey and fishing, making for easy prey. It is also believed that when a person stops to work, the tiger mistakes them for an animal, and has, over time, acquired a ‘taste’ for the human flesh.
  • It has also been hypothesized that the tigers in this area, due to their secluded habitat, avoided the brunt of the hunting sprees that occurred over the course of the 20th century. Tigers inhabiting the rest of Asia developed a fear of humans after these events, but tigers in the Sundarbans would never have had reason to stop seeing humans as prey.

About 5,000 people frequent the swamps and waterways of the Sundarbans. Fishing boats traverse the area and many stop to collect firewood, honey and other items. In the dark forest, tigers find it easy to stalk and attack men absorbed in their work. Even fishermen in small boats have been attacked due to tigers’ strong swimming abilities.

Local villagers, who fear tiger attacks and resent the animal for killing their livestock, sometimes engage in revenge killings. On one occasion, a tiger had attacked and wounded the people in a village in south-west Bangladesh (near the Sundarbans) and frequently preyed upon their livestock. This roused the wrath of the villagers, and the feline became a target for their retribution. Poachers are also responsible for killing tigers in the reserve in an effort to sell them on the black market.

The human death rate has dropped significantly due to better management techniques and fewer people are killed each year. Even at the rate of fifty or sixty kills per year, humans would provide only about three percent of the yearly food requirements for the tiger population of the Sundarbans. Therefore, despite the notoriety associated with this area, humans are only a supplement to the tiger’s diet; they do not provide a primary food source.

Villagers in the area have agreed to occasionally release livestock into the forest in order to provide an alternative food source for the tigers and discourage them from entering the villages. The government has agreed to subsidize the project to encourage village participation.

Iraqi Translator, Somewhere Inside of Iraq

Two posts from “Iraqi Translator,” who kept a blog about his experiences with Coalition Forces in Iraq, 2008.


Friday, March 14, 2008I Know They Will Coming Here!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For all my readers,I’m here just to say my mind,i know very well i’ll die here, i know that, and you can read what i wrote in the top of the blog……………….” we are traitors and we are spies”, i never beg you attention to read my blog, or beg your help to pick me up from Iraq, no you are wrong, I’m here for simple reason………………….to live because i never know how to kill and kidnapping people to join to milisha or tearing the neck to join to Al-Qa’da, so i tried to use my mouth to be just like a shadow or machine to translate from this to that.
you believe me or not, i don’t care.
For the cursing people:
I know who are you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! because don’t forget, i was with you sometime, and i have the truth that you already scared from it.
I have the truth from both sides American/iraqi so i know who i am…….
See you my friends next time if i still live to that time.


Monday, March 10My best Friends…

Working with the American forces relaxed somewhat especially nowadays, but when these forces working with Iraqi forces, this means more complications security.
The general view that says: each work has advantages and disadvantages.
In our work, there were two types of action:
One: there is no mixing with the Iraqis permanently, it is raids and cordon and searches, and this is relatively good, but this work is not for those with weak hearts, often if you are iraqi heart and mind have understanding with the soldiers on the agreed way in raids, some of them, especially with long experience, the Army fully trust them and give them confidence right to speak and express their opinions, and recommendations, and so on, either new entrants to the work, they were two types:
First type, he’ll shocked for the first time, he felt Now the truth in front of him, not as seen on television, and at that moment, relying on his personality, will be asked to transfer to another unit in the hope that the new unit be different.
second type, is originally wanted to retaliate!!!!! Wants to show his allegiance to the Americans, believing him to be sincere in action can be obtained from coarse treatment and severe beatings of Iraqis either with or without cause. This was for the combat units, where most of its troops from young soldiers and sergeants.
There is another kind of work, and we call, advisers, and the team that is working on this subject, fully responsible for the Iraqi forces, whether army troops, or national guards or police, or border troops or special forces, it is important that be their mission and responsibilities associated with iraqi military unit. The advantages of these advisers units to be limited only to practical training then controling , in fact, you will not be in a raid, except in rare cases, because the Iraqi force will be with you, they will do it, and you just give tips for them. The disadvantages from this kind of work, you will be with the Iraqis at least twelve hours a day, and in this case you will be with them always, and this is off course, put yourself in critical positions, Imagine you are walking on the street and someone called you by your nickname What will your reaction at that time !!!!!In both cases, there is no room at all for dispensing with the best friend to the interpreter, that is being Sunglasses!!!!!!!!!!.
Off course my sunglasses my best friend, but should be say here, i have a lot of friends like, my mask, my conduct lenses,and their relatives!!!!!! hair style,eyebrow style!!!!!!!I know you are laughing now,but there is no comment, just join to us and you Will not see what you see in your life, you will see amazing things.See you next post.

Prayers Like Gravel

Folk Tale
By R.S. Thomas, Welsh poet and Anglican Priest

Prayers like gravel
Flung at the sky's
window, hoping to attract
the loved one's
attention. But without
visible plaits to let
down for the believer
to climb up,
to what purpose open
that far casement?
I would
have refrained long since
but that peering once
through my locked fingers
I thought that I detected
the movement of a curtain.

Tyger Tyger Burning Bright


by William Blake (1794)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

“To understand ‘The Tyger’ fully, you need to know Blake’s symbols. One of the central themes in his major works is that of the Creator as a blacksmith. This is both God the Creator (personified in Blake’s myth as Los) and Blake himself (again with Los as his alter-ego.) Blake identified God’s creative process with the work of an artist. And it is art that brings creation to its fulfillment — by showing the world as it is, by sharpening perception, by giving form to ideas. […]  A casual reader or student does not have to understand Blake’s mystical-visionary beliefs to appreciate ‘The Tyger’. For the casual reader, the poem is about the question that most of us asked when we first heard about God as the benevolent creator of nature. ‘Why is there bloodshed and pain and horror?’ If you’re like me, you’ve heard various answers that are obviously not true. ‘The Tyger,’ which actually finishes without an answer, is (on this level) about your own experience of not getting a completely satisfactory answer to this essential question of faith. […] There is more. ‘The Tyger’ is about having your reason overwhelmed at once by the beauty and the horror of the natural world.” [Source]


Life After Death

An interesting excerpt from

[Some] Muslim commentators, noting that Allah can rescue people from hell as he chooses, and that he is merciful and compassionate, have hypothesized that eventually hell will be empty. Alternatively, Hell can be seen as a place of progress where souls are instructed until they are fit to go to heaven:

“Life after death is actually the starting-point of further progress for man. Those in paradise are advancing to higher and higher stages in knowledge and perfection of faith. Hell is meant to purify those in it of the effects of their bad deeds, and so make them fit for further advancement. Its punishment is, therefore, not everlasting.” (Source:, an Ahmadiyya website)

Here’s a great article from the New York Times about the basics of Muslim conceptions of the afterlife. This part feels like it wants attention:

But what happens to the vast majority of Muslims, those who do not die as martyrs?

According to Islamic doctrine, between the moment of death and the burial ceremony, the spirit of a deceased Muslim takes a quick journey to Heaven and Hell, where it beholds visions of the bliss and torture awaiting humanity at the end of days.

By the time corpse handlers are ready to wash the body, the spirit returns to earth to observe the preparations for burial and to accompany the procession toward the cemetery. But then, before earth is piled upon the freshly dug grave, an unusual reunion takes place: The spirit returns to dwell within the body.

In the grave, the deceased Muslim – this composite of spirit and corpse – encounters two terrifying angels, Munkar and Nakir, recognized by their bluish faces, their huge teeth and their wild hair.

These angels carry out a trial to probe the soundness of a Muslim’s faith. If the dead Muslim answers their questions convincingly and if he has no sin on record, then the grave is transformed into a luxurious space that makes bearable the long wait until the final judgment.

But if a Muslim’s faith is imperfect or if he has sinned during life by, for example, failing repeatedly to undertake purity rituals before prayer, then the grave is transformed into an oppressive, constricting space.

The earth begins to weigh down heavily upon the sentient corpse, until the rib cage collapses; worms begin to nibble away at the flesh, causing horrible pain.

This torture does not continue indefinitely. It occurs intermittently and ends at the very latest with the resurrection – when God may well forgive Muslims who have endured the punishment.


Muslims can escape the torture of the grave by dying as martyrs. In Islam the category of martyr does not belong exclusively to those who die fighting in God’s path. According to Islamic tradition, Muslims who die in a fire, by drowning, in the collapse of a building or in some other way involving great physical suffering merit the rank of martyrs in the afterlife.

This means that immediately after death, their spirits do not return to dwell within mutilated or burned corpses. Instead they enter the Garden of Eden, where they receive new bodies, perfectly reformed, so as to enjoy the rewards of martyrdom until the resurrection. Those who have lost a relative in a violent and shocking death – in the bombings in Baghdad, for instance – may find some consolation in this belief.


Suicide & the Soldier

Some sobering statistics…

A 2009 study in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling reports that:
– The suicide rate for American males in the age group 15–24 is 10.3 per 100,000
– In the US military – where 50 percent of males are between 17 and 26 – the rate could be as high as 21 per 100,000.

That’s twice the rate in the civilian population.

Currently, the suicide rate for active and retired military personnel is clocking in at one per day — a 30-year high.

We’ve reached the point where more military personnel have died from suicide than from battlefield fatalities since 2003.

These numbers don’t account for veterans taking their own lives through car accidents, alcohol abuse, and other means that are not recorded as suicides, but are common causes of fatal (sometimes intentional) injury in the veteran population.

A related study in the same journal posits three main variables that contribute to suicide among combat veterans:
– Perceived burdensomeness
– Thwarted belongingness
– Acquired capability for suicide

Gulf War Syndrome

From the US Dept of Veteran Affairs:

A prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems.

VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms existing for 6 months or more are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause. These “presumptive” illnesses must have appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by December 31, 2016, and be at least 10 percent disabling. These illnesses include:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a condition of long-term and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other conditions.
  • Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms may include insomnia, morning stiffness, headache, and memory problems.
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders, a group of conditions marked by chronic or recurrent symptoms related to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Functional condition refers to an abnormal function of an organ, without a structural alteration in the tissues. Examples include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
  • Undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms that may include but are not limited to: abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.


Getting to Know Rajiv Jospeh

In advance of providing access to the interview Company One just did with Rajiv, we’ve got some other wonderful resources for you to check out.

First, just this past Monday night, Rajiv and director/playwright Moises Kaufman got together for a conversation at the Dramatists Guild. The event was livestreamed over at NewPlayTV, but the banked video has not yet been made available. Luckily, I recorded the audio from the stream. It’s not 100% the best quality, but it’s clear enough to listen to, and is deeply fascinating. Moises developed the Bengal Tiger with Rajiv over the course of 3-4 years as his director. You can stream the audio here:


Second, a terrific interview Rajiv did with for a podcast by the National Endowment for the Arts. (You can also read the transcript.)


“Uday is riddled with bullet holes. Otherwise, he seems fine.”

Warning: some graphic images ahead!

As we talk about design options for the world of this play, I find myself wandering into some unsavory parts of the internet for visual aids. The current question on the table: what are the visual possibilities for Uday’s bullet-ridden ghost? We may not go realistic, but if we do, what does it look like?

(not for the squeamish, ok?)

“UDAY: But, yeah man, I am dead. I get about 26 bullets from here to here on me.”

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Prisoners in Hoods

During the invasion of Iraq, military prisoners and detainees were often hooded with empty sandbags to restrain them, and sometimes to humiliate and dehumanize them — most notoriously at Abu Ghraib prison. As Kev has his breakdown in the Iraqi house his team of Marines has just cleared, he’s accompanied in the room by a husband and wife, and his terp, Musa. The husband is bound and hooded.

Here’s what that might look like.

(Warning: some upsetting images are included here.)

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Signs of Combat Stress and/or Traumatic Brain Injury

Boston’s Home Base Program — a collaboration between Mass General and the Red Sox — aims to bring care to servicemen and women suffering from PTSD, and to educate families and civilians about the issues associated with PTSD.  Their website offers a questionnaire to help veterans discover if they’re experiencing signs of combat stress or traumatic brain injury.

Here’s the text of the questionnaire:

In the past month, have you or someone you know: 

– Had trouble sleeping or had repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or dreams of a military experience?

– Felt as if a stressful military experience were happening again (as if you were reliving it)?

– Had physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, sweating) when something reminded you of a military experience?

– Been avoiding thinking about or talking about your experience in Iraq or Afghanistan?

– Had trouble with routine activities like driving or being in a crowded restaurant or club because it reminded you of a military experience?

– Lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? Been feeling distant or cut off from other people? Felt emotionally numb or unable to have loving feelings for those close to you?

– Felt irritable or had angry outbursts at home or at work?

– Had trouble concentrating or remembering things?

– Been “superalert” or felt on guard? Felt jumpy or easily startled?

– Experienced severe head aches?

– Had a head injury or a concussion during military combat or deployment, and felt dazed, confused or been knocked unconscious?

If you, or a veteran you know have been having any of these experiences since returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, it may be a sign of combat stress, Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). If you think you are living with combat stress, PTSD or TBI, discussing your concerns with a health professional is an important first step.

You can talk with your doctor or another health care professional about whether treatment is right for you, and what your best options are. Consider getting some help now, especially if your symptoms are causing you distress, affecting your relationships at home, or interfering with your ability to perform at work or attend school.

Treatment works and help is available. Home Base can offer an appointment within two weeks or sooner, and our clinicians will develop a care plan that meets your individual needs. Please call 617-724-5202 or click here to connect with Home Base.

Click here for more about how Home Base helps service members and veterans with post traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.

Are you in crisis?

If you or a family member is in crisis or facing an emergency:

  • Go to the nearest emergency room, or
  • Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Head in a Bag

LA production of Bengal Tiger — Qusay’s head in a bag.

Actor Joe Palka holds a prop of his own severed head for a production of Richard III at DC’s Shakespeare Company.

The artist Damien Hirst as a young man, posing with heads at a morgue in Leeds.

Theodore Gericault’s “Heads of Torture Victims (Study for the Raft of Medusa)” c.1818

And finally…

It’s not a decapitated head — it’s a bag of kimchi!

Exsanguination & Self-Amputation

The human body has 8 – 10 pints of blood in their body, depending on build. It takes the loss of two to three pints of blood to go into shock, and a loss of four to six pints of blood to cause death (again, depending on the person’s build, age, and health.) During bleed-out, the person will feel dizzy, weak, and generally lapse into shock.

Interestingly, exsanguination (loss of blood) is the most common cause of death on the battlefield.

This image feels useful as we think about what Kev’s bloody bedsheet might look like.

Now, on the matter of self-amputation…

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Aron Ralston, the climber whose story is the basis for the film 127 Hours.

Climber Who Cut Off His Own Hand Looks Back

But how did someone who had been repulsed by dissecting a sheep’s eyeball in ninth grade manage to sever his own hand?

It was strange. I kind of entered a flow state. I’ve been there before while climbing. You are not thinking ahead. You are just thinking about what is in front of you each second.

I was so engrossed that I had to catch myself when I got to the arteries so that I didn’t sever those without a tourniquet on.

The answer seems obvious, but did it hurt?

Well, I didn’t have any sensation in my right hand from the time of the accident onward. However, I did feel pain coming from the area where the boulder rested on my wrist.

When I amputated, I felt every bit of it. It hurt to break the bone, and it certainly hurt to cut the nerve. But cutting the muscle was not as bad.

Overall, it was a hundred times worse than any pain I’ve felt before. It recalibrated what I’d understood pain to be. At the same time, it was also the most beautiful thing I’ve ever felt.

Ralston talks in this video (below) about the logistics of self-amputation. Warning for the squeamish: his description is pretty graphic. Of particular interest is the bit about needing to crack the bones in order to get the job done. It strikes me that though the arm bones are thicker and stronger than the wrist bones, Kev’s description in the play of the difficulty of cutting off his hand is spot-on.

Here’s some wrist anatomy…

wrist cross-section

wrist bones

wrist ligaments

wrist tendons

Wandering in the Desert

You could do it like the Book of Numbers, chapter 14, in which the Moses and the Children of Israel are punished by God for not believing. He sentences them to wander the desert for 40 years, long enough for the older generation to die, and the new generation to rediscover their faith. (Notably, Moses is mentioned in the Quran more than any other individual, and in ways that often mirror the prophet Mohammed.)

You could do it like they do in Psalm 107:4

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

… Or you could do it on a Horse With No Name.

Dante in Hades

First, check out this awesome site and explore the Inferno through multimedia, interactive text and images.


The Divine Comedy is a poem by Dante Alighieri, written in the first person, addressing Dante’s journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice, Dante’s ideal woman, guides him through Heaven.

Allegorically, the Inferno (Hades) represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is. There are three beasts that represent the types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious.These three types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante’s Hell: Upper Hell, containing four indulgent sins (Lust, gluttony, avarice, anger); Circle 7 for the sins of violence; and Circles 8 and 9 for the sins of malice (fraud and treachery). There is also Limbo, which contains the virtuous pagans who were not sinful but were ignorant of Christ; and Circle 6, containing the heretics who contradicted the doctrine and confused the spirit of Christ. [Source]

There is significant scholarly investigation that suggests correlations between Dante’s conceptions of hell, paradise, and the afterlife, and 13th century Islamic philosophies. Dante’s Europe had frequent contact with the literature and ideas of the Muslim world. On the other hand, there is also a current movement (as of early 2012) to universally ban  The Divine Comedy for its portrayal of Mohammed in Hades. “Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination,” says that “Dante’s epic is ‘offensive and discriminatory’ and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. Divided into three parts – Hell, Purgatory and Heaven – the poem consists of 100 cantos, of which half a dozen were marked out for particular criticism by the group. It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency. ‘The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,’ she said.”

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