Archive | April 2015

Robbers, rogues and rapists….

Photo: Timothy Stark

Photo: Timothy Stark

There was a time I wrote often about fraud, but haven’t done so before in this blog. However, a friend has been taken by the ‘you’re having a problem with your computer and we can help you fix it’ phone scam, so it is time I did. This friend has a P/C, uses word and like most of us deals with the often baffling confusions of modern technology. He thought the call was valid.

After allowing them into his computer, his credit card was charged over $300 and his computer was so messed up, he had to bring it into a shop to have it straightened out — at additional cost. The credit card company would not refund his money, it had gone off to a faraway third world country and there was no possibility of reimbursement. I’ve received dozens of the same calls and I don’t even use a P/C. We are all possible victims of fraud.

Someone was recently wearing a T-shirt which read ‘Prey or Predator’. What it implied disturbed me — I don’t like to think humans must fall into one or the other category, but there certainly are a few predators out there and we really need to be wary. It isn’t that the world is going to the dogs, and it isn’t that you can’t trust any one anymore. There is nothing new about dishonesty. It hasn’t just arrived with the advent of the computer, it has always been a part of the human condition.

Mode of travel once upon a time

Mode of travel in the 12th century

We’ve had thieves and rogues aplenty throughout history. For instance, in the days of the Plantagenets, the English royal house of Anjou, (12th century) a journey from one British town to another was fraught with extreme danger. Murderous villains lurked in the bushes on the roadways, ready to terrorize and plunder hapless travelers. Women were so vulnerable they often dressed as men in an effort to avoid being raped as well as robbed by the highway men lying in wait.

Nothing is new. In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra’s priests, who mummified cats to be buried with humans for the trip to the other world, often filled those ‘mummies’ with sand instead of cats. They had a good scam going — cats were revered. Go further back and I am convinced the caveman raided his neighbor’s den to commandeer meat, berries and women, while the poor unsuspecting

One of our forefathers ready to steal from his neighbor

One of our forefathers ready to steal from his neighbor

chap next door was out doing what he should — hunting a mastodon. Not much changes.

Out to get you

Out to get you today

Despite history and the many warnings on the news, some of us continue to get needlessly burned. And, if you have already been cheated once, be even more alert. You are considered ripe for another try, thieves trade information about ‘easy marks’. You may be approached by a scam artist again, so be extra vigilant. I care about you.


Queen, Goddess, Seductress…..


Photo by Timothy Stark

I picked up a couple of history books for my 7-year-old grandson Remy, who enjoys reading. I hope he will derive the same pleasure I do from history. The truth is, I’m probably more of a history ‘gossip’ than scholar. The titillating goings-on and/or horrendous happenings one reads about would be considered too far-fetched for any novel. And who could make up stuff like that?

Could Cleopatra have looked like this?

Could Cleopatra have looked like this?

One of the books I got for Remy is about Cleopatra, who has fascinated me for years. She was extremely clever, which helped her survive to adulthood. She was raised in a family which murdered each other when convenient. (Her older sister, Berenice, was killed by her dad, the pharaoh, after she plotted against him.) Cleopatra spoke multiple languages; and was a beautiful young, ruthless woman. She became queen of Egypt; was considered a goddess by her people; and lets face it, the gal was a shameless hussy. At 18 she was married to her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy X111 (to keep things in the family). At 21, she was in danger because of her young brother/husband’s advisors, and fled to Syria.

Bust of Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna

Bust of Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna

While Caesar was staying at the palace in Alexandria, Cleopatra pulled a brilliant, impressive stunt. They say she had herself delivered to him wrapped in a blanket. She needed help from the aging Caesar. (The Roman armies had been helpful to her dad.) What to do? Tell him her problems — in bed of course! Caesar was impressed with her chutzpah, her youth and her beauty. The 52 year-old was smitten. She, meanwhile, used whatever ‘charms’ she possessed to obtain the guy’s support. (Could she have possibly learned them from her 10-year-old brother/hubby?) In any case, she got what she wanted. Caesar was only a man after all. His soldiers defeated her enemies while the two of them played at love. Happily for Cleopatra, the pharaoh, her young brother/husband, was drowned in the battle. Things looked better.

Statue of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

Statue of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

She married another brother, Ptolemy X1V. (All the boys in their family were named Ptolemy — no confusion at the dinner table.) Caesar was madly in love with her and with his army’s support, the ambitious girl could accomplish whatever. When she had Caesar’s child, she named him Ptolemy Caesar after his illustrious father. The little one became known as Caesarion.

Caesar, of course, already had a wife in Rome, but no matter. Cleopatra was a goddess, right? She didn’t have to fret about such things as we mere mortals do. With Caesar now back in Rome, she decided to go there with their child and her teen-aged husband/brother, whom she didn’t trust enough to leave behind. As you can imagine, Caesar’s wife didn’t appreciate her visit, but Cleopatra had no concerns about losing her reputation. She had a grand time of it as a guest in Caesar’s lavish villa. Trouble was brewing, however, and while Cleopatra was busy entertaining the creme de la creme of Roman society, Caesar was murdered. If I were his wife I may have been tempted to do it myself.

Not one to mope, Cleopatra fled back to Alexandria for safety. She had concerns about her current brother/husband’s thirst for power — it must have been genetic. Surprise, surprise! Mysteriously, upon their return home the poor guy suddenly died of poisoning. Cleopatra wasted no time in having her two-year-old son, Caesarion, crowned pharaoh — which left the little lady in charge for years to come. Meanwhile a power struggle was taking place in Rome between Brutus and

Marc Antony

Marc Antony

Cassius on one side, who had plotted Caesar’s murder, and on the other, Antony and Octavian. Cleopatra was asked to provide armies to help both sides. Picking the wrong one could be disastrous. Not wanting to choose the wrong side, she promised to support them both. I told you she was clever.

Antony’s army was victorious. He was angry she hadn’t kept her promise, and he was now a powerful guy. She needed him. What to do? Get him to bed, of course! She visited him in Tarsus in her royal barge, dressed as Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty. She played all her cards — flattered him, seduced him, and promised him wonders — and delivered. Antony, too, was only human.

Well, Antony also had a wife, Fulvia, in Rome, who advised him that Octavian was trying to take over while Antony was playing house with the sexy Cleopatra — for whom a wife was never a deterrent. He had to return to Rome to fight his former partner-in-arms while Cleopatra gave birth to their twins. In Rome, Antony became a widower and married Octavian’s sister, Octavia. He had made peace with his rival. However, he missed Cleopatra, who must have had something most of us never possessed, and he returned to her. Did he really divorce Octavia? Was it a poor diplomatic move? Meanwhile the lovers had yet another child and before long, Octavian, now Antony’s brother-in-law, declared war against Cleopatra. The lovers fought back but lost. Cleopatra lost her empire.

The story of the dramatic and romantic end to the tragic story is heart-wrenching but I wonder how much of it is really true. It is said Cleopatra died with the help of a poisonous snake, Antony is to have stabbed himself. I tend to think if she gave up it was because she knew she was doomed and not because she believed Antony to have died as they say….

Besides, as a mother, I can’t help but wonder why she didn’t consider the four children she left behind. Guess they meant less to her than her empire. What say you?