Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Just a few hours of 2008 left-- what will the New Year bring besides a new presidency? The predictors say more economic troubles-- which I believe. Will we find life on Mars? Will we discover a mechanism for time travel? Will we find the lost island of Atlantis?

Perhaps-- it all lies out there for the discovering.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gifted AND talented!

Your reality should not be defined by anyone other than yourself. My reality should not be defined by my family, my friends, my political leaders, etc.. We all need the opportunity to be the best we can be. And hopefully we've been given the skills to do that- hopefully we're not too warped by unhealthy situations and relationships to have a good life. We'll see...

Check out the group blog at http://yuletides.blogspot.com/. You can post there too simply get the logon and password and blog like it were your own! Caution: religious posts may be countered with anti-religious posts. (The logon and password are in the comment to this post.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

family and christmas?

Some folks may tolerate their families for Christmas, succumbing to the guilt that everyone needs to be with family on the holiday (never mind that they are not the people you really want to be with). Some may have to put up with their mother's insulting comments about their cooking or their untidy house, their father's pushiness about their work or income, etc. Not fun. My family are all religious freaks- so religious that they think they have the right, even at my age, to disapprove of my life. They expect me, for some odd reason, to submit to their guilt trips and (terrible) advice for my life. They expect- no, demand that I be nicer more loving than they are willing to be. Well at my age, I'm done with that and there will be no forced family niceties where I am concerned. I don't think I owe them anything to them all things considered (see the memoirs below if you're curious).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Affair to Remember

Not your cookie cutter Christmas fare, but a holiday classic nonetheless. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr celebrate the New Year together on a cruise ship, finding as they do so, that love may have come to late. Deborah Kerr's character memorably says, "Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories... And we've already missed the spring!" They arrange to meet later six months later at the top of the Empire State building (the "nearest thing to heaven in [New York]") to see how they feel then but an accident keeps them apart and it is only a moment of circumstance that causes them to meet again, for the last and beautiful time.

Truly, A love story to remember which is why it makes my favorite list.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Christmas

Christmas has been taken over and subverted by Christianity. It's origins begin long before Judaism or Christianity existed, as early as 4000 B.C.E. when the Mesopotamians celebrated a twelve day festival known as Zagmuth. This holiday was held in honor of MArduk, the god of chaos, who they believed battled the monsters of chaos at the beginning of winter.

Later, the Romans held a celebration called Saturnalia which began in early December and lasted until the first of January. The Romans decorated their homes with garlands and put candles on trees in honor of the celebration. During this period, the Romans would visit each other and have grand feats and exchange gifts to foster good luck for the coming year.

The Roman celebration was probably the inspiration for the latter Christian celebration (as were many other Roman beliefs about god). Constantine, the first "christian" emperor incorporated the pagan holiday into Christianity with the hopes that Christians and pagans would celebrate the feast together.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "HAPPY SATURNALIA"!!!

source: http://www.historyofchristmas.net/

Monday, December 15, 2008

I believe in Father Christmas

I believe in Father Christmas

They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah! Noel! be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve

Hallelujah! Noel! be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve
~ Pete Sinfield and Greg Lake

The Christmas tree

"The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrive, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.

The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions."
quoted from http://www.christmas-tree.com/where.html


Americans are not long on legacy. We do not value the time honored traditions and icons of our past. We are in love with NEW things and YOUTH is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As a result we are missing out on a great deal that is beautiful about life.

Recently, a tradition was torn down not too far from where I live. A drive-in that had been in existence since drive-ins were the "latest" was torn down and an apartment building is now being erected there. Scrapping for space, the buildings stand back to back with a pleasant view of well-trafficked thoroughfares. On one side of the property, clinging to life, the marquis of the now dead and buried car theater lingers, a waning shadow of days gone by. It's graffitied front is a reminder of couples grappling in the backseats of '54 chevies, of families piled in station wagons, teenagers clambering into the bed of the pickup so they can lie on a mattress watching the large screen with the tinny dialogue of actors blaring from metal speakers that dangle on the car window. My son, an eleven year-old who has not yet been sold on the Need for New, the love of change or "progress", on our morning drive past the burial ground of family fun, nearly always looks at the new construction with disgust and comments, "Wasting perfectly good space". Undoubtedly the placard will eventually be utilized for advertising the new apartment's appeal to passers-by and a sad final nail will be put in the coffin of the drive-in theater's marker.

As an icon of American values it is more than symbolic that the Cinderella drive-in can be torn down without so much as a sigh from the populace. And it speaks to us poignantly, I suppose, that those things that are, in fact, uniquely American are held in no more reverence than the past from which many escaped to come to this country. For peoples who left their homeland in often difficult circumstances to start anew and who cling only to language and diet for their sense of culture it should not be surprising that American icons hold little or no significance. Perhaps the truth about American tradition is that tradition is despised, ignored and subservient to constant deconstruction and that our true tradition is leaving anything that ties us to the past behind and going after what pads the pocket book. All is subject to the tradition of greed in this country.

But this is a loss for us all. These cultural symbols, these unique institutions that do still linger in our midst, are more than archaic reminders of our youth. They are what give us a past, that connect us to our yesterdays and to each other. It is no coincidence that when the US invaded Iraq and began remaking that country that they allowed the dismantling of the museums and historic sites. It was their very intention to rob the people of that which lies at the center of their identity like a redwood's most interior growth ring, binding them to each other and a venerable narrative of civilization, beauty and grandeur. Without these ties, it is supposed, the people can be broken and remolded into a more complacent and compliant glob, loosely bound together by religious ties which ultimately keep them at odds and distracted. Now concerned, like their conquerors, only with their personal needs ("needs" being defined generously by the marketplace) they are capable of joining the ranks of humanity that are mere consumers. Americans.

Christmas is a specter of our past- a memento of a lost Atlantis that is quickly being extinguished by greed and marketing. Lame protestations about the commercialization of Christmas is simply not enough. It is up to us to fight, to protest, to do something different in order to keep the truth of Christmas-- to be like the Grinch, or Charlie Brown, or Scrooge and find the substance behind the facade, to grip the reality that there is more to life than getting more, buying more, having more, more, more, more. . .

Life really is finding meaning in the little things we do, holding onto memories of our childhood, clinging to tradition and ritual.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Christmas is all about giving--
It is that time of year when we spend time focusing on the people in our lives, finding something they will enjoy and cherish. We do this, not out of obligation or in order to get something (hopefully), but as a reminder to them that you're grateful for them, you love them, and, in fact, you love them enough to spend time purchasing presents that were chosen especially for them.

It's not about buying the best or the fanciest-- an addition to a collection or a book on a topic of special interest are examples of ways to find that "perfect" gift. Time spent considering our loved ones wants, desires, and dreams is never time wasted and adds beauty and love to all our lives. I wish for you a Merry Christmas full of happiness and love this holiday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Isn't it ironic-- or perhaps it would be better to say convenient-- how much like us god is? I mean, if we think homosexuality is disgusting, then god hates homosexuality. If we think war is wrong, then god hates war. It doesn't really matter what your personal belief system is, liberal or conservative, muslim or christian, god always hates the things you hate, loves the things you love or forgives the things your okay with. And unfortunately the god people design for themselves rarely makes them better people. (Although, they try to claim they'd be murderers or an abominable human being if it were not for god but that is just BS they say to try and prove how god has changed them-- doesn't prove anything, except perhaps they are weak or desperate to see god where god is not)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Grief and healing...

Some days it sweeps over me like a surge after the hurricane... the loss. Not because I cried myself to death but the loss of self that occurred before I finally pulled the plug on a life sadly lived.

But it didn't have to be that way, I think...

There is a portrait of me in one of my mother's disorganized shoe boxes: A blonde puppy sitting atypically quiet, droopingly contemplating a spot to curl up in, a chubby hand resting on his back having been posed by the nearby photographer. The tiny teeth of the toddler gleam whitely, sandy blonde hair combed and curled in an unusually ruly manner (there were probably some tears over this fuss), a crinkled nose and ornery twinkle in the eye that held the unspoken threat "I'm only here for a minute, you better take the picture quick."

Having caught the glimmer, it cannot escape the viewer's eye that the little girl has been still-lifed in her natural state. This is the pre-me... the me that knows what she likes and doesn't like (and believe me I KNEW I didn't like many things) and who will reject anything that doesn't meet her standards. Later, hours of solitude and quiet nurture the imagination and reading stirs the vivid mind. There is promise here-- life that has not yet been stymied-- squelched.

Alas, food and clothing were the only battles that were won for the tottler unfortunately. I floundered before I found wing. At what point I began losing that small bud of self, I cannot tell you and the only real evidence that it was tangible and not just a fluke of the shutter are the flashes of the mind and imagination that appear like lightning in a storm then lay dormant over the course of the next few years. But if a moment must be pointed by the pin, then the battering of the soul most likely began with the knowledge of good and evil-- not the day I awoke to find that I'd had my own pandorean moment, but rather the bright Sunday morning I was instructed on Eve's fatal decision and my own culpability in her ancient crime against God.

My Sunday schooling or bible literacy, began before I knew I was a self. My parents and grandparents were regular attendees of the Collinsville Mennonite Brethren Church, the German Church as it was locally known, and our family's arrival at services found us among the bodies to warm the tiny steepled building. I was cradled in the life of the church, nursed by the stories of the Bible and inculcated Christian dogma by women whose familiarity with the ancient text extended little further than Mother Goose… the Bible, of course, having been verbally transmitted, then translated, edited, retranslated, homogenized, and, like Millie, thoroughly modernized in the interim. How anyone can expect a child to hear the story of Adam and Eve in the garden with anything approaching the necessary mental acuity befuddles me even more as an adult than as a rather too gullible youngster. My Sunday school teacher, I recall, seemed never to flinch and possessed even a suspicious note of satisfaction as she recounted the tale of mankind’s fall and the wrath of God poured out on two protohumans. And of course why the teachers, who in most cultures are the personality types who ask questions, accepted the account of creation as literal is another matter altogether.

And how I was included in this momentary lapse on Eve's part is a piece of the story that is as opaque as a fog laden midnight. The Sunday school teacher's cross-examination by the inquiring minds who wanted to know was unsatisfactorily brought to a close leaving the explanation in the vast neverland of "because I said so". So why did God decided to curse all of humanity because of this one woman's failure? Who knows? The burden is there just the same. I, by default of being a human child and even worse, a daughter of Eve, had mightily sinned against God and I was fated to try and correct that wrong for the rest of my days.

This "original sin"- this ontological view of human sin coupled with the unfortunate coupling of my parents was deposited on my shoulders, a checkrein that would have a similar effect as that on the equus in Victorian England. And no less damaging.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Grieve

It was only one hour ago
It was all so different then
Nothing yet has really sunk in
Looks like it always did
This flesh and bone
It's just the way that we are tied in
But there's noone home
I grieve...
for you
You leave...
So hard to move on
Still loving what's gone
Said life carries on...
Carries on and on and on...
And on
The news that truly shocks
is the empty, empty page
While the final rattle rocks
Its empty, empty cage...
And I can't handle this
I grieve...
For you
You leave...
Let it out and move on
Missing what's gone
Said life carries on...
I said life carries on and on...
And on
Life carries on in the people I meet
In every one that's out on the street
In all the dogs and cats
In the flies and rats
the rot and the rust
In the ashes and the dust
Life carries on and on and on...
And on
Life carries on and on and on...
Life carries on and on and on...
And on
Life carries on and on and on...
Just the car that we ride in
The home we reside in
The face that we hide in
The way we are tied in
As life carries on and on and on...
And on
Life carries on and on and on...
Did I dream this belief
Or did I believe this dream
How I will find relief
I grieve...

~~Peter Gabriel

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A favorite character...

Maurice and I both love Sheriff Cody, but Cody is really Maurice's most favoritist. The only way to describe him is to let him introduce himself...

Sheriff Cody - You the individual shot his vehicle?

Seamus - Yes sir.

Sheriff Cody - Well, there ain't crime against killin' cars, long as your weapon's registered. And it is – I checked. Let me intro myself. I'm Sheriff Cody Jeremiah Jefferson. I'm a direct descendent of Wyatt Earp and the Lone Ranger. My personal heroes are Ted Nugent, Buddah, and Davy Crockett. I am the last real lawman and the first peace officer of the 21st century. Pleased to meet you, sir. You need a friend? I'm your best friend. I teach Tai Chi every morning at the lagoon. Here's my number – you're invited. I'm a triple Leo, but I'm not attached to authority. I'm a part of the flow that started with the Hammurabi Code, worked it's way on down through the U.S. Constitution, on through me, ends with enlightenment or the electric chair. Your choice. But! If you cross over to the dark side of the force I will become Obi-Wan Kenobi. You do damage first offense you will be invited to join my personal re-centering program. You will be doing pushups! You will be running laps and doing Tai Chi with me in the mornings! You will be drinking raw broccoli juice! Right on, Abednigo?

JoJo - That the drink you drink in hell, mon!

Sheriff Cody - That's first offense! Second time is hard time. You'll be practicing your Mantra in a small dark room provided by the U.S. government. I got a 100% conviction rate. The choice is yours. I gotta run. And remember, this force is on you side! Peace!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Every once in a while a memory will come crowding in-- unbidden and unwanted. All the more destructive in it's benignity. Seems harmless. Appears innocuous. But it's seeming inoffensiveness is exactly what makes it excruciating. And perhaps equally frustrating is the tip-of-the-pin exploration that is required in order to describe the tapestry with any adequacy.

songs of the soul...

Music is a uniquely cultural expression- music from one region leaving one cold while inflaming the other. Country music is the balm to many while to me it's a step away from fingernails on a blackboard. A few songs from this genre have made it past my tense inner ear but it is generally safe to say that I do not like country music.

For me, great music does not merely express the achy breaky emotions of the beer drinking couch potato. For me, music gives voice to the soul, allows it to soar when it begins to take wing and articulates inexpressible sorrow. Today, I listen to Prokofieff's Piano Concerto no.3, 'Ada plays' from Cold Mountain and 'Hansel and Gretal in Africa' from Nowhere in Africa. The solicitude of the musician's caress gives a gentleness to the breath of the moment. As compelling as the gulf breeze kissing the surface of the ocean...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book of revelation

We pretzel on the rocks as the waves wash over our feet and occasional rock dashing waves slap at our thighs. The sun twinkles merrily on the water's surface and reflects into our cornea an almost painful exuberance. Our conversation quietly flits from one topic to another-- the beauty of the skies, the warmth of the water, the fun we had visiting with the bartender at breakfast, plans for visiting the lighthouse in the next day or two. What do you want to do for dinner? Shall we hit Duval street and pick up a few gifts tonight? The satisfaction in our companionship is tangible, so much so that the florist at our local market once inquired if we are ever unhappy. "No! Maurice's scowl is implausible "Now sod off!" We laugh at his "ferocity".

We linger on the rock-pile barriers spying the occasional snorkler until a new attraction beckons and we head off the beach, our backs and noses sun-baked, streaks of red splashed where SPFs hadn't been slathered. We rinse off top layers of sand and unlock our beach cruisers, lackadaisically spinning to our attic studio to wash off the remains of the day.

The air in Treetop refrigerates our warm bodies, a refreshing break from the sultry summer heat that overwhelms the palm tree's shadow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the book

Book of Revelation
It lay amidst a heap of papers that sat behind the door. It was worn and ragged, having the look of an favorite shirt whose life now consisted of wiping toilets and spots on the floor. Undoubtedly that was why it was in this pile of papers, having disguised itself successfully as trash, it lay there waiting to be thrown outside where it would lay quietly in the dumpster until the day the trash truck would gather it up into the smelly, moldy, slimy assorted remains of daily living of the neighborhood, then at last cast it into it's final resting place with the rotting mass of human debris of the entire community. The familiarity of it caught my eye and I tugged at it, freeing it from the tyranny of the pile.

The cover is chocolate colored leather. The first page blank, a scribbled pen check in the corner, a torn corner at the bottom and a copied quote from a Frank Herbert novel on the next. Several pages were bonded with syrup and I slip a nail between an opening to unstick the edges. The pages are filled with penned cursives that cover the spectrum of calligraphy to chicken scratch. The biographer is struggling to sort out a puzzle, a frantic pace of writing, panicked with realization. How? Why? What does this mean? What has it been for? I hopscotch back to the beginning, curious for identity.

Barnes and Noble is full of biographies and memoirs about famous people --or not so famous people who think their life is fascinating-- or courageous-- or traumatic. I don't think my life was particularly interesting. And I'm not sure the people I grew up around were in any way singular- although they may take offense at my saying so. But there is something to be said about being raised the WAY I was. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say there is something to be said AGAINST being raised the way I was...

But let's start at the beginning... or the end...

It was a Sunday like any other. I was dressed in my casual, not too fancy, not too sloppy, don't-want-to-make-the-less-fortunate-feel-bad-yet- getting-up-in-front-of-people clothes. The details of the morning hang in the fog of a forgotten past where distinctions are lost, too similar to be dredged up from the billowing clouds of memory. We had sung all the typical songs of the morning- and had landed in the final phase of the mission. The songs had been grating on my sensibilities- "Lord I lift your name on high" (What do I know about god?) "Lord I love to sing your praises" (Praise for creating a religion that dominates and subjugates?) I made it through the song without losing my breakfast and stumbled out the double doors. The person I liked least in the congregation was preaching and I rarely sat through his sermons ever since the summer Sunday he said something so stupid and crass that I decided it was a monumental waste of time even allowing his voice to resonate near my ears. I left the cool dimness of the A-framed building to sit in the sunshine. I picked up the book I had been reading for some time and began ruminating over the section I had just read.

The words were roiling around my head, a boiling pot on the point of bubbling over the edge. My head was splitting. I could feel the blood vessels expand and contract, the great wall of china fracturing, shattering into tiny pieces. A tear snaked down my check then a sudden gush became river-- sliding off my cheek, onto the sidewalk, trickled down the cement stairs that led to the street, and down, down the hill and into the creek that was nearly dried up. Until that day in October when I refilled it with my tears.

The day I cried myself to death.

So why cry myself to death? Why give up what little I knew about myself and about the people around me for the Great Unknown?

Maybe because it was simply TIME.

It was a tired life

Well, who am I kidding? It wasn't really a life and it definitely wasn't mine. It was what I scraped together in the attempt to make a place for myself and in so doing, made the box that had been created for me, a lifelong cage.

It was

an existence

without pleasure or happiness.

full of service and sacrifice

but I as I surveyed the rubbish

based on a lie.

and I was left with...


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The day I died

You might presume that I should be glad for what I had-- after all... deadness??? Uhhh!

Yet, I looked over the landscape, saw the refuge and shivered in distaste: A marriage that had been "on the rocks, since the words "dearly beloved" were uttered; Children that I loved, well, adored really but who had been crookedly raised in a home where loving really only involved them; A church "family" that was increasingly suffocating and contentious; and a family (grandmother, parents and two brothers) that were what they always had been-- the thing that kept me tied to all of the above in the way that I was.

I had a job that was, essentially, a throwaway job- someone needed to be in the library and I had popped in at the right moment just after the captain of the ship had taken residence. Need a body? She has one! I had been going to school but finances made my participation sporadic and motivation for getting a degree that was not beneficial was on the ebb. I didn't need initials after my name to follow my bliss- just pen and quill (well, laptops really work better for me).

In theory, I might have been in a good place... well, a not-as-bad-as-it-had-been place, anyway. I had something in my life that made me happy, that gave me fulfillment and it wasn't something that was going to force me to spend more money on education or moving or some other life changing episode and I wasn't too old to do it either...

There was just one difficulty: I couldn't do it. I would sit down at my desk, excitement at the task energizing. But the moment no sooner began then ended. The keyboard became mortal enemy- the bane to bliss. Words flew out of the barrel with vigor, then faltered and plopped to the ground, duds that had no charge and could not even break past the surface of poetic license. Ideas that had been ripe and ready for plucking had become mush between my fingers, the sweet fragrance of harvest under my nails a sad aftereffect. What was begun... sat. And Hemingway's logic started to make sense.

I wasn't completely devastated by my inability to write... this whole "getting my own life", "finding my identity" was new to me. I wasn't raised to have any expectations of self realization- in fact the very idea was an anathema, an idea born of a selfish and sinful generation. It had taken me several years to even allow myself to consider buying myself clothes that were not mere function. I hadn't purchased a CD for myself since they were called albums-- well, at least a non-religious album.

At any rate, the day I died, there was simply not a whole lot to sort through, no carefully cared for memorabilia to tenderly caress and shed a tear over. I had a few books- occasional paperbacks that were purchased when I didn't want to risk spending more on fines at the library for a book I didn't mind having anyway. The kitchen contained my few treasures: a heavy-duty mixer, stone cake pans and cookie sheets, an incomplete set of silverware and stoneware that had been given as a wedding present and a set of 500 count percale, soft-as-silk sheets that I loved slipping into at night. A couple of pictures on the wall and two Bugs Bunny plates, given to me by a friend, were the closest thing in the house to express who I was although I rarely felt any need to have such expressions and the items were rather shabbily kept. An assortment of family pictures carefully scrapbooked or randomly shoved in boxes made up the bulk of reminders and they were hastily packed, avoided for the emptiness they recalled rather than their ability to recall happier days.

What makes it all so difficult to sort through, to look at, to reconstruct, is the blankness. Screaming... a child shoved into a dark closet with nothing to eat... whippings... name calling... make for a dramatic and Oprahatic bestseller. But my life was generally quiet and gentle, the occasional lost temper an aberration that begets an amused smile more than condemnation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And beauty

better than god

So, the beginning.... well, perhaps it would be better to go to the pre-beginning. Not that I actually remember the moment egg met sperm or saw the impassioned pleas of the young man freshly home from college and a bungled stab at marriage, intent on deflowering a young woman only just finishing high school. Nor have any of these details been shared with me although the protestations and admonishments given by my father when I began dating would lead me to believe that his amour fair l'mour was only slightly longer lasting than his erection. These discussions, on their outset, seemed laced with inspiration: the uniqueness of love and the sexual bonding between two people... MARRIED people that is. But held warnings of unmitigated disaster for the wayward soul who ventured into premature experimentation-- Holocaust, Armegeddon, A-bomb type calamity.

For my mother's part, the story is slightly more twisty. Having been led to believe that a budding and talented life was snipped short on the vine, I understood that a great deal had been lost with the popping of that cherry. But who cares about truth when you can pack a truckload of guilt on your child's shoulders to keep her from skidding out of your control? Fleeing the brother's Grimm, she set her sights on the handsome church kid and poster boy for her personal version of Prudential- solid as a rock. Escape within earshot, pregnancy expedited and insured the deal.

This might be inconsequential to some... a blip on the screen, a mishap that gives a titter then quickly moves on to life. But most are not connected to a religious denomination that feels the need, nay, the obligation and even the mighty hand of God Himself to punish and chastise the two SINNERS that have now made their indiscretion indiscreet.

Shotgun weddings were not uncommon among the yuts (a.k.a youths) of America. But in this case, a shotgun might have been preferable to the round of conversations that took place once the rabbit met his demise. Parents, pastors and finally the church's board were all included in the couple's redemption.

When at last I entered world, I was already enlisted into the army-- and not just any army, but the Army of God!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Better than god

Easter bunny and the cross

Siblings, sitting in their easter finest on the swingset in the backyard, smile tepidly into the camera, easter baskets holstered by their sides. Colors slide into one another, a pastel opaqueness that blurs lines and distinctions, creating a "could-be-twins" look that pleased the girl for a reason that is inexplicable. Her connection to her younger brother is more tangible than the mother and father who rarely seem to make freeze frame.

Most memories that are real, that have substance, involve church and holidays. Easter was a high holiday that began with Palm Sunday- the Sunday the messiah was purported to have ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. Palm Sunday usually incorporated the children by having them parade into the sanctuary with palm branches and singing a song, any song that had the words "hosanna" in the lyrics. On this sunday, the pastor often had a semi-important sermon, the most important sermon of the year being delivered on Easter. Palm Sunday was mere preparation for the big day, the Sunday of the Faithful.

Easter Sunday, on the other hand was a once a year Beatles concert. Visitors, lost relatives, sporadic church-goers, non-church going spouses would fill the pews on this holiday having been convinced via cultural persuasion and family pressure that even if you didn't really believe in god, you really needed to be in church on EASTER SUNDAY. This made the opportunity a Sutter's mill experience... a sudden onslaught of new bodies looking for the golden streets. This was one of the few times the pastor would actually be preaching for the Lost, the unclean... it was a time to really lay it on the line: what would it be? Heaven or hell? Look at Jesus on that cross- how can you turn your back on the torture he put himself through just FOR YOU? And he suffered so that YOU could have life with him eternally in heaven. It is all up to you-- it was in your hands... heaven or hell. Which do you chose?

At home the whole Easter week was accompanied by a flurry of furry activity. The house was cleaned for family gatherings or just because there was an aspect of cleanliness that seemed requisite (cleanliness is next to godliness after all), Easter eggs colored and new Sunday gear: suits, ties, socks, shiny new sunday shoes, dresses, hats, slips, gloves... even underwear is fresh from the package clean. Night before baths were accompanied with a behind the ear scrubbing that left the skin luffa'd raw long before luffas were imported into popular use. There is a great deal of symbolic value in scrutinizing this emphasis on cleanliness at Easter- it wasn't just recalling Jesus's victory over death but a yearly claim to cleanliness and newness. We were new creatures in Christ after all... we should look like it once in a while!

Pre-church is taut with walking on a tightrope tenseness. Our family got up early to be sure morning chores didn't make us late- late being the availability of our regular front of the church pew. Extra people meant the church filled up fast- we loved that the lost and sinful world made it to church on their annual march to appease our christian deity but not enough to sacrifice our regular seating in the sanctuary. And mom and dad usually had to be there early to practice with the choir. There would be no slovenly slogging through the Sunday anthems for the unwashed on Easter! It was time to put on the best show of the year.

Church was achingly slow. Correction it was always achingly slow so-- well, worse than achingly slow. No time for egg hunting prior to morning cleansings, so feet fidget and hands flitter, as children writhe on wooden benches, anxious for easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Pastel striped straw baskets sit on kitchen tables virtually virgin as the children's perusal was interrupted to prevent distraction from what was really important: This was the day the Lord had made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A mirror

The memories of my early childhood are like sparse crayon sketches...

A small house on the edge of town with a smattering of homes around us. Enough space to find a spot to play that was out of the periphery of the house.

A baby in a rickety crib: cranky or sleeping, cranky and sleeping. My mother's faceless voice hollering after me (from where? in the kitchen? probably. She was always in the kitchen) to "shut the door- you'll let out all the cool air" the baby needs to be in cool air... was the unuttered half of the sentence.

Books scattered about: Mom tells me I could read by the time I was three. I don't remember reading but I do remember sitting in my mother's lap and pouring over the pages. Books always left open on the floor of my room.

Clinging to the neck of my grandmother: her house, the yard and farm, the conversation a later memory that seeps into the younger me- a water color background that fills in the blank skies and ground beneath me.

One water-color landscape: A rattle trap wagon clattering through the grassy backyard that connects one child to the other. A blue-eyed, brown-sugar-haired child waves at the face peaking between the cotton curtain of the nearby home. Chubby fingers waggle back and forth in response and little legs dangle over the edge of the counter, toes in search of the tile floor. The child seeks out her mother, begging for freedom and play. Denied for some reason that is beyond the connections in my synapses, the lingering feeling is one of disapproval (disapproval of the child's mother? the child?- I don't know...) and confusion. Christie is my only friend in my secluded little world between the houses and it seems odd now to have had anything to disapprove of in a three-year-old.

Photographs scrutinized now reveal the shy and backward nature of the child- a slight frown still lingering in the eyes, unhappy, with the break from play for a trip to the photographer, the uncomfortable frilly dress complete with lacy undies that were GI (well in this case: MI- mother issue). Battles over clothes with the tot are retold at the dinner table by the mother, the grandmother. They are, apparently, World War II vets in the American Legion, reminiscing over the skirmishes with the child over clothes, food, separation... (tisk, tisk, such a strong willed child. How will such a strong willed child be obedient to God?)

Happiness... abandon... freedom... does not seem to be a part of the sketches, either filled in later or original background. You can feel the uncertainty, the blankness- a hollowness that was never filled in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death and Politics at the end of the world

Lazarus Unwound

She walks down the street with a confidence that holds life itself in contempt- a "you-aren't-going-to-defeat-me" gait that carries her around the common and beyond the peonage. She plows through the cracked and crooked cyprus door, pausing only to allow her cornea to adjust to the dim, a duskiness that inhabits the cleavage of the walls, scurries across the floorboard and over the surface of the shack that somehow gained the reputation as a shop. The compound odors of garlic, curry, cigar, incense, dust, and ancient artifact condensed to agitate the nostrils of her finely refined nose. She swipes at her sharply pressed sierra sand colored skirt and fitted white blouse in reaction to the nearby grime and scans the perimeter against possible incursions. The tailor made "Refined Explorer" boots she purchased in Milan wrinkle at the toe wrinkle in distaste of their own volition at the dirt floor which had undoubtedly been the bed of a herd animal at some not too distant past. Her cosmetically enhanced nails brush a single stray hair back in place as she gathers herself against the onslaught.

She takes a folded letter out of her pocketbook and glances over it "...happy to hear you may have discovered... can't tell you what it will mean... will await your article... Finkelberg has a new find... a real blow... your work, in the right hands, might... Get back to us as soon as you can!" Finkelberg! That Israeli hack has no loyalties. His own people were tired of his anti-biblical rant. She takes a step in one direction, then another. Scowls silently, "Gives pacing a bad name" then stops to glare toward the "back" of the hovel where a man's voice seems to transmit from.

"You, hey there," the international accent was so heavy that it was nearly unintelligible-- to anyone. "What do you here?"

the dark side of the moon

What does this mean?? Twisted, dark things that are funny... maybe like me.

Some of my favorite funny things are the Ann Taintor products (www.annetaintor.com)

You can also find her products at Peppercorn and Paper Dolls in Boulder. (The kitchen towels are terrific!)And FYI: these are real models. She has profiles of them on her website.

I have found a few that express the inner Danette... how about you?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Honoring the struggle

The other day my son came home and told me a little girl had called him an "oreo cookie" because he is bi-racial. Her intention, it seems -at least according to him, was to find an appropriate nickname for him. She was given consequences and there was apparently quite a deal over the situation-- which is, I suppose, appropriate. But this is what I told my son:
"You know I don't approve of her saying those things." He nodded. "Calling names based on race or gender is always wrong." He agreed again. "My problem is the double standard we have concerning this issue. I don't like it when Black kids call each other the "N" word. They are committing black on black racism. And that is a huge problem in the African American community. (My son's father was often put down by his family for having the darkest skin... the attitude among A.A. is that dark skin is a sign of stupidity. This is true in many cultures-- including India. So many ways to keep one group on the top of the heap!) I won't stand for it if you ever behave that way." He agreed. I went on to emphasize my point. "I don't approve of it when women call each other hoes--. There are a lot of people who put their lives on the line so that women, people of other races, sexual preferences, etc. could walk with dignity in our culture. But just getting upset when white people do it is a double standard and hypocritical."

Using names like that just perpetuates the same cycle- only we do it to ourselves now. Using those terms diminishes the struggle.

We are so superficial in our dialogue about sexism and racism-- so overly concerned with PCism (and only certain people need to be PC!! If you're white you have no right to talk about racism) while ignoring what REAL racism and sexism are- counting ourselves among the oppressed when it is the people who fought the battles for equality who truly suffered. When will we as American's grow up on this issue???

When people give my son a pass because he's bi-racial (which is not the same as understanding that he has learning disabilities and he needs to learn differently or have more help on occasion) and they don't really believe that he can (fill in the blank), THAT is racism... and racism at it's worst. (There is a very fine distinction here that may be difficult for some to discern: my accepting that my son has a learning disability does not mean that I think he is not capable of the work-- sometimes he needs more help or needs to learn it in a different way or needs it explained more than once- this is not the same as thinking he cannot do it so I just let him do what he can (which means he won't do much -he is a kid after all) or let him out of doing it. And assuming the reason he isn't learning something is because he is using his race as a crutch is also racism, although not nearly as crippling as the first...) For example, My son's father was dyslexic-- no one discovered this until he was in high school. He didn't know how to read and no one bothered to find out why. The fact that no one knew is that they had no expectation that he could or should read... all they really cared about was that he was a good athlete. (Had his parents valued education, they might have realized his problem and pushed the school to do more or done it themselves...)I do have the expectation that my son work hard to overcome his learning disability. He is capable-- but it takes work. If my son decides to blow off high school and not learn to the best of his ability-- I will not support him in college. I see no point in his going to college if his only reason to go, essentially, is to play football. My son is capable of being more than just another black athlete.

IF one of my daughters were to call me up and say they were overlooked for a promotion because they are bi-racial or a woman-- I would tell them they probably need to be more honest with themselves... Is that really the reason? I would emphasize that using that excuse diminishes the struggle. Too many people refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes and use prejudice as a shield to keep from being honest with themselves.

And if that is the reason they are overlooked??? Well, fighting back may best be done by going to the competition and giving them your expertise and talent... but it definitely does not mean curling up in a ball and crying victim and it doesn't mean hiring a lawyer to keep a job you weren't doing your best at.

When we sit around waiting for a sign that racism or sexism are over... then we are still acting like victims and we are not honoring the struggle. (The fact that so many needed Obama to be elected in order to see that things have changed does not speak well of us...) If the African Americans who marched and faced hanging or were indeed hung for the right to vote had done that, Blacks still might not be able to vote. They faced the problem and then faced it again... and again: Honor their courage by having courage when you are put down with racism/sexism.

I believe honoring the struggle is going out with confidence knowing that people before you have worked hard to allow you the opportunity and then giving your all to show you are worthy of their efforts-- because to behave as though you are still a victim of the same kind of prejudices is to ignore their victories. I believe honoring the struggle is to carry one's self with at least the same dignity that those who suffered far more to give that right to you did...That is honoring the struggle.

Tall and Proud

Written in 1973 by children's author, Vian Smith, the author gave horse lovers a treat with this wonderful story about a girl and her horse. When the main character contracts polio in a nearby stream, she struggles to learn to walk again. Her mother, overcome with guilt and pity for her child, does not have the heart to push her daughter the way the doctors and nurses urge her to. When it is obvious that the girl is losing what strides she had made (polio cases were often met with nearly full recovery if caught in time...), her father decides to buy an old race horse as motivation for his daughter's recovery.

Deftly and beautifully written with an eye toward the problem with pity and the need to challenge ourselves. Easily recommended for kids who are facing physical or emotional handicaps as well as young equestrians... and not bad for parents and teachers either!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Are we done being victims yet?

Does it help? Maybe we can celebrate Obama's victory because we have to give up our "poor me I can't do it because of the establishment" now? The only place I have seen sexism or racism in a long time is in the church. Largely moneyism is what determines who's going to be in charge or get the job.


I never raised my children to believe that their color or gender would ever keep them from doing anything... but I also never gave my children the idea that they needed to be the president of the U.S. or even of a corporation in order to have worth. I always felt they needed to be the best people they could be. And looking back, I don't think if I had told my daughters they could be the president of the United States that that would have given them anything they needed.

Too many of the children in this country-- for that matter too many Americans in general-- suffer from entirely too much ego. They act as though they are the most important person in the universe already-- do we really need to emphasize our children's potential (and I might add FALSE potential-- I mean, really, what are the ODDS of becoming president even with the right education and background? Pretty high I'd wager. Maybe even higher than winning the lottery) to be the most powerful person on earth? Religion already gives it's followers the idea that they can be like Jesus or god (which is WAY better than the president, by their doctrine)-- and most of them are just arrogant and self-conceited jerks who can't live what they preach. Is that what we need? REALLY?? MORE self-important individuals????

Haven't we suffered enough from that attitude?

If there needs to be an emphasis- it really does need to be on Obama's education and intelligence- that he did not get the job because his momma had money or his daddy was the president or because he had the best commercials (at least I hope he's not all marketing!) Perhaps that emphasis will put the idea in the black kid who comes into the library every day that he needs to start getting his own education-- that he CAN be more than a dumb football player because there are too many black and white football players who are idolized in this country- and being more than an uneducated athlete isn't really all that hard! And when my son is pouting because he doesn't really like to read and doesn't see the value in it- he can't sit back and feel sorry for himself because he doesn't know of any black men who read and are smart, so why should he work on his reading???... well, now he does! And yes, I will celebrate that! But then if my son were white, he could learn the same thing!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A new day???

Many hope for change with the election of Barack Obama. I know I certainly do, or maybe it would be better to say that I am hopeful that I can have hope. I am simply losing faith in the people of this country to do anything that isn't in their own best interest (and as the most powerful country in the world, we certainly have the responsibility to think of more than just ourselves). Here's why...

I work two jobs- one full time with health coverage, albeit Kaiser (which is fine as long as I am not sick), another part time job that gives me as many hours as I can manage. But with the price of food, gas, meds, etc. LIVING basically, I don't have the money to go to the dentist. My teeth are cracked and one is falling apart. Another is probably abscessing but the only option is to have it pulled- there is no way I can afford a root canal or a replacement. Jobs are getting harder to find so just finding a new job sounds good, isn't necessarily going to happen (especially since I have been actively looking for many moons already). And frankly I like this job but it does not seem reasonable to me that DPS expects professional work when they are paying hourly wages. (Teachers who do the SAME job I am make more than twice I do-- but they are eliminating teachers from this position in order to bring in cheaper librarians-- like me! And teachers are underpaid anyway!!!).

A small used book store down on Broadway owned by a friend is struggling for survival. Advertising, a near necessity when you compete with Amazon and Barnes and Noble, is out of the question and and rents are high-- his business is clearly struggling. He is thin and haggard with worry. He works another job to make a living and to keep the bookstore open.

Ben Franklin's, a family owned dime store in "Littletown" Kansas, went out of business because Walmart moved into the town fifteen minutes away: close enough to drive the higher priced family owned store out of business. (How does an independent businessman compete with a business that can mandate it's own price from the vendors -even big ones like Rubbermaid!- and buy cheaply made toys from their subcontracted toy-makers in third world countries?)

Rikki Ducornet has a new book out which I am anxiously awaiting. She is an amazing writer who incorporates metaphor and symbolism into her writing with a deftness that is breathtaking. Her talent looms like the sun over the literary world. Her newest book is not available at Barnes and Noble- nor for that matter are any of her other books. She is not a best seller-- just a great writer. Her books have to be specially ordered and this new one is being released in paperback. You can find some of her older books in the used bookstore on Broadway. No promotion, no books on hand in the large bookstores-- not likely to get enough sales to pay for the daVincian quality of her work.

Subcontracting: the illusion of independent, individually owned business. In truth it is a way for large corporations to contract a job, bid/charge for it, then hand it over to a smaller business for a cheaper price. Those small businesses are not able to offer healthcare or benefits to their workers because they are barely able to stay afloat the way it is. It's an easy way for corporations to get out from under government regulations on employees and to save on employment costs. And in too many cases, they use every means they can to charge the subcontractors so they aren't even paying the price agreed upon before the job began. (Barnes and Noble uses such subcontractors to clean the stores. Do they get the same healthcare coverage the managers and booksellers do?)

Borders is not doing well and may soon be out of business. For some reason BnN sees this as a triumph. The Walmart mentality seems to be spreading-- it's not good enough to make money anymore-- you have to corner the market and drive the competition out of business. Meanwhile, the only product you order is what you can sell cheaply and plenty of. . . more and more dreck.

Newspapers/TV news/Major internet providers offer almost all the same news. No coincidence-- they're owned by corporations that are happy to keep us preoccupied with gossip about movie stars, grizzly murders, terrorism. Their product? Fear in a box. The FEW independently owned operations are often forced then to compete in the same marketplace. Self-imposed censorship.

We need a new paradigm! We need to rethink the way we do things-- this corporate, capitalistic state that feeds our cravings but never provides nutrients...

Change? I hope it's coming... I sincerely hope it's coming.

I think I need another moment of zen...

"Speak not of guilt, speak not of responsibility. When the Regiment of the Senses parades by, with music, and with banners; when the senses shiver and shudder, it is only a fool and and an irreverent person that will keep his distance, who will not embrace the good cause, marching towards the conquest of pleasures and passions." ~~ C.P. Cavafy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Your moment of Zen

Sea of the Morning

Here let me stand, that, for a while, I too
may gaze on nature. Marvellous blue tints
of a morning sea and an unclouded sky
contrasting with an amber-coloured shore, —
all luminously beautiful and grand...

Here let me stand and think I see these things

(I really did see them for a moment,
soon after I had stopped) —

and not, here also,
my fantasies, my reminiscences,
the incomparable idols of delight.

~~C.P. Cavafy, translator

Happy election day!

It is very American to see things black and white-- demonize one while your party/side is pearly white. And as long as you can paint the other party a certain color- it APPEARS that there is a difference. There are not a whole lot of liberal mainstays left anymore unfortunately though-- most are owned corporately and they are thrilled that they have two political parties that mostly vote/support the corporate state. There are still liberal/left news anchors of course but the media outlets themselves are corporate and they love it that Obama is considered "left". Of course it is helped that the republicans have framed the issue largely with social issues-- gay rights, abortion, equal rights, etc. Those issues really have nothing to do with the progressive movement. True progressives know that Obama is just a lighter shade of red. There's no way I'd vote for McCain. He's the Bush administration with white hair. But Obama talks an interesting talk-- I just don't buy it.

There isn't going to be any provide-health-insurance-quit-attacking -countries-who-won't-let-us-pillage-and-loot changes here until the people wake up and realize that the democratic party sold out under Bill Clinton-- that they are no longer a party of the people and they need to make a new party. If we ever have real political discourse here THEN perhaps there will be meaningful changes that regulate the corporations and banks to protect consumers, unions will actually be effective in providing fair pay, good working situations and benefits for their members, and environmental changes will be made that hold the true corporate culprits accountable. The changes that are made will be meaningful-- not this so-called "green" movement which is as artificial as Superdome grass and which is ultimately more about another gimmick to put money in the pockets of the corporations. ("but it makes me feel so good when I buy green products!"-- the reader protests. Sorry it's just not enough.)

But I don't expect any great awakening here... people here are so involved in themselves-- it's pathetic. They will criticize and bitch about the control the corporations and the corporate media have. They are aware that Walmart and the corporate atmosphere are killing small business, destroying cities to build bigger more expensive homes for the wealthy (where is the middle class supposed to live when all the new homes are $1,000,000+-- and let's not even talk about the poor!?) and that these tax breaks for corporations are really welfare for the wealthy. (I personally believe that the reason people are not willing to push/vote for real change is that they have hook-line-and-sinkered the line of the republicans that they are the party that helps the individual to succeed when in fact they pad the corporations pockets-- the very corporations that kill small businesses) Yet there's nothing new on any horizon-- not one political candidate has anything new to offer and the ones who do-- Edwards-- Kucinich (sp?) are shut down.

Someday the people of China who get paid virtually nothing so that we can buy cheap toys at Walmart will rise up and they will fight back. But until they do... we will just keep taking advantage of them.

Either that, or Mother Nature herself will slap us back into our collective place. We won't have time to worry about toys and buying stuff, staying young, our cars, etc.-- we'll be too busy just trying to get food and water. It's all a question of time, if you ask me.

Happy election day!

Monday, November 3, 2008

more life

I had a recent revelation...

Several years ago I lost about forty pounds. I did it via a book called 'Thin Within'. In this book the author condemns dieting in all forms and talks about the harm dieting does. As she talks about weight, she proposes that those who want to lose weight learn to think about themselves differently. She sets up guidelines about eating that aren't hardfast rules or calorie counting structures. The guidelines are: 1. Eat what you really, really want (even if it's a brownie with ice cream!) 2. Eat only when you are hungry (a real tummy-rumbling hungry) 3. Eat until you are satisfied (not full!). She calls it 0-5 eating-- most of us eat 3-10. If we consistently eat to a 10, we'll gain weight while eating at a 7, we will maintain our weight without losing. 0-5 eating is where the weight just melts off.

Exercise is not mandatory although truly loving yourself will include some type of physical movement- even if it's just dancing around the house for fifteen minutes to your favorite tunes.

What you eat is definitely not guided by rules- it really is eating what you are truly hungry for but she does emphasize not grabbing the chip bag just because your hungry. Eat what you're mind is set on and wait until you can have it or you won't be satisfied.

She also includes a few more guidelines that are important but not as crucial as the first three- like eating consciously- sitting down at the table to eat, no eating or watching TV and eating without thinking, etc. She also asks readers to go through some introspection-- thinking about WHY they are eating... bored? to be social? emotional? angry? (I personally often overeat when I feel poor-- food is my comfort for not having other needs fulfilled due to lack of $$) There are some pages where you ask yourself harder questions-- like things in your past that you may still be beating yourself up over. (I have had plenty of those issues!)

But I digress...

It occurred to me a while back that life in general is like dieting vs. 'Thin Within.' The more you try to regulate yourself and set up a regiment, the more difficult it is. Religion serves this purpose for many-- an organization that gives distinct (or even indistinct) rules about behavior, a "Guide for Living" so to speak. But the more you try to contain your life in a box, the harder it actually is to stay in the guidelines... you crave or just do things that don't fit with "the diet".

However, when you free yourself from those rules, you find that you do have the strength and the ability to make life good and satisfying. You conscientiously live your life the same way you eat-- loving yourself for who you are and being grateful for what life has to offer. Taking each moment as it comes, doing what is right and savoring whatever is before you that you can relish (and it is important to include in your life things that you can truly get lip-smackingly enthusiastic over as often as possible). Don't overdue it. Use the same 0-5 mentality-- don't do something just because it's there (alcohol/drinking might be good example of this) and don't overdue it- use moderation. When you blow it (and we all do and will!), you put down the fork and try again at that moment, not tomorrow (and to be honest, that has always been a sticking point with me!).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or treat

A fav:Bugs heads out trick-or-treating and winds up at a Witch's door who is in the process of preparing a brew whose final ingredient is a rabbit's clavicle. Bugs tries to flee but is cornered with the cleaver. Doom is surely at hand when Bugs appeals to the Witch's tender side and the witch finds her comeuppance by turning into a beautiful babe- exactly what she had most feared! A true WB classic cartoon.

Halloween is one of the last holidays that is just about fun... no religious ties to ruin the mood, no somber event to cloud the party- just a great deal of spooky fun. I was discouraged from enjoying spooky things when I was little and I ruined Halloween for my children by not teaching them how fun it is to be have your teeth chattering in the middle of the night when you're all alone in the dark. But now that I am older and realize what I missed, I'm glad I can still enjoy it.... even if I can't knock on doors and threaten the residents in order to get a treat.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

There was a time

There was a time when there was a corner store that sold an assortment of candy treats and little toys for children. There was a time when dime stores were owned by the elderly gentlemen that lived on the corner of White St. and Main. There was a time when bookstores were full of literature and great history books. There was a time when the whole neighborhood was out trick-or-treating, and Widow Nichols knew each child by their first names. There was a time when a person could own a bookstore, a bakery or a toy store and they could make a living and in the doing, be a part of a community.

But in these days of big business and huge corporations, the small businessperson scratches out (hopefully!) a meager second income on their labors. "Owning" a business is generally a huge gamble unless it's connected to a well-established company- like the franchises that give us the illusion of autonomy. We work and work to keep ourselves going, putting the pennies we scratch together back into the pockets of our "toy" makers-- the automobile industry, the computer/electronic game corporations, the television/entertainment industry-- anything that keeps us from realizing that we no longer have as our goal "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" but are now in the pursuit of individual interests and having more. Not the same thing at all... but we seem to be too numb with me-ism to get that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


New to the world of Italo Calvino, I was taken aback by his direct and colorful style. He begins this literary journey by speaking directly to his readers, and in fact pulling you into the novel by including you and what you are experiencing. He guides you to a comfortable place to open your book then takes you to your discovery of a book. Unfortunately the book is incomplete so you begin to search for the rest of the book, thirsting to know the rest of the story. Another Reader is introduced with the same problem only her journey is driven from a different motivation and the two of you head out, intrigued and perplexed. You think you found it and alas! it is not the same book but quite a different one. What a disappointment!! You scan the pages of this new book, quickly getting caught up only to find it ends without a conclusion-- so beginning another search for yet another book. By the end of the novel, you have wound your way, not through one story but approximately 10 different stories and the conclusion is... Well, I don't want to spoil it.

His style is, hmmm..., you could almost say he doesn't have A Style. Each story is written with a decidedly different flavor that gives the reader the feeling that they have actually had the experience. It's an witful adventure that will keep you turning pages into the wee. Translator William Weaver has skillfully managed the author's intent without diluting the author's lyrical tone. A masterfully written book... difficult to find in bookstores but a real and more than satisfying treasure hunt. If you're looking for a journey of the mind (what with travel prohibitively expensive these days), Calvino will take you down a path that ever winds and always twists and, you hope, never ends.

WARNING: Calvino is one of those "literature" writers whom readers now disdain for pop stuff but his work is far from the rocky shores of the literati that college students have as a "must-read" and is out on the high seas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tools for writing

When I write, I use Wikipedia a lot-- careful of course to make sure the info is not too specific. I wouldn't use it for a sole source on archeology for instance- but it does come in handy- especially if you want to find real source material- the source notes on the bottom of the page are very useful as a start. I also use Yahoo! reference - the thesaurus is helpful. But for a more complete dictionary/thesaurus I am finding http://www.onelook.com/ to be far more comprehensive. (I found the link via 'The Phrontistry'-- a fun site on the history of words.) For instance, today I looked up 'wacky.' Onelook pulled up several sites, including the Slang dictionary. When I clicked there, I found not only the definition for wacky (adj. Crazy, zany) but a whole series of interesting words and their definitions, including 'wank' in all it's various forms:

Wank V. To masturbate. Also phrased as wank off. E.g."If our young men devoted as much time to their school work as they did to wanking then we'd have a nation of geniuses." N. 1. An act of masturbation. E.g."You can guarantee that if he sees a pair of naked breasts he'll go and have a wank straight away."
2. Something useless, or worthless. E.g."I wish I hadn't brought that new CD, it's wank." 3. Nonsense. Exclam. Exclamation of annoyance or expressing disbelief.

wank bank Noun. Memory, with respect to sexually stimulating thoughts and recalled when masturbating. E.g."Did you see that girl dancing on the podium? I've put her in my wank bank."

wank biscuit Noun. A contemptible or objectionable person.

wanker Noun. 1. A masturbator. 2. A contemptible person. 3. An idiot, an incompetent person.

wankered Adj. Very intoxicated.

wankiest Adj. Of the poorest quality, of the lowest standard, the worst. E.g."It was wankiest film I've seen all year and to think I wasted £5 on a ticket and 3 hours of my life."

wanking Noun. Masturbation.

wanking chariot Noun. A bed. [Orig. Military use]

wank mag Noun. A pornographic magazine.

wank pit Noun. A bed. [Mainly Military use]

wank rag Noun. 1. A cloth item, such as a handerkerchief, that is used to mop up ejaculate after masturbation. 2. A contemptible, low quality newspaper or magazine.
wankshaft Noun. A contemptible person.

wank spanners Noun. The hands. From being tools used for masturbation.

wanksplat Noun. A contemptible person or thing.

wankstain Noun. 1. A semen stain, as result of masturbation. 2. A contemptible person.

wanky Adj. Rubbish, of very poor quality.

I feel my vocabulary is so much richer now! :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a childhood should be...

Santa Claus and Easter egg hunts,

Trick-or-treating until your too cold to walk anymore,

Swinging so high that the swing set is threatening to topple

Reading a scary book (that mom doesn't approve of) under the covers with a flashlight

jumping in the pile of leaves dad just raked

sloshing through water puddles after a big rain

snowball fights with friends

telling spooky stories at a sleepover

strategising on how to defeat your friend's toy army

making a fort from boxes

Baseball/football games on an empty lot

watching monster movies and then staying awake hearing strange noises in the house

dress up

full of play and imagination


Saturday, October 25, 2008


Little league football for kids is awful stuff. Parents screaming, yelling, coaches pacing and pulling at nonexistent hair. Kids crying and being hollered at to stop crying (not that kids should never be told to stop acting like babies, but please...). What happened to kids playing football on an empty school yard or playground? What happened to the neighborhood streets teaming with children calling to one another and running from one home to another? This is preparation for adulthood...

Are we robbing our children of their childhood?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Life sucks...

yet it's all we have.

And we do have a tendency to make life difficult for ourselves- living beyond our means so that we are financially strapped and the fear of losing everything hangs heavily over our daily existence. Smoking, drinking excessively, selfishness.. there are plenty of things we do that make life harder than it needs to be. But those difficulties are simply about choices and learning to be satisfied with what we have and spending our time and money on only those things that really add to our daily existence (which is why I don't mind spending a bit more than the average person on books). But there are plenty of things that are out of our control that weigh heavily on the soul... disease, war, disasters, (this will be a long list so I'll let you fill in the blanks) In fact, there is enough misery and difficulty on this planet to make living seem like just a plod-a-long journey with nothing at the end but the Great Unknown. When I was a believer, I lived life for heavenly rewards and thought that my purpose was to serve god. As I untangled myself from the brainwashing that I had undergone since I was born, I had to find a new paradigm... a new model for life.

Fortunately, I had a humanistic outlook on life (I guess that is still part of my christian upbringing-- I believed god really loved the world) and it was easy to see that we should serve each other, our "purpose" should be to contribute something both to the planet we live on and the people we live among. Our daily chores (our jobs) should give something back, in some small way (teachers are the most AMAZING contributors-- it's unfortunate that I didn't want to teach) and hopefully help us find some fulfillment along the way. It's not always easy to give in that way but when you have a passion for what you do each day, then the giving is easier and the price does not diminish us. We should fill our other moments with intentional living... finding beauty and joy in the moments that are given to us -- not mindlessly floating off into the netherworld of non-existence that seems to pervade our culture -television, shopping, diminishing ourselves to simple CONSUMERS. Serendipity brought a man into my life who had a passion for finding the beauty in life and he taught me to let go of some of my burden for the world and my duty to it... to love myself and my life. We have crafted, together, a pretty wonderful life.

Let's face it, we (none of us) are going to change the world (and perhaps that is is not even something we should desire to do)... but we can make our little corner of it a blissful and magical place to be.

Key West

Three years ago, Maurice and I sat down together to watch a little TV show that he was a big fan of. It had been on in 1993 and had made such a huge impression on him that he tracked down the VHS tapes ten years later. The quality was poor, with occasional flickers of static interfering with the picture.

It began humorously... with half naked exotic dancers and a high end call girl (played by Jennifer Tilly) who has half the town under her spell. Seamus O'Neill (Fisher Stevens), a factory worker from New Jersey, wins the lottery and heads to Key West to be like his idol, Ernest Hemingway.

The show opens as he drives down the Keys straight into the ocean at the end of the world and is met by a Rastafarian named Jo Jo, who measures up the situation pretty quickly, "Well! I guess you're plannin' on stayin' with us a while, hey man? Oh man, now you're such a hard man! Now why you go kill that car that way, anyway? What'd that car do to you? That car steal your woman, man? You come home and find that car in bed with your woman? Maybe you find them clues, uh? Tire tracks. Oil drippin's on ya white sheets. But how do you know it wasn't that Studebaker down the street been stick-shiftin' your woman! Maybe you killed the wrong car, man! Look at him! Dead an' bleedin' in the ocean over there! But now I'm lookin' hard in these flame-throwing eyes and I'm sayin' to myself, 'JoJo', -My name really Abednigo but everybody call me JoJo, don't ask me why – 'JoJo. maybe this man done drove this car all the way down here to the end of the world, then killed his car so that he can never go home again!'"

"I'm free from the tyranny of clocks, the slavery of the second hand. I'm gonna sleep 'til four in the afternoon. Then I'm gonna stay up for three days straight, then I'm gonna get real fat, then I'm gonna get real skinny. I'm gonna eat caviar. I'm gonna howl naked at the moon in the cemetery." Seamus declares as they stroll through town.

"What you gonna do tomorrow?" Jo Jo laughs at him.

They walk past the Hemingway house and Seamus nearly melts in adoration.Jo Jo pulls him away with the promise to take him to the newspaper where he will get his first assignment to, "...put something on paper that don't put me to sleep, or make me glad I done lost my eyesight... Oh, you didn't know I was blind, did you? Didn't know I was blind? Well what is you? Inbred? Crossbred? No – don't answer! Just get out!" his future boss, Cole, orders and sends Seamus on his way, writing kit in tow.

Jo Jo's next stop on the tour of the island is past a political rally where Seamus gets a glimmer of his first story. One politician's speech seem to have been written by "wizards and angels" and the other panders to fear and greed. When the eloquent incumbent commits political suicide the other uses the his "liability" to win. Thus, Seamus's first article for the Key West 'Meteor' in which he begins, "We speak not of truth, but of the beauty of political death at the end of the world...."

then on "to paradise"... Gumbo's End o' the World Cafe. Here he meets Savannah, the sexual embodiment of the island. She sees the new boy in town and saunters over...

"Oh my! Who are you?"

JoJo steps in for the intro: "New newspaper reporter person."

Savannah: "A writer?"

Seamus looks around uncertainly: "Yeah... somedays... sort of... no."

Savannah: "Having a little trouble getting that first novel between the covers?"

Seamus: "How'd you know?"

Savannah: "You've come to the right place, you pretty thing. It's magic here. There are Angels in the Spray, Wizards in the Palm Trees, and Elves in the Sea Shells, and they all look very favorably on struggling young writers."

And thus began what would become a wonderful discovery... a show that contained some of the magic of the island, even of life itself and would take me to the island itself where I found the Place that spoke to my soul.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Word of the day

I enjoy a good debate or discussion- though disagreement can be difficult it can also lead to understanding and, occasionally, a solution to a problem. Dialectical discourse is particularly interesting to me as a result. Here are several definitions from different sources:

From: Online Teymology Dicitonary.
[or.] 1382, from L. dialectica, from Gk. dialektike (techne) "(art of) philosophical discussion or discourse," fem. of dialektikos "of conversation, discourse," from dialektos "discourse, conversation" (see dialect). Originally synonymous with logic; in modern philosophy refined by Kant, then by Hegel, who made it mean "process of resolving or merging contradictions in character."

Cambridge Dictionaries Online
Dialectic: noun [U] (ALSO dialectics) SPECIALIZED
a way of discovering what is true by considering opposite theories

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dialectics is based around three (or four) basic metaphysical concepts:

* 1: Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time (this idea is not accepted by all dialecticians).
* 2: Everything is made out of opposing forces/opposing sides (contradictions).
* 3: Gradual changes lead to turning points, where one force overcomes the other (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
* 4: Change moves in spirals not circles. (Sometimes referred to as "negation of the negation")

Within this broad qualification, dialectics have a rich and varied history. It has been stated that the history of dialectic is identical to the extensive history of philosophy.[12]. The basic idea perhaps is already present in Heraclitus of Ephesus, who held that all is in constant change, as a result of inner strife and opposition [13][14][15] Only fragments of his works and commentary remain, however. Briefly, the term "dialectic" owes much of its prestige to its role in the philosophy of Socrates and Plato, where it figures as the logical method of philosophy, which these thinkers apply by developing an elenchus, that is cross-examination for the purpose of refutation. According to Aristotle, [16] it was Zeno of Elea who 'invented' dialectic.

**on days when my post for the day is a copy and paste or a quick sentence, the paragraph has been added to either my short story, 'Lazarus Unwound' or 'Death and Politics'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And now a word from our sponsors

The sunset on Green Mountain, a glass of champagne and chocolate combined with hand holding and conversation that includes, "remember the time..." makes for a perfect evening.

The unfortunate message

In a previous post, I mentioned the insidiousness of commercials- how they create need that wasn't there before or is not a need at all and may, once you have it, not even be a want. Perhaps as adults, we feel less affected by advertising. We may even feel in control and pandered to by advertising (why do we resent salesmen so much but don't mind commercials? It's the same thing.). We feel they have become just a necessary evil in watching our favorite programming for free and sometimes a short source of entertainment (i.e. superbowl commercials).

Unfortunately, they are not. One of my favorite shows is 'Madmen'- a unique little program on American Movie Classics that is receiving a lot of critical acclaim. The drama on the show is interesting and engaging- (I worry about Don's children who are being raised by a more than slightly crazy mother and a father who is disengaged and neglectful -to say the least) but what I also like about the show is it's ability to reveal how advertising affects WHAT we watch. For example in 'A night to remember' in season two, one advertiser is chastised for buying advertising space on a show that references communists as "agitators"-- his clients, Maytag, were not happy about his lack of oversight. They felt the unfortunate use of the word "agitators" would immediately connect their washing machines with communism!

Although it may not seem like censorship, after all they certainly have the right to associate their product with whatever show they choose to, yet when quality programming is not aired because it cannot find enough advertising to pay for it's air time because the companies do not want their product connected with ideas they don't approve of, then it is the corporations that are dictating what we watch and see on television, NOT what the production companies think we will like. There is the illusion in a capitalist society that we have the power because we have the money-- but the reality is that we are being played-- like a cello being stroked by Yo Yo Ma. And make no mistake, everyone involved in advertising are virtuosos.

Advertising is impacting so many areas of our lives-- our politicians are being chosen essentially by advertising (even if people are finally fed up with McCain-- Obama should not be the man of choices based on his commercial appeal). People, we need to resist the commercialism in our society! We need to stop being the instrument and start being the musicians in our lives.

By the way, if you watch 'Madmen' on Comcast-on-demand, there is only one commercial the entire show and you can fast forward through that!


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