That scene at the beginning of the film, as the reader must know, follows the instant metamorphosis of the ape discovering the bone as a tool. He tosses it victoriously into the air and the cinematography converts that slow-motion bone flash-forward to a spaceship, dancing in synch with the turning space station, lining up a landing on the ferris wheel-like imagining, which turned out to be the way it actually is. The hugely expanded mind of scientific man.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
That scene at the beginning of the film, as the reader must know, follows the instant metamorphosis of the ape discovering the bone as a tool. He tosses it victoriously into the air and the cinematography converts that slow-motion bone flash-forward to a spaceship, dancing in synch with the turning space station, lining up a landing on the ferris wheel-like imagining, which turned out to be the way it actually is. The hugely expanded mind of scientific man.
Steve Dix and Marnie Vail relocated from Flagstaff, Arizona, where they met and married, to Vermont with the intention of starting their BED-A-BRUSH™ business in the Burlington area (Milton, VT.) Besides making the BED-A-BRUSH™, Steve is editing his first book. Among his colorful past pursuits were jobs as a radio announcer and a pilot. Marnie is an erstwhile family doctor and homeopathic physician who has a particular interest in cleaner food and water and in getting toxic chemicals out of our food, water, environment and medicines.
Stardaze Productions is the incubator for whatever we, Steve and Marnie, decide to create together. It began out of Steve's desire to tell the important story of one man's suspenseful, courageous journey to integrity during the Vietnam war era. That story is in the final stages of editing and will be published within the next year. The big impulse behind the story - that being: to make the world a better place - is the thread that we hope to pull through everything that comes out of Stardaze Productions.
With the production of the BED-A-BRUSH™, we endeavor to produce a beautiful, useful, innovative, environmentally conscious product using sustainable manufacturing principles which help support the local economy. We offer an honest "made in the USA" consumer item at a fair price. At Stardaze Productions, we are committed to doing whatever we can to protect and promote the health of the planet and its inhabitants. We have other innovative household accessory products in the design phase, production of which will be based on these same principles.
Ten percent of our profits go to organizations which are working locally and globally to solve problems of hunger, poverty, poor nutrition, pollution and environmental degradation, animal rights, over population, over consumption, corporate personhood, nuclear proliferation, and the war mentality.
Monday, April 28, 2008
There are fewer and fewer ukeleles available at present, but if possible the raccoon news recommends that you lay your hands on a Roy Smeck VITA UKE. If you can find one, you'll be pleased with the Art Deco seals on the front and the overall fine and lightweight construction, the ivory (and certain) tuning pegs, and the enduring, lilting resonance.
The Vita pictured belonged to the editor's father. He got in the 20s when a student at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls IA. He played it far beyond college. Here, it's been played by various children, too. It's been repaired several times. Though intricate, it looks like it should be easy to play. We have never placed any proscriptions on children learning to play music of any kind. They've been able and allowed to practice and play at any time, day or night.
It is their VITA; their life.
Here's a sample of good ukelele playing:
Saturday, April 26, 2008
A long-term friend, now deceased, was John Tyson. We should make that
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Ever since Denise (nee: Means) stepped off a train in Milwaukee from Pleasant Valley, Maryland with a recycled army dufflebag in 1980 - the SR Editor married her in 1983, - she has been able to perform regular feats of dressing up simple things. In the largest sense, she worked it for me.
Todays breakfast was served hot, a left-over concoction Dee whomped up for a church confirmation class she is leading. In her way, she stepped out into the herb garden in back and plucked some chive sprigs as a garnish, with an orange slice. A plate of additional orange slices was served on the side.
This dish consists of hash-browns, eggs, milk, cheese, cut-up breakfast sausages, onions, green and red peppers, and bisquick. It is left overnight to set, then baked.
It it had been left to the SR editor, he would have plopped the left-overs on a plate, michael-waved it, and eaten it absently (but appreciatively). But fine-restaurant chefs know the importance of visual diversion and esthetical doo-daddery of accent color to zing up a plate of plain food.
This is a nearly every-day occasion in the home next to the raccoon sewer grate. "Garnish" is Denise's by-word, and it makes all the difference, in so many ways.
She has also raised and garnished two fine-fare children. They are much the better for it, I say.
SO................ HO-HUM? NEVER!
(For exact ingredients contact Dee at the SR News)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
STEWART, kindred fillet of sole,
or something................ :
Though we have not met formally, I thought from what I've seen via photos and your couple of Emails you would appreciate the 150 I drove when I was doing my welding. It was a noble pick-up. But, like some other things in my life, it "went away from me" in a sorrowful way.
I had it parked at the top of a residential hill, and while I was showing a house it slipped out of park and began rolling down the hill. We were just emerging from the house and saw it happen. We ran after it but it was too late. At the bottom of the hill there was a curve, and my fear was that my autonomous truck would jump the curb and crash into somebody's home of which there were many, side-by-side. Fortunately, there was a telephone pole when it did jump the curb, and it crashed into that, instead.
The poor machine was V-ed at the front bumper around the pole that stopped it cold. The bell housing was shot, and the mechanic deemed the truck unsalvagable. I did not have the means to have it so (unreasonably?) expensively fixed, so I had to leave that butterfly I'd landed on.
But that truck was a real friend. I could fit my mo-ped in it and all my camping gear, my welding tanks, many other things thrown over that tail-gate. I eventually made some oak rails to fit down into the side grooves, slats that were removeable, but never were. I'd varnished them with several coats of gloss poly. The truck glistened, but I never worshipped it, only used it until it crashed.
I read a book recently by a Wis. author Michael Perry, TRUCK: A LOVE STORY. Though my knowledge of you is limited, I recommend this book to you. http://www.sneezingcow.com/truck.htm
I mentioned it briefly to our mutual friend - my Ohio & Wheeling WVA friend only by cursory Email, like you - Laurie L, and she said her husband had the book on his bookshelf. It is so on-target for me that I bought a copy of it for my son who found it a bull's-eye too.
All for today.
David Zep Dix
Editor, SEWER RACCOON NEWS
Friday, April 18, 2008
TODAY, 4-18-08, an interview took place with the ancient King Coon who resides underground in Waukesha below the old downtown post office, ironic gathering place above and under ground - for Waukesha's royalty.
The King is blind because he's been below grade so long. Years and years and years. He claims to remember Morris Butler and Col. Dunbar. He would not give his exact age even to this aged interviewer, nor would his guide coons, deliverers of all of his needs or whims.
As readers of this newspaper of the electrons know, the King has long been cared-for exclusively by his raccoon minions, who run errands for him, nightly. Foraging for the good of the vast sewer raccoon community, these small burglars collect nothing that would cause the above-ground residents much harm, nor cost them heavily.
"While, yes, we now live in sewers," the King said, "we used to have the run of this whole place."
He allowed as how some humans choose to live underground, but usually only in order to avoid jail. He mentioned Father Dan Berrigan, but he didn't have to, because we have a hallowed photo of Berrigan in our office. He had to have been blind not to have seen it.
The King remarked that his raccoon runners who peer into the windows of Waukeshans have reported very few likenesses of Dan Berrigan on any interior walls. He is legendary among sewer raccoons and others, however.
Our picture is situated out of coonhunter-shot of any windows. We know the peerers are out there. We don't wish to enflame or rabidly endance anyone, man or beast.
There will be other reports of our visit(s) with King Coon, continued.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
From TIKKUN, Editorial by Rabbi Lerner
The Phenomenon is not Barack Obama. Senator Obama is a masterful organizer and teacher. But this editorial is not about Obama as much as about what he elicits in others, and should not be read as an endorsement of him.
The energy, hopefulness, and excitement that manifests in Obama’s campaign has shown up before in the last fifty years, only to quickly be crushed. It was there in the 1960s and 1970s in the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, and the movement for gay liberation. One felt it flowing at rallies and demonstrations at which Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, Betty Friedan, Isaac Deutscher, Joan Baez, and Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated their visions. It was there again in Earth Day, in the anti-nuclear movement, and in the movement against the war with the Contras. It was there during the campaign of Jesse Jackson in 1988 and the Clintons’ campaign in 1992. And it has been there—dare we say it—in the growth of the religious right and the Campus Crusade for Christ.
What is that energy and excitement, and why does it touch people so deeply?
Since Tikkun started in 1986 we’ve been trying to convince the political leadership of the liberal and progressive forces that they needed to understand this phenomenon and speak to it. Sometimes we’ve written about it as a hunger for meaning and purpose, and prescribed a “politics of meaning” as the way to respond politically; in the last few years we’ve written about the need for a spiritual progressive politics to bring this energy into the public sphere.
The phenomenon in question is this: the intense desire of every human being on this planet to overcome and transcend the materialism and selfishness that shape the global economic arrangements and permeate the consciousness of all people, to overcome the looking-out-for-number one consciousness that divides us and the technocratic language that shapes our public institutions and denies us access to our common humanity, and to overcome the alienation from each other that this way of being has created so that we might once again recognize each other as embodiments of God or Spirit (or however you want to talk about the force-field of goodness, generosity, kindness, justice, peace, nonviolence, and care for each other and nature and the entirety of all that is).
We Avert Our Eyes from One Another
Every gesture, every word, every deed, every political act, every interaction with others, every message we give ourselves all combine to either reinforce our separation and estrangement from each other or to reconnect us in a deep way that allows genuine mutual recognition, the seeing and hearing of who we really are, the contact we have with the sacred in ourselves, in each other, and in the world.
We live in a world that is humanly deadening. It’s not just the actual murders committed in our name. I picked up the newspaper this morning and read that U.S. forces barged into a home in the village of Door, 100 miles north of Baghdad, and began to fire at the family living there, killing four, including an eleven-year-old girl. Perhaps tomorrow they will issue a statement acknowledging that this was a mistake, as they did today about the killing of nine Iraqi civilians in Iskandariya a few days ago, and the death “under mysterious circumstances” of an Iraqi militiaman who died “in custody after being held for three days on a Baghdad arrest warrant” as a result of a bullet in the head. At some point they’llacknowledge that the U.S. invasion let loose dynamics that have led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis, and that the “surge” could only be described as “working” because it accelerated the process of some 3 million Iraqis leaving their homes while neighborhoods were being surrounded by concrete walls to provide protection to one ethnic group while the other groups fled to “safety” elsewhere. But today, most Americans remain in a state of zombie-like denial of what this country continues to do.
Nor is the deadening process confined to the various ways we deny our involvement in the world and what is happening therein. For example, our refusal to acknowledge that paying the taxes to keep the war going is part of what makes it possible; and our refusal to acknowledge that the 20,000-30,000 children who die (on average) every single day around the world because of inadequate food and healthcare are directly connected to our global economic system in which we participate daily and which we accept as “inevitable”; and the distance we maintain from those who seek fundamental change, whom we reject as unrealistic.
No, it’s not just these large systems of oppression and manipulation that deaden us. It’s also our own withdrawn and depressive certainty that nothing much can happen in the world of politics and economics, or even in our interactions with each other. We walk down the streets or ride the buses, subways, or airplanes, averting our eyes from the others who share our circumstances. We are certain that if we start talking to others that they will feel that their privacy has been invaded and will resent it, suspecting that we are out to sell them something or take advantage of them or manipulate them. Instead, as Tikkun associate editor Peter Gabel has so frequently articulated on these pages, we stay inside ourselves, offering ourselves to others only in tightly controlled roles, the dimensions of which have been carefully constructed to ensure that we will not awaken in the others their own hunger for love, friendship, recognition, or aliveness.
And so we deaden ourselves and deaden each other. Each time we avert our eyes, each time we pretend not to see the homeless person, the fellow worker getting into trouble, the neighbor who needs our help, the car stalled on the freeway, and each time we tighten our face and muscles to give to the other the message of “don’t go there” where “there” means “don’t try to force me to be real with you when I’m scared to do that,” we manage to convince the others that nobody gives a damn, that they, too, are alone, and that they would be making a huge mistake to try to break out of their isolation or to think that their own desires for connection are shared by billions of others and are not simply a manifestation of some private inadequacy or pathology.
Recently, some columnists have compared Obama to a rock star because his supporters seem to treat him more like that than like a politician. They are only partially mistaken. What the best and most fulfilling rock concerts of the past several decades have offered one generation is what other multi-generational mega-churches or Super Bowls and World Series’ offer to others: a chance to momentarily experience a transcendence of all those feelings of loneliness and alienation, a momentary ability to be part of a “we” that reminds us of what it feels like to be less alone. For a moment we experience a community of shared purpose, and no matter how intellectually, psychologically, or spiritually empty that moment might be, for that moment we get a distorted but, nevertheless, powerful way of reminding ourselves of how much more we could be than when we are alone and scared.
The problem, of course, is that these moments are often based on an us-versus-them vision of the world: our community requires that some other people be the bad guys. As contemporary psychodynamic psychotherapists like to point out, we are often engaged in splitting our own internalized image of ourselves as fundamentally good and decent from another part, which we see as dirty and unacceptable and hence not really part of us at all but rather part of some “evil Other,” which in the West, through history, has been the Jew, the Black man, the feminist, the homosexual, the communist, the terrorist, the illegal immigrant, etc.
The Effectiveness of Not Demonizing
Obama’s appeal starts from his insistence on not demonizing the Other—the very point from which Tikkun started as a project of the Institute for Labor and Mental Health (ILMH) twenty-two years ago. At ILMH we learned—through conducting an intensive study of working class consciousness—that people moving to the Right politically were not primarily motivated by racism, sexism, and hatred, but by the spiritual crisis in their lives that the Left failed to address and the Right spoke to (albeit with distorted solutions).
Obama avoids detailing his political programs precisely because he knows that in so doing he would shift the discourse from how to break through the fear we have of each other and our “certainty” that we are condemned to be alone and alienated, back to the old discourse about point X or point Y in his health care or environmental program, leaving most people behind in despair. Instead, he confronts that despair straight on.
Obama knows that most people want a very different world, but don’t believe it is possible unless someone else makes it happen. He challenges his audience by telling them that there is no one else, that they themselves are the people who must make the world different. To quote Obama from his Super Tuesday speech: “So many of us have been waiting so long for the time when we could finally expect more from our politics, when we could give more of ourselves and feel truly invested in something bigger than a particular candidate or cause. This is it. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
In short, Obama is telling his supporters, we are not in need of some magical leader, not even Obama himself. Rather, what we need is the confidence in ourselves to reclaim the public space, to break down our fears about ourselves and each other, and to recognize that it is only when we move beyond our personal lives and work together for our highest vision that anything substantial will change.
Obama has used his campaign to teach us that we actually can emerge from our frightened, withdrawn state, and enter into a public community and affirm each other’s humanity, whether that be through our foreign relations, in our approach to immigration, in our economic lives, or, even, in overcoming the ossified categories of “the Left” and “the Right.” And Obama presents himself with a sense of certainty that helps us overcome our own uncertainty—he is determined to win the election because he thinks we can do this if we are willing to “declare that we are with each other.”
It is precisely this striving to create a transcendent experience of connection without demonizing the Other that has been the important element in the Obama phenomenon. Although the criticisms of his seeming inability to recognize the depth of the struggles that must be waged against the entrenched powers of global capital are well-founded, the Obama phenomenon promises to accumulate the power to challenge the powerful precisely by rejecting the demonizing of the other and following a path of nonviolence, not only in actions but also in words. This kind of nonviolent communication, a powerful extension of Gandhi’s and King’s methodology, may actually, in the long run, prove far more effective than pointing out the cruelty and hypocrisy of those who will not challenge the existing systems of militarism and global economic and political domination.
This is About Us, Not About Obama
Surely, one might object, we are giving far too much credit to Obama himself. After all, many on the Left argue, Obama is just a consummate politician, and not one committed to the programs that we all need. Obama voted against the war in Iraq, but he does not advocate the kind of withdrawal that we at Tikkun believe is the necessary precondition for any real healing in that country, namely a total and complete withdrawal not fudged by turning our military into “advisors” who could then stay in the country until it is stabilized. (Our troops are still in Germany and Japan sixty-three years after the end of the Second World War, so we know how hard it is for any government to acknowledge that “stabilization” has been achieved.) Obama does not support a single payer health care program of the sort that the NSP supports, and his ideas on health care have been less plausible than those of Hillary Clinton. Obama has not supported a serious tax on carbon emissions and his environmental programs have not challenged the global corporate polluters and exploiters of the earth, nor is he likely to support the kinds of radical changes in our Western levels of consumption necessary to save the planet from destruction. Obama has not been on the forefront of struggles against poverty and for the empowerment of workers. And Obama does not yet advocate for a Global Marshall Plan or for the Strategy of Generosity that has been central to this magazine and the NSP’s approach to transforming the world.
All of the above would be relevant points if we were discussing whether to endorse the candidate Barack Obama. But we are not. We have never endorsed a candidate, despite the many who misperceived our enthusiasm for the language being used by the Clintons during the 1992 campaign and for Hillary Clinton’s spontaneous speech when she explicitly endorsed our “politics of meaning” and then invited us to meet with her and strategize together in the White House in 1993. The truth is that even beyond the legal prohibitions that make endorsement impossible for a 501c3, we actually don’t see any political party or candidate who fully articulates a spiritual politics of the sort you’ll find in our Spiritual Covenant with America at www.spiritualprogressives.org. So while some of us may endorse a candidate in 2008 as private citizens, in no way does this extend to an endorsement by the magazine or the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Nor are we surprised to find that members of the NSP differ sharply in who they would endorse.
These Dead Bones Shall Yet Live
What we are talking about is the phenomenon of hope and the coming back to life of the spiritually dead. This is the good news of Spring, with nature blooming; the good news of Passover and its message that no system of slavery or deadness is inevitable because there is a Force in the universe that makes possible the transformation from that which is to that which ought to be; and the good news of Easter with its message that even the dead can be resurrected, or as our Jewish prophet Ezekiel put it, that “these dead bones shall yet live.”
Or to put it another way: no matter how spiritually and emotionally dead the majority of people on the planet may appear to be, no matter how lost in their pursuit of money and fame and sexual conquest and me-first-ism and don’t-bother-me-ism, the truth is that the resurrection of the dead is always at hand, always a possibility. Human beings can always be awakened again to choose life, to choose love, to choose kindness, generosity, ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation. That capacity of human beings is what it means to have a soul, though in my view it might be better to say that all human beings participate in the soul of the universe, which is the God of the universe.
The big task for spiritual progressives is to keep the Obama phenomenon alive whether or not he becomes the next president of the U.S; either way, the challenge is substantial. In the early days of the Clinton presidency when the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal were describing me as Hillary Clinton’s guru, and Bill Clinton was steadily reading Tikkun, Hillary told me a powerful story that has stayed with me ever after. She told of a meeting that FDR had with leaders of the labor movement who were trying to convince FDR to support the Lehman Act (to grant legal status to union strikes and organizing). After four hours of discussion, FDR summarized this way: “Gentlemen, you have totally convinced me that you are right. Now, go out there into the world and force me to do it” [emphasis mine]. His point, Hillary explained, is that even as president, the forces pushing in the direction of the status quo are potentially overwhelming unless countered by a well-organized popular movement, and she and Bill did not feel that they had enough of a movement behind them to push for their most visionary ideas.
That’s why the movement is so very important.
The Living Movements We Need
It matters, however, what kind of movement. The Left and the liberal progressives have not been particularly effective in building a transformative movement in large part because they’ve been stuck on the level of “policy and program” while ignoring the spiritual hunger for meaning and purpose, for connection and mutual recognition, that we’ve been talking about in Tikkun all these years.
All of the movements and campaigns that were mentioned above were originally embodiments of that larger set of spiritual concerns, and they drew their energy precisely from their ability to reconnect to the deep and abiding hunger, often well-hidden below the surface appearance, for a return to life, to the spirit, to God, or however else you choose to express this. When that hunger explodes into life, when people are resurrected from their spiritual death, everything becomes possible. And that itself can be overwhelming, as we can see from reading how scared the people were at Mt. Sinai when God revealed Herself to the people. It feels so much safer if people can find a way to turn that energy into something not quite so revolutionary: into commandments, social programs, rituals, legislation, political platforms, or concrete demands. And there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this as long as one keeps the fires burning inside, the connection to the loving and awesome energy of the God of the universe, or of the power of staying alive to each other and to oneself at every moment.
Unfortunately, what often happens in social change organizations is that the fear becomes so great that it overwhelms the hopefulness and the love, and so they barely keep alive the pale shadow of that hopefulness, and instead try to prove that they are “realistic” by focusing their energies on struggles for this or that specific program, now increasingly out of touch with the underlying desire which led them and their supporters into these struggles in the first place. And without that desire and the contact with the aliveness that it first evoked, these struggles become deadening and people drop away, and then they are lost. Washington, D.C. and many of our major cities around the country are filled with people who are involved in these liberal or progressive organizations that have lost their fire, and many more who have dropped out because the experience was no longer humanly satisfying or sustainable.
It’s not enough to conclude that one should keep the movement alive after the campaign is finished. That was the promise of the McGovern campaign in 1972, the Carter campaign in 1976, the Kennedy campaign in 1980, the Jesse Jackson campaign in 1988, and the Clinton campaign in 1992. This won’t happen unless the people work to make it happen during the campaign, right now, in the midst of the struggle. And it must be done in such a way that people are not re-privatized, passivized, and then eventually demobilized. It has to be planned regardless of what happens in the actual horse race for the presidency.
And this year there is a special challenge, because the people who have returned to life and energy are not just in the Obama campaign but in the Clinton campaign, and in the Green party, and in other political parties as well, and they need to be welcomed into an ongoing movement that keeps this energy alive, without facing recriminations for not having backed whoever others think that they should have.
Win or Lose: What Obama Needs to Do Right Now
Obama himself seems to recognize, at times, that what really counts is not the horse race or even who wins the presidency, but the creation of an ongoing movement that will last. Unfortunately, he does not take the next, absolutely necessary step of telling his supporters what they can do to keep the movement going right now and endow it with the energy to last beyond the November elections. So, for example, the people in New York, California, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire and all the other states that have voted are implicitly being given the message that there is nothing for them to do right now except to donate more money to the campaigns of their candidates.
Imagine how different that could be if Obama were to ask people to meet weekly in their neighborhoods in small groups to begin to build ongoing projects of social change that would embody their highest ideals. Groups could be organized, for example, around universal health care, environmental sanity, the Global Marshall Plan as the path to homeland security, corporate social responsibility, and electoral reform. If the millions of people who have been touched by the campaigns (and yes, not only by Obama, but by Hillary Clinton, John McCain, etc.) were to begin working now for the changes they want their candidate to bring to the country, then these campaigns would stop resembling horse races and start resembling the building of mass movements and the reclaiming of social space from all those columnists, politicians, and public opinion leaders whose impact historically has been to deaden our hopes and convince us that we should just attend to our own personal lives.
This is where the NSP comes in. We are not of any particular candidacy, and not feeling conflicted about people who didn’t back Obama but backed Clinton or even Huckabee or McCain or Nader or whoever. We see the big picture. We know that the key is to keep the hopeful energy alive, regardless of the outcome of the election, because that is the energy that will set the contours for what elected officials do once they have won.
That is the challenge, and for that, we need a way for people to become fully engaged in the electoral arena, and yet to recognize that what moves them is something far bigger than a great speaker and dynamic politician, but rather the goodness within them and within everyone else that has momentarily been allowed to reveal itself through the legitimating framework of an electoral campaign. But far too few people know about the NSP, and unless you help us change that (e.g. by inviting friends to a weekend afternoon or weekday evening gathering at your apartment or house and showing them the NSP video and then discussing with them our program and ideas) people will not know where to go or what to do, and instead will simply be waiting for the next round of the election from September to November, and after November will feel lost and powerless and may even feel that they’ve been used and tricked once again.
It has always been that way after elections. But it doesn’t have to be. The movements that have been generated by Obama, Clinton, McCain, Huckabee, and others could remain alive if we choose to make them such—alive, and able to transcend sectarian political boundaries. We at NSP will do our part to make that happen, but we can’t do it without your involvement. Contact: www.spiritualprogressives.org or (510) 644-1200.
Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, and chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Thanks for the stamp. (We sent her an Oregon Territory stamp.) I won't keep it in my (Army) field Manual (our suggestion), because that would no doubt entail stuffing it in a computer, theses days. With the proliferation of dependency upon machines, we are rarely issued anything in hard copy anymore. I perhaps feel this difference more than most because I left the system before this occurred, and found returning to be a challenge more because of the electrons than anything else. There are computer programs that do just about everything anymore, and the humans are slaves to passwords, technicians, and the ability to produce such a plethora of electronic static. E-mail boxes are crammed with "sitreps," "spotreps" and "reps on reps", SIRS CCIRS and more "R's". My civilian lead avoids dealing with the systems by using the phone, which has its benefits in immediacy, and the inability to say "I never got your message." But it also has the drawback of being a one-time, forgettable conversation.
I keep a list of e-mail addresses in my address book just in case my computer should decide to go on strike. It has saved me more than once. Besides, then it's portable, and I don't have to lug a laptop around if I don't want to.
My latest discovery entails the fact that tap water is cleaner than bottled water, because the standards for tap water are higher than those for bottled. Add to that simple fact the cost of bottled water (something which truly offends me is paying for water) and the fact that those stupid clear bottles are killing the environment, and it is obvious that this latest fad of sucking on a bottle of water is more silliness on the part of humanity. They have created a new container for this overpriced beverage called a "Corntainer" and it is designed to biodegrade fairly quickly and less likely to give off the carcinogens the plastic bottles are rumored to provide. To date, my solution has been to pour a glass of water when I need a drink, and if I need a vanity water bottle, I bought a fancy stainless steel jug that both keeps the tap water cooler, and is washable for reuse.
Amazing how we come full circle, isn't it? I read that the new rage in some cities is being environmentally conscious and providing restaurant customers with free tap water at the table instead of charging the $3.50 for a plastic bottle with a fancy label. They are now advertising that to draw customers in, to support the "green" movement. Common sense has gone out the window.
Must go work out now. The serious weight loss program is requiring I exercise daily. The Army weigh-in is tomorrow, so we will see how long my resolve lasts after that!
as water droplets
flowing from a common tap
a free common tap save for
the monthly water bill
but which more legitimately
includes sewage removal
I am with you
sated of thirst
as I sit here at the
I am with you
with my feet planted
perhaps more inclusively and
due to my age
in the dual ruts
of what was and what is
I am unpain-ed
buying the government inefficiency
high-cost postage stamps which
enable scribbling and drawing
upon my scrolls
and sooty cave walls
and then re-writing
-always the re-write-
onto mailable pounded pulp
and hung within clothes-pinned
of the mailmen
pinned though now in shorts
to the task of their
Your message is grist for the raccoon news if you will consent to our printing it (redundantly electrifying it on the SR News).
Advise as able.
Good luck at the weigh-in!
Sign on a Gynecologist's door:
"Dr. Dixon, at your cervix."
On a Podiatrist's door:
"Time wounds all heels."
On a Proctologist's door:
"To expedite your visit please back in."
On a Plumber's truck:
"We repair what your husband fixed."
At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee:
"Invite us to your next blowout."
On a Tow truck:
"We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows."
On an Electrician's truck:
"Let us remove your shorts."
In a Nonsmoking Area:
"If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and put you out."
On a Maternity Room door:
"Push. Push. Push."
On an Optometrist's office:
"If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."
On a Taxidermist's window:
"We really know our stuff."
On a Fence:
"Solicitors welcome. Dog food is expensive."
In a Veterinarian's waiting room:
"Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"
At the Electric Company:
"We would be delighted if you pay your bill.
If you don't, you will be."
In a Restaurant window:
"Don't stand there hungry; Come on in and get fed up."
In front of a Funeral Home:
"Drive carefully. We'll wait."
At a Propane Station:
"Thank heaven for little grills."
Above Pastor's Parking Space:
"Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Pastor's Spot."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
of Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY, Doubleday, copyright 1917 BIRDS WORTH KNOWING: A book from our grandmother Myrtle Dix of Cedar Falls Iowa’s library, she a charter member and bird-bander of the National Audubon Societies, who taught us to gently handle and love birds.
" Early some morning in April there will go off under your window that most delightful of all alarm-clocks – the tiny, friendly house wren, just returned from a long visit south. Like some little mountain spring, that having been imprisoned by winter ice, now bubbles up in the spring sunshine, and goes rippling along over the pebbles, tumbling over itself in merry cascades, so this little wren’s song bubbles, ripples, cascades in a miniature torrent of ecstasy. The song seems to bubble up faster than he can sing. After the wren’s happy discovery of a place to live in, his song will go off in a series of musical explosions all day long, now from the roof, now from the clothes posts, the fence, the barn, or the woodpile. There never was a more tireless, spirited, brilliant singer. From the intensity of his feelings, he sometimes droops that expressive little tail of his, which is usually so erect and saucy.
Year after year wrens return to the same nesting places: a box set up against the house, a crevice in the barn, a niche under the eves; but once home, always home to them. The nest is kept scrupulously clean; the house-cleaning, like the house-building and renovating, being accompanied by the cheeriest of songs, that makes the bird fairly tremble with its intensity. But however angelic the voice of the house wren, its temper can put to flight even the English sparrow. Nevertheless, it is a safe precaution in making wren houses to cut the entrance hole no larger than the ring that is drawn with a pencil around a silver quarter of a dollar – a hole too small for sparrows but just right for wrens. They really prefer boxes to the holes in stumps and trees they used to occupy before there were any white people on this continent. But the little mites have been known to build in tin cans, coat pockets, old shoes, mittens, hats, glass jars, and even inside a human skull that a medical student hung out in the sun to bleach!
The male begins to carry twigs into the house before he finds a mate. The day little Jenny Wren appears on the scene, how he does sing! Dashing off for more twigs, but stopping to sing to her every other minute, he helps furnish the cottage quickly, but of course, he overdoes it – he carries in more twigs and hay and feathers than the little house can hold, then pulls half of them out again. Jenny gathers, too, for she is a bustling housewife and arranges matters with neatness and despatch to suit herself. Neither vermin nor dirt will she tolerate within her well-kept home. Everything she does pleases her ardent little lover. He applauds her with song; he flies about her with a nervous desire to protect; he seems beside himself with happiness. Let anyone pass too near his best beloved, and he begins to chatter excitedly: chit-chit-chit-chit as much as to say “Oh, do go away, go quickly! Can’t you see how nervous and fidgety you make me?”
If you fancy that Jenny Wren, who is patiently sitting on the little pinkish chocolate-spotted eggs in the centre of her feathery bed is a demure and angelic creature, you have never seen her attack the sparrow, nearly twice her size, that dares put his impudent head inside her door. Oh, how she flies at him! How she chatters and scolds! What a plucky little shrew she is, after all! Her piercing, chattering, scolding notes are fairly hissed into his ears until he is thankful enough to escape with his life.
What rent do the wrens pay for the little houses you put up for them? No man is clever enough to estimate the vast numbers of insects on your place that they destroy. They eat nothing else, which is the chief reason why they are so lively and excitable. Unable to soar after flying insects because of their short, round wings, they keep, as a rule, rather close to the ground which their finely-barred feathers so closely match. Whether hunting for grubs in the wood-pile, scrambling over the brush heap after spiders, searching among the trees to provide a dinner for their large families, or creeping, like little feathered mice, in queer nooks and crannies among the outbuildings on the farm, they are always busy in your interest which is also theirs. It certainly pays, in every sense, to encourage wrens."
Monday, April 14, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B Johnson after his 1966 surgery.For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/ sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father.Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.
All Cheer the Radiant Peony
This glob of red
Taunted by ants
crawling all over her
to exude her juices
Until her tight fist
And she gave of herself
the painterly splash of red
known to you and me
as the peon
(not lowly of) knee
I'm so excited
there is P
on my knee
The ants have done
e'en on me
Look and see!
the day she opened, unable to hold it
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Once again it is time to bid aloha to that sober team of mirthless entertainers, Petraeus & Crocker.
It’s hard to imagine where you could find another pair of such sleep-inducing performers.
I can’t look at Petraeus — his uniform ornamented like a Christmas tree with honors, medals and ribbons — without thinking of the great Mort Sahl at the peak of his brilliance. He talked about meeting General Westmoreland in the Vietnam days. Mort, in a virtuoso display of his uncanny detailed knowledge — and memory — of such things, recited the lengthy list (”Distinguished Service Medal, Croix de Guerre with Chevron, Bronze Star, Pacific Campaign” and on and on), naming each of the half-acre of decorations, medals, ornaments, campaign ribbons and other fripperies festooning the general’s sternum in gaudy display. Finishing the detailed list, Mort observed, “Very impressive!” Adding, “If you’re twelve.”
(As speakers, both Petraeus and Crocker are guilty of unbearable sesquipedalianism, a word wickedly inflicted on me by my English-teaching mother. It’s one of those words that is what it says. From the Latin, literally “using foot-and-a-half-long words.” We all learned the word for words that sound like what they say — like “click” or “pop” or “boom” or “hiss” — but I’m sure the mercifully defunct Famous Writers School surely forbade using the “sesqui” word and “onomatopoeia” in the same paragraph. (You can have fun with both of them at your next cocktail party.)
But back to our story. Never in this breathing world have I seen a person clog up and erode his speaking — as distinct from his reading — with more “uhs,” “ers” and “ums” than poor Crocker. Surely he has never seen himself talking: “Uh, that is uh, a, uh, matter that we, er, um, uh are carefully, uh, considering.” (Not a parody, an actual Crocker sentence. And not even the worst.)
These harsh-on-the-ear insertions, delivered in his less than melodious, hoarse-sounding tenor, are maddening. And their effect is to say that the speaker is painfully unsure of what he wants, er, um, to say.
If Crocker’s collection of these broken shards of verbal crockery were eliminated from his testimony, everyone there would get home at least an hour earlier.
Petraeus commits a different assault on the listener. And on the language. In addition to his own pedantic delivery, there is his turgid vocabulary. It reminds you of Copspeak, a language spoken nowhere on earth except by cops and firemen when talking to “Eyewitness News.” Its rule: never use a short word where a longer one will do. It must be meant to convey some misguided sense of “learnedness” and “scholasticism” — possibly even that dread thing, “intellectualism” — to their talk. Sorry, I mean their “articulation.”
No crook ever gets out of the car. A “perpetrator exits the vehicle.” (Does any cop say to his wife at dinner, “Honey, I stubbed my toe today as I exited our vehicle”?) No “man” or “woman” is present in Copspeak. They are replaced by that five-syllable, leaden ingot, the “individual.” The other day, there issued from a fire chief’s mouth, “It contributed to the obfuscation of what eventually eventuated.” This from a guy who looked like he talked, in real life, like Rocky Balboa. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Who imposes this phony, academic-sounding verbal junk on brave and hard-working men and women who don’t need the added burden of trying to talk like effete characters from Victorian novels?
And, General, there is no excuse anywhere on earth for a stillborn monster like “ethnosectarian conflict,” as Jon Stewart so hilariously pointed out.
What would the general be forced to say if it weren’t for the icky, precious-sounding “challenge” that he leans so heavily on? That politically correct term, which was created so that folks who are legally blind, deaf, clumsy, crippled, impotent, tremor-ridden, stupid, addicted or villainously ugly are really none of those unhappy things at all. They are merely challenged. (Are these euphemisms supposed to make them feel better?) And no one need be unlucky enough to be dead or hideously wounded anymore. Those unfortunates are merely “casualties” — a sort of restful-sounding word.
(I have a friend who would like the opportunity to say to our distinguished warrior, “General Petraeus, my son was killed in one of your challenges.”)
Petraeus uses “challenge” for a rich variety of things. It covers ominous developments, threats, defeats on the battlefield and unfound solutions to ghastly happenings. And of course there’s that biggest of challenges, that slapstick band of silent-movie comics called, flatteringly, the Iraqi “fighting forces.” (A perilous one letter away from “fighting farces.”) The ones who are supposed to allow us to bring troops home but never do.
Petraeus’s verbal road is full of all kinds of bumps and lurches and awkward oddities. How about “ongoing processes of substantial increases in personnel”?
Try talking English, General. You mean more soldiers.
It’s like listening to someone speaking a language you only partly know. And who’s being paid by the syllable. You miss a lot. I guess a guy bearing up under such a chestload of hardware — and pretty ribbons in a variety of decorator colors — can’t be expected to speak like ordinary mortals, for example you and me. He should try once saying — instead of “ongoing process of high level engagements” — maybe something in colloquial English? Like: “fights” or “meetings” (or whatever the hell it’s supposed to mean).
I find it painful to watch this team of two straight men, straining on the potty of language. Only to deliver such . . . what? Such knobbed and lumpy artifacts of superfluous verbiage? (Sorry, now I’m doing it…)
But I must hand it to his generalship. He did say something quite clearly and admirably and I am grateful for his frankness. He told us that our gains are largely imaginary: that our alleged “progress” is “fragile and reversible.” (Quite an accomplishment in our sixth year of war.) This provides, of course, a bit of pre-emptive covering of the general’s hindquarters next time that, true to Murphy’s Law, things turn sour again.
Back to poor Crocker. His brows are knitted. And he has a perpetually alarmed expression, as if, perhaps, he feels something crawling up his leg.
Could it be he is being overtaken by the thought that an honorable career has been besmirched by his obediently doing the dirty work of the tinpot Genghis Khan of Crawford, Texas? The one whose foolish military misadventure seems to increasingly resemble that of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn?
Not an apt comparison, I admit.