Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Tag Lines.......

Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies: A Little Book on the Human Shadow, by Robert Bly (you know, the Jungian thing, but well written) and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, the Buddhist approach to your personal life when it is going to hell in a handbasket.

Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music: Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, as performed by Itzhak Perlman

Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue: Well, here’s four: Chariots of Fire, The Constant Gardner, the first Harry Potter movie, or A Christmas Story

Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief: Albert Pujols, first baseman for the St Louis Cardinals (aren’t baseball players performers?) When he’s up to bat, I just stop what I’m doing and watch. Otherwise, Ralph Fiennes, Itzhak Perlman, Jemma Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Ben Kingsley

Name a work of art you'd like to live with: verMeer’s, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, before it was a book/movie, or quite a few works by Edward Hopper except the lighthouse ones.....

Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life: Early in life, you know, high school: 1984 by the Orwell guy, in the last three months: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the fictionalized account of his experiences in Vietnam. Rich in images that don’t seem to fade---the beauty and the horror.

Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:
After the bumbling Ispector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) has just trashed her piano, a woman screams: “That was a priceless grand piano!”

Clouseau: “Not any more”

Tagging: Geo, Ed, Grandma Nan, Mindy, brother Chris and anyone else who feel so moved....

Soldiers Say "NO" to Escalation in Iraq

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Active duty service members are saying no to Bush's proposed escalation of the war in Iraq. On January 16, to commemorate Martin Luther King day, messages are being delivered to Congress from more than 1,000 active duty and Guard and Reserve service members who are opposed to the war in Iraq and have signed the Appeal for Redress. The message of the Appeal is patriotic and respectful in tone but clear it its rejection of the war. It reads:

As a patriotic American proud to serve my nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. I believe that staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.

The Appeal is the largest and most significant expression of anti-war sentiment in the ranks of the military since the Vietnam War, when a large scale GI peace movement developed. The Appeal is reminiscent of, and was inspired by, the full page ad that appeared in The New York Times on November 9, 1969, in which 1,366 active duty members of the military called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.

The Appeal for Redress is an indication of the widespread doubts about the war that exist in the ranks of the military today. These doubts will grow in the coming months as service members find themselves re-deployed back to Iraq, or forced to remain in-country for extended tours of duty. People in the military are being forced to pay the price for Bush's failed policies. They are speaking out against that policy, and for an end to the military occupation. They deserve our support.

David Cortright is a board member of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. He is research fellow at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and president of the Fourth Freedom Forum.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rite of Passage

As the guests arrive at my son's party
they gather in the living room--
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? Six. I'm seven. So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other's pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
a seven says to a six,
the dark cake, round and heavy as a
turret, behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son's life.

By Sharon Olds
from "The Dead and the Living", published by Knopf, 1986

How early we learn about war. About how to feed the war machine, greasing the wheels with blood, prove we are men, get money for college (yeah, right). I don't want to feed my son to the war machine. I will not! I pray for all those in the mouth of the machine......may they come to live in a safe place.

My response to the President's "Speech", part 2

The day after the president's latest war cry, I was out at the dog park doing the usual morning circuit with Duke, my Standard Poodle. I couldn't help notice a lot of extra dog poop scattered about. As I got closer to one of the piles, I realized it was a fragment of the "speech" from the night before. So, I and some others picked up what we could and put it where it belonged, in the cans marked "Dog Waste Here".

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Response to the President's "Speech"

No, I didn't watch or listen to the shrub. I read this poem instead and wanted to share it:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting----
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Now, I know that the cynics out there, and I have that cynical part, too, will say that if we don't protest Bush, he'll "get his way" and there won't BE any more wild geese to write poems about. I maintain, tonight, that if we don't really SEE the wild geese and the beauty all around us, then Bush WILL "get his way" and those things we love will be gone.

I had an interesting experience the other day. I was out at the dog park with my poodle, lovely late winter afternoon. The park is near Truax field where Madison has its very own squadron of F-16 warplanes. (golly gee!) When I see them take off, and fly over the park, I feel so angry. All that money flying over my head and there are people hungry, not adequate health care, slashing education so no child will have anything to be left behind to do. But one day, that late winter afternoon, I was watching a flock of geese, flying over, calling out to each other, to me, to my dog and when the planes took off, I hardly noticed them this time.

I'm not trying to be naive here and suggest that by reciting poetry we can make Bush and his cronies go away. But, the typical protest march doesn't really feel useful or worthwhile anymore to me. You march, you chant, you get revved up and want to change the world, then the "all inclusive progressive left" has representatives of just about every group stand up and tell us how to change the world. Again. And again. And again. Until we all get cold and go home feeling like we somehow did "our duty", but not feeling very hopeful. We need some new way or ways to get the attention of the people that are robbing our country. What will that be? As the poem says, "the world offers itself to your imagination", calling out to you, telling you that you do matter, you do belong and no one can be allowed to tell you otherwise.

George the Decider has told a whole lot of people in this world that they don't belong. Learning to be a Quaker, I struggle to see God in Mr Bush. I struggle to see God's plan here. Hey, God, its not making sense! Help! Send me some geese and a lovely winter afternoon. And lets all use our imaginations and send Bush packing!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Anthem for Doomed Youth

I've been reading some of the poetry of Wilfred Owen, a British poet and WW One soldier, who was killed in battle, just a short time before the armastice. Its very intense and somehow appropriate for the upcoming troop "surge" in Iraq. This poem is from the "War to End All Wars". When will people wise up and understand that war never ends war. Just breeds new ones. What will end war? Justice?


What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
-Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Can a Right Make a Wrong: The Fateful Encounter of Private Henry Tandey with Adolf Hitler

As a Quaker, I've been turning this story over in my mind. Even if this story is exaggerated, it makes me wonder what I would do were I in Private Tandey's place, and had future tyrant and mass murderer, Adolf Hitler in my gunsights. I guess, as a Quaker, I would not be holding a gun at all or fighting in any kind of war. That's my answer. As a Jewish friend said, in response to this story: "We don't know God's plan. In fact, " he said, "I feel it is arrogant to think we know God's plan. " So, I'm finding myself struggling with this. Obviously, Tandey felt terrible when he realized what he could have possibly prevented. But Tandey didn't know God's plan. Hitler thought he knew God's plan, but he was insane. But what would have happened instead, had he killed Hitler? I obviously don't think killing solves anything or makes things better. I don't think there's ever been a "Great War" as the article refers to WW One or a "Good War", like WW Two. But this story is bugging me...........

Here's the long article, somewhat edited, the italics are mine:

The annals of history are full of fateful moments which scholars refer to as the great "what if's" of history, where if events had taken only a slight deviation the course of human affairs would have been dramatically different.
Such a moment occurred in the last moments of the Great War in the French village of Marcoing involving 27 year old Private Henry Tandey of Warwickshire, UK, and 29 year old Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler of Braunau, Austria.
...............Tandey was mentioned five times in dispatches and certainly earned his VC during the capture of the French village and crossing at Marcoing, his regiment held down by heavy machine gun fire Tandey crawled forward, located the machine gun nest and took it out.
Arriving at the crossing he braved heavy fire to place wooden planks over a gaping hole enabling troops to roll across and take the battle to the Germans, the day still not over he successfully led a bayonet charge against outnumbering enemy troops which helped bring hostilities to an end.
As the ferocious battle wound down and enemy troops surrendered or retreated a wounded German soldier limped out of the maelstrom and into Private Tandey's line of fire, the battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Tandey resigned to the inevitable. "I took aim but couldn't shoot a wounded man," said Tandey, "so I let him go."

The young German soldier nodded in thanks and the two men took diverging paths, that day and in history. Hitler retreated with the remnants of German troops and ended up in Germany, where he languished in the humiliation of defeat at wars end.
Tandey put that encounter out of his mind and rejoined his regiment, discovering soon after he had won the Victoria Cross.....................In 1938 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), Conservative PM from 1937-40, made his gloomy trip to Munich to meet Chancellor Hitler in a last ditch effort to avoid war which resulted in the ill-fated 'Munich Agreement'. During that fateful trip Hitler invited him to his newly completed retreat in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, a birthday present from Martin Bormann and the Nazi Party.
Perched 6017 feet up on Kehlstein Mountain it commanded spectacular views for 200 kilometers in all directions. While there the Prime Minister explored the hill top lair of the Fuehrer and found a reproduction of Matania's famous Marcoing painting depicting allied troops, puzzled by the choice of art Hitler explained, "that man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again, providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us".
Chamberlain's thoughts aren't recorded, World War II irrupted soon after and he lost power to Winston Churchill, dying of stomach cancer within months of that event. Although I feel safe in assuming he wished Tandey had pulled the trigger, ridding the world of a venomous creature.
Hitler seized the moment to have his best wishes and gratitude conveyed to Tandey by the Prime Minister, who promised to phone him on his return to London. It wasn't until that time Tandey knew the man he had in his gun sight 20 years earlier was Adolf Hitler and it came as a great shock, given tensions at the time it wasn't something he felt proud about.

The story first broke in 1940 but no one gave it much thought at the time, however in recent years it has generated greater interest. ...........However there is irrefutable evidence that Hitler possessed a copy of the famous Matania painting featuring Tandey as early as 1937, acquiring it from Tandey's old regiment. ...........................The Tandey family were in no doubt of the story's authenticity, they were present when Prime Minister Chamberlain phoned, "Tandey's nephew, William Whateley, from Thomaby, calls to mind a mysterious phone call almost 60 years ago, when the storm clouds of war were brewing and Prime Minister Chamberlain was futilely appeasing Herr Hitler. One evening the telephone rang and Henry went off to answer it, when he came back he commented matter-of-factly that it had been Mr Chamberlain. He had just returned from a meeting with Hitler and whilst at Berchtesgaden had noticed the painting by Matania of the 2nd Green Howards at the Menin Cross Roads in 1914. Chamberlain had asked what it was doing there and in reply Hitler had pointed out Tandy in the foreground and commented, "that's the man who nearly shot me"
............................................Tandey told a journalist that during the Great War he had as a rule spared wounded and disarmed German soldiers, so Marcoing wasn't the first or last time he performed a humane deed in inhumane circumstances. ............He{Hitler} believed Private Tandey's benevolent action was part of the grand scheme of things, the god's were watching over their emissary, which was also his sentiment upon surviving assassination attempts later on. Hitler never forgot the moment he stared down the barrel of death, nor the face of the man who spared him, he stumbled across a newspaper featuring the famous image of Private Tandey which noted his being awarded the VC for bravery. Hitler kept it and on becoming Chancellor of Germany ordered government officials to obtain a copy of his service record and reproduction of the Matania painting, which he hung and pointed out to loyal disciples with pride.
.................................Tandey was haunted the remainder of his life by his good deed, the simple squeeze of a trigger would have spared the world a catastrophe which cost tens of millions of lives.(or would it?????) He was living in Coventry when the Luftwaffe destroyed the city in 1940, sheltered in a doorway as the building he was in crumbled and city burned like a scene from Dante's Inferno.
He was also in London during the Blitz and experienced that atrocity first hand. He told a journalist in 1940, "if only I had known what he would turn out to be. When I saw all the people, woman and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry to God I let him go."


Will She Kill Harry or Not?

An exciting moment for me, and millions of people around the world, I'm sure, was the release this past week of the TITLE of the seventh and supposedly final Harry Potter book: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Personally, I've enjoyed the Potter "world" over the years. Its been a good way to connect with my son, who introduced them to me in the first place. I know some of you (and you know who you are!) feel the Potter books are "not very well written". Well, JK Rowling is not Nathaniel Hawthorne or Frank Herbert but compared to other "teen literature", such as the Pendragon series, she comes out looking pretty skillful.

So, the big topic of discussion in our house and perhaps a few others around the world, is: Will JK Rowling kill off Harry Potter????? I've had this discussion myself, even with other "grown ups", and most "grown ups" think no, she will not kill off Harry because: a) how will she ever put her kids through college, b) enraged fans will hound her (or worse) for the rest of her life, or d) enraged publishers will hound her for the rest of her life.

So, PoodleDoc is taking an informal poll: Will she kill him off or won't she? I eagerly await your comments. Oh yes, a bonus question: Is Dumbledore REALLY dead? You may want to go to before answering. In the meantime, I eagerly await another evening, huddled in the Borders Cafe with other "grown ups", waiting for midnight and the release of the new book some time in the future. I'll take a mocha with skim, please!

Unusual Winter

5th of January
And no snow,
Just mud.

Afternoon hike with my 12 year old son
Another boy
And my Standard Poodle Duke..

The poodle sniffs and snuffs
For rabbit, squirrel and deer..

I listen to the boys chatter
Until we reach the leopard mound
Where silence catches up with us.

A ring of boulders.
What for?
I turn the question back on the boys.
They shrug as 12 year old boys do.
I suggest it is a magical place.
Not like Harry Potter magic.
Real magic that can transform the world.

We slog on through the mud.
The boys chatter
About how they might work together
With all the people who understand
What’s happening in our country
And finally impeach the President.

In Washington, DC, at this moment
The Democrats are “basking” in their ”triumph”.
Re “taking” both Houses of Congress.
Doing nothing of substance but coronation rituals.
A “hollow woman” looking for her crown.

“Swearing in”, but for what?
For whom?
Here in Wisconsin, the sun goes behind some clouds.

Duke finally sees that elusive squirrel
And the boys talk on
Firmly believing they can change the world.
Is this magic?
Or reality?
Or both?


Tuesday, January 2, 2007



A surge in violence

A surge in United States troops

A bigger surge in violence

An even bigger surge in death, maiming and destruction

A surge in missing limbs, charred flesh and disease

A surge in money for the $500 million US embassy “complex”

Complete with a McDonald’s

Will there ever be e a surge in peace

For a change

The Stupendous Quaker Sleepover

On New Year Eve, I had the privilege of being a friendly adult presence for a sleepover at our Meeting House.

The group consisted of 8 middle school kids from our First Day School, including my son. There were 5 boys and 3 girls, all between the ages of 11 and 14. The kids enjoyed the snacks; we ordered pizza, took down the Meeting House tree and had several pillow fights. Board games were played.

What stands out most for me was the joy of the kids. We held a Meeting for Worship which lasted a half hour. We spent the half hour of silence in the dark at the middle schooler’s request. At rise of Meeting, shortly before midnight, someone passed out dozens of chemo luminescent bands that fluoresce when you bend them. These they strung together into wheels, large and small, tossing them spinning into the air. There was much laughter and it was a beautiful scene as colors spiraled through the air. The kids moved with a kind of frantic joy. I watched with great happiness what the young people were creating. I thought this was surely the Spirit at work.

Amazingly, I got some sleep that night. I figure that was the Spirit at work as well.