Monday, April 30, 2007

Everyday a Baby


except for the poodle
and my heartbeat.
Warm house.
Safe house.
Womb of my dreams.

Birthing come
when twilight

a baby.

This infant army
gonna carry me
down the big road.


Flash of Light

The long stair climb
left me breathless
but still able
to gasp
at you
standing gracefully.

Straight into my eyes
our darkness
in a flash of light

Fears go deep.
I hear the rats chattering
among themselves.
But caring goes deeper than fear.
Touch can reach
that far,
once the first flash of connection pulses.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

TV Shows for Politicians

American Idol

I’ve never watched this show, but I read somewhere that more Americans watch/vote for contestants on this show than vote in the Presidential election. So my idea would be to have all the candidates appear on American Idol. (Let's call it American Political Idol). Then a panel of celebrities would make nasty comments (Sean Penn, John Stewart, for example), while the folks at home could use the internet to vote for their favorites. After weeks of sifting and winnowing, the President would finally be selected. Let’s bring the People back into Democracy!

I’m thinking of what the different candidates might sing:

Hillary Clinton: “Stand By Your Man (especially if it helps your political career)”

John McCain: Mama Tried……..“I turned 21 in prison, doin’ life without parole…..”

Barack Obama: “I Walk the Lline”

Tommy Thompson: “What Made Milwaukee Famous (has made a fool out of me)”

Dennis Kucenich: “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow”

Imagine that. No attack ads. Just pure, holsum, family entertainment. And remember folks, the winner gets a recording contract good for four years! How cool is that?
Any more suggestions?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

History: Does it really repeat? Take this quiz and FIND OUT!

Who said the following after invading Iraq:

‘The people of England have been led in Iraq into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows…….We are today not far from disaster”

Was it:

Tony Blair?

George “W” Bush?

Lawrence of Arabia?

Winston Churchill?

Margaret Thatcher?

If you chose Lawrence of Arabia, you are absolutely correct!!! Ding! Ding! Ding!

He was referring to the British invasion/occupation of Iraq (then called Mesopotamia) in 1920. History repeats. I read this in Robert Fisk’s excellent book: “The Great War for Civilization—The Conquest of the Middle East". Fantastic information. I’m learning an incredible amount as I work my way through the 1,000 pages.

The Bloody Sock '"Controversy"

Ardent baseball fans remember how star Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling, had the tendons in his ankle surgically bundled together so he could go out and pitch against the Evil Empire (aka the New York Yankees) during the 2004 playoffs. He pitched a superb game, with many close-ups of the bloody sock, where blood had apparently seeped from the surgical site. What a dramatic story! What a gutsy performance! Now, a controversy is raging in the baseball world over whether it was really blood or maybe……..paint? Here’s an update from the New York Times:

“Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling offered $1 million to anyone who could prove it was not blood that blotted his sock in the 2004 playoffs, and he criticized members of the news media in a blog on his Web site yesterday. The controversy over what stained Schilling’s sock was reignited this week when Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne said that Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli had told him it was paint, not blood, and that it was done for a publicity stunt. Mirabelli called that a lie and Thorne said Thursday that he had misreported what Mirabelli said. Schilling, who had a surgical procedure on his ankle that allowed him to pitch in the Series, blasted Thorne and the news media in general yesterday in his first public statement since Thorne’s on-air comments.”

Schilling has made it public that he is a Republican and Bush supporter. Could the bloody sock controversy be the beginning of Schilling’s dark horse candidacy in the 2008 presidential elections? John McCain never pitched with a bloody sock! How will the Democrats respond to this “publicity stunt”? Perhaps a Congressional subpoena? Not wanting to be outdone, they may try to find a Democratic baseball player to counter this insidious Republican ploy!

Friday, April 27, 2007

From Where Do I Get My Hope?

"From where do I get my hope? From the people of this place, and those Israeli/Palestinian peace activists who believe passionately that given justice and equality for all its citizens, peace and human security is possible in this holy land. I take hope, too, from the courage of the young Israeli reservists who, following their conscience, have refused military duty in the territories. ... I have watched, too, those in the resistance movements who believe justice will only come through violence, and in their frustration, pain, and anger have turned to armed resistance, suicide bombs. Suicide bombs tragically take the life of those who use them, and have taken the lives of many Israeli people, and others, and such actions can never be justified. I would therefore like to appeal to those who use such violence, (including those who use the threat of violence by calling for the destruction of Israel) to abandon these immoral and illegal methods, and use nonviolent language and means of working for justice and freedom."

- Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work as co-founder of the Community of Peace People in Northern Ireland, speaking to a nonviolence conference in the West Bank. Later that same day, during a nonviolent protest against Israel's separation barrier, she was shot in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli soldiers. (Source: God's Politics blog)

Is it Ok for Quakers to Boo?

I was watching the Cubs play baseball the other night, as I often do. I’ve watched the Cubs for over 40 years. There have been ups. There have been downs. Mostly downs. But I never booed “my team”. The other team? Yes! The umpires? Sometimes. But my team? Never. No matter how inept they play (which is most of the time!) I just don’t boo them. So back to the other night. I was watching as the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out. Incredibly, they were unable to score even one measly run. Now, I’ve seen this before with the Cubs. I groaned. But people at the ballpark booed. Loudly. It bothered me a lot. It seemed unfaithful. It seemed……unquakerly.

So I started wondering: is it ok for Quakers to boo? Because if we believe that “there is that of God in everyone”, aren’t we booing God? Is this at all acceptable? So, if there’s a natural disaster, for example, are we all supposed to go out and boo God?

Then I thought when IS it ok to boo? Well, today I’d like to boo the people in our Congress for some of their decisions and non-decisions. I mean an advisory bill on the Iraq war is like not running out a routine grounder to second. It’s lame. Perhaps we should boo.

So then I imagined that Congress could be moved out of the Capitol and re-located in a baseball stadium. When a member of Congress had to make a speech about a particular bill, he or she would have to come to home plate, and say what they had to say, in front of 50, 000 people! Then people could boo or cheer, depending on their political leanings. Then these folks in Congress would get the message. Maybe. All their votes would be displayed on the huge electronic scoreboard in center field. When a congressperson came up “to bat”, an enormous photo of them would appear on the same scoreboard, showing their past voting records, any interesting scandals, any “conflicts of interest”, etc.

But why stop there? Let’s move the Supreme Court sessions into a ballpark. Clarence Thomas might get booed a lot.

Or we could move those Presidential Press conferences, along with the Rose Garden, into a baseball stadium. How many people would like to boo Mr Bush? Well, a lot, I suppose.

So, IS it ok for Quakers to boo? My feeling is: sometimes! What do YOU think?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Election Starts..............Now!!!!!

Is it just me, or are we hearing more this presidential "election cycle" about how much MONEY the candidates are raising, rather than their views on the issues? It seems that the amount of money raised is used as an early poll about who's hot and who's not. But nothing about what these folks stand for, really. Lots of talk about Clinton and Obama, how much money they've raised. Not much or any talk about their actual voting records say, on the Iraq war? Has it come down to this that money is the sole indicator of "electability"?

I'm not sure of answers. We don't need another arrogant fool like Nader bringing us another Bush (an even more arrogant and dangerous fool). But who is real and who isn't? And can you be real (ie, a flawed human being) and run for "high office" anyway? Or is it just about the money? Or am I just becoming yet another bitter cynic? (well, I hope not!)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

W's Tepid Response.......

"I'm a Jew who believes in daily miracles, and when such a miracle occurs, rather than saying, 'Why so late?' I am thankful that it is done."

- Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and holocaust survivor, praising President Bush for a newly announced plan to place tougher sanctions on Sudan to help end the genocide in Darfur. (Source: The Washington Post)

The plan has been delayed, however, at the request of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to leave time for further diplomacy. As The Washington Post reports, "Though lawmakers and advocacy groups welcomed elements of the proposed Plan B, they also described the president's willingness to give [Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir] yet more time - only "weeks," according to a State Department spokesman - as an illustration of a tepid response to the crisis."

from Sojourners online......

"No one deserves a tragedy"

from Sojourners online:

Monday morning in Blacksburg, Virginia, 32 students and staff at Virginia Tech were killed in the largest single shooting in modern American history. The shooter, an angry and disturbed young man, then killed himself.
Looking at the profiles of the dead, I am struck by their diversity. They ranged in age from 18 to 76; they came from nine states, along with Puerto Rico, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Romania. They were male and female, African-American, Asian, Middle Eastern and Caucasian. They were all people who began a day little knowing it would suddenly end their lives.

This is not a time to seek easy answers or to assign blame. It is, rather, a time to pray, mourn, and reflect. While this tragedy can perhaps be partially explained by the easy accessibility of guns in our society, by the saturation of violence in our popular culture, by the fact that the visible signs of Cho Seung Hui's troubled life could have been taken more seriously, by concerns about university security, or by any number of other things, ultimately there is no simple explanation. And there are generally no single causes for such horrible events. In the Virginia Tech memorial convocation Tuesday evening, Professor and poet Nikki Giovanni said:

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning. ... We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Field of Bad Dreams and Other Novels


Fancy Meeting You Here

Published: April 8, 2007

A short while ago, a ripping yarn called “Grim Legion: Edgar Allan Poe at West Point” came across my desk. Published by Bewildering Press, a relatively new firm that specializes in “speculative” writing, “Grim Legion” recounts the rousing adventures of the future author of “The Fall of the House of Usher” shortly before he was expelled from the United States Military Academy in 1831. A bit of a screw-up, though not yet the morbid, self-destructive alcoholic he would later become, Poe has stumbled upon a monstrous plot by a shadowy organization called the Helvetian Society whose ultimate objective is nothing short of ... well ... monstrous.

The Helvetians have already been involved in several gruesome murders, with Sergeant Major Poe the prime suspect, as fragments of his lurid poetry keep turning up on the corpses. Now Poe and his brother, Henry, must join forces to foil the heinous Helvetians. Luckily, just when things look their bleakest, the lads receive aid from a most unlikely quarter, as Robert E. Lee, himself a recent West Point grad, rolls into town and helps to restore truth, justice and the American way.

“Grim Legion” is the work of a newspaper editor named Jack Alcott, and as is true of so many works in this genre, it is strong on research and narrative, not so strong on prose. Bristling with period lingo — “By thunder!” “passing strange,” “the deuce with your circumstances” — it is the sort of book in which flint-hearted womenfolk are preyed upon by jack-a-ninny rakehells, if not belly-crawling snakes, who come gallivanting in from places hotter than Hades, presumably to rake hell while crawling on their bellies. The dialogue occasionally goes ever so slightly awry, as when the doomed heroine cries out to the man who will one day pen “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”: “Oh, Eddy, this is so strange.” No, mon ami, I josh not: one man’s anachronism is another man’s tintinnabulation.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for books like “Grim Legion,” fanciful novels by amateur historians that seek to reimagine the past. They make excellent introductory reading for youngsters who are not yet ready to tackle the major works of literature, and superb Christmas gifts for the buff who has everything except a novel about the time Mark Antony, Herod Antipas and Barabbas went to summer camp together.

Yet one thing has always irked me: Whether the book involves a chance encounter between Edgar Allan Poe and Robert E. Lee, or Poe and Charles Dickens, or Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung plunked down in the middle of a Gotham murder mystery, there is something humdrum and predictable about these liaisons. Since Poe and Lee both studied at West Point, and since Jung and Freud were close associates who could easily have found themselves embroiled in a turn-of-the-century crime caper, the possibilities for truly wild adventures are severely curtailed here. There is no reason why Charles Lindbergh should not cross paths with Adolf Hitler, given that they lived at exactly the same time, had a common fascination with aviation and disliked Jews, just as there is no reason Pancho Villa should not have spent many festive evenings with his contemporary Ambrose Bierce. Once the reader gets past the surface novelty, there isn’t much room for the story to develop because the encounters themselves are by no means implausible.

As a fan of the genre, I would love to see more novels that unite historical figures whose paths would almost certainly never cross in real life, not because they lived in different eras but because they traveled in completely different social circles. This way the story can go in all sorts of exciting new directions, and not merely from West Point to Crabcake Corners. Though I myself lack the imagination to write this sort of novel, I can think of a few plot lines that might pass muster with a gifted author who does possess those talents. Here are a few examples:

Square Red Depressed about killing so many millions of his countrymen but only finishing No. 2 in the midcentury mass murderer rankings behind Chairman Mao, Joseph Stalin decides to disguise himself as a shiftless kulak and spend a day at the Moscow Zoo. Here he encounters the child prodigy Sting, on a school trip to the Soviet Union. The precocious Sting tells the Soviet strongman about a burgeoning American idiom called rock ’n’ roll and Stalin just like totally lightens up for the last few months of his dark reign. He is even poised to give rock music the official thumbs-up when the K.G.B. suddenly learns of his intentions and poisons him, setting Russo-rock back 50 years.

Holliday for Two While visiting the Big Easy in the 1860s, Edgar Degas is afflicted by agonizing toothache. Short of cash, he persuades a dentist to accept a sculpture of a lovely ballerina as payment for extracting two wisdom teeth. The sculpture will later be lost in an 1877 faro game in Dodge City to Ike Clanton, who will melt it down to make bullets, one of which wounds Wyatt Earp’s brother, Morgan, during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Degas’s art-loving dentist was none other than Doc Holliday.

An Etude in Scarlet Jack the Ripper and Erik Satie are actually one and the same person, and only Edvard Munch, who supplements his paltry income as a painter by moonlighting as a private detective, knows it.

A Burr in Her Saddle Jane Austen uncharacteristically sets up a ménage-à-trois with Aaron Burr and Davy Crockett, and things do not work out at all. Austen particularly objects to Crockett’s refusal to clean his spittoon, and his persistence in referring to her as a “back-shooting drygulcher — just like that polecat Lizzie Bennett!”

Shostakovich’s Fifth While working in a Moscow radio factory in the mid-1950’s, Lee Harvey Oswald meets the great Soviet composer, and the two go out and get loaded. Shostakovich later discovers that Oswald has befriended him only because he used to know Stalin, and the assassin-in-training is desperate to meet the strongman’s pal, a mysterious English child prodigy named Sting.

Boche au Pair Calamity Jane, still a teenager, and Kaiser Wilhelm I have an out-of-wedlock child who goes on to help found the Pew Charitable Trusts and invent arena football.

Hook, Line and Sinker Babe Ruth and the young Ethel Merman investigate mysterious goings-on aboard the Lusitania in 1915. Also on the passenger list: Mae West, Wassily Kandinsky, Lucky Luciano and William Butler Yeats.

Field of Bad Dreams During a press conference after his defeat in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses, Howard Dean lets out a weird shriek that costs him a chance to become president of the United States. Conspiracy theorists charge that Karl Rove, via a right-wing medium who went to high school with Ann Coulter, has conjured up the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, whose spectral figure appeared out of nowhere and scared the hell out of the former governor of Vermont. A penitent Shoeless Joe later joins the Kerry campaign committee as an unpaid adviser charged with helping to get out a traditionally pivotal segment of the Democratic electorate: the dead.

Too Hot to Handle Shortly before the Cuban revolution, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Sinatra and the 7-year-old Gordon Sumner hold a clandestine Miami meeting to divvy up nicknames. Lewis insists on being called the “Chairman of the Board” and Guevara is more than happy with the sobriquet “Killer,” while Sinatra is quite taken with the name “Sting.” But absolutely nobody wants to be “Che.” Sumner throws a temper tantrum, and the meeting breaks up in an uproar. Returning to Cuba, Fidel Castro’s right-hand man finds that Sting Guevara is just not gaining any traction with the campesinos, and the legend of Che is born.

Joe Queenan writes for Barron’s, The Guardian and Men’s Health.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007


6:30 pm
Foot elevated listening to Richard Thompson live on Austin City Limits. Foot is swollen but less painful, unless I accidentally put weight on it, which the doctors do no want me to do. Watched the Cubs beat the Brewers. They looked good. I predict, as I always do, that the Cubs will win the Series this year. But everyone's picking the Mets. scenario is that this year the Cubs will beat out the Mets, thus getting revenge for the total humiliation that every Cub fan my age feels, when the Cubs blew a 10 game lead in August of 1969 to the "Miracle Mets", who went on to win the Series. I can't go down the Miracle Whip aisle at the store without PTSD symptoms shaking through my body. Seriously. Then there's Steve Bartman. In 2003, the Cubs were FIVE OUTS AWAY from going to the Series when he, for reasons known only to himself, interferred with a catchable foul ball. The Cubs went on to lose. He had to go into the Witness Protection Program. Got death threats. Now that's a bit scary and extreme, but I have to admit that whenever his name pops into my head, it challenges my Quaker beliefs about "there's that of God in everyone". Seriously. Well, sort of seriously. Actually, with several years of therapy, I've been able to feel compassion for the man.

But today I've been reflecting on the kindness of my friends. Calls to offer help. Calls to check in. Take me to dinner. Lots of people walking my poodle. He likes the attention, but keeps looking at me wondering why I'm sitting on my butt! Another friend took me to the grocery store today. Pushed the cart. I'm moving a bit slow. My boss (who is also a friend!) has been very supportive through this. I am grateful for all these friends, some of whom I've known for over 25 years. My Quaker Meeting has been great. I am blessed to have such people in my life.

Looking forward to seeing my son tomorrow. He's been gone for the last week on a trip with his mom to the Ozarks. Sounds like he had a great time. Thanks, friends!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Trying to go slow, listening to Bruce

Sitting here with my left foot elevated listening to Bruce. I have a third fractured metatarsal in my left foot. It showed up on yesterday’s X ray. My foot had been extremely painful and swollen for two days. I went to Urgent Care. Happily, a friend was the doctor there. He showed me the fracture, consulted the orthopods and told me to stay off the foot, handing me some aluminum crutches. Why is this happening? He said I walk more than normal, puts stress on my feet. He suggested that the initial “insult” to my foot happened in December. Maybe that’s when I fractured the 2nd metatarsal, the third gave way in February, and this 4th metatarsal a couple of days ago. If I keep walking on it, the 5th will fracture as well. So I’ve had to slow down my life. I’ve been arranging dog walking and my friends have been SO great.

Yes, slowing down, that’s a challenge. Well, here I am, surrounded by books and planning to watch the Cubs in a bit. My son is gone and I miss him. Back on Easter.

My mom laughingly said “you’re falling apart” when I updated her last night. To which I replied, “Yes, I’m scared what I’ll be like when I’m your age!” We both had a good laugh.

Yes, I am aging and trying to accept that. I’ve realized one thing about my recent medical history: I will never be a major league baseball player in this lifetime! But I have many other blessings…………..

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Anyone's Language

This morning
the ice groaned,
breaking up
in the pre-spring sun.
Sounded like

blue whale

The last whisper

of winter
booming out
giving way to the trumpet of spring.

In one language.
The same language
so clear------
open water
the blue whale shouts
for open water.

A breath
at last,
in anyone's language.


Seeing Beyond the White Cactus Light

In the dream
coyote appears on a flat rock ledge
howling a warning.
My eyes veer left
to a huge prickly pear cactus
showering the scene with sparks
and strands and rays
of whiteness.


Coyote says
if you can see beyond
the white cactus light
and not go blind
you will see
nothing less
than the entire world.