Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flying Monkeys Drop the Ball (er, Pumpkins)!

I thought I was being clever. Poodledoc, Jr. and I carved our pumpkins yesterday setting them out on the front steps. They looked nice with the apple-cented votive candles glowing inside. Tonight being Halloween, I dutifully lit the pumpkin candles and put out a bowl of candy next to the them. I attached a sign to the bowl which said: "Two pieces per person please OR I release my flying monkeys". Hardly original, but I thought it was funny. This was done to minimize doorbell ringing since my Standard Poodle barks furiously when it rings, disturbing the neighbors downstairs.

Being good Americans, the Poodle and I actually left for an hour to do some shopping. When we returned, a scene of mass destruction greeted us. Pumpkin pieces were scattered over the sidewalk as far as the eye could see. At first I thought it was a horrible case of "wrong place, wrong time". But I soon noticed that some of the pumpkins, to my horror, showed signs of torture (pumpkin pie recipes littered the scene). The bowl of candy was empty, tossed to one side. I wondered, where were the flying monkeys all this time?

The question was soon answered when we entered my apartment. All 20 of the Flying Monkeys were curled up asleep in their beds. They must be that new breed of Flying Monkey---the Democratic Congressional breed. True, they had the majority in the house, but they were asleep while high crimes and misdemeanors were occurring on my very own front steps.

31 October, 1987. Managua, Nicaragua

"My Witness for Peace delegation have all gone home except Bill and Carol who are letting me sleep on the floor of their room here at the Hotel Mercedes. I'm sitting by the pool drinking a beer. The Cuban National Baseball team is staying here. The team comes in to look at the pool. They are in Managua for a huge baseball tournament. Their uniforms look so nice. So new in a country of old stuff. Three days ago, I was 150 miles east of here, in the war zone. Lots of gunfire. Lots of automatic weapons. Lots of kids like the boy of 15 who'd been in the army four years. Never seen a 15 year old with eyes like that.

Sitting by the pool. Cognitive dissonance. this place costs $73 per night. The average Nicaraguan makes $300 per year.

rode up to Leon, Nicaragua the other day. Cost 10 cents for a 3 hour ride. On a flatcar with real people. Don't know their politics. Looks like life is hard for them. But lots of happiness. One older man engages me in conversation. He speaks no English. I speak just a touch of Spanish. We talk baseball. A common denominator. He tells me of the Nicaraguan baseball players who've gone on to play in the U.S. Major Leagues. He tells me he has four wives.

In Leon, I visited the remains of the dictator Somoza's prison. It's 9am and the tiny roofless cells are ovens. I sit in one and meditate on the scratches various prisoners have left on the wall. There is a chapel here, in the prison, in this Christian country. Someone has torn the cross out of the wall.

Across the street is a park which was a mass grave for Somoza's National Guardsmen. A man sprays weed killer here. Across the street, the "last stand" building, where the National Guardsmen refused to come out and surrender to the Sandinista's. The walls are pocked with bullet holes. Uncountable. The Sandinista militia finally gave up waiting, pumped gasoline into the building and torched it. Can you be a self-proclaimed "Christian Revolutionary" and burn people alive?

Back at the Hotel Mercedes the next morning, Bill and Carol have caught their plane. I sit on the bed, its so cold I can almost see my breath. The Mickey Mouse Club is on the cable TV. I'm afraid to go outside. It's been a couple weeks of fear and a couple weeks of love and a couple weeks of God. Something's happened to me and I'm not sure what that something is. I finally leave and walk over to Norm's house (friend from Madison, who's letting me stay there for a week while I wander around). I walked around Managua for a week. I saw God in a lot of places. God didn't answer when I asked how people could appropriate him/her to justify horrible acts of violence and why didn't God put a stop to this?"

On this Halloween, age 51, I still don't have a clear answer to that question of whether God is benevolent and loves us or a punishing God who really doesn't like us all that much. I have moments of clarity. Experiences of God as love. God as Creator. Times, many times, that I feel God's presence. Then I watch the horrors perpetrated in the world and I feel the confusion again. Like I felt as I shivered in the Hotel Mercedes 20 years ago. Afraid to leave the room. But I do leave the room. Faith in God? I think so. Or is it faith in humanity. I feel God's presence in every living thing. So faith in God draws me out. Today, I feel that I will always have questions about God like I've written here. And that's ok. Faith and hope keep me going. Especially since I'm a Cub fan.

Kucinich Questions Bush’s Mental Health Over Iran

Well, on this Dennis is not alone.......of course the odds him seeking mental health care are less than the odds he'll be impeached, but I'm glad he's questioning this. Bush, a not recovered drug and alcohol addict, is acting out a monster case of "dry drunk" rage, perhaps? Maybe at least AA or NA? Imagining him at an AA meeting is an interesting thought. "Hi, I'm George and I'm an alcoholic". hmmmmmmm

Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 by Reuters

WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on Tuesday mockingly questioned President George W. Bush’s mental health for saying Iran’s nuclear ambitions might trigger World War III.

“I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health,” Kucinich, a quirky, long-shot candidate in the race for his party’s presidential nomination in the November, 2008 election. “There’s something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact.”

Kucinich spoke to the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer ahead of a Democratic debate in Philadelphia.

Bush told a news conference two weeks ago: “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

Kucinich, a member of the U.S. Congress from Ohio, has tried in the past to convince his colleagues to impeach both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, to no avail.

He told The Inquirer he did not believe his remarks about Bush’s mental stability were irresponsible.

“You cannot be a president of the United States who’s wanton in his expression of violence,” Kucinich said. “There’s a lot of people who need care. He might be one of them. If there isn’t something wrong with him, then there’s something wrong with us. This, to me, is a very serious question.”

© Reuters 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush: “We must act now to stop Bob from acquiring nukear weapons!”

In a solemn Rose Garden press conference today, President Bush verified speculation that strong action was needed to stop Bob, a long-time resident of Madison’s near east side, from acquiring nuclear weapons. “Our intelligence sources have confirmed that Bob leaves his outside lights on all night and that the intensity of these lights could only be produced by a nukear reactor.” In a rambling 35 minute speech, Bush reminded people of the consequences of doing nothing: “A nuclear weapon in the hands of Bob would allow him to control the entire East Side of Madison”. Strong sanctions were being requested through the UN which would block Bob from shopping at the Willy St Coop or the Jenifer St Market.

Mr Bush backed up his plan with strong accusations: “Bob has repeatedly and aggressively walked his dog in the park off leash, refused to use hand signals on his bike, kept his nuclear powered lights on all night and put in some very tacky flower beds. He is a danger and must be stopped”.

Sources in the administration, who asked not to be identified, have disclosed that Bush authorized a secret raid by Navy Seals deep into Bob’s basement. They found some kind of white powder in a box and a big white machine that swishes around for a while after the white powder goes in right next to a machine which dries the uranium powder, obviously a centrifuge for producing weapons-grade uranium. “A nightmare”, said the source.

Another source revealed a Bush administration plan to bomb selected targets on Bob’s property including his garage, the outdoor lights, the tacky flower beds and a bunker buster bomb for the uranium enriching facility in the basement. Another target on the list was the kitchen. “No more omelet’s for Bob”, the source remarked with a chuckle. The bathrooms were removed from the target list because “that would make a mess”, according to another source.

Reached for comment in Latvia, where she was doing something, Condi Rice added that Bob “is known for his anti-Israel stance”. He’s been overheard referring to the Israeli government as “poo poo heads”. “The Bomb in his hands could mean the destruction of Israel”, Dr Rice stated.

Bob has been given 48 hours to respond, but so far hasn’t answered the phone, which worries intelligence officials for some reason.

“Remember, said Mr Bush, “It’s not nukear weapons that kill people, it’s people with nukear weapons that kill people. That’s why Bob must be stopped. Now”.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Desire and the Green Cure

by Richard Glover
Published on Sunday, October 21, 2007 by The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

I used to feel bad about mindless consumerism but not any more. The green movement has come to my rescue. With every purchase, I can now enjoy the warm glow of helping develop environmentally sound practices.

There’s my new briefcase, for example. It is shiny and luxurious and its purchase has allowed me to throw my old one into the bin. But there’s no eco-guilt for me.

According to the manufacturer, the leather in my briefcase was stained using “extracts of bark and seeds collected from renewable sources in the forests of Africa and India”. The work was all done by “traditional artisans”, all of them using “sustainable practices” in the “old saddler tradition”. There’s not a lot of detail on the leather but, based on the tone of the pamphlet, I’m pretty sure the cows would have been volunteers.

I feel I now deserve some sort of medal just for handing over my credit card.

I’m not alone in falling for this sort of sales pitch. People are always looking for an excuse to consume more and the latest excuse - bizarrely - is environmentalism.

Let’s call it “greensumerism”. Forget the simple mantra of “less is more”; with the help of the green movement you can now indulge in a frenzy of consumerism, with each luxury purchase excused by the idea that you are helping the development of the “green” sector.

People will ditch a perfectly good car in order to import the latest hybrid eco-model and expect to be praised for their sensitivity. Magazines like Vogue Living are now full of these luxurious holiday houses - temples to excess and over-consumption - which the owners claim as their personal contribution to sustainability. Rest of article here

Cider Making Sunday!!

What a lovely day for making cider. We went out to the farm of some Friends from our Quaker Meeting. Lots of sunshine, kids, finger-food, tractor rides, apples and gallons and gallons of cider! Here's Poodledoc, Jr turning the crank on the ancient but efficient cider press. Yum! I didn't even mind that I got lost on the way home!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Beautiful Baseball Dance (Swan Lake)

Proof....that there is art in baseball.....

The Ox Cart, 19 October, 1987

Twenty years ago to the day, I woke up on the porch of the Witness for Peace house in Managua, Nicaragua. A wooden cart pulled by an ox was clunking by in the early morning. It was the morning I first ate roasted plantain.

We had arrived late the night before. Flying into a jungle. Yes, there’s a city of a million there, but the jungle is always present. The smell of rich soil and water hanging in the air.

The long ride in the truck. Shadowy figures in bus stops. Tired. Fell asleep on the porch. Woke up in another world. I’d come here with a delegation of Witness for Peace, a faith-based organization that sent people into the war zones to witness the contra war. The contra was the army backed by the Reagan administration. Their “job” was to overthrow the evil “Marxist” government of the Sandinistas. They murdered a lot of people.

They were terrorists trying to destroy a democratically elected government that Reagan and his thugs did not like.

As I ate my plantain, I read that there had been a major crash in the US stock markets. It didn’t seem real to me. All I knew was I was here, I was safe, I had food and everything felt new. The USA, my world, seemed far away. Irrelevant. When I heard the bullets and mortars made in my country ripping up the night a couple days later, the USA didn’t seem so irrelevant. I felt shame at what my country was doing. But instead of being totally surrounded by violence, I felt an incredible amount of love from the people we met. I didn’t know if I could be so loving, so forgiving. That was a challenge. Perhaps the biggest one among many.

What I didn’t know was that as we rode out into the war zone the next day, I would accidentally step back on the road of faith. Not even the contra could destroy faith.

And I still believe that, although some days it’s hard. I step off the path. But God guides me back on. Again and again. Infinite patience. God must find me amusing, at times! And maybe stepping back on the road of faith in Nicaragua was no accident……..

Friday, October 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I am not ready to announce yet - even though it's clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative."

- Stephen Colbert, in a guest column in Sunday's New York Times. Colbert then announced his candidacy for the president of the United States on his Tuesday show. (Source: The New York Times)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Genetics of Fear

Thunderstorms came and came
last night.
Duke, my Standard Poodle friend
lay on my bed in fear
chest pumping,
eyes wide open.
I cradle him gently
ear softly on his furry chest.
that warm dog smell.
Listening to air
surging in and out.
I hear the racing heart.
I listen to the fear.
It mirrors mine,
Although thunderstorms are not
among my fears.

After a time
breathing and heartbeat slow.
Fear dissipates.
We are both calm.

New born Holstein calf
alone in a bed of fresh straw
Fresh from the uterine ocean...

My 5 year old son
with no words spoken
lies down in the straw by the calf
arms stretched around the neck of the frightened bovine child.
The trembling stops.
My son has no fear of fear.
That comes later.

I hope not.

I was taught to fear the fear.
How do I unlearn that?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mary Oliver Poem

A favorite poem of mine. I enjoy when a variety of people read poetry. I feel that publicly, the majority ofAmericans ignore poetry. However, privately, many more people have a poem or poems that they save to read again and again. So this is for the "private" poetry lovers. And the public ones,as well!

Would you be willing to coordinate that?

In my Quaker Meeting, I've heard this question four or five times in the last month, directed at me. Today, another F/friend and I were discussing a fellow Quaker who has a life-threatening illness. He asked if I'd be willing to help as far as giving rides, etc. I said yes, of course. Then he asked me if I would like to take on coordinating care for this man. This man is someone I care about a great deal. He is a member of my Quaker Community (which is sort of an artificial construct anyway, since the whole world is really my community, if I open to that). But I told my F/friend no, I could not take this on. Then added that "everyone's trying to make me into a coordinator". We both laughed. But as I've been reflecting during the day, I know I want to support the ill man. I know what I can do at this point. I know that may change. I know I will coordinate other things in the Quaker Meeting when led by God to do so. But I know I already have commitments within my Quaker Spiritual community and in the rest of my life. I can only do so much. Still, it keeps coming. Unlike my F/friend today, some poeple in Meeting don't ask me, they just assume that I'm coordinating. That is hard for me. I could very easily be consumed by Meeting activities and needs, and not have any time left to hear God's voice. I wonder if that is selfish? If I ought to take on what comes my way because that is what God wants me to do, that is God's work. But I believe that if I take on everything, I get over-loaded and burned out quickly. I will be a better support to my ill friend if I say clearly what I can do. To do God's work, God needs me to say "NO" once in a while.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Protecting Small-Scale Food Projects from the Ground Up

by Bridget Kelly Ries and Margaret Kelly
Published on Monday, October 15, 2007 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Earlier this summer, 40 families in North St. Louis began receiving weekly deliveries of fresh produce - direct from Missouri farms. In an area that many grocery stores have left, access to fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables is a godsend. And during the weeks of harvest abundance, locally grown produce has made its way to the neighborhood’s farmers’ market and food bank.

Residents say the box full of good vegetables, delivered through Gateway Greening’s City Seeds project, has carried them through the next week. Farmers selling the produce are gaining valuable experience in serving new markets and are enthusiastically planning next year’s production.

In central and northern rural Missouri, residents have been saving money by banding together and ordering food in bulk through the Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s food cooperative program. But in the last decade, higher-quality, lower fat pork products produced by members’ friends and neighbors have become a staple. Food cooperative members have gotten better food, and Missouri farmers successfully have marketed the “whole” pig, not just the restaurant-desired loin.

Stories such as these have been repeated hundreds of times across the United States. In each case, they have required committed citizens, knowledgeable non-profit organizations and - first and foremost - funding from the USDA’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Programs.

First authorized by Congress in the 1996 Farm Bill, this program has provided grants to help cities, towns and rural counties to do something simple and uniquely American: develop their own solutions to local food, nutrition and agricultural problems.

But there’s a problem: In its rush to pass a new and exceedingly complex farm bill, the House did not provide any funding for the community food projects, which receives a mere $5 million annually. Should the program also be neglected by the Senate, which is working on its version of the farm bill, it would mean the end of a program that is based on an up-by-the-bootstraps approach to community problem-solving.

The House’s action is counter-productive and flies in the face of current health data and national trends. A nation that is eating itself to death - more than 60 percent of us are overweight or obese - should not take money away from one of the few federal programs that is promoting healthy eating. Nor does it make any sense for a nation that is re-discovering the wonders and value of eating locally to ignore a program that has found new and exciting ways to connect local farmers with low-income communities for the benefit of both.

Besides the programs in our area, loss of funds for the community food projects would mean the disappearance of the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York, which has taught healthy eating to thousands of lower income city girls. Lack of funding also would kill projects such as the one on the Tohono O’odham Tribe’s reservation in Arizona, where local innovation has seeded the revival of traditional Native American crops that are necessary to stemming the diabetes epidemic now running rampant through Native American communities.

In its House version, the new farm bill all but certainly would eliminate funding for the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture programs that encourage urban residents and new immigrants with limited resources to grow and market their own food.

Large-scale, institutional farm bill programs - food stamps, to name a very important one - are essential to keep millions of Americans from going hungry. But in an era of multi-billion-dollar federal programs administered by cumbersome bureaucracies from the top down, it is unusual and heartening to find programs that spend relatively little money and encourage local people to find their own solutions to problems.

These small-scale food projects nurture community-based problem-solving that may one day end hunger. We urge readers to reach out to their U.S. senators and let them know how important these projects are to our region and our country.

Sisters Bridget Kelly Ries and Margaret Kelly produced and starred in the television series “Twice Baked,” which featured local and seasonal foods. They also are co-hosts of “Food Talk with the Kelly Twins,” KTRS Radio

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.

Last night my friend John invited me to go hear two authors speak as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. I had not read anything by either of them. Their names were Rick Bass and Terry Tempest Williams. They write a lot about the environment, among other things. I was glad we sat in the second row. Their facial expressions conveyed almost as much as their words.

Mr Bass read a story about "blue boy", a kind of envirnmental prophet who is ignored by people engaging in gluttony. I realized how the "have-nots" in our country want to be like the "haves"; they want to have the power to possess something, so they are driven to consume cheap plastic junk, because at least they are consuming. They "have" someTHING. So this perpetuates a "trickle down" to people who have even less and work so all of us can have something. Anything. To consume. At the expense of our earth, our environment. His story was as much about environmental tragedy as it was about the greed that leads to that tragedy. It was a captivating story and a very painful story. Today I've been trying to come to terms with It. But I feel so tired. On the verge of tears.

Then Terry Tempest Williams rose to speak. She talked about how in parts of Utah, there is a growing monster of oil and natural gas towers. The water table is dropping so fast that people will have to leave that area because there's not enough water. The harm to the earth leads to harm to the humans (and all living things). She spoke of the epidemic of meth addiction in this part of the west.

She told a story of a recent experience. She got pulled over for speeding. Unbeknownst to her, she was driving on an expired license. She was handcuffed and taken to the county jail. For a variety of reasons, she decided to spend a night in the jail with the other women inmates. Virtually all of them were addicted to meth, had husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands, etc working on the oil and gas rigs. Life was so out of balance that they were taking speed to try to get by in a world in which they were barely surviving. Some of the women were there with 2, 4 and 8 year sentences. They were overflow from the state prison (can't remember which state this was, sorry). Williams said they rarely are allowed visitors, get no drug addiction counseling or medical help to get off the meth. Damage to the earth brings damage to the inhabitants. Blowback. More trickle down. From secret prisons in Romania, to Guantanamo to the county jail. Humans no longer treated as humans.

When the two were done talking. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. Only a few questions. Mercifully. I felt like I needed to go mourn. Something is dying and some thing has died. One woman asked the big question: What can we do about this, each one of us?

Mr Bass replied that he was hopeful that now that there was a Democratic majority in Congress, things were changing. I was as repulsed by his naivette as I was moved by his story.

Ms Williams said several things. She said we have to realize, as more and more folks are, that this environmental crisis is not a bi-partisan issue. She urged people to put aside their differences because this is much bigger than those differences. She shared how a coalition of diverse groups: environmentalists, ranchers, and yes, even the NRA had lobbied the governor to change some horrible environmental plans. Her other comment was to eat local.

I recalled that one of the introductory speakers (there were three..........which I found a bit trying) was Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, whose boss has been talking of selling water to some of the parched western states. I don't know if she stayed to listen to the speakers, but I know some of Aldo Leopold's family were there and you felt his influence in the room. Palpable.

I feel so sad today. But a strange vision keeps popping into my head. The Lorax, which is the Dr Seuss environmental book. Blue boy in Mr Bass's story reminds me of the Lorax. I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.

Really Ugly Americans

A vehicle got close to them, and they opened fire on it randomly as if they were in the middle of a confrontation. You won't find a head. The brain is scattered on the ground. I am shaking as I am trying to describe to you what happened. We are not able to eat. These were innocent people. Is it so natural for them to shoot innocent people?

- Ahmed Kadhim Hussein, an Iraqi policeman, describing the shooting deaths by private military contractors of two Christian women on their way home from work. (Source: The Washington Post)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New Job Opportunities for Blackwater?

As I've read history, here and there over my life, it has become clear to me that once an army is created, it's darn hard to get rid of it.

Take the case of Blackwater, the "security firm" of mercenaries that were just asked to leave Iraq. Let's say they did leave, all 180,000 of the little warriors. That's more people than the US military.

So, where will they go? Afghanistan? Iran? Saudi Arabia? (just kidding!) The streets of Washington, DC. This administration has done just about everything criminal that you can do. Blackwater, a ready made secret police force. I find it a bit scary. Elections, who needs 'em?

Monday, October 8, 2007

I'm Buying the Cubs

Well, the Cubs are officially for sale. The rumor I've heard of for months is now a fact. I've heard several prices tossed about. You know, more money than I can imagine. More money than I could win in the Wisconsin Super Duper Lottery (if I even did lotteries.............which I don't). I know the people who have read my blog and my whinings about the Cubs are feeling a sense of horror. If I owned the Cubs I could blog FROM EVERY GAME! Aw, don't worry sports fans, I can't afford the billion dollar price tag, but I know some one who can: me and my friends.

How this came about was a couple of weeks ago my friend Ed Ether (a rabid Green Bay Packer football fan, sorry about the loss last night, by the way) was talking about how he liked that the Packers are owned by a group of people, like a trust, instead of one egomaniacal billionaire. So it came to me tonight, what if myself, Ed and several of our millionaire friends pooled our resources. Then the Cubs could be ours! We could sit in the bleachers! Enjoy the agony and the ecstasy! Eat Frosty Malts! For me, it's a dream come true. Ed, whaddya say?

Outrunning My Guide

Lately I've been pondering the notion of "outrunning one's guide". I'm thinking of it as a Quaker phrase, but I think this idea exists in many different spiritualities.

But I've been feeling tired, like I have not been listening to that internal guide, which for me is the Spirit (which I also call God). People have different guides, but that's there business, not mine. I'm only saying what's true for me.

I'm thinking that for the last four weeks I've been working with the Young Friends, which I like very much. I always find it fun, hunbling and inspirational. But I haven't been to Meeting for Worship for that time. I have actively made time to listen for the Spirit's voice. And that has worked.

But missing Meeting, a group experience of listening for God is different than sitting by the lake watching the sun set. One is not better than the other, the individual and corporate experiences I have as a Quaker are different. Connected, but different.

So, this next First Day I will be in Meeting for Worship, listening.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Meme on Books

Garten passed on this meme on books, so I'll do my best

Total number of books?

I'm not sure. I have a serious book addiction and even though I "recycle" my old books at the used bookstore, the library keeps growing.........and growing. 250?

Last book read?

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean Carroll. Excellent explanation of how evolution works at the level of genes. Closes all those "gaps in the fossil record". Evolution is no longer a theory.

Last book bought?
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

Five meaningful books?

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

1984 by George Orwell

Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky (sorry about the spelling)

The Great War for Civilization, by Robert Fisk

When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron

Some others that I found meaningful and or just plain enjoyed!:

Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck (I own a Black Standard Poodle so this was a must read)

Maus One and Maus Two by Art Spiegelman

All the Harry Potter books

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Any poetry by Sharon Olds or Mary Oliver

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers interviews Joseph Campbell

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Milio

Going After Cacciato, by Tim O'Brien (a soldier decides to leave Vietnam and walk to Paris, his platoon goes after him. Fiction or non-fiction?)

The Things They Carried, also by Tim O'Brien based on his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam.Very poetic book that blends reality with fantasy with some unforgettable images and characters. Creates a story that speaks against war in a way I've never experienced as does Cacciato.

The Pat Barker Trilogy; The Ghost Road, The Eye in the Door, and Regeneration

She's writing historical fiction about World War One so uses real people and events. Includes World War One poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Raises many issues and extremely well-written. Again, these books speak against war in unique ways and I've learned some lessons from them.

I think I'll stop here........I love books and reading and reading about other people's books!

The Phoenix and Baseball

Well, it's a sad day. The Cubs lost yesterday. Their season is over as the Arizona Diamondbacks completed a three game sweep to win the divisional playoff series. I watched most of the game. I have this image of horror where Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs fearsome slugger was at the plate. Two runners on base. The count was three balls and no strikes. I thought 'he's got to have the green light (to swing) here, he's the leading producer of runs batted in on the team'. The next pitch seemed to float in. Belt high. A fastball. Just where I've seen him hit balls into the next state in the past. He let it by. Didn't even swing. the next pitch was a strike. He didn't swing. Then the next pitch was a strike at the knees. He didn't even swing the bat. This was a snapshot of how the Cubs played in the three games with Arizona.

On the way home two things happened. I was listening, briefly, to grown men calling in to the post-game show, showing a variety of emotions. Yes, in fact these men were showing emotion. One comment penetrated deep. A caller asked "Based on what I've seen today, why should I keep watching this team?" A valid question.

Then, my cell phone rang and it was my friend Ed Ether, wondering how I was doing with this new pain in my life. He and his wife, Ms Ether, were wondering if they needed to do some kind of intervention. I thanked Ed, said no, and finished my drive home haunted by the caller's question. Why DO I keep watching this team that has failed to win a World Series since my grandmother was in her late teens (that would be 1908).

Today it came to me. Yes, the Cubs season is over. Soon the Lake Michigan winds will grow colder. Wrigley Field will be covered with snow and ice. But in February, something will happen in Florida. Spring training. The new little Cubs (and the old ones) will leave their den and migrate north to Chicago where they will rise like a phoenix. Resurrection. Happens every year. New hope. My prediction-----and you read it hear first, folks----is that the Cubs WILL win the World Series next year. Let's make it an even century, guys. Hey, anyone can have a bad century now and then. Baseball is not a religion, but it does have resurrection.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Harry Potter and the Censor's Flames

My friend Luminiferous Ether has an interesting post on banned books from the site. I plucked this piece from there:

Harry Potter snuck up on me.

In 1999, I'd yet to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when a South Carolina librarian reported that parents were seeking to remove the book from school libraries and classroom. Naturally, I was curious as to what was behind this attempt to censor a popular children's book that, by all reports, was encouraging even reluctant readers to settle in for hours of reading.

Then came the deluge - literally hundreds of challenges to J.K. Rowling's epic fantasy about a young wizard's fight against the ultimate evil. Since the beginning of the millennium, the Harry Potter books have been among the most frequently challenged books in libraries and schools in this country.

The reasons given for keeping the book from young readers generally center around witchcraft - but other complaints focus on the series' theme about challenging adult authority: "the books contain lying and smart-aleck retorts to adults," "the books will lead children to hatred and rebellion," "the books are telling children over and over again that lying, cheating, and stealing are not only acceptable, but that they're cool and cute."

Too often, these challenges were successful in removing the Harry Potter books from school classrooms, libraries, and reading lists. Finally, in 2003, a student in Cedarville, Ark., filed a federal lawsuit challenging her school district's restrictions on the Harry Potter series - and succeeded in winning First Amendment protection for young Harry. Even so, the campaign to keep the Harry Potter series out of the hands of children continues, led most recently by a Gwinnett County, Ga., mother who believes the series is an "evil" attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion. She wants to replace the books with others that promote a Judeo-Christian world view, like the "Left Behind" series.

I believe, in fact, that what some parents and adults find most threatening about the Potter series is what engages young minds and fires the imagination of young people- Rowling's willingness to deal with the truth that adults in children's lives can sometimes be unthinking, authoritarian, and even evil. The best books always have raised questions about the status quo - and are the most threatening to censors who want to control what young persons read and think about. Like the tyrannical Defense Against Dark Arts Professor Dolores Umbridge, who insisted on providing a "risk-free" education to the young wizards at Hogwarts, they would limit education and information to facts so incontestable that they arouse no controversy at any level, thereby leaving young people unequipped to think about and address larger questions about the nature of our society.

It's been wonderful to see how Harry has brought an entire generation of young people back to reading - back to grappling with allegories, stories, and ideas. So I contemplate the series' conclusion with some sadness, even as I know that we'll be dealing with Harry Potter for a long, long time, due to the books' quality and unstinting popularity. Similar to literature like Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, Huck Finn, and The Color Purple, Harry will always find a way into the censor's crosshairs. I hope that Harry's popularity will continue to focus a light on censorship. Bringing attention to the workings of censorship, in my opinion, provides the best defense against it.

Judith Krug is the director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). The OIF sponsors Banned Books Week, September 29 - October 6, an annual celebration for the Freedom to Read. Observed the last week of September since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take the precious democratic freedom to read for granted.

Friday, October 5, 2007

There is no joy in Wrigleyville

Wow! Cubs on the brink of disaster! Feels like so suddenly the Cubs are down 2 games to none in the National Leage Championship series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yikes! If the Cubs lose one more game, they are out, finished, it's over. They'll get to watch the World Series on TV like the rest of us. So there is no joy in Wrigleyville (the immediate neighborhood around the sacred ground, the "friendly confines" of Wrigley Field). The mighty Cubs are close to striking out........they play tomorrow night in Chicago. Backs to the ivy-covered walls.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Poodledoc, Jr: The New Teenager

Today is Poodledoc, Jr's 13th birthday! He arrived a month early, via a planned C-section. The first view of him was a little leg being pulled out of his mother's incision by the surgeon at about 9:15 AM. Quckly, the nurses cleaned him up, wrapped him snug as a bug and I got to hold him for the first time and show him to his mom, who was still awake, althought the rest of her body was "asleep". His mom lost a lot of blood which was scary. I was ushered from the recovery room by one of the nurse-midwives to a room, where I called all sorts of people to give them the good news. I couldn't stop holding him until finally the nurses came to take him for some "food". His mom had a tough time due to the blood loss from her placenta previa (that's where the placenta implants over the cervix, "blocking the exit",hebce the C-section. So getting him out was perilous. Luckily, she survived, although it was a close thing. Later, I took Tristan over intensive care to nurse for the first time.

I wondered what he'd be like. Now, he's a lot bigger, can beat me in arm wrestling (well, almost), loves to read, play with dogs, draw and paint, play Dungeons and Dragons, camp and does a lot of laughing. So today we'll celebrate. But I try to remember that every day with him is a celebration. Even the tough days. I love you, Tristan!