Thursday, September 27, 2007

All of this Means Better Education

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Primate scientist Jane Goodall said on Wednesday the race to grow crops for vehicle fuels is damaging rain forests in Asia, Africa and South America and adding to the emissions blamed for global warming.

"We're cutting down forests now to grow sugarcane and palm oil for biofuels and our forests are being hacked into by so many interests that it makes them more and more important to save now," Goodall said on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative, former U.S. President Bill Clinton's annual philanthropic meeting.

As new oil supplies become harder to find, many countries such as Brazil and Indonesia are racing to grow domestic sources of vehicle fuels, such as ethanol from sugarcane and biodiesel from palm nuts.

The United Nations' climate program considers the fuels to be low in carbon because growing the crops takes in heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide.

But critics say demand for the fuels has led companies to cut down and burn forests in order to grow the crops, adding to heat-trapping emissions and leading to erosion and stress on ecosystems.

"Biofuel isn't the answer to everything; it depends where it comes from," she said. "All of this means better education on where fuels are coming from are needed."

Goodall said the problem is especially bad in the Indonesian rain forest where large amounts of palm nut oil is being made. Growers in Uganda -- where her nonprofit group works to conserve Great Apes -- are also looking to buy large parcels of rain forest and cut them down to grow sugar cane, while in Brazil, forest is cleared to grow sugar cane.

The Goodall Institute is working with a recently formed group of eight rain forest nations called the Forest Eight, or F8, led by Indonesia. The group wants to create a system where rich countries would pay them not to chop down rain forests and hopes to unveil the plan at climate talks in Bali in December.

Scientists from the forested countries are trying to nail down exactly how much carbon dioxide the ecosystems store, but the amount has been estimated to be about double that which is already in the atmosphere, Goodall said.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jack Sparks List - Part I

Jack's Top 100 Country Songs of All Time - the first 10

1. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hank
Jimmie Rodgers put Country Music on a train out in the sticks. It stepped off that train at the downtown station with Hank Williams and went to Main Street. The lyrics of this song, without accompaniment could be a 19th Century pastoral shepherd's lament. The imagery is complex while the words remain simple. I put it first for those reasons; as you strip it down, it keeps elevating, in my mind, to one of the most important American Poems ever written, forget about Country Music for a minute. If you choose not to do that, it's a stunningly tight hillbilly wail.

2. Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny

Hank handed Country Music off to Johnny on Main Street and Johnny took it down a back alley, stuck a knife in it, and took its wallet. If Williams' genius was fleshing out the clash between the pastoral and urban in 20th Century Twang, Cash's was adding the gross, straight-razor reflection qualities of it to the music. It was okay to be a Country boy lost in this environment, but there was a lot more ugly out there and it was necessary to spell it all out. This is a prison song, to be sure. But, it's a post-War, baby boom, factory madness, out-of-control-nightmare, too. The hero is no longer struggling so much with leaving mamma down on the farm, as much he is trying to prevent his own figurative rape at the hands of progress.

3. Love's Gonna Live Here, Buck Owens
That bastard in the alley with the knife wound, missing his wallet, dusted himself off, put a piece of tape on the blood, and found a girl back out on the sidewalk to buy him drinks for the rest of the night if he'd just dance with her. Buck's genius was embodying the embracing of the new, out of control modern life, and thumbing your nose at it. Hank moaned of dust-bowl migratory malaise, Johnny defended its victims, and Buck said, "Fuck it, let's make lemonade." Buck's music was simply different. It stands out because it's live, it's a product of live performance, it's living, it dives, dances and celebrates life in the face of adversity, and it leaves you breathless at the end.

4. Walking the Floor Over You, Ernest Tubb
You left me and then you went away
You said that you'd be back in just a day
You've broken your promise and
You've left me here alone
I don't know why you did dear
But I do know that you're gone
I'm walking the floor over you
I can't sleep a wink that is true
I'm hoping and I'm praying as my heart breaks right in two
Walking the floor over you
It was just that easy. If your wife grabbed the kids and took off, and you sat there pacing around trying to figure out how to get her back, you could write a song about it. On top of it all, it's a two-step, so people can dance to it. A legion of new songwriters were born from this song, it rearranged people's thinking. You could write about anything, and if you had talent, you could attach it to any kind of music.

5. Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Nightlife(Live Medley), Willie Nelson & Family
The result of Tubb's breakthrough was Willie, the first Jazz singer of Country Music. Bandana, braids, tuned down, modified pickup classical guitar...its all a smokescreen for Country Jazz fusion. Singing phrased just off the beat, poly-chromatic solos, with a nod for fills from Mickey on the harp, Bobbie on the piano, or Paul on the drums, completely indistinguishable from Miles Davis pointing as he chewed his gum.

6. Dead Flowers, Rolling Stones
The reason Beat Literature is art is that people like Katherine Kersten tried desperately to pretend the Beats didn't exist; she isn't poignant or conservative as much as she's an anachronism, bemoaning an American cultural value system that never existed. That's not to say that taking heroine and banging hookers should be admired. Rather it should be given its day in the sun, as the Stones do so well here: a celebration and a kiss off. The beauty of America is our Libertine impulses, if not our actual Libertine habits. It's the idea that we are always fighting the darkness inside us, but not in a judgmental way, but rather in a "tomorrow, maybe it'll be different way." And if we can't fix it tomorrow, well then, we should just go with the flow until the next day. And, as I've told you so many times before Katherine, your sons do jerkoff and they both will smoke pot someday.

7. Together Again, Emmylou Harris
All this Devil worship needed a counterbalance. And when Alabama hit the scene and "Country" became truck rallies with slogans, someone had to stand up and preserve the substance and history of what had come before. Luckily, an angel was sent, and through it all, she inspired and helped countless people to "keep it real."

8. Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again), Tompall Glaser & the Glaser BrothersI have seen the morning burning golden on the mountains in the skies.
Achin' with the feelin' of the freedom of an eagle when she flies.
Turnin' on the world the way she smiled upon my soul as I lay dying.
Healin' as the colours in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes.
Little rat bastards like Kenny Chesney wouldn't even begin to know how to sing songs like this. First, at no point during this song does "senorita" rhyme with "margarita." Thus, the subject matter is beyond him from the start. The truth is that for a shining moment, a group of singers and songwriters believed that elements of free verse could be incorporated into this music like jazz riffs. Assonance was as good as rhyme, and at times, slightly better. And there didn't have to be a State Fair barbecue with your high school sweetheart in your old pickup truck to talk about love.

9. Portland, Oregon, Loretta Lynn

Greatness lies in the ability to distance yourself from your autobiography, while embracing it to feed your art. If you and a band member get drunk on Sloe Gin Fizz and have fun to the point that your husband gets jealous and pulls a gun on you in the hotel room while your band mate hides in the shower, you should wait about 30 years, and then record a song that you wrote about the experience with a weirdo from Detroit and 4 or 5 junkies from Memphis. Make it an up-tempo number, and give it the feel of a fun night with a minor disturbance at the end. Don't let anyone know you're a 70 year old lady either. This song is an 11 on a 10 scale.

10. Blue Suede Shoes, Carl Perkins
At some point, a bunch of hillbillies showed up in Memphis and started Rock N Roll. I mean really started it. They drank and popped pills and fucked with their guitars and amps until it was pissing off the crackers and scaring the shit out of everyone else. These men made the pasty little British boys want to piss off and scare their parents too. And then there was disco, cocaine, and Ronald Reagan. They never showed this episode on PBS' Connections.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Love the Moon

and the south.

black gold, texas tea.

Made Summer Vacation Plans Yet??

Ralph Foster Museum - Beverly Hillbillies Car

Point Lookout, Missouri
The Ralph Foster Museum is on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, a private Christian school. Known locally as "The Smithsonian of the Ozarks," the museum was named for Foster even though Foster wasn't involved with it until the 1960s, four decades after it had begun as a bird collection in a men's dormitory basement. Ralph was a radio mogul in southwest Missouri, founder of KWTO ("Keep Watching The Ozarks") and of the long-running Ozark Jubilee. His generous donations of cash and display-caliber stuff earned him the museum's gratitude, and immortality for himself as long as the museum stays in business (and keeps his name).

The Ralph Foster Museum's best known exhibit is the cut-down 1921 Oldsmobile truck used in the original Beverly Hillbillies TV series, donated by the show's producer, Paul Henning, who grew up nearby. Generations of fans have had snapshots of themselves taken in the battered front seat, in front of a large photo of Uncle Jed, Granny, Jethro, and Ellie May Clampett, Mr. Drysdale and Miss Hathaway. You only sit in the truck, however, if you pay the student at the cash register $10 bucks to take your picture. After driving all of the way out here, how can you say no?

The Beverly Hillbillies truck is the most worldly example of what the Ralph Foster Museum is all about: preserving stuff that somehow relates to the Ozarks, or that people in the Ozarks find interesting. There's a display of wood stumps from local trees, and the personal barbed wire collection of someone named Ellis Pentecost. A restored one-room schoolhouse merits its own display, as does a fishing boat. Mrs. Foster's chair, made of steer longhorns, is exhibited.

We were disappointed to learn that the Museum's two-headed calf and the shrunken head were in storage. There are, however, a LOT of guns here, and a lot of stuffed carcasses of the animals that were shot by the guns (Ralph liked to hunt).

Look for the painting of an African elephant -- the canvas is actually an elephant's ear cut off after a kill. Among the firearms displayed is a rifle owned by Pancho Villa, and the revolver that Morgan Earp wore when he was killed while playing pool. The pearl-handled grip of the six-shooter is stained with blood, although there's no proof that this really was Morgan's gun other than Ralph Foster's belief that it was.

One exhibit, the Ozark Mountain Music Pioneers Hall of Fame, honors people whose fame doesn't extend very far from here, such as Lloyd Presley, Bob Mabe, and Windy Luttrell. The History of the Ozarks in the Twentieth Century exhibit showcases regional luminaries such as Rose O’Neill (inventor of the Kewpie doll), Harold Bell Wright (author of "Ma Cinderella" and "God and the Groceryman"), and Mary Herschend (owner of Marvel Cave).

Also here are life-size reproductions of the offices of locally famous men. Fake Oval Offices are in every Presidential museum, but only here can you see the fake offices of Dean Myers, Dewey Short, M. Graham Clark -- and Ralph Foster. Dr. Robert M. Good's office includes his collection of home-grown gourds, piled in a corner.

Some displays in the Ralph Foster Museum look as if they've been unchanged for decades, others seem as if they were imported from high school fairs, and still others have had parts removed and never replaced. Track lighting, drop ceilings, and walls that alternate between wood paneling and painted cinderblock give the Ralph Foster Museum a unique look, and provide what is probably a familiar home for all of the coins, stamps, clocks, rocks, dolls, butterflies, army stuff, Indian stuff, and cowboy stuff.

If you returned to the Ralph Foster Museum in the year 2050, you'd probably have a harder time climbing into the Beverly Hillbillies truck, but more than likely it would still be here.

Ralph Foster Museum - Beverly Hillbillies Car:
Point Lookout, MO [Show Map]
Directions: Ralph Foster Museum, College of the Ozarks. US 65 to Hollister, which is just south of Branson. Exit west onto Main St. and follow the signs for the College of the Ozarks. Ask for directions to the Museum at the gate, or simply follow Opportunity Ave., make a left at the field house onto Cultural Court, drive to the end, and turn left to the Museum.
Hours: M-Sa 9-4:30.
Phone: 417-334-6411 x3407

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another Exoneration

DNA Exonerates Man After 25 Years in Prison

On parole since March 2006, he is now freed of 'sex offender' label

Updated: 6 minutes ago

CHICAGO - After spending 25 years in an Illinois prison for rape, Jerry Miller was found innocent Monday after DNA evidence showed he was not responsible for the 1981 attack.

To date over 200 individuals in the United States have been exonerated because of DNA evidence, OJ Simpson not withstanding.

After a judge vacated his conviction, Miller smiled, and a courtroom of his family and friends cheered.

"I will get on with my life, start a life, have a life," Miller said at a news conference after the court hearing. "I'm just thankful for this day."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

2007 - a year w/out prizes....

The Pulitzer Pause


[from The Nation, April 20, 2007]

They handed out the Pulitzer Prizes for journalism the other day. All the recipients seem meritorious enough, but the worthies who chose the winners should not have bothered; 2007 ought to have been a year without prizes.

Call it the Pulitzer Pause. The special occasion when American journalism ceased, for one twelve-month month period, to heap prizes, awards, honors and distinctions on itself.

By doing what they always do at this time of year, the eighteen members of The Pulitzer Prize board affirmed that all is right with American journalism and all involved in it should continue to observe its practices and rituals. To do otherwise would come as a surprise to anyone who has read the names of the board members.

Six of the board members listed on the Pulitzer website are academics who must wage a daily struggle to stay out of cuckoo-land. Twelve others are newspaper editors, CEOs or publishers--with the exception of the New York Times's Thomas L. Friedman, whose track record is too well-known to need expansion here. In short, these are some of the chief people who have presided over the ruinous state of the news business. Their counterparts in broadcast journalism, who have as much to answer for as they, do not sit on the Pulitzer board. They sit on other boards and hand out similar awards and prizes, all of which, taken together, amount to little more than lavish self-praise for the newspaper and broadcast news industry.

It has been during the arc of the business and professional careers of these men and women that much, even most, of the nation's young people have given up on the news. As the grand poobahs of journalism have failed to attract readers and viewers, they have also failed as businesspeople. Revenues in the newspaper industry decline, while profits are maintained by cutting staff, pulling back, shrinking the size of the pages, closing foreign bureaus and working harder to offer the diminishing news-consuming public a qualitatively ever more meager product.

The most outstanding accomplishment of this cohort of spearless news-industry leaders has been to lose the trust, confidence and interest of a generation of Americans. Their crowning achievement, of course, is Iraq. The coverage leading up to and during the Iraq War is a self-inflicted wound for which journalism will be paying for years to come. And the disaster continues, as the handling of George W. Bush's "surge" illustrates.

It remains to be seen how the lost millions of readers and viewers can be won back. As of now that's not going to happen because mainstream media stands confused and baffled. There is no business plan, there is no news plan, there is no plan, there is no strong voice, there is no moral center.

Under the circumstances a Pulitzer board made of tougher and more imaginative people might have suggested we take a holiday from self-praise. They might have proposed to go on retreat for a year of self-examination, a year in which all of journalism--and not just the lowly reporters--huddle together, not to utter empty mea culpas but to think through how the lost generation can be reclaimed, how the business can be righted, how the public trust can be re-won.

But that will not happen. So go ahead, pass out the awards and the prizes, guys, and forget the historic truth: When we most needed it, journalism failed us.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Emerson on theyesayes, sometimes.

An eye can threaten
like a loaded and leveled gun,
or it can insult like hissing
or kicking; or, in its altered mood,
by beams of kindness, it can make
the heart dance for joy.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Ordinary people are now becoming a little worried, she says"

from the BBC

US 'Iran attack plans' revealed

USS John C Stennis is being deployed to the Persian GulfUS contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment. The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.
But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.

That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.
Two triggers BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.

The Natanz plant is buried under concrete, metal and earthAlternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

Long range B2 stealth bombers would drop so-called "bunker-busting" bombs in an effort to penetrate the Natanz site, which is buried some 25m (27 yards) underground. The BBC's Tehran correspondent Frances Harrison says the news that there are now two possible triggers for an attack is a concern to Iranians. Authorities insist there is no cause for alarm but ordinary people are now becoming a little worried, she says.

Earlier this month US officers in Iraq said they had evidence Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi Shia militias. However the most senior US military officer later cast doubt on this, saying that they only had proof that weapons "made in Iran" were being used in Iraq.

Gen Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said he did not know that the Iranian government "clearly knows or is complicit" in this. At the time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the accusations were "excuses to prolong the stay" of US forces in Iraq.

Middle East analysts have recently voiced their fears of catastrophic consequences for any such US attack on Iran. Britain's previous ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton, told the BBC it would backfire badly by probably encouraging the Iranian government to develop a nuclear weapon in the long term.

Last year Iran resumed uranium enrichment - a process that can make fuel for power stations or, if greatly enriched, material for a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its programme is for civil use only, but Western countries suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. The UN Security Council has called on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium by 21 February.

If it does not, and if the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms this, the resolution says that further economic sanctions will be considered.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Blogger Link Be-Gones

Well, I have a big problem with this new blogger. I have no scroll bar on the right side of my screen which makes it impossible for me to check in on any of the links near the bottom of my list. And let's face it, unless we have a readership like the DailyKoz most of us are probably the only ones who ever give our own links more than a quick glance or two. Link owners no doubt check out those of us who showcase them but, otherwise, I've never had anyone comment on any of my links. Occasionally, I've had people campaign for one. Once I was dating a man who seemed to think my readers would be interested in the archived Advanced Algebra & Calculus lectures he kept online for his students. Okey-Dokey, as my father used to say.

Anyone else find themselves in this no scroll predicament?

New Blogger does now have a field at the bottom right hand corner of this "new post" block. I have an option entitled "Labels for this post: e.g. scooters, vacation, fall" One has to wonder if an ER nurse is making a little extra dough writing template copy for the Google boys. Well, either that or it's the same writers who come up with those funny ha-ha profile questions.

Can you tell I'm having a wee bit of adjustment anxiety/problems with this new system. I want old style blogger back, pretty please :-)

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Weight

I once fell in love w/ a man mostly because he included this song & the Chicken Chokers on the same mixed tape.
Steve Earle, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings -

Tribute to Gram Parsons

Monday, February 05, 2007

Yet Another Blog and Rediscovered "Fish"

Well, I figured if One Ring Zero cold geek out, as they put it, and do myspace then, why not me? Truth is I've had an account with them since 2005 I've just never done anything with it. I've added a link on here to my space "space". It's kind of fun. Just about everyone is on there and catching up w/ people you haven't seen in a long time is a blast - as is friend-ing with favorite local musicians. For the most part, people on there are very nice.

Speaking of One Ring Zero, I received a nice note from Joshua Camp (one Ring and Hang the Lights)on the topic of the Coelacanth* - the name of that women's publishing collective I belonged to/co-founded in Baltimore years ago and now a reference in a Camp-penned song. The drawing Hang the Lights has on it's myspace song player of the rediscovered fish is, I think, the very one we used as our logo all those years ago. Cool. Gina Guitierrez was the groovy gal behind that find and the writer of the Coelacanth poem that inspired our name.

Well, there you go - another brush with greatness - laughing!

The Coelacanth species is closely related to the lungfish and was believed to have been extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period (this predates the dinosaurs by a little over 300 milliona years if memory serves - and it may not), until a live specimen was found off the east coast of South Africa, off the Chalumna River in 1938. Since then, they have been found in the Comoros, Sulawesi (Indonesia), Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park in South Africa, and more recently, sister-species in Sulawesi, Indonesia, strikingly increasing the geographical distribution ascribed to this species. Coelacanth is often referred to as the "living fossil" fish.

Above photo is Coelcanth re-discoverer Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer w/ the aforementioned Chalumna River catch.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oh Molly.....

what a day....what a day. Dear Miss Molly have a wonderful journey, leaving shoes and cares behind. Thanks for being a strong, out-spoken, completely unapologetic southern broad.

excerpted from Kelley Shannon, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas - Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as "Shrub," died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62. Ivins died at her home while in hospice care, said David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, where Ivins had once been co-editor.

Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins' illness did not appear to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

"I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq. "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"

Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."

Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power.

"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point," she wrote in a 1997 column. "Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."

In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me."

Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature the best free entertainment in Austin.

"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column.

Born Mary Tyler Ivins in California, she grew up in Houston. She graduated from Smith College in 1966 and attended Columbia University's journalism school. She also studied for a year at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.

Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department [hilarious] of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the first woman police reporter in the city.

Ivins counted as her highest honors the Minneapolis police force's decision to name its mascot pig after her and her getting banned from the campus of Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the Creators Syndicate Web site.

In the late 1960s, according to the syndicate, she was assigned to a beat called "Movements for Social Change" and wrote about "angry blacks, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."

Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics and literature. She joined The New York Times in 1976, working first as a political reporter in New York and later as Rocky Mountain bureau chief. But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman. "She was just like a force of nature," Sargent said. "She was just always on and sharp and witty and funny and was one of a kind."

Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.

She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and she had a recurrence in 2003. Her latest diagnosis came around Thanksgiving 2005.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Have you been arrested yet?"

One of my fondest memories (besides doing the sun salutation in the parking lot of a Waffle House) of a trek to Fort Benning 5 years ago was having breakfast on Sunday morning w/ Laura and Erica. At a table nearby were three women dressed to the nines and who appeared to be in their seventies. One leaned over to our table and whispered, "Are you girls here for the protest?" When we answered in the affirmative, she then asked in a much louder voice, "Oh great, have you been arrested yet?"

from today's Common Dreams

SOA Protesters Sentenced
by Alan Riquelmy

Sixteen protesters at November's SOA Watch rally were sentenced in U.S. Magistrate Court on Monday for trespassing onto Fort Benning.

The trespassers, ranging in ages from 17 to 71, stood in judgment before U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth, who has jurisdiction over the misdemeanor offense. He listened throughout the morning and into the afternoon as 15 of the accused entered guilty pleas, then read from written statements or spoke from memory about why they chose to illegally step onto federal property on Nov. 19.

Joshua Harris, 30, from Claremont, Calif., makes a statement Monday morning from the steps of the federal courthouse in Columbus. Harris is one of the 16 people sentenced for trespassing on Fort Benning property during the annual SOA Watch protest at the post's main gate. Harris was one of five who made statements Monday morning. He was sentenced to 60 days in prison.

Grayman Ward, 20, of Raleigh, N.C., was the only one to plead no contest to entering military, naval or Coast Guard property -- a federal crime that carries a maximum sentence of six months. He lost his job when his employer found out about his arrest.

Faircloth found Ward guilty and sentenced him to 30 days in prison, but not before Ward took the opportunity to sing a song by David Rovics. "We're here at Fort Benning. Please excuse me while I state: If you're here looking for weapons, you'll find them behind that gate," Ward recited in singsong. "You're not making it to Hollywood," Faircloth said after hearing from Ward.

Most of those who signed written statements stipulating they had trespassed onto post entered through a cut in a fence, but Melissa Helman, 23, of Ashland, Wis., says she climbed a fence to get on post. "I admire your spunk," Faircloth said. "Those are some pretty high fences." Helman made reference to what she called the massacre of hundreds of people in 2004 by soldiers under the command of those trained at Fort Benning. "I'm not guilty of a criminal act," she said. "But I am guilty of being a conscious individual." Helman received a 60-day sentence, though like the other trespassers sentenced on Monday, she doesn't have to report to prison until notified by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Joshua Harris, 30, of Claremont, Calif., was the only trespasser to represent himself. He shares Helman's sentiment about the criminality of his actions, saying the law is concerned about what he did and not why he did it. "People have gone to jail in the past for their convictions, and so will I," he said. "I do not feel I am guilty of a crime." Harris was sentenced to 60 days.

Sheila Salmon, 71, of Sebastian, Fla., told Faircloth she has protested at the SOA Watch for the past four years. A member of the Sisters of Humility of Mary, Salmon crossed the line in 2000. "I am a Christian, and I have no choice but to follow in Jesus' footsteps," she said.

Margaret Bryant-Gainer, 38, of Shenandoah Junction, W. Va., had already spent 71 days in jail when she appeared in court Monday. She was the lone trespasser who declined to make bond and has been in the jail since her arrest. Bryant-Gainer was sentenced to time served and released.

Tina Busch-Nema, 48, of Kirkwood, Mo., said a word many trespassers uttered in court on Monday -- love. "My civil disobedience is an act of loving other people," she said. Before her sentencing, Busch-Nema gave Faircloth a drawing one of her children had done. It appeared to be done in crayon -- a child's drawing of a judge in robes.
Faircloth told her he has defended and will continue to defend the right to protest, but within the law's restrictions. "And that's where it stops," he said.

Protesters gathered under the SOA Watch banner in November for an annual demonstration against the School of the Americas, which was abolished by Congress and reconstituted under new guidelines and goals as the Western Hemisphere Instituted for Security and Cooperation. The protesters call for closure of the institute, citing participation by many School of the Americas graduates in atrocities committed in Latin American countries.

© 2007 Ledger-Enquirer and wire service sources

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"the stern, withholding mothership"

from today's Art Forum Gossip link. by Rhonda Lieberman. Check out the picture - nice to see the Guerilla Girls in action. I was just referencing them!

Friday I attended the first half of a two-day symposium at MoMA on “The Feminist Future: Theory and Practice in the Visual Arts.” The sold-out Roy and Niuta Titus Theater was packed with vintage women artists, as well as chroniclers, comrades, and frenemies, whether they identified with the “f-word” or not. Thankfully, not much time was wasted quibbling over that, as is customary in such situations, though one questioner did complain about the “c-word,” which she found as deeply offensive as the “n-word.” The lady next to me wondered, “What’s the n-word?” Oy. I helpfully wrote it on her program. She later crossed it out.

The day started with palpable excitement. It seemed a roomful of underacknowledged women artists were about to taste vindication at MoMA, the stern, withholding mothership. The venerable Lucy Lippard kicked things off with a mini-history of our struggles, contrasting early feminist ideals of community and revolution to the more cynical early-twenty-first-century careerism. To an art history student who earnestly asked how to overcome her peers’ allergy to the “f-word,” the sage elder replied: “It hurts our feelings when people don’t want to use the word feminist.” See? Feminists can be funny! Lippard went on to marvel that this conference was the “biggest sellout the museum ever had for such an event”—then quickly chuckled at her own hilarious Freudian slip.

The morning’s panel was zippy. Coco Fusco, in character as a military drill instructor, gave a brilliant strategy lesson: “Following these tactics, everyone will forget there was supposed to be a feminist future.” For example: “Bitch your way to the bank: Rebellion for rebellion’s sake—bad girls, erratic behavior, erotic exhibitionism—is easily sold,” she advised. More pointers: “The Personal Is the Profitable” (a slide illustrated “The Tracey Emin School of Art: It’s All About Me!”), “Fair and Balanced: Give opponents to feminism a place at every table as if they are a disadvantaged minority,” and, of course, “Tokenism, not Quotas.” If anyone asked, as many did at the end of the day, what any of the mostly historical talks had to do with the “feminist future,” I would refer them back to Fusco’s spot-on diagnosis.

It was gratifying and a bit weird to see the Guerrilla Girls do their shtick at this museum, whose paltry representation of women inspired their oeuvre. Alas, their material remains true, outrageous, and provocative despite the fact that they are now museum pieces themselves. And like the best vintage fashion, the black gorilla heads are still fab on the dais, transforming their co-panelists—and the entire room—into their “straight men”: “Keep Making Trouble,” the masked avengers advised. “Keep finding better ways to do it.”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Good Grief "Literary" News

According to the terms of a lawsuit settlement reached with 12 angry readers of A Million Little Pieces, hell-hath-no-fury-like-an-Oprah-scorned author/victim James Frey and his publisher, Random House, have agreed to pay $2.35 million -- to "cover the cost of refunding customers, the lawyers' fees for both sides and a yet-to-be-specified donation to charity." Non-litigious readers are also eligible for a refund. Apparently you can send pg. 163 of the hardcover to Random House and get a check for $23.95 or send the front cover of the paperback and receive $14.95.

On any given day, the corporately owned American news media lies to its readers much more than Mr. Frey ever did in his book. Might I suggest Fariness and Accuracy in Media Reporting ( as the recipient of this "yet-to-be-specified" charitable donation. Boycott the refund. Wow, never thought I'd be saying that, much less defending Frey and his book. Now if the "12 angry readers" had filed a suit based upon the book's literary merits........

Poor Jim.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Lead Singer is Distracting Me

by Juan Martinez

The lead singer should really stick to the part where he sings and not come right up to me. I'm the guitar player, and I know that this is pretty much standard rock-and-roll practice, but it is distracting. It is hindering my ability to perform my guitar-playing duties. Because it isn't like I was ever, like, into dancing—like having this really intense moment where the singer is half an inch from my nose and we're both doing the same thing, like we're Rockettes.

I am more about looking down at the ground and thinking about trying not to mess up. And hoping really hard that I am not about to mess up. It's hard! I play these arpeggios where I'm—woosh—all over the frets! All over! And then you have this jackass with bad breath right in your face. The lead singer should brush his teeth, but that's neither here nor there.

Also, I am a guitar player. I am a guitar player because I like to stay in my room and play guitar. All the time. Pretty much from, like, age 10 till, like, five minutes ago. If you are a guitar player, the whole point is that you are out there playing an instrument, which requires effort and concentration, which means you're not all that into people. And then you're touring, there's people everywhere, you're rushed onstage, and there's thousands of people all being way too loud—so it's stressful enough.

And there's the lead singer, who never seems to have any of these problems, and he wants you to dance with him. And all you want to do is play the right notes. Which is hard enough when you're playing as fast as we play.

It is harder still when the lead singer does his air-guitar thing, like he's so into what you're playing that he has to play it, too. But he is playing the wrong notes. He's just moving his hands around. It doesn't matter that it's air guitar, since you are looking at him playing the wrong notes, and you're scrambling to erase those hands from your memory, and you're thinking, "I was only three credits short of the marine-biology degree. Dolphins are jerks, too, but they are not as inconsiderate as lead singers."

Also, personal space? Because it's not like we're all crunched together when we're playing Halo 2 on the bus. Who wants to be all crunched together? Not the lead singer! Which is why we are not allowed to look at him when we eat. When we're at McDonald's, he is to go in first, order, and then we can go in, but we are not to look at him. We are to sit on the opposite end and stare at the calorie counts printed on the paper mats.

And so this is something, I think, that could translate to the stage. We could all just stick to our respective spots. We could still rock, but we wouldn't have to move around so much and distract each other. The lead singer wouldn't get so sweaty, with all the jumping and air-guitaring and moving around and that desperate look in his eyes, that one that says Please play along. It could be classy! Like when we had the symphony: the cellists weren't coming up to the violinists to show them how much they were digging what the violin people were doing. We should try it. Also, I would like more solos.

New Boots, Smelly Stuff & Love

I had a lovely and amazing thing happen today. I've been recovering from the rather dreary circumstance of having contracted a bit of frost bite on three toes. No real drama to that story - just the inevitable circumstance of being a pedestrian in winter in the Midwest. Well, one with apparently not so great poor circulation that is.

Anyway, I was having lunch with my friend Ann today and I mentioned this to her. I have not really told anyone about this because it seems silly and, well, a little embarrassing. Ann did the most remarkable thing - she drove us to a local department store and bought me an pair of incredible boots. They're lined with sheepskin and, my God, are they comfortable - and warm. Wearing them feels almost like walking on silk. Ann once got frost bite (it's not that difficult to do) and understands the discomfort of the healing process. I guess it will now be rather important to keep my feet warm - esp. "my left foot" for the next 3 years. She's a tremendously kind woman.

It's been quite a week in that department, actually.

On Monday I was really down and feeling spiritually bereft - among other things. Jan. 16 was my belated father's birthday and I found myself just blind-sinded with grief. I called Sandy and she decided I needed a bit of pampering so she brought over some bubble bath and lotion. It was just the ticket. Later that night she and her fiance Jerry picked me up to go out and he told me that when they first got together she took him to Younkers and forced him to pick out a cologne he liked to buy him. Sandy said her simple secret plan for helping everyone is just to give them "smelly stuff."

Oh, I almost forgot, yesterday Joan brought me cake and casserole. It's been a hard week but, man, have I been blessed with some big Love to help get me through it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"everyday, everyday, everday I write the book"

...I could send a picture of that spoon to someone and have them know just exactly what I mean. ...given word is often shortly followed by the image. ...quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. a danger to the democracy that we hold so dear. architect, insisted that he should become a scientist like his brother. ...characters must be allowed to breathe their own air.

(unmask yourself, sweet muse)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In Women's News

Menopause at 30 for Millions in Poverty

by Jeremy Page

Millions of women in India are going through the menopause as young as 30 because of chronic malnutrition and poverty, according to a study by a prominent Indian think-tank.

The research suggests that almost one in five women in the country have gone through the menopause by the age of 41.

Malnutrition is believed to be a contributory factor, particularly in rural areas, although the study did not address the causes. Yesterday doctors called for further research into the condition.

The study, by the Institute for Social and Economic Change, based in Bangalore, found that 3.1 per cent of Indian women — about 17 million — reached menopause between the ages of 30 and 34. Eight per cent ( 44 million) are in menopause by the time they are 39, the institute’s study showed, while 19 per cent have gone through “the change of life” by the age of 41.

Medical experts say that natural menopause, when the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, with the global mean being 51. Premature menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation before the age of 40 and affects an estimated 1 per cent of women worldwide.

“It is very clear that a significant proportion of women in India are reaching menopause prematurely,” wrote Dr T. S. Syamala and Dr M. Sivakami in the study, which has been presented to the Indian Parliament. “This is significant because most health programmes in India focus on women of reproductive age,” Dr Syamala told The Times. “It is high time that we started to focus on post-menopausal women because of increasing life expectancy in India and because of the health risks associated with premature menopause.”

The study was based on a National Family Health Survey carried out in 1998 and 1999 and examined a sample of more than 90,000 married women aged between 15 and 49 across 26 Indian states. It did not examine the physiological reasons for the higher rates of premature menopause in India — where the average menopausal age is 44.3 years.

It found that the problem was much more common in rural areas, among agricultural workers, and among women who were illiterate and had a low body mass index. “Most of these women are malnourished and that could be one of the main reasons for premature menopause,” said Dr Syamala.

The study also found that the proportion of menopausal women aged between 30 and 49 was highest in the populous agricultural states of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar and lowest in Kerala, West Bengal and Rajasthan.

Some health experts questioned the study’s methods and conclusions and called for more focused research into the problem. “I’m not surprised, except that it’s interesting to hear figures being specified in this way,” said Urvashi Jha, founder and former president of the Indian Menopause Society. “I tend to be quite cynical about these sort of statistics, but we definitely need more research into this important field.”

Dr Jha and Dr Syamala called on Indian health authorities to devote more resources to post-menopausal women, especially in rural areas where hormone replacement therapy is unavailable.

“India’s overburdened and underfunded public healthcare system has no special programmes for older women,” the study concluded.

Copyright 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Merrill Interview

Here is a sneak preview of my interview with Christopher Merrill which will be in the February issue of the Iowa Source. Enjoy.

CHRISTOPHER MERRILL’s books include four collections of poetry, among them, Watch Fire, for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations; several edited volumes; and three books of nonfiction, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer; The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee; and Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. He works as a literary critic and journalist, and his writings have been translated into twenty-five languages. He has held the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, and now directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa . He and his wife, the violinist Lisa Gowdy-Merrill, have two daughters, Hannah and Abigail.

His most recent book, Things of the Hidden God (Random House, 2005), is a gripping account of the transforming pilgrimages he made to Mount Athos, in northern Greece, in the aftermath of his reporting of the Balkan wars. “It was time for me to come to terms with the way my life had turned out: the love I had squandered, the misgivings I had about my vocation and my faith, the dread I felt at every turn.”

MW: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. The theme of our February issue is “love.” In Things of the Hidden God, you write about a personal transformation stemming from of a time of deep despair in your life - a marriage in tatters, poetry replaced by war reporting in the Balkans, a health crisis that your age suggested was but a temporary reprieve, and an overwhelming sense of dread. You have said that in making these pilgrimages to Mount Athos (a small peninsula in the Aegean Sea with twenty monasteries, hundreds of smaller settlements, and a population of more than two thousand monks—the center of Eastern Orthodox Christian for over a thousand years) you traded “the physical risks of covering the breakup of Yugoslavia for the psychic ones of opening your heart to the possibility of grace.” This was a search, it could be said, for the redemptive power of God’s love. In this respect I consider your book to be a great love story, would you agree?

CM: Very much so. In this book I tried to come to terms with various forms of love—spiritual, physical, marital, filial, paternal, vocational—because the crises I was navigating through an ancient faith were all rooted in love—of the world, of my wife and infant daughter, of poetry. Several years of war reporting had brought into sharp relief the consequences of not attending to what most mattered in my life, and my sense of being unmoored from all that I loved carried for me spiritual significance; hence the desire to go on a pilgrimage, with the hope that I might my way back to the center.

MW: Can you tell us about your religious background?

CM: I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, where I remain, notwithstanding my attraction to Orthodoxy. My uncle, who is my godfather, is an Episcopal priest, my spiritual father is a monk in the Old Calendar Church , and so I am torn between these two glorious traditions. I am trying to discern my way forward.

MW: In the book you write about the inherent problem of the Western, skeptically trained mind wrestling with the concept that in Orthodoxy insight trumps logic. You speak of your own difficulties with this, even with the understanding that a radical overturning of everything you knew was necessary to the conversion experience you were seeking. In this interpretation of the Gospels, the invisible outweighs what we can see with the naked eye - not unlike the difference between fact and metaphor or prose and poetry and a direct experience with God means more than rational proof of his existence. This is, of course, a problem for many intellectuals and is converse to the principles of accepted scientific method. Those who do not reject the idea of God out of hand find it preferable to study the concept of God than to open oneself to the actual experience of grace. Can you tell about your personal experience of this – how you put aside your rational, intellectual mind in order to experience God personally? And, do you think you would have undertaken this search if not for the despair you found yourself in?

CM: First, it is important to note that I was seeking not to convert to Christianity but rather to deepen the faith that I had practiced since childhood. But as you rightly note this requires a continual opening of one’s heart to the possibility of grace—not exactly a hot topic of conversation on the literary circuit. Nor does this leap into the dark require a divorce between faith and reason. Many great writers through the ages have been believers, and no one questions their intellectual gifts. Faith can be informed by doubt, which is why the pillars of Orthodox theology—penitence, purification, and prayer—are designed to serve whatever intellectual bearing one might possess. Indeed my spiritual father, who has a doctorate in psychology, is better versed in the scientific method than many atheists I know, and I would never presume to question his analytical powers. Richard Dawkins notwithstanding, there is more mystery to the universe than anyone can account for.

As for my own search: no doubt despair played a crucial role in my decision to travel to Mount Athos . And what I learned there is that whatever progress I might make in the spiritual life will be conditioned by my willingness to open myself up to God. Needless to say, I have a very long way to go.

MW: I have always described my own intentions as a poet to be to speak to that which lies beyond language. I sometimes feel overwhelmed (in writing) by the inherent difficulties of this paradox - of using language to speak to that which, ultimately, lies beyond language. The analogy between poetry and prose as it pertains to Orthodoxy suggests that this sometimes is the great challenge for poets. You have said you often feel much older after finishing a poem than when you began it. Do you think poetry may be more helpful to the reader in abandoning the rational mind and opening it to the possibility and mystery of the experience of grace?

CM: The experience of reading and writing poetry is not a matter of abandoning one’s rational thought processes, but of opening oneself up to another way of thinking, which embodies the full range of mental activity—imaginative and discursive, analytical and rhythmical. This is not unlike the experience of prayer, particularly the praying of the Psalms, which are poetry of the highest order: one hundred and fifty divine gifts.

MW: On this topic, what do you consider to be the relationship between poetry and God?

CM: I had the good fortune at Epiphany to attend the sung Eucharist in St. Paul’s Cathedral, where John Donne preached in the 1620s, and in his poems and sermons he spells out the proper relationship between mankind and God, which of course includes poetry and which may be summed up in one of his lines: “All the way to Heaven is Heaven.”

MW: Who are the poets you consider to be the most sacred? You’ve called Emily Dickinson “the mother of our poetic search for the divine”? Who else do you especially admire?

CM: The Psalmist, Chaucer, Donne, Herbert, Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Whitman, Hopkins, Hardy, Frost, Eliot, Williams, Stevens, St.-John Perse, Breton, Char, Elytis, Seferis, Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Montale, Lowell, Bishop, Wilbur, Merwin, Geoffrey Hill, John Ashbery—the list is endless.

MW: Do you have any psalms that are particular favorites?

CM: Psalm 22, the psalm of Christ’s Passion.

MW: You say you find the school of confessional poets boring and yet you have written a memoir – a genre many consider confessional by nature? What do you consider to be the difference between these two and, specifically, what it is about the sharing of personal experience in prose that has the potential to be of more interest and use to the reader, if you feel this to be the case?

CM: What bores me is derivative literature, whether it is confessional, surrealist, traditional, or experimental. Period styles—and I have lived through several literary periods—are the background noise in which the writer seeks to hear his or her own voice. Yes, my book is confessional, but I hope that it also contains enough vivid description of Mount Athos, its landscape, churches, art, and holy men, as well as of its history and theology to raise the narrative above the standard memoir. My experience is less important than what I might convey about the mystery and importance of this sacred place.

CM: W. S. Merwin said of Things of the Hidden God, “ Mount Athos is a spectacular and spellbinding place, mysterious and magnetic, dedicated to its own secrets. Mr. Merrill’s intimately conceived and beautifully told tribute to his deepening relation to the lure of Athos and its traditions, and the discoveries to which it has led him, is a rich and revealing personal chronicle.” High praise indeed! I will forever associate Merwin with William Stafford. Merwin, our most elegant living poet, read at Shambaugh shortly after Stafford 's death. He said Stafford was one of those rare things, a truly great poet and, also, a truly decent human being. Stafford was a man of great faith. What are the ways in which your search for, and faith in, God has influenced your work and character – do you feel it has it made you a better poet and person?

CM: What good fortune it has been for me to know and be friends with William Merwin. My wife and I used to take care of his house, dogs, and magnificent gardens in Maui , and I remember those weeks tending to thousands of endangered palms that he had saved from around the world as a blessing. His poetry, prose, and translations; his independence and integrity; his kindness—these are for me a model of being in the world.

I feel a similar gratitude toward William Stafford, although I did not know him very well. But his ideas about writing, his attentiveness, his basic decency, were from the beginning a spur to me. And I continue to read his poems with great pleasure.

Christian doctrine makes plain that God will judge the role that faith has played in my own work and character. Like any sinner, I can only pray for mercy.

MW: Would you talk about the ways in with your faith has evolved since the writing of the book? Do you have a daily spiritual practice?

I suspect that one’s faith evolves, often in ways that one may not grasp until much later—if at all. I hope—and I pray daily—that my faith is deepening.

MW: Do you, or have you, ever pray(ed) on your knees?

CM: I have, and I do.

MW: Which do you consider the greater sin – spiritual indifference or religious leaders who preach intolerance and hatred?

CM: It is not for me to judge the relative gravity of a sin, although it occurs to me that these two sins are related, since each derives from a sense of certainty, either of God’s absence or of His plan for mankind. Uncertainty is my lot, and I am more interested in discerning what God may have in mind for me than in passing judgment on what others believe.

MW: In what ways did you find the ancient lifestyle at Mount Athos beneficial or instructive to your spiritual practice? Do you find yourself longing for this sort of ascetic approach to the world? Do you feel it can enhance one’s spiritual life?

CM: Asceticism is integral to mindfulness: one fasts not to starve oneself but to be mindful of one’s appetites. And this holds for every aspect of one’s spiritual practice, which teaches us how to live in the present, while remaining mindful of eternity.

MW: You have said that your experiences in the Balkan wars darkened your view of the world—that the events you witnessed made you question your belief in human decency. How has the evolution of your faith affected these feelings? What insights, if any, have you gained about man’s capacity for cruelty toward one another? Do you believe there is anything to be gained spiritually from suffering?

CM: In my book I discuss theodicy—the Christian doctrine that seeks to account for God’s omnipotence and goodness in the face of evil—and this has given me a framework within which to understand man’s capacity for cruelty, which as we know is limitless. Because we are blessed with free will, we may decide to ignore the moral imperatives spelled out in all of the great religions, as a host of recent examples makes plain—9/11, the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, the beheadings in Baghdad . But what faith instills in us is a sense of obligation to counter evil, within and without.

Suffering is integral to existence, and what every religion teaches is how to transform that suffering into faith. This may seem like small consolation in the wake of a tragedy, but it is for many of what suffices in our darkest moments.

MW: What music moves you, turns you on? Which visual artists?

CM: I am married to a violinist, and so there is classical music playing at all hours of the day and night in my house. I like to listen to everything from medieval chant to Bob Dylan, with a particular interest in folk music. My favorite new band is Destroyer, and I’ve been playing a lot of Keith Jarrett on my travels. Among visual artists I am drawn especially to Vermeer, Monet, Cezanne, Kandinsky, Chagall, Edward Hopper, Joseph Cornell, and Mark Rothko. I published a book on Georgia O’Keeffe when I lived in Santa Fe , and her vision is an abiding influence on me. Likewise the anonymous icon painters whose works grace the churches on the Holy Mountain . I saw a marvelous exhibit of David Smith’s sculptures at the Tate, which featured an old television interview with Frank O’Hara. The poet’s extraordinarily intelligent consideration of the sculptor’s work has inspired in me new ideas about the relationship between the two art forms.

MW: How do you define love?

CM: There is no better definition of love than what the Apostle wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians—the key passage in the Christian marriage ceremony: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” That Christians often forget their wedding vows is no reason to imagine that Paul’s definition has lost its currency.

MW: Lastly, how do you feel about being referred to as “ever God’s fool”?

CM: I can think of many worse things to be called than that!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Some Skeevy Bacteria

I was just skipping around the internet looking for volunteer opportunities. I was checking out the Table to Table website. Table to Table is topnotch organization that collects food from grocery stores, food warehouses, restaurants and local farms (primarily the organic ones) that for one reason or another can no longer be sold or served and redistributes it to local non-profits that feed the poor, homeless and hungry.

Okay I am going to out and out brag about something here because I take some credit (and pride) in the food donor profile listed at the bottom of this post. Actually, truth is I'm gonna brag and kevetch (sp?) a bit too. I worked briefly as a catering supervisor for the Iowa Memorial Union in 1995-1996. When I worked there, the IMU had a policy that all uneaten/unused food had to be immediately disposed of for "legal" reasons - you know, a one in a billion chance the pasta salad had picked up some skeevy bacteria and the recipient "soup kitchen" would sue them - soup kitchens are, of course, notoriously litigious. Thank you actuarial scientists - not! I found this policy, well, unethical and decided to change it, in a guerrilla-esque (from the bottom up) fashion - pretty much the most effective way to get anything done in a state run (read: bureacratic) institution.

So I met with the drivers in the delivery department and asked them if, in their off hours, they would take all the leftover food to places like the Emergency Housing Project, the Crisis Center, the Domestic Violence Shelter and the Free Lunch Program. Table to Table was not around back then. The drivers were more than happy to comply. I got a begruding nod of consent from a supervisor after promising to get the food to its destination within 1 hour of the end of each event. After only 2 weeks of semi-covert operation, almost every member of the all student staff was enthusiastically involved in this project. One of Iowa City's most talented musicians, James Robinson* of the Mayflies (and Pultizer Prize winner Marilynne's son), was a driver for IMU back then and an eager participant. Apparently having a conscience runs in the family. Sally who has the super cool fabric shop on Muscatine was also around then. Hey, shop at Sally's and go hear the Mayflies - support the peeps who have been involved in doing good stuff in our community.

Anyway, it may go without saying that my tenure at the IMU was brief (I am no longer prone to such guerilla-esque strategies in the workplace, BTW.) Shortly after starting my job there, I suffered an overwhelmingly intense (is that redundant?) bout of depression for which my doctor insisted I receive inpatient care. After discharge, against the sage advice of my boss's boss, Sandra (who I really like and admire), I told all my peer supervisors the reason for my abscence at our next staff meeting. I was incredibly naive about the prejudice and judgmentalism directed toward those with a "mental health" issue. Two weeks later I was let go, 4 weeks short of the end of my probationary period (i.e having full union protection), for not coming to work on a day I was in North Carolina and had been given approved time off.

The really interesting postscript to this story in that according to the University of Iowa, I never worked in the catering department and certainly was never a supervisor. My official work transcript says I was employed by the Department of Russian as a payroll clerk. Why? At one point I employed the services of an attorney who insisted I had can't lose discrimination case. In the end, I dropped the thing. I find the whole business of sue-you v. sue-me pretty distasteful and I was still so depressed at the time I was not entirely certain I was not somehow to blame.

So, speaking of taste, here's the bottom line - Barry Greenberg (never my favorite staffer and speaking of bragging, I mean, think about this guy's quotation a minute -he is telling a beautiful non-profit organization that is committed to feeding the hungry that "finding recipients for [his] food is a great mission they should be proud of" -sheesh) is "proudly" representing the generosity of the Iowa Memorial Union's donation of food to Table to Table and that is great. My tenure there was brief but the impact my time there is alive and well, in the very best of ways. I am really proud of that. Am I a bit peeved that Greenberg is the spokesman for what was basically my puppy? Sure. Would I like a little credit for it? Absolutely (and I'm getting it - sometimes it's a-okay to do these things for yourself.) Hey, I'm human but, ultimately, the bottom line here is that people who need food are getting it.

I don't think I've told more than a couple of people about starting that whole business up but I'm sure there are those who know and remember. Sally and, possibly, James. I know my co-supervisors remember but, unfortunately, I never worked there which reminds me I keep meaning to call up the Department of Russian and find out what kind of a payroll clerk I was. I swear, I tell my family these stories and they do not frggin' believe me. Another episode of "That's Inmegable!" There is no pity in this for anyone out there reading for the self-pity police. It's just absurd and friggin' hilarious. As I always say, if you can't laugh at yourself stay out of my revolution, please.

And the donor profile reads as:

"The University of Iowa-Memorial Union Food Service is thankful for the work Table to Table does for our community. Finding recipients for our extra food is a great mission that you should all be proud of. We appreciate your efforts and will continue our support to help you reach your goals."

Barry Greenberg
Associate Manager of Food Service
University of Iowa
Iowa Memorial Union

Friday, January 12, 2007

AuthorViews: A Prayer Lost

There are times in your life when what you really need is a cute, Romanian Jew to tell you that you are "really, really, beautiful" and know he means it. I've got your back for that one, Corpse boy.
Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place - Naive Melody

"cover up the blank spots, hit me on the head"
Warren Zevon

Enjoy every sandwich. God, I love this man.
One Ring Zero "Blessing

"bless please the people in art galleries, lonely as a distant train"
One Ring Zero "MC"

"We reject your rejection, Mr. Chabon."
Steve Earle - Hard-core Troubadour

doing community service. song about bruce.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Southern Pit Stop the Arms Race (new version & ending)

A new friend asked me recently to describe what I did during my time as a political organizer. I've not written much about my past and quite diverse work life. An older friend once described me as "veiled", an adjective I was surprised by because my perception of myself is more like a sufferer of social tehret's (sp?)- a woman who offers too much out of the conversational starting gate and, consequently, puts others off. Ahhh, the great etiquette expert.

Note: I'm having a bad night so my self-appraisal skills may be skewed toward meg-flagelation (whip on the back, if you get my drift.)

To some degree, the later may be a cultural difference - the Southern ex-pat living in the Midwest. In the area of the South where I grew up (Charlotte, N.C.), it is perfectly normal to pop into a convenience store for a cup of coffee and a Bama Pecan Pie (oh, baby) and exit only after discovering the clerk working behind the counter, Tina Marie, is dating a man whose son, PJ, just happened to have been the high school beau of your eldest niece, Glenna. Pj is now doing 8 to 10 for vehicular manslaughter.

In turn, you have shared w/ Tina Marie the fact that your daughter has a learning disability, is being placed in Special Ed, has not responded well to medication and your husband is refusing to admit there is any substantive problem so you've been sleeping in separate bedrooms for months. As Tina Marie hands you your change, you tell her to please give PJ Glenna's love the next time she makes it up to Oswald for a visit.

Midwesterners by nature are judiciously more reserved. "Looks like we might get some snow." "Yep." Mountain Dew and Twizzlers have been secured. End of transaction.

Here is the brief (and perfunctory) description of one of my gigs as a professional organizer.

I worked for the Maryland Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze in the mid-80's as one of 2 organizers in the state - as in common place, we had to raise all the money for our own jobs. We did everything from (1) producing the monthly newsletter, preparing it (and all) bulk mailing(s) and navigating the mystery of the various bureaucracies that comprise the main Baltimore Post Office (2) feeding begged for (i.e. donated) chainstore pizza to, and securing housing for, the myriad of groups of hungry & exhausted 100+ (once it was closer to a thousand) walk-across-the-country-for-peace peace marchers, (3)recruiting phone-canvassers and door-knockers for GOTV (get out the vote) campaigns for Freeze-endorsed candidates (we worked for Central American solidarity issue-oriented candidates as well, but sort of "off record") (4) renting and, occasionally, quarelling over the number of port-a-potties necessary to rent for any upcoming ginormous DC rally -- to -- (5) chasing our tails between our legs as we ran our behinds back and forth across the state speaking to community groups, schools, radio and television reporters/hosts (whose cameramen seemed to all share the uncanny ability to eradicate the presence of my chin) about the escalation and enormously devastating effects of the Arms race (6) stomping on Capitol Hill twice a month vying for the attention of elected officials who knew from experience the most they could hope for from us was lunch in the congressional cafeteria w/ a balding geologist from Hopkins while a pack of sweet suits from ,say, GE w/ a set of 23 year old "twins" named Carla & Karla stood behind us waving a corporate gold card over our heads (7) battling no good downtown Balto slumlords, losing, and, subsequently, buying a building collectively with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nuclear Free America (8) having some of the best all around de-stressing from 120-plus-hour-work-weeks fun imaginable (I worked with some of the most generous and wonderful people on the PLANET - only one other staffer but lots of volunteers.) Oh yeah, we also did a lot of fund-raising, administrative everything (all our computing back then was on a Kaypro!), civil disobedience, laughing at ourselves, organizational inventories, random acts of everyday kindness and spent hours and hours working on coming to consensus about all major decisions (more coffee, more pizza more laughter - please!)

Is it time to do this all over again? I am willing - and eager - to do anything that might contribute to stopping the insanity of producing more and more weapons that can annihilate this PLANET (and every gorgeous soul interdepent with her) a thousand times over. The passion I've always felt (and feel) about things - peace and justice issues, poetry, cooking, people, music, film, even blogging (read: writing) - are one the ways God communicates with me. Those things that cry out from my heart to be addressed and nurtured are God-inspired - the great divine and loving heart showing me I can and do love and care. By honoring those things God has so graciously given me to love, I have the incredible opportunity of giving back to God just a tiny fraction of all He has given to me. This ROCKS!

It's so simple, so obvious but given my propensity to overthink everything it's no surprise I should only finally be truly comprehending the beautiful justice of this at the age of 46. I've thought this many times - esp. as it pertained to others - just never really believed it in terms of myself. Why? I suspect like a lot of things in my life, I was going at the thing backwards. I may have been in the right place but I wasn't looking to the right place for the answers - and the solution. As Steve Earle once said about finally figuring out transcedence, "F*ck me." Now there's a man who walks the walk.
X w/ Ray Manzarek interview

Great footage of Exene (for a change!). John Doe and Viggo Mortensen have great taste in women. And, she, in men - lawsuits aside - sheeesh.
X - Fourth of July

One of my all time favorite songs.
John Doe talks about The Knitters

Not nearly long enough but enjoy...

Hotel Yorba!

hotel yorba

I'm so tired of acting tough....

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Exceptional Richard Thompson Video

hey, sorry - for some reason when I put links in here they do not become "clickable". If you dig Thompson, it is well worth the effort to cut & paste this address into your address field or...

Click the link on my page to the New Just for Fun Meg Blog. This video is up and running over there.

See ya'.

p.s. Thank you, thank you Chris M. for this video and the other groovy ones you have sent me. If I knew how, they would be posted here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Want to Get Out of Iraq?

The death count of Iraqi civilians is now estimated to be between 600,000 and 650,000. Monday saw the number of American military deaths top 3,000. Think about that for a moment. Really think about it.

In 2002 there was only one presidential candidate who ran on a platform of ending the invasion of Iraq immediately - Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Consequently, Rep. Kucinich had at that time and, maintians to this day, a voting record in Congress that is 100% consistent with this position. It's excrutiating to consider all the lives that have been lost so that that the giant oil behomoths can reap record profits. It's infuriating. If all the people who agreed with Dennis but thought he was "unelectable" had decided to vote their conscience for a change, who knows, we might have had a shot. As cynical as I can be, it is still my belief that most people will choose intergrity (read:truth) over deceit if given the opportunity. Kucinich has integrity - he told America the truth despite what the pollsters, spin doctors and politcal "experts" advised him. George Bush thrives on deceit. Don't get me started on John Kerry.

Well, we are getting another chance to get this right. Dennis has decided to run again. Read on (be sure to check out the last part where he responds to accusations his candidacies are nothing more than ego-fests.) For some reason, the final refrain of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song about the shooting at Kent State keeps running through my head ---"How many more?" - meg

Rep. Kucinich: Why I’m Running for President

by Joshua Scheer

The six-term Ohio congressman and 2004 presidential candidate, who has been one of Congress’ most vocal and longstanding opponents of the Iraq war, tells Truthdig why he again has his sights set on the Oval Office:

Rep. Kucinch spoke with Truthdig research editor Joshua Scheer*.

TRUTHDIG: What made you decide to run?

KUCINICH: Someone has to rally the American people, to let them know that the money is there right now to bring our troops home. Democrats were put in power in November to chart a new direction in Iraq. It’s inconceivable that having been given the constitutional responsibility to guide the fortunes of America in a new direction, that Democratic leaders would respond by supporting the administration’s call for up to $160 billion in new funding for the war in Iraq.

For me this is a call of conscience to stand up and speak out about what’s going on—to let the American people know that the money is there to bring our troops home now, that we need to begin now to take a new direction in Iraq, and that to pass a supplemental in the spring for another $160 billion would keep the war going until the end of George Bush’s term. Someone needs to stand up and speak out, and I decided it was my responsibility as the person who has been consistently opposed to this war since its inception, who has been a leader in challenging this thinking that led to war, that I would stand up and rally Democrats to change the course that the party has embarked on with respect to continued funding of the war.

TRUTHDIG: This is obviously your major issue, but what other issues are you going to base your campaign on?

KUCINICH: We have to take these things in sequence. From now until the spring, this is the issue: $160 billion is more than three times what the federal education budget is. This is a huge amount of money, and all the other hopes we have as Democrats to create a new agenda for the American people in housing, in healthcare, in education, are going to be destroyed by the administration’s request for $160 billion.

So does that mean I’m a one-issue candidate? Of course not. I’m prepared to lead this country forward to create a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit healthcare system. I’m prepared to lead the way towards policies of environmental sustainability, to develop advanced technologies for alternative energy, for clean energy.

This campaign is about three imperatives: It’s about the imperative of human unity, of recognizing that this is one world, that we are all one, that people all around the world have an underlying connection, that we are interconnected and interdependent. And we need policies that act that interconnection. We need to affirm institutions which support the idea of human unity. And that means that we support the United Nations. It means we support treaties in working with other countries. It means we support the rule of law internationally.

The second imperative is human security, and that security has to deal with basic needs: Each person in the world has a right to survive, a right to food that is fit to eat, and water fit to drink, and air fit to breathe. Each person has a right to a roof over his or her own head. Each person has a right to have clothes on their back. Each person has a right to some means of being able to make a living. Each person has a right to be free of the fear of violence. We have a responsibility to work to secure the world from a nuclear nightmare. We need to look at what we can do to protect peoples everywhere by working for not just nonproliferation, not just disarmament, but nuclear abolition, which in fact was the promise of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The third imperative I’ll discuss in this campaign is the imperative of peace. There are those who believe that war is inevitable. A belief in the inevitability of war makes war a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to be convinced in our innate capability to create structures for peace in our society. We need to be convinced of our potential as a nation to make nonviolence an operating principle in our society. This is the motivating reason behind a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, which addresses directly, in a practical way, the challenge of domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, violence in the school, racial violence, violence against gays, community relations disputes.

The imperatives of human unity, human security, peace, all create a context for human prosperity. We have the potential to create heaven on earth. New Jerusalem is within our reach. It’s waiting to be called forward through the power of courage, emanating through our hearts, through our dreams, which come from the longing of our souls. This truly is a time where we can change the world and create the world that we long for.

TRUTHDIG: You obviously have issues that you care deeply about, and it doesn’t seem like you’re going into this as a sort of popularity contest, but do you think you can win? Do you have a plan to win, say, the South, and parts of the Midwest?

KUCINICH: Yes. The very fact the people put Democrats in power in November over the issue of Iraq means that there exists a tremendous amount of support for affirming the will of the people to set a new course, not only for Iraq but for all of U.S. international policy. That percolation, which resulted in the Democrats gaining control of Congress, is still there. It is fairly astonishing that Democrat leaders would forget that only a month ago we were given the control of the Congress because of Iraq. It is fairly astonishing that less than a month after being given that constitutional obligation to assume a coequal position in the government, [we] would capitulate on Iraq by publicly declaring support for up to $160 billion in additional funding to keep the war going.

I’ve said it before, I’ve said it again: It is not credible to simultaneously say you are opposed to the war and continue to support funding for the war.

So these are some of the reasons why I’m running for president. And I believe that I will win, because people are truly looking for a new direction. Not by incrementalism, not by capitulation, but people are looking for real leadership, people are looking for foresight. And I’ve demonstrated foresight by moving out front very quickly when the administration was talking about attacking Iraq—warning the country that this was folly, warning the country that we needed to avert this conflict, letting Americans know that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 or Al Qaeda’s role in 9/11, that Iraq did not have WMD, did not have the intention or capability of attacking the United States.

Everything I said turned out to be true. People want leaders who know what the right thing is to do in the moment of crisis, not people who will say, years later, “Well, you know, I agree, this is what should have been done.” This is a call for clearsightedness for foresight and for action, and in each case I’ve demonstrated an ability to step forward. And I’m going to do it again, and I expect that the American people are going to respond very powerfully to my candidacy.

TRUTHDIG: John Kerry got tarred with the “flip-flopper” label in 2004 for his perceived wavering on the issue of Iraq. Do you think you’re going to have a better chance than someone like Kerry—or Clinton, who’s also been wishy-washy on some of the issues?

KUCINICH: I haven’t talked about any other candidates, and I’m not going to now. I think that my consistency speaks for itself, and I think that my opposition not only to the authorization for the war but continued opposition to its funding puts me apart from all the other candidates. I’m the only member of the House and Senate who has consistently voted against continued funding for the war.

TRUTHDIG: I saw Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institute on CNN saying that candidacies like yours are just an ego trip. Is this an ego trip for you?

KUCINICH: I’ve spent the last five years of my life warning our nation about the path to war and about our occupation of Iraq. There are probably easier ways to pamper oneself.

*Truthdig interviewer Joshua Scheer worked as an entry-level staffer on Kucinich’s state Senate campaign and was later a summer associate in his congressional office. In this weekly interview series, Rep. Kucinich gives his take on the goings-on in Congress in the wake of the Democrats’ victory.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

some say

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

- Emily Dickinson

The Eye Says Yes (a small variation)

Dear Aaronzruiel,

I have no earthly (!) idea if you are still out there tripping upon my blog on occasion but if you are, thank you for the wake up call. The dawn is slowly rising and it's more than a little bit beautiful - WOW. Please accept my apologies for being a wee bit peckish with you. I have a rather unfortunate habit of doing this with the very people who are doing what I most need - helping me see through the fog when the visibility is about 2 inches and I'm wearing my thickest, darkest shades.

I am still a little bit confused by your GIG on love speech but when you have more time perhaps you will reveal a bit more of your theory? In the mean time I stand corrected, sometimes a table isn't always just a table, it's a place to set the book down with a good cup o' joe and a favorite pen and notebook. There's magic in them there four legs. I've known this forever and yet I never really knew it at all - high learning curve. A thing of the hidden God, I reckon. Yeah, I found the perfect person to interview for my freelance gig. And with that....

love, love, love makes the best of the world go round.

p.s. Dude, you obviously knew who I was all along. No reason to be such a shy-bugaboo. And, sorry, but the White Stripes are friggin' awesome. Hotel Yorba all the way baby. Check it out.

Monday, January 01, 2007

John Roberts Wants More

Supreme Court Justice John "Awe Shucks, Who Me" Roberts (speaking of faux mid-western humility) seems to have found an important issue to work on. He's got himself in a tizzy over the fact that fededral judges like himself are not getting paid as well as deans and law professors at the nations "top" schools. Openly disdainful of the concept of SERVICE - a principle such appointed positions were theoretically based on - Roberts was supposedly overheard to say, "What do these fucking minions think we are for God's sake, public servants or something? I'm a judge not a soup kitchen slopper head."

Given that the most generous estimates out there put the average income of the world citizen at around $5,000. I'd be rather embarrassed to be making a stink about my paltry $203K a year but not so for John-Boy. He doesn't really care about his own salary. He is a multi-millionaire. Believe me, in my experience this probably means he cares more than anyone pulling in less than $50,000 a year.
Read the facts, Jacks and Jackettes. Send the poor guy a buck. He obviously needs it more than you or me, seriously.

WASHINGTON - Pay for federal judges is so inadequate that it threatens to undermine the judiciary's independence, Chief Justice John Roberts says in a year-end report critical of Congress.

Issuing an eight-page message devoted exclusively to salaries, Roberts says the 678 full-time U.S. District Court judges, the backbone of the federal judiciary, are paid about half that of deans and senior law professors at top schools.

In the 1950s, 65 percent of U.S. District Court judges came from the practicing bar and 35 percent came from the public sector. Today the situation is reversed, Roberts said, with 60 percent from the public sector and less than 40 percent from private practice.

Federal district court judges are paid $165,200 annually; appeals court judges make $175,100; associate justices of the Supreme Court earn $203,000; the chief justice gets $212,100.