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.