Decoration Day

Arlington National Cemetery

 

For a look back on what I think is one of my better posts on the price of war, click on this link:

“Perfect valor is to behave, without witnesses, as one would act were all the world watching.” ~ François de la Rochefoucau

   

 

“Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valor of the brave.” ~ Muhammad 

Memorial Day is upon us again. I won’t bother to harp on how this day—which was created to honor our fallen, our warriors, our heroes—has turned into yet another shopping extravaganza, a three-day weekend heralding beach weather, a day off from work with pay. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. The first known celebration was after the Civil War in 1866 in Waterloo, New York, to honor fallen Union soldiers.

In 1971, the name was officially changed to Memorial Day as part of the Uniform Holidays Bill, which created three three-day weekends: President’s Day, Veterans’ Day, and Memorial Day. In 1978, Veterans’ Day was changed back to its original date of November 11. The VWF has long taken issue with the official date change from May 30 to the last Monday in May as having “undermined the very meaning of the holiday” (2002 address).

In my own attempt to honor those who serve, I thought that I would do a post on something quite timely: I came across this piece by Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball.” Matthews is one of my favorite political analysts. He isn’t afraid to be enthusiastic, nor is he reluctant to admit that he might be wrong. But I felt that this particular piece about a gay man in the military is wholly appropriate for Memorial Day. The sexual orientation of the person who stands next to you when you go into battle matters less than the person’s ability to do his or her job, less than that individual’s belief in country, less than that man or woman’s commitment to having the back of the man or woman five feet away. 

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more about “Chris Matthews: DADT“, posted with vodpod

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was essentially a slap in the face, yet another thing that Clinton backpeddled on and soft soaped. Gays have been serving in the military for as long as there has been war. If you don’t believe that, then your head is stuck somewhere, not sure where. And these people deserve the right to have their partners informed when they are hurt, or worse, killed in action. These dedicated men and women deserve no less and no more than anyone else in their companies, their units, their battalions. 

Memorial Day is a day to remember, a day to pause and reflect. Memorial Day should be the same for everyone because blood that is shed runs red, regardless of faith, orientation, political belief, or color.  I long for the day when there will be no need to send our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, daughters and sons to war, but I know that that time will not come in my lifetime. 

 

Peace be with you all. 

The incomparable Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful”
 

 

“We work with the substantial, but the emptiness is what we use.” ~ Tao Te Ching

“In the Midst of the Thick Wood,” Kay Nielsen

  

“In this metallic age of barbarians, only a relentless cultivation of our ability to dream, to analyse and to captivate can prevent our personality from degenerating into nothing or else into a personality like all the rest.” ~ Fernando Pessoa
Arthur Rackham, "The Ring" illustrations (#26)

Yes, I know. Once again, I have posted items out of sequence, back-posted as it were. Indulge me, please. I have been unable to get out of bed for three days.  It’s times such as these when I long for my old laptop and folding desk. At least I would be able to write while in bed. Alas, alack . . .

I watched the light creep through the blinds this morning as the clock moved toward 6 a.m. For a minute I considered getting up to write and just forgoing sleep altogether, but then my body reminded me that I really needed sleep, so I turned over yet again and tried to find a position that would allow me to be a bit comfortable as Tillie blew warm dog breath into my face while she slept quite peacefully. I looked over, and Corey was snoring quietly; Alfie was above Corey’s head on the pillow, and Shakes was buried deep beneath the covers, scratching intermittently. Meanwhile, a two-foot square of open space seemed to be allotted for me.

Let’s just say that it was not a tableau that invited the deep sleep of Ameles potamos, or Lethe. I would love to have eight uninterrupted hours of mindlessness sleep, a sleep of pure forgetfulness, no interruptions, no distractions, just sleep, and then once rested, awake to a painless new day of possibilities. That it what I would like . . .

“The perception of small things is the secret of clarity; guarding of what is soft and tender is the secret of strength.” ~ Lao-Tzu
Arthur Rackham, "Undine: Soon She was Lost to Sight Beneath the Danube"

Corey has worked four days in a row. Can I get a hallelujah from the chorus? I must say that the duty sergeant has an unenviable job, having to shift people constantly because of the unpredictability of ship movement. At one point, Corey was scheduled to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then to go back in at 11 p.m. and work 12 hours, and while that would have been great in the hours column, it would have really sucked in the sleeping column. But he’s hanging in, which is more than I can say for myself.

I seem to be in the midst of a grand pity party, one that was not scheduled, as it were.  I know exactly what started it, what precipitated this most recent excursion into the poor, poor, pitiful me fray: I went on the Old Dominion University site to look at information for Brett’s orientation, and just for grins, I thought, I went to the English Department’s site. After perusing for a few minutes I realized that I knew a grand total of four people in the department. All of the old guard is gone. Names I’ve never heard of filled the department roster, which really set me back until I realized that it’s been a grand total of 16 years since I left ODU.

Sixteen years. The boys were toddlers. I was still plugging away at my marriage to Paul. The dogs were two black labs. The house was in most respects, the same, and I owned my favorite car, the black Oldsmobile Calais. My father was still alive. I knew people, lots of interesting, engaging people, and Mari was still a part of my life.

Might I just say that it is a bitter pill to have shoved down one’s throat—the realization that time has continued, inexorably, whilst I have not.

“But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.” ~ Lawrence Binyon, Last two stanzas of “For the Fallen”
Arthur Rackham, "Midsummer Night's Dream: Fair Helena"

Which brings me to the now, the present, the time after the past, and the question. Yes. There is most definitely a question: What in the hell have I done with my life? I am having a crisis of faith of the personal kind. I wonder what it is I have accomplished in all of these years of trying. I wonder if I have really done anything at all. I mean, what am I playing at here? I write. I opine. I open my veins and bleed onto this page, or rather, this virtual page. But to what end?

In looking at all of the unknown names in the English Department, I realized that my dreams of getting my Ph.D. in English are just that—dreams only. I have been left behind, or I have stayed behind while the canon has continued to develop at an amazing pace, largely in part because of the Internet. What these people are teaching and researching goes so far beyond what I know. So I don’t know if I could catch up to them, but perhaps more importantly, I don’t know if I should.

These people have three and four books, pages and pages of publications. They have evolved as the material has evolved, as the very institution of teaching has evolved: distance education, virtual classrooms. I don’t know if I can do that.

And so I sit here and wonder if I’ve ever really been good at anything, anything that matters, that is. When I die, how will I be remembered? As the woman who didn’t leave the house for years? As a woman whose self-image was so skewed that her mantra was “I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny”? As someone with an acerbic wit? Or as just a woman who was here and then who wasn’t . . .

“Heedless or willfully ignorant of this
procession of changes, we dream of prosperity
all through life and, without understanding
the nature of transience, hope for longevity.” ~ Hōnen
Arthur Rackham, "The Ring" illustrations (#1)

And these thoughts paralyze me, cause me to look about me as if in an unfamiliar place, a place in which the things themselves are different, the atmosphere different, the lighting slightly shifted, and the only thing that is the same is me. I think of the days when I walked around in power suits and leather pumps, so self-important, so engrossed in my own little world, my circle of power. A person to be watched, emulated, respected. Was it all in my mind?

Days from my past pass before this windowpane of memory, and I am hard-pressed to find anything significant. Has it all been an act? Was I so good at deception that I deceived myself more than anyone?

I’m not talking about the consistency of my belly button lint. These are real, hard questions, ones that I need to find the answers to lest I go mad with the thinking. This morning, as I was rolling from side to side, watching night move into morning, I suddenly wondered if one could go mad from thinking too much. And I think that yes, one probably could go mad from too many thoughts, from being unable to stop the flow of thoughts as they engulf everything, unabated, uncensored.

“This world
a fading mountain echo
void and unreal.” ~ Ryokan
 

Kay Nielsen, “Such a Terrible Dream”

   

Yet another thing came to me during my wakefulness, the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” Don’t really know why that song at that moment, except for the very telling lines here and there: “In these past few days/When I’ve seen myself/I seem like someone else” . . . or “I never thought I’d come to this/What’s it all about?”

Is that clichéd, that I’m thinking in old songs? Probably.

See this is what happens when I don’t write for three days, but I have all of these things running through my head, non-stop, full-speed. Without the ability to exorcise the moment of disillusion, it leeches energy from everything around it and grows until it takes on corporeal form—something very real that needs to be confronted, to be battled, to be handled and then filed away in the completed drawer, a drawer that does not, in fact, exist.

It’s like those old science fiction movies in which the hero meets the dark self, and the two fight with one another in some dark alley with a rain-soaked pavement, drops of water falling from the fire escape above their heads, the sound of empty cans and cats a backdrop to the violence taking place. And the hero always wins, well, most of the time, but not without losing something of himself along the way.

Yes. That’s exactly how it is. I think.

I am reminded of James Wright’s poem, “Lying In A Hammock At William Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota,” which ends with this line: “I have wasted my life.”

Peace.

“illabye” by Tipper

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity” ~ Andre Gide

Glen Beck: “Blah, blah, blah, dorkfish . . .”

 

“Hypocrisy, the lie, is the true sister of evil, intolerance, and cruelty.” ~ Raisa Gorbachev

I have made no bones about my disdain for Glenn Beck and his hate-mongering. That people continue to listen to his pseudo-patriotic vitriol is a sad statement in itself, but recently, Beck laid bare his hypocrisy so patently that no one with any ability to think critically could possibly deny it.

In Beck’s most recent interview with omnipresent Sarah Palin, Beck took the firm stance that family and children are off-limits:  “Leave my family, leave people’s families alone . . . When it was Bill Clinton, you don’t go after Chelsea Clinton. You don’t talk about the Bush kids. Now, the minute they get into politics, that’s a different story. You leave the families alone.”

Fine. Great. Good stance. Oh? Beck only meant some of the time? That must be why only a few hours later on his morning radio show, Beck had a pretend dialogue in which  Malia Obama talks to her father about the oil spill:

BECK: (imitating Malia) Daddy? Daddy? Daddy, did you plug the hole yet? Daddy?

PAT GRAY (co-host): (imitating Obama) No I didn’t, honey.

BECK: (imitating Malia) Daddy, I know you’re better than [unintelligible]

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Mm-hmm, big country.

BECK: (imitating Malia) And I was wondering if you’ve plugged that hole yet.

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Honey, not yet.

BECK: (imitating Malia) Why not, daddy? But daddy–

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Not time yet, honey. Hasn’t done enough damage.

BECK: (imitating Malia) Daddy?

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Not enough damage yet, honey.

BECK: (imitating Malia) Daddy?

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Yeah?

BECK: (imitating Malia) Why do you hate black people so much?

GRAY: (imitating Obama) I’m part white, honey.

BECK: (imitating Malia) What?

GRAY: (imitating Obama) What?

BECK: (imitating Malia) What’d you say?

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Excuse me?

BECK: (laughing) This is such a ridiculous — this is such a ridiculous thing that his daughter– (imitating Malia) Daddy?

GRAY: It’s so stupid.

BECK: How old is his daughter? Like, thirteen?

GRAY: Well, one of them’s, I think, thirteen, one’s eleven, or something.

BECK: “Did you plug the hole yet, daddy?” Is that’s their — that’s the level of their education, that they’re coming to — they’re coming to daddy and saying ‘Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?’ ” Plug the hole!

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Yes, I was doing some deep-sea diving yesterday, and–

BECK: (imitating Malia) Daddy?

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Yeah, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, I was doing–

BECK: (imitating Malia) Why–

GRAY: (imitating Obama) Yeah, honey, I’m–

BECK (imitating Malia) Why, why, why, why, do you still let the polar bears die? Daddy, why do you still let Sarah Palin destroy the environment? Why are — Daddy, why don’t you just put her in some sort of a camp?

What a berk. Once again Beck speaks out of both sides of his mouth: Leave the families alone . . . unless it’s someone I don’t like or someone I don’t agree with or someone who is wearing a red tie or . . .

Bah.

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.” ~ Maria Mitchell

 Oliver Wendell Holmes

   

No man’s knowledge can go beyond his experience”  ~ John Locke

Well, the IB/Honors program was last night, and I was so proud to be there.

As with most things in our life, even the trip to the school was not uneventful. Corey had to work until 3, but the duty sergeant asked if he could stay a bit longer. Corey told him that he could but that he had someplace important that he had to be. Unfortunately, Corey thought the time was 7, not 6. So by 5:15, I’m freaking, as I tend to do. My mother had already left, so Brett and I ended up riding with my ex, Alexis and Eamonn . . . It was one big happy family reunion, only not so much.

No, it wasn’t bad, just weird. Then when we got there, I had to search for Brett’s cap and gown, which was being held by the IB director, only she was nowhere to be found. Found the gown, pulled it over Brett’s head, plopped the cap on. Good to go.

Mr. Martin, Brett’s favorite history teacher, was the speaker, and it was a nice, short speech. Then the people on stage turned the tables on us and declared that parents had to walk their students up to the stage to receive their IB stoles and/or honor tassels. Crap. I look like a sausage. Where is Corey? Lucky that Brett’s last name begins with an S and not a B.

All in all though, the program was very nice. Corey made it in time to walk up with Brett, Paul and me, and everything was over in under 90 minutes. My kind of school program.

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.” ~ Frank Herbert

 I make light of it, but getting Brett to this point has been a concerted effort with many people at his school pulling for him. When Brett started to have problems a couple of years ago, Corey and I sat down with his counselor, a truly generous, wonderful woman, and all of his teachers. We came up with a plan that would allow Brett to stay in the IB program. The head of the program approved the plan, and accommodations were made for Brett’s absences because of illness.

This year, his counselor set up his schedule so that he would only go every other day. Because Brett has always been in advanced classes, he already had enough credits to graduate, but he needed to complete a few core courses for the IB diploma. The every-other-day schedule worked fairly well; he still missed some school, but not nearly as much as last year.  And this year Brett spent his lunch period in Mr. Martin’s room instead of going to the cafeteria. He didn’t eat lunch, and I think that his one-on-one time with Mr. Martin really helped him in a number of ways.

Just being able to listen to a man who knows his subject, a scholar, talk about life and politics, gaining knowledge not found in textbooks—an invaluable experience. I remember having a couple of teachers like that, and I did the same thing: leeched off their knowledge, drank it in, felt privileged for the insights. Anyone with a few years on them will tell you that real knowledge does not come from textbooks; it comes from life—what we do, what we see, what we hear. We learn from the people with whom we interact, the people with whom we disagree. The act of living, seeking, finding—that is the source of real knowledge.

It’s been tough, at times, taxing, but Brett pulled through. So to see him on stage receiving his IB stole was a moment of pure joy for all of us.

“To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” ~ Henry David Thoreau 

 

And so Brett is just a few weeks away from leaving high school forever, from moving into a world he does not know, from moving into another academic realm filled with more textbooks, lectures, and tests. But I hope that this time he will be better prepared to sift through the vast information that is coming his way, to cull it like wheat, and find the heart of what matters, to take away what he needs, and then some.

In the grand scheme of things, high school is but a cobblestone path, one that we must traverse to get somewhere else. Many of us trip over its rough edges; some of us fall, and a few pass smoothly without incident. Only when we are years removed from it can we truly see this period for what it really was: a chance to grow, perhaps to make lifelong friends, to be carefree before life intrudes. Only later do we realize how very much we received from the people who were on the opposite of the room from us, how some of them went beyond what was expected and invited us in, allowed us to think, to analyze, to refine. These are the people we remember because they were our introduction to the limitless possibilities of learning, of appreciating, of moving forward into the great unknown that is life.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Great Lake Swimmers, “Stealing Tomorrow”

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” ~ T.S. Eliot

Thought I’d share some really cool eye candy with you—a video featuring 3D projections on old buildings (NuFormer Digital Media)  

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more about “Projection on Buildings (3D Video Map…“, posted with vodpod

  

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ” ~ Joss Whedon

Blue Tide of Dinoflagellates in Southern Australia by Phil Hart

        

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” ~ Milan Kundera
Bioluminescent Plankton Washed Ashore

I’ve just spent the last fifteen minutes staring at this blank page while cuddling with the smallest pup, Alfie. Inevitably, when I sit down at my desk, Alfie tries to get in my lap. I usually accommodate him for a few minutes of tummy rubbing and then put him down, but today he was especially cuddly, and my mind sort of drifted off as he lay in my arms and my songs played in the background.

Nana Mouskouri, Great Lake Swimmers, Jon McLaughlin—all made for a pretty mellow backdrop. The only reason I finally stopped my Alfie time was that my left hand went to sleep. Obvious sign that it’s time to move along.

Last night I had one of those convoluted dreams that involved my mother, driving, parking garages, and New York City. There was also an appearance from my friend Allen, my best friend from eighth grade, and boots. I was exhausted after that one. The good part was that I actually slept last night, pretty soundly. I really needed it.  I needed rest, and my body needed time to regroup. All day yesterday my joints were aching, and by late last night, my knee joint and leg muscles hurt so much that I felt like whimpering.

Unfortunately, I need a new heating pad. This last one didn’t last six months. But heat would have really helped my legs. Heat and some Blue Emu cream, which I am also in desperate need of replenishing. If you’ve never tried it Blue Emu is this wonderful cream for achiness, and it really works without making you smell like a grandmother with rheumatism. Of course something this wonderful does not come cheaply, so I have been waiting to buy more.

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Bioluminescence by Phil Hart

This Thursday night is Brett’s IB ceremony at school for graduating seniors enrolled in the IB  program at Granby High School. Currently, the IB (international baccalaureate) works with 2,946 schools in 139 countries to offer an academically-rigorous curriculum that stresses global understanding, cultural awareness, critical thinking, and community service. Of course, the program is not without its detractors: In 2008, Senator Margaret Dayton objected to the program, stating, “I don’t want to create ‘world citizens’ nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world.”

I understand Dayton’s stance, but I truly believe that students who are taught to think beyond their communities, beyond their borders become better citizens because they have a more diverse information base from which to draw. A 2006 article in Time magazine described the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) as “a rigorous, off-the-shelf curriculum recognized by universities around the world.” That we have an IB school here in Norfolk is wonderful, and I am so glad that Brett was able to participate in this program because I know that he would have been bored to tears in regular curriculum.

Anyway, I’ll have to find something in my closet that won’t make me look like a sausage so that I can go out in public for this ceremony.

“No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Image of Bioluminescence by Phil Hart at www.philhart.com

 

Let’s see, in the world of make believe and beyond,

  • Lindsay Lohan has to wear an alcohol bracelet, or something along those lines. I wonder if the device senses cocaine?
  • Kelly Bensimon claims that she didn’t have a breakdown but rather a “breakthrough.” Whatever . . .
  • A man involved in a home invasion in Colorado was nabbed by police because of his lip tattoo, “East Side.” Note to self: wear funny fake mustache to hide obvious tat when next committing crime .
  • In Reno, Nevada, chicken costumes will be banned at polling places. I’m not making this up. Apparently, Democrats have taken to showing up in chicken costumes at events held by Republican senate candidate Sue Lowden, who suggested that people barter with doctors for medical care, like when “our grandparents would bring a chicken to the doctor.” I wonder if Sponge Bob costumes are okay?
  • A new African-American Barbie in the Barbie Basic collection is dressed like a hoochie mama (plunging neckline) and has major boobie action. Are we at all surprised by this? I think that it’s just a natural progression in a long line of dolls that have never had realistic proportions.
  • In South Carolina, don’t get in the way of speeding grandmas having bad hair days. Apparently, one 72-year-old woman was clocked doing 102 mph. She was late for her hair appointment. Grandma claims that her doctor said that she has a kidney infection which may have caused her to act in an “abnormal manner.” Right . . .

And finally, the most recent images of the Gulf oil spill show the latest progress into the loop current. So depressing. I decided that in contrast to the awful pictures of the spill I would highlight some pictures of bioluminescence in the sea (such as plankton that glow when agitated) , which is visually awesome.

That’s it for today. More later. Peace.

Jon McLaughlin’s “Beautiful Disaster”