“To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Freundschaftsinsel, Potsdam, by Max Baur (Friendship Island)
                    
“How secure have I felt seated at my desk in my house in the dark night, just watching the tip of my pencil in the lamplight following its shadow, as if of its own accord and with perfect fidelity, while that shadow moved regularly from left to right, line by line, over the ruled paper.” ~ W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Park Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany, by Max Baur

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .   

Sitting in Eamonn’s room on Friday afternoon. A few days ago, I began the task of trying to clean this room, which means going through all of the various piles of crap that Eamonn has left here since moving to his Dad’s house.   

I’ve only managed to clean the desk so far. We’re talking about countless binders, notebooks, and piles of paper from high school. Dead pens and broken pencils. Permanent markers that have completely dried up from having no cap. and all kinds of other unidentifiable stuff. Oh, and I also found the title to his Explorer, which Eamonn swore up and down that he had given me. Yep, that title, the one that he had to go to DMV to get a duplicate of so that he could junk the Explorer.   

What possessed me to begin this cleaning project? Well, several things, the main one being that I’m using his computer while mine is dead, and I just couldn’t stand not having one clear space on which to place my Pepsi. That and the fact that if I continued to wait for Eamonn to come over and start to de-junk, I’d be waiting until 2020.   

Corey and I are thinking about turning this bedroom into an office with a futon for guests, not that we ever have guests, nor do we have the money to purchase a futon, but one thing at a time.   

“It is a strange life when I consider it,
how I endeavor to attain strength and clarity,
to mold these base materials into forms which will express me,
and my attitude, my joy and thankfulness. 
I work alone,
who cares whether I produce anything or not,
or who appreciates it? 
Yet I believe a good thing will not perish.” ~ Harlan Hubbard
Friedenskirche, Potsdam, Germany by Max Baur (ca. 1928)

Brett made it through his first week of college. Today’s classes were cancelled because of the hurricane. Although, all we’ve seen is rain. I know that schools and businesses try to be more proactive ever since that hurricane about five years ago that took out everything, and few people were prepared.   

Our hurricane preparation? Flashlights and bottled water. I mean, there really isn’t anything else that we can do. We don’t have a generator, nor do we have anything else in the way of emergency equipment. Next year, though, I want to be sure to have flood insurance in place. In this area, homeowners cannot get a flood policy written once the first hurricane enters the Atlantic, so we’re out of luck for 2010, and even though we don’t live in a flood area, we are close enough to water that we should have it. Besides, regular homeowner’s insurance covers very little in the way of water damage, which means that if there is a massive storm surge, and our home becomes a wading pool, we may well be SOL.  

So back to the whole college preparation thing: We finally got Brett a workable schedule. I ordered his books, only to have two of them kick back from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I mean I searched high and low to find the lowest possible prices on textbooks. One book is on backorder, with no projected shipment date. Another book is no longer available from the vendor from whom I originally ordered, which meant finding an alternative source, which (of course) was much more expensive.   

Things that make a person scream ARGH.   

“With writing, we have second chances.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated 
Chinesisches Teehaus, Potsdam, Germany, by Max Baur (Chinese Teahouse)

 So an update on the various things that aren’t working:   

My computer: The motherboard arrived, and Corey took my CPU and the motherboard to the Geeks, who then quoted him $99 after initially quoting him $49. Then the person with whom Corey was speaking uttered those horrible words (the words that IsaacMak had already prophesied): There’s a good chance that the computer will need to be reloaded with Vista, which means that you will lose everything on the hard drive . . .   

It seems that Windows has implemented a new hitch with Vista and all subsequent windows versions: If the motherboard needs to be replaced, then the operating system has to be reloaded. This news, although not entirely unexpected, is more painful than I can express. The last time I did a total system backup was three years ago. Since then, I have approximately twice the data I had at that time. I won’t bother to mention (so, of course, I shall) how I pointed out to Corey months ago that we needed to get some kind of external hard drive so that all of the systems in the house could be backed up, you know, just in case . . .   

Options  for recovering and transferring my data include paying the Geeks to do it, which of course would be expensive. Or we can try to plug the computer in and download as much as possible onto the home network. That option depends on whether or not the computer will even boot.   

Then there is the small problem with the home network, which isn’t working. As I’m typing this a guy from the local cable company is here checking our connections to see why the router/modem will not stay on. I mean, it’s cable, not FIOS. It’s not weather dependent.   

Things just keep getting better and better.   

“I am increasingly impressed by how nature permits human beings to make fools of themselves in vast numbers.” ~ William Glass 
Refektoriumsportal des Klosters Heilsbronn, by Max Baur (Portal Refectory of Convent Heilsbronn)

A few final tidbits:   

Former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican co-chair of President Obama’s Deficit Commission has been in the news lately with his off-the-wall comments; most recently Simpson complained that Viet Nam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are adding too much to the deficit. Simpson complained that these benefits run “contrary to efforts to control federal spending,” and even went as far as to say that “the irony” is that “the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess. My contention: Simpson is using too much air to fuel his waning grey cells. 

After President Obama’s speech this past Tuesday acknowledging the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the usual Republican/Tea Party talking heads lined up to criticize the president for not giving enough credit to W. For once, I am in almost complete agreement with McConnell, McCain, Palin, et al, with one teenie tiny exception: exchange the word blame for credit.  

Yep. It’s all on W., but as usual, the right has been drinking the Kool-Ade. According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, more credit should be given to W., who had the “determination and will to carry out the plan that made [this] announcement possible.”  

Uh . . . sorry, just threw up a little in my throat . . .  

W. had determination and will all right: the determination to circumvent the Constitution, the will to do more to impede basic freedoms in the name of anti-terrorism. And we are supposed to praise W. for making possibly the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the country? We are supposed to laud him for dragging our country into an unwinnable war based on a faulty premise that had nothing to do with the original post-September 11 mission to capture Osama bin Laden and wipe out the Taliban?  

Don’t make me gag. Again.  

Keith Olbermann did a better job on calling out the talking heads on the right on this particular issue:  

Vodpod videos no longer available.

All images by German photographer Max Baur.

More later. Peace.  

 Music by Eva Cassidy, her version of “American Tune”  

                                                    

The Great Bear
A clear night
Trying to understand
What happened all those years ago
Under this
Exact constellation. 
It does no good
To dwell on the past.
What happens happens only once.
No such thing
As a lesson can be learned. 
And yet the same figure
Slowly appears
At the foot of the garden,
Looking as if
He is made of the dark, 
And I feel the same
Dilemmas rise
That have risen before,
And the same reactions
Hours behind, 
Burning off
What I’ve made of my life.
By the time the starlight reaches us
The world it began
Has gone. 
~ Frances Leviston

“We do not find our own center. It finds us. We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” ~ Richard Rohr

Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Hebden Bridge, UK

  

“I want to write like August, to swim in it like a pool and forget the clock hands moving across summer’s face.” ~ Terresa Wellborn

When I realized that this post would be #500*, I immediately froze and wrote nothing. I mean, 500? That’s pretty auspicious, at least in my mind, anyway. If I were to estimate the number of words in my posts and multiply by 500, I would get somewhere between 550 and 600,000 words. 

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . . 

Granted, not all of my posts have been written; a small percentage have been videos. But still . . . I have sat down at my computer (or someone else’s) at least 500 times (more if counting the posts I lost and had to rewrite) and written about . . . well, things. I have to admit that when I began this project, I never thought that I would last this long. Of course when I began this project, I was ecstatic to get 100 hits in one day. 

My how times have changed. Now, I realize that despite my creative ebbs and flows, I will probably continue writing here for some time yet, and fortunately, I am not nearly as obsessed by my stats as I used to be. Rather than numbers, I relish the comments as they are much more tangible (so if you’re lurking and haven’t commented, please accept this as an invitation to do so). 

So here I am, muddling about, trying to think of something to say in my anniversary post. Who knows where this may lead . . . By the way, I was quite surprised to see all of the 500 images that I found when I did a Google search, so I took that as a sign that I should bedeck my post in the company of other historical 500th things, like Henry VIII and a 500-year-old bridge in the UK. Granted, some of these anniversaries occurred before mine, but hey, Henry won’t mind. He was all about self-promotion.

So here I go . . . 

“Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.” ~Kahlil Gibran
Image of King Henry VIII in Celebration of His 500th Anniversary

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers.

I have created three sets of five in honor of the big 500. It’s the least I can do. No really, the least: 

  • I have decided that in the history of television, five shows stand out as being uniquely entertaining, at least in my estimation:

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: I mean really,  hilariously funny and engaging dialogue (shows up again in another Joss Whedon creation, “Firefly” which I would have listed here, but it didn’t last long enough) 

“The West Wing”: Still waiting for a President Bartlett, unfortunately 

“Law & Order” (original): Twenty years. Just as relevant. Who else can say that? 

“House”: One of the best-drawn modern tragic characters 

“Oz”: Consistently gripping drama with an ensemble cast unlike any other ever seen 

  • Based on the above, I realize that I am a nerd/drama junkie. Sitcoms just don’t do it for me.
  • I still need a haircut.
  • Being the party of “No” is nothing of which to be proud.
  • The war in Afghanistan is too reminiscent of Viet Nam in that it is an unwinnable war. Counterinsurgency in a country that has repelled conquerors for over 1,000 years is lunacy. They don’t want to be Americanized, and the concept of American imperialism is outdated. Bring our military home.
“Brilliance is typically the act of an individual, but incredible stupidity can usually be traced to an organization.” ~ Jon Bentley
A 500 Yen Coin
  • BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward has been reassigned to Siberia. At first I thought that this was funny until I found out how much he is being paid to go away: $1.6 million in salary, and more millions in pension benefits. I guess he got his life back.
  • President Obama appeared on “The View,” causing some critics to lose their minds, saying that the show was not serious enough. Need I remind everyone of Bush’s appearance on “Dr. Phil”? At least most (Snooki aside) of the questions on “The View” were pointedly in keeping with today’s issues. And as far as the Boy Scott Jamboree that Obama passed on, how about the other 12 U.S. presidents who declined the same invitation, including Republicans Nixon, Reagan and Ford? They weren’t called un-American.
  • Jon Stewart is right. Nothing Obama does will ever make the right happy. Nothing.
  • Just a reminder: W. had a surplus coming into office ($236 Billion, according to Congressional Budget Office). Obama had a $1.2 Trillion deficit when he took office (same source).
  • Another reminder: The Wall Street crash happened on W’s watch, not Obama’s.
“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.” ~ Confucius
Darth Vader 500th Anniversary

Well, I just lost one-third of this post when I tried to save because the router went out. Lovely. Let’s see . . . what was I rambling on about anyway . . . 

  • All of Corey’s sunflowers are dead, which means that the beautiful patch of yellow in the backyard is now a sad patch of droopy, green stems and leaves.
  • For some reason, centipedes abound in our house this summer. I don’t care what you might have to say about them, I am terrified of centipedes. I know that this is an irrational fear, but I used to have nightmares about them when I was a child. I dreamed they were in my bed. These things are hard to kill, and before you lecture me on letting things be, you should know that I only swat a few things: cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, and ants running rampant on my kitchen counter. Nevertheless, centipedes just won’t die.
  • I’m ready for fall, which is weird since I still think that it’s April.
  • At one point we had about six tennis balls throughout the house. Today, I couldn’t fine one, which means that Tillie and Shakes cannot play pool ball. They are very sad puppies. Next week, I’ll probably find the missing tennis balls in an unlikely spot.
  • I think that I’ve just about decided what my next tattoo will be, not that I’ll be able to afford one anytime soon. These are the kinds of things with which I occupy my mind. Small things . . .

So much for the great 500th post. I sort of lost my momentum after part of the post disappeared. I think that I’ll go have a bowl of cereal and watch a “Law & Order” rerun. That always works. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Iron and Wine, “Such Great Heights” 

 

*I realized today that my actual stats show only 496 posts, but, and this is a big but, I have written and posted 500 times. About a year ago I made 5 posts private, but I then decided to delete 4 of them permanently, which puts my total at 500 . . . Crystal clear, right?

“He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave.” ~ Andrew Carnegie

Cards from The Fuhrer Quartett

   

Part 2:
“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy” ~ James Madison

One of the justifications used for calling Obama a tyrant or dictator is that he has signed Executive Orders. As of March 2010, President Obama had signed 43 Executive Orders. Between 2001 and 2002, W. issued 85 executive orders (54 and 31 respectively) compared to Obama’s 56 executive orders issued between 2009 and 2010. Lest anyone think that I am playing loosely with the facts, this information is available to anyone on the Federal Register of the National Archives. Let’s put that in context: 

Total Executive Orders Signed

GW Bush 268
Clinton 363
G. Bush 165
Reagan 380 

Lenin Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

Critics also contend that Obama is a tyrant because he ignores laws, although I’m not sure which laws he is ignoring. An article in boston.com states that as of 2006, Bush “claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution . . . Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws—many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander-in-chief of the military.”  

And let’s not forget all of the signing statements issued by Bush in lieu of presidential vetoes. Signing statements are those documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. Bush repeatedly used signing statements to state that he does not have to obey certain laws because he is commander in chief. 

By the way, that argument being bandied about by tea baggers and the like regarding taxation without representation? Hello? This is a representative government, and there has not been a president in recent memory who has not increased taxes. By the way, that whole tea bagger thing, you know, being a resurrection of the original tea party? “The Tea Party originally was for taxation without representation . . . These people have representation. The majority voted for Obama, and this got a majority vote. To call it a Tea Party movement makes no sense,” contends Patricia Kelley, 75, a social work professor emeritus at the University of Iowa. Kelly said that co-opting a historic event in American history for an Obama backlash is wrongheaded. 

For example, Ronald Reagan, the republican that right-wingers love to mention as the bastion of all things conservative, increased taxes by $132.7 billion between 1982 and 1988. 

“When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.” ~ Plato

And those who compare Obama to King George by saying that our president has acted in the same way as the monarch the founding fathers excoriated? Let’s discuss just a few of these: The revolutionaries claimed that the king “sent out swarms of Officers to harass the people, combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.” Are Obama’s “swarms of officers” the census takers? Of the last three censuses, two were conducted under Republican presidents, and all involved sending census takers throughout the country to gather information. 

Or are the “swarms of officers” referring to the right’s protest against the term czar, as in energy czar, education czar, car czar (what?)? To clarify, czar is a media term referring to an appointed official who is in charge of a particular policy; I believe the term was first used during Reagan’s administration: drug czar. The first president to use czars? Well, that would be FDR (some say Andrew Jackson), who had 19 individuals in appointed positions. By the way, W. had the most, with 47 appointees, 31 of whom were referred to as czars, which is why critics are correct in saying that Obama has more czars (35) but fewer appointees (39). 

Hitler Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

“Combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution”: Is this a reference to the 2nd amendment? According to one conservative, “At the heart of gun control in the United States are Democratic tyranny and the Democratic oppression of black people . . . The Democrats on the Progressive Left will continue to pursue our disarmament.  Only unarmed men and women can be made the slaves of tyrants.” Um, okay, but as far as I know, that amendment hasn’t been repealed. 

“Pretended legislation”: is that healthcare reform? Let me ask you this: Is this country based on majority rule? Did reform pass with a majority? Or is the reference to Obama’s planned suit over Arizona’s immigration law? The way in which our Constitution is drawn, federal statutes prevail over state statutes (e.g., 14th amendment). I’m pretty sure that President Obama wasn’t around when this was decided. 

“Logic:  The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” ~ Ambrose Bierce

Of course I would be remiss if I did not mention Godwin’s law: i.e., the ultimate reduction of a commentary thread results in someone being called a Nazi. And there is the predecessor to Godwin’s Law, the “reductio ad Hitlerum,” identified in 1953 by neocon philosopher Leo Strauss, by which any person or argument could be demolished by even the most tenuous association with Hitler. All of this, of course, relates directly to the growing trend to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler, you know Tea Baggers, Republicans, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin. The list is long and growing.

No, using the Hitler card to denigrate a politician is by no means a new tactic; it is, however, an offensive tactic.  Ron Rosenbaum, in an article for Slate, said this:

“Calling Obama a tyrant, a communist, or a fascist is deeply offensive to all the real victims of tyranny, the real victims of communism and fascism. The tens of millions murdered. It trivializes such suffering inexcusably for the T.P.ers to claim that they are suffering from similar oppression because they might have their taxes raised or be subject to demonic ‘federal regulation.’

Listen up, T.P.ers: The Nazis were not Socialists. The Socialists were not Nazis. They were blood enemies. In fact, the Socialists fought the Nazis, while conservatives and nationalists stood by and thought Hitler would be their pawn. Hitler, need it be said, was not a Socialist. He hated the Socialists. Had thousands of them murdered as soon as he came to power.”

Rosenbaum’s article uses Nikita Khruschev’s “Secret Speech” of 1956 as the basis of his argument against the tea baggers debasement of “language with their false use of words, contesting that tea baggers should read the speech if they really want to know about tyranny. He states that

They’ve [tea baggers] made a graven image of alien evil out of him. Obama: communist, Muslim, Kenyan, Manchurian candidate, fascist, socialist, capable of all varieties of political malevolence. A supervillain, with superpowers. Who requires super lies to combat.

It’s time to take on these superliars and stop them from spreading their poisonous ignorance.

“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand with a grip that kills it.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

I found the following analysis particularly relevant in the current climate that freely compares Obama to Hitler and this administration to Nazi Germany: 

When you get right down to it, our sitting President and Adolf  Hitler are pretty much the same person, except Obama hasn’t suspended democratic elections, implemented a policy of cultural nationalism, embarked on a massive expansion of the armed forces, created a class system based on ethnicity, assumed control of the national media, staged an attack on the legislative branch, implemented a eugenics policy or invaded a sovereign nation. 

He is black, though. If you hate Barack Obama’s politics and you’re also a racist, the election of our first black President is doubly galling. You know what else is galling? The fact that Adolf Hitler—generally agreed to be the worst human being of the modern era—was a racist, too. 

By relentlessly connecting Barack Obama with Hitler, the right gets to associate Nazism with socialized medicine, charismatic leadership and big government, instead of corporatism and fantasies of empire

I think the following quote that I found on a forum actually comes closest to defining why so many people are afraid of Barack Obama: “He dares to act just like every other President, while not being 100% white. That’s enough to make him a tyrant in the eyes of the extreme haters.” 

Quit hiding your racism behind your declarations that your freedoms are being subsumed by a socialist agenda. Quit painting Hitler mustaches on Obama’s visage. Hitler was not a socialist; he was a fascist. They are not the same thing. Fascism organizes under a corporate perspective. Fascism has a basic disdain for human rights, is inherently racist and sexist, disdains intellectuals, promotes rampant nationalism, and uses fear to control the masses. 

Here endeth the lesson. 

More later. Peace.

Music by Jann Arden, “Looks Like Rain”

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anais Nin

Anais Nin (1932)

“Who am I, you ask? I don’t know, my friend. I am all the languages I ever spoke, I am all the places I ever lived, I am all the people I ever met, I am all the women I ever loved, I am all the writers I ever read; I am all my ancestors—but at least they had the decency of never thinking of themselves as writers. Who am I, you ask? I don’t know, my friend; I don’t even know who is writing this page.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges

The migraine finally seems to be receding. I swear that it felt as if my skull were being ripped open from back to front. Too graphic? Perhaps, but the truth, nevertheless. At the moment, it is just a tight band above my eyes, though thankfully, not behind my eyes.

I spent some time today catching up on my blogroll. Spending too long looking at the monitor was just painful, so I hadn’t read any of my regulars in a few days. It’s always nice to read what everyone else is writing, not to mention, I often get inspired by things that I have seen or read on other people’s sites.

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”  ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Still Life,” Baron Adolf de Meyer (1908)

Since it’s Friday, I thought that I might just muse a bit on nothing in particular . . .

  • Why is the Palin family in Los Angeles, going to pre-Academy Awards events? Didn’t the Palinator criticize Levi Johnston for being “too hollywood”? Oh, that’s right. what Palin says about other people does not apply to her or her family. I keep forgetting. Sorry.
  • Unbelievably, an Israeli Defense Forces soldier posted the details on a planned incursion into the West Bank on his Facebook page. He also posted his phone number. Let me get this straight: there are idiots running amok who don’t have sense enough not to leak military plans on a social network, but our own Congress is still debating over Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell?  Hello? I think that instead of DA/DT, there should be stupid-ometers, but then, what do I know . . .
  • Former W. advisor Karl Rove declared that he “wasn’t George Bush’s brain.” Well I’m glad that’s been cleared up for posterity. Now all we need to do is figure out who was W.’s brain.
  • Word is that the Smurf cartoon characters are going to be turned into a movie. Smurfs? Really? Why? Was anyone else bothered by the fact that only one female Smurf lived with an entire village of male Smurfs?
  • Along those same lines, Gilligan’s Island is heading for the big screen. This version will be modernized. Wow. I wonder if they’ll have 3G service on the island. Will the professor’s bicycle-powered generator make an appearance? Will they ever explain how Mary Ann made coconut cream pies without an oven? Just wondering.
  • Why oh why are members of the “Jersey Shore” continuing to garner appearances? I mean, I know that Leno is trying to pump up his “Tonight Show” return, but Snooki? Please. And pitting these poster children for overblown excess (redundant, I know) in a battle of the brains spoof is just painful. Mexico a state? Seriously? Catcher in the . . . closet? Stoopit, just plain stoopit.

Let’s just leave it at that. Shall we?

More later. Peace.

Missy Higgins, “Where I Stood”

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Norma Desmond

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard

 

Joe Gillis: “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.” 
Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

No post yesterday as I could think of absolutely nothing interesting to say.  Hate it when that happens.

A few bits and pieces for my Friday Leftovers:

One of my favorite bloggers has taken down her blog. I deleted it from my blogroll today and have to say that it gave me a pang of sadness to do so. She is a wonderful writer and has a great turn with words. I’m hoping that she will reconsider and come back with a new iteration. Although I must admit that I understand too well her comment about how she feels that her blog has become too whiney. I often feel that way myself, although, it doesn’t stop me from continuing to whine and post. Perhaps she has the right idea . . . Just a thought.

I’ve been reading the latest on what Junior Senator Al Franken of Minnesota is doing, and boy am I glad that he was finally sworn in. The man is incredibly intelligent and is working quickly to make a name for himself. In one article, Franken took to task conservative economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth for claiming that the Democrats’ healthcare reforms would increase the number of bankruptcies filed for medical reasons. As Franken pointed out, countries with national healthcare, such as Switzerland, Germany, and France had exactly zero bankruptcies due to medical crises last year. So nice when sweeping generalizations are countered with cold, hard facts.

Sunset Boulevard Movie Poster
Movie Poster for Sunset Boulevard

In my ongoing quest to add new titles to my music playlists, I have downloaded some songs from the movie Across the Universe, which features covers of Beatles’ songs. Even though the Beatles still rank as one of my favorite bands, I am not a Beatle elitist, and I really enjoy a good cover. I’m including one of my favorites at the end of this post. It’s by Fiona Apple, who has a wonderful voice. The song is actually not from the movie but from the television show “Smallville,” but it is a Beatles’ cover nonetheless.

I have asked Corey to go through the storage bins again and find me some new-old reading material. I haven’t read a book in almost two weeks, and I’m going through withdrawal. Of course, for most of those days, I couldn’t read because of the blasted migraine, but the pain has settled into just a general tight discomfort, so I want to read. In particular, I’m craving my Ann Rule books. If you like a tightly-written true crime novel, she is the best in her genre.

Speaking of migraines, I think that I’m clenching my teeth again. Actually, I’m sure of it. When I first wake up, my jaw is very tight, and it hurts, just like it used to years ago when I was clenching and grinding in my sleep. I actually had two jaw surgeries because of my TMJ. I hope that just by being aware of it now I can reteach myself not to clench. No more surgeries for me.

Last week this time it was about 46° F outside. Today it’s about 80° F. I love this area. It’s just a hotbed for extremes, which wreaks havoc on the sinuses. Common saying about Tidewater/Hampton Roads: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few hours.”

I glanced at the calendar today, and am completely mystified as to how it is October already, let alone almost Halloween. I am so not ready for the holidays. I hope to make it through November reasonably well this year, but I never know. November is such a horrible month for me—too many bad anniversaries. Here’s hoping that I don’t crash and burn like I did last November.

Norma Desmond: “There once was a time in this business when I had the eyes of the whole world! But that wasn’t good enough for them, oh no! They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

Another political aside: Darth Dick Cheney received the Center for Security Policy’s Keeper of the Flame Award. Looking on and listening to Cheney were convicted felon Scooter Libby and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Great company. Essentially, the speech was filled with more of Cheney’s nonsensical commentary about how life was safe under Bush and Cheney (for, and I quote, “seven years, four months, and nine days”) and life is horrible now because . . . well . . . Obama hasn’t resolved the war in Afghanistan that Cheney started . . . This administration isn’t using the former administration’s review of the eight-year-old war. I believe the word dithering was used. Hmm, if Cheney had such a great plan to end the war, why didn’t he do it when he was in office? Why did requests for more troops sit unanswered for eight months? Why was Afghanistan clearly relegated to secondary status after Iraq? But most importantly, why is this man still speaking, and why are people still listening? “Keeper of the Flame”? More like perpetuator of flaming discord. Beh.

One more: When I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think that President Obama’s White House should openly engage in a fracas with Fox Noise, I said that the publicity would only encourage them. Boy was I right, and not in a good way. People: Calm Down. Some of you need to be reminded that the Bush administration regularly neglected to allow commentators and news people from networks and radio stations that were perceived to be too liberal or anti-Bush. Whenever W. invited talk radio hosts to the White House, liberal hosts were never included, but conservative braniacs like Glenn Beck were. In the last two years of the administration, NBC, and MSNBC were regularly left off lists. And dare I mention that little tidbit about how W.’s communications people paid journalists to ask questions? Remember Jeff Gannon of the questionable Talon News? ‘Nuff said.

Sending good luck wishes across the world to Australia for Maureen of White Orchid, who is waiting to hear about her new job, and her daughter Prue, who is scheduled for surgery. A stressful time for everyone. Hoping that everything turns out well.

On this front, still waiting to see if Social Security is going to approve my disability claim this time. Had to send them additional information. Have I mentioned before how much I love bureaucracies and paper work?

Someone please explain to me why it would be bad to have healthcare for everyone who needs it? I know that we aren’t going to get exactly what we need, but if we get nothing again this time, then I am going to work my butt off in the campaign to rescind healthcare for Congress at no cost. Why do they deserve healthcare, but everyone else does not? And don’t try to tell me that this statement and the one above contradict each other. I would gladly fill out forms if it meant that I was getting somewhere. It’s the constant completion of forms without any forward progress that irks me.

President Obama is coming to Virginia on Tuesday on behalf of Democratic candidate for governor Creigh Deeds. About time, I say. I’m not really sure why Obama waited so long to get involved in this race as it’s a big one. Virginia almost always goes with a Republican governor when the President is a Democrat. This time, we had a chance to keep a Democrat, yet Obama has not done much in the way of supporting Deeds. You would think that he would have worked harder to retain a state that went blue for the first time since 1964.

Windows has come out with Windows 7. Excuse me, but I still can’t use this frigging Windows Vista without my computer locking up at least once a day. Windows XP was a wonderful operating system. I loved it, loved everything about it, considered it the best since Windows 95. What is it with Windows? I know, Macs are better, but who can afford a Mac? If they weren’t so blasted expensive, I’d say convert all of the PC’s to Macs, but of course, that is completely out of the question. Corey likes to remind me that he has no problems with Vista. Yep. Okay. Whatever.

Norma Desmond: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.” ~ From Sunset Boulevard

Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond
Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond

When I proofed this post on Sunday, I realized that an entire paragraph was missing, the one that explains the whole Sunset Boulevard theme: In case you did not recognize the quote “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille,” it is taken from Sunset Boulevard, a classic movie starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, an aging, delusional movie star. That particular line comes at the end of the movie. Some of you may remember Carol Burnett’s hilarious turn as Norma Desmond on the old “Carol Burnett Show.”

Nothing yet on the job front for Corey. He did submit his application to Newport News Shipbuilding for their apprentice program, but we have no idea as to how long that process takes. If he gets in, it would be a great move. He would get a decent salary as an apprentice with full benefits, plus he would finish the program with an Associate’s Degree. I’m really hoping that this works out because the whole tug boat thing is at a standstill.

Mom decided not to replace her roof right now, this after weeks of calling us every couple of hours about what to do. My mother is decidedly single-minded once she is focused on something, and then, she turns on a dime. Not even trying to figure her out any more.

By the way, any more is technically supposed to be two words all of the time. Over time, anymore as one word has been substituted, but it is not preferred grammatically. The difference is that any more as two words signifies any longer. When used as one word, it is a colloquialism for nowadays: Not a day goes by without a headache anymore. Yuck.

Other than that, everything else is pretty much normal. Tillie is fine after her last episode. Brett is trying to stay caught up in school, and Eamonn is still working on his construction job until the new school semester. Not hearing a lot from Alexis these days. Not sure if she is in one of her moods, or just extraordinarily busy. Such is life when everyone is busy with their own things. Oh yes, the van is still running nicely, and the truck is still dead.  Good and bad, as usual.

Here’s hoping that nothing else too dramatic happens in the next few days. However, I’ve been on the phone (currently on hold) with my retirement fund for the past 20 minutes regarding a withdrawal, and I don’t think that I’m going to hear what I want to hear; this after speaking to three different people about this transaction and being told that everything was fine. Why oh why, I am whining to myself.

 

More later. Peace.

Where Reality and Television Intersect at the Line of Pain and Heartbreak

Stumbling Upon Two Posts That Won’t Let Me Go

Watching Death in South Africa

One of the things that I really like about blogging communities is that when the blogs are flashing by on the screen, you can come across some real gems. In fact, that’s how I’ve met all of my regular correspondent with whom I check in daily. But there was one blog that stopped me in my tracks, literally. And I backtracked to the original post, which came from a blog called “Letting Go.” 

The female speaker on this site has many entries about her recovering battle with alcoholism and her so far successful sobriety, as well as her travels. But the one particular post that caught my attention was called called “The Plague Years” ( http://louisey.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/the-plague-years/).

mourning-in-zimbabwe
Mourning in Zimbabwe

This post is incredibly stark in its depiction of the reality of AIDS in Africa, while at the same time being very moving in how the author shares with readers her own experiences amid all of this devastation.

Woke up this morning and thought about having to go to two funerals later today, both of them for young people who died of AIDS. It is not a certainty that the funerals will take place because the municipality still has to organise workers to dig the graves. The graveyard has overflowed the old fenced area and extended down the hillside, hot rocky ground that is not easy to dig. Every day of the week there are burials and it is mostly children who die because their little bodies are too malnourished to fight the opportunistic illnesses.

There are times when I feel this plague will never end. I have been going to funerals here and in Zimbabwe, in Kenya and Botswana and Mozambique since 1985, more than 20 years, and sometimes I feel I will keep watching these premature and unnecessary deaths until I myself am ready for the grave.

The society in which we live shapes us for better or for worse. The material conditions of our lives shape our values and sense of community and altruism, and limit or enlarge the possibilities open to us. Unrelieved poverty opens the door to plagues such as cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis and AIDS. If we have no africsaidspicretrovirals because the government does not want to believe AIDS really exists, thousands are condemned to death. If we have no AA or Alanon because nobody will admit he or she is alcoholic or battling to live with an alcoholic spouse, the struggle to stay sober is that much harder. If it is taboo to speak about AIDS or alcoholism so that there is no education in schools or on the television or radio, the lethal ignorance continues unabated. The discourses around shame and secrecy are the hardest to tackle.

All around me on this bright lovely morning there are birds singing, church bells tolling, childrens’ voices on the playing fields across the road — and all I can hear is the deafening silence of a conspiracy to prevent anyone from speaking the truth. It is forbidden to speak about sexuality in Xhosa, especially if you are a woman. The churches outlaw the use of condoms. And the death rate keeps soaring.

Here are some facts just about one of the countries involved in this epidemic: Zimbabwe is the third largest HIV/AIDS burden in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to an AIDS fact sheet distributed in 2005 by the Kaiser Foundation. That means that almost 2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and at least 120,000 of them are children. Young women between the ages of 15 to 25 make up about 77 percent of the infected population, and the projected life expectancy for females ranges from 30 to 34.

In a January 2008 article The Boston Globe cited the following statistics:

  • An April report by WHO and two other UN agencies said only 6 percent of children in need of treatment were getting it.
  • The government reports that more than 2,200 Zimbabweans die every week of AIDS complications.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 321,000 people need antiretroviral medicines, or ARVs, and only 91,000 have access to them.

As If That Wasn’t Enough To Hurt Your Heart

Thanks to another blogger with whom I have recently begun to correspond, I am now obsessed with watching “West Wing”  YouTube videos of memorable scenes. For example, from one of the earlier seasons, there is the episode called “Excelsis Deo” in which Toby is moved by the plight of a decorated homeless veteran who died wearing a coat that Toby had donated to charity. The coat still had Toby’s business card in it, so he was informed of the man’s death. The episode ends with the Dire Straits’ song “Brothers in Arms” playing in the background, the White House staff being serenaded to Christmas Carols by a children’s choir, and Toby in Arlington Cemetery with a full honor guard.

Okay. They could have stopped with just the full honor guard. That by itself is enough to give me goosebumps at anytime. Thank god they didn’t put me through the bugler’s “Taps.” I did have to make it through the folding of the flag and presentation on bended knee to the family member. Yes, I am crying openly by now. The link to this particular scene is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfOfUtkbiHQ.

west-wing-20-hours-in-america
From "The West Wing," Episode: 20 Hours in America

But wait, I’m not finished. There’s Leo’s funeral. Enough said on that one. Or, there is the famous mood episode called “The Two Cathedrals Press Conference,” in which President Bartlett is asked if he is going to run again; that’s a classic for the staging alone. All of Bartlett’s team fall into line behind their President, and the scene is a shot of just the men from the thighs down.

But the single best scene from any episode of “West Wing,” the scene that embodies the best of Aaron Sorkin’s writing for his tenure on the show, the scene that I dare you to watch and not be moved by, comes from the epiode  “20 Hours in America.” In it, President Bartlett delivers one of the best speeches to be heard ever—not just television speeches, not just pretend president speeches, but best speeches ever. The rhetoric in it burns.

Just a taste (but without the video, it’s like reading Obama’s speeches rather than hearing them):

“The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.”

(I don’t even want to think of how badly W. would have mangled this. How do you type visually shuddering?)

And I so want to put the link in here, but I don’t know if that would be stealing from Willpen’s World (http://willpen.wordpress.com/) since she just ran the YouTube link on her site. So go to her site and watch the video there, and be sure to let her know that I sent you. It’s worth the hop and skip to see this. Trust me.

So, now that I have completely ruined your day and evening with truth and near truth, and the power of words to hold the human heart, let me close. There will be more later. Peace.

The Great Gatsby: Past is Present

So Much More Than a High School Assignment

“What Foul Dust Floated in the Wake of His Dreams”

Without fail, everyone in high school is assigned The Great Gatsby, and almost without exception, everyone hates it, or at least, fails to appreciate it. My youngest son and I were discussing this subject months ago, and I agreed with him that this particular book is wasted on someone in high school. I mean, I realize the idealism of trying to introduce the young mind to F. Scott Fitzgerald. At one time, I, too, believed that this was a worthy exercise.

But as they say, time is a great teacher. Gatsby is not a character who can be appreciated by youth, certainly not by an egocentric youth whose only concern is the world that rotates around his axis. Now I know that there is a contingent out there who will argue vociferously that that in itself is the very reason that Gatsby should appeal to a 17-year-old boy: because Gatsby never grew up and the world seemingly revolves around him. But Gatsby never grew up only in the sense that his love for Daisy has never aged and the world that revolves around him is completely superficial. But everything else that happens in the novel is moving in real time, leaving Gatsby behind.

I was remembering that particular passage in The Great Gatsby when Nick remembers Gatsby looking across the water at the blinking green light: “I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out Daisy’s light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city” (chapter 9).

“The Colossal Vitality of His Illusion”

I don’t remember how many times I have read Gatsby, or what new things I find each time I read it. I loved great-gatsby-bwthe original movie with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. They were perfectly cast—Farrow with her breathless voice and wide eyes, and Redford with his impossible good looks in his ice cream suits. It was a case of the book being brought to the screen perfectly, with Sam Waterson as narrator Nick Carraway.

I suppose I am reminded of Gatsby for many reasons this cold afternoon: the time in which it was set—the 20’s immediately before the Great Depression, when things were still seemingly golden, but the veneer was starting to wear off. Fitzgerald’s narrative reveals characters who are so out of touch with their surroundings that they fail to notice the suffering of others. They fail to stop for a dying woman or to care that she was run down in the road like a dog. All that matters is Daisy’s suffering, which is superficial. Only Nick notices because only Nick has a real job, works for a living, and has any sense of connection with the rest of the world. In the book, only Nick is actually invited to Gatsby’s party. Everyone else just drops in as they please, which in itself is very telling. Nick is mired in reality. He is the touchstone.

As the book closes, Daisy and Tom move on, careless of what they have left in their wake: Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson is dead because of Daisy. Gatsby is dead, killed by George Wilson, spurred on by Tom. But the Buchanan’s take their little girl and their servants and their money and move on, as if life is a mess to be taken care of by the less fortunate: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (chapter 9):

“A New World Material Without Being Real”

In high school, a sophomore or junior will probably take something like this away from the book’s plot: Gatsby made a lot of money and had great parties but still didn’t get his woman, so he must have been pretty lame. (I know, I’m being very simplistic.) But will they see the Buchanans as AIG, Shearson Lehman, and all of the other people on Wall Street? Daisy and Tom are the people who continued to collect multi-million dollar golden parachutes and head off to Cabo as thousands and thousands of people watched their retirement funds decrease in worth by 60 and 70 percent. In essence, the Buchanans are part of the $700 billion bailout package; you have to wonder what their cut will be, because undoubtedly, people like Tom and Daisy will come out on top.

Can a 16-year-old have an appreciation for George Wilson as a metaphor for Addie Polk, who, at 90 years old, shot herself in the chest rather than be evicted from her house? After all, all George Wilson wanted was a better life for himself and his wife. After George lost Myrtle, he had nothing to live for, so he killed the person who he thought was responsible for ruining his life, and then he shot himself. Addie Polk is recovering in the hospital, and her mortgage will be forgiven, but at what price the human heart?

eyes-of-t-j-eckleburgAnd then there are the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, always looming on the side of the road. He seems to be watching, but just how effective is he? He sees Myrtle’s death. He sees Daisy fleeing the scene. He sees everything that happens in the Valley of Ashes, that long stretch between the Eggs, where nothing prospers. But he does nothing. He is impotent because he is only a symbol. We know about impotent symbols. Oh, I’d say Dr. Eckleburg is about as effective as Congress and W. in their oversight of what was happening in the years leading up to this massive economic meltdown?

Which leaves Nick Carraway and Gatsby. I tend to think of the American people as Gatsby for the most part: looking for that green light, that signal that everything is essentially okay, never realizing that perhaps, the good days are in the past for now. Gatsby so wanted to believe that he could throw parties and buy new shirts and have great meals, and not have to answer to his past as Jay Gatz. But in the end, that’s who he was.

The only one standing was Nick Carraway, and he was left with the mess. Nick was always the smart one. He didn’t overindulge. He wasn’t taken in by Daisy’s cousin Jordan, even though she was beautiful and sensual. In the end, Nick was a changed man, not the innocent who entered the lives at the beginning of the story, yet he still grasps a tenuous kind of hope that things will get better:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (chapter 9)

So who does Nick represent? The American people when all of this is over? The American People who voted for Barack Obama hoping for change, for better things to come. I suppose that we’ll just have to wait and see.

“The Incarnation was Complete”

When I began this entry, I really wasn’t certain where I was going. I just knew that The Great Gatsby was on my mind, and as I continued to write, the connections to real-time events just fell into place. It’s odd how that happens sometimes: two seemingly disparate subjects meeting and connecting. Maybe it has something to do with that String Theory that I’m trying to wrap my head around, but I have to admit that physics is just beyond the edge of my relative intelligence, so we aren’t going there today.

The Great Gatsby remains one of my favorite classic reads, as do most of Fitzgerald’s works. I also find the whole Zelda Fitzgerald story incredibly intriguing, but I’ll save that for another time. But Gatsby himself is such a tragic portrait of a man, and I am only half kidding when I say that high school students cannot appreciate this story. More, it’s a matter of how much they want to put into the book in order to get something out of it. But as with many stories, the reveal does increase significantly with time.

Let me close with this wonderful passage from Chapter 6, one that I missed on the first few readings:

“He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way.  No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”

Man, if only I had created the phrase “ghostly heart.” More later. Peace.