28 December 2005

brokeback mountain...

I have not written anything about the movie Brokeback Mountain on purpose. I saw it two weeks ago when it first came out in Chicago. I also have read the short story - three times.

The reason I have not written is because I saw the movie with an audience that was 95-99% gay and I wanted to see it again with an audience that is at least 95% straight. I want to see the differences in reaction. [I thought I was going to do that tonight at a suburban theatre with a friend, but I have the plague. It's what happens when you spend Christmas with a 2-year old, 4-year old, and 5-year old. They carry diseases you thought you could never catch.]

My main reasons for wanting to do it this way are first to see if there is a major different overall reaction between the audiences and second to discover why the gay audience laughed at very inappropriate moments in the movie. They were powerfully sad moments and the laughter was not nervous laughter or surprise laughter as when something unexpected happens in a movie. They were amused at what was happening.

So, I decided to make some comments now while I have thoughts fresh in my mind and then post again after seeing it with a straight audience. It could also give me a different impression because I have spent a lot of time thinking about Brokeback Mountain.

My own personal reaction, though it is skewed because of my take on the short story, is extremely positive. I really, really didn't like the short story. Not even re-reading it the week before I saw the movie. I think it is very poorly written contrary to everyone else's thoughts and not deserving of the O'Henry award and another it received. It is actually too long for a short story and too short for a novella. It is lacking in a cohesive character development.

Before anyone comments that a short story can be limited because of its length, I have to offer up O'Henry's The Ransom of Red Chief. You know exactly what all the characters are like in that story. You feel their dilemmas, especially because of your attraction and repulsion for Red Chief! You can't have character development better than this.

Ennis Del Mar comes across as an ass in the Brokeback short story in my opinion. He knows what he wants; he doesn't know what he wants; he treats Jack like a jerk; he treats Jack as the most important thing in his life; he treats his wife like a nothing; his family is everything to him. Heath Ledger, in the movie, adds the depth and dimension lacking in the story. You know where the conflict is coming from within him

Jack Twist is not a gay man in the story but a victim of circumstance right until the very end. He knows what he wants and he knows he can't have it. He realizes that he can have no control over anyone but himself. In the movie, Jake Gyllenhall gives Jack the personality he needs.

Ennis and Jack become two very believeable characters.

These two actors give the movie, along with Ang Lee's direction and Larry McMurtry's writing, what is missing in the short story. The other characters are also developed better. It is important to know about their lives away from each other and of both of their wives. The written story doesn't give as much of an insight. Because of these things the movie is tremendously better than the story. Usually, it's the other way around: the story is better than the movie.

My personal reaction to the movie did not hit during or right after I saw the movie. It hit me three days later when the impact of what is in the movie suddenly connected with my own life. Boy, did it hit! I had a breakdown that lasted all the way to work in the car. [I don't know why but breakdowns always happen to me in the car.]

I saw the hopeless situation that the two men were in and didn't know of a way out of. I also saw that the hopelessness was of their own making. Jack has a way out, but Ennis stops it, or, rather, can't imagine it. Yes, it does have to do with the time that the story takes place [1963-83] but there are stories of people who took the route in spite of it. [I'm being vague on purpose for anyone who has not seen it yet. I DO recommend everyone see it to make their own decisions.]

As a consequence, I saw the hopeless situations I had put myself into by not realizing that I had innumerable possibilities. Though I now know of these possibillities, I still can put myself into the hopelessness. All of us can. Knowing something and action are two different things. Everyone knows how to lose weight - diet and exercise. However, knowing about it doesn't lose the weight. Actually doing it is a completely different thing.

The passage of time is very important to the story but it does not come across too well in the written version. The movie uses it to the fullest advantage. Just seeing the 80's Jack is to see how time has affected the two men. The aging on Ennis is done without make-up, as far as I can tell. Ledger's transformation in the movie is remarkable, especially since you know it is from all of the torment Ennis created for himself.

This is an extremely personal movie. It is a love story as the reviews and commentaries say. Everyone can identify with something in the movie, even if it is the scenery that is stupendous. [We have spent the last two vacations at the site of the filming, actually arriving right after the filming completed.]

As far as the sex, the AFA and Pat Robertson have nothing to worry about. The gay sex is practically non-existent. There is a lot of rolling around and liplocking, but only one time that there is no doubt what is going on. The sex that is prevalent is all straight boobie sex with Jack's and Ennis' wives. The gay audience had very little reaction to it. The AFA and Robertson should be shocked by this not the gay theme.

What had the greatest affect on me the most were the simple unspoken thoughts, the holding, the caressing, the cuddling and the quiet moments between Ennis and Jack. These moments spoke volumes about what was going on. It was not a sex movie; it was a loving, compassionate story between two men who knew what was important to them but couldn't act. These moments are what life, romance and uniting are all about, not the sex, and it is broadcast very well in my opinion.

Academy Awards? I leave that to the politicking in Hollywood. Brokeback Mountain is a movie that was ready to be made, to be seen, to be discussed and finally with which to be identified. No matter who you are. It is a step in the right direction.

A hint: there is a symbol mentioned more than once in the movie that is very important. It is also talked about in the short story. It is important because it answers a question that is not explored deeply in the short story but holds the crux to Ennis' actions. The film has a much better handle on it.

As an aside, I can't get over the music either. It all fit so beautifully and added to the movie at all the right moments and you weren't even aware of it. The album is wonderful.

25 December 2005

Merry, merry...

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

I really do believe that there is a Santa Claus. It makes no sense to believe in the president, the pope, or any of the other stories if you don't believe in Santa Claus. They hold no hope. Santa Claus is full of hope. As the native American Hopi adage goes, "When hope is gone life is over."

Lately, it sure seems like hope is going, if not yet gone. We are hit in the forehead daily with dismal news from around the world and in our country. People are hated just for being who they are. People are not trusted because of their familial background. People are dismissed because of who they love. People are diminished because of what they believe.

Usually, all of this is done in the name of some god. A god who is usually acknowledged as all-forgiving, all-loving, and all-enclusive. Believers of these gods spout off on beliefs and add their own, "Yes, but..." None of their gods have a "Yes, but..." in the theology. Righteousness is not an attribute of very many gods, but their followers are filled with it.

Santa Claus has no "Yes, but..." or righteousness. Santa Claus is hope and future. There is no prerequisite to believing in Santa Claus. No one has to swear to his "truth." No one has to belong to the "right" group. No one has to love the "correct" person. Everyone is the same.

These are some of the reasons why I, at the age of 58, believe in Santa Claus. He loves me for who I am just like he loves everyone for who they are - not what they are.

...merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry, merry!

24 December 2005

no right to complain...

George Carlin has it all right! He said that he hasn't voted in the last elections because, in his words, "They're all schmucks! All of them!" He says that he has the right to complain about what's going on in the country because he didn't vote.

Yet he hears everyone else complaining about the war, loss of privacy, the economy.... He says, "You don't have the right to complain. You voted for the assholes!"

I'm beginning to believe he's right. You might say, "I didn't vote for Bush. I voted for Kerry." That doesn't make any difference. You and I didn't work hard enough to keep the country safe.

Bush and his minions say everything that they are doing is to keep the country safe. I don't feel safe now that I know that they have been monitoring all communications. The scariest part is that they feel that they are perfectly right in doing everything they are doing.

What they are doing is destroying the Consitution! This man is now worse than Richard Nixon. He believes he's above the law. he believes that he has broad powers. He has betrayed the conservative right, the liberal left and eveyone in between the two.

The pictures of him wearing a crown were a joke. Now I'm not so sure.

George bush Crown

Clinton just stained the carpet. Bush is spitting on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the people of the United States.

Where are the cries for impeachment?

just asking...

22 December 2005

misproven intelligent design...

I have the definitive proof that intelligent design has absolutely no basis.


no one intelligent would ever have designed puberty.

think about it...

30 November 2005

what's the surprise..?

From La Prensa, Managua, Nicaragua, 22 April 2005
Interview with Boff in Buenos Aires.

Boff: "He's a man that has no compassion." (Buenos Aires, EFE)
The Brasilian theologian Leonardo Boff thinks that the German Joseph Ratzinger is " a hard man and without compassion," and says he fears that after his consecration as Pope " an immense hell of hypocrisy will reign in the Church."
Boff, on whom the new Pope once imposed silence as a punishment, assured that the posture of Benedict 16 will be " a radicalized continuation" of the line of the deceased John Paul 2 against the use of contraceptives and " discrimination" against homosexuals and carriers of the AIDS virus.
Ratzinger is a man " without intellectual cordiality" with a posture that is " hard and at times without mercy." in dealing with " all this distant world of problems in which there is suffering and discrimination," the theologian declared to Radio Mitre in Buenos Aires. " I would not like it for this style to spread itself through the whole Church." Boff thinks that some of the positions of the new Pope will divide the Church. " I fear an immense hell of hypocrisy" he said. For this theologian, the appointment of Ratzinger " produces no hope, but instead fear and trembling in many sectors of the Church, especially among women, among those who are asking for the use of contraceptives,
among those living with AIDS, and among homosexuals." He said also that another point of conflict is in relations with the divorced. " Ratzinger has a very narrow conception of the Eucharist. He fights with them (the divorced), he distances them all. This is not to be a pastor. A pastor
accompanies these people, dries their tears, raises their hopes," he emphasized. " He must have a pastoral sense of mediation, of mercy. The Eucharist is not for saints and angels, it is for concrete persons who are sinners, that are open to meet the Lord," he added. Leonardo Boff has been one of the principle exponents of the Theology of Liberation, a liberal tendency that assumes Christian practice with a strong social coloration, and that forcefully struggles with the hierarchy and the Roman curia.

The same Ratzinger as chief of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was responsible for the silencing imposed on Boff and other representatives of Liberation Theology in Latin Ameria during the time of John Paul 2.

It was expected. JPII had no sense of intellectialization. He was purely a mystic-based scribe, out of touch with the modern world with yearnings for the Middle Ages where the church ran the entire show, kept the people in ignorance and the rulers in fear of hell and its minions, aka the soldiers of Christ. As proof, look at his support of Opus Dei and its founder.

BXVI is the intellectual but he was also evil and a Nazi. Doctrinaire has been a part of the German belief system long before Hitler. Everything is exact, precise and unwavering. Leonardo Boff has been ostracized by the church like all other "thinkers." The church does not like "thinkers." It only wants obedient children. As proof, look at the entire history of the German peoples. Just the words "I was only following orders" sends a chill down my spine.

These two ways of thinking, JPII and BXVI, can explain the problems the church has with North America.

Democracy is not in the best interest of a church that is run on authoritarian premise and relentless dogma. The sad thing is Jesus' thinking and ideals were not autocratic. They were more socialistic and communist. The revolution of his thoughts was that they came from the poor, the downtrodden, the infirmed, the cast offs.

Jesus was the founder and architect of Liberation Theology. The one line of thought that greatly questions the authority of the church by bringing up the original message of Jesus. The church does everything in its power to hide its true beginnings.

The latest proclamations on gay priests, usury [read anti-semitism], and the murder of innocents through refusing to fight AIDS in the one way that we know works, contraception, proves the back peddling is getting faster and more fervent.

So, again, what's the surprise..?

13 November 2005

no control... part II

Other Countries Buying Our Debt

Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn) spoke in the House of the US debt of $1.2 trillion that the Bush government owes to foreign countries and banks who have been buying up our debt. (italics mine)

Money quote (pun intended):

President George W. Bush and the current administration have now borrowed more money from foreign govenments and banks than the previous 42 presidents combined." (bold number mine)

This means that we no longer own our country. It is owned by other governments and banks.

Now, in personal finance, when you owe money to a bank the loan has a date of expiration and a payment schedule. When you or I don't make the dates, guess what the bank does? Takes the collateral.

My first question is: What was put up as collateral?

My second question is: When are the payments due?

My third question is: Who's going to come up with the money for the payments?

My last question is:

...no control, or out of control?

12 November 2005

fianally, a test worth taking...

This is the most logical of all tests I have ever seen. It is one that tells the truth and makes you laugh. It's better than a horoscope, the I Ching, and numerology all rolled into one. Try it, if you don't believe me.

What Muppet are you?

Here's who I am:

You are Kermit the Frog.

You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you have a habit of waving your arms about maniacally.

"Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and "Sheesh!"

"How Green Was My Mother"

"Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the Internet"

Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

"Hmm, my banjo is wet."

I would rather have been Statler or Waldorf, the two old farts in the balcony, because they made the most sense, were sarcastic and cynical, and got to say whatever they wanted. Kermit is fine with me.

...it ain't easy bein' green!

02 November 2005

having your head...

In addition to the limits on write-offs for mortgage interest, the main elements of the proposals would abolish the alternative minimum tax, erase deductions for state and local income and property taxes, restrict tax-free employer-paid health insurance, and reduce the deductions that many taxpayers can claim for charitable donations.

"Panel Urges Big Cut in Mortgage Deduction", New York Times, Wednesday, November 2, 2005

In addition, The top tax rate for the wealthiest taxpayers would be lowered, to 30 percent in one alternative, and 33 percent in the other, from 35 percent now.

Mr. Bush, in theory if not in practice, put this panel together. Besides the changes mentioned above on personal income taxes, it recommends changes for business:

The plans would lower the top tax rate for businesses. One plan would let businesses write off the cost of investments in plants and machinery in the year of the cost, a system known as expensing, and would disallow writing off interest payments.

So, the vast majority of taxpayers, including Bush's base, get the shaft again. Yet, the wingnuts have time to scream about a Supreme Court appointment, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights that effect a small portion of the population. Will they scream that they are going to be poorer again?

More and more I believe that a straight forward tax rate on individuals, no matter what their income, and businesses, no matter what their size, would be the fairest system of all of them. It would generate more income for the the US; it would treat everyone the same; and there would be fewer complications.

Now, to finish the title of this post...

up your ass...

24 October 2005

nothing better to do...? part XII

First, I need to clear why I haven't been posting for awhile. I have been incredibly busy. I have been taking a new class with Landmark and assisting at events and in registration. Work has consumed a major part of my life more than usual. My energy (what I have of it) and what little free time has been going into my other blog, existential chaos. PLUS, there really has been nothing out of the disordinary going on because all of it is disordinary!

Meirs? I hope neither she nor Bush backs out. We need a little amusement with all of the hurricanes, earthquakes, etc going on in the world.

Plamegate? What goes around, comes around. When you think you're bigger than life, you fall faster and harder with more pain.

FEMA? Murphy's Law in its raw form. The highest level of incompetence ends just where the sign on Harry Truman's desk in the Oval Office said: "The buck stops here." [Of course Truman also said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.]

Iraq? What can I say that everyone else hasn't been saying or starting to say?

On and on it goes.

BUT, here is one thing that fits into the "nothing better to do..." category. Friends have had this email conversation going on about the Starbucks' ad campaign with the sayings from famous and semi-famous people on their cups in order to start "old-fashioned coffee house conversations." [Starbucks words, not mine.]

The religious right were aghast a couple of weeks ago because of an Armistead Maupin quote on one of the cups from Tales of the City that they believed had Starbucks forwarding the "gay agenda." Quel horreur!

Maupin Cup

You can read the story here: "Tempest brews over quotes on Starbucks' cups," in The Seattle Times.

Soooo, what was Starbucks' response? It pulled the cup from the campaign! AND is including a cup in the spring with a quote from Rev. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life.

"You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your real purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny." "Starbucks stirs things up with a God quote on cups," USA Today, 10/19/2005.

What about a quote from Madeline Murray O'Hare? Athiests should have equal time. What about Buddhists? Hindus? Shinto? Rastafarian? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Hey, they all have agendas too!

So the next Pumpkin Spice, half-decaf, non-fat latte I order I will have to bow my head because some people have

nothing better to do...

07 October 2005

how convenient...

With all of the crap that is being thrown at this administration, the New York Times headline is "New York Named in Terror Threat Against Subways." Seems so predetermined given Bush/Cheney/Rove have always deflected criticism using this tactic. The scary part is you don't know whether to believe it or not. It like the old children's story about the the boy who cried wolf. People didn't believe him eventually because they thought he was still pretending. Just like in the story, people's lives are at stake. It's difficult to know what to believe and when any more.

wolf, wolf, wolf...

04 October 2005

something better to do...

An article in the mrzine [Monthly Review ezine] has an article, "Neo-Paleyism’s Assault on Reason," by Richard York, that has a very interesting thought on intelligent design that puts a hole into the argument itself.

Supporters of this movement are not deterred by the demonstrated power of natural selection to craft organisms finely attuned to their environments or by the rather obvious point that by renouncing material causes, they have created an infinite regress of explanation – i.e., surely the existence of an intelligent designer requires an even more extraordinary explanation than the existence of an object that appears to have been intelligently designed, so, if we are to follow the "logic" of intelligent design, we must invoke a designer of the designer, and so forth ad infinitum.

Wouldn't it be interesting if we were nothing more than an experiment being performed in a lab by an "intelligent designer" scientist who also is an experiment in a lab by another "intelligent designer" who is in a lab in an experiment by another "intelligent designer...?"

just asking...

03 October 2005

and cronies...

Everyone is posting on the nomination of Bush's chief counsel, Harriet Miers, as the replacement for Justice O'Connor. Most of the blogs refer to her nomination as "cronyism." Living in Chicagoland all of my life, I'm used to this as a daily occurrence. However, except for the Chicago Sun-Times, it's not thought to be anything really bad. It's the way things are.

There has long been a tradition of "taking care of family" in Chicago and I don't think that anyone would really be opposed to taking care of "family" before anyone else. It's just that here, in Chicago, it is a large extended family. It includes and encompasses more and more people than the traditional family. It is also a hotbed of diversity. It has extended itself to all races, ethnic groups, sexual orientation groups, corporations, etc. Any entity that lends itself to the fostering of the family "tradition" is welcome and the main focus of this family is the continued existence of itself.

There are many people in Chicago who are against this type of governmental set-up. There are legitimate reasons for it to continue and other reasons to place it under control. One thing that can definitely be said for it is that it works. Anyone who has visited Chicago remarks about how beautiful the city is, how friendly the people are and how well taken care of the city is. I even get these comments in my visits to Paris when people find out I'm from Chicago.

So, if Mr. Bush is taking care of his "family," it is a way of taking care of the continued existence of the "family." In a way, it is survival of the fittest.

Yeah, right..., but what about family that lives in New Orleans and Mississippi or that is in Iraq and Afghanistan or is elderly or is approaching retirement age or is in need of medication or is put out of their homes because of their race or sexual orientation or is needing help finding a job or....

...enough said.

01 October 2005

heroes, heroism, humanism..., continued...

Andrew Sullinvan is asking for people to lend their support to Capt. Ian Fishback by emailing supportfishback.@aol.com

I am especially impressed with Andrew's stand for integrity. I believe that integrity is being what I say and saying what I stand for. Capt. Fishback has certainly done this. Drop him an email and show your support. The United States must get back on the high road. For two centuries the U.S. was its word and its stand for freedom and the rights of all people. This administration has tainted our word and brought our integrity into question.

Lend your support in the quest to recreate our integrity.

28 September 2005

heroes, heroism, humanism...

Andrew Sullivan has been following the saga of Capt. Ian Fishback who has spent a lot of time "researching" the Armed Forces policies of humane and inhumane treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Capt. Fishback has written a letter printed in the Washington Post to Sen. John McCain asking for his assistance in assuring the honor and reputation of the United States' Armed Forces in the world from alleged disregard of the Geneva Conventions and treatment of prisoners as less than human beings by codifying the standards of treatment. In Captain Fishback's own words, "Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for." washingtonpost.com

He is reported as a totally upstanding member of the Army, a top-notch West Pointer and a caring individual both towards the soldiers under his command and foes. One co-worker, friend and acquaintance after another has attested to his solid background and actions.

The torture end-game is approaching - and Rumsfeld and Cheney know it. What is now being done to the hero, Captain Ian Fishback, who braved 17 months of obstruction, threats and intimidation by military brass to keep quiet, is a national disgrace. Fishback has now been sequestered at Fort Bragg under orders restricting his contacts (the pretext is that he is a key witness in a criminal investigation and that he should not be in contact with outsiders while it continues). My sources tell me that he has been subjected to a series of long, arduous interrogations by CID investigators. Predictably, the CID guys are out to find just one thing: they want to know the identities of his two or three NCO corroborators. Andrew Sullivan

This alleged treatment of Fishback is in keeping with how the current administration has handled instance after instance, not only with Iraq but with domestic and other diplomatic issues. It is concurrent with the secrecy built into the Homeland Security Law under the guise of national security.

...but what else is being kept secret?

27 September 2005

nothing better to do...? part XI

Unloading the books...

Unloading the books...

The The American Library Association (ALA) each year publishes a list of the 10 most challenged books. These books are challenged by people, groups and organizations who do not want anyone to read anything that they believe conflicts or disagrees with what they personally or organizationally believe. Everyone has the right to their own beliefs, but the US Constitution has a clear statement about censorship:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Bill of Rights

The attempts to ban and censor books, newspapers, magazines, any type of media, has been going on for centuries. The Catholic church was opposed to Guttenberg's printing press because they feared that if everyone learned how to read and get their hands on books easily, they would no longer have control over the serfs, peasants, laity, etc.

With the recent upswing of fundamentalism in many religions, the movement has multiplied a hundred-fold. The ALA has been at the forefront of keeping open the battle against censorship. This week is "Banned Books Week." From the ALA website on "Banned Books Week:"

Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

No one is declaring that everyone has to read things that they believe are contrary to their personal ethics, morals, or beliefs. If they want to protect their children, parents, etc. from reading certain materials, they need to police this themselves in some way. What the ALA, the Constitution and others are saying is that no one has the right to tell me what not to read. The censorship of any intellectual freedom or discourse is anathema to ensuring that freedom continues for all.

Here is the list of the "Ten Most Challenged" books of 2004. As you'll note, some of them have been around for many years. This is the first year that the Harry Potter books have not been on the list - nor is Tom Sawyer! Have you read any of them?

"The Chocolate War" for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence

"Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, offensive language and violence

"Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy and political viewpoint

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, for offensive language and modeling bad behavior

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky, for homosexuality, sexual content and offensive language

"What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones, for sexual content and offensive language

"In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak, for nudity and offensive language

"King & King" by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, for homosexuality

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for racism, homosexuality, sexual content, offensive language and unsuited to age group

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, for racism, offensive language and violence

“Don't join the book burners . . . .”Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States, 1953–1961

Nazi Book Burning

Banned books web_bookmark

25 September 2005

going up...

Space Elevator

Stairway to heaven www.telegraph.co.uk

This is has been around for awhile but is getting press all of a sudden. It is the stuff that pure science fiction is made of. Yet is closer to reality than is imagined.

i'm ready to go...

13 September 2005

be afraid.... be very, very afraid... part IV

cosmiciguana.com posts this with links:



"Amid increasing tension between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, and growing concern about overstretched U.S. ground forces, the George W. Bush administration is moving steadily toward adopting the preemptive use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states as an integral part of its global military strategy..." [*]

God, this is horrible. We are becoming everything we hate including nuclear aggressors. And can you imagine history's judgement to a nuclear attack based on Iraq style phony intelligence?

iguana also reports that the Russians are pissed! I would be too! ...and am.

My father and uncles fought WWII under the promise that freedom and liberty would be for everyone in the world away from fascists and nazis and other despots. They went through the Cold War and the threat of nuclear attack. They thought that everything they fought for could be wiped out with the push of a button. They were relieved when the threat was lessened and the US and USSR, and consequently Russia, agreed to dismantle their nuclear weapons. Beginning with Reagan, continuing with GH Bush and Clinton, the US and Russia continued on this course.

Now George W has reversed what has taken years of building trust and working together and put the skids on the hope for any kind of peace in the world. From his fiasco in Iraq, to his blundering in Lousiana, to the debacle that Bolton is causing at the UN, to threatening Iran with pre-emptive nuclear strikes or UN sanctions at the least, he has done things that could move the Nuclear Doomsday Clock closer to midnight than its present 7 minutes. [The clock has been at 7 minutes since March 2002!]

The Right religious conservatives have been looking towards the Middle East for the anti-Christ. Maybe, they should be looking closer to home.

...i'm afraid.... i'm very, very afraid.... we all should be afraid...

06 September 2005

your village called...

After the previous post I couldn't pass this up as I continued reading other newsites and blogs.

The Jefferson Parish president, Aaron Broussard, told CBS news that government would have to be held accountable for what had happened.

"Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy needs to stand trial before congress today," he said.

"Take whatever idiot they have at the top, give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

Damage exposure will 'wake America up' , David Fickling, Mark Oliver and agencies in the September 6, 2005 Guardian Unlimited

the finish of "your village called..."

...it's idiot is missing!

too much going on...

...and I don't mean just with the world.

Today was the first day of school, so things were more than hectic for the last week - three days of in-service with the staff and then getting everything ready for the kids today. All went exceptionally well.

We instituted a new idea of "No Rules." The teachers bought into it and we began using it with the kids. Yeah, I know you have to have rules in a school, culture or society. We're taking a different approach - "Procedures." Instead of telling the students what they can't do - think back to your school: "No running in the hallway;" " Don't hit anybody;" "No chewing gum;" etc - now we are telling the kids what the procedures are: "The procedure in the hallway is to walk in a straight line with your hands at your side or folded;" "The procedure in the lunchroom is to stay at your table unless an adult gives you permission;" etc. This way no one can say, "Well, you didn't say I couldn't skip in the hallway." Sorry, the procedure in the hallway is we walk. The procedure in the lunchroom is we stay seated unless an adult tells us it's okay to get up.

If you think about it, as adults we follow procedures all the time. The number one example is driving a car. There are procedures for everything: how to stop the car and when; how to press on the gas peddle for the speed limit; how to park a car; how to indicate a turn; etc. Laws are procedures. It's that way with everything. So we're bringing it to the kids. We'll see how it works and I'll try to keep you posted on its success.

If there were no procedures, there would be anarchism. I can't say chaos, because chaos is predictable.

Now as to the rest of the world. With everything that IS going on - Katrina, New Orleans, Rhenquist, etc. - everyone else has been commenting and talking about it. So, I've felt no need to comment. UNTIL NOW.

Buffeted by criticism over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush said Tuesday he will oversee an investigation into what went wrong and why _ in part to be sure the country could withstand more storms or attack....

"What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Bush said. "We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm."

Can anyone say, "Special Counsel?" or "Congressional Investigation?" or "Impeachment?" Why couldn't Osama then say, "I'm putting together a special Islamic court of Mullahs to determine if the things we are doing should be considered terrorism." [Why not?]

...just asking?

28 August 2005

fun & games...

Crooks and Liars posted a website this morning for a little fun. It's an instant personality test. Click on the link at the bottom and see who you are. This is what it said about me.

You are dignified, spiritual, and wise.
Always unsatisfied, you constantly try to better yourself.
You are also a seeker of knowledge and often buried in books.

You tend to be philosophical, looking for the big picture in life.
You dream of inner peace for yourself, your friends, and the world.
A good friend, you always give of yourself first.


historiographia scientifica...

An Op-Ed in today's New York Times, Show Me the Science, by Daniel C. Dennett, asks the most important question about the evolution vs intelligent design controversy. If Bush, Frist, McCain [a BIG surprise] along with the myriad of fundamentalists that want ID taught in science class as an alternative theory "Where IS the science?" to back it up. If it is science in the theory, the scientific process has to be behind it.

The question/problem is there.

The hypothesis is there.

The research/experimentation is not there.

The conclusion is serendipitous.

Is "intelligent design" a legitimate school of scientific thought? Is there something to it, or have these people been taken in by one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science? Wouldn't such a hoax be impossible? No.

The "No" comes from the use of the scientific process itself. It muddles process with product. You can't get from a to z without steps b through y. The product doesn't answer how the "designer" came up with the product or what steps the "designer" took. My car had a designer but had to employ scientific processes that involved the technique of smelting iron to mold steel, chemical formulas to create the compounds in the tires, physics to determine the coefficient of drag, etc., etc., etc. I didn't just hand over $40,000 for someone's idea, otherwise I'd be driving a Bentley Continental. [I like this "idea" better than the car [idea] I have. I just don't have $175,000!]

Intelligent design advocates, however, exploit the ambiguity between process and product that is built into the word "design." For them, the presence of a finished product (a fully evolved eye, for instance) is evidence of an intelligent design process. But this tempting conclusion is just what evolutionary biology has shown to be mistaken.

Proponents of ID do have a process, but it is not in how the design is developed. It is how they "sell" their "ideas." They are experts at intentionial, excuse me, intelligent design in promotion and propaganda!

The focus on intelligent design has, paradoxically, obscured something else: genuine scientific controversies about evolution that abound. In just about every field there are challenges to one established theory or another. The legitimate way to stir up such a storm is to come up with an alternative theory that makes a prediction that is crisply denied by the reigning theory - but that turns out to be true, or that explains something that has been baffling defenders of the status quo, or that unifies two distant theories at the cost of some element of the currently accepted view.

To date, the proponents of intelligent design have not produced anything like that. No experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. No observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking.

Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

Does Jerry Falwell's Liberty University or Pat Robertson's Regent University offer Intelligent Design 101 in their science curricula?

...just asking?

26 August 2005

the end....

This is the end, Beautiful friend
This is the end, My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
Can you picture what will be, So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land
Lost in a Roman...wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane

James W. Morrison, 1943-1971

Morrison Grave 3

25 August 2005

to understand is to perceive patterns.... (Isaiah Berlin)

It may seem that I support same-sex marriage from the things I have written in previous posts. I do not.

I uphold the perogative for others who wish a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way in which other groups have the ability to join in a committed contract. Marriage to me is the union of two people who decide to live together with commitment or vow - a fairly traditional view of marriage that comes from my upbringing and background. If people wish to be able to have the entitlement of marriage, it is their responsibility. I would not stand in their way. I feel the same way whether they are straight or gay. It is their decision. In fact, many close friends/family are married and I support them whole-heartedly. It is their choice to make the commitment to each other.

On the other hand, by my personal and ethical study, experience and observation, I cannot support anyone if they choose not to keep their commitments or vows - unless they state up front that they do not intend to be monogamous in their commitment or vows or decide on other conditions of the union. This does not make them bad people. It is my view and I accept it as that. I will not put that on anyone else.

I am trying very hard not to use the word "right." I don't believe that marriage is a right for either straights or gays or anyone else. I believe that it is a choice and a privilege. It is a choice because there are many people through the ages who have chosen not to marry and up until the 20th century marriage was normally an economical or class duty that in most cases was arranged. If love or commitment came into play it was usually by accident or people grew it into the marriage. Marriage for love on a mass scale was a 20th century phenomenon. It is a privilege because it is given by law, whether civil or religious.

My favorite aunt's marriage was arranged by my grandparents when she was just two years old and they were still living in Italy. When she finally married my uncle, here in the US, they had to lie about her age. They said she was 13 but she was only 12! He was 22. I have no doubt that they did love each other. They were married for over 50 years and even though my uncle was 10 years older than she, he outlived her, continually mourning her until his death. My father's parents had been married for over 50 years and my parents almost made their 50th anniversay with my father dying just months before.

At the same time, my mother and her other sister chose their own husbands as was done in the mid-twentieth century. I remember my grandmother telling the story that she and my grandfather were ultimately responsible for my aunt's "arranged" marriage, but since my mother and other aunt chose their own husbands, it was their responsibility for any problems. [Of course, my grandmother never held to this. She was supportive and helpful in any way she could be.]

The argument that most fundamentalists make is that marriage and family, as it is, has been the norm for centuries. This is historically far from the truth. Even the bible has polygamist situations. The Scriptures are clear that polygamy was, and still is today, a valid form of marriage. God, nowhere condemns such godly men as Abraham (Gen. 16:3), Jacob (Gen. 29-30), Moses (Ex. 2:16-21, Num. 12:1), Caleb (1 Chron. 2:46, 48), Gideon (Judges 8:30), or David (1 Sam. 18:27, 2 Sam. 3:2-3) for having more than one wife. Polygamy is just not acceptable anymore.

If you really think about marriage today, divorce is a form of polygamy. It is having multiple spouses, the same as polygamy, but not at the same time. It's like "serial" polygamy. [Some call it "serial" monogamy.]

When you step out of the Judeo-Christian history and idea of marriage and look into ancient Rome, there really was no sense of family until the Stoics foisted their beliefs not only on the Roman populace but the early Christian church. Ancient Romans, and Greeks for that matter, interpreted family as a political, an economical or a class practice.

Ancient Roman pater familias could adopt anyone that they wanted, even if they were older than them, as heirs. To divorce their wives, they only had to say, "I divorce you," in front of seven witnesses and the woman and her dowery would have to leave. [It may have been the first instance of "no fault" divorce.] Women could also initiate divorce if they were independent or had the support of their father who would be the only one who could institute legal reclaim of her dowery because it legally still belonged to him.

From this small background of thought you may begin to see how my view on same-sex marriage may seem contorted. I uphold people marrying but I don't think that there is any real basis for marriage to be a "right." It's a construct devised for different purposes and ends.

As far as the religious-right's argument that marriage is for procreation, there are too many instances of people who chose not to procreate or were unable to procreate - the elderly as an example. Are they upholding the concept of marriage as the religious right would have it? Probably, but not with a procreative chance. So the argument against same-sex marriage not having procreative status could be held in the same vein.

Likewise, the argument that same-sex marriage will be the cause of the destruction of the traditional family is a stretch also. First, what is a "traditional family?" That depends on the mores of the society of the moment. As I mentioned above, in Ancient Rome it was purely for economic and status reasons. In Victorian times, the major goal of the parents was to make certain that a son did not marry below his station and for a daughter to "marry-up" so she wouldn't have to live at home and be a monetary burden to the family.

What has proven to be main cause for the downfall of the traditional family is divorce. There are permutations of the family from divorce that sociologists have probably catalogued of which people are unaware. Step brothers/sisters, half brothers/sisters, step step brothers/sisters... because people repeatedly marry. There are many children's books in the library about "alternative" families with step-parents and extended family due to divorce to help children cope with all the confusion.

Extended family used to be a large family with a patriarch and/or matriarch where each member of the family had the responsibility of making certain that all members were safe and taken care of and kept together as a unit, even if not living in the same house.

When my uncle retired and moved to California, no one in my family would speak with him except his daughter and me. In an extended Italian-American family it was unheard of for any member of the family to move away from the "ancestral homestead." Unmarried children were not expected to leave their parent's house until the day of marriage - even if they were 30, 40 or 50 years old! This still happens not only in Italy but in parts of the US. Strange? No, custom.

One can cite other areas and arguments for/against same-sex marriage, but it has been done innumerable times by all sides. Going back to my beginning statement - "It may seem that I support same-sex marriage from the things I have written. I do not" - all of the things I have mentioned lead me to believe not only that same-sex marriage is not a viable option for gays but, maybe, it's no longer a viable option for anyone. That's a completely different dialogue, however.

My main reason for not supporting same-sex marriage, personally, has to do with the LGBT community. It is a community that thrives and stands for true diversity. It runs the gamut from professional sports figures to professors to businessmen/women to transvestites to blacks to latinos/latinas to committed partners to.... I could go on and on.

Rather than being the downfall of the traditional family, marriage may be the possible demise of the diversity that is so strongly held in the LGBT community. In no other segment of society has diversity been so freely embraced. True, just as in other segments of the population, this diversity is frowned upon and put down by some members of the LGBT community, but I have not found the numbers as in other segments of the population who do not support diversity.

The LGBT community has struggled for years for its own identity. Stonewall was the visible beginning of the struggle. Pride events do not, in my mind, celebrate LGBT as much as the diversity for which it stands. I fear that in the pursuit of acceptance by the mainstream population [ie straights] the LGBT community may swing too far away from its encompassing diversity. Marriage in the "traditional" sense for gays could be viewed as a wish to be the same as everyone else. This is a false argument not only for the LGBT community but for all of mankind.

We are the same in our differences.

Again, I support the perogative for others who wish a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way in which other groups have the ability to join in a committed contract - be it a civil or religious committed marriage or union.

There was a time I wanted to be in a committed relationship with someone but it didn't work out for many reasons. However, I never really imagined myself in a "legal" or "quasi-legal" marriage or union. First, at that time it wasn't even a glimmer of hope and no one contemplated the movement that is happening today. Second, I never thought that as a species it is in humans to be in the type of "traditional" marriage that evolved in the 20th century or as fundamentalists insist upon.

As I tried to show above, at different times in history "marriage" had different reasons behind it but only one purpose: the continuation of the species. Yet, there were groups and individuals who did not and do not wish to procreate, for example the Essenes, Vestal Virgins, Roman Catholic priests, many modern couples today, etc. Societies have always acknowledged and accepted them as non-procreators by choice. It is not a giant leap to accept same-sex individuals into this group, nor should it be difficult to see individuals and couples of any orientation wanting to ensure the species' continuation by adoption or IVF if they themselves cannot procreate for whatever reason.

At this point in my life I don't see myself in a marriage or civil union, especially at my age. However, as Katherine Hepburn playing Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter said...

"In a world where carpenters get resurrected, anything is possible..."

24 August 2005

now, god hates sweden...

After Pat Robertson called for the assasination of Venezuela's President Chavez, Fred Phelps is starting an international brouhaha by starting a new website called "God Hates Sweden." Between the two of them, the rest of the world may start asking who are the real religious-fascists.

Anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps has caused an international royal gay flap over accusations that Sweden's King Carl Gustaf is gay.... Phelps' site calls Sweden "a land of sodomy, bestiality, and incest", and goes on to say: "The King looks like an anal-copulator, & his grinning kids look slutty & gay."Fred Phelps' 'Swedish King Is Gay' Tirade at 365gay.com.

Now, I have first-hand, well maybe second-hand, knowledge about this. An old friend, who is Swedish, schooled with Carl Gustaf, competed with him in the Olympics, and was friends with him. Quite a number of years ago, this friend told us a number of stories about His Royal Highness and, trust me, his behaviors, if the stories are true [and I have no doubts], are truly, positively NOT gay.

The Swedish government has lodged a complaint with the American ambassador in Sweden, but it probably will go nowhere. The king and his family have spoken with their lawyers, but there probably is nothing they can do because of First Amendment rights in the US that Phelps knows inside-out. The site and its content have infuriated Swedes who have a close bond with their royal family.

Although Phelps could be prosecuted in Sweden it is doubtful he could be extradited. Phelps intends to picket the King on September 5th in Stockholm. If he goes, there may be no need for extradition. Sweden has "promotion of hate" laws. They might be able to take care of the problem for us.

...and I refuse to link to Phelp's webpage!

power and tragedy...

I posted this entry on my other weblog, existential chaos, but thought it would also be appropriate here with all of the dialogues, debates and pronouncements being made today not only in the U.S. but across the world. A lot seems to be hinging and hanging on spirituality and religion that is happening in the world but, as in the previous post, it is a redundancy as people entrench themselves in their redoubts.

"The Church is precisely that against which Jesus preached and against what he taught his disciples to fight".

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 1901, 168

"Christianity is still possible at any time. It is not tied to any of the impudent dogmas that have adorned themselves with its name: it requires neither the doctrine of a personal God, nor that of sin, nor that of immortality, nor that of redemption, nor that of faith; it has absolutely no need of metaphysics, and even less of asceticism, even less of a Christian "natural science". Christianity is a way of life, not a system of beliefs. It tells us how to act, not what we ought to believe."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 1901, 212

"For this is how religions tend to die: the mythic premises of a religion are systematized, beneath the stern and intelligent eyes of an orthodox dogmatism, into a fixed sum of historical events; one begins nervously defending the veracity of myths, at the same time resisting their continuing life and growth. The feeling for myths dies and is replaced by religious claims to foundations in history."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 1872, 10

"Tales of My death have been greatly exaggerated" as God might say... Yet the essential nature of Nietzsche's critique here remains sound. We do indeed see myths taken too seriously, we see 'religion' perverted into a form of 'control-freakery' with no freedom of belief, of thought, of possible progress, a denial even of knowledge and science itself. This strangulation of religious thought, this total rejection of evolution or change in any form, destroys free-will, that supposed 'special' gift of God to humans. It thus rejects God in itself, whilst pretending otherwise. Thus it wasn't Nietzsche who killed God, but the fundamentalists, who rejected (and still do) the beauty of His creation - the world-in-itself. It is if we have presented to us a 'mystery play', which is repeated, endlessly, without the slightest variation or emotion by the most wooden of actors - who could possibly love that ? If God has no real followers, then He must, inevitably, wither away...

CALResCo Complexity Writings, "The Will to Power" by Chris Lucas

...1872, ...1901, ...or 2005?

22 August 2005

nothing ≠ something...


Everything seems to be as usual. Reading the news, reading blogs, observing things going on around us all seems to be a replay of things that have all happened before. Different names. Different places. Different happenings. Same old, same old.

If there had been a comcast.net back in the first millenium, what would the headlines have been? On today's comcast.net home page the number one story is "Bush Compares Iraq to World Wars."

In A.D. 476 it would have been "Western Roman empire ends as Odoacer, German chieftain, overthrows last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, and becomes king of Italy"


Another headline today is "Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuela's president."

In A.D. 54, the headline would have been "Claudius poisoned, succeeded by Nero."


One more headline today is "Last Jewish Settlers Leave Gaza Strip"

In A.D. 637, the headline would have been "Arabs conquer Jerusalem"


Can someone tell me how we are more civilized than the first millenium?

just asking...

15 August 2005

liberty and justice for all...

I've been wont to make reference to the Founding Father's thoughts to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, & the Bill of Rights through other sources, including the Federalist Papers, Thomas Jefferson's private letters, etc. Though to me, it is clear that all of them desired a form of government that ensured that citizen's had their personal rights protected from the circumstances of the times in which they lived, they went beyond this with the foresight to understand that for the government to continue and the people to be safe it had to be a living, growing and evolving entity.

They did not want to limit the power of the people but realized that power directly in the hands of the people was impossible in such a varied and large community as the Thirteen Colonies/states. [What would they think of 50!] Franklin, Madison, et. al. decided that the best solution would be a representative government with a system of checks and balances built into the government so that no one person or group could become sole proprietor of the governing process, hence the executive, legislative and judiciary branches were devised.

The Founding Fathers hoped that with an organization like this the liberties of the people could be preserved, expanded and evolved with an assurance that the tyranny of the one or few could not take hold.

Their work is presupposed on one word: liberty. The Oxford American Dictionary definition is "the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views...." As a straight forward definition it is fairly succinct. The government the Founding Father's conceived, however, is not a one-way street. It also declares that the citizens have responsibilities.

The major duty of the people to the success of the government and, consequently, the society of the country is to protect the rights of others in order to safeguard their own liberty.

Thomas Jefferson defined it in the "Declaration of The Rights of Man and The Citizen" as: "Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law."
How did the founding fathers define liberty and freedom?

14 August 2005

he can't come back if...

You've got to see this. I'm not usually amazed at the crazies, but this one caught me off guard. In short, Bush backed off the mid-East program because the right-wingnuts believe that Jesus can't come back if the Palestinians are in control of any part of the holy land. They have been assured that the Gaza strip shows no "biblical" significance that would put the "second-coming" in jeopardy. I guess the story has been around for a little while, but I just found it reading a discussion about the right's desire for a theocratic United States. It seems the ride has started.

"The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and Solomon's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.

Abrams attempted to assuage their concerns by stating that "the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph's tomb or Rachel's tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace."

The Jesus Landing Pad: Bush White House checked with rapture Christians before latest Israel move from the Village Voice

are we there yet...?"

something better to do...

There have been a number of posts on this site entitled "nothing better to do..." in reference to people who invent ways to inhibit progress, who try to force others into complying with their beliefs only, who debilitate freedoms, or who foster ignorance. This post, in a way, cites the antithesis to these types of arguments.

This past week, Dan Savage from the "Stranger" was guest blogging on andrewsullivan.com. He discussed quite a number of things, but he also wrote one of the most important things in belief and support of American democracy and especially the Constitution. He says it in response to Sen. Rick Santorum's recent interviews and book.

Personal freedom is like free speech: Some people are going to exercise their personal freedom and/or freedom of speech in ways that make you uncomfortable. So long as they’re not imposing themselves on you, they should be left alone. And, I’m sorry, Rick, but the haunting fear—or certain knowledge—that someone, somewhere, is enjoying himself in ways that you think are sinful does not qualify as an imposition.

I remember that for the longest time this thought has been tantamount in my mind. It came from my parents. I remember two things that were said by them as I was growing up that have stuck in my mind clearly.

From my father, "Try anything once. If you don't like it, don't do it again."

From my mother, who was devoutly Catholic, upon hearing a newscast sensationally reporting about people's response to two lesbians: "It's nobody's business who sleeps with who. They should mind their own business!"

Sadly, there is always someone who wants to tell you what to do, what to think, and what to believe. The American Revolution was fought by our Founding Father's to eliminate this ever happening again in our land. It is even sadder that the loudest, though not the largest, voice in this country is espousing just that. At the end of the 18th century they had to deal with The Madness of King George. At the beginning of the 21st century we're having to again deal with the madness of king George and his minions. There is still...

something better to do...

12 August 2005

a metaphor...

Below is a picture of Oscar Wilde's tomb at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris that I took a few years ago on one of my annual visits. It is, as one would expect, a flamboyant and bigger than life memorial to not only his genius but also his wit.

It is now a metaphor for what is going on in the US when it comes to bigotry and the plans of the ultra-right that is not just trying but actually, for all practical purposes, is in control of the political mentality of the country due to circumstance and the stewardship of a few well-organized fanatics whose main reason for living is power - at anyone's cost. They rely on people being sheep, being afraid and being pliable. It is an old, old trick used by the medieval church. If you keep the people in the dark, don't let them have knowledge, and keep them in a constant fear, they will believe anything you say. It's called blissful ignorance. It also is great cause for alarm for the people in control should the "ignorant" suddenly become aware.

Lady Bracknell: “I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”
The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I, Oscar Wilde

The tomb is an Art Deco sculpture of a male figure, possibly in flight, with a stylized hint of ancient Babylonian or Sumerian gods. If you look closely at the picture below, you will notice that there is something missing from the sculpture - the penis and testicles.

A number of years ago, someone decided they needed a souvenir and literally "whacked" it off. It's never been replaced. Nor, in my opinion, should it be replaced. I think Oscar Wilde would be amused. When he was alive they tried to emasculate him, and to an extent did, but he fought them with all of his wit and genius.

Tombeau de Oscar Wilde

The metaphor I'm struck by is how the right-wing is doing their best to "castrate" the nation into becoming solely what they want it to be according to their beliefs at the expense of anyone with any contrary to theirs. They want no diversity and no exchange of ideas between people. No secularism. No athiesm. No freedom of religion. No freedom of expression. No freedom of privacy.

I could cite a great number of things in the news today pointing to their stance, but the one on which the right seems most fixated is the LGBT community.

This is the reason for the metaphor. Though they believe that the community is already emasculated from its very nature, they work very hard to prove it. They continuously attack and attack, chipping away at the surface of the sculpture. Fortunately, the sculpture is strong and solid. So is the United States and the LGBT community. People are starting to take notice.

But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.
-Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

In previous posts I indicated my fear and the need for fear of things that were happening in the US. I feel less fearful. There are signs that the tide is starting to turn and the rules of logic, fairness and democracy are reasserting themselves, slowly, but the omens and auguries are there.

An old Hopi Indian adages says, "When hope is gone, life is over."

...be afraid, but be hopeful.

11 August 2005

jesus, we have a problem...

The newest attempt to bring fact and creationism into alignment is that Noah brought dinosaurs onto his ark. The ark, by most figuring, is thought to have been about 450 feet in length depending on which measurement of "cubit" one uses. The height was about 45 feet with a 75 foot width. These measurement are giving the benefit of the doubt by using what is known as the "long cubit = 20.4 inches." Dinosaurs on Noah's Ark

If Noah brought dinosaurs on his ark, then just the brachiosaurids are a problem because the remains found of this species have been as long as 100 feet with the average being around 85 feet in length, a height of 40-50 feet, a width of 10-20 feet and weighing between 33-88 tons. Brachiosaurus "Arm Lizard"

That would mean that one male and one female brachiosaurus would be almost ⅓ the length of his ark and as wide if they were standing side by side with their heads sticking out in to the rain! What about the other dinosaurs, if they were all on the ark? How would they all fit with all of the non-dinosaurs?

...just asking.

10 August 2005

true globalization...

If it were true that capital flows where wages are lowest, we would expect Burkina Faso and other impoverished low-wage countries to be awash in foreign investments. The claim has testable implications, so we can check. During the 1990s, 81 percent of U.S. foreign direct investment went to three parts of the world: desperately poor Canada, impoverished Western Europe, and starving Japan. Developing nations (with rising wages) such as Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, and Mexico accounted for 18 percent. And the rest of the world, including all of Africa, shared the remaining 1 percent.
“Globalization is Grrrreat!” Tom G. Palmer of the Cato Institute

"Money is as money does."

...or does it?

06 August 2005

an anniversary...

Hiroshima - Bruce Silverstein

The picture above is from the Bruce Silverstein website with a retrospective of photos by Werner Adalbert Bischof. There are often photos of the aftermath of the a-bomb on the physical city of Hiroshima. This shows the aftermath on the person - one of the lucky ones.

Having grown up in the era of the possibility of total annihilation - the cold war - where we practiced getting under our desks at school, had fallout shelters in the basements of schools (my school still has the signs up), and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it's no wonder that the boomer generation and its progeny considers self-gratification most important. We were always told that we could die instantly and with no warning.

Live for the moment, buy as many toys as you can, enjoy yourself... there may not be tomorrow.

this is not a happy anniversary...


Saturday, August 06, 2005

CNN Breaking:

No important news left in the world

from Crooks and Liars not five minutes after posting the previous.

see, so what...?

so what...? part 2

The previous post came from not having any contact with the internet and news for seven days. I mentioned that I was in the Canadian Rockies on holiday for a couple of weeks. The internet company screwed up the delivery of the modem, so there was no connection to the internet and we chose not to have any contact via television, at least I did.

The titles in the previous post all come from the internet on July 21, 2005, the day the internet was set up in the house. Though some are dated otherwise, they were all referred to somewhere on the 21st.

It struck me that the headlines, such that they were, all dealt with things not beautiful and I was surrounded by nothing but beauty in the mountains. I had been exceptionally happy for the previous seven days with no contact to the "outside" world, but I was still being affected by it. Or was I?

Can ignorance be a viable option for people in the 21st century? The tribes of the Serengeti know nothing about the 37 children that were killed by terrorists in Iraq. Are they any worse off for that? The townspeople in Nepalese mountain regions don't even know R. Kelly let alone that he allegedly had sex with a fourteen year old. In fact, marriage to a fourteen year old may be culturally acceptable to them. They may wonder what the big deal is.

"no matter what..." is not looking for answers as much as seeking out questions. The entries may not seem linked in any way, but they are. There is a connection between all of them. I'm not going to explain it. I may not even be able to explain it. There are too many levels, sub-levels and contradictions with it. Even this post fits into the connection.

so what...?

01 August 2005

so what...?

London blasts cause chaos on Tube... so what?

Lieberman: Roberts Probably Not Extremist... so what?

Sudan Security Roughs Up Rice Delegation... so what?

37 Iraqi children killed in Baghdad... so what?

Cops: Indiana mom beat kids to death... so what?

Most Americans Would Reject Same-Sex Marriage... so what?

Friend: Girl on [R. Kelly] sex tape was 14... so what?

Report: Iran Gay Teens Executed... so what?

Greenspan sees little impact on rates from China... so what?

Plame's Identity Marked As Secret... so what?

Did Rove lie to the FBI? ...so what?

Grants for Gifted Children Face Major Threat From Budget Ax...so what?

Bush Administrations Fails to Block World Action on Global Warming...so what?

...so what? ...so what? ...so what? ...so what?

Why should I be concerned? Why should I worry? None of this has any direct bearing on me or you! They are just things that have happened. Nothing more. This is reality? As Robin Williams said in one of his standups, "Reality. What a Concept."

So what?

What is the view or story I have made up about each?

That's "so what..."

Canadian Rockies - grander than grand...

Here are some pictures from the trip we just returned from. The Canadian Rockies are some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. No mountain ever looks the same twice. There is nothing like the sound of the mountains. Around each curve in the road is a different vista.

Parc Peter Lougheed, Alberta, Canada
Originally uploaded by jmichaeli.

In the Canadian Rockies found in the Kananaskis Valley is Parc Peter Lougheed. One of the most beautiful spots in the Rockies.

Mont Invincible

Parc Peter Lougheed

Snow at Moraine Lake - Lake Louise

Chutes Tekanakawa

Woodoos outside of Banff

why did I have to come back...?

20 July 2005

why no one has seen or heard from me...

Parc Peter Lougheed, Alberta, Canada
Originally uploaded by jmichaeli.

There is a time when everyone needs to just loose it; or should I say, get lost? I'm up in the Canadian Rockies with friends and existing in surroundings that everyone should enjoy once in their life.

I have been out of touch by choice and because the internet company sent the modem for the house we're in to Japan! I'm glad they did.

So, until late last night I had no idea what was going on in the world...

it was wonderful...

13 July 2005

i wonder...

"The Pennsylvania senator (Rick Santorum) recently penned a book, ''It Takes a Family," that blasts two-income families, divorce, cohabitation before marriage, and other social trends he considers liberal ills." Santorum resolute on Boston rebuke Insists liberalism set stage for abuse

What I wonder is if someone would ask him if (pardon my crudeness) he fucked his wife before their wedding night? I wonder if he'd answer the question? Truthfully?

I know this is not the point of the article, and it has a lot of important ones, but if he is such a straight arrow did he really have these conservative beliefs when he was younger? Do the points he espouses make him a consummate expert? He was raised a Catholic. I'm sorry. I was raised a Catholic and sex is the number one topic of catholic middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students - more so than their Protestant friends.

Well, did he have pre-marital sex?

just wondering...

10 July 2005

a voice of reason...? II


I have been consumed for the last week about something I read by Michelle Malkin entitled Namby-pampy nation.

"The left-wing Kumbaya crowd is quietly grooming a generation of pushovers in the public schools. At a time of war, when young Americans should be educated about this nation's resilience and steely resolve, educators are indoctrinating students with saccharine-sticky lessons on 'non-violent conflict resolution' and 'promoting constructive dialogues.'"

At first, I thought she was being cynical or sarcastic with this article because she has two children of her own. Sadly, she is not. She is serious. She wants schools to teach kids how to defend themselves against any and all threats by swinging first - not trying to work things out.

Malkin's justification is, "Just what we need to combat throat-slitting, suicide plane-flying Islamists: young eunuchs swaying to moldy old folk music while their "Peace Place" signs flap in the wind."

[Where have we heard this before?]

Over the last few years, since Mr. Bush became president, we have realized an increase in violence in schools. It is growing and growing to epidemic proportions. It is also escalating from bullying by word to planned attacks.

This past year we had three girls at my school stab a fourth in the back of the head with scissors. They were arrested for the incident and face court dates. Now they are up for expulsion. These girls are only in sixth grade: 12 years old!

What were they fighting about? No one seems to know, including them. It appeared to be over an incident that happened well more than a year ago that they couldn't even remember. It could have had something to do with the shade of one girl's skintone. It could have been a rumor that someone started. It may have been a look one of them gave to another. It might have been that one of their fathers humiliated another one ten years ago! The thing to remember is that one came close to not ever being able to walk again because the scissors were within inches of her spinal column and three others face possible jail time and a minimum of a one year expulsion. Twelve years old!

Their parents were up at the school constantly; the girls were suspended repeatedly; the social worker dealt with them; their teachers did everything they could think of trying; the counselor had sessions with them. They decided that their action spoke louder than words. Yes, the "namby-pamby" approach seems not to have worked. Why?

These girls took Malkin's argument to its conclusion. They stood up for themselves and acted. Sure, the "talking" didn't help and may never have. They became fanatics: forgot their cause but redoubled their efforts. They were unaware of not only why they were (re)acting but also didn't even consider the consequenses. They read and heard on the news that fighting is all right. War is acceptable. It's nothing more than defending oneself. It's all right to fight. It's okay to hurt. It's the right thing to do. At what cost?

Malkin's argument comes from a book entitled One Nation Under Therapy by Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel. Her main quote from the book:

"American children badly need moral clarity. But our education establishment is too uneasy about the idea of moral judgment to meet this elementary need. Feelings of helplessness and disorientation are thoroughly, even compulsively, canvassed, elicited, discussed, and promoted; by contrast, feelings of moral indignation and condemnation are deflected and downplayed. This leaves children defenseless, clueless and unprepared to meet real and grave threats to their own and the nation's future."

We have "moral clarity" in our school system. The rule states very plainly that fighting and violence of any kind is not tolerated and the consequence is suspension, police referral and expulsion. How much more clarity is needed? What learning can happen if this rule is not in place? Unfortunately, none of these consequences seems to get the message across these days.

As far as "moral indignation," where is the condemnation of hunger, poverty, and AID's? If people had food to survive, money to live and no threat of life-threatening disease, where would the need for violence be?

Students are sustaining the violence because they are being given permission to continue it, and most of the permission is subtle by way of what they read and hear from adults. They are afraid and don't know why. No one is talking to the children about what is behind what they hear. No one is explaining to them what is really going on in the world. No one is emphasizing that there are other possible ways of solving problems, and anyone who suggests alternatives is immediately labeled unpatriotic, left-leaning, liberal, and anti-American. Discussion is cut off immediately. Are the scissors next?

When the train bombing occurred in Spain, one of my administrative assistant's granddaughters asked if that meant they wouldn't be able to take the "L" Downtown anymore. Her grandmother took the time to sit down with her and her sisters and explain what had happened and why we thought it happened. She also took pains in talking with the girls against violence and the need to get along and work together.

Of course, Malkin and friends are not in favor of this because they believe we are educating a bunch of namby-pampy pacifists. The alternative is scisssors, severed spinal cords and more violence.

At the same time, I'm sure that Malkin, Sommers, and Satel must be Christians or at the least moral conservatives. They probably attest that they live by the Ten Commandments. There is one four-word commandment that is to the point and leaves no wiggle-room when it comes to violence: Thou shalt not kill.

Violence inevitably can lead to killing. The Sudan? Rwanda? Palestine? Lebanon? Israel? Colombia? Peru? I have always wondered what would have really happened if the US and USSR had a nuclear war. I have also wondered if it might not have been a good thing. A new beginning. A destruction of all things. No more wondering. The ultimate violence.

I think those of us who grew up under the constant threat of a nuclear holocaust are actually cynical and hopeful at the same time. Cynical that we have no real control and hopeful that there can always be a better tomorrow.

I learned the hopeful part from my father and my uncles. They fought in WWII for peace. They were decorated for their valor and they hated the killing part the most. My uncle never really talked about the things he did in the war. He said they were terrible but that he had to do them because the alternative was very limited and worse. WWII was a defensive war beyond doubt and maybe it is the best example of "justified" murder. They realized that it was necessary.

At the same time my father and uncle talked to me about moving to Canada should I have been drafted for Viet Nam. I never expected that from them. The difference, they said, was they couldn't find a reason that Viet Nam was defending the US and its people. They didn't see it as ineluctable for the US, unlike WWII.

I understand that there are times when defense is necessary. WWII cannot be a better example because of its madness and inhuman atrocities. During the entire campaign only one end was sought - peace. In the end, people decided that they did not want to go through it again and tried to take steps to avoid it.

So at the same time I understand the namby-pamby alternative, I realize that there are times when it may be necessary, but we have seen so much conflict for the last several years and have been given so many contrary explanations as to why they are occurring, it may mean that there could be only one end possible - more violence and conflict. I have no intention of going into whether the hostilities with which the US has been involved for the last years are moral, immoral, right, wrong, justified, unjustified, legal or illegal. Everyone else has been doing that.

I wonder, however, about the indirect effects these actions are having on our children? What lessons are being taught when they hear/see violence as acceptable for every conflict? When they are told by people like Ms. Malkin that they have to "defend" themselves or they may become the victims "...to combat throat-slitting, suicide plane-flying Islamists..." I wonder in what kind of world Malkin's children will be living/fighting twenty years from now?

as usual, just wondering...