Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring is Here-

Yesterday I mentioned that Spring was supposed to be here, but it had been raining hard for two days. This morning the sun is out, the ferns and hostas are all three times as tall as they were last night, and it really does feel like Spring!

So it's time to dig out our new Spring Fashions!!

Ooops, perhaps not. Let's try again-

Huh. Well, we're headed in the right direction, but not quite "there" yet. When all else fails, I turn to Google image search, that'll get us something a bit more up-to-date-

Now THAT'S more like it. In fact, it makes me so happy, I just want to break out into my favorite Springtime song-

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mutter Mutter...

We are supposed to be enjoying Spring here. I spent last week clearing out the yard and flower beds, and NOW we are enjoying Spring??? It looks more like rain to me. Two solid days of rain, but finally this afternoon the sun oeeked out. See the bottom of this post...

I spent an hour watching all the video of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his appearance at the National Press Club yesterday. After having watched the actual video, I certainly do find a few things I disagree with him on, but most of what the media says he said is not really what he did say. Huge surprise. I was disappointed with the way Barack Obama reacted today, but if it helps put an end to the story once and for all, I suppose he had to do it.

Dik Cheney obviously wants to bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran. The really worrisome thing is that so does John McCain. WTF?? most Iranians LIKE us. It's waaaay past time to get over the notion that international problems can be solved by bombing people.

We are truly a sorry nation, if we continue on this path.

On the other hand, here is the view out my office window. The sun was not shining, so you cannot quite tell that the tree to the right is a Redbud, but the tree in the distance is a tall cherry.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Monday-

There's been a lot of talk about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright lately. I'll come right out and say, I like the guy, not only for his skills as an orator, but for his willingness to talk Truth to Power. For anyone who has paid attention to the story but not yet seen the full sermon in question, it's probably worth 9 minutes of your time to watch it here-

I spent several hours one day on You-Tube watching a variety of sermons he's given, and he's quite thoughtful and compelling-

So there it is. I could be wrong, but as he said today, in answer to a rather tired question about his patriotism, "I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?"

and so it goes.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Annual Patriot's Day Post

[First posted here on April 7, 2006]

It's Patriot's Day here in Massachusetts, a legal holiday not familiar to many folks outside the Bay State. It commemorates the Lexington-Concord Battle of 1775. Patriot's Day now means the traditional 11 a.m. Red Sox game, the Boston Marathon, and services and re-enactments in many towns which have companies of volunteer Minutemen who dress up in colonial-era garb and march on their town greens. The Lexington-Concord area has the whole bunch of celebrations, including a local company of the British 10th Regiment of Foot, the soldiers who were among the companies that marched to Concord that day. As a kid growing up in Concord, I always wanted to be one of the Redcoats. My illusions were shattered one day when I was walking down by the post office and saw a lanky Redcoat take off his tall tin hat and squeeze himself into a tiny VW parked by the curb.

Today I actually thought twice before putting up anything about Patriot's Day on the bookstore website, because I've found over the years that in other areas of the country most folks have no idea what Patriot's Day is, and now it sounds a bit like a Bush Administration stunt, or something a militia group would come up with. That annoys the crap out of me. The biggest mistake the Liberals made was to let the Conservatives co-opt Patriotism. What's up with that?

Peope who are upset with the way the country is going these days have got to show everyone that Patriotism does not equal unquestioning support of everything this or that political party does. Show people that you can be Patriotic without checking your brains at the door, and that you can fly a flag proudly without disengaging your brain from all critical thought processes. Liberals and Democrats have to fight back. Fly a flag, for crying out loud. I do every day now. Now that we've got a nice wrap-around porch, on the 4th of July we'll put red-white-and-blue bunting on it too.

The co-opting of Patriotism by a single political party is not healthy for the country. It's time to fight back. Wave your flags, boys!

And happy Patriot's Day!

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

-Concord Hymn, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, April 19, 1836

Friday, April 18, 2008

Judging a Book by Its Cover-

I admit it- I do sometimes judge a book by its cover, and sometimes I can't resist buying a book for its cover. Here are a few garden-related covers that struck my fancy lately-

I love the Art Deco feel of this one, and its simplicity-

This is from the 1920s, and I loved both the cover, which shows the classic 1920s suburban cottage garden, and the subject matter-

I picked this one up last year. Its a beautiful cover, and it also looks a lot like our woods out back do in the winter at sunset-

And how was I supposed to resist this?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The New Rules-

It's Wednesday, and I think we all need a laugh. At least I do. This has been swirling around the emails for a little while, and as far as I know it was not actually written by George Carlin, but it sounds like it was, and it's funny anyway-

[not] George Carlin's New Rules.

New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for classmates.com! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 years. Because you don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn.

New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout?

New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky bastards.

New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you're a dope. If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you're a grown man, they're pictures of men.

New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.

New Rule: There's no such thing as flavoured water. There's a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket, water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavoured water is called a soft drink. You want flavoured water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavoured water.

New Rule: Stop f***ing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.

New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the ass hole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge ass hole.

New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

New Rule: Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins ESPN recently televised the US Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting. What's next, competitive farting? Oh wait. They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."

New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&M. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.

New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.

New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.

- - -

THIS JUST IN: If you really want to laugh, go and read the latest installment of the Reverend Anaglyph's "Peter Popoff Saga". I linked to his entire series of posts on Peter Popoff there, and for those who have not been following it, some quick background- the Rev. Peter Popoff is one of those Televangelist-type preachers who's main goal in life seems to be asking folks to send him money. He works through the mails and sends "faith gifts" to encourage you to send him cash, and somehow Anaglyph got on his mailing list. He's been documenting the various odd things the Rev. Popoff sends in an increasingly funny series of blog posts. You have to see it all to believe it!

Monday, April 14, 2008

For Mike!

Today they deleted Mike's problem kidney, so we raise a glass to him tonight as part of Thomas's 'Cocktails for Mike' party. My wife sends her love!

The Things You Find in Books-

This was actually the title of a thread on an email list recently. It's always fun to find something quirky, odd, or interesting tucked into a book. A few months ago I picked up a copy of a very obscure little book of poetry published in 1898 titled "Sandwort" by Anna J. Granniss because it was printed in my hometown of Keene, New Hampshire. As I opened it up, this little card fell out-

Paying by the poem! I thought that was rather clever, and it seems we're basically back to that business model now in the online music industry...

- -

Today they are scheduled to delete Mike's problem kidney, so everyone raise a glass to him tonight to let him know we're sending the Good vibes his way. We're going to try to take part in Thomas's 'Cocktails for Mike' party, if I can figure out where the cats hid the damn camera!

So hang in there, Mike. I understand you're now done with wine, so I guess those other two Great American Values will have to do- women and guns. Fortunately, Catherine Zeta Jones is ready-

Friday, April 11, 2008

In Your Dreams-

Mike was writing about dreams the other day, so I thought I'd post this, because it is just a little weird. Not Twilight Zone weird, but just a bit "oh, that's odd" weird.

Last night I had a very vivid dream about an owl flying against our kitchen window, banging it, flying against it again and again, trying to get in.

This morning while I was fixing my tea around 6:30, I heard a bumping at the kitchen widow and there's a big old robin flying against the glass, hopping back to a branch on the Japanese maple just outside, and then hurling himself against the window again and again. I've never had a dream like that before, and never seen a bird attack his image in the glass before, in person.

Well, I'm not overly superstitious, but on the other hand I'm also not a complete fool, and I know a Sign when I get one.

Today when I go out, I'm wearing my hat.

- -

Interesting items from today's news-

Hey folks, I know he's the Attorney General, but you all make it sound like you think everything he says actually has to be true...

It looks as if The Evil Empire may actually be on the rocks. Could it be that we will not all be assimilated?

I know, I know, torture is bad, but look at it this way- if McCain picks Condi Rice to be his running mate, and they get elected, the transition from Evil Dik to Evil Condi will be seamless.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Re-thinking the Olympics

It's time to re-think the Olympics. The recent brou-haha over the torch run for the upcoming China Games shows how impossible it is to separate politics from international spectacle of any kind.

I'll be quite frank about my own feelings on the upcoming Olympics- I think it's a travesty that China is hosting the games, and I think the US and all other nations should boycott them (not that anyone will). I do feel empathy for the athletes, who have no part in the political arguments, but in the end I believe that human rights are more important than sport, and there are some governments that go so far over the line that we need to stop and ask ourselves whether it is morally right to ignore political repression, cultural genocide and the complete muzzling of all speech and dissent for millions of people, just so a few thousand people can play games for a few weeks, the rest of us can watch, and the television networks and Coca-Cola can make heaps of money. When criticizing the host government gets its citizens five years in prison, I think it trivializes the concept of human freedoms to say we'll look the other way so that somebody can run a 100-yard dash.

The problem does not begin and end with the China Games, of course. It began back in 1936 when Nazi Germany hosted the Games. It was Nazi Germany, by the way, which began the tradition of the international torch run, a parallel with the current games that I find eerie, but which I'll leave lie for now. If the history of the modern Olympic games has shown us anything, it is that the theory that the Olympics foster international understanding, and the notion that awarding the games to a certain country will have any effect whatsoever on their internal political policies, is an utter crock of bullshit. Nice idea -doesn't work.

For that matter, if we look at sport itself, and the notion that international sport fosters goodwill and fellowship, well- yes and no. Certainly the current outreach between American and Japanese baseball seems to be encouraging goodwill between our already-friendly countries. On the other hand, let's talk about international football (soccer) for a moment...

I'm not suggesting that international sport is useless, and that the Olympics are meaningless, merely that we need to rethink the proposition that they are some sort of cure-all for deeper international problems. They're games. They're fun for the participants and spectators, but that's about it, and there's nothing wrong with that. And I think that leads us to a rational solution to the problem of the Olympics- stop the traveling road show.

The competition to host the games is undignified, and the building of the facilities has become much too expensive for most countries to even contemplate. When you've got a system where only rich countries can compete to host the games, you've already lost the battle for international fairness and understanding before you've started.

The answer is to have all countries contribute to building and maintaining an international Olympics facility in Greece, and use it for every Olympics. Let every "nation" participate, and yes, I mean every "nation", not country. Nations of peoples- united ethnically and culturally, have been around for millenia, even as national boundary lines get re-drawn every generation. Let's cast aside the absurd argument about, for instance, "which" China gets to come. Let them both come. Let Tibet send a contingent, along with any other ethnic group that can claim "nation" status. That would include groups such as our own Sioux nation. Why not? I think that would be a blast.

The Olympics are great sport, but it's time to re-think what we expect of them and the way they are conducted. As for the upcoming games, as I said before, as much sympathy as I have for the athletes, I won't be watching.

Anyone interested in keeping up to date on the reasons the Chinese government is a problematic Olympics host, can get all the information you need on the 'Reporters without Borders' or the Amnesty International websites.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It's Talk Stupid Day!!

Man, George Bush is such a great President, I wish he could serve for life!

I can't wait for Britney Spears new album!

Greed, schmeede- I don't see anything wrong with Major League Baseball stretching the season and playoffs out so long that the World Series could be snowed out.

Boy, that Ann Coulter is a FOX!!

What the world really, REALLY needs is a new Adam Sandler movie about golf.

Gee, things are going great in Iraq!

Flying is perfectly safe, and anyone who says the FAA is in the back pocket of the airlines is just a troublemaker.

The Rolling Stones still have IT!

I believe every single thing Dik Cheney tells me.

Tibet is historically part of China, and the Dalai Lama is a terrorist.

Artichokes are God's gift to mankind.

Microsoft knows what it's doing.

Like The Decider says, the US economy is in great shape!

Using the phrase "Kathy Lee Gifford's Nipples" will get you fewer hits than using the phrase "Martin Luther King".

- -

C'mon, everyone, it's FUN to Talk Stupid!!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Morality test:

With all your honor and dignity what would you do?

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. Please don't answer it without giving it some serious thought. By giving an honest answer you will be able to test where you stand morally.

The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation, where you will have to make a decision one way or the other. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

You're in Florida...In Miami, to be exact... There is great chaos going on around you, caused by a hurricane and severe floods. There are huge masses of water all over you. You are a CNN photographer and you are in the middle of this great disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless.

You're trying to shoot very impressive photos. There are houses and people floating around you, disappearing into the water. Nature is showing all its destroying power and is ripping everything away with it.

Suddenly you see a man in the water, he is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken away by the masses of water and mud. You move closer.

Somehow the man looks familiar. Suddenly you know who it is - it's George W. Bush!

At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take him away, forever.

You have two options. You can save him or you can take the best photo of your life.

So you can save the life of George W. Bush, or you can shoot a Pulitzer prize winning photo, a unique photo displaying the death of one of the world's most powerful men.

And here's the question (please give an honest answer):

Would you select color film, or rather go with the simplicity of classic black and white?

- -

Friday, April 04, 2008

In Remembrance

At 6 pm, forty years ago today, a great voice was silenced. In this morning's New York Time's email, the last item, "On this Day in History", simply says-

On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn.

Dr. King was one of the great Americans of not only the 20th century, but of our entire history. Nations are fortunate when they have men of vision and peace to guide them forward through times of turmoil- in the last century India had Ghandi, Poland had Lech Walensa and Pope John Paul II, the Soviet Union had Mikhail Gorbachev, and here in America we had Dr. King. We have seen, in recent years, how tragic it can be to have leaders who are not men of vision and peace in control when the nation faces danger and turmoil.

David Brooks had a moving piece in today's New York Times which talks about this, and I'm going to quote it in full before I continue with my own thoughts, because it is well worth considering-

On Wednesday morning I was in Memphis, and I walked over to the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago today. I toured the National Civil Rights Museum and then went up to the room by the balcony where King was shot.

The Rev. Billy Kyles happened to be filming a documentary with his daughter Dwania as I arrived, going through a second-by-second account of the last moments of King’s life. The Rev. Kyles was with King when he was shot and was due to host him for dinner that evening.

You can watch Dwania’s documentary someday to hear his description of that afternoon, but I was curious for him to describe King’s mood during the final hour of his life. When you read the accounts of his final months, you get a sense of building pressure, of a rising atmosphere of menace and doom.

By 1968, King was under harsh assault not only from white racists but from the black power movement, which regarded his tactics as outdated and anodyne. His effort to stage a Poor People’s Campaign in Washington was in disarray. He was often sleepless and depressed.

He came to Memphis because of a sanitation workers’ strike. The garbage men were paid so little that they could work full time and still qualify for welfare. When two workers were killed because of unsafe trucks, the rest struck.

As Michael Honey notes in his compelling though crusading history, “Going Down Jericho Road,” the mayor of Memphis was unbending. The strike dragged on and tensions rose. The workers staged a march on Feb. 23, 1968, and the police responded with mace and clubs. The second rally, on March 28, was a microcosm of America at that moment. King stood at the head of the march, looking dazed. Around him in the front were the sanitation workers, with their concrete demands. But in the back of the crowd there were more radical and anarchic elements.

The looting and the rioting began almost immediately. King was whisked away. Hundreds were bloodied. One was killed. The authorities were driven both by the desire to restore order and by their own racist demons.

That march was a pivot. In both the white and black communities, the forces of order and reform vied with the forces of hatred and anarchy. The latter grabbed the upper hand.

The atmosphere deteriorated. The National Guard was sent in. There were weapons everywhere. This week I ran into Bobby Martin, whose father was a sanitation worker during the period. “I saw fear on my hero’s face,” Martin recalled.

Everybody sensed that this was heading toward disaster. King expressed premonitions of his murder in the “Mountaintop” speech. City officials worried about his assassination to reporters. The K.K.K. stayed out of Memphis so it wouldn’t get blamed if he was killed.

And yet, the Rev. Kyles noted, “he preached himself through the fear of death.” The next day, in the privacy of the hotel room, he was happy and domestic. He had a brief pillow fight. He talked about soul food and what tie to wear. It was just three reverends sitting around, Kyles remembered, talking “preacher talk.”

Then King walked out onto the balcony and the forces that were swirling outside intervened. James Earl Ray’s bullet sliced the knot of his tie. Riots commenced, and in the ensuing years, crime rates skyrocketed, cities decayed and the social fabric was torn. Dreams of economic opportunity and racial integration were swallowed up by the antinomian passions and social disorder.

The key tension in King’s life was over how to push relentlessly for change but within an existing moral structure. But by the late-60s many felt the social structure needed to be torn down. The assassin’s bullet set off a conflagration.

At King’s funeral, the marshals told the throngs that nobody should chew gum because it would look undignified. But niceties like that were obsolete.

Building the social fabric after the disruption of that period has been the work of the subsequent generations — weaving the invisible web of family, neighborhood and national obligations so that people stay in school, attend to their kids and have an opportunity to rise if they play by the rules.

Progress has been slow. Nearly a third of American high school students don’t graduate (half in the cities). Seventy percent of African-American kids are born out of wedlock. Poverty rates in Memphis have scarcely dropped.

Martin Luther King Jr. at least left behind a model of how to repair the social fabric. He was scholarly, formal, assertive and meticulously self-controlled in public. If Barack Obama’s presidential campaign represents anything, it is the triumph of King’s early-60s style of activism over the angry and reckless late-60s style. King was in crisis when he was gunned down. But his inspiration is outlasting his critics.

- -

It may be a generational thing, the ability to be deeply, emotionally moved in a certain way by by Dr. King's words. It may be that you have to have lived in the last four or five decades of the 20th century to understand how far we have come as a nation to where we are today. On NPR yesterday someone commented that anyone who thinks things are not a lot better today obviously was not alive back then. I was born a little too late to be fully aware of the turmoil, racism and hatred at the time, but the violence of the 50s and early 60s were bitter, fresh memories, and seemed very close. People carried them around in their pockets, and they rubbed at the back of our throats.

And so I still tear up when I watch or listen to his very last speech, delivered the night before his death-

[here is the entire speech, it's well worth listening to- Part One - Part Two]

America today is in much the same place she was back then- amidst great turmoil, held in the grip of uncertainty and fear, unsure how to move ahead, but longing to find some way forward. On the night of Dr. King's death, Robert F. Kennedy, who himself had just a few short months to live, was giving a speech before an African-American audience who had not yet heard the tragic news of the assassination. His speech that night shows the kind of leader he might have been-

His words give me hope that perhaps we can once again find someone who can help us forward. If there was a Dr. King, and there was a Robert F. Kennedy, surely we can once again find someone, from a new generation, who can help the country heal, lead us forward, and bring us together rather than splitting us apart for their own cynical, political gain. I find it compelling that today, on this tragic anniversary, America stands at a crossroads and we are in the midst of a new Presidential race featuring two candidates whose race and gender would have been unimaginable forty years ago.

That has got to give us all hope.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I've got a new poll running just opposite this post. I was trying to cut and paste and explain each entry, but fucking Blogger won't do it.

Fuck Blogger. (that will get me some hits)

Fuck Blogger, we need a picture of Kathy Lee Gifford's nipples (don't laugh, apparently that will apparently get me a lot more hits.)

I'm tired. The cat keeps crawling on us at 3 a.m., Hillary has gone berzerklers, and now it's going to snow tomorrow. I may need new drugs.

Or Audrey Tautou...