Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
splayed on the kitchen floor
mixing spoon in hand
a rubber scraper to hit the high hat pan lid
balanced on a frying pan
it's louder that way
and the cupboard has more and more to bring out
and my mother is patient
'cause the older kids are all at school.
Ah, to be four!
And the magical secret,
to such comfort and joy,
is to keep playing
John & Yoko's Happy Christmas
The Little Drummer Boy
Peace through music: Here's my friend Christine Stevens on Sacramento & Co. She talks about her two trips to Iraq (2008, 2007) to help build peace through music via drum circles. When we play music together, we drop alienation. More from Christine at UpBeat Drum Circles.
And remember: If you don't have a drum handy, a Sparkletts bottle turned upside down will do the trick. That's a little secret I learned from Leon Mobley. And my favorite piece of his wisdom which applies to music (and everything else): "You have to think about it - and - don't think about it; you have to listen - and - don't listen. You have to feeeel it."
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Obama Grabs Headlines.
(The ad at the masthead is just an ad).
The content takes a long time to load because it's a blanket of international newspapers' front pages featuring the Obama win. You can click each image to see the big picture.
I think the rest of the world is really happy we're going to stop being such @$$h01#$ now.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Arizona: Birthday party: Pal: John McCain!
They ate cake, celebrated, right there on the tarmac
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
In the early 1980's, when I was part time aerobics instructor working on a bachelor's in English, a genius breezed through the university to teach creative writing and I happened to take the class because it was at 2:30 T, TH.
He didn't stay more than a semester because he was not destined to stand still that long. He was patient but didn't have time for the insincere, which made me about 10% smarter in his presence. He encouraged me to write and work with writers, which I wound up doing by the end of the semester. He told me to write a sitcom pilot so I did. He suggested I write a radio piece a la NPR, so I did - and this was just a junior level class. He had several projects in development at the time, each with a bent toward motivating humanity into interacting with the world (that includes nature) through non-violence and actual use of our intelligence and conscience.
Michael Tobias was and still is one of my favorite people ever.
Over the years he'd contact me from time to time and I would attend screenings, educational events. The last time I saw him was about ten years ago at a reading he did in Santa Monica for Rage and Reason, a thriller to awaken our empathy for the animals we use as products - and an admonishment that we should knock it off.
He was the Voice of the Planet far before it would become trendy to think about environmentalism. He warned about global warming, over population, and exploitation.
He climbed arctic ice cliffs, wrote a novel about the worlds of Vermeer before The Girl with a Pearl Earring appeared in a book, and introduced me to an artist who said the child who paints the sky pink is actually onto something.
When I worked as a story editor in film in the second half of the 80's (a career path he led me to) producers all over town were going through a phase of trying to come up with the environmental thriller people would actually go see. Hollywood wanted to sound the alarm for the polar ice caps melting - but the priority was to bring in big Box Office.
Production meeting notes:
Producer: "Global warming huh... when will disaster strike?"
Story editor: "Well, it won't actually 'strike', but around 1999 we should start seeing enough evidence to get people to believe the problem is real."
P: "Hmm... kinda slow moving, isn't it?"
SE: "It'll be bad - but yeah, the crisis will be more of a drawn out anguish."
P: "Any chance this thing could happen all at once - stoppable by only one man?"
SE: "No, it's a kinda thing we all have to prevent, and if we succeed, we can never be sure it woulda happened."
By now there are lots of films on the subject - no perfect thriller better than reality so documentary is doing the job. But what changed? More people got interested. But look how long it took the message to get across, and what diligence it took to educate and enlighten - and how much certainty of purpose it takes to rise group intelligence by oh, say about 10%.
When I think of what is possible for a life well lived, what it would mean to participate with everything I have to offer or sum up from within, I routinely think of a few people: Steve Martin (I'm not that clever), Mother Theresa (too itchy) and Michael Tobias. What is the difference that drives people like these? For one, they don't seem interested in wasting time. Secondly, I don't think they see a reason to.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Looking at war from the perspective of the Conscientious Objector presents an odd juxtaposition of brutality and compassion. It's one thing to know in advance that one is not cut out for war, and another to realize this after participating. Conscientious Objection cannot coexist, at least not for long, with the self protecting dynamics a soldier needs to continue doing his or her job.
Soldiers of Conscience was approved by the US Army and is not one sided. It offers a grim look at how war makes us treat other human beings, acknowledges that the team of soldiers relies on disciplined agreement with each mision, and yet has a refreshing optimism about the possibilities for humanity if we refuse to use war as a problem solving tactic. The filmmakers, Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan, cite studies that show it is not dominant in our nature to kill each other. Have a look.
Note to those who say sometimes war is the only option: we must start early to prevent war. How about we start now preventing the next possible one?
We will keep stumbling and or running headlong into wars until enough of us stop. Learning not to resort to war, as a species, not just as Americans, is a long term training, but when better to begin?
A friend once said to me that as long as we have hostile people perpetrating aggression we will have war. I said when compassion among us becomes big enough that no one feels the need to act aggressively, we will have peace. I didn't make this up. Some of Earth's greatest heroes have been trying to get this through to us since forever. Here's the irony: it seems we need to be hit over the head with it. We have to be smarter.
One of the subjects in the film said people think the point of view of the Conscientious Objector is naive. He said, yes, maybe it is. But why is that bad? People were also called naive who said maybe someday humans could set foot on the moon.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Bush says we can get through this financial crisis. Ulp! Now I'm more scared. Okay, let's revisit the concept of "The New Deal" too...
Google says: "How it works:
Project 10100 (pronounced "Project 10 to the 100th") is a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. Here's how to join in."
Deadline for submissions is October 20 so we have to kinda hurry. I have not hatched an idea yet.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I'll say it again: we need to liquidate all assets of these plunderers and put it toward the debt on the bailout. I'm talking about everything from mansions to silverware. They can start fresh with a fifty dollar Target gift card and a newspaper for the classifieds. I used to say give 'em first and last month's rent on a cheap 2 bedroom apartment, but they just blew that offer.
I'm serious. Why are we letting them keep their stuff?
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
One offer at a "meet the lenders community meeting" was to take my retirement money out of my pension fund and make it into a downpayment on a house. I said to the lender, "but what if something bad happens and I lose the house. Then I wouldn't have any retirement money..."
And the man reached out his arms as if to hug from a distance and said, "that could never happen! How could that happen? You're going to keep working to pay rent! Buy a house!"
"But what if there's something like another great depression?" The room fell quiet.
"This is Southern California. It won't happen. Home values are only going up." The buzz returned.
This didn't seem right. Friends with friends in real estate swore I could reduce income tax withholding from my paycheck by claiming to have a bunch of kids (I don't...) and then I would have a few hundred extra bucks a month to make payments on a loan for a little condo with a potted tree and cinderblock hardscaping. When the tax came due at the end of the year I could just, "write it off because you own a house!"
I would likely have fallen for it, but I earned just a little too little to convince myself I could pull this off. I couldn't afford to stretch beyond my rent and I didn't want the IRS knocking on my door and asking to meet my many children. So I waited.
Math isn't my strongest subject. But it just makes sense to me that you don't spend money you don't (and the key is: won't!) have, at least not on something as significant as a home. You can nickel and dime yourself up some credit card debt, but a HOUSE!? How can two bedroom house within 200 yards of two major freeways in Los Angeles be worth nearly a million dollars? Oh, wait: it's not.
I saw the crash coming. I'd started telling people in '05 I was going to wait a few years for house prices to come down - when all those people taking interest only loans started having their balloon payments come due, I'd swoop in!
What I hadn't figured on was the stories behind the doors of those houses. Driving through the valley I see at least two untended houses on every block conjuring images of Flint Michigan in the Michael Moore movie, but LA's not as green. I don't know where these people have gone - there are a lot of apartments for rent around town, too. I have felt a frequent sense over the past eight years as we've leveraged ourselves out further and further over the brink, of my parents' and grandparents' stories about the depression.
I hear my childhood lessons and when I leave a redundant light on, I hear the voice of my dad bellowing to us kids to turn off the lights when we'd leave a room, "What, do you think I own the electric company?!"
In other news:
Today we have a guest again, and a new addition to my links in the right column. Here is Jay Smooth's blog, Ill Doctrine. What HE said. See Economics and Annoying Smart Guys.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I have been writing a lot about politics lately, for obvious reasons, and specifically railing against the rightward careen. Recently I told a lot of my friends to read "The Outstupiding of America" (below) and haven't gotten much response. John from Wales had a really good response and it's posted. I like the perspective John provides from outside the US, and the fact that he stopped by and spent enough time to say something. He provides a healthy reminder that other countries are hoping we step up to our responsibilities as world leaders, too.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Keep this in mind: if the republicans can't outsmart the democrats, remember: they can outstupid us.
Outstupiding is the threat. Stealing the theme of "change" from the Obama campaign, was cagey - technically clever, but *there is a fine line between clever and stupid. The republicans crossed the line into outright stupidity by bringing in the ridiculous Palin.
But this reducto ad absurdum is why their little ploy just could work: it is so stupid it is unfathomably stupid. Suddenly we're spending tremendous time and energy trying to make sense of it.
I do believe we're in some form of shock. And we'd better snap out of it.
In the short run, it is easier for humans not to think. Blithely pretending things will magically get better on their own seems to require less effort. But it's similar to taking out a loan to buy an unaffordable house with the hope of paying it off with future riches. The short run isn't long enough to reach that future, and you lose the house. Look down the timeline over the past eight years. We have allowed this state of affairs.
Now, I didn’t do it. And you certainly didn’t do it. But we did it. It's like the Man in Black said, "a person is smart. People are stupid," and the republicans know it!
We know adhering to the principles of the conservative platform is a grandiose mistake (as in: McCain has supported Bush in over 90% of his decisions and only disassociated from him in recent months). But what about the people who are buying into the stupidity?
The way to keep the republicans from outstupiding us isn't to put our energies into discovering a way to do something more stupid than they (an irony beyond humor - to do so would require brilliance and waste time). We need to take the game back.
The US presidential election in 2008 marks a monumental opportunity for the growth and development for our culture. We're entrenched in an unjustified war in Iraq and have been throwing bombs on Pakistan. At the heart of our troubles is the fact that we're being still very much driven by the same motivations that justified slavery and the genocide against Native Americans, not to mention our covert hostilities in Central America in the 80's.
Greed kills. Now that our economy is in full tailspin, we’ve got to pull upwards with as much drive as we can muster. The motivation has to come from within us, and from each other.
This election is about what is possible if we rise to the best and smartest within ourselves - each one of us: what if we paced ourselves for the long run? What if we banked on our intelligence instead of our willingness to let someone else do the thinking for us? What if we admitted that a society is not a business?
Here's how we can twist the irony of outstupidity back into the realm of the sensible: education. Help people think. We have to appeal to what is best and smartest in us and bring hope into play again.
We own this one. Ask anybody if they would like to be smarter. It's a rhetorical question. How would we behave globally, make decisions at home if we were even 5% smarter. We can be just a little smarter today than yesterday - tomorrow, even smarter – and smarter still beyond.
They can only outstupid us if we play stupid.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
How dare John McCain declare on Black Monday - albeit with a telling stammer - that the fundamentals of the US economy are strong?
Even as the most conservative of financial institutions are closing up shop, McCain makes this claim like he means it. Maybe he doesn’t realize those are actual people walking out the doors, with lives and responsibilities, and roles in the economy (like buying groceries, for example). Yes, Senator McCain, those are Americans walking out the door of Merill Lynch. They’re carrying boxes with stuff like pictures of their families and friends - the people they live for and who live for them. Those are people who have probably felt pretty secure being employed at the most stable financial institutions this country has ever known.
This isn't the corner bicycle shop getting eaten up by Walmart (though the start of the trouble traces back to this "big business first" practice), this is Lehman Brothers being bought out by a British bank, this is us getting financing from China so we can throw more money into an unjustified war - and still McCain has the audacity to claim that the fundamentals of the economy are strong?
The man's in some serious denial. Because of his position in history, he is even more dangerous than George W. Bush, as the damage has been done and we cannot afford further commitment to this degradation.
We need to elect Barack Obama as president of the US in 2008. We had become comfortably numb, but we're not so comfortable now, are we? We've got to wake up now! We owe it to the very concept of democracy and all we have worked for to face the fact that we are losing, through ruptures in the structure of our economy, not only all our "stuff" but all our hope! Wake up everybody: Throw the bums OUT!
Barack has a plan and shares it each time he speaks. McCain says he has a plan and then just echoes slogans and distracts us with the screeching sensationalism of the ridiculous Sarah Palin. Barack has solutions that will help rebuild the middle class which is the heart of us (as in "We" the people). Barack will start by passing a middle class tax cut while enforcing a crackdown on predatory lenders. He'll get us out of Iraq and help us start helping ourselves again - not at the cost of greater debt, but by creating jobs and appealing to our sense of community strength – he speaks to us at the level of our humanitarianism, rather than the republican choice: a rigorous gluttony that - it turns out - has simply been cannibalism.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
But tonight, cutting through her ceiling,
my floor, and carpet with padding
shrill and whiny, insistent and hounding
the shriek is slicing, shattering, pounding, demanding.
Is she having a nervous breakdown?
Words muffled, it seers
faster than the speed of sound
down each ear canal
shattering cilia with a coldness
that makes the tiny hairs
fall dead and gone
like so many icebergs of late from the polar ice caps.
It is not her. It is her television. But what?
Striving to hold their own:
my eardrums, defended only with weensy hammer,
and cochlea coiled as if to spring.
Plugging ears with fingers
does nothing against the tide of it;
the waves course through my very bones!
The timbre, the resonance, the clip
the sound - vaguely familiar...
...yes new... just in the past week.
This is not the kind sweet girl
who greets me in the carport
or by the garbage bin.
Nay, this is the night of the RNC
and this shrill shill
is that odd little governor called Palin.
(Who also enjoys the gratuitous killing of animals).
Monday, September 01, 2008
From the republican convention, and in reference to Hurricane Gustav and his possible effect on New Orleans: "This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats," said Cindy McCain.
There it is. Just as I suspected. It's not about their heads, it's about their hats.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I called her often. I owe much of my steady rhythm to her reliability.
When I was a little kid, I would call her and say thank you. The friendship had been going on all summer when one quiet day my mom must've overheard my, "thank you!" coming every ten seconds. She found me pony-tailed and chatty on the living room phone.
"Who are you talking to?"
"The Time Lady!"
"What do you mean?"
"It's the Time Lady. Everybody calls but no one ever says thank you. I say thank you, she tells me again!"
"Honey, she can't hear you."
"But she's talking to me. (...Thank you!)"
"She's not really there - it's a recording."
"A wha- - -!????"
I was a little sad about it, but I knew that beyond the microphone and reel to reel tape somewhere in a room - even if only on one day and not every single - a nice lady with a warm helpful voice had cared enough to take the time to tell us all the time, twenty four hours a day, every ten seconds.
In 2007 they let her go. I guess everyone gets the time from cellphones and computers now.
"At the tone the time will be twelve, twenty two. And ten seconds..."
Monday, August 25, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Among the troupe of actors in these works is an actress of unparallelllellled distinction. There's another actress in one of the two part films but I don't mean her, and there is another actress in one of the other films but I don't mean her, either: I mean: The Girl. She had talent, verve, vigor, could take a punch, and had quite the left hook!
We are grateful to the scrupulous scavenging that brought these films to projection and digitization. We are fans, indeed, of FriendlyManorFilms.
In other news: we regret the temporary downfall of jeanosullivan.com and anticipate its resurgence soon with a new host. Thanks go to Elizabeth for notifying us of our dormancy! Checking our own domains: now there's a time narcissism could have come in handy!
Friday, August 15, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
- Barack Obama, July 24, 2008
"Trust takes and makes courage.”
- Me, lots of times over a long period.
The Better Part of the US:
We have blundered miserably over the past eight years (and other blocks of time, but I gotta keep focused here).
As a group, when not acting as a mob (losing homes, pensions, taking responsibility for our support of an illegal war (not to mention sanctioning torture!) and, of course, having to forgo groceries for gasoline can be humbling experiences), we are capable of acting on principles and drives that run deeper than the desire for instant gratification. Nationally, repeatedly we show evidence of an ability to correct ourselves.
Thank good sense we're stepping up now and that democracy is an open minded patient.
Here is some refreshingly good thinking. Listen to and see Barack Obama's 07/24 speech in Berlin (about 25 minutes).
(Also, read about the dynamic behind our cultural self sabotage and recovery as it mirrors the struggle of the singular soul in this social psychology book written in the 1980's, "When Society Becomes an Addict" by Anne Wilson Schaef - oh my goodness, I just referenced the unhealthy dynamic Schaef identified during the Reagan years, I thought I was gonna keep focused here. Tsk).
*He spoke, "peace and progress" though he wrote, "progress and peace."
Friday, July 18, 2008
a fading cartoon picture
of a purple dinosaur
that definitely was not Barney
and your enduring hope for good as it was
disappearing into a whiter shade of pale blue
ink lightening to pencil grey
(or corresponds magicality)
to the conclusion of a shared nightmare
from which we awake
with no alarm
eyes opening to a better day
and the birds singing.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
When I was twenty, I was a writer for a weekly radio show produced by Drake-Chenault, the fathers of syndicated radio. The head writer knew how I felt about George Carlin so she sent me to interview him when "A Place for My Stuff" was released. I was studied at acting calm, cool, collected, LA, but experiencing the escalation of excitement of being in the room with the man who had legitimized the tiniest crevaces of wonder in my mind completing synapses I never knew had fired - it made me grasp at my thoughts, sometimes missing - for fear of appearing to be in the awe I was in up to my chin.
I had to pause the tape recorder half way through when my pretending calm had driven me all the way to distraction.
I admitted nervousness.
"It's okay, be cool," he said. I shook it off some, gave an apology, "not needed," he said, so a laugh, and I pressed record again to ask about concerts, albums, projects and processes, with a little talk about his recently going public about the coke problem, but without dwelling on it. "It's not news anymore," he said, "I'd rather talk about the new stuff."
George Carlin talked to me like a friend, he and I and our glasses of water in that PR company's office in Beverly Hills that day. At the end of our appointment he let me bring the interview to a close. He got up and walked me to the doorway. I thanked him again for the interview and he held the moment a bit longer and told me syndicated radio had been an early enemy. "They put local radio comics like us out of business."
"They did?" I said.
"Replaced us with automation. Some guy goes in pushes a button - no more small town DJ's. I used to wear a t-shirt in those days, it said," (he spoke the font and moved his hand across his chest to show where the words went), "'F*** BILL DRAKE."
"I never thought about that part..." I said.
And George Carlin said, "Well, now ya know!"
He had met the unwitting envoy of his old nemesis with absolute kindness. The hyperawareness of his persona that had me awestruck fell away, and in that moment I saw him for who he was - same as portrayed on stage and screen - simply a good guy (and clever genius).
"Do you still have the shirt?"
"I'm sure it's somewhere..." he said.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
For example: it might be bad luck to walk under a ladder if someone up atop it dropped something!
"Aye, Jimmy's restin' well now, but he had a bad piece o'luck today..."
"Bucket o' paint poured straight down onto his head, it did..."
"Well he was walkin' under a ladder where the man was paintin' the eaves."
"Tsk, and a bucket o' paint poured down on his head. That's some bad luck, in'it!"
The next day, another telling:
"Jimmy was walkin' under a ladder and somebody dropped a bucket of paint on his head!"
"That's bad luck, it is!"
Repeated as overheard at the general store:
"Mrs. O'Flaherty says it's bad luck to walk under a ladder!"
"Well, I won't be doin' that then, anytime soon!"
Here are a few more, with less illustration, but the same principles apply:
Breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck.
Think about it: when mirrors were a new invention, if you lived far away from where they were made, it would be a safe guess that it would take about seven years to replace one. So that's seven years walking around ugly. Not a good piece of luck.
It's bad luck if a black cat crosses your path.
Picture ye olde coach cabbie at dusk, driving the ugly queen (her mirror broke six and a half years before) to the royal ball. Suddenly he sees something small and dark in the road ahead! He veers abruptly! The queen, in her corset and rigid of middle, is thrown sideways in the coach, her crown falling askew! The next day the cabbie is beheaded. What was that dark figure that crossed his path - and why didn't he see it sooner?! It was small. It darted into the path. It was dark against the falling night's shadows. It was: a black cat!
Opening an umbrella in the house is bad luck.
Close quarters. Slim object expands suddenly, its dimension becoming perpendicular to its immediately prior state! It could hit something valuable (like a vase or an eye).
Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
That’s just a vicious little rhyme.
Why would a rabbit's foot bring good luck?
Possession of the foot of a rabbit suggests an ability to kill one. Assuming a person lived in an area where there were no plants to eat, perhaps the foot would evidence prevention of starvation.
Over a baker's dozen rationales endure for Friday the 13th being bad luck. Theories date back to, and include, the Last Supper, punitive dictators, revolutions and even a the idea that the number 13 itself is simply bad to the bone. When the 13th falls on a Friday (a particularly distracting day of the week emotionally) why, anything could happen! Aye, 'tis a bad piece o' luck to have a common belief amassed in justifications so plentiful that every attempt to pin it down leads to another reason to feel unlucky.
* * *
"I'm lookin' over a three leafed clover
That I overlooked bethree!"
- B. Bunny
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
A Third Tablet Theory could explain a few things about why the Ten Commandments are so easily disregarded. Maybe the Third Tablet was all footnotes: "*VII: ...unless thou canst get a quorum to agree that it's okay to kill!" But since Biblical researchers do not seem fixed on asterisks, I wager that if a Third Tablet ever could have existed, it would more likely have had statements the other ten were contingent upon.
We seem to mean well, but we are obviously missing some crucial information.
Let's have a look at killing - go right to the heart of good versus evil. We, the people, whether with our progeny or our money, kill. Whether the source of our humanitarian beliefs is religious or not, as a group we feel good about cherishing human life, and we agree that war brings anguish. But we live as if special permission existed in cases where we agree as a mob that taking the lives of others is not murderous if committed as acts of war.
Judeo-Christianity doesn't have the market cornered when it comes to claiming to value the preservation of human life and then dismissing it. Fighting for peace is rampant throughout the religious and secular worlds, but the idea of maybe just five more commandments - or some kind of explanatory note - tickles a nerve. What if we actually could have received crucial information - direct from the All Knowing - that fell crashing to the ground? I like the idea that we might piece together our integrity and become what we espouse ourselves to be.
We need to use our heads and keep them connected to our hearts. Ultimately we lack faith in our own intelligence (or, faith in God's creation). We claim we have no choice, sometimes, regrettably, sadly (bowing our heads), but to kill. We pretend God likes the good ol' boy buddy system, and that rules can be broken if it means our team wins. We justify killing by declaring the other team to be evil.
We get support for our team by insisting the other team doesn't value human life. We become what we feign to loathe, but we swear it is temporary. Have a look at the history of the world parts 2 and beyond as performed in the theater of real life: our readiness for war is by no means temporary.
We perform great acts of obtuse irony by praying for the killing to cease but we allow war as an acceptable default. We teach our children to be good. Yet, a portion of every generation on Earth goes to war. To win, let alone survive, soldiers are forced to commit to actions which, by necessity, break their spirits. Those who live through the experience return home. But their attempt to find a comfortable place within themselves and their society is pinched and pained as they try to fit back into a pretence.
Accepting the premise of a supreme being laying down ten rules for good behavior, dictated as keys to living a life as close to God as possible, and seeing how easily we fall short of following even the simplest of them (don't take other people's stuff without permission, don't fool around behind the back of the person who trusts you...) maybe there really is some missing information somewhere. Maybe we really are just a few crucial statements short of what we need to know to truly be good beings!
Back to Mel Brooks: The deeper humor of the joke is the idea that even Moses could deny his blunder for the sake of putting on a good show; and that's at the root of our fallibility. Whether in the tiniest part of a moment of truth or encompassing the overriding greed of a big plan, somehow Cowardice in the role of Hubris creates the illusion that bearing false witness is relative.
Maybe we like to claim that we are simply children of God so we can be excused for not understanding how the rules really go. But look around: we seem to be trying. We seem to need help. Think of the people you love, like or simply admire. We're driven by some truly kind principles and desires. We really do try. So, what's missing from the instructions?
Here are a few possibilities: Perhaps a Third Tablet might tell us to learn to anticipate the outcomes of our actions (and inactions); grasp the deeper meaning of empathy; develop conscience as integral to our being; and take responsibility for ourselves.
Inside or outside of religious beliefs it does seem plausible that we could use principles like that to help us live up to the standards we claim are our highest. We could even become supremely good and successful as a species. Such optimism could even boost us up onto the wall to see into the Garden of Eden.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
There were usually the four us us and the three of Todd's family, but by the time Todd and I got into fourth grade sometimes the grouping was different - changing schools for the older kids, altered start schedules on special days, I'm not sure, but occasionally the two of us were left to get each other to school - or maybe we lagged behind doddling too often and the bigger kids assumed we were following. Nothing bad happens in this story, you can relax.
This cool early fall morning, it was just Todd and me. We'd come to the vacant lot with the tall dry yellow grass. It was a good place to find examples of the ants we'd been talking about earlier while sailing big ficus leaves, with red berries in them, down the gutter water, singing the Gilligan's Island theme and making up stories about the Skipper fighting with Gilligan and the Professor solving problems. (Todd's Mr. Howell was superb.)
Red ants bite, black ants don't bite. No, all ants bite. No, only red ants do. Why would their biting be determined by color? Here was the vacant lot. It didn't take Todd long to find a nice crack in the soil with red ants, big red ants, industrializing their way in and out of the crack.
He squatted down and let one crawl onto his hand though I kept telling him he didn't need to prove red ants bit so much as prove black ones didn't. But we were ten and the ants available were the big red ones. The ant explored his palm and he turned his hand as the ant went over his fingers. Todd was no dummy, he had just fallen under the spell of, "Maybe all ants don't bite and maybe I've misjudged these big red ones..." Todd turned his palm up again as the ant found the thin fold between index finger and thumb.
We shook it off and I apologized as if I'd bitten him. We walked on. He winced that it didn't hurt. We put our attention on the route to school.
The crossing guard was gone.
She had taught us well, and we crossed the boulevard practicing "Safety First!" like champs.
We went through the gate onto the schoolyard.
No one was there.
No children on the playground running, no rhyming at the drinking fountain and spitting - jumping-back dodging water spew from the rougher kids, no jumping rope, no kids on the bench at the side of the building sneaking into their brown bag lunches. Quiet school. No girls brushing each other's hair. Empty school.
Todd and I, with a feeling of sudden Saturday tried to wrap our minds around this vacant schoolyard. Where the - ? Could we be late? We'd only stopped a couple of minutes. Could we be late? We hadn't played around that long.
Maybe we were late.
We had classrooms across the hall from each other in the new building. We went up the stairs and into the classrooms, ducking our heads in a little goodbye as we opened our classroom doors. I went to my desk and sat down. The the teacher didn't point me out or make a fuss, she just let me start working with the other children and gave me a little smile of admonishment and welcome in perfect balance. I doodled ants that day - a big red ant and little black ant.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
"'The music just flowed from him,' wife Laura said of composer Earle Hagen.
"Hagen, who is heard whistling the folksy tune for 'The Andy Griffith Show,' died at his home in Rancho Mirage, his wife, Laura, said Tuesday. He had been in ill health for several months...
"...For television, he composed original music for more than 3,000 episodes, pilots and TV movies, including theme songs for 'That Girl,' 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and 'Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.' . . .
"'He loved it,' his wife said. 'The music just flowed from him, and he would take off one hat and put on another and go on to the next show.'..."
A Lyric to Earle Hagen
A fair lifespan musically wonderfully spent.
How oft' we have each,
walking down a hallway or strolling down a lane,
driving a happy road
or perhaps washing dishes,
pursed lips and blown breaths
precisely as he did that time -
that time he whistled into a mic,
and made us all picture for years to come
and maybe forever
the day and the lake
on a backlot in the
San Fernando Valley
and the boy who would grow up
to be a favorite director
as the young child character Opie
throwing a stone
into the water as his pa
proudly looked on;
quietly inside our future memories,
just kinda figured
* * *
JohnLa offers this lyric:
I always liked to whistle
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Ze: would love your story
i am interested in a particular memory: the uncomfortable moment when you first see your parent (mother or father) as being weak...being human. could you describe that moment? and tell me how old you were.
My dad was planting a rosebush in the backyard for my mom. I got to go watch him. I was small enough to be up to his shoulder when he was squatting down. The rosebush was potted in a metal can, and he cut the can with pruning shears to split it open to get the rosebush out.
As he maneuvered the plant and pot to release the plant, the metal can cut his left hand between the thumb and forefinger. I had never heard the "S" word before but I understood right away what it was for. I can still hear it the way he said it - a primal "S" word, no time to think about who might be standing nearby.
He put his hand to his mouth and spit an arc of blood to the grass behind him. The afternoon sun caught highlights of red and yellow orange against the backdrop of green lawn. He was wearing a black plaid shirt he wore a lot in those days. I waited silent a moment then asked if he was okay and he said, "yes," and kept planting, "sorry about the cursing."
What happened to the moment next falls into imagination. Did I go get my mom? Did he go treat the wound? Did she come out and ask what happened?
I still see the sunlit arc of blood and spit and green grass and still sense the toddler's insight that Daddy is one of us.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
The Catholics had a fair last night.
I know, because I was there alright.
I did not try the carney-rigged rides
(to spare losing the contents within my insides).
The rides held up fine, there was laughter and ease
complemented supremely by a cool evening breeze.
The Catholics raised money in honor of the saints.
All the revelers seemed happy; I heard no complaints.
As I entered the venue, a priest said hello.
Though I'd never met him, he was among those I know.
Sure there's a fatherly quality about his profession,
(I wonder if he knew it's been a while since confession).
Monday, April 28, 2008
Locals know that on this part of the coastline, east is also south, and west is synonymous with north. Note to travellers in the San Fernando Valley on the US 101: Need to go north? Go west. Need to go south? Head east! (But if you're on the five, north is north. Careful. That one goes to Sacramento.)
North of Malibu and south of Point Dume there is a pretty little cove that was once paradise. Guarded from the big swells by the point, the water is calmer, the shelf is longer, the wading is easier and the wave knock-down potential is far smaller. You can see the sun rise over Santa Monica and, after a day of swimming and running and playing and tide pool discoveries, watch the sun dip down behind Point Dume and cast beautiful colors on the sky and water before darkness brings out the bright blue stars and deep hopefulness.
That's how nature made Paradox Cove, but that's not so much how it is anymore. Now there's a big restaurant with lots of gluttonous tourists who are not looking at the sea. They are looking at food, and plenty of it.
A "beach bum" nostalgia theme reckons to keep the eroding forces of the masses at bay. The decor is amended with ye olde broken downe ship parts, and black and white photos of the secluded beach that once was. But memories of paradise have been replaced by wait staff in uniform. They are unhappy. They are uninspired. Some must slog through sand to bring the feasts to the diners. It does seem they are aware of the sand, but the beach goes unnoticed, obscured by umbrellas, tables, crowdedness.
The Paradox Cove of the early 21st century is big splotch of an eatery, a fat faced fish feast fiasco where they serve giant martini glasses filled with deep fried calamari flown in from God knows what ocean, laid on beds of sogging French fries and served with ketchup (Ranch dressing available). Each vat of this appetizer is so encroyable large that to eat seventeen handfuls would put barely a dent in the mound of it, so there should be no reason to stop gorging.
The trip to the beach was for an easy dinner and escape from routine. The little friendly mom and pop fish shack further south along the coast was what I'd had in mind, but my error was indecision, as I also wanted to enjoy the drive north (and west!) during the pre-sunset afternoon. The sunlight was truly golden, sheering down through the sky and casting a magical glow over everything.
Summer had sprung out of an April Saturday and the valley was hot and dry. I simply wanted to see and sense the sea, enjoy good company, and have a little fish dinner and maybe a beer on a nice patio. The idea sounded good to my friend Montega, too, so we headed through the canyon to the beach. But Montega was just at the end of a couple days' vacation in Palm Springs and still craved the indulgences of resort living. She kept pointing out restaurants with valet parking. I missed the cue that negotiation was in order, so every idea she had, I shot down:
"No. Too pricey."
"The place we had those crab cakes!"
"Can't afford it."
Worse than my concerns about spending money I didn't have, I felt bad for stifling her happy recommendations, so I said, "Let's go wherever you want."
Paradox Cove was the next option to present itself.
Pay to park. Be sure to get validation! Enter the restaurant approach the angry hostess. "Two hour wait," she sneers as she looks away and hands us an eight inch wide plastic crab.
"Wha - - "
"It'll light up when your table's ready."
"In two hours?"
"In two hours," and she diverts her attention to the next customer - a puffy woman in a t-shirt two sizes too small who seems to perceive her fleshy overflow to be acceptable as "cleavage."
Two hours? Ease up, you're at the beach, I think, so I stand in line at the bar for a few minutes trying to struggle the crab into my purse. There is no room in my purse for a big plastic crab, so I hand it to Montega, who carries a bigger purse than I do. Tired from a long day driving from the desert, Montega takes a seat at a nearby bar table, brushing little heaps of peanut shells from the table to the floor; this is how it's done. This is Paradox Cove.
The bartender, seeing the queue of the thirsty, announces that if any of us want to have our drinks outside, we'll have to order them from the outdoor bar.
I want to go outside and watch the pink evening light absorb into the slate blue sea. So we go. Montega hands me a ten but I have a twenty and tell her I'll get this one and we can even out at dinner. She finds us a seat on a little beach couch next to where the guys with the shiny Harleys park their shiny Harleys. With a crowd as eager to be somplace as this one is, we'll have to sit tight or lose our territory. I go to the bar and greet the bartender with a friendly hello. He ignores me. He's making two Mojitos and isn't on duty for me yet.
Maybe management didn't expect the heat either and didn't schedule enough staff; could be the bartender's overworked, so I play it cool. I look off to the distance for the sea but it seems only like a movie backdrop behind the many. I can't hear it. I can't smell it. I can't feel it. I'm not altogether sure it's even really there.
I watch him make the drinks and remember the experience that made me discover the Mojito: a year before, I had my first minty refreshing Caipirinha in Albuquerque (of all places), and how robustly and happily the bartender made our special, wonderful drinks of minty crisp refreshing Brazilian truth serum/love-the-world potion. The common Cuban version is the Mojito, nearly as soulful at heart if made with artistry and passion, but not here. Not this time.
He sets up the two tall glasses, drops some mint leaves into the bottom, makes attempts at crushing the leaves with the leaf crushing pestle, and squirts premixed concoctions from plastic bottles with metal spouts into the glasses. He pours the rum with a measured stinge.
He talks to a waitress about how late he worked the night before and how there are too many customers tonight. There are many words but none of them much different than the ones before.
And then my turn comes. He approaches and uses the word, "Hello."
"Hi! Two Mojitos, please!" He works in a bar area half the size of an elevator. He walks over to the other end of it and gets two glasses, just like the ones he's just doctored. On the way back, he checks his cellphone for a text, flips it closed dispassionately, wanders to several different spots behind the bar and causes the drinks to compile, one element at a time.
He pours some rum but not much, then pours a little more. He talks to his friends some more, standing still. He holds the glasses immobile as he says more words. It crosses my mind he could be distracted over the girl that didn't text or call. But no, he is not downhearted. He is weary. He has made many Mojitos.
He comes back to where I wait, sets the glasses down, puts a wilted mint sprig in one drink and a half dead one in the other, sets them in front of me and says with a cheery tone: "Twenty three ninety, miss!"
I have a twenty in my hand and another in my wallet. I give him both. There was my dinner money. I would have one taco perhaps. I peel an honest tip from the change.
Darkness falls. Here in the outdoor part of the restaurant, food is served on big futons that function as tables and diners sit on the edges and eat from appetizers piled in the middle. By now they are sorting out their bills. Montega and I keep each other amused with conversation for the time but soon we are reserving our energy, as the only thing we can think to talk about is the fact that we're hungry.
Her purse is open so that we can see the crab. Other people's crabs are flickering and glowing. Other people laugh and saunter through the sand. My drink has had its effect and has worn off. I am ready to drive again, two hours since the drink now. The shiny Harley men get on their bikes and rev the engines that sputter, fight, fart and roar into sync. The riders fade off into the night.
"I can't take it anymore." I stand up. I'm thinking of home but we've put in our two hours so I go to the host station. This time its a friendly young man with braces on his teeth. He sends me back to Montega for the crab. He needs to see its pincher to read its number.
He surmises we'd wandered too far off so the signal couldn't reach the crab. I tell him we'd been sitting at the outisde bar and other people's crabs were flickering. He offers to seat us immediately.
The food is mediocre. The customers stuff their faces beneath the big whalebone suspended from the rafters and drink many tall drinks. The waiter puts the hard sell on Montega to buy a drink she doesn't want. I plead Designated Driver and he backs off, but he puts a knee on the seat on my side of the booth, leans in toward me and seems so inspired about her having another drink I can almost swear he'll buy her one, but she knows the game. She acquiesces. He brings her a fruity martini. "How is it?"
"Better than cough syrup!" She has charm.
Dinner takes the rest of my money. You can't order one taco at Paradox Cove. You have to order three and they come with six tortillas.
Montega, bless her heart, is good with money and has the dollars for our parking (validation rate applies!). I shall not return to Paradox Cove unless I happen to swim past it while playing in the summer's blue blue sea. Paradox Cove, once paradise, has gone too far south for me.
* * *
They called it paradise,
I don't know why.
Call someplace paradise;
kiss it goodbye.
- Don Henley
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Excuse me: DUH! This is why we invented "Teachers" (and "Therapists") (...not to mention the old trusty aversion to painful situations and experiences).
Live and learn.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
All earth's broadcast sounds merge eventually and dissolve into the hum of the echo of the Big Bang, (whew! Lucky for us, so far, it's not the big whimper!)
See (and hear) also: Chris Impey's website.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Amended: May 03, 2008.
Think of your best friends and the qualities that make them your favorite people. If you made a list of elements you were looking for in a best friend, would you, in any way, no matter how specific, careful, or imaginative, be able to conjure up these wonderful people from a shopping list? Would you have picked them from a dossier in which they'd identified the parts of themselves they wished to brag about while humbly missing mention of key quirks? Would they have posted the qualities they may not even be aware of but which charm you or challenge your growth, make you love them all the more, and make you a better person for knowing them?
Would your favorite past romances have caught you with a snapshot?
Could you have ever contrived the unlikely circumstances that led you to falling in love in the first place?
Can you actually plan your own favorite best ever bona fide surprise?!
Thesis stated, who else but Beelzebub could tease a society into thinking it could find true love via approvals and denials of assessments of inventories of evaluative criteria? Yes, yes, a preacher from the Midwest and a dozen or so savvy business teams could and do. Oh how rude of me to demonize them, perhaps they know something about a certain elemental personality type within the population for whom ticking off lists is romantic rapture - for these few (and I must admit I know three couples who discovered each other this way) the statistics bare this out as a worthwhile business enterprise with profit margins significant enough to make the venture worthwhile to capital investors across the board.
BUT for those whose desire is for the wondrous surprise of sun-kissed windswept flourishing joie de' vivre (et j'en sais quois!), romance, love, laughter bliss my heart my soul is home - what magic I never knew - for this type to turn the gift of romance over to the devices of conscious selection and measured critical evaluation, every befuddling encounter with an oddball causes a piece of the soul to die trying, and this, my friends and loved ones, is indeed, a form of torture.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Dr. Amen's website also has some fascinating animations of scanned brains. It's so nice they can study human brains nowadays without killing mice, whose brains, science has discovered, are mostly just focused on cheese.
It's comforting to get some education about diminishing or even averting memory loss in old age, and I'm enjoying what I'm learning about the cogs and wheels in my own head. Also, the book is helping me understand where losses may have occurred in others and how to play to others' strengths.
If only Amen had this guy making videos for him - he could have a weekly series. (Video takes a while to load but practicing patience is good for your neurotransmitter development).
So, more green tea, keep up the exercise and fitness, and just say "om."
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
Because it is a skyscraper, I had to check in at the front desk before I could go up to her office to meet her. I walked up to the reception desk and a man in a polyester faux-business suit (affordable and easy to clean, who can blame him?) was leaning on the counter not quite admitting belonging behind it.
"Do you work at this thing?" I said.
"Yes," he said, "How can I help you?"
"I'm here to see Irene Parisknova-Millicent Beane, please." [Name changed for publication.]
"Ah, yes. And your name?"
"Jean..." (He was waiting for something more...) "...Nnosullivan."
I was on a list so I was given clearance. He pointed behind me and now had an accent, French or Italian, something classy, "The elevators are just there, ma'am."
"Thank you!" I turned and went for the first bank of elevators I saw but was stopped by a man in a suit by the same maker but the pants were olive. (Designation: Security Guy.)
"Not this one, that one, miss."
He gesture-herded me into the direction of the next bank of elevators, which I entered, intently passing Security Guy 2. Security Guy 2 followed within inches, "What floor - what floor, ma'am?"
"Forty." I didn't look back, stepped into the elevator, catching the doors' electric eye to thwart their attempt to close, and pressed the button but it didn't light up. There was a sixty-ish man in the elevator. He wore tan slacks and a peach colored sweater. White hair. Expensive clothing, too many too-white teeth for a man his age. The guard followed and pushed the button in a way that made it light up. I thanked him but was not sincere. My guess was he felt it, which put me a little on the defensive.
Alone in the elevator with the comfortably well off man, I said, "I'd never make it in this parta town." The silence lasted a floor or two, but perhaps my saying nothing more made him comfortable chancing engagement, "hmm?"
"Too many rules," I said, looking up at the numbers, "too uptight. Just to get onto an elevator took three approvals."
"Where do you live?" he asked.
"San Fernando Valley," I said.
"It's..." he looked down slightly, shook his head just a little, then up at me, to condescend: "It's 'The Valley', you don't say 'San Fernando', you just say 'The Valley.'"
At that point I didn't say anything. I just smiled.
"Where are you from - originally?" he said.
"I'm from the San Fernando Valley," I said.
"Yup! My whole life."
The elevators opened at floor 34 and he grunted as he left, eyes averted.
The doors closed on yet another rule.
Epilogue: Lunch was delicious! We ate beside the big green lawn.