Thursday, July 31, 2003

Ideé d’jour

It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap war in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of corrupt Brits; despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgivable sin in America. Big darkness, soon come. Take my word for it
Hunter S Thompson

From your lips to God's ears, Hunter. Of course, “Uncle Duke” has been predicting the Apocalypse for some time ....

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Epic Randomness

OK. As you may recall, Elsie gave me a poetic assignment before she went on her ten-day sojourn. We each selected 10 words each, at random, from The Word Book. We actually ended up with 30 words total, because Elsie already had a set of words she wanted me to play with. The challenge was to write a poem using the words in the same order in which they had been selected. We didn't limit it to one per line, or even to ten lines, but I set that constraint on myself.

The poems I've posted here were written on-screen, using Google as a lexical resource. Just for fun, I decided to write another set of poems on paper, which did not reference the set I've posted (beyond the commonality of the random words). Just as an added challenge, I decided to try to relate the three new poems as much as possible.

So, once again, your challenge is to try to figure out which were the 30 random words. The sections don't appear in this longer work in the same order as those already posted, but the words are in the same order in each section. (Gosh, I hope that makes sense).

Elsie will be going to South America in late August. I shudder to think what my assignment will be then!

Without further ado, the final entry in this round of Poetry at Random.

Epic Randomness

Who was the bucktooth insomniac
caught in the act of masturbation
Who was sent to slay the hart
Who was the sculptress
haunting the matins memory
Who was firstborn, who was the last
Whose faith was stretchable
and would straddle mistletoe & cross
Who has tempted the inconsequent vespers
to become obedient to Midnight Moon

She is transfixed by knighthood
with calomel-washed visions
She serves the kitchen-chair oligarch
She has changed her name to Midweek
Her pencil lies broken on the table
whose secant leaf transects her lunch
of paragon chicken and toasted rice
She wears a Burmese blouse
and considers her vitrifiable nails
as the coffee cavorts on the stove

His restoration of the commutation
provided elbow-room in the
precincts of his Minoan maze
His aneurysm struck like lightening
across the intelligent dawn
He will number his T-cells, each a
pale soldier of ethereal blood
He contemplates circumcision
He investigates literal pastiche
and stumbles through the resonant dawn

Random Poem III

Elsie called from Hot Springs, AK last night. She had just gotten out of the tub, and was en route to hear a band playing downstairs. Their trip from Alabama to Nashville, TN was rain-soaked, and seemed to follow them — off & on — all the way to Hot Springs. I asked Elsie to bring some of that rain back to Oklahoma with her.

It seems to have preceded her.

Anyway, here's the penultimate poem in the "random" series:
The bucktooth saber tooth isolated mandarin
orange used in ritual masturbation
The cat sprung, as though to slay
the innocent sculptress
lost in the heart of matins
The firstborn ever worn dachshund
stretchable as a slinky
was the last to straddle infinity
along the inconsequent border
But shall we be obedient?

Ideé d’jour

Those who failed to oppose me, who readily agreed with me, accepted all my views, and yielded easily to my opinions, were those who did me the most injury, and were my worst enemies, because, by surrendering to me so easily, they encouraged me to go too far... I was then too powerful for any man, except myself, to injure me.
Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France 1769-1821

Words the Chief Executive Liar would be wise to heed!

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


Brother Dave reminds me not to get too distracted by "missing" WMDs. Using classic Watergate logic to "follow the money", Brother Dave strongly believes our invasion of Iraq is all about oil. Well, gosh, the Administration assures us that our involvement is all about freeing those happy Iraqi people, and has absolutely nothing to do with the plans Vice Cheney drew up with his oil buddies during those secret energy meetings.

I'm sure oil has nothing to do with those gaps in the report on 9/11, too.

Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman is earning his title of "Busch-lite" by saying his fellow Dems "don't know a just war when they see it". He also said "The end was just and the means were fitting to the task". It's been a while since we've reviewed the basis for a just war, but I'm pretty certain that "pre-emptive" strike was not part of St. Augustine's rationale. I'm also pretty sure that de facto anarchy would not be considered a positive end.

No doubt, Old Joe is playing poll roulette, hoping to gain the support of folk who support the strike. Seems to me most of the folk who support the war also support the Chief Executive Liar. So, Old Joe seems to be shooting himself in the foot.

Wait a minute .... That might make him presidential material after all!{ptui!}BTW, about the only thing that might tempt me to vote Green is if the Dems lose all sense of reality & nominate Joe Lieberman.

Lack of thought d’jour

Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace.
George W. Bush, White House, Jul. 25, 2003

Poem at Random, II

Elsie called from some small town in Alabama last night. In fact, it sounded like she & Louise had somehow strayed from the main road. Elsie expects to be in Hot Springs, AK by this evening. Since she has been doing all the driving, Elsie is promising herself a good soak. She also reported that she had written all three of her "random" poems in one evening, adding that they were pretty silly.

Well, I don't suppose anyone will confuse my word jumbles with any great work, but they do act as a sort of verbal Rorsarch. Plus, this is a handy way to avoid some of my pet words and images!

Once again, see if you can discern which were the words that were chosen at random out of the Word Book
Before dreams of knighthood descended
upon the calomel residue
the haunted oligarch walked the battlements
in midweek array, speaking with
an honest pencil and breathing moist attar
The secant moon reflected on
this mysterious paragon of lies
And his Burmese cat
stared into the vitrifiable night,
the right time to cavort

Monday, July 28, 2003

Lack of Thought d’jour

The [military] academies are really important for a lot of reasons. Obviously, what you learn on the football field is even more important since we're still at war.
G. W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 16, 2003

Poem at random

Elsie is on the road with her friend Louise, currently somewhere in the wilds of Virginia. Loise is visiting family and Elsie is researching family along the southern route. They've taken a leisurely route up, going through Memphis, TN, and Alabama.

Anway, Elsie left me with a poetry assignment. She took out her Word Book, and we each picked 10 words at random. The challenge was to create a poem using those ten words, in the same order they were chosen.

Sort of a variation on Dr. Omed's googled poetry.

Well, here's my first stab. See if you can guess which were the random words.

The pearlized essence of commutation
wafts through the interior elbow room
maze; foreign integers mass
on the aneurysm border.
Intelligence reports
a number of flint lock
teams facing a solitary soldier.
His kosher circumcision
may not be literal nor mythic
but the windows are resonant

Ideé d’jour

Believe those who are seeking truth. Doubt those who find it.
Andre Gide

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Meta Commentary

Which is my cute way of saying I'm going to take a moment to comment on the comments. I enjoy reading the comments on other blog-sites, and often they become a whole dialogue behind the scenes.

One of my faithful commentors is Brother Dave. In response to my letter to Sen. Nickles, Dave wrote
The general rule says that you should limit a letter to Congresspersons to 1 point, question or idea.
Short attention span, I guess.
Well, I kinda wish I had been aware of that ahead of time. However, I was responding to a two-page letter from Sen. Nickles, and most of my letter was focused on refuting his logic. I actually was addressing one point, which I reiterated several times throughout my three pages: support a bilateral independent commision to investigate the intelligence used to support the pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

A close second to Brother Dave is my fellow Whitmanite, Christopher Key. Mr. Key was so charmed by my review of Bela Fleck's recent cd, that he sent me a Word document of a review he wrote of a concert given by Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. As I told Christopher, I've not been a fan of Bela's jazz work, but I'll check it out on the basis of his rave review.

The "On Forgiveness" entry (look under July 14) generated a comment from a person who signed himself as "RLP". This confused Cousin Kathi a bit. Many folk in the Salon community recognize those initials as belonging to "Real Live Preacher. As always, I highly recommend his blog space; but be advised that he is on vacation until the first week of August.

I've mentioned Fr. Pat several times, and he says something nice about this blogspace almost every Sunday. Couple of times, he's thanked me for leading him to different articles.

I don't have a counter for this space, so comments and e-mails are the only way I know people are reading this space. Drop me a line. As time allows.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Death of Uday & Qusay
and other thoughts at random

There's literally no escaping this news. Even anti-war blogs are reporting — some noting that they're glad these guys are dead. Reports suggest that these were bad guys, and the Iraqis are reportedly very glad that they're dead. But I believe there's a little, tiny, problem with us anti-strike folk cheering the deaths of these "evil" men:

By implication, it supports the Administration's "bad guy" justification for the strike. This is an argument the Administration posed prior to the attack, and is trying to emphasize now (to drown out controversy about unfound WMD): a pre-emptive strike was justified because Saddam was a Baaahhhd Maaahhn. Our Fearless Leader, doing his best imitation of Marvel Comics, posed a classic "What If" question: if you could travel back in time & kill Hitler before the worst of WWII and the Holocaust, wouldn't you?

Well, I hope anyone who has studied history at even a superficial level can list the differences between the situation with Hitler in the '30s and the situation with Hussein without my assistance. Just as a beginning, Hitler invaded a number of his neighbors, and ultimately attacked our long-time ally, Britain. Hussein, by contrast, has been more of a threat to his own people (since the end of GW I) than to any neighboring state, much less the U.S. or a U.S. ally.

The "Baaahhhd Maaahhn" justification for pre-emptive strike is pretty shaky. There are plenty of Bad Guys out there, and there are times when American foreign policy looks pretty bad when judged by the moral code we would impose on others. And others have more cogently made the point that the terrorists of 9/11 perceived their action as a pre-emptive strike against the "Bad Guy" America.

Heck, even Tim McVeigh may have bought into the argument that it's best to strike before things esculate to concentration camps, etc. Evidence suggests that McVeigh perceived "the government" as the bad guy enemy, and he considered civilian casualties as "collateral damage".

I'm not preaching moral relativism here. Nor would I argue in favor of isolationism. Assistance to Great Britain during the Blitz was probably the right thing. Standing up to Hitler as he tried to create a new German empire might have been a good idea. This logic might apply to Allied defense of Kuwait as well. In all these cases, however, there was overt external aggression by the "bad guy", and the world community was fairly agreed the agression needed to be met with force.

Back to Uday and Qusay, I wonder about their deaths. This CNN report indicates they "resisted arrest", but I wonder what efforts were made to capture them alive. Didn't our troops have tear gas handy? Imagine what intelligence we might have received from these guys if we had captured them. Might have even led us to their dad.

Hate to sound cynical, or like a conspiracy theory nut, but maybe these guys were worth more to the Administration dead than alive.

Thus, I cannot rejoice in their deaths.
Here's another story about a son's death sent on to me by Brother Dave. The story concerns a Marine, given the name John, who loves his country, but did not support the war. Yet, being a man of integrity, John fought in a war he believed unjust. As the article states, he foresaw negative repurcussions to the pre-emptive strike; quoting from the article:
He said it was unlikely that Iraqis would cheer the arrival of a U.S. occupying force, and that long-term urban combat could be a likely outcome.

The good Dr. Omed has this intriguing parable at his tent show. Well worth pondering. Reminds me a little of an on-going series of mine I call Hagiopoeia; who knows? Might post one of my faves up here in the near future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Tagging WMD

If you lose things easily, you might be interested in this product: WoZnet. Developed by Steve Wozniak, the guy who brought us the personal computer, this is a wireless network which will help you find just about anything: keys, pets, kids, etc.

The linked article will give you more details. I do have a suggestion for future use: next time we sell Weapons of Mass Destruction to a country, we should tag them with these devices. That way, the WMD will be easier to find should the client become a "rogue state". Thus, when we say we "know" where the weapons are, folk will have good reason to believe us.

An Autograph

Wanted to share an image of George Wallace's autograph. I realize this isn't proof positive I met the man, but I hope it helps improve my credibility. The inscription reads:
For James Collins, with thanks for your insight into the life & times of Woodie [sic] Guthrie [signed] George Wallace
If you're still dubious, I blame the Chief Executive Liar for perpetuating a cynical atmosphere.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Open letter to Senator Don Nickles

Toward the end of June I sent faxes to my representatives (via concerning the on-going controversy over the nature of the intelligence used to support a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. As I recall, I received a form e-mail from Representative Jim Imhoff's office. I received a letter from Senator Don Nickles' office, which attempted to defend Administration policy. A pdf version of Senator Nickles' letter is available here.

You'll find an html version of my response here; however, since my letter is three pages long, you may prefer to review this outline of points I hoped to
  1. Why Weren't Weapons Used?
    1. Self-preservation
    2. Gulf War suggests
      1. Will fire on superior force
      2. Strong sense of self-preservation

  2. Other reasons Saddam may have not allowed unfettered inspections
    1. Sovereignty
    2. Tactical, similar to “mutually assured destruction”
    3. Examples cited date to 1998
      1. Week prior to strike, Iraqi cooperation increased
      2. Military build-up may have encouraged this cooperation
      3. Combination of military threat and inspectors may have ended with better results

  3. My own questions
    1. Why did U.S. oppose increased inspectors
    2. Why was U.S. intelligence not shared with inspectors
    3. Why was strike necessary at this particular time

  4. Penultimate statement asks for more time
    1. Ironic, given the world sought more time to allow inspections to work
    2. Odd, given several in the Administration claimed our intelligence “knew” where weapons were located

  5. Problems with intelligence
    1. Niger
    2. Evidence that conditional statements were reconstructed as statements of fact

  6. Need for transparent government
    1. Past scandals (Watergate, Whitewater, etc) marked by attempts to “coverup”
    2. “Politics as usual”
    3. Contributes to increased public cynicism
      1. Government seen as “us vs. them”
      2. Should be “we the people”
    4. Best resolution is open, bi-partisan, independent commission

Friday, July 18, 2003

Proverbs of Hell

Some may recognize this as being a section of William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and and Hell. I have decided to emulate Dr. Omed's Tent Show, and have a regular feature where I discuss one of these proverbs. You understand, of course, that this feature will be about as regular as the occasional Ideés d'jour I post here. "As the muse dictates," says the good doctor.

The cut worm forgives the plow
Perhaps you know someone like my friend R.S. She is a shameless promoter. She will use any occasion to publicize the concerts she promotes — even a peace march. Well, one can hardly blame her. It's how she hopes to make a living.

In order to succeed in your dream, you must be resolute in your purpose. It will sometimes appear that you steamroll others, or their feelings. Your eyes are set on the prize.

Now, I will say this about R.S. — the music she promotes is of good quality. The concerts she was promoting at the peace march probably were of interest to the majority of people there. To the best of my knowledge, she has not "steam-rolled" over someone in the pursuit of her goal. I am certain that she has not intentionally harmed someone.

If we take this image very literally, the cut worm will not die; the average earth worm will divide and become two. So, the worm benefits from the plow's action. The plow is promoting life, by tilling the soil, and is resolute in its purpose. Ideally, the plow will follow a straight path to its goal.

Life delights in life, so the worm forgives the plow, because the tilling of the soil will promote new growth and because the dividing of the worm actually promotes a new worm.

Argue & discuss.


Elsie pointed out that some folk might think I've actually met Bela Fleck, based on the review below. Nope, didn't mean to mislead you. I was attempting a "short story as review" sort of thing, as I recall from the glory days of Rolling Stone. Regret any confusion.

Now, because I fibbed about Bela, you might think I fibbed about George Wallace, or that I invented him. George Wallace is a real person, and you can learn more about him at his on-line journal, Poetry Bay. And we really did meet at Okemah.

Here's one verification: just to my left is an autographed copy of his English/Italian collection, swimming through water, ISBN 88-88097-17-1.

Lest you confuse me with a NY Times cub reporter, from now on I will mark a work fiction when there might be any confusion.

Now that we have that out of the way, we continue with our blog, already in progress.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

An Evening with Bela Fleck
Review: Perpetual Motion

Written the week of February 16, 2003

Imagine my surprise when I got home from work:   Bela Fleck was sitting on the front porch.

Well, this was perfect.   I'd had a relatively stressful day and week, and I knew Bela was a respectful guest.  He leaned against the railing on the east side of the porch so he could stretch out & play his banjo.  He seemed to be woodshedding "My country tis of thee" — turns out it was Beethoven's "7 Variations on 'God Save the King'."  He was turned in toward the banjo like a yoga master practicing the lotus.

He heard me coming, looked up from the banjo & said, "Hi, Jac.  Hope you don't mind, but I've invited a couple of friends to join us."

"Gosh, I don't know Bela," I said, "I haven't had a good night's rest in the past two days.  I don't think I'd be a very good host."

"Don't worry a bit about that, man.  I'll be the host.  You sit & relax & I'll fix everything.  Here, sit next to the kitchen as I whip up the food & tell me about it."

I told him about the stresses at work.  The perpetual lateness of the researchers as we prepare their grants.  The weeks of boredom & feeling useless.  The days of high anxiety as the last sentence of the Research Plan is typed an hour before the deadline.  The frustration of feeling powerless.

I told him about the Valentine’s Day Pot Luck luncheon I hosted at my job.  Elk meat chili was good.  Folk were excited all week at the prospect.  I treasured watching my co-workers enjoy themselves.

I told him a little about my love-life.  "Boy, jac, only you could live so comfortably inside a myth."

Just then, Evelyn Glennie came to the door.  "Say, James, this soup could simmer for a bit.  Mind if Evelyn & I work on something?"

Mind?  I was ready to kiss Evelyn's feet just for giving the world so much joy.  They played Bach's "Two-Part Invention No 13."  Well, I love Bach — he seems to cover every aspect of the human heart (a musical Shakespeare).  And hearing Bach played on marimba — my!  Bet Johann is up there in heaven wishing he'd known about the marimba while he was alive.  Betcha he would have composed for Glennie for free.

Joshua Bell & Gary Hoffman came by shortly after that.  They played Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" with Bela as a trio.  I also have a deep appreciation for the cello — I love the way the low tones resonate in my chest.  And Gary's got the touch.  For most of the piece, Bella was playing the piano part — makes sense, as both the piano & banjo are rhythm instruments.  But he also played the closing section of the adagio.  Who knew the banjo could be so melodic?

"Say, Bela, did you ever hear the classical stuff Pete Seeger recorded on the banjo?"

"Oh, yeah.  Pete's almost every banjo player's hero, and that little album set was an inspiration for what I'm working on."

"So this is going to be a cd?"

"Yep, I'm thinking of calling it 'Perpetual Motion'."

"Call it what you like: 'If music be the food of love, play on!'"

Dedicated to Brother Dave, in appreciation for the gift of the above cd.  Your timing could not have been more synchronistic.
BTW: I heard an interview with Bela when this was released, in which he mentioned the Seeger recordings.  I came close to buying a set (sadly was beyond my means at the time), and remember Padre talking about the set as well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Forget the source, read the editorial

Daisy-chaining led me to this editorial at MSNBC {ick!}. Eric Alterman takes the press to task for rolling over and behaving like an especially slutty female-dog-in-heat while the Administration rubbed its tummy. Interestingly, he mentions the same infamous little blue dress I reference below.

Must be the zeitgeist.

Might be a nice time to define what I mean by "daisy-chaining." Here's what I mean: I go to a site (blog or "regular"); if I like what I read, I click on any links included on the page. If the blog has a comment system (like Salon's) where commenters record their blog-links, I check them out (especially if I like their comments). I can lose myself in the screen for extended periods of time this way.

Hmmm. Might be time to take a walk.

When You Hate Being Right

You might recall that I predicted the Iraq conflict would become an urban guerrilla war. The international section of today's New York Times (sorry, registration may be required) quotes Gen. John Abizaid as saying that allied forces face a “classical guerrilla-type war situation”. Aside from being off Rummy's message, the remarkable thing about Gen. Abizaid's statement is the fact that he is the new head of the U.S. Central Command.

He is also quoted as saying that ground forces should expect to be in Iraq for a year. Forget those three-month tours of duty you were promised, guys & gals!

The official Administration position these days is "We never promised you a rose garden." Well, that's only partly true, in that there was no clear exit plan defined prior to the official declaration of conflict – nor was there any exit plan defined once major hostilities were declared ended. The irony of this is, of course, that the Republicans made quite a fuss about there being no exit strategy for Bosnia, Somalia, etc. The pity is that the Dems haven't forced the Republicans to eat their words.

Meanwhile, there's the little matter of the faulty intelligence concerning Hussein seeking nuclear materials from Niger. Our Chief Executive Liar has said, in effect, that this error doesn't matter because it was so important to remove Hussein from power. Other Administration apologists have been saying that no intelligence can be expected to be 100% accurate all the time.

Excuse me, but shouldn't we have a pretty high standard for statements made in Presidential State of the Union addresses? Especially when those statements are being made to initiate a war? I mean, when so many lives are on the line, shouldn't the intelligence be held to an extremely high standard?

Certainly, the Niger statement doesn't even rise to anything but a frat boy term paper standard of accuracy. Saying we got it from the British is the worst sort of hearsay; not much better than saying we got information from a friend of a friend.

As I see it, there are two scenarios which make sense. Either our intelligence community is extremely incompetent, which is pretty scary. Or the Administration encouraged members of the intelligence community to inflate facts to support the case for a pre-emptive strike. I believe either scenario demands an open Senate investigation.

Our government was almost brought to a screeching halt over the definition of "is". I believe this situation is much more serious and threatening to our national security than a little semen on someone's blue dress.
When Fr. Pat told me he saw a reasonable editorial in the Daily Despot, I got kind of worried about him — until he added that he was as surprised as anybody. Thanks to my neighbor, I was able to read the editorial for myself. It preserves my negative opinion of the Despot to note that the editorial comes via Tribune Media Services.

The editorial in question is by Kathleen Parker. Titled Blogs breaking logjam of journalism, the article notes how blogs similar to this (or {ptui} the Drudge Report) has broken stories such as the Trent Lott faux paux well before the main-stream media. She sees this as a good sign, though she ultimately says she still prefers the holistic experience of a newspaper (olfactory, tactile, etc).

For those who like to tack articles on the refrigerator (as Ms. Parker mentions), let me recommend the method I use to tack things on this blog. Block, copy & paste. Paste the article into a word processing document, delete any undesirable elements, then print the article. Up on the refrigerator it goes!

At any rate, I have yet to break a major news story, and it's unlikely that I will. What I seem to be doing is commenting primarily on politics & religion. My primary source is the Internet, along with a couple of savvy correspondents. Pretty much the only reason I suppose folk might stop by is because they agree with my opinion, and appreciate how I state it.

Actually, if you have a moment, send me an e-mail to let me know what you like (and dislike) about this blog-space.

The poem below this entry is related to my review of Monday, July 14 (third article down). George read this Monday evening, and I heard some pretty strong echoes of Whitman. I include it here primarily in hopes that Christopher Key, my fellow Whitmanite, will stop by & read it.

By the way, Mr. Key has posted a couple of poems on his blog, Barbaric Yawp which are pretty fun. Look for "The SU Blues" and "JOIE DE VIVRE".

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

black eyed susans
by George Wallace

i see the bright face of this our still young and hopeful nation
more in a parkling lot weed than in the display
of its proud public gardens, untamed as the original
north american wild, outwitting us to the last
& filled with the breath, a continent wide,
of unplanned vitality.

in the lowest dandelion, in the fairy clover,
in the dusty sway of goldenrod where two highways merge,
the ragged memory of prairie grasslands calls out to me
& praises still sung to the sun-rippled expanse
of northern forest

i leave to europe the curve and grace
of horticultural refinement, manicured intention,
& tired topiary imagination & rather, stoop to worship here,
even at this crumbling bit of earth,
your voice america — stubborn, plain strangely

triumphant, so long as a single flower
raises up its head to greet the expectant sun,
i too shall greet, in celebration, the promise
of your ragged, wonderful world, which is the reason
why we came here in the first place

& yes, pretty as a patch of black eyed susans.

Copyright © 2003 George Wallace
Previously published in "the poems of augie prime", writers ink press, 1994
Reprinted by permission. All rights retained by author.

Definition d'jour

Politics, n.
Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914, The Devil's Dictionary

Monday, July 14, 2003

On Forgiveness

A very personal reflection
Real Live Preacher has done it again. His entry for July 7, 2003, has to do with forgiveness, and it reminded me of a discussion I had with my sister-in-law this past April. It had to do with forgiving my biological mother.

Now, I know many people have issues with their mothers. And, while I am reluctant to air much dirty laundry, I will say that physical abuse is a large part of the issue here. A snap-shot of my mother toward the end of her life (she died at age 63 or 64) may also be illustrative:

When my father died, I felt obliged to invite mother to the funeral — even though they had been divorced for almost 30 years. Immediately following the grave-side ceremony, my mother approached me to request my father’s social security number, so she could apply for military benefits. Now, I was sympathetic to my mother’s economic situation, but her request was insensitively timed. People within ear-shot were shocked.

Now, my attitude toward my mother turned a corner about 20 years prior to that, in 1976. I was working at a convenience store at 50th and May, and my Aunt Nellie lived nearby — which gave me a chance to visit with her frequently. Aunt Nellie was actually some kin of my maternal grandfather, but I had always been raised to call her "aunt." Nellie shared stories of my mother’s childhood, which gave me the impression that my Grandmother Kathleen emotionally neglected her daughter (my mother). This seemed to validate the proverb “the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (quoted in Jeremiah 31:29).

This story, along with other information gained with maturity, convinced me that my mother did the best she could with the tools she had — as modern pop-psychology would have it. I actually tried to offer my mother forgiveness on this basis. The problem was, she could not accept it because she could not acknowledge that she had done anything that needed to be forgiven.

Well, I found it hard to maintain a relationship founded on a fiction, so I ended my side of the relationship. That is to say, I no longer contacted her independently. If she called me, I'd talk to her — but I would not call her, nor would I write her. Every so often, she would call and I would listen to her share her troubles, and her attempted "guilt trip" that I was being a bad Xtian by not honoring my parents (Ex 20:12).

The irony of our last conversation sometimes haunts me. She called me either Saturday or Sunday evening. We had our typical chat, which included a laundry list of her physical ailments, a reminder that I had been written out of her will, and a reminder of what a bad son I was by not maintaining contact with her. Then she asked, bluntly: "Do you want me to die?"

How can a person answer a question like that? I chose to do my best to be both honest, but gentle. I said, "I would not wish any more ill for you than I would any other creature." Well, she didn't like that answer; obviously, it was not the answer she had hoped for.

She was dead two days later.

Thus, it seemed that I was never able to fully forgive my mother because she could not accept that forgiveness.

In retrospect, I think a couple of things helped me through this. One was prayer, that the High Holy One forgive mother on my behalf. The other was to visit the Hutsell plot — final resting place of mother, her mother and father, and my uncle Halcolm — and express anger to Kathleen.

Prior to that strange day in the graveyard, it was not ok to be angry at Kathleen. She was the woman who had been the "true" mother to me. She may very well have saved my life by watching me when her daughter was occupied elsewhere. But she was also the one who had not been able to give that same maternal attention to her daughter. Expressing my anger acknowledged the "sour grapes" my mother had been fed, and their source.

Walking that path on my own, releasing the pain in that fashion, I learned that (as the RLP says) forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It certainly was for me. Those echoes of my mother which still resound within me can now rest in greater peace.

Review: Poetry Reading by George Wallace

I met George Wallace Saturday night at the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma. Not the infamous, now deceased, politician, but the much more modest — and very alive — Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, New York. Turns out, Mr. Wallace is in Oklahoma for two readings — one was in Norman on Sunday, and the second is this evening (Monday, July 14) at 7:30 pm, University of Central Oklahoma campus library, in Edmond, Oklahoma.

I happened to be in line, in front of George and the ladies who are escorting him on his visit to Oklahoma, waiting to order "Indian Tacos". Now, when I don't have someone to visit with, I inveterately eaves-drop. One of the women visiting with George asked him if he listened to songs as a type of poetry. He responded that he preferred to listen to songs on their own merit — it seemed to him that the music and lyrics were too closely related to be separated. She began to conjecture whether Woody Guthrie considered himself a poet, noting that Woody often typed out his lyrics.

Well, this was something I knew a little about. I turned around and told them the story of Woody's work for the Department of the Interior. Woody was hired to write the sound track for a documentary on the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. Every day, he would get up and type lyrics on an old manual typewriter — according to many sources (including Joe Klein's excellent biography), this was the most prolific period of Woody's life — an astonishing number of songs in a matter of 10-14 days. Many of Woody's best-known songs were written there, including "Pastures of Plenty" and "Roll On, Columbia".

It just so happened that, as we were visiting, Ellis Paul was singing "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key." I was then able to tell the story of how the Guthrie family had found a trunk full of Woody's lyrics with no music, and how Sarah (Woody's only surviving sibling) contracted with English folk singer Billy Bragg to set these lyrics to music. "Minor Key" is one of these songs. Mr. Wallace was especially interested in the fact that Woody wrote these lyrics while he lived in New York.

I told him the cd was titled Mermaid Avenue, after the street the Guthrie family lived on. "I'm not familiar with that street", George said, "Where is it?" "I'm not sure," I said, "I think it's in Brooklyn." Subsequent research has revealed that Mermaid Avenue is in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. He asked if I recommended the cd, and I said I thought he'd enjoy it.

Well, we got our tacos and I rejoined Elsie. I'd eaten less than half my taco when George came by, holding a copy of Mermaid Avenue — which, as it turned out, was the last copy in the music tent. George said, "I'm really excited to get this. I wanted to write an article about my visit, and this gives me a good 'New York' angle." Naturally, I asked why he was visiting Oklahoma, and he told me about his readings. Later on, he brought by one of his hosts — Carol Hamilton, a former Oklahoma Poet Laureate — to fill Elsie & I in on the details of times and places.

Now, all of this may seem a little self-serving, but I hope it gives a sense of what a genuinely nice person Mr. George Wallace is. Needless to say, I attended his reading in Norman Sunday afternoon.

He opened the reading with what he described as a poem in the "surreal" style, "Because":
because your hands are a theater and your eyelashes makeup
and your smile is a nightclub where everything always happens
and your ears are minor characters in a silent film overacting in the old ways ...

He continued with "in the used bookstore", an amusing poem which achieved its affect by changing only a couple of lines (or words) in each stanza. He followed this with "god spins out", a humorous poem which I interpret to reflect religious plurality. He also read "this country she is traveling through", which included the lines "August in the salt flat she boiled all day" and "if only the linoleum sun were not that shade of orange."

Mr. Wallace concluded the reading with the title poem from his latest collection, swimming through water. For reasons I can't go into here, the book is bilingual in English and Italian. Before he read the poem, he asked if anyone in the audience spoke Italian; and the lady on my right allowed as she could read it passably well. So George read the poem in English, then Jenette read it in Italian (with a bit of a French and Spanish accent). This was a true treat!

Each line of the poem begins "some folks" — for example, the opening line "some folks get the message late but they get the message". The lines which stood out for me were "some folks are the message carried by a gulfstream of fresh water / some folks are water passing through water passing through oceans / some folks dance through water like diamonds some folks dance through walls like stars".

George seems to prefer the long line, although the longest poem he read — about a particular moment in a Mets/Yankees game — was two pages long, single-spaced typewritten. What I heard was marked by an intimate, conversational tone, with striking images such as I hope the examples I've shared demonstrate.

Tonight's reading is at 7:30 pm in the library on the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond, OK. I strongly encourage folk within driving distance to make the pilgrimage. More may be learned about George Wallace and his poetry through his on-line magazine Poetry Bay.

14.July.2003, 4:30 a.m.

Ideé d'jour

He who would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

The Past Warns the Future

The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over its government.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President (1882-1945)

Shout out to Christopher Key (The Barbaric Yawp), who reciprocated a blog-roll and mentioned our mutual admiration of Whitman on his blog. Apparantly, Google made the connection.

I get "googled" on a daily basis, by virtue of the banner ads I've been fussing about; and the recent addition of the search terms.

If you get a chance, read Real Live Preacher's posting on Forgiveness. I believe it will be worth your time. I am in the process of constructing a very personal essay in response, which I hope to have posted fairly soon.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Just recently, the BlogThis! banner ad has added Google search terms. Again, I assume these terms reflect themes which I circle around in these messages. Couple of days ago, the search terms had to do with my spiritual great-grandfather, Walt Whitman. Aside from throwing his name out (and citing the Barbaric Yawp blog), don't recall mentioning the good grey poet, but I don't mind.

Today, 8:31 am CST 9 July, the search terms are: "theology, structuralism, theory, positivism." I understand how "theology" and "theory" fit this blog; not too sure about "structuarlism" or "positivism." "Structuarlism" is a mid-20th century (primarily) literary theory, which I don't recall well enough to explicate here; I vaguely recall that I didn't cotton to it very well when we studied it in college. I'll literally have to do the search to learn whether I'm close to the philisophy of "positivism."

I appreciate having the search terms there. Think it's so cool, it's an argument against paying $5/month for the service. About the only thing I can't do now that I'd like to do is post images. And as "I Fought the Law" reflects (under "Name, Please" on June 26, the week of June 22-28), I've thought of at least one way around this challenge.

Haven't talked much about how I did celebrate the fourth. Began by reading poetry (primarily Neruda, in translation) to Elsie. She was very appreciative. Pablo Neruda is one of the poets I'd have to take with me if stranded on a desert island.

Played a lot of American music — including radicals like Bob Dylan (e.g., Chimes of Freedom) and Peter, Paul & Mary .

As Elsie was preparing her portion of our picnic at her brother's house, I read an extended section of Steven Mitchell's edit of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself." As you may know, Whitman played with his poems throughout his life — he never perceived them to be frozen in time. Late in life, he somewhat bowlderized himself, taking out some of the "sexier" bits of the leaves. But, at times, he also added new lyrical bits. What Mitchell has done is edit a version of "Song of Myself" which incorporates what Mitchell considers to be the best of Whitman's various versions of that poem. Such a thing is a very personal call, but I like the final product. I'm no expert, though, as I only have three of the Leaves versions at hand.

Afraid I kind of waffle on the "frozen in time" debate. For the most part, I don't fiddle with my old poems, in the belief that they more or less accurately reflect a place I was at when they were written. In many ways, I am such a different person now that it would be like editing someone else's work (not always a bad position). OTOH, when I was transcribing "Revolution Rape" (Sunday, July 6, below), I dropped a couple of lines or words that simply didn't work for me anymore.

Recently took a trip through an old file which dates from high school. I still have all my assignments from "Creative Writing", which I took in the fall of my senior year. On one of the poems, the teacher wrote "Do you like Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself'?" Honestly, I had not read much of the Good Grey Poet (except for the typical anthology fodder) — and had not read "Song of Myself" at all. Just as honestly, the poem she wrote on was an absolutely wretched bit of teen-age high school drek.

Well, that's my humble unbiased opinion, with almost thirty years of hindsight to allow me emotional distance.

Idee d'jour

Impiety, n.

Your irreverence toward my deity.

-Ambrose Bierce, writer (1842-1914) [The Devil's Dictionary, 1906]

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

My daisy-chain blog exploration led me to this survey which helps one discern which candidate's positions best reflect one's own beliefs or preferences. Some of the questions seem a little weighted, but over all it seems well-balanced. Fair warning: the site has a tremendous amount of advertising & pop-up ads.

Not suprisingly, Dennis Kucinich agreed with my positions 100%; Howard Dean scored around 83%. While I have some reservations concerning Dean, I could vote for him with less reservations than Gephart or Lieberman — both of whom have "slept with the enemy" {ptui} in one way or another.

Take the quiz and leave me a note on your results — either as a comment to this post, or in private e-mail (note the link to the left).

What is a blog?

I am often asked by my friends. Nancy was the most recent to ask. My typical daisy-chain of blog exploration led me to this definition:

A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links. A blog is often a mixture of what is happening in a person's life and what is happening on the Web, a kind of hybrid diary/guide site, although there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people.
From NetLingo The Internet Dictionary.

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, July 07, 2003

Cassie Lewis, on her weblog The Jetty has a nice observation: "Sometimes I think that war's structure mimics that of some 'mean average' inner life. How countries act could be much more adaptive than this." You may see the comment in context here.

This got me to thinking about the author Robert Johnson, a Jungian theorist who has done a great deal of work considering human psychological development in terms of myth (see He).

I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Johnson give a presentation several years ago, while he was in the process of completing Contentment (linked to the author’s name, above). According to Mr. Johnson, the typical male in Western society goes through four stages:
1)youth (2)adolescence (3) majority (4) old age.
At any stage it is possible for things to go wrong. In youth, one can see the glowing possibilities of majority too soon, and attempt to seize them before he is fully ready. In old age, one can become a sage or a tyrant.

I asked Mr. Johnson if this model applied to societies as well as individuals; he replied that it did. I followed up by asking what stage our society was currently in. He replied "old age."

If Mr. Johnson’s assessment is accurate, it would seem America is acting more like a tyrant than like a sage. A sage, you see, recognizes that his strength is declining with age, and shares such wisdom and experience as he can with the coming generation.

Not too clear what the agenda of the current administration is, but "sharing wisdom" would seem to be far from it. The pre-attack attitude of "my way or the highway," along with the current strutting of "bring it on," seems reflective of a tyrant. A very powerful tyrant who is likely to continue getting his way until he has remade the world in his own concrete Disney-land image.

One theory, which I mentioned below, is that our Fearless Leader buys into fundamentalist theories of Armageddon, and is working to stimulate the beginning of the end. While I remain skeptical that our Fearless Leader is capable of believing much of anything, I do wonder how he would envision the post-Apocalyptic world.

One assumes, of course, that most American fundies believe Our Righteous Nation is the New Jerusalem. Therefore, the post-Apocalypse world will look very much like Disney land as managed by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and their ideological brother Osama ben Laden.

Robert Johnson’s mythic exemplar of tyranny is King Lear. And only King Lear in his madness would seek a paradise such as this.
This week's issue of Time has an intriguing cover article about making Iraq work. Most of the article focuses on the difficulties faced by Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Andy Bearpark, Bremer's chief of operations is quoted as saying, "What we're doing is postwar reconstruction before the war's even over."

Do you suppose Mr. Bearpark failed to get the memo that the war was over? Both Daddy Rumsfeld and Mr. Powell agree that the war is over.

Here's another quote: " 'We're still at war,' said Lieut. General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. " Gosh, I hope Lt Sanchez has good insurance, because he's not likely to have a military career much longer.

I keep thinking about John Lennon's song "War is Over," written during the Vietnam War. It was inspired by an off-hand comment Alan Ginsberg made to a San Francisco paper. Ginsberg suggested the paper publish the headline 'War is Over' - partly to test the public's reaction, partly to influence the reality. Seems a tragic irony that the Administration has coopted Ginsberg's idea.

Meanwhile, casualty and injury figures have become a nearly daily part of the news cycle. Whether our Fearless Leader's invitation to "bring it on" added to this is a matter of conjecture.

Here's another telling quote: "Military officers and officials involved in planning the governing of postwar Iraq say the Administration never devised a strategy for running the country and ignored warnings about some of the maladies—such as widespread looting and collapse of the country's infrastructure—that continue to plague the nation-building effort." Now, wasn't I the one who said this whole affair had the earmarks of a Risk game played by a bunch of drunken frat boys?

I can never remember if Time or Newsweek is supposed to be "conservative." The Time-Warner behemoth is sufficiently large to exert its own litte hegemony. But I find a degree of encouragement that this coverarticle is written with a slant that things are going terribly, terribly wrong. "Conservative" or "liberal", Time is a major source of information for many influential Americans.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Revolution Rape

Little lamb, can you tell me why
Elaine Martin & Mayor Judge
went walking across the sky
when the evening was fresh
with the wolf's desire?

If the world is not enough,
what else is there?
Why tempt the intemperate stars
with your imitation of holiness?
Elaine Martin, please with
the cloud in her hand, did not ask.
Mayor Judge walked by her side.

Little lamb, can you tell me
with what sense of fashion
Elaine Martin made a strike
of passion towards Mayor Judge?

Did bells ring? Did fireworks spark?
Did the earth move? Did he
give a passionate yell, as a lark?

Mayor Judge faked it, as
Elaine Martin whispered at his ear
in sign language.

Little lamb, can you tell me —
do trees care for the forest?
Can you tell me if it matters
how, where, or when we meet?
Is love a poor jest?

are we well answered
when we spread our desires plain,
like prayerful stars against the sky?

Little lamb, can you tell me?

“He who moves a love to scorn
Shall feel the prick of the rose's thorn”

Postcard Theology

The Tao which can be spoken
is not the true Tao.
The God who can be named
is not the One True Living God.
Creation reflects the Creator:
so Blake sees the angelic chorus
in the aurora of the sun
and Whiman sees the universe
in a single blade of grass.
Each creature is a mirror
in which is revealed the source
of the 10,000 things.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Idee d'jour

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge: fitter to bruise than polish.
Anne Bradstreet, poet (1612-1672)
Note that most "thoughts d'jour" are shamelessly appropriated from Word a day. If you love words, this website (and e-mail list) is for you!

Christopher Key, over on the Barbaric Yawp, has written an excellent essay on a Vietnam Vet's reaction to fireworks. I sent it on to Brother Dave, who empathized. It's not my place to share Dave's story, but he also served in 'Nam, and has experienced similar frustration with the current zeit geist. In response to this essay, Dave wrote: “Have a safe holiday, even if we have to celebrate the dream more than current reality.” I understand this to be similar to my proposed essay on displaying the flag — I could only do so to honor what I believe what this country could be, rather than what it currently is. Thanks, Dave.

Happy Independence day, people. And, hey —
“Let's be careful out there!”

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Validating my conviction that some machine intelligence is "googling" this blog, one of the promos in the top banner (at 1:25 pm, CST, 7/3/03) is promoting a Pew Forum discussion on whether it is appropriate for Xtian groups to proseltyze the Iraqis as said groups distribute food and other aid. Now, this is a promotional I don't mind. Even wish I could be in Washington, DC to attend.

Notice there are certain words I am avoiding as I discuss this matter. My theory is the search engine is picking up certain words and finding commercial announcements which closely relate to those words. Certainly makes sense to me. If you come to this blog-space to read my barely-informed opinions on these matters, you might be interested in products related thereto.

IOW, all the complaining I've been doing about the theme reflected in the banner has in fact increased the chance that theme will continue.

Which makes me aware, as I noted last Friday, June 27, that I've fairly much circled around the same two obsessions: politics and religion. Wouldn't hurt if I broadened my net a tad.

I could, for example, post some reviews (books & music being another obsession), and test my mettle as a critic. In the spirit of many other blogs, I could reflect more quotidian concerns.

I could even — horrors — post some poetry. Could even re-publish some entries from The Saturn Sequence so you don't have to navigate through all the pop-ups.

Stay tuned.

Building Anarchy in the USA

Tomorrow is Independence Day. Can I possibly take pride in our nation when the nation’s leaders are doing so much which I so strongly disagree with?

Iraq is a major case in point. Based on the post-major conflict reports I have seen to date, the "shock and awe" campaign has left Iraq a devastated country. The results seem to indicate no realistic plan for instituting basic services (water, medical aid, food, etc) within a reasonable amount of time.

A report on NPR (see "Iraqi Women Fight for Voice in New Iraq" under Thursday, July 3) suggests that the Shiite majority is having a strong influence – by peer pressure, if not by governance. Based on our experience with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, I should think this is exactly the result our leaders would not want.

Got to hand it to our Fearless Leader. He has kept his campaign pledge not to involve the United States in "nation building". Unfortunately, it seems the administration is focused on "anarchy building". This is only a suitable goal if one seeks Armageddon.

Hmmm. There are those who believe this is, in fact, our Fearless Leader’s goal. I’d buy into this theory if I could convince myself that the man is capable of sincere intellectual convictions.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the jobless rate is at 6.4% — a 9-year low. I’m no economic expert, but I suspect this has more to do with the insane round of upper-class tax cuts than anything the Clinton administration did. Though it has not been said out-right, these tax cuts are a re-run of Reagan-era "trickle-down economics." Remember that theory? GHB (our Fearless Leader’s daddy) referred to it as "voodoo economics." Didn’t work then, have no clue why the Powers That Be think it will work now.

Suspicions of pocket-padding would seem well-founded.

Even more depressing, the Loyal Opposition (i.e., Democrats) seem to be falling all over themselves to appear as conservative as the Party in Power. The main exceptions to this seem to be Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich. My fear is that, in spite of the fact Mr. Dean is leading the pack in fund-raising, the ultimate winner will be Joe Lieberman — who I perceive to be "Busch-lite." Insert the appropriate sound effects.

How can we say we have a two-party system when the main difference between the parties is one (the Dems) tries to look just slightly less bad than the other? Can someone explain the difference to me?

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Different Strings led me to this CNN/USA Today poll  conducted by Gallup. 

Here's a snap-shot of the data:

Was it worth going to war in Iraq?  April, 73% yes; June, 56% yes

How are this going in Iraq?
May 5-7: well, 86%; badly, 13%
May 30: well, 70%; badly, 29%
June 27: well, 56%; badly 42%

Would it matter to you if Bush did mislead [the] public on Iraqi weapons?
Great deal=53%; Moderate amount=22%; Not much=11%; Not at all=11%

Are you confident that the U.S. will find weapons of mass destruction?
March: very confident, 52%; somewhat confident, 32%; not confident, 15%
June:  very confident, 22%; somewhat confident, 31%; not confident, 45%

Legalese: the poll reportedly has a sampling error of +/-3% pts.  I present the information here under the "fair use" doctrine of the copyright law.

Now then, with that out of the way: the trend I see is a decrease in numbers that would seem favorable to the conflict.  While the numbers which might be construed as opposing the conflict hover around 50%, I take this as a hopeful sign.

Note to Donald Rumsfeld: whether the Iraqi conflict fits your definition of a "guerrilla war" or not, I think it fair to say a conflict resembles Vietnam when there is no longer public support for said conflict.  The fact this is being reported by CNN and USA Today - both relatively conservative outlets - emphasizes the decreasing support.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

This article came to me by way of Brother Dave, via the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Seems the best way to get a reasonably accurate picture of the situation is by piecing things together from the foreign press.

Sure hard to feel excited by the coming fireworks when your country is so antithetical to one's sense of morality, or the ideals one has for the nation.

Thought d'jour

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.
Chinese proverb