Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Picture of Dr. Omed in Denver
This is my absolute favorite picture of the esteemed Dr. Omed. It was taken in Denver, CO, I believe in the early 80's. We had been flown there to be groomsmen at the wedding of our highschool friends Julian & Janette.

The good Doctor moved to Denver a few years after, and just returned to Oklahoma a little over five years ago.

What do I like about this picture? The beer balanced on the books. The slightly bemused expression. The head leaned against his (dominant) left hand. And, maybe, the memories of Denver.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Zombie Letter

I am free. Every day, I am free to be whoever I am. I have all the liberties of any other honest human. I am sure to die someday, perhaps even today, but I shall live out the day to the hilt freely.31.October.1980
Dear Dana:

Just a progress report from the fall-out shelter. Time has been held hostage for the past six months, but now it has been released; just this past Sunday, as a matter of fact. Among the demands that had to be met was that yours truly become a temporary zombie. Just another working stiff, living for Friday & the humble paycheck. Watching reams of tv & forgetting that there’s a "real world" out there that has nothing to do with the shadows on that stippled screen. It's a small price to pay, to have time in its proper place again. I'm not sure how long it will be necessary to be a zombie, but the duration is sure to be amusing. As it were.

I’ve found, also, there are certain benefits in being a zombie. For one thing, you are not one of a kind. There’s no way you can imagine that you are alone, or special, as most of the people around you are in the same condition. And because they are, they see you & treat you as an equal, rather than as an anomaly. It may be the special people who will move events and change the world, but it’s the zombies who control it. It’s like a big club. Every two weeks, in this den of zombies, many of us go out & drink. One would suppose this is so we can forget that we are zombies. Well, it’s possible. Of course, one might prefer to be alive than to be among the walking dead. But to be alive in this sense means to be a rarity. To be, in other words, the most utterly alone person in the world. Or at least in your community.

Otherwise, life goes on. As per usual, in other words. Have you ever seen those old newsreels, "Time Marches On"? Well, that's what I feel like. Or like those war-time movies with calendar pages flying off into infinity. Just quick flashes of life, snippets of reality; living, as I say, and not the walking death. I suppose those movies that compress a life into 90 minutes or two hours are [actually] true to life. After all, if most of us are zombies, there may be only two hours in our lives that we are actually alive.

Once, I thought I could be an actor, [parading] on the stage. My ego was certainly large enough for the task. But, apparently, my talent was not. But now, I’ve discovered that I am an actor. One who plays the role of day-to-day existence. Whether it be a male secretary or a juror trying a madman, I have played my part well. And still remained the same beneath, as we say. But that's all it is, really, a performance. It's play-acting life. And a shadow-play at that, as Shakespeare might say.

But one doesn't generally think of those things. If one did, do you suppose there would be any other choice but to end it all, one way or t’other? Suppose you got up every morning, looked yourself in the mirror, and said (to the reflection): "I am free. Every day, I am free to be whoever I am. I have all the liberties of any other honest man. I am sure to die someday, perhaps even today, but I shall live out the day to the hilt freely." Do suppose you could say that, and then be a zombie in the shadow play? I would think not. So, instead, you forget that you are free; that you shall soon die. Instead, unconsciously, you see yourself as an automaton. Or as a zombie.

That's why, like every other good zombie, I've learned to be content to live in the fall-out shelter. Content with the small reward of the paycheck and the long week-end. With the others, I watch "The Love Boat," even though I find nothing amusing about it. After all, all these tv programs (and most movies) are intended to hypnotize us into forgetting that we are zombies. And since, as I say, we don't really want to think about it, we’re only too glad to be hypnotized in this manner.

Well, since I'm talking to you from the office typewriter, I suppose I better sign off. I've already been caught. Well, what the hey? Who cares?

I'll get off the proverbial soap-box now. Hope this letter & its contents find you. Find you well.


Typed with an IBM Selectric on folio* sheets, measuring 6 1/4" x 9 1/4", at the Infernal Bookstore. Said folio sheets were used as packing material. Being an inveterate writer, I saved these sheets, and reused them. A fair copy of the original may be viewed here. As you'll see, I've made a few minor corrections in re-typing this letter.

(2) a sheet of paper folded once to make two leaves (four pages) of a book. [Random House Dictionary, 1978]

One Word

The children were chosen. This line was chosen. the poem was chosen. when we were chosen, we wandered. We were not lost, but we wandered. This life was not chosen. the world was chosen. The stars were chosen. Your heart & your face were chosen. I've lost the chosen to the world.

More With My Hat

Out of the Darkness,
Into the Wilderness
This picture is from the same group I shared with you yesterday. I found the picture in an early "commonplace book." I used it to illustrate a journal-entry type poem titled "The Conspiracy of Love." Under the picture, I wrote the caption you see here. The poem is dated April 1979.

Ironically, the picture I published from Dr. Omed's files is also dated 1979. We were roommates in the summer of that year. Two poets in a duplex.

As the caption suggests, I had come through a dark time. I considered myself as moving toward an uncertain future.

For, moving into the wilderness does not necessarily mean one is walking toward the Promised Land. One could be simply wandering aimlessly for forty years, and never even see the Promised Land — not even from a distance.

Am I now in the Promised Land? I don't know. All I know is that life is better than it was then, a quarter century ago. I know that I might not have made it as far as the wilderness without the consideration and support of Dr. Omed.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Farewell To My Hat

I lost my hat a week ago Sunday. To your right, you see a pair of machine-photographs of my hat & I, early in our career.

We first met in Wacker's, a general clothing store just off Main Street in Norman. This would have been my Sophomore or Junior year at OU. Wacker's carried mostly western-style clothing, so I was surprised to find this snap-brim cap there.

This style of cap is sometimes called a poor-boy's cap, or newsboy's cap. Quentin Tarrantino, and others, have made it famous by wearing it backwards. As you can see in these pictures, it was love at first sight. My hat and I were made for each other.

This cap became an essential part of my personae through college and beyond. Through the years, it developed a stain near the snap, where I would nervously nudge the brim to pull it down. I don't remember when the band lost its firmness – maybe ten years ago. Lark would tease me about it, and eventually bought me a new snap-brim cap from Land's End.

But this cap was still my favorite. It saw me through my college career, when I majored in mind-altering substances. It rode the bus to Princeton, NJ with me. It was my companion when I worked at the Infernal Bookstore.  It did not desert me during my marriage, even after my wife went to Korea. It joined Lark & I, as we sang at the Art's Fair, and other venues. This cap has been with me for over two decades, and it's hard to say how sad I am in losing it.

Lost it in a rather silly fashion. Went to dinner at church a week ago Sunday, and balanced my cap on my knee. No doubt, sometime during the meal, I re-crossed my legs and it fell to the floor.  Or, it fell as I got up to leave. In any case, it fell. I didn't realize it was missing 'til I got home.

Yes, I called the church office to learn whether it had been returned. It had not.

So, farewell, old friend. May you bring someone new pleasant memories!


  1. Pitbull :: junk-yard dog
  2. TD :: touchdown
  3. Carter :: liver pills
  4. Japan :: ese
  5. 50 :: dollars
  6. Streak :: losing
  7. Rifle :: shotgun
  8. Trap :: bear
  9. Easter :: Astarte
  10. Mitt :: Oven

Your correspondent in 1979. Photo from the historical archives of the venerable Dr. Omed.

Ideé d’jour

The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
— Harper Lee, writer (1926- )

Sunday, March 28, 2004

In Memorium

Speaking of Dr. Omed, take a few moments to read this post. A number of web-log sites, such as Typepad and Blogger, have been shut down by the Chinese government. This Reuter's article substantiates the information.

Both Yan, who posts at Glutter, and the author of Single Planet have chosen to go black on the web-log in some form.

If I've gotten my coding right, you are now seeing white letters on a black background. If you click on any of the links, the words associated with the link will disappear on this page (unless you refresh your browser). This is what censorship looks like.

Kindly consider showing solidarity for freedom of speech, especially in China.

Nominations Still Being Accepted

As noted below, today is my one-year anniversary. In that post, I invited nominations for the ten best entries of the last year. To date, I have received no nominations. *Heavy sigh*

I do have some personal favorites. I hope to create a one-page index and permanent home for those entries sometime this coming week. So, there's still time for you to mention a few of your faves. This could include any of my religious postings, my poetry (including, but not limited to, the postcards), or even my barely-informed political rants. If you can give me a clue on the theme, title, etc, I'll do the work on finding the link and adding it to a reliable archive.

As an anniversary present, I did receive some historical pictures and documents from the venerable Dr. Omed. More on that soon.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Religion and Global Ethics

I took all day Tuesday off to attend a seminar on "Religion and Global Ethics" at Oklahoma City University. Those who attended this seminar were given reserved seats for Archbishop Tutu’s presentation Tuesday evening (see about two entries below).

The seminar was conducted by Tom Boyd, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. The following entry is based on Dr. Boyd’s presentation.

What do you suppose is the dominant religion in the world? You might be tempted to say "Islam," as that has the largest number of members (as I recall). But there is another, largely unacknowledged religion, which is currently driving world affairs.

The dominant religion in the world is Economics. Or, if you prefer pseudo-Biblical language, Mammon. The basic tenet of this religion is to promote the greatest good for the greatest number (c.f. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations), and all else will follow. While Rev. Smith was promoting an ideal, what we have seen is a dramatic use of power inequity. Thus, America dominates consumption of world resources, just as about 10% of the wealthiest Americans dominate world wealth.

The dominance of this religion is being insured by Globalization. By which, we mean the recognition that the world is a shrinking community. In this view, the world is both paradoxically large and small at once. Small, in the sense that economic systems are becoming increasingly interdependent at the same time that the rate communication is increasing exponentially. Large, in the sense that the communication stream makes us even more aware of the world’s complexities, especially regarding the differences between cultures.

We are, in other words, forced to confront the "otherness" of our world neighbors as if they were in our face. The way we faced this problem, to date, has been to live in a sort of tribal enclave; that is, we tend to live only with people of our own "tribe". The people I work with, go to church with, and so on, are likely to reflect the tribe I feel most a part of.

Now, within that tribe, the tendency is to see our way as "normal" and anything different as "wrong." This is called the sense of cultural primacy, which gives rise to an Adversarial Inclination; that is, we oppose those who are significantly different than our tribe. Thus, we can speak of other cultures as being "evil". This moral absolutism gives rise to conflicts, which leads to war.

Needless to say, the world’s religions are also susceptible to moral absolutism. However, if the world religions can enter into dialogue, their members may be able to oppose the dominant economic religion. What we have now are poles of religious tribalization or radical inclusion. If we can put more weight on the inclusive end of that pole, we may develop an inter-network of religiosity.

This dialogue must begin by finding the common ground where humanity meets. According to Dr. Boyd’s studies, there are two things shared by the world’s religions: mysticism and morality. Mysticism, in the sense there is some tradition of direct experience of the transcendent. Morality, in the sense that every religion has a strong moral ground (or code). What we must avoid, as we enter into dialogue, is getting distracted by the particulars.

Now, it just so happens that representatives of the world’s religions have already met twice, and will meet again this summer in Barcelona, Spain. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions began with a meeting at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A centennial meeting was held in 1993, at which time the attendees agreed they needed to meet more often than once every century. Thus, the up-coming meeting.

The 1993 meeting produced a document, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration, from a draft by the imminent theologian Hans Kung. This document recognized that globalization without a global ethic would lead to global destruction; that religion has an ultimate (or transcendent) orientation which transcends culture; and that religion calls people to transformation. The document also proposed four bold commitments: 1) to a culture of non-violence; 2) to solidarity with economic justice; 3) to tolerance and truthfulness; and 4) to equal rights, with an emphasis on the partnership between men and women.

Today’s religious communities must understand that we live in a secular age, and that the job of overcoming Mammon is too big for religion unless all religions cooperate. Thus, each "tribal religion" must broaden its view beyond its particular metaphysic and moral code. We must strive for authenticity of prophecy and action; which is to say, we must walk the talk. People of good will must recognize the need to act in terrific modesty. Simply, this means we need each other. Likewise, we must remain clear about our convictions without violently asserting their absolute accuracy.
Recommended reading:

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Subliminals, Week 59

  1. Wife :: partner
  2. Criminal :: politician
  3. Campaign :: trail
  4. Infection :: virus
  5. Portland :: Oregon
  6. NASCAR :: Racing
  7. IMAX :: theater
  8. Martian :: Marvin
  9. Nike :: slogan
  10. Trial :: balloon

Ideé d’jour

When money speaks, the truth keeps silent. — Russian proverb
More on a related topic later today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Tuesday, March 23rd

I was among over a thousand people who heard Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at Oklahoma City University Tuesday evening, March 23rd. There is no question that it is awesome to simply be in the same room, to breath the same air, as a man who has had such a profound affect on world history.

Archbishop Tutu spoke for about an hour. He began with the bold assertion that human beings are fundamentally good. As he said, "The fact we do not accept Evil proves it is not the norm." In other words, the day killing and bombing are no longer reported because they are considered "normal" is the day we have lost our humanity.

Now consider: Archbishop Tutu has lived his life in South Africa, where the native peoples have been treated like second-class citizens by invading Northern Europeans. He voted for the first time in 1994; this was the first time in history blacks were allowed to vote in South Africa. As chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation commission, following the fall of Apartheid, he heard the worst crimes people can perpetrate against each other.

And yet, he can still say that human beings are fundamentally good. In context, that is a powerful and awe-inspiring statement.

Related to this is his contention that South Africa has become a beacon of hope for the world. For, if forgiveness can occur in this — perhaps the worst oppression the world has known — it is certainly possible elsewhere.

For my ears, the Archbishop's presentation was primarily a sermon, with the title God's Dream For the World (coincidentally, the title of his latest book). Archbishop Tutu believes that God's dream for humanity is that goodness and gentleness would prevail. That all people, of all nations and faiths, recognize we are one family.

"For," he says, "if you recognize you are family, you cannot be a suicide bomber. You would not kill another member of your own family." The archbishop was very explicit on this point, that Sharon, Bush, bin Laden, and Arafat must come to know they are members of the same family.

I sensed a sort of aura about Archbishop Tutu that I have only sensed twice before. I sensed it first in Bishop Cox, now retired Assistant Bishop of Oklahoma. I sensed it again when watching an interview with the Dali Lama. That aura was one of serenity and acceptance. And, primarily, of unconditional love.

Therefore, it was easy to believe that he spoke with a prophetic voice. Which is to say, that God was speaking through Archbishop Tutu last night. Through this remarkable man, the divine was assuring us that we are unconditionally and individually loved for the unique person each one of us is.

I received a profound gift last night. I pray for the courage, strength, and forbearance to share that gift with others.

Open Postcard to Augustine

Natalie, whose alter-ego Augustine blogs at "Blaugustine", asked whether the altered photograph which appeared with Friday's postcard poem was an alter ego.

I'll admit I have not thought of it in that way before. I've given myself any number of pseudonyms, which have largely been motivated by my mood at the time: Jason, Jonah, jac, and so on. With the exception of the postcards which take place on my invented "skerry" (indexed here and here — see especially the cards dated August 10, 2003 through August 30, 2003), these names have not had an identity or life independent of my own.

Natalie also asks: “Are the poems by you and sent to the persons whose names are on the right? Or are they by those people and sent to you?” I have written the poems, and they are directed to Elsie — whose name appears on the right.

Since Natalie's questions inspired today's prose poem postcard, it seemed appropriate to address the card to her alter-ego, Augustine. I trust Elsie won't mind.

Monday, March 22, 2004

New Postcard Available

View & read it here. Includes digitally altered photograph of your correspondent; original was taken at arm's length with Canon digital camera. Arm's length. As it should be.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Ideé d’jour

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.
— Pericles, statesman (430 BCE)

Thursday, March 18, 2004


In ten days (i.e., March 28th), I will be celebrating one year of posting on this web-log. The first entry is political in nature, as are most of the entries which follow it. The first several months I was writing for this space the topics were exclusively political or religious, with a rare reflection on what was happening in my personal life. God only knows how many words I've written over the past year, but it might fill a small book.

Then, in July, I met George Wallace, the poet laurette of Suffolk County, New York. I gave George a copy of a poem it had taken me a year and a half to finish, and he asked if he could publish it in his on-line journal Poetry Bay.

Wow! Just learned that the new issue in on-line, and my poem is published. My name is the fourth one down.

Anyway, two things came from that meeting: first, feeling accepted by a professional poet. Second, learning the discipline of writing a poem a day, which Mr. Wallace had learned from William Stafford. These two stimuli lead to a renewed interest in writing poetry, which then lead to the Postcard Poetry series. This series is represented by FIVE table of contents pages!

Want to help me celebrate my anniversary? Work with me to select the top ten best entries over the past year. Write me with your nominees. Most of the archive links to your left are active (except for many for last April); you don't need to provide the link, but the title or topic of the entry will be helpful. Be sure to mention your favorite photographs or poems while you're at it.

I've enjoyed maintaining this blog. With any luck, my writing skills have improved over the past year. Lastly, I thank you for visiting, and for your occasional comments.

Don't let the sun go down on Uncle Sam
Don't let the sun go down on freedom
Don't let liberty be run out of town
Don't let our flag become treason
Don't let the shadows win
Deny the shallow men
With heads made of straw

Don't let the sun set on free speech,
life, liberty, and common law;
Don't allow fear to rule the day
Don't vote your rights away

Don't let the sun go down on Uncle Sam
Keep him alive & walking across our land
Dedicated to the esteemed Dr. Omed's Patented Sunset Derby.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Spiritual Walk For Peace — One year after

Saturday, March 20
11:30 a.m, from The Episcopal Center
(NW 9th & Robinson)
Oklahoma City, OK, USA

On Saturday, March 20, people of all faiths will gather once again for a silent walk around the Alfred P. Murrah Building site in downtown Oklahoma City, in conjunction with other peace gatherings around the world to mark the date of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq one year ago. The walk is an expression of hope for justice and healing in that war-torn nation.

Please join us.

The Spiritual Walk for Peace is sponsored by a coalition of individuals from local faith and conscience groups, houses of worship, and faith traditions. For more information go to
Program begins at 11:30 a.m. with music provided by Mary Reynolds and friends. The actual walk will begin at noon.

Organizers also ask that signage be respectful. We are also reminded to be respectful with those who disagree.

I imagine similar walks will be occurring near where you live. I encourage you to add your feet to this walk for justice.

Who can walk lightly upon the earth?

Picture taken at Stinchcomb Nature Preserve, Oklahoma City, OK, 7.March.2004

Monday, March 15, 2004

Under Construction

When we returned, the island was haunted.
Seagulls sat sentry along coast edges
as we explored the shoreline, undaunted.

When we returned to the island,
it was already haunted.
Seagulls stood sentry along coast edges

as music clung to the island's edge;
theme and variation echoing

as blonde music floated above the tree-line
then descended among the brooks.
I saw the hairs stand on your neck.

The sky was not buttermilk, but
rain-bruised.  We saw footprints in the sand,
then paced their stride.

We harmonized to the music,
but it faded behind thunder's curtain.
Lightening threw shadows among the trees.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Jonquil Dreams

Read Poem Postcard
See the picture. Read the poem.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Lectio of the Flowers

Today's reading is from William Blake's Marriage of Heaven & Hell,
plate 8
. This epigram comes from a section of that curious work sub-titled "Proverbs of Hell." As long-time readers may recall, this blog has intermittently featured reflections on other epigrams from that work.

Although this is a "Proverb of Hell", I keep hearing echoes of canonical Judeo-Christian texts; for example, "Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting" (Ps 126:5, NAS). One statement seems like the mirror refection of the other. But it is, at it were, a somewhat distorted mirror.

I have long maintained that joy, in contrast to happiness, is a choice. That is to say, we generally say some external event or circumstance "makes us happy". On the other hand, we may choose to rejoice in response to an event. This choice is made when we engage our full being, full consciousness, with a stimulus (which may be internal or external). I suppose there is an element of vulnerability involved, that we may be open to opportunities to be "Surprised by Joy", as C. S. Lewis put it.

If I am on the right track when I speak of our vulnerability to joy, then the verb "impregnate" is especially apt. But one must not confuse vulnerability with passivity; if joy is indeed a choice, it is an active choice. We plant seeds of joy in our being whenever we make this choice. Blake's proverbs reflect an emphasis on energy, so I expect his emphasis here is on the generative quality of our actively choosing to be joyful.

Then: "Sorrows bring forth" In the context of "Joys impregnate", it would seem this means sorrow gives birth to – something. And here, the epigram begins to resemble a Zen koan: the logical mind cannot parse it. Yet, I will be so bold as to suggest what this epigram says to me today.

The union of these supposed opposites suggests that whatever "seeds" are planted by joy are brought forth during sorrow How can this be? Perhaps we build a reservoir of joy which can be drawn on during times of sorrow. With this hypothesis, joy is self-propagating; which is to say, it plants its own seeds.

Another possibility occurs. Choosing to be vulnerable to joy can become a habit; it may become, over time, our accustomed way of perceiving reality. And viewing reality through this lens may help us find joy even in sorrowful events. Thus, we may speak of "sorrowful joy" without contradiction.

Sorrowful joy may break the heart. It breaks the heart because we have assumed a habit of vulnerability. We may fear it for this reason. Yet, a life which is not vulnerable to the full spectrum of joy is not an energetic life. Such a life is not worthy of the word "life"; it is existence as a automaton. It is by embracing sorrowful joy that we come to experience our humanity holistically.

It is through the cracks of a broken heart that the light may come in, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen.

Blessed Gardener, I embrace the seeds of joy and sorrow planted in the world. Grant me eyes to see your presence each time my heart breaks. Grant me ears to hear your comforting voice Guide my hands to comfort others. Train me to inhale your presence in every nook & cranny of the world. Grant me a tongue to taste your wisdom, and to speak it boldly.
This I ask in your Holy Name. So be it.

Contemplate what this epigram might mean to you. Carry it with you through the day, let it grow with in you, then consider what fruit it
may have born in you by eventide.

Today's Word

lection (LEK-shuhn) noun
[From Latin lection- (reading), stem of lectio, from lectus, past participle of legere (to read, choose, collect), ultimately from Indo-European root leg-. Other words derived from the same root are lexicon, lesson, lecture, legible, legal, select.]

  1. A version of a text in a particular copy or edition.
  2. A portion of sacred literature to be read in a divine service. Also known as pericope.
Courtesy Word a Day (also linked in the box on your right).

Ideé d’jour

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
— Heraclitus, philosopher (c. 540-470 BCE)

I'll sit down on this bank of sand / And watch the river flow.
— Bob Dylan

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Welcome, Guest!

Signing on Site Meter's free tracking service has been one of the more rewarding decisions I've made. I see how many hits I get per day (today, it's been around 20), and I see the source of those hits. Often the referring URL, just as often, the search engine and the search terms that lead the visitor here.

Thanks to Site Meter, I learned that Matthias, a man whose writing I greatly admire, had recently added me to his blog-roll at Correction. Matthias is a seminarian "on the road" to becoming a Methodist pastor, and is definitely a kindred spirit. In an e-mail, Matthias has said he likes my "Ideé d’jour" and my Lectio Devina series. I hope those who visit from his site also find things to enjoy here.

My hit count spiked when Mike Snider high-lighted the fact that he was blog-rolling me at his Formal Blog and Sonnetarium. Unfortunately, the week he did that was when I was on one of my religious rants, so his readers may have been a might disappointed. Mike is a purist about structured verse, and we sometimes disagree, but I have respect for what he's doing. His sonnet-a-day discipline is as bold as, and more challenging than, my former poem-a-day discipline.

As an aside, here's a shock for you: I believe everyone who wants to write poetry should at least try to write structured verse. Obviously, I don't think something has to rhyme and be in iambic pentameter in order to be poetry. But I do believe the discipline of fitting a form will inevitably improve a writer's skills.

A number of European visitors (Sweden, The Netherlands, et al) have come by way of Dr. Omed's Nun of the Week sub-category. Hope those visitors weren't too disappointed when they didn't find any salacious images here.

The searches have been interesting, as well. Someone at the National Institute of Health (dot gov) stumbled in here searching on "freedom of speech during wartime". Someone in England searched on "love poetry" and "claddagh" and landed here. For this last, see Rosary Guitar.

The most frequent search term has involved people from around the world searching for images of a certain Canadian singer-songwriter, whom I have called "Saint". The sad thing is, the link Google provides goes to my most recent post, rather than the post in which I included that image. Sadder still, and shame on me, I "piggy-backed" someone else's server to post that image. I edited the image from the relevant post last week, and hope eventually Google will return to referencing the correct site.
Hope you're still with me. Ended up having to re-write this whole post because I hit the wrong button at the wrong time. AnyWHO, if you are still with me, you may be wondering what the dominant theme of this web-log is. Like any blogger, I focus on things that interest me. For whatever reason, three main areas interest me right now, and I cycle through them on an irregular basis: poetry, politics, and religion.

Some time back, I added the descriptor "Chevaux de Bataille" to the top of this page's design. It's a marvelous French phrase I picked up from Word-a-day; it roughly translates as "hobby horse". Which is to say, these three areas are my consistent hobby horse.

I am not the political scientist Brother Dave is. And, the more I look at the world's current political situation, the more depressed I get. As a person who experiences bouts of non-specific melancholia, I certainly don't need to focus on that for any period.

Elsie says I have the best Bible knowledge of any lay person she knows (she is a Methodist pastor). My religious studies have been primarily self-directed, with about two years of formal study. Paying attention in various Bible studies has paid off, as well. As my references to Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Zen, et al may indicate, I have not limited my studies to Judeo-Christianity. So, this may actually be the area where I have the best background.

As a theorist of poetic prosody, I am a bit behind the times (my study pretty much ends with the Black Mountain Poets (Wakowski, et al). In fact, I may be mis-remembering the name of that school. I am not as adept with current critical terms as Ron Silliman, whose writing I find especially impenetrable. Nor I am not able to parse a poem's meter with the felicity of Mike Snider; surprisingly, I don't seem to have the ear for it.

But there are those who have responded to my poetry, structured or not. If I have something to say about poetics, I seem to be saying it mostly by example.

I realize I might get more traffic if I chose only one of these three areas, and focused on it. I don't seem to be constitutionally capable of limiting myself in that way. My hope is, by shifting my focus as the spirit leads, the writing here will remain fresh enough to encourage people to return frequently.

An occasional comment to let me know how I'm doing is always appreciated. Don't just lurk behind those intriguing URLs I scan when I visit the reports on Site Meter.


  1. Dogma :: tic
  2. Spirit :: filled
  3. Voodoo :: chile
  4. Demon :: seed
  5. Digital :: age
  6. Ceremony :: ritual
  7. Research :: assistant
  8. Career :: path
  9. Penis :: [rhymes with angina]
  10. Film :: buff

Ideé d’jour

The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves.
— Plato, philosopher (427-347 BCE)

Western skyline this morning, at about 6:47.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Ideé d’jour

No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.
— Zen saying

The western sky in my neighborhood, about 6:45 this morning.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

The last straight-ahead horror film I saw was 28 Days an apocalyptic variant on a zombie story. It had several scenes of distorted human faces, of humans being savagely attacked, and "shock shots" where the baddie seems to appear from nowhere. 28 Days was not nearly as gory as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this movie to anyone, unless they have a special appreciation of sadistic scenes of torture and are fans of "buckets of blood".

Elsie had a good comment, afterwards: "I think that movie has a lot more to say about Mel Gibson than it does about Jesus." When I asked her to elaborate, she said the movie revealed that Gibson liked gore. And that's when my horror movie comparison began. The first horror-movie element occurs within the first ten minutes of the movie: Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemene, and a snake is slithering toward him as he lays prostrate on the ground. Jesus suddenly stands, crushes the head of the snake under his heel, with a great "crunch" on the soundtrack. While one might trace this image to second Isaiah, it is not recorded in any of the Gospels, nor does it significantly add to the story.

There are a number of other "shock" shots. Judas is pursued by demonic children, whose faces distort in ways reminiscent of Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. Judas' suicide includes the rotting corpse of some pack animal, from which he get the rope to hang himself. A crow picks out the eyes of one of the thieves on the cross. These scenes are not canonical, and it is reasonable to assume their place in the picture is for shock value.

Some other impressions:

What's the Story?
This movie would not have made a lot of sense to a person who is not familiar with the Gospel story. Now, it may be safe to assume that most Americans (even non-Christians) are familiar with the basic outline. But one might need more than just the basic outline to understand what's going on here. As a number of reviewers have noted, the events of the Passion are not given any context. We hear very little that would explain why the Sanhedrin are so angry with Jesus, so their anger seems simply mean-spirited. Another example is a sequence during the Via Delorosa in which a woman has a flash-back to a scene in which Jesus saves her from being stoned. If one is unfamiliar with the story, the flashback makes no sense; again, we don't know why people want to stone her (the men pictured are the same Sanhedrin who condemn Jesus).

Super Jesus
The man we see in this movie loses an astounding amount of blood. Head wounds are inflicted with the crown of thorns, and we know how liberally head wounds bleed. I think it safe to say any one else would be dead long before the crucifixion. Here's another curious fact — the two thieves carry the cross beams of their crosses (which is likely accurate), but Jesus carries a full cross (inaccurate, but in accord with pictorial tradition).

I'm Posing for Michaelangelo!
Which brings us to another point — a number of elements reference classic Christian art, rather than the accuracy Mr. Gibson has claimed. The nails are driven into Jesus' palms, the traditional view of the method. The fact is, there is nothing in the palm to hold the nails in place; with the full weight of the body on those palms, the nails would have ripped through them (trust me, I'm being less graphic than Gibson). The two thieves are held on their crosses with ropes alone, and no nails are shown in their palms. Trust me, the Romans viewed the process like an assembly line, and would not have used different methods to crucify different people.

When Jesus is lowered from the cross, the camera lingers on the mis-en-scene of the group clustered around him, with Mother Mary at the center, holding her hand in an awkward pose. It's as though she is posing for the Pieta.

We're Talking Foriegn!
This is something Elsie noticed. The people speak their Aramaic and Latin very diliberately, which seems unnatural. Think of a hammy Shakespearean actor reading Hamlet's solioquy, and you have an idea: "To .... BE ... or ... not ... To .... be. ........... THAT .... is .... the.... QUESTION." This sort of reading might have been necessary for the Globe, but it's hardly necessary for a modern movie. It's all very cool that Gibson went to the trouble of having the actors speak Latic and Aramaic, but surely a few people in ancient Palestine talkedlikethis rather .... than ... like .... THIS.

So, What's It All About
The story of the passion in the published accounts is not very detailed, and would not make a full movie on its own. That's why most stories begin somewhere around the Sermon on the Mount. All movie representations of the story have added details, and that's to be expected. What we discern about the intent comes from what the director chooses to add, and what the director chooses to leave out. In the case of this particular passion play, Mr. Gibson has chosen to leave out most of Jesus' teachings. For example, we get all of two lines of the aforementioned Sermon. We get four lines from the Last Supper. The rest is the torture and murder of a man, told in exquisite detail, with an emphasis on the gore.

One may reasonably infer that, for Gibson, the point is the sacrifice rather than the teaching. And perhaps Gibson feels that he has been so very sinful that only the extreme sacrifice of a super being could possibly "balance the scale". There are many people who understand the Gospel story in that way, and those people are likely to have a more positive reaction to the film.

But even allowing for "sacrificial lamb" theology, one loses so much by leaving out the teaching. We hear two major teachings in the film: first, the "Love your neighbor" speech from the sermon — boy, that's controversial stuff that justifies brutal torture! Then, the scene at the Last Supper where Jesus says "no greater love have a man than to lay down his life for his friends", which emphasizes the sacrificial theme of the movie. In a sense, leaving out the majority of teaching — so more time may be spent on the torture — devalues the teaching.

Look, you want a decent re-telling of the Passion, rent Jesus of Nazareth. Scripted by Anthony Burgess, it has its flaws, but at least it tells the whole story and tells it comparitively well. If you're tired of other worldly depictions of Jesus, I recommend the made-for-tv animated movie The Miracle Maker, or the more controversial
Last Temptation of Christ
. If you've seen Gibson's horror movie production of the passion, and need a good corrective, may I recommend The Life of Brian?

Friday, March 05, 2004

Open Letter to John Kerry

Dear Senator Kerry:
Now that you are the likely Democratic nominee for president, I think it worthy to consider how, exactly, you will respond to what you have accurately described as the "Republican attack machine."

The first matter is the dirtying of the word “liberal”. I say, for every time the opposing side calls you a “liberal,” you call the current administration a liar. This is a tactic you used to good effect on CNN two weeks ago, and I believe it will be effective in the months to come.

But, it’s also time to do a new spin on the Republican campaign of neurolinguistics, which has somehow perverted the meaning of a perfectly decent word. I think it’s time we confront the administration on its own liberal tendencies.

George Bush has been liberal in his fiscal policy. Republican John McCain described it as “spending money like a drunken sailor.” Yep, sounds pretty liberal to me.

He has been liberal with people’s rights, getting the government involved in who can ride an airplane.

He has liberally subsidized American business (especially a company formerly operated by his current VP).

You, on the other hand, might paint yourself as a "true conservative":
  • you will conserve individual freedoms
  • you will conserve American jobs
  • you will conserve America’s natural resources
  • you will conserve the world’s respect for America — in fact, you will strive to restore it

And so on, in this vein.

Wishing you success —


Diary Entries

A black cat blessed my path,
then I was crossed by a train.
Crossed by a north-bound train.

The rain started last night.
Lightening killed my phone
and DVD. Stormy day.

Cloudy morning. Take traditional work route
which zig-zags on the edge of down-town.
I pass the homeless marching, as if in war.
For similar quotidian musings, please see Ms. Mambrina's "3 o'clock in the morning" at The Forge.

Ideé d’jour

To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish. — Yiddish proverb

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Confessions of an Ex-Smoker

Jilly before she quit smoking.

Jilly, over at Poetry Hut has quit smoking. I think it's something like Day 4 for her. Just yesterday, she mentioned that she'd like to gnaw her head off. Heh. Kinda like a bear in a trap. 

Cassie Lewis, who observes the weather along The Jetty, also quit smoking not long ago. Having been out of country for the past couple of weeks, she hasn't posted much of a reformed smoker's diary, but seems to be enjoying life as a non-smoker.

Jilly after she quit smoking.

Naturally, this has gotten me to thinking of the time I quit smoking. By the time I quit, I was averaging a pack-and-a-half a day. If memory serves, this was 1984 or '85. I was leading music for the folk mass, and noticed that I was losing the high notes in my range. Well, as a tenor who was vain about his impressive high notes, this loss made a distinct impression.

Lent was coming up, and it made sense to give up smoking during the time when it is traditional to give things up.  I told my friend Scott my plan, and he agreed to quit with me. We'd get together every morning, and encourage each other through our mutual withdrawal pangs.

Another thing that helped was the fact that I saved back the money I would have spent on cigarettes.  I set aside around $1.25 a day for each pack I would have bought, ending up with something over fifty dollars at the end of Lent. That money was donated to the church of my choice.

How did I do it, on a day-to-day basis? I drank a lot of water. I did deep breathing exercises. I was moody as hell, and had to work extra hard not to chew off co-workers' heads (let alone my own).

So, take heart, Jilly! There is life on the other side. I've been a reformed smoker for around 20 years, and life never smelled so good!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

More on 'The Passion'

Found a couple of more links on Mel's cinematic passion play:Plans seem to be forming for a group to see the movie this weekend. I hope to have a reaction posted shortly after.
Those who wish to sing always find a song. — Swedish proverb

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Monday, 5:15 p.m.

A blonde ghost,
a cherry red jeep,
and the sun
driving west.
Sun before me, blonde
flirts behind.
I see her
smile at me.
Another stab at an Octologue.

What Kind of Soul Do I Have?

According to a survey at Quizilla, I am "Artistic":
You are naturally born with a gift, whether it be
poetry, writing or song. You love beauty and
creativity, and usually are highly intelligent.
Others view you as mysterious and dreamy, yet
also bold since you hold firm in your beliefs.

What Type of Soul Do You Have ?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, March 01, 2004


Oh, man, am I brain-dead today! Stayed up a little past eleven to watch the Academy Awards, and I am running on autopilot. Although the dominance of "LOTR" became pretty obvious by its third win, I chose to stick in there til the bitter end.

Couple of impressions: René Zellwigger seems to be incredibly shy. It looked like she wanted to crawl under her seat when they called her name.

There were only two political statements that I heard - one from the director of Fog of War, and the other from Sean Penn. Tim Robbins' little speech about victims of abuse might classify as political, but it was a statement most folk would agree with. The statements I am referring to directly related to the Iraq situation.

Some of the transitional music seemed positively strange — "Hail to the Chief" for Tom Hanks? "Blowin' in the Wind" for Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon? Well, ok, this last makes a sort of sense; but it would have made more sense if Tim had made some anti-war statement during his acceptance speech.