Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Color My Blog

Your Blog Should Be Blue

Your blog is a peaceful, calming force in the blogosphere.
You tend to avoid conflict - you're more likely to share than rant.
From your social causes to cute pet photos, your life is a (mostly) open book.

Amazing. It just so happens that blue is my favorite color, and is featured in a couple of different forms on this page. There's dark blue in the background of the whale pic (to your left), and light blue behind the title.

Feel free to agree or disagree with that discription of my blog. That's what the "comments" link is for. I think it's pretty darn close, but that might be due to the flattery effect.

All the links are blue of course, but that's fairly standard.

Once upon a time, when I was a pre-teen, I wanted to paint my bedroom Wedgewood Blue. This was because I liked blue, and I liked the sound of the word "wedgewood". Happily, Padre talked me out of this notion, pointing out how dark the room would be if all the walls were that dark a shade of blue.

The walls remained white. The walls of my current house are also white. The exterior trim is some shade of dark green. Where shall I paint blue to reflect the inner man?

And should that project come before or after I create the lawn labyrinth in my backyard?

I'm leaning toward the labyrinth. It's more likely to be completed.

Quote d'jour

I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived.
— Willa Cather, novelist

Monday, January 30, 2006


I got up around 8 Saturday morning. The sky was grey. It had not been so dark at this hour in some time.

I looked out through the front window. The grass looked damp. The front drive was moist. It must have rained, at least briefly, earlier that morning.

I ate my humble breakfast of mixed cereals. Went to my study, which the cat assumes is my cave, and officially started the day. Balanced the check book. Checked my e-mail. Visited my favorite web-logs. E-filed
my taxes.

By the time all this was done, it was 10:00. Off to run my errands for the day. Went to the library. Traded one trio of DVDs for a different trio. Went to have the car's oil changed (a bit overdue). Went to the bookstore.

I spent some time in the bookstore. I heard a familiar noise on the roof. River rumbling. Applause. No. Looked out the large windows at the front of the store - rain. Heavy rain, coming down in large wet drops. I'm surprised we in the store did not start cheering.

We have not seen a significant amount of rain since November of last year.

The little torrent lasted for a few minutes, then quieted down. About
ten minutes later, there was another brief torrent.

It was calm by the time I was done in the bookstore. The rain was so light, I could practically walk between the drops on the way to the car.

It was still by the time I got home. Blue sky by 4:00 Saturday afternoon.

A friend at church told me there hadn't been any rain in the Windsor Hills area. That's the area of town I lived during my teenage years. It's just a couple of miles west from where I live today. And they had no rain.

I give thanks for the rain I saw Saturday. I wish it could have been shared over a broader area. I hope more of the state gets to see a steady rain very soon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cat Friday

This picture was taken this morning as the lady raced from dining room to living room and back again. I don't think she was feeling camera shy; I believe she was in "play", or "huntress" mode.

Here, she seems to be using the available scenery to stalk her prey. Which, at the time this was taken, was probably the photographer.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I'm Here

Yep, I'm here. Where else would I be?

There was a period on Friday during which I wasn't praying I wasn't. Wasn't here or anywhere else. Just plain wasn't.

I was coughing so much, I had forgotten what regular breathing was like.

I'm still afraid to talk. Every time I speak, I cough. Pretty good impediment.

But I was also naseuous on Friday. Pretty sure it was the antibiotics. Man, I was sick. And it didn't help that I could just barely see straight.

But like a big dumb man I went to work anyway. And sat in this chair with very little to do, wheezing when I wasn't coughing. And vice versa. Then wanting to rebuke my lunch (which was far from a flavor treat going down).

I finally went home at four. Got into some lounge wear (shirt, pj pants), turned tv on low, flopped on the couch. Cat curled near lap. Fell asleep. Changed channel to PBS; went back to sleep. Eight o'clock, flipped channel to ABC, then went back to sleep. Half woke up to "Night Line" at 11:00, got up and officially went to bed.

Slept until 11:00 am Saturday. DJ helped, by unplugging my radio alarm (which goes off at 6). Ate cereal, which seemed to set in tummy fairly well. Watched The Awful Truth with Cary Grant & Irene Dunne. Fell asleep. Slept until 4 Saturday afternoon.

Slept in Sunday morning, just went to church long enough to lead a discussion on the Book of Psalms. Took a nap, went back to church for a meeting, then back home. By dinner time Sunday, I felt almost normal.

Which is where I'm at, at the moment.

I here. Where else would I be?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Five Pleasures (Guilty or Otherwise)

RGBP Friday Five
  1. Chocolate. Dark Chocolate.
  2. Couch. TV. Cat purring in lap.
  3. Good music.
  4. Getting lost in a good book
  5. RLP's chat room

Cat Friday

No new pictures today. The staff photographer (that would be your correspondent) is still under the weather - the cough thought to be cured on Sunday came back with a vengence on Monday.

This picture is from a group I took last week. These are two members of the cat clowder I mentioned last Friday. I should mention that I have perpetuated some cyber dark-room trickery on this one, using a couple of tricks picked up from the latest Photoshop User magazine.

The most noticeable (to me) is the cat in the foreground. Originally, it was on the porch. I increased its size, and moved it to the step. I also attempted to apply a method intended to give the picture a sort of "hand-tinted" appearance.

Quote d’jour

When we realize that we like our kleshas [strong emotions that realiably lead to suffering], we begin to understand why they have such power over us. Hatred, for example, can make us feel strong and in charge. Rage makes us feel even more powerful and invulnerable. Craving and wanting can feel soothing, romantic, and nostalgic: we weep over lost loves or unfulfilled dreams. It's painfully and deliciously bittersweet. Therefore, we don't even consider interrupting the flow.
— Pema Chodron, "No Time to Lose," Shambhala Sun, January 2006, pg. 51

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jonah Trivia

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Jonah! (From the Surrealist)
  1. It can take Jonah several days to move just through one tree!
  2. Red Jonah at night, shepherd's delight. Red Jonah at morning, shepherd's warning.
  3. Owls cannot move their eyes, because their eyeballs are shaped like Jonah.
  4. Dolphins sleep at night just below the surface of Jonah, and frequently rise to the surface for air.
  5. Jonah is picked, sorted and packed entirely in the field.
  6. If you keep a goldfish in a dark room, it will eventually turn into Jonah!
  7. Jonah is the largest of Saturn's moons!
  8. The most dangerous form of Jonah is the bicycle.
  9. Two thirds of the world's eggplant is grown in Jonah.
  10. New Zealand was the first place to allow Jonah to vote.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Boneyard Firefall

Stranded on warped paths of glory
seizing sestinas with your bare hands
Taking fistfulls of firefall to the boneyard
Hopping infinite freight train at dusk

It's like, haven't we met somewhere before
It's like, how come the morning is green
It's like, weeding the intricate garden

But I wasn't standing at the corner
And I wasn't dreaming of your hand
I wasn't following your foot prints
I wasn't missing you at all

You happened upon the habitual hat
and watched the moon trek west
I was opening my locker
and hearing the echoes of the hall.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Lit Bit

Borrowed from The Observer by way of Dick Jones' Patteran Pages
  1. The Bible or Shakespeare?
    Can't choose. According to some authorities, Shakespeare had a hand in translating the King James' Version, so I could have my cake and eat it too. I'll confess that I have probably read more of the Bible than I have Shakespeare, but it's darn close.
  2. A word you like
  3. Most romantic moment in fiction
    When Gatsby first sees Daisy.
  4. Overrated writer
    Pick a name from the top five on the bestseller list. Odds are, that person is overrated.
  5. Favorite Translation
    Merwin's translation of Neruda's 20 Love Poems was my introduction to that poet's work. I also deeply love Stephen Mitchell's Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
  6. Best meal in English Literature
    Robert Parker's "Spenser" series probably doesn't count as great literature, but the meals he describes are exquisite. I've often thought someone should produce a "Spenser" cookbook.
  7. Underrated writer
    No one comes immediately to mind.
  8. Favorite Children's Book
    The Runaway Bunny
  9. Book(s) by your bedside right now
    Mirrormask, Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
    Four Dubliners, Richard Ellman
    Benedict's Dharma, Norman Fischer
    Red Dirt Marijuana, Terry Southern
    There's also two translations of the Bible (NAB and NRSV), and the Book of Common Prayer. And a Forward Day by Day.
  10. Sexiest Book
    Don't know if we're talking eros, which would be covered by any of Colette's books, or if we're speaking of SEX. If the latter, any of Henry Miller's Tropic series or The Rosy Crucifixion will do. If we're talking PORN, then Miller's Opus Pistorum (aka, Under the Roofs of Paris) will do quite nicely.

Quote d'jour

When [Buddhist] teachings tell us to "make friends with our emotions," they mean to become more attentive and get to know them better. Being ignorant about emotions only makes matters worse; feeling guilty or ashamed of them does the same. Struggling against them is equally nonproductive. The only way to dissolve their power is with our wholehearted, intelligent attention.
— Pema Chodron, "No Time to Lose", Shambhala Sun, Jan 2006, pg 53
excerpted from her book, No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva

Monday, January 16, 2006

No War on Terror

Brother Dave wrote an impassioned comment to my entry of Jan. 11, "The Search for Security." I believe his comment deserves to be moved from the comments to the front page, in hopes more people will read it.
Ok, I want everyone to repeat after me, "there ain't no war on terror, there ain't no war on terror". I want all of you to repeat this mantra 5 times each morning and five times each night. Eventually it will sink in.

How can I possibly say such a thing, much less ask others to say it?

Two reasons. First reason - you can not fight a war against a tactic. Terrorism is the intentional act of war that is designed to create a state of terror in the mind of the civilian population and hence bend them to your will or ideology. It is argued that it is a tactic of asymmetrical war, but I think the residents of Dresden in 1944 or Palestine any time in the last 30 years would argue to the contrary. I am absolutely sure the residents of Iraq, subject to air and ground attacks by US forces - without warning and at all times of the day - would disagree. But whether the term is properly reserved for the acts of non-state organizations or not, it is still a tactic.

But the second reason is the more compelling and is far less academic. The invasion of Iraq (and, [it could be] easily argued, [the] invasion of Afghanistan as well) have absolutely nothing to do with fighting terrorism or terrorists. It has everything to do with a well thought-out - if insane - policy for establishing the US as the sole arbiter of all global matters military, political and economic. Do not take my word for it. Seek out the web site of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Read the statement of principles. Contemplate what the words mean, particularly the words in the fourth statement in which it is argued that the US must assure that all governments act in accordance with "our prosperity and our principles". Then, examine the strategy documents posted regarding the Middle East. Note the call for the occupation of Iraq independent of the continued reign of Saddam Hussein. Now, go back to those Statements of Principle and note who signed on to them. You will find the entire membership of the White House Iraq Group, as well as Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. If there are lingering doubts about why the US invaded Iraq, turn to the National Security Strategy of 2002, posted on the White House web site (.gov, not .org - that one is for laughs). See how many times you can find a difference in direction or tone between the official policy of the United States and the policy advocated by the PNAC.

So, repeat after me, "there ain't no war on terror, there ain't...".

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Five: Travel

The assignment is to record five places I have visited, and how they impacted me.
  1. NYC / Princeton, NJ
    This was my first major trip outside of Okla. Some high school friends were living over a hoagie joint in Princeton, right on the main drag. Gary and I rode the bus, which immediately leaves you sleep-deprived and in a fugue state for several days following.

    We visited NYC several times during my stay. This was prior to Guiliani's clean-up, and the two or three blocks around the port authority were both scary and thrilling.
  2. Denver, CO
    Two friends Dr. O and I knew in high school got married, and we were flown to Denver to serve as best men. As we drove back & forth between our motel and various destinations, I came to fall in love with Denver's architecture.

    I visited the two J's (our friends) twice more over the next decade, and got a chance to tour Denver more thoroughly. Jano took me on a tour, and indulged my desire to pilgrimage to Mother Cabrini's shrine. The other shrine I visited was the Tattered Cover Bookstore.
  3. Seattle, WA
    My former spouse was given a presentation at a conference there, and arranged for me to meet her. I ended up being her aide-de-camp, keeping her on time, getting her from airport to hotel & back, and so on. I enjoyed Pike's Market, and was especially impressed by the Lark in the Morning music shop.
  4. SW Texas
    I have visited Brother Dave in this area two or three times since 2000. Mainly we visit, compare on family history, share music, and sit in companionable silence. One thing that's remarkable about my visits there is I get a lot of reading done, because they don't normally watch tv, and I chose not to. I think I'm able to maintain this discipline because it's a new environment.
  5. Forest of Peace Monestary, Sand Springs, OK
    I have gone on retreat at this Roman Catholic monestary several times. It has adopted an ashram model, and incorporates symbols and texts from world religions (primarily Hindu/Buddhism).

    My favorite story from one of my retreats was a time my former wife and I stayed there. We were in the area for the Episcopal Convention, and were using the monestary as a sort of spiritual hotel. We made no secret of the fact that we were not Roman Catholic, even when the priest who would serve communion joined us at dinner.

    The Roman Catholic communion is not open; in other words, you may not receive communion unless you are Roman Catholic. While I may not agree with this, it seemed appropriate to respect their tradition. So, on Sunday morning when the priest was distributing the host, I crossed my arms across my chest – a commonly accepted way of indicating you do not wish to receive. When the priest came to me, he leaned close to my ear and said, "Take the host."

    I was very moved and honored. This insistence seemed to recognize me as part of that community.
  6. Bonus: Where I would like to travel
    Ireland. While my family is more likely from Great Britain, I would much rather be Irish. So – I'm adopting it as my homeland. Hopefully, one day soon I can visit and give you the full report.

Friday's Cat

Her ladyship has graciously granted permission to post a picture of one of our neighbor cats.

What was a kindle of kittens will soon resemble a clowder of cats. James Lipton, in his excellent veneral collection An Exaltation of Larks, suggests that "kindle" is related to kindred and "clowder" is related to clutter.

The cats seem to be mostly feral, as they are extremely skittish. I took this shot with my zoom lens, as they won't let me get close enough to use my 35mm lens. There's one black mama, three black kittens, and this one grey one. Actually, one of the black kittens has been adopted.

I did some minor tweaking in Photoshop to bring out this cat a bit. It is doing a very good of camouflaging itself, but adjustments of the Levels and Contrast make it easier to find.

Idée d'jour

Ten lands are more easily known than one man.
— Yiddish Proverb

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Search for Security

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.
— Dwight David Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)
I think this statement can also be applied to trading our liberty for security. In other words, it may be a paraphrase of Ben Franklin's statement that those who trade their liberty for security deserve neither.

Naturally, this comes to mind because of recent revelations that Prez B*sh had ordered the NSA to tap American citizen's phones. The claim is these citizens were making or receiving calls from Al Quida operatives. The claim is that we have to allow this because we are at war.

The problem is, "The War on Terrorism" is far from a traditional war. The chances of signing a peace treaty with Al Quida or other terrorists are minimal at best. This is a Cold War, which is not winnable in the traditional sense. The best we can hope for is: a) decreasing the terrorists' motivation; and b) minimizing the amount of damage they can do.

We will never be 100% safe. No amount of wire taps or surveillance is sufficient to prevent a small dedicated group of people from commiting any number of highly destructive acts.

Now, Bull Moose is a progressive whose opinion I normally agree with. He argues that the president needs extraordinary latitude in times of war. He further maintains that those who disagree suffer from B*sh hatred.

I'll be the first to admit my strong dislike for Mr. B*sh. The shortest sound bite of his voice causes my blood pressure to rise. I still haven't decided whether he's a well-intentioned shlemiel or a clever wannabe despot. Given that, one might suppose my judgement on this issue is clouded.

But let's look at the evidence. Amoung the American groups that were investigated were dangerous folk like PETA and the ACLU. This is absurd, if not obscene, on its face. This is the sort of abuse one can expect when there is little or no oversight of the intelligence community.

Let's also consider the case of the intelligence presented to support the claim that Iraq was seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction. At best, the administration discounted any evidence contrary to their preconceived notion as disinformation. There is no reason to believe this same sort of prejudice would not be applied to the intelligence gathered from these wire taps.

In other words, I might be inclined to extend the Administration the benefit of the doubt if there were even a hint of good faith. But time and again the Administration has contended that an action is right merely because it says the action is right. I'm reluctant to allow such an actor to rely on star chamber secret courts (the standard created post-Watergate), much less to grant them a free pass for them to investigate or wiretap who ever they feel like on their authority alone.

The Sun's Mistress

Sun's Mistress
The text is a bit of automatic rhyming. It reads:
The sun went out one morning
To fetch a pail of rain.
He returned with a silver mistress
Who refused to say her name.
We watched her at the wedding,
With her crown of ivory horn,
And wondered how her caresses
Would change the winter morn.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Late last week, on NPR's All Things Considered, I heard an interview with a woman whose father had died in the Sago mine explosion. She was commenting on the early report, sadly mistaken, that 12 men had survived the collapse. She said she would not have closure until she learned who exactly was responsible for that false report, and why it took three hours to correct it.

I have no doubt that I would want the answers to those same questions if I were in her place. However, I doubt the answers would truly give me "closure".

To tell you the truth, I don't know what "closure" is supposed to mean. If it means something like "case closed" — in other words, that the grief doesn't hurt anymore — I don't believe it exists.

My experience with major losses — like the death of a beloved family member — suggests that grief is never completely over. It's never neatly resolved, like a case on CSI.

A friend once described grief as an emotion that comes on in waves. My experience suggests that that is an apt metaphor. For example, I went around in a fugue state the first few months after Padre died. I almost felt like I was underwater. People would say the traditionally comforting things, such as "Sorry for your loss"; I would see their lips move, but not really understand their words.

After those first few months, I slowly returned to my accustomed experience of reality. It didn't happen all at once; it was more as if I were walking very slowly out of deep water.

And even once I felt like I was "back to normal", it wasn't over. Every so often, I would be hit with a wave of grief — missing him, wishing his life story could have had a different ending. These waves would sometimes be related to "anniversary" events, such as his birthday or some holiday. Other times, they'd just come with no obvious connection to an event.

Over time, those waves of grief came further and further apart, like diminishing ripples. And each wave would have less of an impact than the previous one. But the waves still come.

Of course, I had questions when Padre died. Most of them were unanswerable. Over time, I have worked out some answers that work for me. But I don't suppose even having answers to all those questions, or believing that my answers are 100% correct, would completely calm what are now ripples of grief.

To tell the truth, I'm not sure I want those ripples to be calmed.

Every time I miss him, I remember the love we shared. I suspect these are intricately connected, such that if I lost one, I would lose the other.

So, I hope the families in Sago, West Virginia will one day forget the righteous anger they feel about the miscommunications that occurred that final day of the tragedy. I hope they receive counseling and compensation for their loss. I hope that one day the pain will no longer be overwhelming.

And I hope they never stop missing their fathers and husbands, never forget the love and support they shared with those men.

Idée d’jour

A king can stand people fighting but he can't last long if people start thinking.
— Will Rogers, humorist (1879-1935)
I would suggest this saying holds true for presidents as well.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Entering the Poem

The way into this poem is not with words.
This poem has been seduced by so many words.
It has bent prostrate before their altar,
Then found itself abandoned in their sanctuary.

You won’t find a path into this poem between the letters,
Nor in reverberating phoneme echoes.
These spaces are not a labyrinth path.
These marks are not patterans
or hobo hieroglyphs.
They are false sign posts built to mislead.

The fact is, this poem is not so accommodating
As to offer a Baedeker’s to its sights and sounds.
It’s hiding behind the easy chair,
Opposite the mirror.
It’s hiding in laurel-leaf shadow,
dancing with goat-foot abandon.
It erases the path
even as the path is formed.
You think it holds an ivory key.
You think you’ll find it beside the fiery gates.

This poem holds its own counsel.
Just when you believe you’ve found the entrance,
It all fades like a winter mirage.

Idée d’jour

When the body is on the cushion but the heart is getting colder, our practice is not working.
— Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche [Shambhala Sun, January 2006, p. 11]

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday's Cat

DJ appears in Sin City
I may have posted this image before, but this is an altered version, for art's sake.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Power of Song

It begins, as most things begin, with a song.

In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

They were sung.

The great beasts were sung into existence, after the Singer had done with the planets and the hills and the trees and the oceans and the lesser beasts. The cliffs that bound existence were sung, and the hunting grounds, and the dark.

Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughingstock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That's the power of songs.
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys, pg 1, ©2005

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Poem in Progress

I bought two calendars on sale late last week. One was "Wild Words from Wild Women"; the other was a wall calender featuring Magnetic Poetry. From time to time, I intend to share what's going on with the words. There are 200 words provided with the calendar, and have about a hundred more magnetic words available.

The lines shown here have already been altered since the picture was taken. Perhaps they'll change and grow as early as the end of this week.

I have another poem in mental progress. What I see on my mental tablet begins, "The way into this poem is not".

I don't suppose it's an original idea, but I hope to give it my own unique spin.

Idée d’jour

Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement.
— Jack Kornfield [Zen Calendar, ©2004 Workman Press]
There is a line very similar to this in the movie Joe Vs. the Volcano.

There's a lot of reasons not to like this movie - it's much too clever for it's own good. But it's one of my favorites. Approximately the first third is one of the better depictions of the stiffling nature of the bureacratic life recorded on celluloid.

The theme is a fairly common Hollywood trope - carpe diem [Seize the day]. I suppose it's popular because it's one that folk so easily forget. If we were fully awake and alive even 95% of the day, we would not need to be reminded to wake up. If we didn't need to be reminded, we would not likely find these reminders so charming.

Joe Vs the Volcano is also noteworthy as a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romance that folk don't normally remember when thinking of Hanks/Ryan romances. It also is one of the few films I know that dares to reflect Ryan's full range as a comic actress - she plays three different roles, and seems to be having a lovely time doing so.

It's not a movie for all tastes. But, it can be a terrible lot of fun, if you give in to its whimsy.