Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home is Sweet

Here's  a not-too-profound thought: the sweetest place on Earth is home, wherever that happens to be. Susan and I returned home to Oklahoma day before yesterday from a great trip to New York City. The most vivid memories of that trip are going to be of the astonishing array of people we encountered. I must have heard 25 languages. At least. And for me, a southern-born and bred guy, the utter strangeness of the sight of tall buildings, sidewalks, and pavement for as far as the eye can see in any direction. Nothing you read can possibly prepare you for the reality of one of the world's great cities--I imagine Calcutta, Hong Kong, Beijing would all be equally overwhelming to the first-time visitor.

But nothing beats just being home. Because everything is familiar, because you're back to your important "stuff" that you had to leave behind, because you're again with friends and family, because you're back where you belong. There's great comfort in belonging somewhere, having a place you can call home . . . which makes my heart go out to the many, many people who actually can't say they belong anywhere: refugees, displaced persons, Palestinians.

I come home an overstuffed mailbox, both real mail and email. It was easy to cull out the trash from the former; the latter I'm having to trudge through more carefully, and in a certain order. Family first, which is how I received the link to a two-part column by Stanley Fish in the New York Times* which addresses one of favorite rant topics: the weight given to student evaluations of university professors. And, perhaps worse, the defense of the practice by people who should know better. (I can't live with the notion that people who have reached the age of reason can actually defend the practice in good conscience.) I've been over this before. I think the practice of determining the quality of a university professor's teaching much less his or her suitability for tenure on the basis of what some empty-headed kid thinks about it is beyond absurd. But we are all the victims of the market now, so education has to debase itself to the level of popularity contest and road show. What's good and worthwhile is what sells. That's it. We're at the portals of hell, people.

I close the way Fish did. What can I say but a resounding "AMEN"?

I cannot leave the topic without remarking on the passion voiced by many who took the time to respond. A Teacher lets it all hang out and speaks for many: “Sorry kids, you are not the authority in the classroom. Me Teacher. You student. Me Teach , you learn. End of discussion . . . Education is not a business. You are not my customer. My classroom is not Burger King. You do not get to ‘have it your way.’”
And, finally, I am pleased and amazed to report that one poster actually answered what was thought to be the impossible question: What exactly is good teaching? PES realized years after encountering it that he (or she) had been its beneficiary: “I had learned without knowing it almost, how to see three sides of a twosided story.”

*Link is to the second column, the link for the first part is in the opening paragraph.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Second Coming

This is one of the greatest poems in the English language, in my opinion. Is this not now? Who can read this and not be sent into reveries of thought about our own time?  And to marvel at the wonderful insight of this poet?

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

                    Grecian icon "The Second Coming" c. 1700

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Milwaukee County Stadium, August 10, 1990

I actually have the score book. I watched the game on TV and scored as it went. I do this often. This is a game that the Rangers won 11-3 over the Milwaukee Brewers. It also happened to be Nolan Ryan's 300th career win. Here's the box score. And here's the poem this score book page inspired.

Milwaukee County Stadium, July 31, 1990

It’s gone now, that stadium,
like so many others, pulled down, plowed
Naught but a memory,
like all these players here
in my scorebook, the famous,
obscure, and solid,
guys gone long since
into a world beyond baseball,
where it’s deathly quiet all the time.
This page plays no favorites.
Hall of Famers like Yount and the relentless Ryan.
Plus Baines, Petralli, Gatner. Gamers all,
suspended forever in scorebook scribbles
like a high pop fly
seemingly painted on a canvass sky.
Yet here arrayed in pencil and pen,
neat as a baseline in the top of the first,
blood quickens youthful muscles:
players run and hit, clean their cleats,
spit in the dust on deck.
Bats crack, balls slam into mitts,
crowds roar at impossible feats.
Here these boys light up the page
with reds and greens—hits and walks—
like pinball caroms off walls
binging into the right center crannies,
hitter churning to third,
standing up,
clapping his gloved hands
in triumphant glee,
a little puff of dust swirling
some moments
on an infield breeze.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who in World is Going There?

Millions of people, to answer the question. Have you ever wondered which blogs would appear on a list of the 20 most popular blogs? Well, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, but when I did stumble across this list, I was pretty surprised that I did not know the vast majority of these places. Apparently a lot of people do know and are going there in the millions. I had never heard of most of these websites. Apparently, about 25 percent of the blogs are about celebrities, one of the most crushingly boring topics in the universe. There appears to be a one or two for wireheads, and one for car people. Rather than list all 20 of these blogs, I thought I would just list the ones that I had at least heard of. Of these, I only frequent Huffington and Boing Boing with any regularity. Here ya go:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Crime in the Gulf

This is what the surf looks like in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I've been there many times back in my college days in Mobile. Pictures like this just make me sick.

If there is such thing as sin, this is certainly it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Way Cool

Something my daughter shared with me, which my son shared with her. I have such cool kids!

Lichtfaktor is the name of a group of graffiti artists based in Cologne, Germany. Only these graffiti artists don’t work with spray paints: they use flashlights, neon tubes, glowsticks, LEDs and other mobile sources of light to create dazzling shapes and brilliant swirls, that illuminate dreary cities with their momentary glow. Then, using a special camera with a long exposure, the group captures these light ‘sketches’ to preserve them for future appreciation. The group, comprising of graffiti artists Tim Feshke and David Lupschen, and video engineer Marcel Panne, also make videos of their art, using stop-motion animation to make their light graffiti come alive. In one particular video, entitled ‘Star Wars vs. Star Trek’, Tim and David made trash cans come alive, staged a fantastic light saber fight, and ‘teleported’ themselves through the gloomy streets of Germany. For more of their bright art, go here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grizzly Bear

The song is called "Two Weeks." The video is kinda weird, but I think you'll find little to criticize with the mellow music. I like it.

Update I: (My son just emailed to say he liked the song. Which is great. But I meant to use this video for one of the days I would be gone. Now I'm going to have to find something else or jiggle with the posting date of this one. I'll take the course of least resistance and jiggle the date. This is what I get for being so anal.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm Just Having a Blast Today

. . . thinking about Susan and my trip to New York City tomorrow. Although well into my 60s, and not a person who's been a stay-in-one-place guy, I have never been to NYC. I'm finding that rather incredible now as I'm spending hours scoping out everything there is to see and do on Manhattan Island--let alone the boroughs, which we won't even see, except for a ball game at Citi Field. (Cannot go to a major league town without seeing a major league game. It's just not done.) I don't think time will allow for us to go to the Botanic Garden in Brooklyn--that's a next time visit--what with all the other things to see. Museums especially: the MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim. Eating, of course, and just soaking in a magnificent city. I can tell already from all the poking around about New York that I've done on the Web today, that I'm just going to love this place. We're leaving tomorrow, and we'll be back next Monday. I've scheduled blog entries for the next several days, but I don't think I'll have all the days covered. I might miss a couple, if I don't find something engaging to put up there between now and shutting down time.

Update I: Driven idiot that I am, I did find enough to cover all the missing days. See ya for real when I'm back next Monday.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It Had to Happen

"I’m not necessarily a conspiracy person, but I don’t think enough investigation has been done on this. Someone needs to be digging into that situation. Personally, and this is purely speculative on my part and not based on any fact, but personally I feel there is a possibility that there was some sort of collusion."
You know, just as surely as you can predict oh, say the sun rising in the East, you just knew there was going to be some dingbat Republican who would come out with a story like this: Barrack Obama and BP colluded to allow the oil leak to happen in the Gulf of Mexico. The purveyor of this imbecilic view is one Bill Randall, candidate in the Republican primary for a congressional seat in North Carolina. Of course, he doesn't know just why the Obama administration would want to do this, but it might be to further the passage of green and environmental legislation in Congress. And this would not be too far from the cracked brain views of such luminaries as Sarah Palin, who thinks that radical environmentalists are behind the spill. See, if radical environmentalists protest oil drilling everywhere else, then deep water drilling becomes necessary. See? Their fault.

My guess is that Republicans running for office all over the country now are going to kissing the butts of the Tea Party nuts now that a Libertarian has won the nomination for the Republican party Senate race, and a Tea Party nut case has won it in Nevada. Nothing is too crazy for these people to believe. The story is here. Mr Randall backtracked quickly, claiming he didn't say what he plainly said, which is standard practice now for politicians of all stripes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Amber Waves of Hemp

The neat thing about having friends with wide-ranging interests, a propensity to read about things, and intellectual curiosity is that they can be counted on to send you stuff they find interesting every once in a while on the not-too-off-the-wall assumption that if it interested them, it will probably interest you. Thus was I introduced to this website, which you drill down to from the home page: the website of the North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. It's full all kinds of facts about this versatile plant. Which, of course, since it is of same family as marijuana, is illegal in the U.S., being considered by the mammoth intellects that decide such policies in this country to be as dangerous as heroin and crack cocaine.

So in case it's been a while since you read up on hemp, let me share just a few of pertinent facts about it with you about it. There are a lot more on the referenced web site. I've just pulled out some interesting ones and mixed them all up. Read the rest and then you tell me that our ridiculous policy of making the cultivation of this crop a crime makes any kind of sense at all. Further, you have to wonder when you read this kind of thing, why somebody with some balls in Congress or the Executive doesn't point out how utterly stupid this country is for letting its terror of recreational drugs effectively damn useful, profitable, and ecologically sound products to the nether regions where they can do no one any good. The amber waves of hemp is not something you can be expecting to see any time soon, unless there's some kind of miracle.

*Hemp has been grown for at least the last 12,000 years for fiber (textiles and paper) and food. It has been effectively prohibited in the United States since the 1950s.
*Hemp can displace cotton which is usually grown with massive amounts of chemicals harmful to people and the environment. 50% of all the world's pesticides are sprayed on cotton.
*Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified by taxonomists as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of varieties. C. sativa is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).
*Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand.
*The US Drug Enforcement Agency classifies all C. sativa varieties as "marijuana." While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field be secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive. [Insanity]
*George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.
*Over 30 industrialized democracies do distinguish hemp from marijuana. International treaties regarding marijuana make an exception for industrial hemp.
*Hemp can displace wood fiber and save forests for watershed, wildlife habitat, recreation and oxygen production, carbon sequestration (reduces global warming), and other values.
*Because of its importance for sails (the word "canvass" is rooted in "cannabis") and rope for ships, hemp was a required crop in the American colonies.
*While the original "gruel" was made of hemp seed meal, hemp oil and seed can be made into tasty and nutritional products.
*The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000.
*Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types. It is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. It also leaves a weed-free field for a following crop.
*At a volume level of 81%, hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the "good" fats). It's quite high in some essential amino acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient also found in mother's milk. 
*Hemp was grown commerically (with increasing governmental interference) in the U.S. until the 1950s. It was doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely hight tax on marijuana and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While Congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, as its successor the US Drug Enforcement Administration, does to this day. 
*Canada now again allows the growing of hemp. [Canada is looking better and better all the time.] 
*Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more mildew-resistant than cotton. 
*Hemp can be made into a variety of fabrics, including linen quality. 
*Hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what the average forest can yield.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Did You Expect? Honesty?

Would you be astonished if I told you that the BP corporate call-in center for taking calls about the oil spill from all over the world is just a sham operation? Watch the video at this website and then ask yourself if the person giving the interview would have any reason to make up such a story. She's just a hired drudge probably working at or near minimum wage whose job, it turns out, is to cover BP's oily ass. What's in it for her in telling the world that the BP oil spill hot line is nothing but a public relations ploy to make this soulless entity appear to have a conscience? It's becoming increasingly apparent that the giant oil company disregarded safety and other operational procedures to cut costs on Deepwater Horizon drilling operation. So as in so many other cases of corporate malfeasance, greed was the driving force. When did shareholders become the god that determines the fate of the Gulf of Mexico? Well, they always have been, haven't they? They are a god like Yahweh. Singularly jealous of any other gods, such as the common good, public interest, or environmental responsibility. And this god demands horrific sacrifices.

Follow-up I: Keith Obermann interviewed a marine biologist who claims BP is removing damning evidence of their mess: dying or dead wildlife carcasses. Access to fouled beaches and to the spill site in the Gulf has been restricted for some time now. Even aircraft are ordered to come no lower than 3,000 feet over the devastation, far too high to get pictures that might further erode BP's corporate image, what's left of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh Goody! Minerals!

I suppose you may have heard on television or read in the New York Times story about the $1 trillion treasure trove of minerals the geologists say are hiding in the rocks in Afghanistan. Oh, there's supposed to be tons of iron, cobalt, copper, gold, lithium, and all kinds of other valuable minerals there. The story says these deposits are: "far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials."

Fundamentally, indeed. Wanna guess what this means? It means we are never going to get our troops out of Afghanistan. Because now they will have to stay. Can you imagine any U.S. president letting the "terrorists" getting their hands on all that wealth? Hell, no. Plus Kahrzhi and his gang of thieves are probably swooning over the potential bribes all this ore is going to generate. Goody!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Wages of Sin

The tribe of right wingnuts in the Oklahoma state house continues to amaze normal people with the utter fatuousness and malevolence of the conservative vision for America. Latest case in point, one state senator Rex Duncan, a Republican naturally, who has just introduced a ballot measure to

 prohibit courts from considering international or sharia law when deciding cases. He says the measure is a "preemptive strike" against "liberal judges" who want to "undermine those founding principles" of America.
The "Save Our State" amendment would require Oklahoma courts to use state and federal laws only when ruling, and Duncan explained on MSNBC today that he wants to ensure "that our courts are not used to undermine those founding principles, and turn Oklahoma into something that our founding fathers and our great grandparents wouldn't recognize."
He said that "Oklahomans recognize that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles," and that his measure "is a pre-emptive strike to make sure that liberal judges don't take to the bench in an effort to use their position to undermine" those principles by considering international or sharia law.

Duncan continues that it's not just a possibility that judges will do this, but a reality. "This is a war to save America," he says.

I've concluded that I must have really offended the Almighty to be punished by being surrounded by thousands of people who think just like this retard. The Wages of Sin can be dear indeed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Catastrophe: Counting the Murder of the Gulf

Posted on the upper right of this blog is a grim abacus. I intend to leave it up there until BP completely shuts down the flow of oil into the Gulf. Which is at least 75 days from now.

And like the counter itself, that's the best case scenario.* I don't have the heart to adjust the slider on the gadget to reflect a higher discharge of oil, which according to many experts, is actually the case. You can do that yourself if you wish. But it seems to me that we will have pretty well killed the Gulf of Mexico, and I don't know what else, by the time they finally plug this damn thing up. God help us all.

*I'm sure there must be all kinds of quibbles large and small with the tool itself. But the counter is not the problem, so quibble with it if you want. The fact remains that a ginormous quantity of oil, which is murderous to marine life, is entering the Gulf of Mexico every single hour of every single day.

Really Creepy

This is really creepy . . . because it strikes such a responsive chord in me. I tell you, brothers and sisters, I'm just scared to death about what the long term effects of this oil spill are going to be for all of us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Tribe of Lackeys

I find it hard to believe there can be any more reprehensible character in the House of Representatives than John Boehner of Ohio. He's the minority leader, and he's as bitter a partisan Republican as ever you will find. I suppose it's his job, but what a crappy job. (And lest you think I'm sympathetic, wipe that thought out of your head. He loves his job.) While British Petroleum is literally murdering the Gulf of Mexico, Boehner and his GOP colleagues are proposing to limit the company's liability for one of the worst environmental catastrophes in U.S. history.* And in fact, suggesting that the taxpayers should be helping BP pay for this mess.

Scientists are telling us now that earlier estimates about the extent of the spill were way too low. In fact, the actual rate of defilement may be in the neighborhood of 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day, twice what's been reckoned till now. What we're talking about here is roughly 1.3 million gallons every single day. And we're now in Day 50 of the crisis. Do the math. Some scientists think the rate of defilement may be as much as 2 million gallons a day.The Exxon Valdez spill--11 million gallons--has until now been the benchmark oil spill disaster. It's receded in the rear-view mirror like a mailbox you've passed at 85 mph. The liability for this disaster and the terrible damage it is going to wreak on the Gulf coast and all the people who live and make their livings there is going to "blow the record books up," according to a former chief of the EPA. 

But Boehner and his Republican colleagues, following the lead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, think the taxpayers should help BP pay for what BP has done to us. Isn't it amazing that these hypocritical bastards are all in favor of socialism when it comes to corporate liability? We haven't heard the last of this. The Republican party is a tribe of lackeys for corporations. And that's all they are. They care about the moneyed class. And that's all they care about. I realize how extreme these statements appear. OK, I'll retract them both if you find me evidence that the GOP is more concerned about the public interest than in their partisan agenda and the interests of the giant global capitalists.

*It's already the worst oil spill in the history of this country and depending on how long the oil continues to gush into the Gulf, it could well end up being one of the worst environmental disasters ever visited upon the entire planet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crybabies . . .

In the several days since the Helen Thomas affair--just the kind of story our shallow media treats like throbbing piece of raw meat--defenders of her right to say whatever the hell she wants to say have begun saying what they thought about her abrupt resignation after 50 years as UPI's White House reporter. Were her remarks ill advised? Certainly. Offensive? Certainly, to many people. A reason to be virtually hounded out of your profession? Condemned by the president? Well, I don't think so. Thomas herself admits the foolishness of her remarks, and she has expressed regrets and apologized. But she is gone.

If you Google something like "Helen Thomas defense" or just look for "Helen Thomas" in Google News, you will find any number of people defending her. Here is the best of the ones I've looked at. It appeared as a comment by one Robert Reilly to a piece at Big Think by Robert de Neufville entitled "We Need More Obnoxious Reporters," which is certainly worth your reading also.

Here it is:

The Helen Thomas affair proved once again freedom of speech in the U.S. is qualified. What ever happened to "I may dislike what you say but I'll defend your right to say it?" This is another example of high powered interest groups bent on destroying a person for what they say and they are getting away with it to the detriment of the country by showing our ideals are far different than the reality. In other words, we use the Constitution when it suits our purpose for issues like freedom of speech and stomp on it when it doesn't. We're become over sensitive wimps. Crybabies over a few words. Scared to death over the utterance of an 89 year old woman. The fact is, Thomas wasn't a policy maker. What she said didn't mean a hill of beans in the scheme of things. She expressed an opinion that carried no weight. And her critics got to express their outrage like they have a right to do. But it wasn't enough for them. They wanted and got her head on a platter while ruining her professional reputation after fifty years of work. If Obama had said the Jews should get out of Palestine that would be a different matter. His opinion matters on the world stage. Thomas, however, should have been asked to explain her views more fully, bring them to light, and then challenge her position in a civilized fashion. Stopping on her with jackboots was about as anti-intellectual as people can get. Unfortunately, that's becoming the norm in the U.S.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Chewy Tidbits

Here are some tidbits from the latest Harper's Index:
  • Estimated cost of the environmental damage caused each year by the world's 3,000 largest companies: $2.2 trillion
  • Portion of the companies' total profits this represents: 1/3
  • Percentage change since 2008 in the number of American expatriates who have given up their citizenship: +220
  • Minimum value of all stocks currently held by life- and health-insurance firms in U.S. fast-food companies:  $1.88 billion
  • Chance that a publicly traded U.S. company started with venture-capital funds was founded by immigrants: 1 in 4
  • Percentage of Afghan police units that the U.S. military believes are capable of operating without assistance: 12
  • Chance that a new Afghan police recruit knows how to read: 1 in 10
  • Minutes of reporting on the Iraq war aired so far this year on network-television news programs: 14
  • Percentage change since 2007 in the number of alleged sexual assaults committed by U.S. service members: +18
These things always raise more questions than they answer, of course. How long can the planet sustain $2.2 trillion worth of environmental damage every year before something snaps? for example. And, just how many sexual assaults in actual numbers are our "heroes" in uniform committing every year? 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Just Plain Mean

I've been considering the meanness abroad in America. It's everywhere. I saw once again shots of the damned crazy Tea Party people with their anti-immigrant signs. You've seen these things, right? Signs on the streets and in the hands of the yahoos at countless rallies condemning the "foreign" president and illegal immigrants. These people don't want to spend a cent on immigrants or their children. They don't want to spend a cent on poor people or their children.

America! Is this a great country or what?

We are a mean-spirited, heartless people. Of course, there are millions of exceptions, but in the main, in the aggregate, we are a small-minded nation of bigots. There's no escaping this judgment. Our bloody history stands in judgment of us. Slaughter of the Native Americans, the Know-Nothings, the Klan, our chronic anti-immigrant posture against . . . well, you name it: Chinese, Mexicans, Italians, Catholics, Jews, Irish, Vietnamese, and on and on.

Read the sign, people. This is who we are.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back . . .

Just back from a quick visit to my "homeland"--south Louisiana. I was down there to make a presentation to the Deep Delta Civil War Symposium, a group I've spoken to several times now. A few random thoughts spurred by return to Oklahoma.

General P. G. T. Beauregard, C.S.A.
  • I'm a professional historian, but I increasingly find the historical disputes in whatever area of history you want to talk about are not all that engaging anymore. I made a presentation about General P. G. T. Beauregard. I spent a lot of time preparing it, and when I finished it was like, so what? What does it matter what I think about him or anybody else, for that matter? Not when BP is killing the Gulf of Mexico while I'm talking and they're all listening about events that happened almost 150 years ago. I know I have to go to at least one more of these symposiums--I wrote "symposia" and the program flags it misspelled--in connection with a series of essays in honor of my major professor, but I think after that, no more. 
  • I ate too much when I was there. I always do because I have yet to come across convincing evidence that there exists anywhere in the world better food than there. One treat I enjoyed was soft shell crab, which is a seasonal dish you cannot get all the time. Then there was shrimp ettoufee at my sister-in-law's place. It doesn't take me long to feel like I'm "home" when I'm there. Oddly--or don't know whether it's odd or not--Louisiana seems more important and special to me the older I get, in ways it didn't before. I've been gone a long time, but it's still home.
  • Susan's family (and a portion of mine, too, I suppose)  is so violently anti-Obama that I no longer discuss anything remotely connected with political events. My sister-in-law has Fox News on 24 hours a day. I makes me think of Orwell's 1984 with the endless propaganda spewing from the loudspeakers all the time. Have you ever seen Fox News? It's really disturbing to me. A constant stream of propaganda. The misinformation and blatant disregard from the basic truth, much less the nuances of things, is something Fox simply does not regard as important. It's sole purpose is to stir up opposition to the White House. No Fox News, no Tea Party movement. I'm convinced of it.
  • Didn't mention it above, but the continuation of the Deep Delta Symposium series is in serious doubt. The cuts to higher education in Louisiana have been drastic and deep. Indeed, they were telling me that the administration tried to squeeze the life out of this past one, and it was only preserved in its present form (i.e., with honorarium and expenses paid for the speakers) with great effort. Honestly, I don't think it will survive. The one just finished was the 22nd, I think.
  • Air travel still sucks.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'll Be Back

Hey, gentle readers. I'm going to be gone for the next four days doing history, family, and fun stuff in Louisiana, and therefore silent here at "Powderfinger." In the meantime, here's some nice music for you.

A "Lovely Man"

I'll guarantee you, you have never heard of this guy. His name is Derrick Bird. Or was, I should say. He's dead now. And so are twelve other people in northern England (Cumbria) because he blew them away with a shotgun. And he hurt 25 others, some critically.

A couple of things to notice: first of all, this is England we're talking about here. These are the people who are only supposed to get violent at really meaningful events in life, like soccer games. Don't know about you, but I'm always jolted when something like this happens in England. According to all witnesses, Derrick Bird was what they would call here "a good guy." Over there somebody who knew him said he was "a lovely man." Another guy said he "was the nicest bloke you would want to meet." From the sketchy information so far, it appears that only the first victim might have known this sweet bloke. The rest were strangers he just rode around the countryside killing. Apparently, Mr. Bird was considerably upset about something. But it's not clear what was bugging him at this point. I'll update this when more information is available.

Other thing to notice: England has strict gun control laws. Handguns are verboten. So Mr. Bird uses a "sporting weapon." The kind that nobody bats an eye at being legal. And I suppose if one gets one's jollies by shooting dead some bird or mammal, then the tools they use should be legal.

Finally, it's not really hard to notice that mass killing of other people because things are not lovely for you anymore or even at the moment, well, that's a good example of globalization. Happens everywhere.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's Pathetic What's Going on Here

My sister, a dear, generous, and sweet lady writes:
What a mess we have here on our little planet. Rampant corruption, environmental disasters (I cry at what is happening to the Gulf Coast), war, poverty, unemployment, home foreclosures, the rich getting richer at the expense of EVERYONE, and like your blog quoted [yesterday] "being cool to wear tatoos on your neck". This is such a scary time. Are we in self-destruct mode or what? I don't go much for the fundamentalist cry that we are in the end times, but it's pathetic what is going on here. 
Can I disagree? No. How can any thinking person not be feeling something like this? I think we must be approaching some sort of terminal stage of bewilderment, those of us who grew up in that America that seems at least a couple of centuries ago. When the future glowed with fluorescent promise over the horizon. When people had manners, and politeness and courtesy were not  semi-archaic words you had to look up in a dictionary to discover their meaning. Where there was a presumption of honesty, and even if it was misplaced as sometimes it was, it was better than presuming that everyone is dishonest and lying. I confess to being sometimes totally dumbfounded by what's going on around me. More and more I find myself dwelling on thoughts about my kids and my grandkids. What kind of a world will they be living in tomorrow? Can they ever forgive us for what we're leaving them with? Should they?

And so, as I always have done, I turn to music. It seems as constant as oxygen and just as necessary. Always a temporary respite from the roiling in my head. It soothes, and it doesn't lie. There is still some integrity in the process of putting a song together. There's comfort in the harmony it takes for musicians to do their work. And there's beauty in what they produce.

This is a nice little song. The band is called Tulsa (from Boston), and the song is "Breathe Thin." Buy yourself five minutes worth of ear candy and listen. Might take your mind off less pleasant things for a moment. (Sorry I could only find a video with audio only--that sounds weird, doesn't it?)