Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans: seven thousand more words




IN THE SUPERDOME (beauty in the midst of tragedy)

I spent three hours in N.O. this summer on a layover from a cross-country Amtrak trip. We were SO excited to pull into N.O. We were tired, tired of traveling, ready for a brief adventure in a new town. These now-flooded tracks are surely the same ones we rode as we cruised past the Superdome.

I was going to write about that trip someday. I just hadn't gotten around to it. It was nearly dark when we arrived, so I wasn't able to take many pictures worth having. Here's a street in the French Quarter in happier times:

And a shot of a graveyard just west of N.O. taken from the train:

I don't know why I'm doing this...for myself, I suppose. I feel helpless.

New Orleans: four thousand words

Like many of you, I don't know what to say. I've been through hurricanes, the worst being last year, but I've always been lucky enough to suffer minor damage...tree mess. Nothing like this.

Several smarty-pants types here and there have suggested that the people who live in the paths of hurricanes have it coming. After all, doesn't everyone know that these areas are prone to hurricanes? (And that's setting aside the viewpoints of hurricane-as-punishment-from-God types.)

Where would you have us go? Where in the country are people free from all disaster? Where are there no earthquakes, wildfires, blizzards, hurricanes? In your neighborhood, you say? Shall we indeed come live with you? I suspect you wouldn't like that any better.

I get paid tomorrow. I'll be sending some money in the direction of the Red Cross (follow this link to donate), which was kind to my friends when times were tough last year.

And if you have a few dollars left, consider this animal rescue effort. Or this one.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you, once-charming New Orleans.

(All photos come from the National Geographic website.)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Creature of habit that I am, I moseyed on down to Cracker Barrel this evening. Saturday's vegetable of the day is lima beans, so there's my motivation.

The "old timer" (whom I heard dubbed thus by a woman one evening some months back, a woman who clearly had 10 years on him) was set up on the porch, playing his country/folk music. I sat and listened and rocked a while. I'm not up on that genre, so as far as I knew, he could have been making it all up as he went along, except for "Rocky Top" and "I Go to Pieces." Those I knew. The man has talent, and talent I appreciate, "my" kind of music or not.

Eventually my hunger inspired me to go on inside and have a meal. Once in the door I was greeted by yet another genre of music, as "Frosty the Snowman" called to me from a music box set beside a fully-decorated, twinkly-lighted Christmas tree.

Well, it is only 88 degrees outside this evening.

Happy Christmas to one and all!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Buh-bye, little running man

It's over. It's been coming for a long time.

I tried my best to make it work. I was patient, even though you were holding me back. I kept telling myself to hang in there, that you were enough for me, that I didn't need more than I already had at home, that I should honor our commitment, that the grass isn't really greener and all that.

I was just fooling myself.

Bad enough that my partnership with you interfered with my relationships with my friends and family, but once it threatened my livelihood, I had to face my years of denial.

You're just not able to meet my needs anymore -- and little running man, a woman does have needs.

You took it better than I expected. However, when I told you I already had someone else, someone who is taking me places in ways that -- little running man, I hate to be hurtful, but my new partner does things for me that you just...couldn't...imagine -- when I told you this, you shocked me by suggesting that we continue to see one another. Little running man, I'm a one-partner woman. Yes, I've found another, but I let you know right away.

Even when I said no, no, we're through, you suggested we could get back together if it doesn't work out with my new partner. Really, I don't think so.

You said you'd write and try to win me back; you said you'd keep my name on the mailbox. That's sweet, but now it's time for you to face your denial.

I'm sure there's someone out there for you still, someone who doesn't mind living life at a slow pace. But that someone is no longer me.

Buh-bye, little running man. We had some good times, and I'll always have a soft spot for you. After all, you were my first. I wish you well.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Jude Law: Much Ado about Nothing

The question from this blog isn't how big it is or isn't. The question from this blog is: just exactly how poor IS Jude Law's judgment? Surely he must be aware that the paparazzi have a certain interest in him. Was there no cabana nearby? No house? Not even a generous bush to duck behind?

Best way not to get caught undressing outside is...not to undress outside.

8-22-05 EDIT: I've removed the link to the picture because the photo has been taken down due to a "cease and desist" warning. I was trying to defend the man--it appeared that part of the object in question was in shadow and probably filmed from not the best angle. We've all been victim of that, now haven't we? It's just usually not our unphotographed parts that are photographed poorly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Takin' out the trash

Last night my daughter and I engaged in a little family bonding: watching TV and chatting. Nothing odd about that, except maybe that she lives in California and I in Florida.

Nothing brings a family together like unlimited nights and weekends.

Due to the three-hour time difference and the way cable channels operate, some shows air simultaneously on her coast and mine, while other networks run different shows on the two coasts at the same time. Thus, she watched a yawner on VH-1 west coast version that ranked 40 hotties over 40 (Demi Moore topped the list) while I saw Dave Matthews on VH-1 east coast version. Having had enough of VH-1, my daughter went channel surfing and discovered Conan O’Brien being interviewed by Bob Costas on Larry King Live. Being a lifelong insomniac, I’ve hosted the Conester as a frequent guest in my home. So I joined my daughter over at CNN.

We did as people do when they sit together in the family room watching TV: some chat, some attention to the buzz-box. I only had half an eye on the TV when I caught an abbreviated version of the funniest darned thing I’d ever seen on O’Brien’s show: a segment featuring Detective Conan O’Brien and Detective Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. That sent me to the web to see if I could find the clip online. Here you’ll find the segment, which should be the first link. Don’t know why I can’t find it on NBC’s site. It’s worth the time simply to look at the juxtaposition of the 6’6” O’Brien and the is-he-even-4’-nothing Reich. It hurt my sides to watch the first time; six or seven viewings later it still makes me laugh.

That was last night. Today I learned that I’ll soon have the chance to hear Dr. Reich lecture in his capacity as professor of social and economic policy.

I hope I can keep a straight face.

Anyone who has seen him in his more casual moments, however, would recognize that even in the “intellectual” context, Reich would probably appreciate a smile from someone who is listening to a lecture on our socioeconomic crises but imagining a little man takin’ out the trash.

(Reich’s website links to a relatively recent appearance on The Daily Show, but oddly makes no mention of his moonlighting as a detective.)

(The foregoing is the new version of the late, lamented evaporated post discussed below. This second version was faster to write -- 20 mins., tops -- and better than the first. That revision, even revision from scratch, generally produces better work is something else that I should know by now.)

Darn. Darn!

The best lessons are the hardest to endure, yet somehow the stubbornest to learn. I just spent an hour writing, researching, and revising a post only to have Blogger slide into “error” mode as I pushed the “publish post” button.

Post evaporated instantaneously.

I am a big girl and I know better than to write without saving frequently.

Shame on me.

Of course this one, an unimportant 1-minute rant, posted without incident.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

BOOKS cause stampede? No, wait; that was iBooks

I did a literal double-take when I misread the first headline I saw on the Great Richmond iBook Stampede of 2005.

I thought it said that BOOKS had caused a stampede.

Imagine a world in which books are such precious objects that people risk their lives and threaten bodily harm to others just to get their hands on one.

Nah, I can't imagine that world, and I've tried.

Thanks to Waveflux for keeping me up to date on these important current events.

(I've been neglecting my little blog due to my beginning-of-school-year duties. Hard to see it that way...I just finished the school year last week. And no one, so far, is stampeding our bookstore.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fight fair, children

Here’s today’s lesson in argumentation.

One of many logical fallacies used to throw the audience off-kilter is the ad hominem attack. This approach attacks not the substance, merits, logic, etc. of the opponent’s argument, but the person him-or-herself. You know this from the playground: name-calling.

Let’s take a trip around the blogosphere and see if we can find any examples.

The Drudge Report, among others, suggests that Cindy Sheehan is that favorite right-wing demon, a flip-flopper.

Angry in the Great White North, providing a public service by offering long-distance psychoanalysis online, diagnoses Sheehan as suffering from displacement.

Confederate Yankee seems to characterize her as a megalomaniac, announcing that she thinks she’s the most important mother in the world. (Scroll down to “Go to hell, Cindy Sheehan.”)

Right Equals Might, like many, simply calls Sheehan a moonbat.

Yeah, those eloquent arguments will sway MY opinion.

Oh, heck, you do the Google search and find more examples on your own. I’m too annoyed.

This is not civil discourse.

(Revised slightly from an earlier post to satisfy a compulsive need for grammatical and syntactic perfection.)

Dulce et Decorum Est

When I wrote my earlier post on Cindy Sheehan's vigil, it was late, middle-of-night late, and it wasn't as eloquent or impassioned as I would have liked. One thing I meant to include but didn't is Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est," reproduced below.

Owen enlisted in the English army to fight in World War I. Once he experienced battle up close and personal, he quickly recognized the incredible waste that is war. Ironically, Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, seven days before the fighting ended.

The final line of the poem is roughly translated as "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."

Whether you believe in the necessity of any given war or not, let's all please not pretend that war is noble.

Mr. Bush, this one's for you:

Wilfred Owen
Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Answer the woman's question

My son is a Marine. He was in Iraq during what was apparently the "safe" part of the war, the part before the mission was "accomplished."

If they were polled, most parents and spouses of military members serving in a war would admit that they've imagined that horrific moment when somber-faced men in dress uniform appear at their door to deliver the worst news a mother or father or husband or wife could hear.

I've imagined it. I didn't want to, but in dark times, our minds tend to take us to dark places, whether we want to be there or not. Fortunately, the men in uniform never paid me a visit.

Cindy Sheehan's experience goes beyond macabre imagination. Her son Casey died in Iraq last year. Since then, one way she has assuaged her pain has been to get involved with anti-war groups.

Now she has taken it a step further. Cindy Sheehan is currently in Crawford, Texas, leading a small group of protestors as close as authorities will allow her to President Bush's ranch. Sheehan says she wants a face-to-face with Bush. She has a simple request:

"I want to ask the president, 'Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?'"

I've seen countless TV interviews with recently-bereaved parents of soldiers who, through their tears, would smile a sad smile and declare their pride that their children had died protecting our freedom. I don't doubt the sincerity of these parents for a moment, nor do I discount their childrens' sacrifice.

But I know that if it were me, I couldn't be so noble. My fury would know no bounds.

As unlikely as it is that Bush will meet with Sheehan, if he did, his answer would not likely stray from the talking points that everyone connected with the administration offers when asked about the wisdom of our presence in Iraq.

But I'd still like to see him make the effort.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

You got the look

I’ve been thinking about John Bolton.

And not for all the exhausting political reasons that people on all sides of the issue have been thinking about him. I could rant, but I don’t have the strength.

I’ve been thinking about his Look.

Not a one of us looks quite the way God/nature/Intelligent Designer made us. We start altering from the get-go: our first impulse with even the newborn babe is to slap on an ugly plastic ankle bracelet and a gender-specific hat.

We fiddle endlessly with the exterior package:
--we clothe our bodies, and our choices are frequently dictated not by function but by fashion
--we color our hair or cut it or shave it off or confine it with a rubber band or (apparently with some folks) send it through a food processor
--we master our thighs...or don't
--if we're truly serious about modification, we seek out a plastic surgeon and order up better body parts

We make conscious choices about the way we look, even if we don't care how we look. That itself is a choice.

We dress for success.
We decorate ourselves for sex.
We choose to look like everyone else.
We choose not to look like everyone else.

All the alterations to our outer shell are chosen, my friends. Haircut. Mustache shape. Glasses.

We make choices about the way our bodies look to make a statement about ourselves.

So...what's John Bolton's statement?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Just a rant

Dasani water with lemon is disgusting. I am so sorry I spent a buck twenty on that.

I don't usually even BUY bottled water; I'm already paying for it by the thousand-gallon at home. I suppose that's why I felt the need to buy one with flavor.

Yuck. Now, do I drink it and get my money's worth or cut my losses?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Blogging is Hard Work

I don't know how the rest of you do maintain careers, keep your families fed, tend to your lawns, and yet you also find time for blogging. Some of you are downright prolific รก la Tolstoy or Dickens, as if someone somewhere is paying you dearly for each word.

Me, I have trouble balancing my checkbook, much less my life.

I teach, and this is the last week of the summer semester. That means I get to feast at the All-You-Can-Grade buffet, which takes all my waking hours and a not-small number of my sleeping hours as well.

For this reason, I must bow out of the blogging game for the next few days. That doesn't mean I won't come visit YOU during my Wheaties break.

Have a nice week.