Sunday, December 7, 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die
Jeri Ann called today and asked me what I thought of Prop 8 - The Musical. Er, I haven't seen it, I said. What I meant was, I haven't heard of it. So she sent me this link.

Friday, November 28, 2008

More from the Good Reverend Billy

For Buy Nothing Day:
The 10 Commandments Of Buylessness
As Revealed To Reverend Billy

Forgive people, yourself and everybody else. We all shop too much.

Know your Devil. Shoppers are only dancing in the land of ten thousand ads. Consumerism is the system. Corporations are the agents of the system.

Respect the micro-gesture. Magicalize the foreground. Fore-go the plastic bag and grab that bare banana – Amen!

Practice asking for Sweat-free, Fairly-traded and Locally Made products. That's the rude that's cool.

Buy less and give more. Giving is forceful, the beginning of fantastic new economies.

Buy local and think global. Love Your Neighbor (buy at independent shops) and Love The Earth (walk to, bike to, mass transit to – the things you need.)

Citizens can buy or not buy, produce or not produce. We can change to a sustainable personal economy. Then corporations and governments will change.

Envision the history of a product on a shelf. Workers and the earth made that thing. Resisting Consumerism is an act of imagination.

Complexify. Don't be so easy to figure out. Consumers tend to regularize.
Shopping at big boxes and chains makes us all the same. Viva la difference!

Respect heroes of the resistance. A small band of neighborhood-defenders who staved off a super mall with years of protests? Beautiful.

It's our turn now. CHANGE-A-LUJAH!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping

How will you be spending Buy Nothing Day? Perhaps with the Reverend Billy?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ladies, Man your plungers.

Kara sent me a link to this. Where are the crazy ladies of Arlington when I need them?

Monday, November 3, 2008


by Pat Schneider

I have learned
that life goes on,
or doesn't.
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
measures teaspoons
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.

I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
or mice.
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.

It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.

"Lessons" by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems. © Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mama got new shoes.

I finally got them. Converse. Will people think I'm as smart and cute as Rachel Maddow now?

Friday, October 24, 2008

How Mishra Got His Name

It was winter. Julia was six. She'd been climbing on snow mountains, flying down from the top with glee. Snow mountains, in case you're not from an urban area, are built by trucks sent out by the city at the hint of snow. Since it's Virginia and there's no threat of malingering snowbanks all winter long, the drivers scoop all the snow they can find into a huge pile at the end of the block. It will melt away soon enough but in the meantime, kids can climb and fly.

The next day Juia's leg began to hurt. I thought little of it at first but after nagging discomfort over the course of a week, long about the time when the snow mountain was a mere snow hill covered in black soot, I took her to see my orthopaedist, young Dr. Mishra. He and Julia took an immediate liking for one another. He took an x-ray and saw in it something ominous and terrifying - what he thought was a cancerous growth.

He ordered tests the next day. It was Friday and it was snowing again. The hospital was short staffed but also short of patients due to the weather. I sat with Julia for most of the day as she got a series of dyes injected, scans and x-rays. Since it was Friday, there'd be not results until Monday. We had the weekend to wait. A long weekend.

I think I spent every minute by Julia's side for those three days. I read to her. We watched favorite movies - White Christmas, A Chorus Line, Singin' in the Rain. I introduced her to some of my favorite foreign films, reading every word of the subtitles to her. She loved Babbette's Feast. I recommend it.

On Monday we returned to Dr. Mishra's office to the news that he'd been wrong, erring on the side of safety. What had looked like a lesion was probably the healing of a past injury.

A couple of weeks later the kitten we had chosen was finally ready to come home. In the interim between choosing him and getting him he got his name. Mishra. Julia proudly took Dr. Mishra a photograph of him.

Back to my visitor at the door, the one who demands that Mishra be kept inside. She said he comes when she calls. She didn't know his name before. I wonder how she's been calling him.

I'm reminded again of elders in nursing homes. Does anyone care about how they got their names - named for a great aunt; after a writer or movie star that their mother thought was special, in hope for enduring greatness for their child; for mother or father or long lost relative, generations removed?

What happens to a person's name when they enter a nursing home? Caretakers often take charge of it. They may address residents as "hon" or "sweetie". They may call them Mr. or Mrs. so and so. Will they call them by their first name? Unlikely. How often is the name of the person lying in bed in a hospital or nursing home accounced, not simply spoken? How can we know that elders, frail and unable to care for themselves, are comfortable, comforted by how they are addressed?

Dr. Mishra returned to Stanford before the year was up. I wonder if when he packed up his desk he put the picture of his namesake in the box with him. I sure hope so.

My Old Cat

I stopped blogging a while back. I had to. Not enough time. Although it was fun and a lovely way to keep in touch with friends and family, it began to feel self-indulgent. I had to get back to the work of work and job of life, etc. Until today.

Late afternoon. A knock at the door. Not a pushy knock, just a knock. I figured it must an Obama supporter with a clipboard to talk about the campaign. They've already come to the house twice - once for Julia and a second time for Kristara - the youth vote. Good.

It was a woman without a clipboard. She wanted to know if I was the owner of a long-haired calico cat. I thought for a moment. Mishra is long haired but he's no calico. He's a brown tabby Maine Coon cat. Calico? I asked. Yes, calico. I do have a brown tabby Maine Coon cat, I said. Oh no, she said, shaking her head. They're very large. She went on to describe my skinny, sometimes glassy-eyed, 14-year-old baby boy. He's gotten wobbly in his old age; skinny for sure, although he's always been thin. His fur is a bit matted in spots since he's not so much into grooming anymore and he is a bit demented, I'll admit. Yep, he's mine. She then proceeded to tell me that she proposed he be kept inside and/or be taken to the pound where he could be adopted by a family that would love him and provide for him appropriately. She indicated she'd be the one taking him if I didn't keep him inside.

Taken aback, I started out slowly. He is skinny, I said, because he has liver disease. He almost died a year ago. At the time the vet said he'd need a feeding tube for at least three months in order to save him, although there was little guarantee that it would work. Rather than leaving him at the animal hospital for several days to surgically implant the tube and begin his treatment I took him home. After much thought and family discussion we decided to love him and feed him. I talked him into a couple of bites, then a few more bites and soon enough the entire household was on 24/7 feed Mishra detail.

A year later he's out and about, visiting his friends in the neighborhood. Beth gives him treats daily. He scratches on Con and Ann's back door to ask for snacks. Teresa, when she lived next door, believed cats were some sort of reincarnation vehicle for dead loved ones. She sensed her mother in Mishra. I'm just saying. I figure Fran takes him inside to feed him. He sometimes comes home smelling like perfume. I know because every night at around midnight I call him. He usually comes home and I pick him up and bury my head in his fur while he purrs. I ask him about his day. He purrs some more.

I tried to share some of this with the cat lady. I told her I was glad that she cared but that clearly we had differing philosophies of care. Mishra has been going outside for at least a dozen years, I said. He hates to stay in. And yes he's thin, but who isn't when they are old and a little sickly. The more I spoke the more upset I became and much to my surprise I started to cry. Let me just say - I am not a crier. It's not something I'm proud of. It's just a fact. I do not cry easily. But there I was, standing on my front porch, wailing at this stranger who was threatening to take my old cat away because she disapproved of his care. I left her standing there and retreated into the privacy of my home. Door closed. Click of the deadbolt for effect.

I sat and I cried and I thought. I thought about Mishra. I thought about my mother who weighed all of 88 pounds when she died. Then I began to think about countless elders, caught in webs of both good and bad intentions. For their own good. Sitting in nursing homes in chairs equipped with alarms set to go off if they dare to try to stand up. Parents and grandparents removed from their own homes, sent to live in institutions far away from their beloved Mishras and all else that they hold familiar and dear. For their own good. I thought of countless adult children of elders who make decisions about their parents care based on what? Fear; judgement; love; greed; appearances; advice/coercion of "professionals"? How conflicted we can become when faced with drugs, equipment and procedures that are available. What child would feel right turning down a drug that might, and a stress might, slow down the course of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease. How well does the drug work? What are the potential side effects? If it doesn't work how will we know and what will we do? In all likelihood, we will add more drugs on top of it if it doesn't work.

I cried about Mrs. Rehberg who spent her final days unable to talk, sustained by a ventilator, legs bound in intermittently squeezing "socks" to prevent clotting. She hated those socks and wanted them off. But they kept on squeezing as staff awaited the go ahead from her children to unplug the vent.

I cried about strangers I'll never meet.

I cried about Mishra.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In response,

Anonymous, aka, Kristara (I know it's you.) penned her description of our house in the following comment to my August 18 post.

Sweating bullets...
no breeze. no a.c.
balls of cat fur stick to fabric like velcro....
wafts of dirty dog dander.
kittie litter speckled socks.
chip and cookie crumbs...
overdue blockbuster movies.
half emptied deer parks...
blueberry boxes..
Bob calling a dog a precious angel through the window screen...
a maine coon with dreads in the sill considers not getting back up.
Awwww. She's just kidding.

I like this one.

"Untitled" by Henry Burns. From Creativity Explored!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I sit on my bed
The sounds of summer scream gently in the open window
A cat sleeps on the sill
Constant comforting background noise of bugs
Crickets or are they cicadas or something else entirely
A slight breeze comes in fits and starts
A dog yelps
A fork clinks on a plate
It's hard to work with such happiness surrounding me
Then again it's hard not to

Michael Phelps had the dreaded ADHD.

According to the article in The NY Times, as a child in school Michael Phelps was said by his teachers to have ADHD and was put on Ritalin by his doctor. One teacher is quoted by Michael's mother as having told her that Michael would never be able to focus on anything. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Amazing Art. Just Amazing.

Julia sent me a link to this museum yesterday. She told me about it on the phone in Italian, the only language she's allowed to speak right now, so I didn't get it at all. (I did understand it when she told me that in Italy the number 13 is good luck rather than bad, and that studying the Italian mafia is really interesting.) Creativity Explored!
is a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art. It has some of the most amazing artwork I've ever seen. This picture, Favorite Foods, is by Camille Holvoet. There were so many images that I absolutely loved that it was hard to choose just one. Browse the on-line listings. Savour. I mean it.

Vindicated. Finally. Thanks to Fox.

I can't believe I'm quoting Fox. But I am. And I'm passing on the information because I think it's good, really good. I've been fighting a losing battle with my kids to rid the house of scented stuff for years. Scented candles; horrible smelling laundry detergents (I rue the day the kids started buying their own products to do their laundry.); fabric softeners (Forbidden - why on earth would one need a "fabric softener"? Is it like needing a Salton Bun Warmer or an electric knife? Or maybe it's like the broom that Poe brought home recently, unknowingly, fully equipped with an "air freshener" tucked into it's side.)

Fight no more. I've got science and Fox on my side. Vindicated. Phew. Take a look!

'Fresh Scent' Detergents and Air Fresheners Could be Toxic, Study Says
Thursday , July 24, 2008, Fox News

Your favorite laundry products and air fresheners could be emitting a lot more than just a ‘fresh scent’, according to a University of Washington study.

Researchers analyzed a range of top-selling products from plug-in oils to dryer sheets, fabric softeners and detergents. What they found was that all of them contained dozens of different chemicals. In fact, researchers said all six products tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.

"I was surprised by both the number and the potential toxicity of the chemicals that were found," said Anne Steinemann, a University of Washington professor, in a news release. “Chemicals included acetone, the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; limonene, a molecule with a citrus scent; and acetaldehyde, chloromethane and 1, 4-dioxane.”

In the laboratory, each product was placed in an isolated space at room temperature and the surrounding air was analyzed for chemicals.

Results showed 58 different volatile organic compounds above a concentration of 300 micrograms per cubic meter. For example, a plug-in air freshener contained more than 20 different volatile organic compounds. Of these, seven are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws.

Steinemann had this advice for consumers.

"Be careful if you buy products with fragrance, because you really don't know what's in them," she said. "I'd like to see better labeling. In the meantime, I'd recommend that instead of air fresheners people use ventilation, and with laundry products, choose fragrance-free versions."

The study is published online by the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk. Creativity.

TED Talks are always amazing. This one takes about twenty minutes. Worth it, IMHO.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ya learn something everyday.

Word of the Day for Friday, August 8, 2008
vexillology \vek-sil-AHL-uh-jee\, noun:

The study of flags.


Tony Hoagland Poem


This year Marie drives back and forth
from the hospital room of her dying friend
to the office of the adoption agency.

I bet sometimes she doesn't know
What threshold she is waiting at—

the hand of her sick friend, hot with fever;
the theoretical baby just a lot of paperwork so far.

But next year she might be standing by a grave,
wearing black with a splash of
banana vomit on it,

the little girl just starting to say Sesame Street
and Cappuccino latte grand Mommy.
The future ours for a while to hold, with its heaviness—

and hope moving from one location to another
like the holy ghost that it is.

"Migration" by Tony Hoagland from What Narcissism Means To Me © Graywolf Press, 2003.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's age got to do with it?

So I peeked in on Salon this morning, scrolling down the list of articles looking for something funny. Funny is a good idea these days in my view. Aha. Garrison Keillor is usually good for a heartfelt, mom-and-apple-pie kind of laugh. I quote from his piece "The trouble with John McCain" -

It's no surprise that Senator McCain likes to bring out his 96-year-old mother Roberta, I suppose. The problem is that she is a lot perkier than he. The gentleman has had a few bad weeks, thundering in a dithery way about America's enemies, looking vaguely purposeful campaigning up and down supermarket aisles as if he couldn't remember what kind of cheese he'd been sent to buy. He surely will hit his stride after the Republican convention, but at the moment he looks to be eight years too late. The brash Bull Moose independent of 2000 has made all sorts of accommodations since, abandoning common sense when necessary, and his unsteadiness the past couple weeks makes his age an unspoken issue: Anyone who remembers the Iran-Contra years and the president who couldn't remember is not anxious to see a genial oldster dithering in the Oval Office. There is more to the job than flashing a big grin. You do need to make sense now and then.
It's sometimes hard for me not to jump on the bandwagon that supports the notion that John McCain is too old to be president. I'm so horrified of the thought of him winning that any port in a storm . . . But it's just not necessary.

No one, Garrison, no one should be desirous of seeing another idiot dithering in the Oval Office, whether they be flashing a grin or ordering the invasion of another country and illegally imprisoning citizens of that country for what is turning from days into years.

But age has nothing to do with it. And hey, where's the laugh?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nameless Art, Untitled by Unknown

This just in from the MOBA (one of my favorite museums of "fine" art) newsletter: "The Museum of Bad Art is excited to offer one lucky person the title of "Official MOBA Guest Interpretator" in celebration of the new book release. Submit an inspired title for this work, along with an interpretation to enter. The winner will receive a free copy of the book as well as have the unequivocal honor of "interpretating" an official specimen of the MOBA gallery. The competition will run until September 30, 2008. Send your title and interpretation to:"

We all need more silly in our lives. I'm just sayin'.

Oh, and the titles I'm working on so far: "The Eyes Have It" and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm just not sure what to think.

The New Yorker is right up there as one of my favorite publications. I've been reading it since I was a little kid. Okay, at least I've been reading the cartoons since I was a little kid. Many years ago my mother started a game of trying to guess the title of the cover each week. Jerzy and I do it to this day. That said, I don't know what to think about the cover of the next issue. I guess even one's favorite thing can let them down from time to time. I just don't know what to think.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A message from The Rev Billy

And I quote:
A headline in the papers said: Americans Stop Shopping. Can you believe this? It goes on to say: Discretionary retail spending is down six quarters in a row, big boxes in receivership, independent shops springing up...

So, the market is no longer a great shadow up in the elevator shaft that crashes down on us every time a rich person needs to leave home. The President told us that shopping was how we fight for our country - that we deserved this nationwide hypnosis - but then Americans Stop Shopping, and oh the freedom from that pain throws us forward into a delicious waltz of little everyday gestures, oh this feels good. Americans Stop Shopping, did anyone see this coming?

Yes, the corporations did. They were afraid we might stop at any moment but then we kept shopping for years and they started buying homes in the Hamptons, oh but feel that? Feel that shopping stop? Could we be fascinated again with the pharmacist couple that survived the chains? Were they Tony and Mary? Are the old first names returning to our shouts? Look at that! It’s a miracle. Our hands are changing - ungrabbing - returning to us from the credit cards and plastic-lid to-go cups...

Americans Stop Shopping and why does it make no sense to sit in traffic now - is it really just the gas? Because - see that? We are leaving our cars and trucks up on the interstate and wandering off across fields, suddenly I meet you after all these years! I remember you and I remember myself - from before all the shopping started. You know what? I’ve got a question for you.

Can you believe this headline? Americans Stop Shopping? We shopped too much because we were afraid of death but now that we stopped - the forests rise through the super mall roof and birds cry “I am here! I am here!” Americans Stop Shopping? Can we believe we are consuming less? - if we believe it then we can do it. Amen?

This has been a message from The Rev Billy Bulletin

Visit us online at

(c) 2008 All Rights Unreserved and For The People. Feel free to repost, republish and spread the good word with a link back to

Friday, July 11, 2008

mc was a good fish.

mc was a good fish. He lived alone in a tank with a big hunk of wood and a device that made bubbles and he ate store-bought fish pellets twice a day. Baby liked to help feed him. She liked to eat his food and watch him swim. Sometimes she'd put her front leg (her arm, to me) into the tank up to the shoulder to try to reach him. She's our only cat that comes to the call, "Wanna feed the fish?" But mc died today. Jerzy and I put him in a tiny box and took him to the field tonight and dug a hole with a stick and buried him. We told him he was a good fish and we hoped he'd been happy. Jerzy said she'd get me another fish . . . a better fish, she said. What could be better than mc, I thought? Jerzy said my new fish will be blue. I'm gonna name him mc squared.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

George Bilgere is a wonderful poet. IMHO.

Like Riding a Bicycle
by George Bilgere

I would like to write a poem
About how my father taught me
To ride a bicycle one soft twilight,
A poem in which he was tired
And I was scared, unable to disbelieve
In gravity and believe in him,
As the fireflies were coming out
And only enough light remained
For one more run, his big hand at the small
Of my back, pulling away like the gantry
At a missile launch, and this time, this time
I wobbled into flight, caught a balance
I would never lose, and pulled away
From him as he eased, laughing, to a stop,
A poem in which I said that even today
As I make some perilous adult launch,
Like pulling away from my wife
Into the fragile new balance of our life
Apart, I can still feel that steadying hand,
Still hear that strong voice telling me
To embrace the sweet fall forward
Into the future's blue
Equilibrium. But,

Of course, he was drunk that night,
Still wearing his white shirt
And tie from the office, the air around us
Sick with scotch, and the challenge
Was keeping his own balance
As he coaxed his bulk into a trot
Beside me in the hot night, sweat
Soaking his armpits, the eternal flame
Of his cigarette flaring as he gasped
And I fell, again and again, entangled
In my gleaming Schwinn, until
He swore and stomped off
Into the house to continue
Working with my mother
On their own divorce, their balance
Long gone and the hard ground already
Rising up to smite them
While I stayed outside in the dark,
Still falling, until at last I wobbled
Into the frail, upright delight
Of feeling sorry for myself, riding
Alone down the neighborhood's
Black street like the lonely western hero
I still catch myself in the act
Of performing.

And yet, having said all this,
I must also say that this summer evening
Is very beautiful, and I am older
Than my father ever was
As I coast the Pacific shoreline
On my old bike, the gears clicking
Like years, the wind
Touching me for the first time, it seems,
In a very long time,
With soft urgency all over.

"Like Riding a Bicycle" by George Bilgere, from The Good Kiss. © University of Akron Press, 2002.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Mary Oliver. The Summer Day

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver, from The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press, 2008.

Gone Fishin'

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's a food. It's a gum. It's anti-aging serum!

Here's what they have to say about it:

Shield your skin from the negative effects of aging and the environment. Anti-Aging Serum, with Gen III technology, visibly reverses the signs of aging at the cellular level.

Anti-Aging Serum contains concentrated levels of Gen III anti-aging complex. Gen III stimulates fibroblasts in the dermis to increase production of collagen and elastin, the elastic structural scaffolding of the skin, creating a more youthful, elastic feel. Gen III also acts to increase cell renewal in the epidermis, plumping the upper layers of the skin, and smoothing out wrinkles. Gen III is proven to rebuild basic collagen and elastin and assist the body in fighting the aging process.

Anti-Aging Serum also fortified with a unique blend of the latest free-radical fighting vitamins and botanicals, included in this blend are Vitamins A, D, B and C, aloe vera, centella asiatic extract, Japanese Green Tea extract, ginkgo biloba extract, and echinacea purpura extract. Biosaccharide gum-1 is also added to provide long lasting moisturization.

Contains concentrated levels of Gen III - the latest in anti-aging skin care technology.
Dramatically reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Gives the skin a more youthful, radiant appearance.
Free-radical fighting blend of vitamins and botanicals.
Works at the molecular level to redefine and revitalize the skin.
Great for tired, puffy eyes and the crow feet area.

Recommended Uses
Day and night, apply small quantity to the face and neck or areas that require special attention. Apply with light tapping motions. ...

Purified Water, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Matricaria (Chamomilla recutita) Extract, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Aloe barbadensis, Hydrocotyle (Centella asiatica) Extract, Camellia oleifera Extract, Ginkgo biloba Extract, Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Extract, Grape (Vitis vinifera) Seed Extract, Lecithin, Gen III, Phenoxyethanol, Beta-sitosterol, Linoleic Acid, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Allantoin, Chlorphenesin, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Hydroxide Solution (50%), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Ergothioneine

It's all in the tapping motion. I'm sure. I'm also sure I must be in the wrong business.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Poetry of Timothy J. Nolan

The Dreams of the Old

So they are around our table—my mother,
my father, an uncle—and we begin to talk
about our dreams—with some urgency—
as if our dreams could pinpoint our psychic
dangers—our unrealized goals—our
ordinary fear of death and the future.
My mother talks about her dreams of flying
over the little town where she grew up—
over the old Opera House—down Main Street—
with all the people she knew below her—
then towards the gently flowing river—
that seemed to flow into the sunset—
toward which she soared—she lingered
with us on that image—as if she had said
enough—then—my uncle talked about
his recurring dream—he's going to be
in a play—but no one's bothered
to rehearse the scenes—he's standing
in the wings waiting to go on—he doesn't
know what he will say—all through this
my father is silent—he is closest to death—
we all know this—we forgive him his silence—
his silence—has his presence—as in a dream.

The Eulogy

He could be funny, but only in small groups
of meek women—which is to say—he was not
very funny. He had beautiful and expressive
hands which he normally kept in his pockets.
When he was roused to passion, as he seldom was,
it would usually go unnoticed. He did have
strong feelings for animals—his family crest included
the loon—that symbol of fidelity and lonely song.
He was quite a mimic—I personally remember
how he could sound just like Bobby Kennedy—underwater—
if he was drunk enough. I suppose you all remember
his obsession with orchids—it was strange at the end—
his fretting over their blossoming—when would it happen?
Then, his disappointment when they would fade and drop.
He was a collector of sales receipts—some of you
may not know this—he would ask you to empty
your pockets to show him where you’d been, what you bought.
At his confirmation on June 4, 1954, he chose a verse
from the Old Testament, The Book of Haggai—“He that
earneth wages earneth wages to put in a bag with a hole.
Consider your ways, sayeth the Lord.” Let us consider
him . . . as we head downstairs. There must be other stories.

BIFOCAL dec 2006

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Don't go to Canada. Go to Costco.

I don't know if this is an urban hoax circulating the internet propagated by a savvy Costco marketer, or by a spurned and angry lover of one Sharon L. Davis. I don't know if Ms. Davis actually exists or if she wrote the following e-mail that was forwarded to me. My guess is that even if Ms. Davis is being punked, the facts listed are probably true or at least, food for thought and further research. I'm just the messenger, the conduit.


This is worth reading. Be sure to read to the end. You will be amazed. Let's hear it for Costco!! (This is just mind-boggling!) Make sure you read all the way past the list of the drugs. The woman that signed below is a Budget Analyst out of federal Washington , DC offices.

Did you ever wonder how much it costs a drug company for the active
ingredient in prescription medications? Some people think it must cost a lot, since many drugs sell for more than $2.00 per tablet. We did a search of offshore chemical synthesizers that supply the active ingredients found in drugs approved by the FDA. As we have revealed in past issues of Life Extension, a significant percentage of drugs sold in the United States contain active ingredients made in other countries. In our independent investigation of how much profit drug companies really make, we obtained the actual price of active ingredients used in some of the most popular drugs sold in America

The data below speaks for itself.

Celebrex: 100 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $130.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.60
Percent markup: 21,712%

Claritin: 10 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $215.17
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.71
Percent markup: 30,306%

Keflex: 250 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $157.39
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.88
Percent markup: 8,372%

Lipitor: 20 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $272.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $5.80
Percent markup: 4,696%

Norvasc: 10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $188.29
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.14
Percent markup: 134,493%

Paxil: 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $220.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $7.60
Percent markup: 2,898%

Prevacid: 30 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $44.77
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.01
Percent markup: 34,136%

Prilosec : 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $360.97
Cost of general active ingredients $0.52
Percent markup: 69,417%

Prozac: 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) : $247.47
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.11
Percent markup: 224,973%

Tenormin: 50 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $104.47
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.13
Percent markup: 80,362%

Vasotec: 10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $102.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.20
Percent markup: 5 1,185%

Xanax: 1 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) : $136.79
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.024
Percent markup: 569,958%

Zestril: 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) $89.89
Cost of general active ingredients $3.20
Percent markup: 2,809

Zithromax: 600 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $1,482.19
Cost of general active ingredients: $18.78
Percent markup: 7,892%

Zocor: 40 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $350.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $8.63
Percent markup: 4,059%

Zoloft: 50 mg&nbs p;
Consumer price: $206.87
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.75
Percent markup: 11,821%

Since the cost of prescription drugs is so outrageous, I thought everyone should know about this. Please read the following and pass it on.

It pays to shop around. This helps to solve the mystery as to why they can afford to put a Walgreen's on every corner. On Monday night, Steve Wilson, an investigative reporter for Channel 7 News in Detroit, did a story on generic drug price gouging by pharmacies. He found in his investigation, that some of these generic drugs were marked up as much as 3,000% or more.

Yes, that's not a typo.....three thousand percent! So often, we blame the drug companies for the high cost of drugs, and usually rightfully so. But in this case, the fault clearly lies with the pharmacies themselves. For example, if you had to buy a prescription drug, and bought the name brand, you might pay $100 for 100 pills.

The pharmacist might tell you that if you get the generic equivalent, they would only cost $80, making you think you are 'saving' $20. What the pharmacist is not telling you is that those 100 generic pills may have only cost him $10!

At the end of the report, one of the anchors asked Mr. Wilson whether, or not there were any pharmacies that did not adhere to this practice, and he said that Costco consistently charged little over their cost for the generic drugs.

I went to the Costco site, where you can look up any drug, and get its online price. It says that the in-store prices are consistent with the online prices. I was appalled. Just to give you one example from my own experience, I had to use the drug, Compazine, which helps prevent nausea in chemo patients & bsp; I used the generic equivalent, which cost $54.99 for 60 pills at CVS. I
checked the price at Costco, and I could have bought 100 pills for $19.89.

For 145 of my pain pills, I paid $72.57. I could have got 150 at Costco for $28.08.

I would like to mention, that although Costco is a 'membership' type store, you do NOT have to be a member to buy prescriptions there, as it is a federally regulated substance. You just tell them at the door that you wish to use the pharmacy, and they will let you in. (this is true) I went there this past Thursday and asked them. I am asking each of you to please help me by copying this letter, and passing it into your own e-mail, and send it to everyone you know with an e-mail address.

Sharon L. Davis
Budget Analyst
U.S. Department of Commerce
Room 6839
Office Ph: 202-482-4458
Office Fax: 202-482-5480
E-mail Address:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Quick. See The History Boys

If you're in D.C. and have the time and the money, quickly, go online or call the Studio Theatre for tickets to see The History Boys (wiki info here). I'll admit to having loved the movie based on the play, starring some of the same actors that had performed in the stage version in London. But last night I went with Chris to see it performed at the Studio and I gotta say, it's right up there as one of the best productions I've seen in a long, long time.

Poems and Those Who Read Them

A New Poet

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day—the odor of truth
and of lying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

Linda Pastan , Heroes In Disguise , W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Selecting A Reader

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

Ted Kooser, From Delights & Shadows, published by Copper Canyon Press, 2004

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Father. Son. Amazing.

The radio in my car is broken. It hasn't worked in quite a while. I love listening to NPR and the primary place I'm accustomed to listening to it is in the car. Whenever I drive Avery's car, with radio intact, minus the XMRadio that we somehow seem to disconnect by mistake effortlessly, I listen. A couple of weeks ago was a segment on StoryCorp. StoryCorp is a travelling AirStream, well I can't say if it's actually an AirStream, but whatever it is, it travels around the country fully equipped and ready to record our thoughts. Check out the schedule in case you get inspired. In the meantime, listen to father and son, Bob Chase Junior and Senior, recounting the 1950s. Good stuff. Really good stuff.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm Just Sayin' or I'm Just the Messenger. A tiny messenger at that.

I'm not very politically savvy. I'm like a person who doesn't know much about art but knows what she likes. Oh, I am a person who doesn't know much about art but knows what she likes.

So, here's what I know today. I know that Avaaz exists and is working to become a grassroots power of support for people worldwide. I don't know how it will fare but in my non-politically savvy way I figure it's a step in the right direction. I'm reminded of Jeffrey Sachs' words about global poverty and starvation being not just their problem but everyone's. So if one doesn't feel motivated by altruism, the notion that the success of others breeds success for us might just do it. I know that when we objectify others, whether it be other humans or animals, we take away any imperative to act humanely.
So much for poetry. Grrrrr.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Forgive me. Another poem. It beats my complaints about so much wrong in the world, yes?

I read lots of on-line publications. I subscribe to lots of on-line newsletters. Most of them bring me news about what's wrong in the world. Alternet; The Tyee; Huff Post; Common Dreams; etc. You know the list.

Food issues - Ugh. Stay away from fast food. Stay out of the grocery store.
Ethanol - Ugh.
Bottled water - Ugh. Read Elizabeth Royte's book, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. In the meantime, stop buying it.
Sexism, Racism, Ageism, The War, The Environment . . . You know the list. It's long and getting longer all the time.

So, instead of ranting, how about a poem. Thanks to the Writer's Almanac. Lots of thanks.

The Man Next Door Is Teaching His Dog to Drive
by Cathryn Essinger

It all began when he came out one morning
and found the dog waiting for him behind the wheel.
He thought she looked pretty good sitting there,

so he started taking her into town with him
just so she could get a feel for the road.
They have made a few turns through the field,

him sitting beside her, his foot on the accelerator,
her muzzle on the wheel. Now they are practicing
going up and down the lane with him whispering

encouragement in her silky ear. She is a handsome
dog with long ears and a speckled muzzle and he
is a good teacher. Now my wife, Millie, he says,

she was always too timid on the road, but don't you
be afraid to let people know that you are there.
The dog seems to be thinking about this seriously.

Braking, however, is still a problem, but he is building
a mouthpiece which he hopes to attach to the steering
column, and when he upgrades to one of those new

Sports Utility Vehicles with the remote ignition device,
he will have solved the key and the lock problem.
Although he has not yet let her drive into town,

he thinks she will be ready sometime next month,
and when his eyes get bad and her hip dysplasia
gets worse, he thinks this will come in real handy.

"The Man Next Door Is Teaching His Dog to Drive" by Cathryn Essinger from My Dog Does Not Read Plato. © Main Street Rag Publishing Company.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ted Kooser. Poet.


Today you would be ninety-seven
if you had lived, and we would all be
miserable, you and your children,
driving from clinic to clinic,
an ancient, fearful hypochondriac
and his fretful son and daughter,
asking directions, trying to read
the complicated, fading map of cures.
But with your dignity intact
you have been gone for twenty years,
and I am glad for all of us, although
I miss you every day--the heartbeat
under your necktie, the hand cupped
on the back of my neck, Old Spice
in the air, your voice delighted with stories.
On this day each year you loved to relate
that at the moment of your birth
your mother glanced out the window
and saw lilacs in bloom. Well, today
lilacs are blooming in side yards
all over Iowa, still welcoming you.

Poem: "Father," by Ted Kooser, from Delights and Shadows. © Copper Canyon Press

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Wanna Walk and Talk

John Francis didn't ride in motorized vehicles for 22 years. He didn't talk for 17 years. He did walk a lot and he earned three degrees along the way. I suspect his class presentations in school were amazing.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my dislike of automobiles and driving and my preference for walking. (Forgive me, Julia, for that day in December when I made us walk to buy Jerzy's birthday presents, lugging them back all those miles in the cold. You too Jerzy - sorry about my tirades when anyone wanted to be driven to the shopping center. And while I'm apologizing, I'm sorry for crying in malls. I hope it was okay for you.) There's nothing I'd like better than to walk to everything. Talking is another matter. I barely go 17 minutes without talking, even if just to myself. Fortunately, I was able to keep largely silent during John Francis' talk the other night sponsored by National Geographic. Perhaps I whispered a bit to Chris from time to time. I can't be certain. But I mainly listened.

As trite as it may sound, John Francis is an inspiration. You can watch the video about him if you like.

I bought his book. As soon as I stop yakking to friends and strangers (Who was that chatty woman outside of Starbucks today?) and driving the kids to work and class I'll read it. I hope my cell phone doesn't ring and interrupt me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I read too much poetry

I read too much poetry this morning
I can tell because I have that look about me
And I’m talking that way that says
I read too much poetry this morning

At 11:11 Poe told me to make a wish
The kids have certain magical times to make wishes
I don’t know the times
I only make my wishes when told
So I looked into Poe’s eyes
And I made a selfless wish
Maybe not entirely selfless
I mean what wish could be entirely selfless
But I didn’t wish for a million dollars
Or for health and happiness for myself
Or for the perfect lover
Instead I wished for good things for someone else
Amorphous good things
Not specific like getting accepted into the college of her choice
Or winning a million dollars
Or finding the perfect lover
And then I wondered
Should it have been more specific
Not a million dollars
But something else
Like comfort at work
Or a good grade in school
Or no cavities for a decade
I asked Poe
Can I wish for anything at all
Does a wish work if it’s too big
Like is it a waste to wish for
World peace
And she said you can but I wouldn’t

I read too much poetry this morning
I can tell because I said to my lover
How about we suspend all self and operate with the kindest, gentlest hand
Pretend we're almost strangers, delicate strangers,
Treat one another extraordinarily carefully
Lest we implode, or explode, or simply shrivel

I read too much poetry this morning
I can tell because I’m writing this
And making it look and feel like a poem
Even though it isn’t

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stephen Dunn is a wonderful poet IMHO.

Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry

Relax. This won't last long.
Or if it does, or if the lines
make you sleepy or bored,
give in to sleep, turn on
the T.V., deal the cards.
This poem is built to withstand
such things. Its feelings
cannot be hurt. They exist
somewhere in the poet,
and I am far away.
Pick it up anytime. Start it
in the middle if you wish.
It is as approachable as melodrama,
and can offer you violence
if it is violence you like. Look,
there's a man on a sidewalk;
the way his leg is quivering
he'll never be the same again.
This is your poem
and I know you're busy at the office
or the kids are into your last nerve.
Maybe it's sex you've always wanted.
Well, they lie together
like the party's unbuttoned coats,
slumped on the bed
waiting for drunken arms to move them.
I don't think you want me to go on;
everyone has his expectations, but this
is a poem for the entire family.
Right now, Budweiser
is dripping from a waterfall,
deodorants are hissing into armpits
of people you resemble,
and the two lovers are dressing now,
saying farewell.
I don't know what music this poem
can come up with, but clearly
it's needed. For it's apparent
they will never see each other again
and we need music for this
because there was never music when he or she
left you standing on the corner.
You see, I want this poem to be nicer
than life. I want you to look at it
when anxiety zigzags your stomach
and the last tranquilizer is gone
and you need someone to tell you
I'll be here when you want me
like the sound inside a shell.
The poem is saying that to you now.
But don't give anything for this poem.
It doesn't expect much. It will never say more
than listening can explain.
Just keep it in your attache case
or in your house. And if you're not asleep
by now, or bored beyond sense,
the poem wants you to laugh. Laugh at
yourself, laugh at this poem, at all poetry.
Come on:

Good. Now here's what poetry can do.

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There's an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You're beautiful for as long as you live.

by Stephen Dunn

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jeri Ann sends me links to YouTube videos of kittens. Sometimes they're just too much. My response to her:

Judith Shapiro wrote:
omg, i love kittens. how will i stop at five cats? i want a litter.

Jeri Ann wrote: I thought I could quell my hunger for a pair of kittens by looking at YouTube videos - right, that's like looking at a sex film so you won't want sex so much.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Julia Katherine

Happy Birthday Julia
Twenty years ago
I remember looking at you in the hospital nursery
(Yes, you were born in a hospital
Not at home with a midwife
Like so many of my hipper friends' babies
But in a hospital
With doctors and nurses
And ultimately the operating room
To save your little life
Or was it to save mine?)
And realizing that you were the
Most beautiful baby
Truly the most beautiful one
And for the first time
I realized why people showed me pictures of their babies
And I remember looking at the oven-stuffer roasters
When I was pregnant with you
I suspect you probably don't want to hear about that
But I did
I'd pick up a chicken in the refrigerated cabinet
In the grocery store
And look at the weight
And look at my bulging belly
And wonder
I knew you weren't a chicken by the way
I knew you were a baby
I just wondered how you were going to get out
(And frankly sometimes thought it was totally weird
Like a science fiction movie
That we grew little people inside us
And walked around on the street
Outside like it was perfectly normal)
What I didn't know was how wonderful you'd be
I didn't know about walking with you
For years
Hours and hours of walking and talking
And watching you grow up
I remember every time you'd get a little older
I'd tell Dianne that this was my favorite stage
Definitely this age was the best
I'm sorry you cut your leg on the file cabinet
I still have the shirt with the teeth marks in it
Holes actually
That you chewed while I held your hand
And the doctor stitched you up
I'm sorry you broke your leg flying down the stairs
I hope it's okay that I let you
Play soccer with your cast on
And Rollerblade
And swim
It was nice of the doctor
To keep adding on to your cast
When you wore it down exposing your skin
Over and over again
He did that five times, right?
Remember when you wanted to name Jerzy Rosemary?
And you named Duck Duck?
And you wouldn't let me smile at Snippy
Because baring teeth scared him?
Remember how people often asked if I was your teacher?
I should have told them,
"No, actually, she's my teacher."
I should have thought of that

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Nutcracker

I remember the summer of 1969. It was the first since I was a little kid that I didn't shave my legs. I remember wanting to shave them so badly when I was little, starting as soon as my mother would let me, like a boy taking off the peach fuzz on his upper lip. I wanted to be like the women - legs shaved, haired teased and sprayed and "face put on" before leaving the house.

Not so for me in 1969. No more putting my face on or setting my hair. Hell, I didn't even iron it anymore. I was in a "Women's Group". We'd meet once a week to talk about Feminism. Not shaving our legs loomed large as a meaningful topic - the feel of the hairs moving in the breeze was a big deal to us. We gave up wearing bras (Oh, how I loved my "training" bra when I was 12.) and made sure we referred to one another as women, not girls. That was then. A kinder, gentler time as it turns out.

Now, Stacey sent me a link to this Washington Post article, "Misogyny I Won't Miss", by Marie Cocco
Thursday, May 15, 2008; Page A15

I am reprinting the article here in its entirety. I have to admit, I've avoided seeing most of what Ms. Cocco mentions during the campaign, but certainly not all. The sexism surrounding Hillary Clinton has been extraordinary. I'm saddened by it. Read Marie Cocco's take. It's short and sweet. Well, I don't know about the sweet. It's a bitter pill we swallow.

I give you Ms. Cocco . . .

"As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.

The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).

But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).

When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).

I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I haven't read this yet. But I want to. You?

I read about this on AlterNet. Wanna read it right away. Here's what the publisher says about it. --

Half the world is malnourished, the other half obese-both symptoms of the corporate food monopoly. To show how a few powerful distributors control the health of the entire world, Raj Patel conducts a global investigation, traveling from the "green deserts"of Brazil and protester-packed streets of South Korea to bankrupt Ugandan coffee farms and barren fields of India. What he uncovers is shocking — the real reasons for famine in Asia and Africa, an epidemic of farmer suicides, and the false choices and conveniences in supermarkets. Yet he also finds hope — in international resistance movements working to create a more democratic, sustainable, and joyful food system.

From seed to store to plate, Stuffed and Starved explains the steps to regain control of the global food economy, stop the exploitation of farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance.

About the Author: Raj Patel, former policy analyst for Food First, a leading food think tank, is a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for African Studies. He has written for the Los Angeles Times and Financial Times, and while he has worked for the World Bank, WTO, and the UN, he has also been tear-gassed on four continents protesting them.
Okay, so it's the job of the publisher to make it seem good in order to get me to buy it. And of course the ideals sound too high and lofty -- "stop the exploitation of farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance" -- Sure it's that simple. Not. But, ya gotta start somewhere.

Mary Oliver. Journey

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It truly is time to Move On, isn't it.

I suggest you read poetry by Mary Oliver.

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches
of other lives -
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey,
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning,
feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over
the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left -
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one's foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one's foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird's pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened

in the night

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,

and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what's coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn't ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean's edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.

Mary Oliver

Monday, May 12, 2008

Next Mother's Day

This article published on Monday, May 12, 2008 by

Next Mothers Day Let’s Invite the Whole Family
by Medea Benjamin

Next Mothers Day, I don’t want to be organizing yet another rally of Mothers Against War in Washington DC and lamenting the state of our dysfunctional human family. I want to be celebrating the successes of the first 100 days of a new administration. I want to see us healing the collective traumas of the past eight years and becoming a nation that reflects the values of compassion and kindness that most mothers hold dear.

Next Mothers Day, I want us to be welcoming our soldiers home from Iraq and taking care of them when they get here. I don’t want to hear any more bickering in Congress about whether we should provide decent educational benefits to our vets — especially from those who supported the war! I don’t want to read more horror stories about dilapidated VA hospitals and bureaucratic sinkholes that keep veterans from getting the care they need. I want us to come together — whether we were for or against this war — to nurture our wounded sons and daughters.

Next Mothers Day, I want us to have come to grips with the disaster we have wreaked upon the Iraqi people. I want us to mourn their losses, express contrition and help rebuild the nation we destroyed. I want us to ensure a viable homeland for our Palestinian sisters and brothers. I want us to rebuild a relationship of trust and respect with our Arab neighbors so that we can mutually address the threat of terrorism.

Next Mothers Day, I want us to repair old family feuds. I want us to restore relations with the Cuban cousins we banished some 50 years ago, starting with lifting the embargo. I want us to sing and dance and drink mojitos with our Caribbean kin, relishing in our common zest for life.

We shouldn’t stop with Cuba. I want us to reach out with a mother’s open arms toward other nations we are today bullying, from Venezuela to Iran. I want us to bring out the carrots and put away the sticks, as we have recently done in the case of North Korea. I want us to abandon the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to nuclear deterrence and support global disarmament.

Next Mothers Day, I want us to be immersed in a crash course on overcoming our oil addiction and cleaning up the mess we have made of our Mother Earth. I want us to stop pillaging the family jewels and instead embrace conservation, restoration and a fairer distribution of our planet’s wealth.

Next Mothers Day, I want us to practice unconditional love. I want us to heed the words of Julia Ward Howe’s original Mothers Day proclamation when she said that “We, the women of one country, will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to injure theirs.” I want us to form kinship circles that stretch across the globe, to teach our children to feel empathy towards other children, to truly embrace the concept of universal oneness.

Next Mothers Day, when we sit down to a bountiful brunch, I want the other members of our global household to be seated at the table. That will truly be a fitting tribute to the women who brought us into this world.

Medea Benjamin ( is cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. If you would like to help the Iraqi refugees, see

Patrick Phillips is a fabulous poet.

By Patrick Phillips

After the biopsy,
after the bone scan,
after the consult and the crying,

for a few hours no one could find them,
not even my sister,
because it turns out

they’d gone to the movies.
Something tragic was playing,
something epic,

and so they went to the comedy
with their popcorn
and their cokes,

the old wife whispering everything twice,
the old husband
cupping a palm to his ear,

as the late sun lit up an orchard
behind the strip mall,
and they sat in the dark holding hands.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

When I had my first child I became mortal. It actually began somewhere around my sixth or seventh month of pregnancy when I got too big to move fast enough to outrun a would-be predator. Once the kids were born I was keenly aware of my need to stay alive so they wouldn't lose their mother. I'm thankful that I didn't become someone's mother in my twenties or early thirties. How could I have gone rapelling or done any number of other things that might have seemed overtly or even nominally liable to put my life at risk?

We all have our mother stories -- good, bad, funny, poignant, mundane. There's no way around it. Yesterday in Salon was an article, "Little girl lost, little girl found", an excerpt from "Comfort: A Journey Through Grief" by Ann Hood about the death of her daughter and subsequent adoption of a baby from China. "I never thought I'd be able to enjoy Mother's Day again. Then, life brought me Annabelle."

"They mark them, you know," someone told us before we left for China. "The mothers brand the babies they abandon. It's a sign of love."

We had heard stories about babies being found with a yam, a sign of how valuable the baby was. We had heard of a note left that simply said: This is my baby. Take care of her. We had heard of one baby found with a bracelet around her wrist, and another with a river rock to indicate she was from a town near water. But this branding was something new.

The group of ten families with which we traveled to China, all got our babies at the same time, in a nondescript city building in Changsha. Changsha is the capital of Hunan Province, and it is four hours from Loudi and the orphanage. Soon, people were lifting pant legs or the cuffs of sleeves to show the small scars on their babies. "They mark them," one mother said, spreading her new daughter's fingers to reveal a scar in between the index and pointer.

On Annabelle's neck I found a thick rope of scar tissue, round and small. The pediatrician examined it and frowned. "Don't get upset," he said, "but this almost looks like a burn that has healed."
We are all branded, I thought. Some of us more than others. Some of us with unconditional love and security. Others with pain, abandonment, bruality. Some of us overtly. Others covertly. But we're branded just the same.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

As Seen on Changing Aging

And while we're on the subject of stuff Chris told me about, here is a video she saw on Changing Aging. This is an amazing group of humans treating humans humanely.

Animated Cartoons a la New Yorker. Who knew?

Got too much time on your hands? No dirty dishes to wash; cats to feed; kids to drive; dog to walk; bills to pay; work to do; papers to write; books to read; laundry to wash? (I was going to say laundry to fold but realized folded laundry is a low priority, luxury. I'd be happy with washed and dried.) Great. You're in for a treat, a time-consuming treat -- The New Yorker on-line. As if I don't already have unread New Yorkers piling up in print form, Chris has directed me to the on-line version. You know how when the magazine arrives the first thing you do is read the cartoons? (Even smart people read the cartoons first, I've been told. Do you suppose that includes the likes of Madeleine Albright?) Well, now you can go to the New Yorker and watch animated cartoons (I suggest you start with "Surprise Party") first before finding far too many interesting, well-written, informative articles to read -- add them to your favorites file; copy and paste them into the Save for Later Reading folder. Best of luck. I never made it past the cartoons.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sisterly Love or I support self-medication.

Jeri Ann wrote: I have eaten so much chicken today feathers have sprouted between my arthritic little fingers.

Judith Shapiro wrote: gotta go get chocolate. you?

Jeri Ann wrote: I'm on my way - the best selection is down the street at Cost Plus World Market - Swiss, Belgian, oh just a fine display. More later. Love you.

Judith Shapiro wrote: world market, eh? i'm on it.

Jeri Ann wrote: I think the best ones are the ones in the tube - Drosdt? not sure of the name, but there are disks half milk and half dark which are so very fine. Lindt truffle balls are very acceptable too. Avoid the caramels!

May 10, 2008 is Pangea Day

You can go to the Pangea Day site to get info. Here is some of what you'll read there:

The Pangea Day Mission & Purpose
Pangea Day is a global event bringing the world together through film.

Why? In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it's easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.

The Pangea Day Event
Starting at 18:00 GMT on May 10, 2008, locations in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked for a live program of powerful films, live music, and visionary speakers. The entire program will be broadcast – in seven languages – to millions of people worldwide through the internet, television, and mobile phones.

The 24 short films to be featured have been selected from an international competition that generated more than 2,500 submissions from over one hundred countries. The films were chosen based on their ability to inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another person's eyes.

The program will also include a number of exceptional speakers and musical performers. Queen Noor of Jordan, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, musician/activist Bob Geldof, and Iranian rock phenom Hypernova are among those taking part.

What Will Happen After Pangea Day
People inspired by Pangea Day will have the opportunity to participate in community-building activities around the world. Through the live program, the Pangea Day web site, and self-organized local events, everyday people will be connected with extraordinary activists and organizations.

Many of the films and performances seen on Pangea Day will be made available on the Web and via mobile phone, alongside open forums for discussion and ideas for how to take social action.

A Pangea Day documentary will be created to catalyze future activities, and dozens of talented filmmakers will make strides in their careers.

In 2006, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim won the TED Prize, an annual award granted at the TED Conference. She was granted $100,000, and more important, a wish to change the world. Her wish was to create a day in which the world came together through film. Pangea Day grew out of that wish.
It's amazing what goes on in the world while I'm walking across the street to check the mail and get a cup of coffee and taking photographs of stray gloves and cigarettes. Amazing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Yes, Stacey. Don't forget to take your camera.

In a comment to my post, What I learned on yesterday's walk, May 7, Stacey said: "i really need to start carrying my camera around." I say, yes Stacey you do cuz then you can take photos of cool gloves like this one

And this one.

Hymn to the Comb-Over

Wesley McNair

How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extends halfway around
the head, others four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time's passing
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, offices, and malls across America.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sugar. Sugar substitutes. Calorie counts. Whatever happened to food?

I've been thinking about the The Washington Post article, "All Substitutes Are Not Equal" by Sally Squires, Tuesday, May 6, 2008; Page HE01. The HE in HE01 stands for Health. I'm confused. Promoting the continued and increasing consumption of artificial sweeteners is a healthy thing?

Despite the obesity epidemic, a new report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association notes that Americans still eat more foods with added sugar and fat than they should and often fall short on the healthful fare. No surprise there.

But thanks to a growing number of sugar substitutes and other sweeteners, it's now possible for everyone -- even the estimated 71 million Americans dieting -- to soothe a sweet tooth without exceeding daily calorie goals. That's good, because the average adult has only about 200 "discretionary calories" per day for food and beverages with added sugar, added fat and alcohol.
How exactly is it that an average adult has 200 discretionary calories? Whose discretion? Ms. Squires continues.
In 1970, the Food and Drug Administration banned a widely used sugar substitute, clyclamate, because of cancer concerns. In 1977, a Canadian study found that in large doses saccharin -- the sweetener in Sweet'N Low -- caused bladder cancer in rats. The FDA considered banning saccharin, but Congress stepped in to give the sweetener a reprieve and has extended a moratorium on its ban several times since then.

In 2004, the American Dietetic Association reviewed the use of sweeteners and concluded that "consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners when consumed in a diet that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations."

Since then, some concerns have arisen about two other substitutes, aspartame and acesulfame K.

Aspartame is marketed as NutraSweet and Equal, and found in a wide range of products from diet drinks to sugar-free ice cream. Aspartame contains amino acids -- the building blocks of protein -- and methanol, an alcohol. It isn't heat-stable, so it doesn't do well in baking. An Italian research team found lymphoma and leukemia among female rats in a long-term study of aspartame.

Acesulfame K, sold as Sunett, is not metabolized by the body and so contains zero calories. It's found in baked goods, diet soft drinks, sugar-free gum, Domino Pure D'Lite and Sweet One, a sugar substitute for baking. Some flawed studies in the 1970s linked this sugar substitute to cancer. In 1996 the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the FDA to require better testing before permitting acesulfame K in soft drinks. Large doses of breakdown products from acesulfame K have been shown to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits and dogs, the CSPI notes.

Manufacturers, the FDA and the Calorie Control Council say that these products are safe. But in the May issue of its Nutrition Action newsletter, the CSPI called these products and saccharin either unsafe or poorly tested. The only artificial sweetener to get a "safe" grade from the consumer advocacy group is sucralose, a.k.a. Splenda.
Yes, Sally, there is an obesity epidemic. And there is a food industry that feeds and fuels it with grocery stores jam packed with all matter of "food" --converted corn products; sugar, salt, artificial flavor and color added to almost everything; processed beyond recognition food products; snack foods with an added twist emerging on the market every day; fast food emporiums that add sugar not just to the sweets but the savory items. Savory. That was meant to be funny. The rest of this is not funny at all.

Come back Antioch. Come back.

Antioch College will be closed next semester, and perhaps for every semester after that. Bad news. Really bad news. Antioch College was the coolest college around when I was in school.

So here's my idea -- The alumni that planned to give $1 million each go ahead and pony up. The administration can stay or go as they wish. The school remains open, business as usual, excellence in alternative education as usual with one added bonus - elders are encouraged to attend along with young people. The specifics can be worked out as we go.

What I learned on Yesterday's Walk.

Wondering what to do with those offensive leaves that fall out of trees, littering your otherwise pristine yard? Bag them up in plastic, leave them on the side of the road for the garbage truck to take them to landfill.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jeff Scher gives us reasons to be glad.

It's just a slice of bread.

I'd never heard of Jeff Scher until today. For some reason I looked at videos on the NY Times this morning. When I first encountered the video section of the Times I was enraged, no, too strong a word, uh, put off. How could a newspaper, all about black and white and read all over, stoop to video. Are they pandering to an audience that doesn't want to read the written word? I don't care anymore because that's where I get to see all matter of fun; interesting; painful; entertaining; horrific things and where today I found Jeff Scher, experimental artist and filmaker - Animated Life: "All the Wrong Reasons"

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Times is vindicated. A great article about the elderly. Phew.

Every once in a while I wonder if I'm being punked. Years ago it would have been, am I on Candid Camera? Such was the case when I read the article in Fashion about dresses. Jeri Ann told me she thought maybe it was an SNL skit. Here comes another NY Times article sent to me by Julia, this one, a good one. "For the Elderly, Being Heard About Life’s End" by Jane Gross, May 5, 2008. Here's the blurb: “Slow medicine,” which encourages less aggressive care at the end of life, is increasingly available in nursing homes."
And a quote:

The term slow medicine was coined by Dr. Dennis McCullough, a Dartmouth geriatrician, Kendal’s founding medical director and author of “My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing Slow Medicine, the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved One.”

Among the hard truths, he said, is that 9 of 10 people who live into their 80s will wind up unable to take care of themselves, either because of frailty or dementia. “Everyone thinks they’ll be the lucky one, but we can’t go along with that myth,” Dr. McCullough said.
I heard Dr. McCullough talk about his book a couple of weeks ago so, as is my custom, I bought it. It sits in the bookcase. Don't gonna do me much use there.

If you or anyone you know plans to live into old age, I suggest you read this article. Julia called my attention to the left hand edge where you can link to audio of Carol Armstrong reading two of her poems about aging. Definitely worth a listen. Definitely.

Remember black and white television.

Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray brought to my attention by The Very Short List

I'm sorry. What year did you say it is? Sexism reigns.

Julia just sent me a link to an article in the NY Times Fashion Diary, April 24, 2008, "Long Live the Dress (for Now)" by Guy Trebay. Here's the message she texted to my cellphone about it: "OMG I just read a Times fashion article that made me so mad. I'm going to email it to you." I thought, huh? What could be so anger producing? Uh, this article can, that's what.

It begins with three photos of beautiful, slim women in dresses, with the following caption underneath: "The summer dress, in all shapes and styles, is preferred by many women, and by men who like watching them."

I thought, aha, it's the caption that bothers Julia. Yes, it is a bit sexist. But, alas, I read on. In discussing the fashion industry prediction that the dress is dead, Mr. Trebay expresses his own dismay and then suggests that

"It may also come as unwelcome news to the female members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose wildly anachronistic Laura Ingalls Wilder frocks, Skechers and wave-pool hairdos have become as much an obsession in certain Manhattan circles as their polygamist habits and 416 children."

Hmmmm. Was Julia taken aback by his racist remarks about the Mormons? I just don't know. I thought I'd better read on.
It is also, for what it’s worth, unwelcome news to me.

That is because, unlike Ms. Slowey, I am not eager for women to become “a little more hard-core, a little more androgynous, a little more butch.” Yes, gender play is fun, and trousers are a useful wardrobe default for the woman in business. But unless you are Thomas McGuane and find nothing sexier than a woman with crow’s feet, tight Wranglers and suede chaps, you will have to concede that, for flattering a woman’s body, nothing is quite like a dress.
Trebay writes about Irwin Shaw.
Irwin Shaw covered all this is in his classic story “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” the tale that secured him a permanent place in anthologies if not exactly a perch on literary Olympus. And for all the creakiness of this warhorse about the fragile dynamics of love and desire, there remains in Shaw’s descriptions of the women on the streets of Manhattan, in their ripe young multitudes, something unexpectedly fresh and also recognizable.

Shaw wrote the story decades ago, in the era that directly preceded the feminist one that first killed off the dress, a time when women wore them all the time and not with irony. When, as Shaw wrote, “the warm weather comes” and the streets of the city were filled with women in shifts and shirtwaists and tunics and baby-dolls and sheaths, arms and legs bared, the effect they had on the urban landscape was a glorious thing.

Here are a couple of other snippets to whet your appetite.
"It’s my anti-mommy-blob outfit,” said Lesley Hartnett, who was out shopping one warm noontime last week and looking lean and sleek in a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress. “I feel glamorous in a dress, and it’s easy.” This view was shared, it would seem, by a lot of women stopped that day by a reporter on the street.

“I’m a girlie girl,” said Jacqueline Kelly, whose flowered dress was bought for her, she said, by her mother, a tiny blond bombshell. “I find that dresses are slimming, and they cover all the problem areas and highlight all the curves.”

The dress, Jennifer Emory, another midday shopper, said: “is very easy and very flattering — a no-brainer, really. It’s comfortable, and you can easily go from day to night. And guys like it because it’s so feminine.”
Do check out the article for yourself. It's a short read and it's not rocket science. No, it's not even close.