Archive for June, 2010

the children of the world play in spite of it all

June 25, 2010

Somewhere in the world today a child lives and breathes. But not all is well.
But the child doesn’t know it.
Somewhere in the world today a young one cluelessly entertains himself in the dusty rubble of an  earthquake aftermath. But the child is unaware of the extremity of its need,

because…well, it is only a child–innocent, unaware, having  little previous standard of comfort with which to compare its present dearth.

In Haiti, not so terribly far from the atrocity of deepwater oil that devours our attention, not so terribly far from the spewing hydrocarbonous monster… in the next oceanary body of water over, beneath the last planetary disaster that engulfed our pathos…in the place called Port au Prince…

a child picks up a cast-aside, one-quart oil container–an empty, black plastic Havoline bottle–and fashions a toy truck out of it…

an imaginary model of the truck that will one day haul away the rubble?

a plaything to carry the audacity of human hope through the midst of chaos?

A photo of this child’s toy, this plaything improvised from beneath the wreckage inflicted by some immense, far-flung planetary fault, is but one of many images that Stephanie and Lesa share with us, the comfortable online world, from their collective  efforts to assist Haitian recoveries.

They saw what they saw and they can’t deny it. Maybe you should see it too.

Balance your child in a teeter-totter world

June 20, 2010

There are two essential elements in the process of child-raising:
and Nature.

Women are uniquely equipped (whether by God or by evolution is for you to decide) to provide the nurture component, which births the child and teaches the child that he/she is loved.

Men are uniquely equipped (whether by God or by evolution is for you to decide) to provide the nature component, which initiates the birth, and subsequently teaches the child that he/she is not loved, and that the world doesn’t give a dam about (you), and you better find a way to provide for yourself.

These two put together–motherhood and fatherhood–equip the young person adequately for life in a hostile world.

Can a single parent do a great job at raising the child?
Absolutely, yes.

But the dual administration of those two balancing principles–nurture and nature–has to come from somewhere.
That’s why somebody said it takes a village to raise a child.

If you’re a single mom, get linked up with a functional community so your child can obtain the nature  balance that you alone cannot provide.
If you’re a single dad, get linked up with a functional community so your child can obtain the nurture balance that you alone cannot provide.

Please excuse my quaint perspective on this matter, but that’s what this father has noticed over the years.

keeping comfortably numb is getting harder

June 18, 2010

Back in the 70s when I was a pothead, my sense of well-being would  revolve around getting high once or twice every day. I eventually kicked that habit by the grace of God, but now I’ve moved on to the hard stuff, shooting up gasoline.

The thing is, I really hate the smell of the stuff, but mmmmmm, it sure does do the trick–take me where I wanna go. What a trip.

I guess there’s no way around these chemical dependencies this side of heaven.
Times are hard, y’all, I’m tellin ya. Its a jungle out there…or used to be anyway, a rain forest.
I mean we’re fighting wars over poppies, for crying out loud, somewhere in the world, and just down south from here thousands of  rateros are killing each other over the privilege of supplying us gringos with controlled substances.

Thankfully, though, our supply lines for those special substances  are well-established on this side of the border; we’re relatively civilized in our dispensing the stuff on this end. Users  who are really hard up for the percydan or darvuset have their little supply routes pretty well hooked up without having to go out on a street corner and hang around under a street light and risk getting shot or some such trauma.

Many of us are leaning on the prozuk or some such legitimatized medicine-cabinet ambrosia to take the edge off. Those habits could get expensive though. Alcohol might be cheaper, and easier to get.

At least we’re not killing each other over the powdery stuff like the Zetas or the Taliban are doing, and we’re not shooting each other over the gas thing. People are getting a litte  hyped-up though, in these capitalist vs socialist ideo-street gangs, with so many getting hooked up to  suppliers of  the hard stuff.

Shooting up guns and gold on one end of the hood, mainlining entitlements on the other.

If the heat gets too intense, though, its comforting to know we can grab the remote and turn on, tune in to the opiate of the people, and drop out of the ratero race for at least a little while.

Y’all vacation in the deep south now, y’heah?

June 15, 2010

Will you be taking a vacation this summer?
If so, let me suggest a few destinations.
How about New Orleans? There’s no place like it in the US. It’s like a little chunk of old France dropped down next to the Mississippi, with a shot of deep south ambiance mixed in for a cool evening highball. They do great cuisine down there; you can still get the best unique creole seafood on the planet. This would be a good time to partake of it; it may become scarce.

Take a train to New Orleans. The Southern Crescent is a richly cultural ride, and you get to see the great American south along the way, accompanied by the low, hypnotic rhythm of the rails, and the rare clatter of silverware in iced tea on white tabelecloth in the dining car. At least, that’s the I remember it.

If, after a few days in the the Big Easy, that ole crescent city gets a little too steamy for you, head east along the Mississippi Coast to Biloxi, or Mobile, or even as far as Pensacola.

Live a little. Stop to smell the magnolias, and the sea breezes. Spend a few bucks along the way; the locals will appreciate it. Enjoy classic southern cooking, with cornbread and mustard greens. Feast on broiled flounder, or fried red snapper, in the fine dining establishments.

While you’re strolling on the beach after dinner, carry a plastic bag or two. If you see anything that’s not supposed to be there, like beer cans, bottles, or six-pack plastic thingies, do us all a favor and remove them. If you find tarballs, hell, throw them in the bag too. They’re like planetary do-do; nobody wants to step on them.

A big oil wad would make a curious memento of your 2010 vacation. And it would be one less nuisance that someone else doesn’t have to step over, or swim around.
I’m serious, y’all.  Think about it.

down and dirty in Louisiana, an upclose report from Grand Isle

June 13, 2010

If you want to get a close-up view of what’s really going on in Louisiana, check out this  informative, on-the-island report from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an organization that  has been monitoring the effects of the oil industry for more than ten years.

Anne Rolfe’s blog post from Grand Isle is quite (dare I use the word in this tragic situation?) refreshing, in this respect: It’s a personal report from a woman who has intimate, historical knowledge of how the oil industry has impacted people in the bayou state.

This particular link, from “the other side of the berm” is, among other things, an honest, eyewitness perspective of the awkward interface between local folks and the world-generated legion of media personnel and volunteers.

Ms. Rolfes presents a fascinating perspective on what is going on down there at the epicenter (from a human standpoint) of our nation’s worst-ever environmental disaster. She opened my eyes to several curious details about the cleanup effort there. I’ll mention just two of them here:

a.) Two businessmen from  California who are, writes Anne, “… hawking a bioengineered, non-toxic, 100% biodegradable oil dispersant product that works by activating water-borne microflora. Armed with a visually impressive video of the stuff in action, they have succeeded in working their way up through the BP bureaucracy to the point of becoming eligible for product field trials-a feat that I understand only about 14 out of hundreds of thousands of products can boast so far. It all sounds pretty good… I wish them luck.”

b.) Volunteers from outside can work for days without encountering a local resident. Anne refers to this personnel disconnect as “weird” because the home folks are generally not interacting with traveling volunteers; they have been asked–by whom I don’t know– to not talk about what’s happening Or maybe they’re just sick and tired of the whole thing.

This cataclysm is weird. I know the feeling. I experienced  somewhat it in 2005 when my wife and I were doing post-Katrina volunteer work in Baton Rouge, but were unable to go to New Orleans because of military or governmental restrictions.

The nightmarish surreality of this disaster prompts me to think in terms of Huxley’s phrase, “brave new world.” Only “the brave” would hazard a trip down to the marshes now, to look square into the face of this monstrosity of human recklessness.

Be advised, though: one Greenpeace writer, mikeg says people are not advised to travel there.  I can understand that. It could be mass confusion. I caught a glimpse of that tendency in post-Katrina work, though the Red Cross was exemplary in their handling of that overflow of manageable volunteers.

Nevertheless, that word “brave” ricochets in my mind. I can’t help thinking that if we are to continue living in a land of the free–free of oil pollution, that is– we must truly rise to the calling of being a home of the brave.

Thank you, Anne Rolfes, for going to Grand Isle, and for giving us your informed view of what is happening there. I’m sure this is but the first of many such reports.  Keep up the good work

“The Peril of too Fierce a Zealotry”

June 12, 2010

We adherents to Abrahamic monotheism have a lot to talk about.
Let’s compare the concept of God as One (not many) to a tree that was planted long ago. We’ll think of it as, say, an olive tree.
Abraham had carried the seed stock from Mesopotamia, and planted it on a dusty site near the Jordan River. But the plant didn’t really produce much until Moses came along later and fertilized it with a rich historical accounting of deliverance from slavery, and a set of laws.
That Judeo-culture has proliferated widely over four thousand years or so, and still flourishes prolifically today in the dry, rich soil in which it was planted, so to speak.

Moses made his legacy especially potent by sowing into Jewish history the powerful story of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery.
Having escaped that bondage, however, the Jewish people found themselves out in the desert without Egyptian comforts and provisions. It was a very difficult and perilous situation for a million or so people to endure.   Moses reported in his Torah that at one point, he and his brother, Aaron, had a bloody rebellion on their hands.

The  authority issues in that long-ago rebellion of Korah’s followers against Moses eventually culminated in a demonstration of God’s appointment of who would carry the “holy fire” of the altar, and divine leadership. As it turned out, Moses and Aaron came through the ordeal carrying the fire of God’s revealed will to perpetual generations, while the rebels were rejected by God in subsequent earth-shaking events.

That series of events, known as Korah’s rebellion (Numbers chapter 16) is a thorny subject for any scholar or believer to explain. Nevertheless, the young Adele Cohen recently accepted that challenge as a part of her bat mitzvah. Roger Cohen shared a bit of  his daughter’s ceremonious Torah-talking in his NYT column last Thursday.

The young lady perceptively pointed out to her congregation that God had had some trouble relating to his people, so he appointed Moses and Aaron as intermediaries. 12-year-old Adele  said: “In my opinion that is the main reason that God has Moses and Aaron, to help Him understand the human race and help fix conflicts in a calm and rational way.”

When I read that, I was thinking: if  God had become a man, instead of just speaking through one, he might have had a better time composing a message that we humans could get a hold of.

Adele’s father, Roger, on the other had, had his cognitive wheels turning around contemporary events, as he listened carefully to his daughter’s discourse. The ever-vigilant columnist was considering her youthful counsel as it might peradventure pertain to Israel’s present predicament, especially this week’s hot spot, the  Mavi Marvara incident. When she had finished speaking, the rabbi elaborated upon her subject of how God gets his messages across to his people.

Rabbi Bachman compared God’s word to a fire.  He said, “..if you get too far from it you freeze, but if you draw too near to it you burn…The word of God can actually destroy you if you get too close.”
That seems to be what’s happening to the Israeli zealots now. They are destroying their own legitimacy, undermining their own authority. Roger, sitting there in a receptive mode, muses that they are “modern-day absolutists…cleaving too close to the fire” of what God is reported to have said. The IDF have taken their self-appointed fire-bearing too far.

Better to lighten up and allow us other sons of Abraham to have a say in the matter.

Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.

a new “tour of duty?”

June 7, 2010

“My first tour of duty here was a month,” said Michael Ziccardi, wildlife veterinarian, to Neil Conan, on Talk of the Nation.
Michael was reporting today, Monday, May 7, on efforts to rescue and clean birds, turtles and other animals  in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.
Wouldn’t it be great if we applied that phrase– tour of duty—  not only to military service, but to restorative service?

Growing old could be hazardous to your health

June 6, 2010

The world  these days is frighteningly different from the one my 80-year-old father-in-law grew up in.
Laid up yesterday in medical suspension, his crankiest complaining-point centered on the attendant whose faulty assistance could not prevent the fall that now confines him to a hospital bed.
“No speaka de English,” railed the old white guy about the “foreigner” minimum-wage health-care provider.
Yeah, it was all her fault, dad, that you fell.
They’re not like your Irish-immigrant ancestors
who were speaking the Queen’s English (ha!) in New Jersey neighborhoods back in the day.  And I guess you forgot about the Italians who had lived around the corner, or maybe you blocked them out of your memory, although I know for a fact that you later gained an intense appreciation of their restaurants and their wine.

This slow drift toward chronic fault-finding with the presently-devolving world is something I’ve noticed lately. I’ve encountered it in my own late-50s bad self. My father-in-law, however, seems to have a full-blown case of the grumpies.

He always was a perfectionist, though. That’s how it starts, you know, as if Aristotelian attempts to impose logical order on the chaotic–or some would say “dumb”– world, might actually have a constructive impact. He’s an engineer, able to make sense–and productive systems or machines–out of numbers and physical forces. Unfortunately, human beings–and anything that they initiate or maintain–do not conform to those logical paradigms.

A little bit later, though, as our attention to his present circumstance mellowed his attitude somewhat, I became amazed at the old guy’s mental sharpness. Here’s the grumpy fella imprisoned in a hospital bed, but he’s been watching numerous reports about the infamous oil spill in the Gulf. While analyzing this world-threatening problem, his engineer’s mind had recovered every millimeter of acuity. With a precise understanding of what BP guys were attempting to do to stop the gushing oil, he spoke lucidly about their mud-pumping strategies. His practical brain was striving to ascertain where such a massive amount of mud would be readily obtained and stored, and calculating pressure differentials between inside the pipe and outside it, in the mile-deep water…62 and a half pounds per cubic foot of water times x number of feet in height…

What a miserable cataclysm was being presented, by hospital-room tv on the wall, to his octogenerian eyes. What’s happening to the world? Is it going down the tubes?  Where are ya when we need ya, Shirley Temple?

What a debilitating, toxifying effluent cast upon the fertile fish-yielding, mouth-of-Mississippi waters in which his sons had fished only six weeks ago!
What a screwed-up world has unwound during his eighty years…although it is maybe not so alarming compared to what Hitler was doing to Europe when the the Jersey kid was only pubescent.

What a messed up world!  Has it always been this way? Has it always been getting worse, with more pollution spewing, more politicians cheating, more lobbyists bribing, more people speaking alien languages at you, more rogue-states killing, more priests molesting,  more unruly kids fucking, more of the world sucking…has it always been this way?
Or is that paranoia just hyper-critical cantankerism of the washed-up geezers (could that soon be me ?) in a world that has always been so?
Well, I think not.
In times past, we could discern the possibility that man might someday destroy himself. But nowadays,  I fear we might actually have the technological capability to do it.
That’s not a comforting thought for a middle-aged guy like me watching his father-in-law with all those tubes and wires stuck in him, knowing it might be me in the not-too-distant future.
Assuming we have a future.
Oh, shut yo mouth, fool!

Armando’s smile

June 3, 2010

Armando Galarraga’s smile, caught on video, is worth a million bucks. His good attitude beneath it is worth a billion. Nobody on earth can take that joyous perspective away from him–no batter, no runner, no umpire.
The Detroit Tigers pitcher had just been “robbed” of what would have been a “perfect game” by the umpire’s bad call in the ninth inning.

The umpire called the runner–who would have been the last batter of the game had he been called out–safe. It was a close call, for sure. But most everyone agrees it was a bad one. Certainly everyone in Detroit agrees it was a bad call.
The umpire later apologized for his faulty judgment. John Lowe wrote about it in the Detroit Free Press, and provides a video link.

A perfect game is, you see, for a pitcher in baseball, something like a Super Bowl ring for a football player, only rarer.
The umpire, Jim Joyce, is torn up with regret, but it took a real man, God bless ‘im, to admit his mistake in the midst of the frenzied anger that his controversial call had generated.
Galrraga was summoned to visit the umpire shortly after the game. “Nobody’s perfect,” said the great pitcher to the stricken umpire.

On the video, just a second after the travesty, Armando Galarraga can be seen smiling, like, it was nice while it lasted.
Such character.  We need more like him in America.

The tongue is a fire

June 2, 2010

How could one man provoke an entire nation into massive genocide?
He made a deal with the devil.
What was the contract?
Adolf Hitler sold the soul of his adopted nation to the god of forces in exchange for fulfillment of his hate-wish against the Jews. After the deal was struck, he absconded from the other side of the world a symblol unfamiliar to western eyes–an ancient swastika that was alien to the German people and their traditions. With that strangely stark crooked shape he thrust his destructive will upon an unsuspecting world.
His campaign of war and destruction was no final “solution” to anybody’s problem.
How did he do it?
Hate speech.
Could what happened in Nazi Germany happen here?
Do I want to live in a nation in which hate speech is protected?
Do I want to live in a nation in which free speech is protected?
Can I have it both ways?  Condemnation of hate speech, and freedom of speech?
Can we regulate the hateful impulses of men during volatile times?
If the Federal Communications Commission, for instance, places Internet Service Providers under Title II of the Communications act, does that regulation contain any power to curtail the power of hateful people to unleash havoc upon the world?
Or do we, by proclaiming yet more small-print rules to be printed in dusty legal volumes, just lay one more branch upon the funeral pyre of impotent human government?

We can make all the rules we want to, but we can effectively govern only actions, not intentions.