Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, noviembre 30, 2008

Gitmo: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

This morning's New York Times reports that Spain will investigate whether a previous government permitted Spanish territory to be used in transporting prisoners to Gitmo. One thing is obvious. Yes, Spain permitted its territory to be used to transport prisoners.

According to The Times
Spain will investigate whether a previous government allowed Spanish territory to be used to transport captured terrorism suspects to Guantanamo Bay, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry said in a statement it had not been informed whether the government of Jose Maria Aznar, in power from 1996 to 2004, allowed CIA flights carrying captured foreigners to use Spanish air space or runways.

The newspaper El Pais said in a report Sunday that it had obtained a government document showing that a U.S. official asked the Foreign Ministry for such access in January 2002. El Pais published the document -- labeled MUY SECRETO, or top secret -- in its paper and Web site editions.

The request was communicated to Josep Pique, who was foreign minister, hours before a CIA flight landed at Moron air base in southwest Spain, the El Pais report said.

The story in El Pais is here (en Espanol), and the documents are here: part 1 (pdf) and part 2 (pdf). All are in Spanish.

The important part (my translation from the El Pais story, for which I apologize in advance):
The USA is going very soon to initiate flights to transfer Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners from Afghanistan to the Guantánamo, Cuba base", Aguirre de Cárcer wrote. "These flights will be carried out with long distance airplanes and, consequently, without stop overs," it continued. "Nevertheless, if for unanticipated reasons, like the necessity of a forced landing, the Government of the USA wants to obtain authorization from the Spanish Government to use some airport in our country". "The Government of the USA," he emphasized, "Assures that these stop overs would be for the time minimum essential to transfer to another airplane at the airport to continue the flight and that, to this end, the US would have prepared airplanes in reserve in the region to move immediately if necessary. At any moment, the USA would be responsible for the security of the transported people".
So this is how it's done. The US serves up at the last possible minute a fait accompli with some seriously misleading terms and voila! the flight can land in Spain. Among the seriously misleading parts are who the prisoners are, where they might be from, where they're going, and on and on, the entire litany of black holes, extraordinary renditions, illegal extraditions, kidnappings, torture. None of that is disclosed.

Is it any wonder that there is no trust of the present Administration across the world.

A first step to remedy some of this? Close Gitmo. Find out who's there. Try those that can be tried in federal courts. Release everybody else. Put a period at the end of this ugly chapter from our national story. Prosecute those who are responsible.

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sábado, noviembre 29, 2008

On Shooting Self In Thigh: My Country 'Tis Of Thee

Plexico Burress, Shakespearean Tragic Hero

OMFG. New York Football Giants star receiver Plexico Burress last night shot himself in the thigh with a handgun. Will he play again this year? Who knows? He was released from the hospital today. There are other questions though. Like: WTF is he doing with a loaded pistol in a night club during the season? And htf did he shoot himself in the thigh? Isn't that like totally embarrassing? And is this the stupidest economic "accident" we've seen this year, a year of gigantic, incredibly stupid economic "accidents?"

So those of us in the "life as figure of speech" department were thinking about Plexico Burress this afternoon. And we were thinking hard.

The big question for us is whether he's a metaphor for the United States's economy? Or the war effort in Iraq? Or the Bush Administration? Or the War on TerrorTM? Or something else that's a gigantic f*ck up?

What kind of figure of speech is he anyway? Is this an example of synecdoche? Is this an example of metonymy? Is it metaphor? WTF is this anyway? And, more important, what does it mean, if anything, to us?

I know that you, dear readers, are incredibly busy and perplexed by other, vital questions, but seriously now, have you ever heard of anything as ridiculous as this?

Then again, oops. I guess so. How about Michael Vick?

Oh, goddess supreme, preserve us in safety from the end of this Empire.

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martes, noviembre 25, 2008

On Gratitude

A ritual and a practice.

At our house, when we have Thanksgiving dinner, we like to stop eating and talking to go around the table clockwise so that each person present can say what s/he is thankful for. When we first decided to do this, some of our guests felt this was awkward, perhaps embarrassing. But we don't start with the guests, so they can get an impression of what expressing gratitude and hearing others express it feels like. Those in our immediate family understood this and were comfortable enough with it. After all, at birthdays, we like to go around the table to tell the person celebrating the birthday our many appreciations of him/her. So on Thanksgiving, it's a natural enough question, "What are you thankful for this year?" The answers aren't always surprising. We're thankful for being here another year, for our health however it might then be, for family and friends, for the lives of those now departed, for whatever abundance we may have received, for creativity, for our pets, for our relationships, for our businesses, for our politics, for our dreams and aspirations and hopes, and so on. We're thankful for all kinds of things. You get it, you can probably feel it even reading about doing this. It's a Thanksgiving ritual we love. Feel free to try it out.

I always loved Thanksgiving because, however it was intended or begun, it seemed to be about gratitude. For years I've had a practice I've done. Sometimes I do it every day. Sometimes I do it once a month. Sometimes I don't do it for a long time. It depends. What do I do? I make a list of the things I am thankful for. I number them as I write them down, and I feel my gratitude for each item as I write it before going on to the next. So, I write, "1. my good health, 2. the life of Dr. King, 3. compassion for my seeming enemies, 4. the novels of Cesar Aira." And so on. Until I reach 50. I do this, writing and feeling, until I have a list of 50 items or more that I have enjoyed and felt my thanks for. When I am feeling pinched, stressed, exhausted, depressed, or any other "negative" emotion, it seems to take me a very long time to find items, to write them down and really to feel them. When I am feeling expansive, relaxed, rested, optimistic, or any other "positive" emotion, it takes me virtually no time to write and enjoy the list. Why do this exercise? Because it's almost magical. And it lights me up. Feel free to try it out.

Was it Meister Eckhart who wrote, "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice?" I agree.

May all of you have a happy Thanksgiving.

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lunes, noviembre 24, 2008

Give These Workers Their Money And Give It To Them Now

This is absolutely infuriating. The New York Times reports on the struggle of former Mexican farm workers, some in the 80's and 90's, to obtain refunds from the Mexican Government of 10% of their wages that were withheld when they worked in the US under the bracero program:
FRESNO, Calif. — Here comes Abraham Franco now, 86 years old, skin leathery and bronzed from decades of work in the fields, slowly bending his small but sturdy frame into a metal chair at a faux wood office table at the Mexican Consulate here.

He still could not quite believe the news: Decades after working as a bracero, as thousands of Mexican guest farm workers were called in a program from 1942 to 1964, the Mexican government had recently agreed to a one-time payment, $3,500, of long overdue withheld wages.

The braceros are fading fast, some pushing or over 90, and are ever reliant on family and friends to get by.
Join me in the lettuce fields with Sr. Franco.

This is about money these workers earned and that the Mexican Government took.

This is about the magnificent sum of $3,500. That is not the actual amount withheld from any one of the workers, it's a settlement of their claims. Is it what they contributed, or is it far less? And the workers, this is the part that has my hair on fire, have to prove that they were working in the US 60 years ago to collect a single peso of the money that was taken from their wages:
Scholars believe that more than 2.5 million people were braceros, which is Spanish for “strong arms,” at a time when “guest worker program” did not set off as fierce a debate as today.

Most worked three to six months a year in agriculture, the bulk of them in California, with a smaller number in railroads. The program began because of farm labor shortages brought on by the war, and it continued afterward at the urging of growers until 1964.

The Mexican government took 10 percent of the wages paid to braceros, supposedly holding it until their eventual return to Mexico.

In 2001, a group of braceros from the World War II era filed a federal lawsuit against Mexico to recoup their money. Four years later, facing pressure from former braceros in Mexico and their advocates, the government announced a reparation program, but required braceros in the United States to travel to Mexico to register, a difficult journey for the elderly and infirm.

The settlement, which a federal judge will consider granting final approval in February, prodded Mexico to apply its program to braceros in both countries, eliminating the travel requirement.
But despite the small size of these refunds, many of the workers cannot produce the paperwork that will satisfy Mexico that they are entitled to these funds. Did you get that? Mexico is holding all of these funds that it "withheld" from workers' pay. Does not the Mexican Government know whose wages it was receiving and holding? Do they not bother to keep records about whose money they are "withholding"?

Don't ask. The present program requires workers to prove they were in the US, did the work, were part of the program, and that funds were withheld from their wages. Period. If a worker cannot prove it, the result is no refund. Forget that you worked for years as a farm worker. This, they are told, is all about proof.

To nobody's suprise, the proof is a very, very tall order:
Leonel Flores, an advocate for farm workers here, said he doubted that very many former braceros still had the documents to meet the standards of proof. In addition, he said, their documents are rife with erroneous dates and spellings of names, the handiwork of braceros who hardly went to school, if it all, and government bureaucrats on both sides of the border.

“This says you were born in 1922, and this says you were born in 1921,” Mr. Flores told Mr. Ortiz, holding aloft his Mexican birth certificate and bracero identification card at a recent meeting of braceros. “That’s an error that can get you rejected.”

Later, in an interview, Mr. Ortiz offered still another document, his United States naturalization certificate, with a birth date indicating 1923.

“I feel bad because these are mistakes I did not make,” he said. So when was he born?

“1923, I am pretty sure,” he replied.

Mr. Gonzalez had kept his papers, but they were lost in a home burglary several years ago, a fate many braceros have suffered because criminals know they are easy prey.

Still, he said, “Yes, I still have some, but I have to keep looking.”

Mr. Flores said local lawyers were documenting the problems in an effort to persuade Mexican authorities to be more flexible.
This is simply ridiculous. It is shameful. And if these facts aren't enough, and you want to get the entire, human side of this situation, the Times has a remarkable photo essay of these workers. Go ahead. Look at these workers who toiled so that people in the US could eat. Look at these workers who worked so hard to sustain themselves and their families. Look into the faces of workers who didn't receive a fair shake. Look at the faces of these workers who sweated in the fields for long hours at horrendous wages long before Cesar Chavez started the UFW.

How, I want to understand, can there be hundreds of billions for Wall Street and the auto industry, and these workers have to beg for a refund of wages withheld from them for 60 years. They're not asking for a handout. They're asking to have withholding refunded. That was the deal, wasn't it?

And, you might want to do this calculation. If the funds were held for 40 years, and they produced interest at a rate of only 2.5% per annum, far, far less than legal interest, the $3,500 refund represents a withholding of only $1,750 40 years ago. Where is the real money and the real interest on it? And where is the accounting of what these workers paid in?

These workers must receive their refunds. It is, after all, their wages. They must be paid. And they must be paid now. The insult of keeping this money from these workers and of erecting unrealistic barriers to their receiving it is gigantic.

The workers must be paid. And they must be paid without further ado.

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domingo, noviembre 23, 2008

Sunday Travel: The Mayan Riviera

This essay is cross-posted from daily Kos and revised.

The Beach in Bahia Soliman

Maybe this is the beginning of another love story. People come from all over the world to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico as tourists, fall in love with it, and return over and over and over again. The Mayan Riviera is the area south of Cancun, Mexico, and north of Tulum, on the Caribbean. You get there by flying to Cancun. After that, you travel south on Route 307, to Playa del Carmen, and then Akumal, and Puerto Aventuras, past Xel-Ha and on to Tulum. You can make the trip by rental car, bus, taxi, or collectivo.

Join me on the beach.

When I first traveled this route, Route 307 was a two lane highway and tall vegetation grew up to the very side of the road. There was one Pemex gas station between Puerto Morelos in the north and Felipe Carillo Puerto in the south. Really, there wasn’t much there. There were romantic beach resorts that had no electricity. That was about 20 years ago. Ms. ds and I fell in love with the place. Maybe it was initially because there just wasn’t much there. It was a great place to hang out on the beach and do nothing. And we’ve stayed in love with it since. We have a home there on a beach just north of Tulum in Bahia Soliman.

Our home is called "Nah Yaxche." "Nah" is Mayan for "house of", "Yaxche" is the Mayan tree of paradise, the first tree, the ceiba tree, under which good people dance in the afterlife. We chose a Mayan name, because this part of Mexico is Mayan. And not Spanish.

When we're at Bahia Soliman (just 10 minutes north of Tulum), we do, well, pretty much nothing. The idea is to relax, eliminate the lingering affects of sleep deprivation and work stress, do some yoga, meditate, eat some good meals, think, hang out, day dream. I wrote most of my novel, The Dream Antilles, here. And I've devoured dozens and dozens of books here. We have a siesta. We watch the sun rise. Sundays we and our neighbor pick up whatever plastic the sea has deposited on the beach and walk the community's many beach dogs. We don't wear wrist watches here. We're beach people. And to us, this really is paradise.

I'm writing about it, because if you're a beach person or would like to be one, and you haven't been here, you're really missing something special. But the beach isn't the only thing here: there are also lots of things to do.

Some of the sights in the area are quite well known. There are the Mayan ruins at Tulum, overlooking the ocean from a cliff. The temple walls have murals depicting descending gods (dios decendentes), which some folks think are actually drawings of extraterrestrials:

El Castillo el las Ruinas de Tulum

There are dozens of other, smaller ruins dotting Quintana Roo, the best of which might be the small ruins at Muyil (just south of Tulum) and the large ruins at Coba (about an hour west of Tulum). A few hours’ drive to the northwest is Chichen-Itza, but it’s close enough that you can make it a day trip if you start early.

The thing to remember about Mayan ruins in the jungle: they get hot mid-day and the mosquitoes are voracious. Hot in Mexico means extremely extra very hot. Go early in the morning, be there when the site opens, and wear bug spray and a hat. Drink water. The views from the top of the pyramid in Coba or from the top of the Castillo in Tulum are unbelievable.

Some of the best beaches in the world are on the Boca Paila Road that runs from the Tulum Ruins through the Sian Ka'an Bioreserve to Punta Allen. Playa Paraiso is world famous. You can walk for hours on the beach. The water is turquoise, and calm, the sand is wide and white, and the barrier reef that runs from Cancun to Panama, the second largest in the world, protects the beach and makes for a fertile, green turtle and marine habitat:

These beaches are unbelievably gorgeous. If you are of fair, northern European extraction, you must wear SPF 30+ sun screen. You can be mercilessly sauteed on these beaches in no time at all. I have seen some of the worst sunburns here. A squirt of SPF 30 (or 50 or total block) avoids a ton of misery later.

In fact, you can probably find your own stretch of beach somewhere between the ruins in Tulum and Punta Allen that will be completely deserted and beautiful. That’s a way of saying that if you want your own private beach all to yourself you can find it. Some have some detritus on them from hurricanes and prevailing winds from the east, but many others are pristine. What drifts onto the beach depends entirely on what's been dropped in the water and the wind, since there is so far no concerted community effort to pick up after storms.

A literary word about this beach. In his now out of print book, The Lost World of Quintana Roo, Michel Peissel records his solo, 1962 walk from what would become Cancun a decade later to Belize on these very beaches. At the time there were no roads. The beaches were coconut farms (cocals), the interior was local Mayans and those who were harvesting chickle (chicleros). There were no welcoming parties for Gringos. This book is the perfect beach read when you sit on Mayan Riviera beaches, because you're sitting on the path Peissel walked.

The reef remains quite healthy, and it makes for fantastic snorkeling and diving and swimming and kayaking. Those of us in the area go out of our way to keep nitrogen from waste away from the reef by building special septic systems. The large all inclusive hotels have all followed suit. We're on a mission to preserve the ecology of the area. We want our ocean and the reef to remain alive, healthy, and pristine. We don't fish inside the reef, we don't take shells or shellfish out of the water, we turn off lights so that turtles are not disoriented at night, we don't touch the coral, we try not to get sunscreen or anything else in the water, we pick up whatever drifts in.

The National Park at Xel-Ha, and the Yal-ku Lagoon in North Akumal are well known spots for snorkeling. These are well worth a visit, but there are better, less populous places to snorkel up and down the coast. Lots of people swear by Akumal, Tankah 3, and Xpu-Ha. I like the reef in Bahia Soliman, where my house is. The reef is only 200 yards or so from shore, so, if you have no kayak, you can swim to prime snorkeling without great effort. In the mornings, the water is sometimes like a mirror. Not a single wave. This is especially the case in summer. But even when there are waves, they're small, and the snorkeling is best when there's bright sun to light up the coral and the fish. In lots of places, if you have a kayak, you can tie up at the reef. We've put "tie ups" in the bay.

Oftentimes, when snorkeling, we see eagle rays. These fly through the water like huge butterflies. We also have seen dolphins, huge barracuda (they are not hungry inside the reef, but we don't wear jewelry because we don't want to look like dinner), two kinds of turtles, lots of schools of purple angel fish. You get the idea. The sea is healthy, and it's alive.

There are also many cenotes, limestone sink holes with fresh water, that are part of the world’s largest underground river system. These were sacred to the Maya and are still used for ceremonies. And, best of all, you can swim in the cool freshwater as they do. That is really refreshing on hot days. The water is surprisingly clear. And the cenotes make for wonderful entrances for exciting cave diving. Great cave diving and cenote snorkeling is available at dos Ojos and Hidden Worlds. dos Ojos also has a jungle zip line.

This is Manatee Cenote in Tankah 3, right across the road from Café Cenote:

And then there’s Tulum Pueblo itself, a Mayan town I really love. Until 1935, Tulum was still fighting the War of the Castes and refusing to recognize the Mexican Central government. The Mexican troops gave up the war in 1911, in a moment that must have resembled the 1975 evacuation of Saigon, but the Mayans understand timing. It wasn’t until 1935 that they finally held a ceremony acknowledging the central government. Now Tulum is growing rapidly. Is it growing as rapidly as Playa del Carmen to the north? Probably not. But then again, nothing has grown as fast as Playa del Carmen, which is rumored to be the fastest growing city in the Northern Hemisphere.

About Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen has 5 or 6 times as many people now as it did when I first went there. Then it was a sleepy fishing village. It had one independent espresso bar. Now it's a city with an incredible collection of bars, restaurants, shops and discos. It's a magnet for Euro travelers. Cruise ships stop there. It has some unbelievably great restaurants I always recommend (The Glass Bar (Italian, expensive), Yax Che (Mayan, expensive), John Gray's (continental, expensive) for special occasions. There's an incredible shrimp taco place (La Floresta) on the highway. The shopping is great. But I only like Playa del Carmen in small doses: it's fun for an evening of partying, but then, for me, it's time to move on to something more remote, something less populated.

About Akumal. Akumal is pretty completely gringoized. It has good restaurants (La Lunita is a favorite), great beach bars (Lol Ha), good snorkeling (easy to find turtles), two excellent dive shops (I prefer Dive Akumal), Internet, a gym, etc. It is a great place to spend an evening, or to have breakfast (Turtle Bay Cafe), or to have lunch (Lucy's Tacos). Lots of folks swear by Akumal, because you don't really need a car there and can walk to anything. Akumal, too, has grown over the years, but it has a nice feeling and is a lot of fun.

A Fruteria in Tulum

But mostly I love Tulum. Tulum mixes funk with shine. It mixes rundown with spiffy. It mixes Mexican with Mayan. It mixes European and Mexican and US. It mixes old and new. It has some great shopping and a wide variety of excellent restaurants. These range from Pollo Asado places on the main drag, where you can get a fantastic roasted chicken for cheap, to my favorite restaurant, Cetli, with its high Mexican cuisine worthy of Mexico City. And, of course, there are dozens of places in between including La Nave, a Pizzeria on the main drag that is a favorite with me and most of the ex-pat community. Also, there are two wonderful palaterias in Tulum where you can get ice pops in about 100 different flavors. The current fave: chocolate with strawberries and cocoa crispies on the outside. Seriously. What more could you ask for?

Tulum is expected to grow. The current economic situation may be delaying that, but the signs of growth are already appearing. There's a 7-11 (Siete Once? Seven Once? Seven Eleven? Siete Eleven?) and a Subway. I recently found a Starbucks cup in the gutter (probably from Playa del Carmen). There are some fantastic, stainless steel store fronts now. Empanada Joe's, for example, is right out of Mexico DF. And there's a Gelateria (with great murals). And we've had a supermarket (San Francisco de Assis) for a few years now (where you can find US apples and Bordens milk products because of NAFTA, but that's a different diary). But you can still buy fresh tortillas on the main drag, and mangos and papayas, for incredible cheap and tons of local fruits and vegetables. The town retains its incredible sweetness, and its simplicity. I just love it.

What about accommodations? There are all kinds of places to stay. Absolutely the best site for finding villas and houses to rent on the beach, and small hotels, and small resorts on the Tulum beach as well as larger all inclusives (if you like that) is loco gringo. This is THE place to find a small palapa cabana on the Tulum beach. Or a dramatic villa overlooking a beautiful bay. Disclosure: loco gringo rents my house when I'm not there, and I love them. There are other sites for villa and hotel rentals you can find by Googling "mayan riviera rentals".

This is the most fantastic area for a winter vacation. Lots of people swear by other places in the vast Caribe. Fine. I'm sure those are great places, too. At one time or another I've been to many of these, but I kept returning to Tulum. Over and over again. Why? Maybe it's the beauty of the sea, the diversity of the jungle. Maybe it's because this is some kind of frontier. Maybe it's because of the influence of Mayan culture. Maybe it's because the people I've met here have been so wonderful. It's hard to explain. Maybe its just love and inexplicable.

Flights from Cancun are not overwhelmingly expensive. And right now the peso is way down, so once you arrive you get a lot of pesos for a dollar (on Friday you got almost 14 pesos per dollar) so your dollar goes really far. This makes almost everything seem like a bargain. The high season has already begun, but you can still find wonderful accommodations throughout the area.

While I was writing this diary, I put up a notice on a Riviera Maya bulletin board asking folks what I should say. The overwhelming response was that I should lie and say the area was terrible, dirty, poisonous, dangerous, etc. so that it would remain pristine and unpopulated and unnoticed. Some people correctly pointed out that what will keep things healthy here are simple ecological steps: not stepping on coral, taking garbage off the beach, and the like. What emerges is this: people love the Mayan Riviera. And some of these folks would like to keep it for themselves and hidden from others.

If I can provide additional information about the Riviera Maya or any of the Yucatan, please email me or leave a comment. I'll try to answer the questions. Also, in my profile you can find my email, so if you're going to the area, I'm happy to provide help, ideas, suggestions, etc.

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viernes, noviembre 21, 2008

California Lethal Injection Protocol Invalidated

Great news. A California Court of Appeal has invalidated California's lethal injection protocol because the state failed to comply with the state's Administrative Procedure Act. The decision(pdf format) in Morales v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, holds that the State' lethal injection protocol, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAN QUENTIN OPERATIONAL PROCEDURE NUMBER 0-770 EXECUTION BY LETHAL INJECTION, is invalid and it enjoins California "from carrying out the lethal injection of any condemned inmates under OP 770 unless and until that protocol is promulgated in compliance with the APA."

The more than 660 prisoners on California's death row should briefly sigh some relief. There is little doubt that the regulation will be re-enacted, but the struggle against state killing in California goes on, and today's ruling is a great victory.

The Mercury News reports:
A state appeals court on Friday ensured further delays in California's already inert death penalty system, finding that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration did not follow proper procedures when it attempted to revise the state's lethal injection method to get executions back on track.

In a 14-page ruling, the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal upheld last year's decision by a Marin County judge, who found state officials failed to provide public scrutiny of plans to overhaul California's execution method. The appeals court ruling, if it stands, would force the state to go back to the drawing board in its efforts to bring the execution system into compliance with a federal judge's concerns that the current method is unconstitutional.

The appeals court ruling will have a ripple effect on California's bogged down capital punishment system. A broader legal challenge in federal court to California's lethal injection method cannot move forward until the state comes up with a revised procedure, and that is now tied up further as a result of the appeals court's findings.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Ronald Matthias, who supervises the state's death penalty cases, was still reviewing the decision and could not predict the next step. But the state can either appeal to the California Supreme Court or move forward with public review of the proposed lethal injection reforms, and either process would take months or longer.
Executions in California have been on hold for more than 3 years because of challenges to the state's lethal injection protocols. The 2006 Judge Fogel stopped all California executions, but provided a number of steps state officials could take to ensure that executions were carried out humanely. The governor then ordered state prison officials to come up with a new plan. The plan called for improved training and supervision of execution team members, as well as the construction of a new, modernized execution chamber. But plan was challenged in state court under the argument it violated state procedures that require public review, and Fogel put the federal case on hold until that issue was resolved.

Is the issue resolved now? No. The state can either try to adopt a new protocol, following the law, or it can appeal. Either way, state killing cannot resume until the issues are resolved.

I applaud today's ruling, and I compliment all of the people who have worked so diligently to stop state killing in California.

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El Nevado del Huila Erupts

La erupción registrada la noche del jueves por el volcán Nevado del Huila, en el suroeste de Colombia, causó avalanchas del río Paez y otros afluentes que destruyeron varios puentes en las carreteras del departamento del Huila, pero no se han reportado víctimas, informaron hoy las autoridades.

El Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería (Ingeominas, estatal) indicó en su último comunicado que "se "confirmó la generación de un flujo de lodo que se encauzó por el río Paez, afectando la infraestructura vial de la región, de acuerdo con reportes recibidos de los pobladores de la zona de influencia".

Las avalanchas se registraron en los departamentos del Huila y Cauca, zonas situadas a unos 500 kilómetros al suroeste de Bogotá, donde una erupción similar causó una tragedia en 1994 en la que murieron más de 1.000 personas y hubo graves destrozos y pérdidas económicas. source

Columbia Reports:
Thousands of people were evacuated Thursday after the Nevado del Huila volcano erupted. Authorities declared a state of red alert and order everyone within the surroundings to immediately leave their homes.

Authorities called for the immediate evacuation of La Plata, Paicol, Nátaga and Tesalia, but it's uncertain if the population of the surrounding towns and villages cooperate with authorities. In April this year many people refused to respond to an evacuation call.

The eruption took place at 21:45 and immediately made the Colombian seismologist institute to raise the state of alert to its highest level. the eruption caused a mudslide that passed an indigenous settlement alongside the Paez river, but no wounded were reported.

Seismic activity seemed to go down again after the initial eruption, Ingeominas said, but authorities stay cautious.

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martes, noviembre 18, 2008

Tamayo's America

America by Ruffino Tamayo

The NY Times reports:
A mural by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo -- one of five exhibited in the United States still in private hands -- was sold Tuesday for nearly $7 million at an auction of Latin American art.

''America,'' measuring 13 feet by 15 feet, fetched $6.8 million, just below its pre-sale estimate of $7 million to $9 million, a spokeswoman for Sotheby's auction house said. The buyer's identity wasn't released.

The lower-than-expected price echoed the slowdown in the art auction market in recent weeks. The buying habits of wealthy collectors have been shifting as they confront the global financial crisis.

In May, Tamayo's ''Troubadour'' sold for $7.2 million at Christie's, setting an auction record for the artist and Latin American artwork. Frida Khalo's ''Roots'' previously held the Latin American record when it sold for $5.6 million at Sotheby's in 2006.

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OMG! Barack Obama hasn't jailed Cheney and Bush.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't closed Gitmo.
OMG! The Dow is at 8100 and Barack Obama hasn't fixed it.
OMG! Unemployment is at a four year high, and Barack Obama hasn't decreased it.
OMG! HRC is maybe gonna be Secretary of State, and Barack Obama is appointing her.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't invalidated the US policy of torture and illegal extraditions.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't gotten the US troops out of Iraq.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't stopped US eavesdropping and surveillance.

OMG! Barack Obama hasn't repealed Prop 8.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't declassified UFO information.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't nationalized the auto industry.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't invalidated the financial industry bailout.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't captured Osama Bin Ladin.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't fired Mukasey.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't nationalize the oil industry.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't provided single payer, universal health care.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't passed ENDA.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't taken away the Mormon Church's tax exemption.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't beaten up Joementum.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't released a plan for the end of time in 2012.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't reversed all of W's signing statements.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't gotten the US into the Kyoto Accords.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't passed a new stimulus package.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't made corporations accountable for bailout money.
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't solved all of America's problems!!!
OMG! Barack Obama got elected on 11/4 and things still suck!!
OMG! Barack Obama hasn't gotten his girls a puppy.

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lunes, noviembre 17, 2008

The Magic Of The World

Adolfo Bioys Casares wrote:
"Me apresuro a declarar que no creo en magos, con o sin bonete, pero sí en la magia del mundo"
"I hasten to declare that I don't believe in magicians, with or without magic hat, but in the magic of the world."

This seems a lot like Thich Nhat Hanh, "The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth."

At any rate, there's delight in the magic of the world, if only we can see it.

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sábado, noviembre 15, 2008

Let's Fight Hate

In the continuing post Prop 8 fall out, the Mormon Church is ramping up its attacks on gay people, slurring gay people and even accusing them of domestic terrorism. The campaign of hate continues to rage, just as it simultaneously continues to claim that it is a victim of attacks. Let's fight back.

I know. The Mormon Church denies that this was ever a campaign of hate. There I pointed that out. In a wonderful circumlocution, the Church even denies that its work on Prop 8 is anti-gay. No, it's about being "pro- marriage," they say.

Jump with me across the broom.

Oh, it's "pro marriage" all right:
Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

Right. It's about being pro-marriage, but only for certain, selected people. As I've said before, you can put all the whip cream you want on dung, but it doesn't make it a dessert. Similarly, with Prop 8, you can circumlocute and equivocate all you want, but it's still about barring gay people from their pursuit of marital happiness, and it's about imposing on those who are married an involuntary, state constitutionally based divorce, their families and children be damned.

This morning's New York Times reports that Mormon involvement in Proposition 8 was huge, even for them:
“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”

Also, we learn that the Mormons were a large percentage of early volunteers, and, of course, that they gave gigantic amounts of cash to the Prop 8 effort. And then we have this obvious anti gay slur:

[T]he extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church’s leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for “respect” and “civility” in the aftermath of the vote.

“Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues,” the statement said. “People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal.”

Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”

That's a nice, biblical touch, paraphrasing Matthew 7:16 (in the King James and elsewhere it's not fruit, it's "You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?") apparently to call gays "fruit". I'm not alone, I see, in noting the slur. I hope I'm not being hypersensitive; I'm just sensitive to discrimination in its many disguises.

And then we have this accusation, apparently made without the benefit of any proof whatsoever that "teh Gay" are terrorizing the Mormon Church:
A day after it received hoax mailings containing a white powder, the Mormon church on Friday blamed opponents of California's gay marriage ban for recent "attacks" while an allied group condemned "acts of domestic terrorism against our supporters."

Investigators have not publicly cited any evidence that the mailings were linked to the Mormon church's support of the measure, and a gay rights group in Utah denied that gay protesters were involved....snip....

Church leaders released two statements Friday, one saying they were disturbed the church was being singled out for taking a position on the California amendment, the other assailing "attacks" and vandalism of church property by "opponents of Proposition 8."

"We call upon those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few," church President Thomas S. Monson said in a statement.

This is out of control. And it's been out of control for far too long.

I'm on the wrong coast, thousands of miles away from California, and I'm infuriated. This battle shouldn't be supported only by GLBT people, it should be supported by all of us. Prop 8 isn't going to affect my hetero marriage of 30 years. But this kind of discrimination and oppression is something that all of us, gay and straight, all of us should be fighting tooth and nail.

I've already gotten out the check book, and I'm going to have to do it again. I'll give money to those fighting Prop 8 in the court. I'll do what I can to support organizing and protests.

Please join with me in this. I omit the obligatory quotation from Pastor Niemoller to frighten you into helping. Let's just do this because it's the right thing.

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martes, noviembre 11, 2008

Today I Retired The Button

Good bye to this:

This button graced the right column of this blog for many, many months. And now, it's time to move on to the next thing.

I imagine that all across the Blogosphere these kinds of renovations are underway. After all, I removed the Obama sign from the front yard only yesterday, but I still see lots of other signs and lots of buttons. People naturally want to hold on to the victory. But very, very soon, if it's not time already, it'll be important to leave the wonderful campaign behind and to start the next phase, influencing the government's policies. That, I think, will be much more challenging.

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lunes, noviembre 10, 2008

Close Gitmo!

Tell President-elect Obama to close Gitmo on 1/20/09. Here's a petition. You know what to do.

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domingo, noviembre 09, 2008

A Mythic Hummingbird Flight

[Hummingbird photo removed. Sorry.]

In the Q'ero shamanic tradition, and doubtless others, there's the archetype of the hummingbird, the animal of the winds of the north.

Hummingbirds have impossibly small wings in comparison to the size of their bodies. But every year they take the mythic journey, all the way from South America to the northeastern United States and Canada, and later the round trip. They have enormous courage. They fly alone. They follow only their inner guidance. They eat heavily before the time comes. And when the time comes to fly, they realize that it's time, and they respond without hesitation and with enormous faith and begin the long journey.

During the flight, they lose up to 40% of their body weight. Some cautious ones seem to fly around the Gulf of Mexico so they will fly over land. But many, many fly directly, non stop across the open waters of the Gulf. They fly close to the waves, so that the headwinds will not impede them, but there are predators in the water and the air. They always fly alone. They always follow their guidance. Their unbelievable, heroic flight takes several days.

There are reports from oil rigs in the Gulf of seeing hummingbirds fly past them flying close to the water.

Eventually, the hummingbird arrives at its destination, the distant, perhaps unseen place, for which it first set out. It may be weak, exhausted, a shadow of its former self, but it nevertheless arrives at a destination it may not have seen before, a destination it could only dream existed, a destination that somehow called aloud to it, a destination known to all of its ancestors, and it responded without question.

This gigantic journey links it directly to all of its ancestors, and it connects each of us directly to ours.

Where, after all, does the hummingbird receive the knowledge about where to go and how to go there? How does it know so perfectly how to do the seemingly impossible?

And where did we get the ideas we have about justice, quality, compassion, honesty, courage, and perseverance? How do we know so well what these are?

Since the election, I've been seeing Barack Obama's journey as a fulfillment of the mythic hummingbird journey. Starting in near insignificance, he set out on a long, heroic, testing journey, keeping his eyes and heart on the destination, flying bravely and alone, finding help where he could, and at last arriving. A magical hummingbird journey.

It's an unbelievably old archetype. The Nazca lines in Peru, made more than 2500 years ago, have a hummingbird. It's there, I like to think, to remind us of our ability to achieve the seemingly impossible, that with our impossibly small wings, we are capable of the most epic flights.

I am astounded and humbled. My gratitude for being alive to witness this overwhelms me.

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sábado, noviembre 08, 2008

Ebbsfleet United!!! My Football Club!!!!

Ebbsfleet (in red) Beats Torquay in the FA Trophy Final

Imagine my surprise, when today's New York Times reported on Ebbsfleet United, the football (that's soccer to the gringos) club that is owned by its fans, including me. The Times writes:

LONDON — Wembley Stadium is usually the stage for some of the most glamorous names in soccer, yet 26,000 spectators were there in May, most of them clad in red and white to support tiny Ebbsfleet United in a cup final match against Torquay United. It was an incredible turnout for such a small team, considering that many had never heard of it until a few months earlier, when they got together over the Internet and decided to buy it.

Watching from the stands was Will Brooks, the architect of one of the world’s most unusual sports experiments.

“Twelve months ago this was all a dream, and now we’ve gone to Wembley,” he said.

For Brooks and the rest of Ebbsfleet’s fans/owners, the trip was a success. Their team prevailed, 1-0, and won the F.A. Trophy for English soccer’s equivalent of minor league clubs — the biggest prize in Ebbsfleet’s 116-year history.

Brooks, a 37-year-old former advertising copywriter, set up a Web site in 2007 called that asked a simple question: how many people would be interested in pooling their money to buy a soccer club, so that ordinary fans could vote on every decision, from uniform design to player selection? More than $400,000 was raised on the first day of public registration.

The Web fantasy became reality when members voted in February to take over Ebbsfleet United, a tiny, unsuccessful club in southeast England, for slightly less than $1 million.

MyFootballClub has about 31,000 members/owners from all over the world (including the author of this article), all of whom pay an annual subscription of about $60 to be a member of the nonprofit trust that owns “the Fleet.”

And most important, one of the 31,000 members/owner from all over the world is your truly.

Why would somebody do this, you might ask? Why would somebody spend the princely sum of $60 +/- per year to own a share of a professional sports team, especially an English football team that is four five divisions below the Premier League? And why would somebody proudly wear an owner/manager t-shirt for Ebbsfleet?

This is the kind of thing that, if you don't get it instantly, it's very hard to explain. It might even be impossible to explain if it doesn't light you up on hearing it.

I love the game. I love the game in its disorganized, pick up form, and in its most star filled, regimented, corporate package. I love the game when the ball is made of rags and duct tape. I love the game when it's played before 50,000 screaming fans. And I love the game at all the spots in between. I'd rather watch re-runs of Boca Juniors playing River Plate in the rain in a scoreless tie than most professional US football (pigskin) games.

So the chance to play a new role in the game, as if I were a small scale Sir Alex or George Steinbrenner or Roman Abramovich, is just delicious. It's fantastically exciting! Let's face it, I can make some room in the upper arcana of teams I like to follow for Ebbsfleet United, of which I am a proud owner.

And to top it off, I'm delighted to bring this kind of inexpensive, democratic ownership to sport. After all is said and done, Ebbsfleet United is a great experiment and I want to see it succeed. It's something great that the Internet has made possible. Its success will inspire other groups of people to own other clubs. We will slowly take ownership of the sport back from the undeserving, spoiled, greedy billionaires, spread it around, and make it a widespread, public phenomenon.

You can get involved in this too. Click this.

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jueves, noviembre 06, 2008

You The People

In Ireland, I am informed, they have some venerable traditions about drinking. When you go to a party, you bring two bottles: one for tonight, and one for the host at a later time. You uncork the one for tonight and throw away the cork. That way the bottle will have to be consumed tonight.

And so we celebrate the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. Let's drink the entire bottle. Let's deal with the hangover. And then, let's go back to work.

Join me with Advil below.

I cried when Barack Obama was elected. In many ways, it was the culmination of work I had done as a community organizer and as a civil rights lawyer for the past 40 years .

If you had told me 40 years ago, when I was an organizer in Alabama, sleeping with a loaded .38 under my pillow, that in 2008 the Democratic Party would nominate an African American and that he would be elected president, I would have explained to you that you were delusional and f*cking crazy. I might have thought that you were a visionary, an idealist, someone I dearly loved, but I would have thought you were completely crazy. I would have explained to you how dangerous Alabama was, that you had to watch your back, and I would have explained the psychic and symbolic qualities of having a .38. You couldn't hit anything at a distance, but the muzzle flash was enormous. It was solely a defensive weapon. It would scare anyone away.

40 years ago at Thanksgiving 1968, a friend of mine, who was then living in New Jersey, told me that she was worried about me being an organizer in Alabama. She gave me a switchblade to protect myself. I told her I had no clue how to use it, and that if I had to cut somebody, I doubt I'd be able to do that without maiming myself as well. She smiled and said it would be a good idea for me to practice. I did practice.

In 1977 I appeared in Circuit Court in Tupelo, Mississippi, as a lawyer trying to get a client out of the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield. The judge made it clear that he didn't appreciate having a communist (maybe he had a big "C") like me in his court. I cried later because my client needed to be released, but he wouldn't be. He would continue in confinement for no reason I could fathom.

In 1984 I was the lawyer for a man on death row. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed his conviction and sent him home. I was thrilled. Then I saw that one judge had dissented. His argument was that the law of evidence should be changed in this very case so that my client could be killed. I read the decision and I wept. I was infuriated. I couldn't understand such a lack of regard for human life.

I could go on and on about with these stories. If this were a saloon and you were buying I would. I could go on all night.

I can provide you with 40+ years of anecdotal evidence, stories, incidents, remarks. I could elaborate on these and exaggerate them. I could itemize my scars, my injuries, my failures, my disappointments, my mistakes. I could explain to you how my first marriage died in pathetic, heartbreaking failure because of threats, crank phone calls, the movement, stress, pressure. I could trot out all of my hurts. I could catalog them. But I won't. Suffice it to say, I cried when Barack Obama was elected.

And now what?

You made Barack Obama president. You led him to the White House. You raised the money, you distributed the literature, you knocked on the doors, you got out the vote, you wrote the essays, you made the arguments, you discussed and analyzed the policies, you hooted and hollered and cried and screamed, you pulled the levers, you watched the returns. You led him to the White House. You won this election.

And then we all cried. But it wasn't the end. Not at all. It was just the very beginning. He is only what you have made him. He was who you had faith in. He was who you trusted. He was who you elected. It was just the beginning of us telling him what we wanted, what we needed, what was right, what was wrong, what was fair, what was oppressive, what was unnecessary, what was required. It was the beginning of participatory democracy. It was the beginning of we the people saying what should be done and what shouldn't.

Can we enjoy the victory for a few days? Can we enjoy the end of the reign of terror? Sure. Can we savor the end of an administration that would terrorize us into giving up our rights? Can we bask in the glow of taking back our country? Sure. Can we smile at the lame duck congress and the retarded duck executive? Yes. And then? And then? And then?

Folks. We made Barack Obama in our image, and we're not done. We need to lead the country. We need Barack Obama to follow our lead. We need to define what should be done. We need to be present. And active. And speaking. And demanding. And explaining. We made him. That means we need to continue to inspire him. That means we need to continue to speak and argue and debate and think and express.

This is democracy. This is what it looks like. Our leader follows us. Our leader follows the people. He listens to what we say. He responds to what we demand. He enacts what we tell him to enact.

Folks. It is bottom up, not top down. He is president, but he responds to us. Not to lobbyists. Not to arms merchants. Not to failed bankers. Not to those who are really "special interests." To us. To you. To me. To the people. He is our president, and he is responsible to us. We made him president, we gave money, we made calls, we knocked on doors. This is not, this cannot be US business as usual. He is there to listen to us.

I will wipe my tears now. Because I know what's ahead. And that is that we have to lead and continue to inspire the nation. We have to make it clear what should happen. We have to be the people who dictated what should be done, what should happen. It's not the lobbyists. It's not the industrialists. It's not the union leaders.

Folks. It is us. You and me. The People of the United States of America. We need to step up and assume our place as the voice of the United States. We need to speak. And our elected leader needs to respond.

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miércoles, noviembre 05, 2008

Jubilation. Yes We Can!

Union Square, New York City. This is what making history looks like. This is what jubilation feels like.

h/t to Cassandra for cellphone photo

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martes, noviembre 04, 2008

It's Election Day At Last! Let's Make History! Let's Vote For Barack Obama! Let's Make It A Landslide!

Today we're making history.

I voted this morning at about 7:30 am in the First District of the Town of Austerlitz, Columbia County, New York, a blue district in a blue town in a blue county in a blue state. The poll is just across the road at the firehouse. The polls opened at 6 am. There is one voting machine for District 1, and another for the other District. I was the 60th person to vote in this district. That, I think, means that even here, where there are no real contests (I think Kirsten Gillibrand is a shoe in for NY-20), there will be an extremely heavy turn out.

I voted for Barack Obama. Forty years ago, when I was a community organizer in Alabama, if you had told me that I'd have the opportunity to vote for a black man for president of the United States on the Democratic Party line, I would have thought you were utterly crazy. A crazy optimist. An idealist. A dreamer. Out of reality. So I was utterly delighted to pull the lever today for Barack Obama. And to help out our friends in the Working Families Party, I pulled the lever on their line.

The turnout here and the predictions in the media suggest that across America there will be a gigantic turnout, perhaps a record one, certainly an historic one.

In cities and suburbs across America there will be huge lines and delays. It's only in rural places like here that you can vote within 15 minutes of arriving at the polls. Voters have to anticipate long delays. Voters have to be willing to put up with this. So it is important that people just stay. in. line. until their votes are cast. However long that might be. And if you're inclined to help these folks standing in line, bring them water, food, gloves, whatever will help them just stay. in. line.

It's also important that any of the common irregularities be corrected, and that the large scale ones, if there are any, be reported immediately to the Obama campaign.

Please vote. Please vote for Barack Obama. Please vote for hope and change. And please help us make history today.

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lunes, noviembre 03, 2008

Love Sonnet XI

I know. I know. The election's tomorrow, and well, I, too, hope it turns out for the better. But in the meanwhile, here is something for the heart. Neruda's Love Sonnet XI, in two languages.
Tengo hambre de tu boca, de tu voz, de tu pelo
y por las calles voy sin nutrirme, callado,
no me sostiene el pan, el alba me desquicia,
busco el sonido líquido de tus pies en el día.

Estoy hambriento de tu risa resbalada,
de tus manos color de furioso granero,
tengo hambre de la pálida piedra de tus uñas,
quiero comer tu piel como una intacta almendra.

Quiero comer el rayo quemado en tu hermosura,
la nariz soberana del arrogante rostro,
quiero comer la sombra fugaz de tus pestañas

y hambriento vengo y voy olfateando el crepúsculo
buscándote, buscando tu corazón caliente
como un puma en la soledad de Quitratúe.
And a super translation (h/t to Poem of the Week) by Stephen Tapscott:
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

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domingo, noviembre 02, 2008

Yes We Can

sábado, noviembre 01, 2008

Vote No on Proposition 8

h/t to thereisnospoon, hekebolos, theKK, and Reality Bites Back.

If you're in California, please vote NO on Prop 8.

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Ut oh! Michigan Footballers Guaranteed A Losing Season

Oy. They are now 2-7. They aren't going anywhere, much less to a bowl game. The details, if you can stand to read them, are ugly: they lost to Purdue 48-42, guaranteed the first losing season since 1967, and guaranteed no bowl game for the first time in 33 years.

That sound you hear? That's a dot matrix printer making out pink slips for the coaches.

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El Dia De Los Muertos

La Catrina in Mexico City

A brief, incomplete, somewhat opinionated guide to a wonderful holiday:
The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos in Spanish) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and by people of Mexican heritage (and others) living in the United States and Canada. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day which take place on those days. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years, and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl (known in English as "The Lady of the Dead")

The Lady of the Dead is la Catrina.
Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People will go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and will build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, and photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls...

During the period of November 1 and November 2, families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include orange marigolds called "cempasúchitl".... In modern Mexico this name is often replaced with the term "Flor de Muerto" ("Flower of the Dead"). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels), and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of the dead") or sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrenda food, so even though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so that the deceased can rest after their long journey...

Some families build small shrines in their homes, and of course, there are shrines in schools, factories, and government offices.

The holiday also has a tradition of writing short poems, called "calaveras", with or without illustrations. "Calavera" means "skull" and the poem is usually an intimate but mocking epitaph. The custom [may have] started in the 19th century when a newspaper published a poem narrating a dream of a cemetery in the future, "and all of us were dead." The poem then revealed what was on the tombstones. Today newspapers dedicate calaveras to public figures and have cartoons of skeletons.

You'll like this part:
The Mexican calavera, according to Domingo Argüelles, is described as“retaliation against those who would always win while alive.” With a calavera, the most alive are sent to the cemetery; the “most alive” meaning those who think themselves clever, or with a better position than everyone else are still headed to the same place.

The calavera became a journalistic genre at the end of the 19th century during the regime of Portfirio Diaz. The flyers that circulated during those times included angry verses against the dictator Diaz, and his cabinet members.

Calaveras were also dedicated to working class people, always with a hint of sarcasm and humor that we all must die. As stated in a stanza published in a flyer in 1906 by the printer and editor Antonio Vanegas Arroyo:

Is an honest truth
which this phrase says
that only the unborn
will never become a skull
The calaveras were also illustrations, and that tradition is traced to José Guadalupe Posada:
For 40 years, starting in the 1870s, Posada poured out illustrations for newspapers, magazines, broadside ballads, and books, reflecting the world of the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz in a mirror of calaveras. In Posada's hands, the grinning skulls were a natural for political and social satire. The skeleton in a general's uniform or in the elaborate flowered hat of a grande dame showed the rich and powerful as nothing more than cloth and bone. If the emperor with no clothes is a revelation of importance stripped of pretension, Posada's calaveras portrayed power as nothing more than pretense, the dictator as death in a top hat. His images gave us the original empty suits.
Perfect. Just perfect. Please enjoy it.

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