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

lunes, febrero 28, 2011

Books And Non-Books

Please permit your bloguero briefly to display his streak of intolerance and snobbism.

Today's New York Times informs readers of the Gray Lady that publishers are now selling books in retail stores of all kinds. It initially sounds like a good idea, selling literature and great novels in retails stores. But alas, that would be too good. Why? Because the books they're talking about are really non-books. They're not talking literature, they're talking the written equivalent of junk food. Here you go:

At Lowe’s, books on subjects like cooking and home projects are stacked at the front of the store, “inspiring and informing customers to purchase goods that will allow them to successfully complete home improvement projects” ...

At Sam’s Club, which has long carried stacks of best sellers, more children’s books and cookbooks have been added lately. ... Sam’s Club has been using its bricks-and-mortar advantage in other ways, too, like adding books from local writers, and bringing in authors for signings.

If Anthropologie is selling ikat prints, it might feature books with ikat covers, or it will carry books about inspiration and poetry to get the customer in an escapist mood.

“As we try to get them excited about different ideas as they walk in the door, books can be a tremendous way to narrate those stories,” said Aaron Hoey, head merchant for home and accessories at Anthropologie. “We do a very good job of selecting unique books, books you’re not going to find in a typical bookstore, and certainly not in a mass-market bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble. And to stumble across it at Amazon, you have to really know what you’re looking for.”

The specialty stores can be a boon for publishers selling quirky titles unlikely to get on Amazon’s home page. “Awkward Family Photos” is a hot item at Urban Outfitters, “Hello, Cupcake,” about cupcake design, has been selling strongly at the craft store Michaels, and Price Stern Sloan, another Penguin imprint, sold 42,000 copies of “Mad Libs” in January alone — at Cracker Barrel. At Bookmarc, where fashion titles sold predictably well, executives were surprised when “Erotic Poems” by E. E. Cummings started flying off shelves.

At Kitson, too, the top sellers hardly mimic the best-seller list, including books like “How to Raise a Jewish Dog” and “The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm.”

Nice. I don't know anything about readings at Sam's Club, and I don't know anybody who's done one, but at least that seems plausible. You could read from your new book about how cute kittens are. The rest of it? Not good for writers. Not good for readers.

Is this the bell lap in the traditional publishers' race to extinction?

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domingo, febrero 27, 2011

Duke Snider, RIP

The New York Times reports:

Duke Snider, the Hall of Fame center fielder renowned for his home run drives and superb defensive play in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ glory years, died Sunday in Escondido, Calif. He was 84. ...

In the 1950s, the golden age of New York baseball, the World Series almost always meant red, white and blue bunting at Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds. October afternoons provided a national showcase for baseball’s premier center fielders — Snider of the Dodgers, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Willie Mays of the Giants.


Snider starred at the plate and in the field on teams that won six National League pennants — and finished second on the final day twice — in his 11 seasons with Brooklyn. He also hit the last home run at Ebbets Field before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

What an amazing center fielder. And a great slugger. A boyhood hero of mine.


Thank You For Supporting Wisconsin Public Workers

Thank you for attending the demonstration near you yesterday on Solidarity Saturday. It's important to turn up in physical as opposed to digital form, to link arms, to carry signs, to speak out, to be counted on this important issue.

I've been on fire about Scott Walker's plan to abrogate public workers' collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, and the copy cat legislation introduced in other states in which the Teapublicans and as important, the Koch brothers have control. I've written about it here and elsewhere on the Port Writers' Alliance blogs. I've bought pizza for the demonstrators. I've talked to colleagues and friends about it. So pulling on the heavy boots getting out the lined boots and the thermal underwear and hitting the pavement in Albany, New York with others was a natural, positive next step to express my view that the termination of collective bargaining for public or private workers, in Wisconsin or elsewhere, is an unwarranted regression to Teapublican Nirvana, the Nineteenth Century. That and every other atavism that increases oppression and exploitation, however disguised, has to be fought.

My hotos of Albany's demonstration are here. A festive, large warm crowd in a park with snowy trees.

What is next? Will Wisconsin's unionized police follow the orders to remove demonstrators from the state capital at 5 pm ET today, or will they ask demonstrators please to go and do nothing more? If the demonstrators are evicted will they link arms and circle the Capitol? And for us who are not in Madison, what's next for us? We probably have to dream that up, beginning right now.

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viernes, febrero 25, 2011

Solidarity Saturday. Be There.

h/t to ek hornbeck alerts us:

In Wisconsin and around our country, the American Dream is under fierce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich—and then cutting funding for education, police, emergency response, and vital human services.

On Saturday, February 26, at noon local time, we are organizing rallies in front of every statehouse and in every major city to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. We demand an end to the attacks on worker's rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.

We are all Wisconsin.
We are all Americans

This Saturday, we will stand together to Save the American Dream. Be sure to wear Wisconsin Badger colors—red and white—to show your solidarity. Sign up today to join in!

Want to find a rally near you? Click on the search button in the middle of this page.

In Albany, NY, we find this:

New Yorkers Stand with Wisconsin Workers

NY State Capitol, Washington Ave & Swan St
193 registered participant(s) (1000 maximum)
Washington Ave & Swan St
Albany, NY 12207

Hosted by Joe Seeman
Description New Yorkers Stand with Wisconsin Workers!
In Wisconsin and around our country, the fundamental right to collectively bargain is under fierce attack. The Governor of Wisconsin has used the excuse of a budget crisis to eliminate workers rights to negotiate. The people of Wisconsin are fighting back by the tens of thousands. Wisconsinites are serving as an inspiration for the rest of the country facing Republicans more concerned with giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich and cutting funding for education, police, emergency response, and vital human services than creating jobs.
Join us in front of the New York State Capitol. We demand an end to the attacks on workers collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and the rest of the country. We will not stand by as peoples rights are stripped away.

We are all Wisconsin.
We are all Americans.
This Saturday, we will stand together in Albany as New Yorkers in Solidarity with the Wisconsin workers and send a message...

You know what to do. See you there.

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Waiting for the snow.
Flashing plow trucks scrape dry roads,
Noisy cockroaches.



miércoles, febrero 23, 2011

Obama: Please Go To Wisconsin

Well, here I go again, oversimplifying, being idealistic, possibly ranting. To all of these I plead guilty. In advance.

President Obama's made a few statements about the demonstrations in Wisconsin. The most widely disseminated one is this one, reported in TPM:

Well I'd say that I haven't followed exactly what's happening with the Wisconsin budget. I've got some budget problems here in Washington that I've had to focus on. I would say, as a general proposition, that everybody's gotta make some adjustments to new fiscal realities. And I think if we want to avoid layoffs -- which I want to avoid, I don't want to see layoffs of hard-working federal workers.

We had to impose, for example, a freeze on pay increases for federal workers for the next two years, as part of my overall budget freeze. You know, I think those kinds of adjustments are the right thing to do.

On the other other hand, some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin -- where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally -- seems like more of an assault on unions.

And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends. These are folks who are teachers, and they're firefighters, and they're social workers, and they're police officers. You know, they make a lot of sacrifices, and make a big contribution, and I think it's important not to vilify them, or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.

So, I think everybody's gotta make some adjustments, but I think it's also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to the well being of our states and our cities.

Sounds, feels, smells and looks like a politician. It's balanced. It's cautious. It looks over his shoulder to wonder which side might ultimately win the Battle of Madison. It sounds like he'd like to be on the winning side for 2012. What it doesn't sound like by any means is leadership.

Leadership would be going to Madison and linking arms and standing in solidarity with the demonstrators and union members against the reactionaries and would-be union busters. It would be standing up to the Koch funded "movement." It would be explaining clearly to all who would listen that these unions are important to sustained high pay in Wisconsin and the nation, and that the antedeluvian effort to kill these unions must be defeated. The Wisconsin football stadium might be a good place to hold the rally.

The President, however, hasn't shown any signs that he's ready to lead a fight for labor, his largest supporter. It looks like he might still want to invoke politesse and refer to these union busters as "the right to work" advocates with whom he has a small disagreement.

These people don't deserve that kind of deference. They have ginned up a plan to destroy public unions and are inflexible about it. They will not modify it or back off from it. They plan to destroy public unions. Period. They have begun by trying drive a wedge between public workers' unions. The teachers and highway workers and bureaucrats are ok to beat up on and they won't be able to bargain, but those the cops and firefighters, which are more traditionally Republican, will.

Today's mock phone call with "David Koch" proved beyond all cavil that Scott Walker is the lead dog running a national union busting movement. He doesn't care at all about the state's budget. This is another item entirely. This for Walker is only about destroying public unions. Yes, it's happening through the state legislatures, but this is a manifestation of an organized, well funded, nationwide movement to emasculate public workers' unions.

That's why the unions can't afford to lose this battle. And it's why President Obama needs to organize an appearance in Wisconsin. The unions have already conceded on the economic issues in this confrontation by agreeing to pay more for their health insurance and to contribute more to their pensions. Those issues are not what's keeping 14 Wisconsin legislators under cover in Illinois (or elsewhere). No. They are outside the state solely to protect collective bargaining. It bears repeating. What makes the confrontation persist is only one thing: the governor's adamant refusal to drop his plan for withdrawal of collective bargaining rights for certain Wiaconsin public workers. Plain and simple: the Governor insists on destroying these unions.

That's why the national democratic leadership in Washington needs to go to Wisconsin. And they need to go now. This is a confrontation that can and should be won. Obama and the national leadership have to stop playing Bert Lahr. They have to show up in numbers, and they have to roar.

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lunes, febrero 21, 2011

Feed The Wisconsin Demonstrators Pizza!!

I just ordered 2 pizzas to be delivered to demonstrators in Madison, Wisconsin. Rachel Maddow has the story:

You're probably already familiar with ordering take-out food online. Some restaurants let you do it directly and others use a middle man service, but the idea is that you log on, place your order, plug in your credit card info and tell it where to deliver the food. But there's nothing that says you have to have the food delivered to yourself. In fact, there's nothing that says you have to even be in the same country as the food you've just ordered.

And so we arrive at Ian's Pizza by the Slice where donations literally from around the world are coming into their State Street store in the form of online pizza orders to feed Wisconsin protesters. As Politico reports, "On Saturday alone, Ian’s gave away 1,057 free slices in their store and delivered more than 300 pizzas to the Capitol itself."

You get it. I got it. I sent 2 20" 3 topping pizzas to the assembled democracy demonstrators. Join me. It's easy. You go to and order a pie for the demonstrators. You know how to order for yourself. It's just as easy to order for others. Go for it. It will make you smile.

And by the way. This does not mean that my allegiance to Pizza Bob's in Ann Arbor has been violated in any regard. The way I see it, when in Madison, you do like the Badgers.

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I'm Not Going Nowhere

Today the New York Times reports that blogs written by children are waning because young people have gravitated to Twitter and Facebook. It neglects to note that many of those blogs, especially those written by junior high schoolers, weren't anything you would ever want to read on a regular basis. There are exceptions: if the blogger were your own kid, and you wanted to know what s/he was up to, a service well provided now by Facebook and Twitter, you might find the blog interesting. Or at least telling. This has something to do with the evolution of the Internet.

Writes the Gray Lady:

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Yeah, ok. Does that mean that blogs are waning, as the headline pronounces ("Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter")? Well, only sort of. It means that people select the service or platform that serves their needs.

There's not much of a story here. In the beginning, before blogs, there were Listservs. They're still around. They put an email in your box about something you're interested in. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing mysterious. You could send the same email to a thousand people, all of whom were willing to receive it. In the beginning, the Listserv was all there was, so it had to do everything.

Then there were blogs. And blog-like things, Livejournal and MySpace. These bloggy-like things, I think, are now pretty much fossils. Real blogs? Not at all.

Initially, a lot of what got put up on blogs was awful to read, but that didn't matter because again that was all there was. Heaven knows how many abandoned blogs there are. Blogs with one entry, "Oh, so now I can blog, see?" Blogs that haven't had an entry in 5 years. Blogs that nobody ever read. The list goes on. The extinction level was and is enormous. Blogs require writing and a certain level of persistence. If I returned to a blog and saw that nothing had been posted for 90 days, I knew it was most likely dead. That happened frequently. Still does.

Then along came Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is great to keep in touch with people. You can return to what was posted last week or last month if you want to. Twitter on the other hand is much quicker, but doesn't leave much of a trail. If you have a lot of people you're following, it scrolls fast and is always on to the next thing as fast as you can refresh.

All of this depends entirely on what you want. And because people probably will want something that these outlets don't yet provide (I don't know what that is), there will probably be the next new something launched right after I post this.

People who use the Internet find the services that let them do what they want. I use Twitter (@thedavidseth), I use Facebook (my real, 3 word name). I have a couple of Listservs I use (e.g., this one about the death penalty) that I've kept going since 2002. The idea, and it's a very modest one, is that various platforms are good for some things and not so good for others. When there were few options, everything got used for, well, everything. Now there are enough options that people can gravitate to what seems works for them, and they do.

This particular blog, The Dream Antilles, serves me excellently to do what I want it to do: it provides analysis and opinion, and it has particular subjects that it is about. I spare you a list. If you're reading this, you know what the focus is (or can easily find out) because there are more than 950 posts. And you no doubt know (and hopefully forgive) the idiosyncrasies and extremes of your humble bloguer@.

So this blog is not waning. No, it's continuing. Here's Dylan:

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domingo, febrero 20, 2011

Cuba's Celebration Of Books: Can We Have One In The US?

This morning's NY Times brings news (in English) of the Havana International Book Fair.

Wouldn't it be just wonderful to have something like this, say in NYC?

"This fair is oriented toward the reader ... as a chance to acquire books and have a dialogue with the authors, both Cubans and foreigners," organizer Edel Morales told The Associated Press.

"It is a notable difference to others in the world where people rarely attend," he said. "Here it is the people who make the fair." ...

The absence of a "professional segment" of meetings between critics, large publishing houses and other experts is one of its shortcomings, Morales acknowledged.

And the prices in Havana are nothing like New York:

...Yadriana Torres, 20, wanted books on beauty and massage, which she is studying.

"The problem is that they are expensive, because the most interesting in my field are sold in foreign currency," Torres said. The book that caught her eye cost 25 convertible pesos, or $27 — more than the average monthly salary in Cuba.

Reyes was headed for a pavilion that offered mostly local books in the local currency, a peso that is worth a little under 5 cents. Torres was lined up for one that sells in "convertible pesos," which are worth just over a dollar.

Many local books are made of modest paper, simple printing and soft, rustic binding, and they usually are heavily subsidized.

A good example is one of the most anticipated items of this year's fair: "The Man Who Loved Dogs," by Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, published last year by Spanish publisher Tusquets Editores. It sells for $24 elsewhere in the world, but islanders were able to buy it for just 30 Cuban pesos ($1.40) when it went on sale this month.

$1.40? In other words, the price on for a used paperback before shipping? I'd buy happily go to a fair to buy new books-- exciting, well written ones-- that were cheaply manufactured.

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What a ruthless wind,
shaking houses, breaking trees,
rumbling in the dark.

Tundra, bright moonlight,
a wind like a dull razor
scraping my face raw.

2/20/11, 1:31 am


viernes, febrero 18, 2011

Solidarity With Wisconsin's Union Workers

I haven’t forgotten. And I’m here to remind you about unions. And union members. Here’s Pete Seeger:

Yes, I know. I lament that union membership is now so small. And that union power is at an all time low. I regret that so few workers are organized in the US, and I am aggrieved by the constant libels unions endure: for example, that the auto industry needed to be bailed out because of its union workers, not because of an overpaid, greedy management as dumb as a sack of hammers. The dominant narrative is that the unions and not the capitalists have caused the problems in the economy. So the unions and not the bankers should make changes. And that the unions are unattractive. That they are fossils. What a joke. What utter nonsense.

And now, again, the Teapublicans have decided that the time is ripe to try to emasculate unions. This time the unions are those representing Wisconsin's public employees. This union busting is nothing new. The Teapublicans have been anti-labor and anti-union for more than a century. They’ve never seen a lockout or a goon or a scab or an injunction they couldn’t justify.

Wisconsin has become the epicenter of an overt, concerted, explicit Teapublican effort to regress to the era of employment at will, the 6 day work week, the 12 hour day, no vacations, no sick time, no overtime, no workers’ compensation, no unemployment insurance. Remember the Steel Barons and King Coal, garment sweatshops, and intimidation of workers? Remember goons and Pinkertons and scabs? Remember Haymarket Square, Big Bill Haywood, Eugene V. Debs, Mother Jones? Remember all of that history, all of that tradition? Do you remember what it means and what it feels like? When unions are destroyed, when the power of unions is taken away, what remains is the Teapublican nirvana, the Nineteenth Century.

Maybe it's time to watch Harlan County, USA again. Or Norma Rae. Or Matewan. It is time to remember about unions and what they mean.

The Teapublican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has made no bones about his aspirations to be the new vanguard of a national, union busting movement.

According to the New York Times:

Governor Walker, in an interview, said he hoped that by “pushing the envelope” and setting an aggressive example, Wisconsin might inspire more states to curb the power of unions. “In that regard, I hope I’m inspiration just as much as others are an inspiration to me,” he said.

FreedomWorks, a Washington group that helped cultivate the Tea Party movement, said it was trying to use its lists of activists to turn out supporters for a variety of bills aimed at cutting the power of unions — not just in Wisconsin, but in Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio as well.

And officials seeking to curtail labor’s power in other states said that by focusing attention on public-sector unions, the tense standoff in Wisconsin could give them momentum.

Put another way, Walker doesn’t give a hoot about the alleged financial crisis in Wisconsin or the state’s deficit and pension and health care issues. No. This is his time to try to smash the public workers’ unions, and he’s going for it. And the rest of the Teapublicans in Wisconsin’s legislature are going for it. The threat is so real that the Democrats have had to leave the state to thwart a quorum.

This makes my blood boil. I’ve been for the Union my entire life, and I always will be. Unions occupy an important corner in my heart and soul. My great grandmother was in the ILGWU. My parents were in the NEA. And I’ve been in unions, myself. I’ve pounded the pavement for six weeks in Winter, walking a picket line and subsisting on strike benefits, to demand a decent wage. I will not cross a picket line. Ever. I am furious about the events in Wisconsin.

And I think that if this is a showdown, between union busting Teapublicans and state workers, we all need to remember which side we’re on. And we need to begin to find ways to act in Solidarity with the Wisconsin unions and to support their struggle for survival.

Me? I’m sticking with the Union. I will do whatever I can to support the struggle of Wisconsin's Union Workers. And I invite you to join with me.

Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.

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jueves, febrero 17, 2011

Almost Spring Haiku

First comes the dripping.
Then peepers, red wing blackbirds,
snow whites, crocuses.

What a long winter!
A season to make me weep.
My despair births Spring.


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miércoles, febrero 16, 2011

Futbol, Galeano, Mexico

Eduardo Galeano

A Scheherazade story by Eduardo Galeano in a 2009 Washington Post:

... a former member of the Mexican congress, Victor Quintana, told me the book saved his life. In the middle of 1997, he was kidnapped by contract killers, hired to punish him for exposing some nasty business.

They had him trussed up, face in the dirt, and were kicking him to death, when, just before finishing him off with a bullet, they started arguing about soccer. Victor, more dead than alive, put in his two cents. And he started telling stories from my book (Soccer In Sun And Shadow), trading minutes of life for every tale out of those pages. Time and stories came and went, and at last the murderers left him, beaten and broken, but alive.

"You're okay," they told him, and they took their bullets elsewhere.

Understanding this story at a minimum requires an appreciation of the culture of futbol (read: soccer). If the argument is about baseball or the NFL or WWE, the story is implausible because it can only happen in cultures in which there is futbol and an obsession with it. These cultures are primarily in this Hemisphere. That's why I could wear a Club America shirt to the Fruiteria and be told by the clerk, "That team is no good," in three languages. The response to this? Shrug and say in three languages, "Maybe this year. Just wait."

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Hello Cruel World!!!

Welcome, welcome, welcome. Bienvenidos! This is a blog welcome mat. Welcome to a wonderful, corner of the Leftblogosfero that you might not have encountered before. Especially if you are leaving the Orange Giant and looking for a new place to hang out. And, of course, welcome to the Writers Port Alliance!

If, like me, you miss the free-for-all (one with some basic, human rules of respect and decency for others) of the old group blogs, and if you're looking for a new "home" for your pajama clad (or unclad or formally attired) self, you've found the right place for joining once again in the unrestrained, unsegmented joy of reading and writing in the Leftblogosfero.

A blog free-for-all. That's what I was looking for when I originally came here. The fun of a crowd of participants. The excitement of learning others' views. A free-for-all. A "place" where everyone and everything got mixed together and you could pick and choose at your leisure. It's a noun (a phrase?) I haven't used in decades. In fact, it's been so long, that I wanted to check its connotation:

Definition of FREE-FOR-ALL:

a competition, dispute, or fight open to all comers and usually with no rules : brawl; also : a chaotic situation resembling a free-for-all especially in lacking rules or structure (the press conference deteriorated into a free–for–all) ...

Synonyms: affray (chiefly British), broil, donnybrook, fracas, fray, free-for-all, melee (also mêlée), rough-and-tumble, row, ruckus, ruction

Antonyms: order, orderliness

Ooops. Free-for-all. Well, so maybe it was the wrong word after all. I don't think of this blog as a fight or a donnybrook. Truth be told, donnybrook is one of those words I know, but it isn't in my primary vocabulary. And when it comes to my brothers and sisters in the typing class, we all know and dread what can happen when the basic rules of human decency are breached. So it's not about creating chaos, or biting off other combatants' ears, it's about freedom and excitement that group blogging is so very good at.

There are eight blogs in the Writers Port Alliance. You can find their links at the top of the page. Two of these (The Dream Antilles and Ignoring Asia) are solo acts; the others, group blogs with varying points of view and characteristics. They are much smaller than the mega-blog, which means that they are slower to gather comments, and that essays are available for longer before they are disappeared and pushed off the page. Items printed in one space might fit in all or some or none of the others, and the members and writers cross-post freely.

Welcome! As a favorite band says, "Just poke around."

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lunes, febrero 14, 2011

Writing At Its Very Best

Every once in a while I come across some writing, usually a paragraph or just a few sentences, that is so remarkable, so breathtaking, so brilliant I have to copy it down and reprint it here. Today I found a paragraph. It's by Eduardo Galeano :

"Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that, one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them - will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn’t rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever. Good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms. The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way. Who are not, but could be. Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them."

– Eduardo Galeano, "The Nobodies"

Just unbelievably good.

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domingo, febrero 13, 2011



When you are alone,
do you listen to yourself
or the radio?


My journals are full.
Every page is the same.
Why no new ideas?



sábado, febrero 12, 2011

A Vital Question

Would democracy come easier to Algeria if its name were Alegria? Of course it would. In fact, if its name were Alegria, it wouldn't be in the fix it is now in.

And for the non-Spanish speakers/readers:

feminine noun
1. happiness, joy (gozo) ; joy (motivo de gozo)
con alegría -> happily, joyfully
2. rashness, recklessness (irresponsabilidad)
gastaron el dinero con demasiada alegría -> they spent the money too freely
Copyright © 2006 Chambers Harrap Publishers Limited

Alegría [ah-lay-gree’-ah]
1. Mirth, merriment, exhilaration, gaiety, glee, rejoicing. (f)
Saltar de alegría -> to jump with joy
2. Festivity. (f)
3. Light-someness, 4. (f)
4. Sesamum, oily grain. (Botany) (f)
5. Paste made of sesamum and honey. (f)
noun, plural
6. Rejoicings, public festivals.
Ecstasy, pleasure.
Velazquez® Spanish and English Dictionary. Copyright © 2007 by Velazquez® Press. All rights reserved.

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A Piece Of Internet History

The following screenshot marks the end of a period of Internet history, and I think the end of the influence of dailyKos on the left-blogosfero. I think that enormous group blog will now be divided up in a way that the previous vital cacophony will die down, groups will be isolated, and ultimately, it will feel and look a lot like Left Coast FacebookTM:

I, as I said before, will not follow the masses to the new format/platform, because I am not providing big sites with any more free content.

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And Now Algeria?

Buoyed by the success of the Egyptian Democracy Protests, democracy supporters have taken to the street in Algeria. And there they face armed security forces that do not appear to be ready to back off and which clearly outnumber the initial wave of demonstrators. Whether the protests will continue, and more important whether they will lead to widespread violence is too soon to predict.

The New York Times reports:

Demonstrators, inspired by popular protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, protested here in Algeria’s capital on Saturday before security forces moved in to break up the demonstration.

Gathering in the central May 1 Square, demonstrators chanted “Bouteflika out!” in reference to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has ruled Algeria since 1999. Organizers said thousands had taken part, but news agencies gave vastly differing figures, from a few dozen to thousands.

The protesters were hemmed in by thousands of riot police officers and blocked from embarking on a planned march through the capital. Many were arrested, although there were also conflicting numbers for those detained.

A witness said the police had far outnumbered the protesters.

“There was a march of police, not demonstrators,” said a man standing near the square in the afternoon, and who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The marchers had asked to conduct a peaceful march and it was refused. This is how power here acts.”

The initial confrontations have led to widespread arrests:

The Interior Ministry posted a statement on its Web site saying that 250 people had taken part in the protests and that 14 people had been detained and later released, according to Reuters.

Human rights groups, however, said the number of arrests had been far higher.

A spokesman for the coordinating committee seeking democratic change in Algeria said that 70 people had been arrested and that about 30 remained in detention. Those detained included the group’s main organizers, as well as human rights activists, union organizers, members of women’s associations and groups formed to track the missing and killed during the civil war in the 1990s.

Is this the beginning of an Algerian democarcy?

The Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in power since 1999, having been elected three times, the third after amending the Constitution to permit more than two terms. Each of the elections has been protested or boycotted by opposition parties. And a "state of emergency" has been in effect for 19 years.

More alarming, as recently as last month, there have been numerous self-immolations in Algeria to protest Bouteflika's retaining power. These were inspired by sel-immolations in Tunisia:

As the widely reported protests sparked off by Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in Tunisia began to have a clear impact on the Tunisian government, a wave of self-immolations swept Algeria. These individual acts of protest mostly took place in front of a government building following an unsuccessful approach to the authorities. Three self-immolators have died of their burns so far.

It began on 12 January, when 26 year-old Mohamed Aouichia set himself on fire in Bordj Menaiel in the compound of the daira building. He had been sharing a room of 30 square metres with seven other people, including his sister, since 2003; he had repeatedly approached local authorities to get on the social housing list and been rebuffed. He has so far survived.

On 13 January, Mohsen Bouterfif, a 37-year-old father of two, set himself on fire. He had gone with about twenty other youths to protest in front of the town hall of Boukhadra in Tebessa demanding jobs and houses, after the mayor refused to receive them. According to one testimony, the mayor shouted to them: "If you have courage, do like Bouazizi did, set yourself on fire! His death was reported on 16 January, and about 100 youths protested his death causing the provincial governor to sack the mayor. However, hospital staff the following day claimed he was still alive, though in critical condition. Al Jazeera described the suicide as "echoing the self-immolation that triggered the protests that toppled the leader of neighbouring Tunisia." He finally died on 24 January at a hospital in Annaba.

These suicides were followed by dozens more attempted or successful self-immolations across the country, so far without triggering nation-wide demonstrations, most of them after the Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country on 14 January

Is this the start of a continuing, popular struggle to being democracy to Algeria? Will the Alergerian government restrain itself, or will it resort to violence to quell the protests?

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viernes, febrero 11, 2011


A clumsy Haiku:
a frayed collar, a scuffed shoe.
Make every word count.




Stars sharp as icepicks
puncture a black velvet sky.
Frozen face and tears.



jueves, febrero 10, 2011

Mubarak To The World: I Fart In Your General Direction

I Taunt You

Well, once again the pundits have shown that they can get it wrong. Very wrong. Today's supposed love fest, to be commenced when Mubarak would go somberly on TV and announce in tones reminiscent of Richard Nixon that he was stepping down or ceding power, is canceled. Until further notice. Mubarak insists he will remain Apparently until he is forced to leave.

And he's served notice that the force requiring him to leave isn't going to come from the millions of demonstrators. Or from the US and EU, which have propped up this tyrant, our Man in Cairo, democracy be damned, for thirty years. No. He's going to stay the course.

Said the tyrant petulantly in today's television speech:

“We will not accept or listen to any foreign interventions or dictations,” Mr. Mubarak said, implying that pressure to resign came from abroad as opposed to masses of people demanding his ouster through his country.

Well, ok, then. That will put the US and the EU and pro-democracy forces across the world on notice and in their place.

Let the demonstrations continue. This guy clearly has to go.

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miércoles, febrero 09, 2011

Brian Jacques, RIP

Brian Jacques, the beloved British author of the Redwall series, died of a heart attack over the weekend at age 71.

Hailed as one of “the best children’s authors in the world,” Jacques’ 21 Redwall books were translated into 29 languages and sold 20 million copies worldwide.

The New York Times has more details of his life:

He was a longshoreman and a long-haul trucker; a merchant mariner and a railway fireman; a boxer, a bus driver and a British bobby. But it wasn’t until he became a milkman that Brian Jacques found his métier.

Nearing midlife, Mr. Jacques (pronounced “Jakes”) took a job driving a milk truck in Liverpool, where he was born and lived to the end of his life. On his route was the Royal School for the Blind.

Invited in for a nice cup of tea one day, he volunteered to read to the students. Over time, he grew dissatisfied with the books available — too much adolescent angst, he later said — and vowed to write his own.

He wrote what he called “a proper story,” brimming with battle and gallantry. Titled “Redwall” and published in 1986, it became the first installment in what is now a best-selling 21-volume children’s fantasy series....

Set at the pastoral Redwall Abbey in the misty English past, the books are written for children 8 and up. They center on the triumph of good over evil — specifically the hard-won victories of the abbey’s resident mice, badgers and squirrels over the marauding rats, weasels and stoats that perennially threaten their peaceable kingdom.

There are quests and riddles; cunning treachery and chivalric derring-do; and, in a feature that became a hallmark of the entire series, groaning boards spread with sumptuous feasts, lovingly described.

I read many of these books to my kids. They were simply wonderful, and we never tired of the tales of good in the form of mice, voles, moles ("molespeak" was a language) conquering evil in the form of rats, weasels, stoats, ferrets, and cats (the evil Zarmina was among the most cruel of his many arch villains).

Brian Jacques will be missed. But his books will live on. They will be read aloud for decades to come.

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lunes, febrero 07, 2011

Skewering Spiderman

In the New York Times Ben Brantley writes:

Directed by Julie Taymor, who wrote the show’s book with Glen Berger, and featuring songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge, “Spider-Man” is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.

Ouch! But what a satisfying ouch. And especially because the rest of the review leads methodically up to this. A feast of Schadenfreude.

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Sorry, Ariana and Markos, No More Free Content For You

I know all too much about writing for free. I do it here all the time. It's a labor of love. I've been at it for more than 900 blog posts and more than 5 years. I know about writing without being paid for it. Despite that, and despite my understanding that when I post at group blogs I know I won't get paid, I am absolutely furious about the AOL-Huffington Post Deal. Why? Because the writers are getting screwed, and they're not going to get a cent out of the deal. Not a sou.

The news this morning-- I'm sure you haven't missed it-- was that that beleaguered, dinosaur of dial up AOL has bought Huffington Post and made that doyenne of self promotion and faux progressive politics, Arianna, an AOL executive. Here's the essence of the story from the New York Times:

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company's largest acquisition since it was separated from Time Warner in 2009.
The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL's editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL's national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company's other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

Meanwhile, the bloggers at HuffPo, the ones who provide the "original content creation", that was just sold for $315,000,000.00 get, wait for it, nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero. And in an email this morning to bloggers, Ariana told them not to worry, no te preocupes, they could still churn out "original content creation", just like before, and well, continue to get the same nothing for it:

The HuffPost blog team will continue to operate as it always has. Arianna will become editor-in-chief not only of HuffPost but of the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all of AOL's content sites, including Patch, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, MapQuest, Black Voices, and Moviefone.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month -- and 250 million around the world -- so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That's the only real change you'll notice -- more people reading what you wrote.

Far from changing the Huffington Post's editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, it will be like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet. We're still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we're now going to get there much, much faster.

When I first read this, I was furious. I quickly penned an essay, which I published at dailyKos in which I argued that the bloggers, the writers at HuffPo were being screwed because they weren't getting a cent out of the $315 million dollar deal.

To my amazement, many of the comments to that essay told me that I was off base. Did I write for free and publish my writing at daily Kos? Yes. Didn't I do that because it would expose me to a wide audience? Yes. Didn't I write it all for free, without hope of money? Yes. Didn't I? I did. What kind of loon (I'm paraphrasing here) would think that he should write hundreds of diaries for free and that when the platform was sold, he should receive something? You've already received something, it was argued, you got the exposure and a larger audience for your writing. You don't, it was argued, deserve anything more. You get bupkis from the $315 million deal; you don't deserve more than that.

That just may be so. I never posted an essay or a comment at HuffPo. So I don't deserve any of the $315,000,000 Ariana and her investors are being paid. I figure that if Ariana put 1% of the deal up and gave it to the writers, there would be $3.15 million to distribute. How many writers could there be? If there were 1,000, they could each be given $3,150. They could be told, "Thank you for writing for free. Because your writing helped me make a bundle, I've decided to send you this small check as a token of my appreciation. Your writing is worth far more than this amount, but this is something I want you to have as a token of my gratitude. It's not pay. It's a gift. You helped me make a big score, and I want to thank you for that."

MSNBC is reporting that HuffPo had 6,000 free bloggers writing for it (last sentence of linked article). If that's so, the 1% gratuity would come to about $500 per person. And the number of people who wrote so that Ariana could be well paid would be enormouse.

At any rate, you'd expect some acknowledgment of the bloggers and writers. You wouldn't expect anything less from a progressive. When somebody at the race track gives you a tip, and you bet the horse, and it wins, you always give the tipper some of the winning. When a football quarterback wins a big game, he takes the linemen out to dinner and drinks. You have gratitude for those who make it possible to win. When someone in business helps you out and you have gratitude, you send flowers or wine or a fruit basket. Or you pay for a meal. These are expressions of gratitude for help. They are always appreciated, especially if your original deal was that you wouldn't be paid.

Is Ariana going to get out her check book and write a check, or is she going to sit on it? Probably the latter. So I won't be signing up to write at HuffPo at any time soon. And I'll support Al Giordano and others who have decided to take down their writing from the site.

Which brings me to Markos and dailyKos. I have loved writing for dailyKos over the years. But if today's events tell me anything, it's that dailyKos might well be the next group web site to be sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. And it's the same as HuffPo in this: there are many, many talented people writing diaries there. There is some brilliant writing. That writing is the value of the site. And that writing is being given to the site and its readership for free. And when the site is ultimately acquired by the capitalists with the big check books and they write Markos a gigantic check, what then? Same story, different day. I'll be told that I agreed to write for free, that I had a large audience, and that is all. I got what I deserve; I will get nothing more. Things will be the same with the new corporate master. Why, I wonder, should I or anyone else contribute our writing, increase the value of the site, and then, poof, have it be sold while we receive nothing?

As America's former poet laureate tried to say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." So, no, I'm done. I will not be moving to DK4 when the site changes over this week. I will not be publishing any further diaries at dailyKos. I am not willing to continue to provide value to dailyKos that will eventually be sold without any payment of any kind to me. No. I'm done. I'll stick to my blog and to the Writers Port Alliance. You can join me there or at the other Writers Port Alliance sites (all listed at the top of this blog)

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HuffPo Bought By AOL

This morning's news says that beleaguered, dinosaur of dial up AOL has bought Huffington Post and made the doyenne of digital, Arianna, an executive. Here's the news from the New York Times:

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company’s largest acquisition since it was separated from Time Warner in 2009.

The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company’s other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

Meanwhile, the bloggers at HuffPo, I'm told, the ones who provide the "original content creation" that was just sold, don't get paid. Correct me if I'm wrong. And in an email to the bloggers this morning, Arianna told them that things would remain the same:

The HuffPost blog team will continue to operate as it always has. Arianna will become editor-in-chief not only of HuffPost but of the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all of AOL’s content sites, including Patch, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, MapQuest, Black Voices, and Moviefone.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month -- and 250 million around the world -- so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That’s the only real change you’ll notice -- more people reading what you wrote.

Far from changing the Huffington Post’s editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, it will be like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet. We’re still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we’re now going to get there much, much faster.

So my initial impression-- I'm sure we'll all have time to think about this today-- is that once again the writers, the bloguer@s like you and me get to continue to tickle their keyboards and bang their heads on their monitors for free, while they create all of the "content" and the money, and it is huge money this time, will not find its way into their pockets. Not a sou.

The other point has to do with consolidation of media and control of content. The more consolidation the fewer outlets with potentially different points of view. Consolidation of media is the opposite of creating a free, multiplicity of views.

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Chasing deer weather.
Dog runs on top of the snow.
Heavy deer cannot.


sábado, febrero 05, 2011

Bob Marley's Birthday: He'd Be 65

Nesta Robert "Bob" Marley, OM was born on February 6, 1945, in the village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica. He'd be 65, if he hadn't died at age 36 in 1981.

In honor of Bob Marley, one of the most influential musicians of our era:

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Making The Independent Judiciary A Joke

The independence of the judiciary means that the Courts should be free from improper influence from outside interests. What a great idea for having a transparent, fair judicial system. It's a concept that has so much promise. But in practice the present Supreme Court and its members may be driving it off a cliff. Today's news about Justice Thomas's wife's lobbying business may signal its ultimate demise.

The New York Times reports that Justice Thomas's wife,

who has raised her political profile in the last year through her outspoken conservative activism, is rebranding herself as a lobbyist and self-appointed “ambassador to the Tea Party movement.”

Virginia Thomas, the justice’s wife, said on, a Web site for her new political consulting business, that she saw herself as an advocate for “liberty-loving citizens” who favored limited government, free enterprise and other core conservative issues. She promised to use her “experience and connections” to help clients raise money and increase their political impact.

Can you read that sentence again? "She promised to use her 'experience and connections' to help clients raise money and increase their political impact." Her connections. Well, her biggest, if not her only connection is her husband, who has more than once imposed his wackadoodle analysis of the law on the nation to benefit those who appointed him to the high court and whom he holds close to his heart: Bush v. Gore and Citizens United are only the top of the heap. Her connections indeed.

Of course, lawyers and law professors and others note that this is an ethical outrage:

Ms. Thomas’s effort to take a more operational role on conservative issues could intensify questions about her husband’s ability to remain independent on issues like campaign finance and health care, legal ethicists said.

Justice Thomas “should not be sitting on a case or reviewing a statute that his wife has lobbied for,” said Monroe H. Freedman, a Hofstra Law School professor specializing in legal ethics. “If the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that creates a perception problem.”...

Arn Pearson, a vice president at Common Cause, a liberal group that has been critical of potential conflicts at the Supreme Court caused by Ms. Thomas’s work, said her new position, combined with Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent address before a closed-door seminar of the Tea Party Caucus, provided further evidence of “the politicization of the court.”

“The level of bias we’re seeing is really troubling,” Mr. Pearson said.

Mr. Friedman is too kind.

And how is it that Ms. Thomas got herself in this position?

Ms. Thomas’s founding of her own political consulting shop, Liberty Consulting, was first reported Thursday by Politico, which said she had begun reaching out to freshmen Republicans in Congress.

The move comes a few months after she gave up the top spot at Liberty Central, a conservative Web site that she founded in 2009 and that has strong links to the Tea Party movement.

An anonymous $500,000 donation to start up Liberty Central came from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate investor and Republican financier, Politico reported.

Mr. Crow, reached by phone Friday, would not say whether he was the source of the money. “I disclose what I’m required by law to disclose,” he said, “and I don’t disclose what I’m not required to disclose.”

You can be sure that Mr. Crow's $50,000 is just the first drop, and that there will be a torrent of money from others who want to buy influence from Ms. Thomas. And her husband.

And what's this about reaching out to "freshmen Republicans in Congress," the very people who are presently trying to repeal the health care bill either all at once (fail!) or piece by piece by piece? And what's this simultaneous news that the Virginia Attorney General is trying to take the Government's appeal that state's crazy health care decision directly to the Supreme Court?

Just coincidences, I'm sure. Just coincidences. I'm sure the Court can mind its own ethics.

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viernes, febrero 04, 2011

Announcing An Internet Serialized Novel

Let's face it. The book publishing industry is in the dumpster. Concentration and consolidation, the almighty bottom line, publishing on demand, electronic sales of downloadable work, all have pushed the paper book to the brink. It's time for writers to experiment and find alternative ways of bringing their work to readers.

And so, my friend Claudia Ricci's novel, Seeing Red, is the first to be serialized on Huffington Post.

In her blog, My Story Lives, she explains this surprising event:

Serializing novels in a chapter-by-chapter format isn't new. Not at all. Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and many other Victorian writers published their stories in installments in weekly and monthly magazines back in the 19th century. Readers lined up to get new installments of the novels that Dickens and others wrote.

With the book publishing business in peril, and electronic books on the rise, it seems timely to try experimenting with books on a blog! We hope you'll join us in the first Huff Post blog-book!

What follows here is the first installment (the Prologue) of Seeing Red (link warning: great music), a love story just in time for Valentine's Day.

Protagonist Ronda Cari is married and the mother of two and, oh yes, she also dances flamenco! Pretty soon she has a Spanish guitarist lover named Jesús and he's got eyes -- what else, the color of melted chocolate!

But while this book's got plenty of romance, and some decidedly hot encounters, it is definitely not a romance novel. It's a story about a woman's passion for her dancing, and her discovery that art -- and friends who do art -- can help us heal from the worst of heartbreaks.

We hope you'll take a few minutes to read the Prologue. Here's a note from a reader:

"I just finished Seeing Red and I LOVED it! I had trouble putting it down, and now I'm grieving my loss because the story is over. Seeing Red is about passion, but not only the romantic kind. I followed Ronda through Spain on her journey of love and self-discovery as she explores her marriage, motherhood, infidelity, and loss, all the while nurturing a once-forgotten passion for dance that transforms and empowers her. It is impossible not to experience Ronda's joys and pain, as well as reflect on your own, due to your gift for transporting readers via accurate and vivid details, along with your depth of insight and knowledge. I was transported, both there, AND to many personal memories. I love it when an author can do that for me -- although it is very emotional and draining, I love it." -- Kellie LaCoppola, Palatine Bridge, New York

New installments will follow three times weekly, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Enjoy!


Later, much later, Ronda came face to face with the Spanish girl. She peered into the young woman's eyes, green and full of strange glittering light.

"What could you possibly want from me?" Ronda whispered.

The girl remained silent for a moment. But her eyes bore deeply into Ronda. She fixed her sight so tightly that Ronda felt pinned, and inside her blouse, sweat sprouted across her chest and in her armpits.

Ronda turned to Hernán, the man she had hired to drive the Mercedes. "Can you please ask her?" Ronda said. "Ask the girl what she wants from me."

Hernán nodded. Straightening up, he turned to face the girl. He cleared his throat and then, bending forward slightly, he spoke a few hurried lines of Spanish, all the while gesturing with one hand toward Ronda.

The girl lifted her head. Answered slowly. And defiantly. Hernán's eyes widened. His gaze dropped to the ground. He shook his head.

"What?" Ronda insisted. "Hernán, tell me. What does she want?"

He looked up at Ronda. He said nothing at first, as if he was deciding what to say. Finally he spoke. "She wants to know, señora, if...if when you go back to the United States, if you would be willing to take the little girl. The baby, that is. With you. keep."

The words hovered around Ronda's ears, but they didn't go deeply enough. She didn't hear them. Or maybe she did, but she couldn't possibly process them, not so that they made any sense. She felt them twirling around in her brain, the same way she herself had been twirling these last months, her feet and legs learning to dance the complex steps of the alegría and the bulería and the fandango.

Ronda shuddered slightly and just stared at the girl. With no warning, the girl reached out and grabbed Ronda's hands in her own grimy hands. She held on. Despite the blazing heat, the girl's fingers were sticks of ice, as frigid as the pond back in Ronda's yard in New England.

Ronda struggled to break the fierce grip, tried to pull her hands away, but the girl just held tighter. She made one giant fist out of her own hands and Ronda's, and she shook fiercely, as if she were forcing them into a pact. Ronda shuddered again and wrenching her hands free, she stepped back.

"No..." she whispered. "Never."

She gave the girl one more look: the bronzed weather-beaten face, the green eyes, pleading.

That's when she noticed. The girl's lips. How could she not have noticed before? The lips were faintly purple now, and the pallor seemed moment by moment to be getting darker.

Ronda felt her stomach tighten. She turned toward the car, and as she did, she started to feel lightheaded.

"Hernán, I really need to...leave. Right away, we need to, please. Now."
Immediately Hernán was beside her, opening the door of the Mercedes and Ronda, casting one last frightened look at the greenest eyes she had ever seen, slipped inside the limousine.

Stay tuned, Chapter One is coming Sunday, Feb. 6th!!

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miércoles, febrero 02, 2011

Storm Central?

There's one thing I haven't heard lately. "Well, when I was a kid, the winter was much worse than this." It's not that nobody's saying that. No. It's that it's impossible to get out, and there's nobody here who would dare to say that aloud. Especially with the Internet. You could look it up and find out that it wasn't really any different. Or you could not look it up and instead spend a few hours testily arguing about it. Arguing is more in line with the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), cabin fever, grumpiness, and that exquisite soreness that comes from shoveling snow. Arguing is an inevitable indoor Winter activity.

Hopefully the storms that have turned Columbia County, New York into a pale model of the Northwest Territories will end tonight.

Meanwhile, there is an element of the surreal to be noted in passing. WAMC, the public radio station, started a fund raiser on Monday. Because it has zillions of transmitters all over this part of the world, and because there's virtually no public money for public radio, they're trying to raise $1 Million. One Million Dollars. Reminds me of Mini Me. This is a lot of money. And they have their tactics for raising it. The result is that the listener doesn't know when they will play the news or the weather. You tune in, thinking you'll hear about what you want to know about, the storm or about Egypt. Instead, you're treated to a feast of passive aggressive obnoxiousness designed to make you pay up or turn the radio off: yodeling yesterday, today the gong from Law and Order is rung after each and every donation is announced. Pardon me. I gave money to the station yesterday. But I cannot listen to this any more.

Ironically, to keep the station on the air so that it could report events for which radio is helpful, like terrible weather, like rapidly unfolding world events in Egypt and the like, I have to listen to incessant yodeling and the gong. It is not avoidable. Nobody is telling what the schedule is, nobody reveals when there will be a program instead of the fund raiser, so I find myself hoping beyond hope that there will be a break from the fund raising sturm and drang to bring that most precious commodity, information. Alas. I cannot listen and wait. Last night, I listened to this nonsense for more than forty minutes, only to have the break be financial news. Not Egypt. Not the storm. Do not ask me why I let it go on for that long. It's winter. I made bad decisions. Shoot me, please.

Back on November 6, 2010, I complained about this. I wasn't charitable:

We do have a public radio station to keep us company. But it seems to have only two programs. Prairie Home Companion, which it seems to play on a loop throughout the weekend, and Fundraising, which plays during the week. The station tries to raise $800,000 per fund drive. That is a huge amount of money. And there’s also commentary. Unfortunately, it seems there is only one commentator. And he’s on all the time, expressing his opinion or raising money or both. My opinion? Let me try to remember the last time any sane person asked for that. It seems the radio station has decided to have millions of transmitters and only 3 programs. This is a recipe for seasonal insanity, if not depression.

All right. I want to amend my remarks. At the time I wrote them, I admit they seemed unnecessarily grumpy. As fate would have it, they weren't. Not at all. The station is now locked in what I think is will turn into a perpetual fund raiser. And it is impossible to listen to the station. This will continue until the Equinox. Or longer. Or forever.

My radio is off. It may stay off. I'm getting information about Egypt from Al Jazeera's live stream and the weather from the weather sites. This could be habit forming, because it is so incredibly easy. I suspect that WAMC, which has been an asset to this community for so long, because of the timing and amount of this particular fund drive, may have consigned itself to history. Like those big snow storms nobody around here is talking about.

Its only hope is that eventually we'll be able to drive again. WAMC, if it's saved at all, will be rescued by car radios.

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martes, febrero 01, 2011

Welcome to the Port Writers Alliance

Our friend and colleague ek hornbeck writes:

I'm pleased to announce today the formation of the Port Writers Alliance. This is a collective effort of Antemedius, DocuDharma, Firefly Dreaming, Ignoring Asia, The Dream Antilles, The Stars Hollow Gazette, Wild Wild Left, and writing in the rAw. (note: links to all the sites appear above on Dream Antilles' masthead)

About The Name

A little to the left of starboard if you get the drift. A harbor or anchorage.

About The Concept

There's a lot of news and commentary that could be receiving more attention.

Rather than crosspost on a single central site what we'd like to encourage is crossreading and commenting.

We'll be using two mechanisms to accomplish this-

Firedog Lake style links to affiliated sites across the banner (props). I've always admired the way Jane and her crew have been able to maximize excitement and can only hope to emulate it.
Regular cross promotional digests of associated sites' content.

How Does This Work?

Each site will decide for itself the content they want to feature and how often. They'll produce a digest and publish it on the affiliated sites. It will be promoted by the host or not whenever, depending on the desires of the host site.

Authors must choose for themselves if they want to crosspost, though they should expect requests to do so.

The point is to increase visibility and impact.


Each site has it's own vibe. Formula One and Le Tour and if you ever think I'm talking about Politics you are sadly mistaken.

Content that is acceptable in some places is not in others and it is up to the host to decide. All you free speech advocates can find a place to express yourselves I'm sure. Port Writers Alliance sites enforce their own polices which are not uniform.


The objective is that we'll drive some traffic and raise some awareness. I like to keep expectations realistic.

What you will see as a reader

Below each site's Banner you'll see some buttons that take you to the Front Page of each site. Fairly frequently you'll see a digest post from the individual sites that provide links to content they wish to highlight. Sometimes it will have been crossposted but often not, so the pieces may be of special interest to you and you'll want to click through and read them. Even for crossposted pieces the reactions will be different.

If you wish to comment or contribute you'll have to register independently at that site. We just don't have the technology Jane does at Firedog Lake.

If you are used to the pace of Daily Kos (and I don't link just because I'm not sure about stability with the advent of dK 4.0) what you will find is that our blogs run quite a bit slower. You can't expect instant reactions or high volume responses.

On the other hand we're attempting with this project to expose you to a wide range of diverse content so that there is plenty for you to read and explore.

I'm interested in your reactions to this initiative. Please let me know below.

I'm very excited that The Dream Antilles will participate in this alliance. And, of course, your views about this are most welcome in the comments.

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Enough, I Say, Enough

This morning's maps from tell quite a story.

I don't remember another Winter like this one. Persistent snow. Dense snow cover. Extreme cold. And it's likely to continue. The local forecast this morning is quite something:

A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 6 am EST Thursday.

* Locations: Greene and Columbia counties... and the southern

* Hazards: heavy snow... mixed with sleet.

* Accumulations: today... snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches with
another 2 to 4 inches expected late tonight. On Wednesday... snow
and sleet accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected with an
additional 1 to 2 inches Wednesday night. Total snowfall and
sleet accumulations of 10 to 20 inches.

* Timing: snow will be occasionally moderate to heavy through
today. Only occasional light snow is expected this evening with
the snow picking up in intensity after midnight. Snow and sleet
will come down heavy at times Wednesday especially during the
morning. A changeover back to all snow is expected before
tapering off Wednesday night.


A Winter Storm Warning means significant amounts of snow...
sleet... and ice are expected or occurring. Strong winds are also
possible. This will make travel very hazardous or impossible.

At 10 am Tuesday, the roads are already slick and covered with snow. State Route 203, which runs in front of the house, has a single, plowed lane down its center. It has no traffic at all. Snow is mounting up quickly. Nobody who doesn't absolutely have to go out is going anywhere. From here the nearest there is Chatham, which as the snow piles up, seems to recede farther and farther into the distance.

I have logs for the fire. I have food. "I have my books and my poetry to protect me." I have instant Netflix. I have Roku. I just need NYSEG to keep the electricity on and Fairpoint to keep the Internet working. I can hold snowbound boredom at bay. I will dream of Bahia Soliman, Mexico, where it is 80 degrees and the water is turquoise.

Be safe. And warm. Wherever you are.

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Haiku For Imbolc

Again, constant snow,
Starless night and bitter cold.
No surprise this storm.

Only a blue sun
as the snow piles taller grow,
Sparks jump from dry logs.