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

sábado, marzo 31, 2012

Over Night: A Conspiracy

Yesterday, I wrote to tell you with certainty that I had won the Mega Zillions jackport, more than $500 million. I awoke this morning to discover to my shock and anger that a vast conspiracy had emerged over night and through connivance had deprived me of my winnings. All of my winnings. Not only that. They gave my money to their minions in other states. This shall not stand. I demand a full investigation of this fraud. And I want my $5 back.

Etiquetas: , , ,

viernes, marzo 30, 2012

Winning At Mega Zillions

Your Bloguero has been busy. He went to town and secured not only his own financial future, but his membership in the (almost) 1%. Yes, your Bloguero has joined the teaming, unwashed masses at the Mega Zillions machine. But there is one pertinent exception relevant to your Bloguero. It's this. Your Bloguero is going to win the prize. It is a done deal. No equivocation. No doubt. Done. Your Bloguero has already won the prize. You and he have to wait a bit for confirmation, but as your Bloguero is so often told, the check, in this case a huge one, is in the mail. And your Bloguero's belated career as a philanthropist is about to begin. Nobody knows this yet, except for you. But your Bloguero is fully expecting crushing crowds of people seeking his largesse and advice to assemble early tomorrow at his kitchen door right after they find out he won.

How did your Bloguero accomplish this feat? How did he escape the teaming, faceless masses and enter the uberrich? Well, you might ask. Very well, your Bloguero will tell you. First, your Bloguero donned his clown nose because winning zillions isn't serious business. Nope. It's all clowning around. It's light, it's easy, it's joyful. It took a little work for your Bloguero to ferret out the nose from where it was hiding, but voila! He donned his classic, red clown nose. Ready to win. Listo! Second, your Bloguero donned his lucky, fuzzy Elmer Fudd hat. The hat that could be worn only by Ignatius Riley or Elmer Fudd. Or your soon to be Zillionaire Bloguero. Why? Because winning all of the cash is outrageous in the most delightful way. Millions of suckers people think erroneously that they have won, but there will be only one winner. All of those people realize this on some level. What they don't realize it that the winner is your Bloguero. Your Bloguero is filled with gratitude to all of those who funded his success, especially all of those who will be eating Value Meals and Ramen noodles for the month of April because of their vain efforts to win money destined only for your Bloguero.

Your Bloguero gave his lottery ticket seller a few dollars and explained he wanted the winning ticket. It was that easy. Your Bloguero wondered, "Why am I wasting money? If I put a single, crumpled dollar bill, one I found under a couch cushion, into this event, I would win Zillions with that crumpled dollar. My pizza change would transform my life. But this isn't about saving the unnecessary dollars I spent on the extra tickets. No. That $4 is going to be lost in an impending, vast sea of moolah, an ocean of green so wide that the other side has vanished."

Your Bloguero loves the impending excitement, the breathless excitement that comes just before it is revealed to almost everyone's complete surprise that your Bloguero is now ridiculously rich.

Your Bloguero is going to give away 90 percent or more of the winnings. He will tithe himself. The rest, the remaining $55million or so, is as good as gone. Your Bloguero is really looking forward to the giveaway. Your Bloguero is wishing everybody could win, but there you have it.

Etiquetas: ,

jueves, marzo 29, 2012

For Trayvon: 41 Shots

Earl Scruggs, RIP

The New York Times:

Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass banjo player whose hard-driving picking style influenced generations of players and helped shape the sound of 20th-century country music with his guitar-playing partner, Lester Flatt, died on Wednesday in a Nashville hospital. He was 88....

Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt probably reached their widest audiences with a pair of signature songs: “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” which they recorded in 1949 with their group the Foggy Mountain Boys, and which was used as the getaway music in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde”; and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song of the 1960s television sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.” (Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt also appeared on the show at times.)

But he also helped shape the “high, lonesome sound” of Bill Monroe, often called the father of bluegrass, and pioneered the modern banjo sound. His innovative use of three fingers rather than the claw-hammer style elevated the five-string banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian’s prop — to a lead or solo instrument. What became known as the syncopated Scruggs picking style helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music.

Mr. Scruggs, who had played banjo since the age of 4, got his big break when he joined Monroe’s band, the Blue Grass Boys, in 1945. The band included Monroe, who sang and played the mandolin; Mr. Flatt on guitar; Howard Watts (a k a Cedric Rainwater) on bass; and Chubby Wise on fiddle.

miércoles, marzo 28, 2012

Adrienne Rich,RIP

WaPo reports:

Poet Adrienne Rich, whose socially conscious verse influenced a generation of feminist, gay rights and anti-war activists, has died. She was 82....

Through her writing, Rich explored topics such as women’s rights, racism, sexuality, economic justice and love between women.

Rich published more than a dozen volumes of poetry and five collections of nonfiction. She won a National Book Award for her collection of poems “Diving into the Wreck” in 1974. In 2004, she won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for her collection “The School Among the Ruins.” According to her publisher, W.W. Norton, her books have sold between 750,000 and 800,000 copies, a high amount for a poet.

And then there's this:

Diving Into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

She will be sorely missed.

Etiquetas: ,

domingo, marzo 25, 2012

George Zimmerman's Disgraceful Press Circus

Well, it's really, really ugly. On two fronts: the racist, unjustified killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, black teenager, and then, to make the situation even more grotesque, some really awful, amateurish, disgraceful attorney-press interactions by a lawyers who says he is representing the killer.

I’ve been raging about the murder of Trayvon Martin. I’m disgusted by it. I want to see George Zimmerman arrested, indicted, tried and convicted. In short order. And I’m enraged by all of the bogus excuses for why the process of charging him has been so delayed. I confess to being extremely angry.

And as if all of that weren’t enough, I’m also shocked and disgusted by the “lawyering,” if that’s what it is, the accused, George Zimmerman is receiving in the media.

Look, if George Zimmerman is guilty of the homicide of Trayvon Martin, and I’m virtually certain he is, he is entitled in the United States to the effective assistance of counsel of his choice. And like it or not, counsel has to interact in big cases like this one with the press in a way that doesn’t make the client’s case worse. Counsel’s job isn’t to promote himself as a celebrity. It’s to protect his client, to make him more sympathetic, to assert the presumption of innocence. Or at the least to act as a shield. Counsel has to do all of the things he can that will prevent George Zimmerman from being completely convicted in the media before a trial is ever held. It's a hard, unthankful job. But in our system, that's the job that is required of whoever is representing him.

But if you look at George Zimmerman’s “defense,” and even using that term pains me in this case, it’s a pathetic mishmash of contradictions, disclaimers, and down right stupidity. It’s a disgrace. I’ve never seen anything as awful. And I say that based on being a criminal defense attorney for more than thirty years and having had to, on more than a few occasions, get my client's story out.

George Zimmerman is in hiding because he wasn’t immediately arrested and charged with the homicide of Trayvon Martin. Nobody can explain satisfactorily why Zimmerman is still at large. In fact, he shouldn’t be. He would be better off if he weren't. But he hasn’t spoken to the press. No. He’s enlisted friends to talk to the press. And he has a lawyer talking to the press. But is this lawyer really representing Zimmerman, or is he creating a huge, public relations calamity and credibility crisis for his client? Sadly, I think it’s the latter.

This past Friday, Craig Sonner, an Orlando lawyer, gave an interview to CNN. He said he was Zimmerman’s lawyer and that his client wasn’t a racist. But, as to the details of the crime,

Sonner refused to share the details of his conversations with Zimmerman, citing attorney-client privilege, but did say that the former neighborhood watchman has cooperated with the investigation. He also declined to share any of the specifics of his defense strategy, saying:

I don't know what all the evidence is, and what transpired that night. That's what the trial's going to be about, and that's hopefully what the trial will stay about, and not about being angry over a racial issue.

What? “I don’t know what all the evidence is, and what transpired that night.” You have to be kidding me. Sonner is representing Zimmerman, his conversations with Zimmerman about the crime have been privileged, but, and this is one big, fat but, he doesn’t “know what all the evidence is.” Are you kidding? That’s incredible on its face. How can the lawyer representing the defendant in the most publicized, most hotly debated incident since OJ, not know what the evidence is. And if he doesn’t know what the evidence is, why is he talking to the press about what he doesn't know rather than ferreting it out? What kind of bogus disclaimer is this?

But wait. On Friday, despite all the press and all of the talking about the case, according to WFTV, Craig Sonner said, no, he was NOT representing Zimmerman. He was NOT his lawyer. He was “just advising him.” So he’s not Zimmerman’s lawyer? Why are the media talking to him about this case if he doesn’t represent even the shooter?

Very nice. But don’t worry. This distinction about “lawyer” vs. “legal advisor” was immediately thrown out. The next day, March 24, Craig Sonner, again identifying himself as Zimmerman’s lawyer, was interviewed by CNN. He said he “believed” Zimmerman’s nose had been broken and the back of his head had lacerations. Then he uttered this astonishing sentence:

“I have not discussed with him the incident of that night other than the injury he sustained were from Trayvon Martin,” Sooner replied. “I assume he hit him in the face and caused him to fall back and hit his head.”

What? Wait a second. You are the guy’s lawyer. OK, maybe you’re not. But you’re talking to the press supposedly in his behalf and supposedly with his authorization, and you tell the press (a) you have not discussed with Zimmerman the incident of that night, and forget whether I learned what happened or not or discussed it with the shooter, none of that matters, because (b) it was self defense. Oh. And I "assume" something happened? Jeepers.

How is anyone supposed to believe a shred of what this guy is saying? Doesn’t his even saying it now subvert it and discredit it? He's definitely not out there saying, "Look, if my client committed a crime, and we don't think he did, he will surrender to authorities as soon as they say they want him to. He's presumed innocent. We have nothing further to say to the press about this case, and we won't have anything further to say until the case is resolved." No. He's talking about whatever he wants to, and it's a gumbo of disclaimer, hypothecation, assumption and incredibility.

But it doesn’t stop here. Oh, no. That would be merciful. We could just dismiss whatever this lawyer clown says and wait for the arrest. But no. The lawyer has to turn this case into a complete trainwreck. As to the self-defense claim, Sonner’s talked about that before to the press. Said he,

A lawyer for the man at the center of the Trayvon Martin death investigation said Florida’s “stand your ground” law doesn’t apply to the shooting that killed the unarmed teen.

“In my legal opinion, that’s not really applicable to this case. The statute on ‘stand your ground’ is primarily when you’re in your house,” said Craig Sonner, attorney for George Zimmerman.

“This is self-defense, and that’s been around for forever — that you have a right to defend yourself. So the next issue (that) is going to come up is, was he justified in using the amount of force he did?”

What? Self-defense? George Zimmerman is told not to pursue Trayvon Martin by dispatchers. He pursues him anyway. He chases him down. Zimmerman is armed. Martin has skittles, iced tea, a cell phone and a hoodie. Zimmerman provokes a confrontation, and then he shoots unarmed, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Only heaven knows how this can possibly be transformed into self defense. And is the lawyer for George Zimerman really telling the world in behalf of his client that “Stand Your Ground” is “not really applicable to this case” and that they will not raise that as a defense at trial? How, one would like to know, can the lawyer say anything like that if, as he admitted to the press, he’s never discussed the incident with Zimmerman (except for Zimmerman’s injuries) and he doesn't know what the evidence is?

Apparently, Craig Sonner doesn't care what he says to the press. And the press, to no one's genuine surprise, doesn't care whether it makes any sense or not. They just lap it up. They don't question him. But wait. The case is not about Sonner. It's about George Zimmerman. He's the one with the serious pending legal issue. He's the one who killed Trayvon Martin. He's the one who needs to be protected.

This is a complete and utter disgrace. It’s an embarrassment to those of us who take seriously our obligation actually to represent our clients, even those clients who are accused of unspeakably horrendous acts to which they have no defense. No matter what they’ve done, these people are entitled to effective counsel and to a fair trial. And I want George Zimmerman to receive one. He’s entitled to it. And Trayvon Martin is entitled to justice and a fair trial and conviction of the person who killed him.

The only way this ridiculous press circus will be stopped is by George Zimmerman’s arrest. Or by Craig Sonner's deciding to go into hiding with his client and to wait for the wheels of such justice as there is in Florida to grind out an indictment.

Etiquetas: , , , , ,

sábado, marzo 24, 2012

Please Wear Your Hoodie Today

In solidarity with Trayvon Martin and in pursuit of Justice in his case, please wear your hoodie today.

Here's Trayvon:

Here are the Miami Heat:

Here's your Bloguero:

Please join us.

I could ruminate here about what a moron Geraldo is, but the point is that there's nothing about this clothing that justifies an armed security guard's chasing someone, initiating a confrontation, and then killing an unarmed child.

I won't rest until there's an arrest and prosecution in this case. And I do NOT want to hear again ever how the "Stand Your Ground Law" immunizes killing unarmed children when the killer is the one who initiates the pursuit and confrontation. Even the killer's given up that argument.

Etiquetas: , , ,

viernes, marzo 23, 2012

Another Broken Heart

President Obama got it entirely right when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” That captures it in a sentence. A broken heart, and profound sadness and anger at the shooting of Trayvon Martin. And that’s why, today, students across South Florida, who understand from their own experiences how easy it is to be hassled, frisked, shot, or killed, walked out of school in protest. The death of Trayvon just is too much to bear. What else could they do?

And that’s why so many people are wearing hoodies today in solidarity with Trayvon and to symbolize their desire that justice be done. I’m one of those. What else can I do?

And that’s why there are demonstrations in many cities that begin with the horror of the death of Trayvon Martin and go on to inevitable questions about the role of police, the constant frisking on the sidewalk. And the incessant of stopping of cars. And endemic surveillance and following and watching and stopping to ask questions. Was it Justice Brandeis who wrote in dissent about the right of the people to be left alone?

It’s obvious. There’s something incredibly wrong going on. And it’s not new. No. It’s been going on in one dreadful form or another for more than half a millennium in this hemisphere and for more than 400 years in what is now the United States of America. And it continues. In its simplest terms, it’s dehumanization. It has a long, horrible, degrading, exasperating history. And it continues. It continues in many forms. Some are new, but others are age old. And it is persistent. And I have no idea how to stop it. It has such deep roots and so much momentum. And despite all of the justified anger and all of the profound sadness, it continues. Nobody seems to be able to stop it.

Here’s the heartbreak: your teenager goes to the store to buy an iced tea and Skittles. Can he have two dollars? Sure. He doesn’t have any money. He says he’ll be right back. But he doesn’t come home alive. He gets shot for no reason whatsoever. And he dies. Can you imagine this? And then the person who killed him isn’t even arrested.

And why isn’t he arrested? Is it because the police are stupid? Or incompetent? Or racists? Is it because the prosecutors are incompetent or racists? Or because the law of self defense has been so perverted that its been transformed by a state legislature in awe of the NRA into a shield for wanton killings of unarmed people by people with guns? Is it all of these things? Is it more than that? Is it something incomprehensible? Does it even matter why there’s been no arrest? Doesn’t the lack of an arrest speak volumes about the situation?

Here’s the heartbreak again: your teenager did nothing wrong and he’s dead. And nobody gets arrested, or charged, or indicted. And you and many other people suspect that your teenager has been murdered. But there‘s no arrest. The police mumble on about the strange, new, self defense law and how somehow that ties their hands from making an arrest. And they won’t make an arrest. And the person who should be arrested goes into hiding. And the police chief steps down temporarily. And now there’s a new state prosecutor and now there’s a federal, civil rights investigation. But there’s still no arrest. I wonder. Will there ever be an arrest? How long do I have to wait, and what exactly am I waiting for?

I wonder. How many thousands of parents have a version of this terrible event? How many parents have buried their children? How many children were lynched and killed before Emmett Till? And how many killings of children have there been since? How many parents' hearts have been broken when children have been killed? How many soul crushing, heartbreaking murders of children have there been? How many oceans of tears have been shed because of events just like this one?

My heart is again broken. The murder of Trayvon Martin is inexcusable. It's yet another drop in the ocean of suffering filled with parents’ tears at the loss of their children. And the tears of the rest of us who feel their suffering. And it continues to grow.

Etiquetas: ,

jueves, marzo 22, 2012

Justice For Trayvon

Yes, yesterday's march is over, but the struggle about this case isn't over. Not yet. And now there is significance every time you put on that hoodie. When yo do that, you're Trayvon. And if you're walking in a neighborhood where somebody doesn't think you belong, you have the same risk.

I am waiting for the arrest, indictment and trial of Z. How long, one wonders, can he be permitted to remain at large, uncharged, given what we now know about his unprovoked shooting of unarmed T? How long do we have to wait for the arrest of Z, who apparently was the initial aggressor in this incident and was told by dispatchers to leave T alone?

I'm waiting. And I don't care how hot it is today, I'm going to wear my hoodie. Join me.

The latest from CBS is instructive:

As that tension rises, the co-author of the Stand Your Ground law, in effect since 2005, is now saying it may need to be clarified.

"Nothing's ever finished in the legislature, I learned that. Everything can always be re-addressed," State Rep. Dennis Baxley observed.

He told us the law wasn't intended to cover citizens who pursue suspected threats.

So is he willing to revisit the language in the law and potentially change it?

"We need to look at the circumstances that occurred and see if some kind of legislation is in order," Baxley responded.

Etiquetas: ,

miércoles, marzo 21, 2012

Jocund Company

William Wordsworth (1770-1850):


I wandere'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Etiquetas: , ,

martes, marzo 20, 2012

A Small Victory

The New York Daily News reports that Sgt. Rex is going to be discharged and join his handler, Meagan Leavy:

A COMBAT DOG will finally be reunited in retirement with its ex-Marine handler.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday that the Air Force has agreed to release the dog, Sgt. Rex, into the care of former Cpl. Megan Leavey, of Rockland County.

Leavey was injured with Rex in 2006 while trying to disarm an explosive in Iraq. They convalesced together.

Schumer had intervened when Leavey, a Purple Heart recipient, was first turned down in her effort to adopt Rex in 2007. Rex was returned to service.

You'll recall our essay on March 9 demanding that the two be reunited.

We're gratified that Senator Schumer intervened and that Sgt. Rex and Meagan Leavy are getting what they deserve.

Etiquetas: , ,

domingo, marzo 18, 2012


Sing, peeper choir!
Sing with brio all night long!
Awaken the Spring!



March 19 Is Philip Roth's Birthday

Garrison Keillor writes:
It's the birthday of novelist Philip Roth, born in Newark, New Jersey (1933). His father was an insurance salesman, and both his parents were the children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He majored in English and taught it, and he became friends with Saul Bellow, who told him that he was talented and should keep writing. In 1959, when he was 26 years old and teaching at the University of Chicago, he published his first book, a novella and short stories titled Goodbye, Columbus,and it won the National Book Award. He wrote two novels, which got mixed reviews, and then for five years, he didn't publish anything at all. Then he published Portnoy's Complaint (1969), which is entirely made up of a monologue delivered by a patient, Alexander Portnoy, to his analyst. It got rave reviews from critics, and its sexual content made it controversial and also extremely popular — it was the best-selling book of 1969.


Philip Roth said: "Writing turns you into somebody who's always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right someday is the perversity that draws you on. What else could? As pathological phenomena go, it doesn't completely wreck your life."

As to the last phrase, the jury is still out and research continues.

Etiquetas: ,

Well, What Did You Expect?

So. AP and USA Today would have you believe that crazed Mexicans are stealing tubas so they can imitate Banda el Recodo:

They've still got their trombones and their trumpets, their cornets and their clarinets.

But the high school marching bands of Southern California are tuba-less these days, and their music directors think they know why.

There's a banda bandit on the loose, they say. Someone, they believe, is breaking into high schools from the east side of Los Angeles to the shores of Manhattan Beach and stealing expensive tubas to supply a fast-growing black market for banda music....

"Musically, it's appealing because it's so dynamic and colorful and bright," Josh Kun says of the fast-paced, joyous dance music that sprung from the polka tunes that German and French immigrants carried to the Mexican state of Sinaloa in the 19th century.

"Beyond a purely musical context," says the University of Southern California expert on cross-border popular culture, "it is attractive because it is also the musical context for Mexican immigrant life. … It's about living between two worlds and sustaining your identity in that balance."

Right. There must be all of these people running around in Southern California in the middle of the night with hot tubas. Because, well, tubas are so easily concealed. A tuba will probably not fit easily in the trunk of a small car. So if you steal one, let alone two, it's kind of like stealing a bathtub. Or a couch. Or two. It's very hard to make your getaway. And then, let's not forget that there are so very many tuba players who want a hot tuba and don't already have an adequate tuba. And all of these tuba players are also running around Southern California, too, searching for hot tubas or stealing them themselves. Please. Spare me.

Look. I love the music too. But this story is just crazy.

What? You don't know this music? Here:

Now maybe you get it. And given this music, maybe it makes sense to steal tubas. I mean: to make music like that, you need tubas. But it takes more than desire to play an adequate Banda tuba. You have to learn how to play it.

Think about this. If tubas are disappearing from the high schools, I bet there are zillions of itinerant tuba teachers running around Southern California, too. "Look, kid, this is how you do it, but don't tell me where you got the horn. Let's start at the top. It's in 3."

Etiquetas: , ,

viernes, marzo 16, 2012

On The Senseless Killing Of Elephants

A dead elephant in Cameroon

This is beyond profoundly disturbing. It’s about the slaughter of elephants in game preserves in Africa. This story is making me sick. Hence, a too brief essay, for which I apologize, and restraint in writing, so I don’t explode in a torrent of expletives.

MSNBC reports:

At least half the elephants in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida reserve were slaughtered because the west African nation sent too few security forces to tackle poachers, the World Wide Fund for Nature said on Thursday.

In what was described as one of the worst poaching massacres in decades, as many as 200 elephants have been killed for their tusks since January by poachers on horseback from Chad and Sudan, the fund said.

Rising demand in Asia for jewelry and ornaments made from elephant tusks is understood to be among the factors behind the spike in poaching….

It was the second major elephant-poaching report out of Africa this month. On March 5, the warden at Virunga National Park, a U.N. World Heritage Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said poaching had become so severe that rangers began using bloodhounds to track down poachers. The Virunga elephant population has fallen to fewer than 400 from an estimated 3,000 in the 1980s.

In Cameroon, about 20 fresh elephant carcasses were discovered last week, a WWF spokesperson said.

This is simply shameful. If there is something that can be done to stop this senseless carnage, let us try to find it. I can't find anything else to say.

Etiquetas: , ,

A Grim Anniversary

Today is the 44th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre.

The My Lai Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Mỹ Lai [tʰɐ̃ːm ʂɐ̌ːt mǐˀ lɐːj], [mǐˀlɐːj] ( listen); English pronunciation: /ˌmiːˈlaɪ/, also /ˌmiːˈleɪ, ˌmaɪˈlaɪ/)[1] was the Vietnam War mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers of "Charlie" Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the Americal Division. Most of the victims were women, children (including babies), and elderly people. Some of the bodies were later found to be mutilated.[2] While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at Mỹ Lai, only Second Lieutenant William Calley, a platoon leader in Charlie Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but only served three and a half years under house arrest.

The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village.[3][4] The event is also known as the Sơn Mỹ Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Sơn Mỹ) or sometimes as the Song Mỹ Massacre.[5] The US military codeword for the "Viet Gong [sic] stronghold" was "Pinkville".[6]

When the incident became public knowledge in 1969, it prompted widespread outrage around the world. The massacre also increased domestic opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Three US servicemen who had tried to halt the massacre and protect the wounded were later denounced by several US Congressmen. They received hate mail and death threats and found mutilated animals on their doorsteps.[7] It was 30 years before they were honored for their efforts.[8]

More here from the New York Times today. And all of the original reportage by Seymour Hersh here (warning: graphic photos).

How hard it is, even now, to think about this event. Or to look at the photos. Or to imagine it from the perpetrators' or the victims' sides. And that's probably why today could easily come and go with little mention of it. Unfortunately, complete, collective forgetting just doesn't seem possible. Or wise. So there's the inevitable, personal struggle to remember, to recognize this event for what it was, to hold it, to feel it, and eventually to seek amends, forgiveness. A truly daunting, completely staggering task.

Etiquetas: ,

jueves, marzo 15, 2012

Thomas Locker, RIP

Catskill (2005)

Today's local paper reports the death of Thomas Locker, a remarkable painter and teacher, on March 9. A memorial service is scheduled at Hawthorne Valley School on Sunday.

The area lost one of its most eloquent voices for art, nature and history on Friday with the passing of artist Thomas Locker, but the power and strength of his legacy will continue to influence the 21st century inheritors of the Hudson River School of Painting.

Locker, a former longtime resident of Stuyvesant and most recently of East Jewett, has received wide recognition and acclaim for his works, which include not only his great number of paintings, but more than 30 children’s books, many of which he not only illustrated, but wrote as well.

His subject matter and style, reminiscent of 19th century Hudson River School of Painting luminaries Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, and their peers, was at the forefront in reintroducing appreciation for the Hudson River School among today’s artists.

There is a beautiful, large example of his work in the Stuyvesant Town Hall.

He will be missed.

Etiquetas: ,

miércoles, marzo 14, 2012

The Ides of March

You know the story of today already. Forget about that most forgettable movie with the same title.

In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. The group included 60 other co-conspirators according to Plutarch.

According to Plutarch, a seer had foreseen that Caesar would be harmed not later than the Ides of March and on his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar met that seer and joked, "The ides of March have come", meaning to say that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied "Ay, Caesar; but not gone." This meeting is famously dramatized in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned by the soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March."

And, of course, there's Shakespeare's rendition of the prophecy (Act I, Scene 2) and the Plutarch quote in Act 3, Scene 1:

[To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.

Ay, Caesar; but not gone.

March 15 is one of those days that writers, readers of Shakespeare, academics, historians, students of Latin remember. The rest of the world? Not so much.

Etiquetas: ,

Good Bye Britannica

The New York Times has the news:

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.

Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.

In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds and includes new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project.

“It’s a rite of passage in this new era,” Jorge Cauz, the president of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., a company based in Chicago, said in an interview. “Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The Web site is continuously updated, it’s much more expansive and it has multimedia.”

"Some people will feel sad about it, and nostalgic about it." Yes. I must be one of those. But how could I be surprised? I haven't seen a set of Britannica or opened a single book in decades. But the loss isn't really about the object. It's the authority that comes with being physically printed and beautifully bound. It's the authority that comes presumably from having zillions of scrupulous editors. Somehow, even if all of that continues, putting it on the web just doesn't have the same gravitas.

Etiquetas: ,

At Last

Let it be recorded: last night was the first Spring Peeper. I heard it in the early evening, just after dark. A solitary peeper singing near the pond. Awake from its winter slumber, the first to sing its body electric:

The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

And tonight, with luck, several more singing the sleigh bell chorus, all together. And in the next week, if I am lucky, an entire celestial choir jingling rounds throughout the night. To be joined by bullfrogs and dozens of green pond frogs, all singing out their electricity.

A sure sign of Spring.

Note: Last year, this exact essay ran on April 5, 2011. Today is March 14, 2012, so Spring is about two weeks earlier this year. It may actually be possible this year to plant spinach and peas on St. Patrick's Day.

Etiquetas: ,

sábado, marzo 10, 2012

Oxidation, Part 2

Oxidation was a meditation of sorts about this old truck:

When all of us are long gone, this truck may still be sitting in the woods waiting for the archeologists or historians to find it. They will make up elaborate stories about why it’s still there. And how it got there. But the race between oxidation and storytelling, between destruction and preservation is already underway. How long will it be before this truck is wearing a rich, brown coat of flaky rust, and its once shiny red color is just a conjecture? And how long will it be before its tires have disappeared leaving it sitting on its muddy axels? And how long will it be before its interior – its windows have been open for decades – is a smelly pile of rotting debris slowly corroding its already rotting floorboards from the top?

Meditation is one thing. Leaving things alone to rot is another. I just wouldn’t let rust take its course. No. I would move the truck somehow. It was going to leave the woods. And my land. It was going someplace more suitable for its final rest.

First step. I tried to find out who owned the truck. The DMV computer doesn’t keep records on license plates that expired 32 years ago. Ditto VIN numbers. Ditto the County Clerk. I wasn’t going to find out whose truck it was. Fine. Second step. I wrote to the Town. Under New York law, omitting all kinds of other requirements, an abandoned vehicle belongs to the Town. Check. Would the Town please give me permission to dispose of this old, rotting truck? I thought my letter would be ignored. Wrong. I quickly got a letter from the Town Supervisor that I had permission, assuming the truck was not “titled,” to dispose of it.

Hmmmm, I thought. Was it titled? How on earth could I find out whether it was titled. Or not. I’m not getting hung up on these details, I thought, it’s been 30 years. I’ll just forget about this title malarkey and get rid of the truck. I don’t care about technicalities. That truck is moving out of here. I called a friend who is in the scrap business. Did he want the truck? Yes, he did. It might be worth something to both of us. Great. But he was too busy to do anything right now. He’d get back to me.

And then today. An enormous surprise. A fanstastic event. And an unbelievable lesson.

While I was walking in the fields looking for signs of an early Spring, I saw a huge, green John Deare Tractor with a plow pushing the old, red, rusty dump truck down the road, onto the public highway, and away, toward the Town Highway Superintendent’s home. Yes, it was the very same truck. Red. Rusty. With a tree or two growing out of its bed. With the windows still open. Hmmm, again. And now, it’s gone.

How did this happen? Well, this is small Town America. This is the Town Hall:

When an unusual letter is received here, everybody in the place, if not everybody in Town knows about it. Immediately. It becomes a topic of discussion and analysis. Everybody heard about it, I imagine, apparently including the Highway Superintendent. Everybody had an opinion or two. Since I didn’t say where the truck was, or give its old license number, the Highway Superintendent must have known exactly what I was talking about. How else could he just go and get it? He wasn’t going to let me take the truck. No. He decided to recover his property. No phone call to me. No letters. No clever repartee. Boom. The Green John Deare Tractor on a Saturday afternoon. Bring the truck home. Take it away.

Alas. The truck is no longer there. It is no longer where it resided for the past thirty years. It may still be is rusting, rotting, falling apart, slowly being reduced to its least common denominator. But it’s not on my land, and I am not going to watch this excruciatingly slow process as it proceeds season after season, relentlessly to the inevitable, complete decomposition of the truck and its reduction to a huge pile to very small, unrecognizable particles.

Of course there’s a lesson here. There always is. This time it’s about attachment. The Buddha taught, if I may greatly oversimplify, that suffering was caused by attachment. So having equanimity is important. To be free from attachment, or what is the same thing, to have equanimity, neither too much grasping, nor too much aversion, is important. Here the lesson, the teaching is about my attachment.

What was I attached to? I’ll tell you. I had an attachment to receiving some money for the scrapping of the rusting hulk of steel. Yes, of course, but there’s more. There’s also my stronger attachment to the outcome of this story: I rescue this old dump truck and transform it into something else (recycling, scrap metal, money, stories, parables). I do it, I take credit for it, and then I feel righteous about it. I even write an essay about how what I did is so very wonderful. You’re involved: maybe you recommend the essay and comment on it. I hope you do. We all feel good. Bah.

Only one problem. The story didn’t go like that. It’s not what happened. It was not real. It was made up, a delusion. It was just thinking. What happened in realtiy was that the person who owned the truck eventually came and got it. Period. No big metaphysical story today. What a beautiful teaching of humility for me, what a beautiful teaching about equanimity it was for me, to see that big green tractor pushing that old truck down the road. Now will I gracefully let it go?

Etiquetas: , ,

viernes, marzo 09, 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles

A 2006 photo: Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey with Sgt. Rex in Iraq

Have you noticed that sometimes your Bloguero completely loses his equanimity? Your Bloguero thought so. Be warned.Here it comes again. Nothing, nothing at all makes your Bloguero lose it like military bureaucracy. Your Bloguero points out that there is a reason, a very good reason why all of the vehicles the army owns have FTA scratched into them. And that reason has to do with how the army handles the very many small, non-life-and-death matters that matter to the soldiers.

This week began with efforts to remove vile, misogynist Lush Rimshot from the AFRN airwaves. Senator Levin sort of helped, but not enough that any desk chair jockey with scrambled eggs on his headgear would read his statement as requiring anything, or even threatening to require something, or starting a painful Congressional inquiry. No. In dealing with the military bureaucracy, the only thing that really matters is an order. “May I please have some more, sir,” just doesn't get it done. That is uniformly (your Bloguero knows) greeted with scoffs. And raised eyebrows. And it’s ignored. Especially if it involves changing anything. No. An order is what it takes to change anything. And only an order will do. Will AFRN get such an order about Lush Rimshot’s program? Time will tell.

And then, today, there was this item. Your Bloguero knows. There are a whole lot of very important things that need doing, that merit your attention, that deserve widespread notice. Your Bloguero knows all that. Yes, there are big, important things that deserve ink. But your Bloguero wants something small. Your Bloguero would like to point out that a very simple, short order that the dog, Sgt. Rex, be discharged and given to his former, loving handler, ex-Cpl. Meagan Leavy, would make your Bloguero, ex-Cpl Leavy, ex-Sgt Rex, dogs and dog lovers and citizens everywhere very happy. Ecstatically happy.

For just this once, do you think the military could cut some of the red tape bs and just send Sgt. Rex home? You know what to do. Start with Senator Schumer and President Obama. Let them know that Sgt. Rex and Meagan Leavy need to be reunited. And they need it now.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest of essays in The Dream Antilles. Usually it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now, it's something else entirely. To see what essays were in The Dream Antilles in the past week you have visit The Dream Antilles

Etiquetas: ,

jueves, marzo 08, 2012


h/t Jessica H


New York 1968

The New York Times brings us a 90 minute walk in New York in 1968 in 2 minutes 40 seconds. Freeze it as you go. Look around. Look at the people and how they are dressed. Do you remember this? What emerges is either a city living in misty but wildly speeded up nostalgia or ones surprisingly quite like the present. The voiceover is crazy (and in German) and helps the film in odd ways. Fun to play with. Especially corners you recognize.

Etiquetas: , ,

miércoles, marzo 07, 2012

March Madness

Please forgive the geo-centricity. I realize full well that the summer is coming to an end in the Southern Hemisphere and that in the Southern US Spring has already unfolded. But here, in this wooded corner where New York runs out and Massachusetts begins, the mild winter seems at long last to have run its course. There are no more storms predicted in the immediate future. And hope abounds that the end of winter may actually have arrived.

A few days ago the first redwing blackbird stood in the top of a tall tree and blew its referee's whistle. Over and over again. This tree, the surrounding area, all within his sight, his. Claiming it for himself. Even from others who had not yet arrived but who would surely follow him. Declaring his turf.

Every year the redwing blackbirds return in March just before the NCAA basketball tournament begins. Their return is the true March Madness. It signals that the end of winter is coming, even as the early green of the snow whites and crocuses rise in the dirt and the first blooms sway in the wind at the roadside.

Etiquetas: ,

lunes, marzo 05, 2012

Don Imus On Rush Limbaugh

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Etiquetas: ,

Tibet: Two Women Self Immolate

Sad and difficult to understand news from Tibet. The New York Times reports:

Two Tibetan women killed themselves by self-immolation in two different Tibetan regions of western China over the weekend, according to reports by Tibetan exile groups and Radio Free Asia, which is financed by the United States government.

The two deaths bring the number of Tibetans who have set fire to themselves in western China since March 2011 to at least 24; at least 16 have died.

The Radio Free Asia report said that Rinchen, a 32-year-old widow and mother of three, killed herself by self-immolation on Sunday in front of Kirti Monastery in the town of Aba, known in Tibetan as Ngaba. A report by Free Tibet, an advocacy group, said Rinchen had four children.

On Saturday, a woman who attends a middle school in Maqu County in Gansu Province set fire to herself in a vegetable market, Radio Free Asia reported. On Monday, the Tibetan Women’s Association, an exile advocacy group, identified the woman who killed herself as Tsering Kyi, age 19; Free Tibet said she was 20.

The group said the two self-immolations were the first by Tibetan laywomen in Tibet’s history. Previously, only nuns or former nuns had set fire to themselves.

AP has more details:

The reported deaths came on the eve of the opening of China's annual legislative session, a time when security is tightened across the country. March is also a sensitive time for Tibet, marking several anniversaries, including that of the unsuccessful revolt against China that caused Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to flee in 1959, and deadly anti-government riots that rocked the Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2008....

Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said Rinchen's self-immolation was the result of repression and attempts to assimilate Tibetans into Han Chinese culture.
"Tibetans are living under de facto martial law. China's response to protests — which are increasingly widespread — has been to intensify repression and surveillance, pushing Tibet deeper into crisis," she said in a statement.

China says it treats minority groups such as Tibetans fairly, and pours tens of billions of dollars into improving living conditions in their areas. The government has also accused the Dalai Lama and overseas Tibetans of being behind the protests and self-immolations.

The message from these self immolations could not be clearer. What is more difficult by far for me is comprehending how taking one's own life aligns with Buddhism's strong belief in doing no harm and in refraining from killing.

Etiquetas: , ,

Belmar Haiku

In Belmar N.J.
I swam to the last barrel
with my grandmother.

She was old and dark.
It was 1953.
She was proud of me.


Etiquetas: , ,

domingo, marzo 04, 2012

I Wanna Be

Have a great Sunday evening!

Etiquetas: , ,

The Library Of Babel Meets Fahrenheit 451

The Great Hall of the Library of Alexandria

Today the New York Times informs us that in California someone is building an archive that will supposedly hold, when it is completed, every single book published in the 20th Century. The Times says:

In a wooden warehouse in this industrial suburb, the 20th century is being stored in case of digital disaster.

Forty-foot shipping containers stacked two by two are stuffed with the most enduring, as well as some of the most forgettable, books of the era. Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive, many of them donations from libraries and universities thrilled to unload material that has no place in the Internet Age. …

“We want to collect one copy of every book,” said Brewster Kahle, who has spent $3 million to buy and operate this repository situated just north of San Francisco. “You can never tell what is going to paint the portrait of a culture.”

Evidently, the Library of Congress, and the huge libraries of world’s colleges and universities won’t be up to the seemingly important task of preserving all the books of the past century. Even if they limit themselves to those in English. Just why all these books deserve to be saved is another impossible question to ponder. I spare you a recitation of a long list of entirely forgettable titles of no conceivable importance to anyone. But don't take my word for this. Visit any one of the big box bookstores and ask yourself, "How many of these books deserve to be preserved forever?" Ask yourself about the many books you won't even take off the shelf and open.

Is what is being built in California really just a physical documentation of the crassness and stupidity of the publishing industry? Isn't it as if the collection will merely demonstrate with its great heft how concentration in the publishing industry eventually destroyed the value, the quality, the diversity of books?

So now we have a very bizarre, very large collection of books (and now films and records and digitized books and who knows what else) growing in California. It’s as if something like Borges’s Library of Babel were the only available hedge against Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. It's as if preserving many books with no value somehow assured the viability of the very rare important ones.

The thought of my two novels sitting in one of those trailers in the warehouse in California with thousands of other books doesn't exactly warm my heart. I think I completely accept the idea that within decades nobody at all will remember either of my books. I would be shocked if they did. And I don't see why, if their being forgotten is acceptable to me and those who read them, they should physically be preserved.

Etiquetas: , , ,

sábado, marzo 03, 2012

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Your Bloguero missed his self imposed, usual Friday deadline. The dog ate his homework. No, he just got a cold and wouldn’t get out of bed. This is what your Bloguero does on the very rare occasion when he has a cold. When he feels sick. He doesn’t call the doctor, and he doesn’t go to the pharmacy for something to knock out the unseen invader. No. He just gets in bed. Pulls the covers over his head. And he stays there. He explores in depth that fuzzy zone between awake and asleep, being thinking and dreaming. He doesn’t eat. He has soup. And broth. He drinks water. He travels only as far as the bathroom. He does not communicate with the outside world.

Today, after three days, he is much, much better. Thank you. The cough is almost gone, his nose is red but has stopped dripping as much. He is weak and spacey. Very spacey. Very altered.

At some point early this morning, your Bloguero had a dream.

In the dream, your Bloguero was driving his father, who passed away two weeks ago, to catch a train. He was an old man in the dream, just as he was before he passed away, in his 90’s, frail, frequently short of breath, entirely conscious, cogent, alert. First, your Bloguero was driving a VW bus with his dad. They had to abandon that and start driving another car. They failed to put Dad’s suitcase in the new car. They spoke briefly about it and headed for the station anyway without it. They’d come back and get it. Later. When they got to the station, your Bloguero simply could not navigate the parking lot. Every road went the wrong way. All the arrows on the pavement went the wrong way. All the turns were forbidden. Finally, frustrated, your Bloguero parked the car illegally, in a no parking no standing zone, and began to walk slowly with his Dad to the station. Dad has to walk pretty slowly because he gets short of breath from chronic heart failure. But there’s a problem. They didn’t know where the entrance to the station might be.

In the distance, they saw some uniformed men tending a parking lot, and there was a policeman there. They could ask them where to go. The sun was shining, it was bright, and it was hot. Your Bloguero had, as he had for the past few years, his Dad holding on his right arm, walking slowly with him, hanging on. Dad said, “We have 20 minutes.” Then he said, “I can’t go this fast. I have to stop. I have to wait.” They stopped. And stood still in the hot sun. Who, your Bloguero wondered, was he to hurry his father? Who was he to be concerned about making the train? How dare he? Your Bloguero said, “I’m sorry, dad, I’m really sorry.” Your Bloguero woke up crying.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest of essays in The Dream Antilles. Usually it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now, it's something else entirely. To see what essays were in The Dream Antilles in the past two week you have visit The Dream Antilles

Etiquetas: ,