Friday, March 31, 2006

Maryland's Sacrifice for Freedom

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
An updated map of the men and women who have given thier lives in the military from Maryland. Not all are shown, just a representative sample.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What I'm Watching #13

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Here's a delightful British comedy with an Indian cultural bent along the lines of "Bend it Like Beckham", and, perhaps more pertantly, "My Beautiful Launderette".

Witty and engaging throughout. Check it out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday Evening Musings

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
My "Ex-" and I visited with his grandmother and my dear friend, Marie this past weekend. It's a ritual that I suggested over a decade ago now, and which has continued in spite of his departure from our relationship. Marie is a joy and treasure that I would not lose casually.

At the end of our visit, J. handed me a package of post cards, cards, and images. Among them was this Hopper painting.

Among American artists whom I revere (Charles Burchfield, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe) Edward Hopper will always hold a seat in the upper tier. And this painting in particular has long been a favorite.

There is the couple. The virile if sterile man, with the less than virile woman, restrained, suggestive of a past time when "voluptuosity" was a virtue. It's a couple trapped in sexual ambiguity and angst. Together they are almost simple extensions of the carefully laid out architecture of the house. And beyond them.... there is the mysterious and wild woods, the gentle and unkempt yard, and most important of all, the curious and noble collie. In a stance that is both suggestive of it's roles as their protector and their servant, yet ready to bolt away toward its own freedom.

Now how can you or anyone not love an artist whose seemingly staid paintings possess so much energy, power, contradiction, and possibility? This is what art is all about.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Second Grade Fame #2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Here I am in my second moment of second grade glory...assembling the "Pair Tree".

Second Grade Fame #1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Browsing through some old photos this evening I happened upon a couple of pictures from the local newspaper in my home town, Flat Rock, Michigan, from when I was in second grade. This picture is of me placing pilgrim cottages in a diorama in the main display case in the front hall of my elementary school--John M. Barnes Elementary.

Spring Blessings

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
A gift on the first Saturday morning in spring. Here in the shadow of the nation's capital, it's crisp and hazy. There's a 50% chance of rain today, which I hope happens. My pansies are blooming everywhere and the dozens of new bulbs that I put in the fall are blooming with gusto.

I am preparing to write a letter to friends in Wichita as I listen to ranga on the CD player. Soothing and methodical.

And for you? This vase of flowers, hellebores and daffodils from my gardens.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Our Latest American Hero #12

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
A dozen!? And it's only a sampling. I posted the first article in this series on February 6, 2006. Since then 84 men and women have given their lives for our sake in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My regular posts are only sharing 1 in 7 fallen heroes with you....random and representative of the whole.

Army Cpl. Nyle Yates III, 22, of Lake Odessa, Mich.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Mar. 16 when he came under small arms fire by enemy forces during combat operations in Bayji, Iraq.

"Michigan Soldier Killed in Iraq"

LAKE ODESSA, Mich. — A soldier from a community located between Grand Rapids and Lansing was killed while serving in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced.

A defense department statement released Monday said Army Cpl. Nyle Yates III died in Bayji, Iraq, on Thursday “when he came under small arms fire by enemy forces during combat operations.”

Yates, a 22-year-old from Lake Odessa, was assigned to a unit that operated out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

Yates’ death was confirmed last week by Lakewood High School Principal Mike O’Mara, who said he learned of the death from the soldier’s family. Yates was a 2002 graduate of the Lake Odessa school.

Kentucky Memoire #4/What I'm Watching #12

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Guess I'm feeling a little Kentucky nostalgic!

This film is one of the most powerful pictures I have ever watched. As a student at Asbury College, I first viewed it with a group of other young men from the school. One of whom would go on to a stint in the Marines, switch to the Navy, and command a fighter squadron on the USS Enterprise during the first Iraq War.

We bantered and cajoled one another all the way to the theatre. Once inside we sat riveted to our seats and to the story. And the thing I remember MOST about that evening was the silence.

The theatre was silent at the end. The people left the theatre in silence. We rode back the 17 miles of winding country roads to our dorm rooms in utter, profound silence. Our thoughts were just too damn heavy to express or share.

Kentucky Memoire #3/Random Quote #45

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.

From 1984 to 1993, I worked as a teacher in Jessamine County Kentucky. Most of this time was spent in the 6th grade and at the county's only middle school. We had a homeroom-based period in the middle of the day, which we called "Exploratory." In keeping with the middle school philosophy of valuing the whole child, it was about relationships & learning. The learning piece was up to the teacher.

I instigated several things during my years there. One was a 45-minute redux version of "Hamlet" that the kids not only performed for the school and their parents, but also actually took on the road and recreated for the state's middle school conference that year.

Another was an extended research project on the native tree species of central Kentucky. The students made scrapbooks of data about common trees and collected and pressed leaf samples into a keepsake booklet. They also learned to sew and created appliqué quilt squares with a copy the tree's leaf's outline embellished with embroidered names, tree name (in English and Latin).

This is just a portion of the whole.

I purposefully included Chris' patch. Chris was a rather quiet, below average performing, easily ignored student. I had no reason not to like him, and no particular to demonstrate any positive emotion toward him. And then came the Tree Quilt project....

His needlework on this is simply outstanding. He took such care and interest in doing a good, no, a PERFECT job on it. I'll never forget how his light unexpectedly shone on this project.

The quilt holds a quote in the middle of it:


"A culture is no better than its woods."
~ W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ticklebox Repair #1

I have an abominable memory for jokes. Generally I enjoy them, but I just can't remember them. My Colorado cousin Fwd a funny little joke to me today and, to return the favor I transcribed one of only two jokes I have ever been able to memorize in my life. I do not remember who told it to me, and God knows I've embellished it over the years. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it, too.


In a bar along the coastal highway in southern California the bartender looks up and sees a stranger enter. He's obviously a drifter.

He steps up to the bar and orders a drink, which the bartender delivers. No sooner is the glass on the bar, than the stranger empties it in one gulp and asks for another.

Well, given the fact that the bartender doesn't know the man, and because he's seen his type before, he asks the man to pay for the first drink before he'll get him a second.

The stranger replies that he doesn't have any money.

"I knew it," declares the bartender, "Hit the road!"

But the man protests saying, "I do have something of value!" Where upon he reaches into his knap sack and retrieves a perfectly formed miniature grand piano, which he places on the bar. The bartender's eyes widen in amazement.

"But wait," says the man, "there's more." Next he pulls out a miniature piano bench and lifts its lid to reveal tiny pieces of sheet music.

The bartender then exclaims, "This is incredible!" as he gently tests the keys and discovers a perfectly tuned, functioning, five inch tall grand piano.

The stranger looks at him square in the eyes and says, "I've saved the best part for last." Once again carefully reaching into his knap sack, he removes a nine inch tall little man clad in a formal tuxedo who goes directly to the piano and begins to the play a Bach sonata!

The bartender is completely dumbfounded and asks, "WHERE on earth did you GET these?"

The stranger answers, "The other night I had to sleep on the beach. When I awoke the tide had washed in what appeared to be an Arabian lamp. So on a lark I rubbed it. And suddenly out popped a Genie! He told me he would grant me one wish!"

"And you asked for a nine inch pianist?" interrupted the bartender.

"Well, not exactly....."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Random Quote #44

"The only reason to look down upon another person is to reach down and help them up."

~ Jesse L. Jackson, 1941 -

Friday, March 17, 2006

Our Latest American Hero #11

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Marine Lance Cpl. Bunny Long, 22, of Modesto, Calif.; assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed March 10 by a suicide, vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device in Anbar province, Iraq.

"Modesto Marine had Childhood Dreams of Being a Soldier"

MODESTO, Calif. — A Marine who yearned as a little boy to be a soldier was killed in Iraq when a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into a building he was guarding.

Lance Cpl. Bunny Long, 22, died Friday near Fallujah.

Long wanted to be a soldier and begged for an Army uniform when he was 6 years old, said his brother, Bunna Long, 31.

“We always felt like we needed to give something back for all the things we’ve received,” he said.

Bunny Long, who was born in the United States and graduated from Modesto High School in 2002, was the son of immigrants who arrived here after their first son starved in a Cambodian labor camp in the mid-1970s.

Sim Long, 60, and Yen Chea, 51, left Cambodia with three children after years of war and hardship in their country.

“Life was really hard for them,” said their daughter, Sokha Long, 26. “To have gone through all that and to be able to come to this country, and now my brother passes away.”

AND this,

"Camp Lejeune-based Marine Killed by Suicide Bomber in Iraq"

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A California Marine based at Camp Lejeune was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq last week, the Pentagon said.

Lance Cpl. Bunny Long, 22, of Modesto, Calif., died Friday when vehicle-borne bomb carried by a suicide driver exploded in the violent Anbar province of Iraq. The U.S. military in Iraq reported Friday that a Marine died in a car bombing in Fallujah, which is in Anbar province.

Long was a motor vehicle operator who joined the Marine Corps in July 2004, said Lt. Barry Edwards, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. Long was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, the Defense Department said.

What I'm Watching #11

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
And tonight's is an old favorite. "Pourquoi Pas Moi?" is a sexual farce derivative of stage comedies like "The Importance of Being Ernest," "Midsummer's Night's Dream," and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," as well as, movies like "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Many characters, intertwined relationships, unexpected outcomes, and this time with a thoroughly Lesbian overcoat.

Watch it if you can. I first saw it the GLBT Film Festival in Washington, DC back in 2002 @ the Lincoln Theater on U Street. And the copy I own was purchased from the United Kingdom, since it was not available in the US of A.... Go figure!

Random Quote #43

"A new broom can sweep the house clean,
but an old broom knows the corners."

~ Irish Proverb

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What I'm Watching #10

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Lately this blog is all about movies, which is really quite ironic given how little of my time is actually spent at theaters. It must be a phase!

"FAQ's" is a gay "Thelma and Louise"/"Romeo and 'Jules'". It's fabulous cinema. Worth every minute.

Check it out, girl!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Worth Posting

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Bravo fans for the guts to stand up an demand attention. This is speech, remember?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

What I'm Watching #9

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
"Danny In The Sky" ~

This French gay "melodrama" was a pleseant distraction. The acting was "soap opera-ish" at best. The idea behind the story was clear, and the execution was pure TV -- which is to say, a cut above college projects, but less than full cinema. The pleasant parts involved the nudity and the why not just make a porn flick?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Senate Races 2006 Analysis #2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
In the second profile of a 2006 senatorial race I look at my near neighbor Virginia. First term incumbent and former state governor, George Allen, is up for his first re-election campaign. A faithful conservative with no liberal or progressive qualities, Allen has defined himself with an iron-clad track record. He presents himself successfully as a “nice guy,” a simple act of political theater that no amount of money can buy.

And interestingly enough, since the Dick Cheney accidental shooting of the apparently bumbling septagenarian, Harry Whittington, Senator Allen's name has been put forth as a VP nominee, should Cheney decided to vacate the position for totally unrelated reasons. Should this happen, whomever would assume the role of VP would clearly be the GOP's Heir apparent in 2008. The only “draw me up short” aspect of this scenario is Allen's apparent intelligence.... Why would the GOP choose someone who can think, speak, and act forth himself?--i.e. without Carl Rove's puppet strings....

But I digress.

The Republicans are putting forth George Allen again as their hope to hold power in the senate from the Commonwealth of Virginia. And the Democrat's?

Virginia, being a state who's fortunes have clearly bent toward the Republican party in recent years, is not a place where “blue” is any threat to “red”. One notable exception to this is the current governor, D-Mark Warner. Early on, it was the hope of the Democrat party that Governor Warner, who is term limited, would decided to challenge Allen, his direct predecessor in the office of Virginia governor. I will admit, it would have been a great fight, but Warner isn't interested in playing this game. So now what? Allen skates to easy victory and with grand numbers pursues the higher and possibly ultimate office in the Land?

Whoa Nelly! Step in businessman, Harris Miller. Miller is actually a former Republican who has protested the Bush Administration on its characterization of the War. His present opposition to the conflict is his most salient selling point among his new constituency. His platform is checkered, to be kind. He supports outsourcing of US jobs, for example, which is not exactly a Democrat party pillar. And he once worked for Diebold....the people who have brought us all electronic voting machines without any paper trail from which to varify the results--can you say fraud?

In his initial polling after announcing his candidacy (Rasmussen), he trailed Allen by 30 points. And only three weeks later, he has narrowed the margin to 13 points. So it seems that there are underpinnings for an actual race in Virginia. And, in spite of Miller’s record of employment or smattering of Neo-Con/Globalist ideas, LOT’s of people are willing to support this “anyone BUT Bush/Allen, again?”

And you can add to this brewing fray, Democrat candidate and former Navy Secretary, James Webb. Webb trails in the polls behind Miller, but the season is early and the support seems fickle--at least among the Democrats.

So, where there was once assumed to be a coronation, there is now a dogfight. And that's a pretty good thing for democracy.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Our Latest American Hero #10

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Army Spc. Joshua M. Pearce, 21, of Guymon, Okla.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; killed Feb. 26 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker military vehicle during patrol operations in Mosul, Iraq.

“Oklahoman Killed When Explosive Device Hits His Army Vehicle”

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) An Army vehicle rolled over an explosive device in Iraq, killing a 21-year-old Oklahoma soldier.

Heidi Barncastle confirms that Joshua Pearce died Sunday near Baghdad. Two other American soldiers also were killed.

Barncastle says her brother had an unbelievable personality, and would make everyone in a room laugh and smile.

Pearce's older brother -- Sergeant Jeremy Pearce -- also is in the Army serving in Iraq and will accompany his brother's body home.

The family will try to persuade Jeremy Pearce not to return to Iraq, but Barncastle says she doubts he will listen.

No funeral arrangements had been made, but Barncastle said Joshua Pearce wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Pearce was a 2003 graduate of Guymon High School. He was a letterman as a pitcher on the baseball team and left for boot camp right after graduation.


“Governor Signs Funeral Protest Bill into Law”

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Governor Brad Henry signs a bill into law that restricts when and where people can protest at funerals.

The new law goes into effect immediately and sets the stage for a possible clash between law enforcement and members of a Kansas church who have picketed the funerals of Oklahoma soldiers.

The measure was given final approval by the state House this week. The new law will be in force when the family of Army Specialist Joshua Pearce gathers on Tuesday for funeral services in the Oklahoma Panhandle city of Guymon.

Pearce was killed in Iraq on Sunday.

House members hurriedly approved the Senate-passed funeral protest bill and sent it to Henry for his signature to challenge members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

The church members claim soldiers are being struck down by God for fighting for a country that harbors homosexuals.

What I'm Reading Lately, part B

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
This book of male photography from the late 1800's through the mid-1900's is an interesting juxtaposition from my post of last week. "Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography" by John Ibson grew out of decades of Mr. Ibson's personal obsession with the genre. Here in our dozens and dozens of photos of men together. The images run the gamut: men at war, at play, in clubs, in dorms, in the outdoors, in studios; some express machismo, some camaraderie, and some tenderness and devotion. For any fan of male photography, it's a must have.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Temperature Check

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
At the end of February, we continue to loose too many lives to this War in Iraq. If the fatalities continue along the same trends from March 1 forward, the net result will favor and oppose troops from the following states.

Bell-weather states on the negative side are California, Virginia, North Carolina. And those on the positive side thus far are, Ohio, Texas, and Arizona.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Our Latest American Hero #6 (7, 8 & 9.....)

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I will rejoice when this series ends...

Army Sgt. Rickey E. Jones, 21, of Kokomo, Ind.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Feb. 22 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations in Hawijah, Iraq. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Gregson G. Gourley, Pfc. Christopher L. Marion and Pfc. Allan A. Morr.

"Vandals Hit Home of Fallen Soldier"

KOKOMO, Ind. -- Police posted an around-the-clock security watch at the home of an Indiana soldier killed last week in Iraq after it was vandalized and his family received disturbing phone calls.

The home of Sgt. Rickey Jones was egged Saturday, three days after Jones' family learned the 21-year-old and three other soldiers had been killed by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad. His family also received phone calls in which the caller said: "I'm glad your son is dead."

Now, Jones' relatives and police are bracing for the possibility that a Topeka, Kan.-based group will protest at his funeral Monday.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have protested at military funerals across the nation, including shouting insults at soldiers' surviving relatives and holding signs that read "God Made IEDs" -- a reference to roadside bombs.

The group claims American soldiers are dying in Iraq due to divine intervention because the United States harbors homosexuals.

The Westboro protesters, however, could face new restrictions at Jones' funeral if Gov. Mitch Daniels signs a bill this week that would make disorderly conduct at a funeral a felony and keep protesters at least 500 feet from a gravesite.

That bill, which won final approval Tuesday from the Indiana House, would take effect immediately after being signed by Daniels. The governor's press secretary, Jane Jankowski, said Daniels would sign the bill as soon as it arrives on his desk.

"We're trying to get this family some closure, and not have to deal with these stupid signs," state Rep. John Smith, R-Kokomo, said Tuesday.

State Sen. Brent Steele, who authored the legislation, said the bill doesn't go as far as some states' attempts to hold back protests by the Westboro group.

"I went as far as I thought I could and still have a constitutional bill," said Steele, R-Bedford.

Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it's still an open question whether some of the new laws restricting picketing are entirely constitutional.

He said his civil rights organization has listed the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group for years. The minister who leads the group advocates making homosexuality a capital offense.

What I'm Reading Lately

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Reading is a bit of a stretch, as this simple volume is mostly the chronicle of the final days of the Taliban Regime in Afghanistan. Collected and assembled by Photographer Thomas Dworzak, this ironic collection of portraits comes from clandestine photographers living in Kandahar.

To quote Jeff McMahon from his review of the book in the January-February 2004 'The Gay & Lesbian Review', "The photographs [Dworzak] collected were commissioned by Taliban warriors wishing to commemorate their heroism, bravery, and (perhaps less consciously) youthful beauty during the American invasion in the fall of 2001. The soldiers on the brink of defeat wanted to record who they were....[now] abandoned photos whose subjects....were mostly now dead."

It's an odd and very affecting collection in many ways. The Taliban, you will recall forbade any depiction of the human image, right down to spray-painting off the circle heads of stick figures on public safety signs identifying crosswalks! And these, the glorious warriors and adherents, in their hour of dire need, found the desire to be remembered more essential.

Many of the young men wear make-up (eye-liner, and in watercolor touched up photos what comes to look like lipstick). In a culture that maintained strick separation of the sexes, fascinating that any expression of feminization of the male image should seem so non-chalant.

And ultimately, you have to realize that for whatever evil these men participated in and represented to the west, they themselves could no more have attact the World Trade Center than I Hagia Sophia!--And my chances would still be miles ahead of theirs. I have no sympathy for the Taliban in terms of ideology, but as a Christian I do know enough about my faith to know that I can recognize their personhood and feel compassion toward even these, my enemies.