Saturday, June 28, 2008
A prodigal son returns to his Montana hometown when his grandfather sufferes a stroke. There he is confronted by a cast of generous and quirky characters, chief among whom is his unrequited love from boyhood also freshly back home after a divorce with his two young sons in tow.
As the story goes, all the world knows about Henry, but Henry remains nearly incredulously out of touch with his place in this world. Enter a stoic and painfully shy love interest in Pike Dexter, and the cast (as fun as that of Nothern Exposure fame) twists and churns on its way to liberating Henry from his own homophobia. It's absolutely a sweet, sweet story of community and grace and hope.
My only caveat: Have your kleenex by your side.
Obama states that are hardening:
New Mexico 5, Michigan 17
Obama states that are softening:
Oregon 7, Pennsylvania 21
Obama pick-up states:
McCain states that are hardening:
McCain States that are softening:
McCain pick-up states:
Net change: none
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The story is about a group of friends (who fight and have lots of sex); and when one of them develops AIDS; they still fight and have sex, but the fighting is mostly about him, and he's the only one no longer having sex. Pictured on the cover in the lower left corner, the movie is really all about his arrival into the world of these friends and then it's about the sex he is or isn't having with each of them, and then it's about his death, and finally it's about how the death frees the woman in the yellow dress from her writer's block as she obsesses upon the task of writing his life's story. And whose name is completely absent from the DVD cover? Very strange, when you think about it.
I enjoyed this film, found the characters interesting, if the storyline itself was a bit dated--not in the sense that it was set in the 80's, but rather in the sense that the movie brought no new insight to the "our world is turned upside-down by AIDS" motif. I was thankful that, in the end, the cast didn't spontaneously burst into a chorus line.....
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
But every now and then a student thinks about us. And every now and then a student who thinks about us tries to let us know. And once in a forever blue moon a student contacts us again with some reflection on our time together. Tonight I came home to discover one of these improbable and amazing contacts in the form of an email:
Subject: Hi from a very old student
Dear Mr. Ash,
First of all, I apologize if this email reaches the wrong person.
I was a student of yours in 1994 (I believe we were one of your first classes at RCES) and I'm writing because the other day I found in a closet at my parent's house a book of poems you had our 4th grade class put together. It brought back memories of a year of amazingly creative assignments and challenging projects.
I remember a time when you designed a whole southern plantation on your computer (one of the first laptops I had ever seen) and each student assumed the personality of a member of the plantation. We wrote "first-person" accounts of our plantation experiences and shared them with the class, along the way getting to really understand the hierarchical structure of southern plantation life. I also remember an intricate system of bi-weekly book reports and projects, and performing a series of plays in front of the class. You were also one of the first teachers I had who really used the computer to enhance learning. I am entering graduate school in the fall and can barely remember most of elementary school, but fourth grade will always stick out.
Thank you again for some wonderful fourth grade memories. I hope you're doing well.
One more reason why I wouldn't trade my life and vocation for all.....
"Joe Biden wants to be president. He's been running for the job on and off since 1988, when his campaign was sidetracked after it became known that he plagiarized a speech from a British politician, Neil Kinnock. He'll have to settle for a seventh term in the Senate, where he has served since he was 30. The Republicans nominated a PR consultant, Christine O'Donnell, which will give her some PR for her business. Maybe she can even find a nice right-winger to marry (she's 37 and single). But she has zero chance of becoming a U.S. senator."
Spot-on me mate!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Florida is not in play. Today she sits dead tied and her 27 votes are irrelevant. Obama has a commanding lead with 47 more Electoral College votes than he needs to clinch the White House. McCain stumbles in 76 votes short of victory. God, wouldn't that be a great out come?! Too bad we've still got 5 months to go....
And yet there's a real story brewing here. Today, Obama wins all of the states that Kerry won and adds to that cadre: Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Virginia, and Missouri. That's great. But check out the next level of Republican "weak links": North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, and Alaska! The most recent pole I saw from Georgia gave Obama the lead, but with a slim margin well within the error ban. In Alaska the Republican Party is being decimated by scandals involving kickback and inside deals with the oil companies. North Carolina's first term Republican senator is behind her Democrat opponent.
It's a very interesting place to begin this historic race. I can't imagine a more clear and profound pairing of candidates.
Friday, June 20, 2008
“Firefighter’s Son, Third Generation Marine, is Killed in Afghanistan”
As a kid about 10 years ago, Michael Washington was something of a fixture at Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood firehouse, where he sometimes accompanied his firefighter dad.
The men and women who worked there recall a fun kid mature beyond his years, who looked you straight in the eye while his legs dangled from the end of a recliner. Eventually he grew to tower over his dad, after whom he was named and whom he admired.
The elder Michael Washington joined the Seattle Fire Department in 1994 and served 23 years in the Marine Corps and reserves, including tours in Desert Storm in 1991, Bosnia, and two tours in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2003 before retiring as a master sergeant in 2004. His own father had served in the Marines in Korea.
So, after graduating from Stadium High School in Tacoma three years ago, the younger Michael Washington at 17 became the third generation from his family to serve in the Corps.
In Iraq a year ago, the younger Washington earned citations for bravery, providing cover as fellow Marines extricated themselves from a deadly field of fire.
In April, he went overseas again, this time in Afghanistan as a sergeant with his unit, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. The unit was assigned to train and help struggling Afghan national police units in southwestern Afghanistan.
On Saturday, Washington, 20, was one of four Marines riding in a Humvee who were killed by a homemade bomb hidden in a roadway near Farah Province in Afghanistan. It was the worst single attack on coalition forces in Afghanistan this year.
Washington is the first Marine with ties to Washington state among the 23 locally connected members of the armed forces who have died in Afghanistan since the war there nearly seven years ago, a month after 9/11.
Washington's dad said he was pulling duty Sunday morning at Fire Station 16 at Green Lake when Marine casualty notification officers tracked him down and broke the news.
"You think about that but you can never prepare for that," Michael Washington said Monday as he sat in his garage near North Shore Golf Course in Tacoma, where his son once played and worked. "This loss is obviously personal and my family is grieving, but I want the city and the country to know we lost somebody pretty special," he said. "My son was just a good guy -- a kid who would cut elderly people's yards when they were sick and couldn't cut it themselves."
Washington is survived by his father, now working mainly in Georgetown's station 27; his mother, Grace, an artist; and a sister, Aja Collins, a former Army linguist who now lives in South Korea where her husband, also an Army linguist, serves.
Since receiving the news, Washington said his family has been embraced by an overwhelming response.
"It is amazing how many people care. I just want to say thank you, from Michael and Grace, to all the brothers and sisters in the Seattle Fire Department and all the citizens. Michael touched a lot of lives," he said.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
A graduate of the University of Maryland, at one point not to long ago he was a neighbor unknown.
Here's a taste of his dark whimsy:
When you die, I get your heart
Because I need a piece of you
That's the way it was when you
Were alive -- not a memory or a photograph
But a part that I can hold
In a box, that I can keep in the bed
And hold while I sleep.
Love, I love all of you --
The cobblestone of your acne-scarred back,
The ring of stomach fat you hate,
There is nothing I can't embrace,
Nothing I won't miss or remember.
All things come to those who wait:
God loves an expiration date.
You won't likely find this collection in a local bookstore (If you still have one of those things), but you can buy it online and I would heartily recommend that you do.
great vintage post card.
The caption reads:
"Suicide Oak, City Park
New Orleans, Louisiana"
On the reverse
he writes: "Doesn't
the picture look like
a very lazy, relaxing
place to be?"
Monday, June 16, 2008
They deal with how black gay men come to share/reflect upon their sexuality with 1) their wife, 2) their daughter, 3) their community, and 4) their cousin (closeted). The results are cruel, forgiving, redemptive, judgmental, transformative and epiphanil. The only glaringly omitted aspect of living Down Low was the bi-racial thang.
Black men who love Whites, Hispanics, and Asians have an extra hurdle to cross.
Hopefully the second season of the series will address this.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
A prime example of this motif can be seen in the anonymous poem:
There is no reason
for me to keep counting
how long it has been
since you were here
alive one morning
as though I were
letting out the string
of a kite one day at a time
over my finger
when there is no string
Merwin is a national treasure, and his career has spanned many decades. Many of the poets who started out with him are no longer with us. This poem could be written for any one of them, or all, or none. Yet it suggests that longevity comes with a price of its own.
I hope Merwin will be around for many years to come and continue to offer his reflections and insights though his poems.
Well hidden among the flowers, the nest is built on its side like a wigwam. The enclosure is entered from the side and has a solid "roof" over the chamber where the eggs are to be laid.
The problem is that I will need to water the planter on a regular basis or the plants will die which would actually defeat the purpose of building the nest where they have. I guess I will try to do it with a gentle shower from a hose held at a distance.
Wrens are fascinating.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
"Blackbird And Wolf" is by Henri Cole. His poetry is very intimate and insightful. In this collection he writes often of loss and offers his attempts to make sense of this.
In the poem (My favorite in the collection) "Gravity And Center" he states: "I don't want words to sever me from reality./I don't want to need them. I want nothing/to reveal feeling but feeling--as in freedom,/or the knowledge of peace in a realm beyond,/or the sound of water poured in a bowl." and that visceral aural image stops one dead and becomes the fulcrum from which the rest of the poem is balanced.
That's how he gets me: with images that captivate and encapsulate ideas. This also occurs in the poem "Homosexuality" which is about his being awakened in the middle of the night to discover a duck trapped in the flew of his wood stove. After rescuing the sooty survivor the poem ends with: "climbing back naked into bed with you." Thus his sexuality is far more common, far less remarkable an event than a duck caught in his chimney; and still it is important and intimate in a way that heterosexuality ought to be.
I love Henri Cole’s poems. I worry about him...too many of these poems are about loss and loneliness. Perhaps he congers up in me an openness to a place where we are birds of a feather.....
It's a show of modest proportions with some utterly amazing artifacts. Prior to my going, all the buzz over the show was focused on an incredibly ornate and beautiful solid gold crown retrieved from a gravesite at Tillya Tepe. And it is very impressive.
But hands down my favorite was this artifact. It's called the "aquarium," and, in fact, it is an ingenious centerpiece for a banquet table. Looking at the image you see it from above straight on. It's the size of a large dinner plate. In the center is an image of the Medusa alluding to the Hellenistic influences present in much of the art in the exhibit. Circling the Medusa is a couple of dozen bas-relief images of fish. The fins and some of the tails on the fish are actually thin detached appendages that cut through the disc and are held in place by short chains and tear-drop-shaped weights on the underside.
The disc sits in a 2 inch deep bronze frame and was presumably made water tight in that frame with a resin. This frame was either held up by some sort of pedestal or set on top of a bowl. And here's the genius part: When water was poured into the basin created by the frame it would cover the disc. Then it would seep out through the slits created by the fins and tails and as it ran down the chains and weights, it would cause the fins and tails and wobble and wiggle back and forth!
This mechanical wonder delighted guests at banquets held in the barren steppes of northern Afghanistan at the very time when Roman soldiers were crucifying Jesus of Nazareth. Amazing!
As to the show as a whole it focuses on artifacts retrieved from four major sights: Tepe Fullol, AÏ Khanum, Begram, and Tillya Tepe. Each excavation offers it's own insights into the culture and art of Ancient Afghanistan. At Aï Khanum you experience architectural elements, stone statuary and two of the most amazing sundials that I have ever seen. At Bergram the stores of two rooms of merchandise reveal elements in bronze, gold, clay, glass and ivory rich with Hellenistic, Roman, and Indian influences. And the exhibition ends with the treasures of Tillya Tepe which come from 6 tombs of noble lineage; 5 of women and 1 of a man.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the show is traveling to others venues: San Francisco, Houston, and New York. If you can go, you should and you'll not be disappointed.
This is an unhappiness that was recently expressed in a special election when a long-time Republican held house seat was picked up by a Democrat. Mississippi is presently represented in congress by 3 Democrats and 1 Republican.
This fall Mississippi will be electing both of it Senators, and while Thad Cochran is probably likely to retain his Republican seat, I predict that there's a very good chance that the Democrat candidate, Ronnie Musgrove, will pick up the open seat left by Republican Trent Lott when he quit to go work for a lobbying firm before a new law kicked in that would have kept him from doing that for a couple of years -- can you blame him? Life is short, and who can afford to forego making millions off of your public service even for just a couple of years....
And I think that Obama would be smart to put resources into Mississippi, especially as far as they support the election of a Democrat to the senate. The move will also force the RNC to spend money in a state that they probably hadn't given much thought about. The more spent in Mississippi, the less to spend in Florida and Ohio.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Given the recent history in both states, and this present quagmire that the Republican Party has placed our nation in (can you say $5.00 a gallon gasoline?); it seems likely that the two open seats in both states will be split between the two parties.
Net Gain 2.
There are also 5 open seats: VA, NM, CO, NE & ID. I predict that 4 of these will go Democratic.
Net Gain 4.
Of the remaining seats, 8 of them are also vulnerable: and I will predict that 6 of those will go to the Democrats.
Net Gain 6 seats.
On the Democratic side there are 2 vulnerable seats, but given the over all climate, I can only generously predict that 1 of them may flip.
Net Loss 1 seat.
+ 12 + ( - 1 ) = 11 pick-ups.
Add that to 48 uncontested and safe seats and you get 59 Democratic senators. 59 + a faithful Independent from VT = 60. 60 is the magic number. The number that makes D-I J. Leiberman of CT utterly irrelevant. This is the year that that could happen. Let us all pray that it be so!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The maps show (top to bottom) 1) the relative price of regular gasoline (the first week of June '08), 2) the median annual household incomes, and by extrapolation, 3) the % of household income now being spent of filling up the family car and the farm equipment.
In the top map you see that there's a lot of blue. And blue represents gas under $4.00 a gallon--the darker shade of blue the better. Most of Montana lags behind the national average--lucky Montana.
The middle map shows the annual household income averages for the state's 55 counties. Montana is not a rich state. 9 or 16% of it's counties boast annual average incomes below $25,000 and 62% of the counties make a living with less $35,000 in annual average receipts.
Granted that the cost of living in Montana is less in many ways than in other states, yet based on a national average of 4% of household income going to buying gasoline, the third map shows that NO COUNTY in the state is either at or below 4%. Ergo, the rise of gasoline is impacting the people of Montana more profoundly that most other states.
So, what does this have to do with the premise of this posting or this series? Plenty.
Montana is a state in political flux in the way that many western states are, but in Montana the tides have turned with great power. In Montana, both of its Senators (or the seat of it real power in Washington, D.C.) are Democrats: Max Baucus and Jon Testor. (Only western neighbors California, Washington, and Hawaii can claim membership in that club.) Montana's governor, Brian Schwietzer, is also a democrat and hugely popular--neigh beloved by Montanans.
So where does Obama hold the high ground in Montana?. . .with the economy, stupid. With the earnest support of Brian, Jon & Max. Montana is utterly open. It may only have 3 votes in the quest for the magic 270, but when you expect, as I do, that Obama will win all of the states that John Kerry did, he only needs 18 votes to win. Winning Montana would a symbolic paradigm shift for both the state and the region.
And I think he can do it!
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
So "Does the right hand know what the left is doing?"
Upon a more careful and disaggregated examination in which I tallied the casualties by 6 categories, I came up with the following results:
Iraq combat deaths = 14
Iraq non-combat deaths = 4
Afghanistan combat deaths = 13
Afghanistan non-combat deaths = 2
Other combat deaths = 1
Other non-combat deaths = 2
Excluding the 15 deaths in Afghanistan, you do get 21 casualties.
It strikes me as kind of odd that of those 21, one was from natural causes in the tiny African nation of Djibouti, and another was a soldier killed by a hit-and-run driver in Chicago; and yet, 15 soldiers killed in Afghanistan appear to have been conveniently omitted from the monthly pentagon report....
And THIS really IS the story. After more than six years since our victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan it has become again an arena of U.S. occupation as deadly as that of Iraq: A trend that is moving rapidly in the wrong direction.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
~ Malalai Joya, 1978 -
[Malalai Joya is a member of Afghanistan's newly elected parliment. She has been banned from it's proceedings because she dared to call members who are criminal warlords out for what and who they are. They are her reference in this quote as she lives under constant survallience, threats, and protection. Her life is a gift to freedom.]
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Without Michigan's and Florida's delegations the magic number to clinch the nomination was 2,026. And the candidates totals were Obama 1,977.5, which gave him the need to secure an additional 48.5 delegates, and Clinton was sitting at 1,777 delegates with a need to acquire an additional 249 delegates. Obama was 97.6% of the way to clinching the nomination. Clinton was 87.7% of the way to a victory.
Now add in Florida and Michigan. Florida was assigned 158 delegates, and Michigan 128. Clinton won 55.2% of Michigan's popular primary votes. Obama was not on the ticket out of respect for the DNC's decision to originally not seat the delegation; however, 40.1% of Michigan's popular primary vote went to "uncommitted" and these delegates have been awarded to him. In Florida, both names were on the ballot. Clinton received 49.8% of the popular primary vote and Obama received 32.9%.
The DNC is giving delegates from Michigan and Florida half a vote each as its punishment to the states for breaking party rules.
This means that Obama will receive 25.5 votes from Michigan and 30.5 from Florida for a total of 56 additional delegates. Clinton will receive 35.5 votes from Michigan and 46 from Florida for a total of 81.5 delegates from the two formerly disenfranchised states.
The additional delegates recalibrate the calculus for victory moving the magic number from 2,026 to 2,098.
With this change Obama now has a total of 2033.5 delegates, is 96.9% of the way to clinching the nomination, and needs 64.5 additional delegates to win. Clinton now has a total of 1.858.5 delegates, is 88.6% of the way to obtaining the nomination, and needs 239.5 additional delegates to win.
Can she do it?
There are three delegation contests remaining. Today Puerto Rico awards its 55 delegates. On Tuesday, Montana awards its 16 delegates, and South Dakota awards its 15 delegates. There are enough delegates to give Obama victory but not enough to allow Clinton to win. Realistically, neither candidate will win with popularly voted delegates.
So it comes down to the remaining super delegates.
There are total of 762 super delegates. Obama currently is supported by 321.5 of them and Clinton by 275. This leaves 165.5 left to make their choice of candidate known.
Combining the remaining delegates (super and state/territory) you get a total of 251.5 still uncommitted. Obama needs to win 26% of these delegates to win and Clinton will need to win 95% of these delegates to secure a victory.
Where will he stand after June 3rd?
The remaining delegation contests will likely be split between Clinton and Obama. I prediction that Clinton will win Puerto Rico and Obama will take both Montana and South Dakota. Out of these contest I anticipate that Obama will receive 41 additional delegates and Clinton 45. And so Obama will be a meager 23.5 delegates away from victory with a pool of 165.5 super delegates holding the power to end the primary race. On the other hand, Clinton will be 194.5 delegates short and statistically out of the race.
The figures of super delegates I used in this article come from The New York Times. The associated press reports that Obama has 331. If this is true, then he would actually only need 13.5 of an available pool of 155.5. I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the writing is on the proverbial wall.
It's time for Clinton to be a big girl and do the grown-up thing. We've heard rumors of a gracious concession...it's time for this to happen. Will history judge her as one of our foremost female political leaders, or as a streeching, ranting spoiler? Honestly, Hill, it's time.