Thursday, July 30, 2009

What I'm Listening To #56

Black-Eyed Peas are the Zeitgist of Now.

Every beat, every lyric, every song speaks to us today. If you don't get this, then welcome to yesterday. It's another day...another place to be. Nothing on this album judges the day in which you find yourself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I'm Listening To #55

Loving this early collection of the singing of the children of Pops Staples! The music is wonder- ful. The voices are beautiful. The genre so fuses gospel with Delta and Chicago Blues, and African American Folk as to be a slice of American Culture pristine and precious. Can I get a witness? May this circle be unbroken!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden Curiosity

Anyone who knows me, knows I appreciate what the earth chooses to do when it comes to gardens. Each volunteer, each interloper in my well devised plans is only a plant that is seeking advantage in the only way plants can: seeds, roots that follow the sun, seek water, nitrogen, acidic soil or base... And as I watch, I am their pupil. Plants can teach us a lot of things.

Here's a weird example. Ever since moving into my home, I've worked to create gardens and remove lawns. Most are completely gone, and the feeble attempts by various grasses to maintain a foothold have been farely easy to weed away. Yet a little grass plant sprouted in a fallow clay pot, and over time I just ignored it. Then I actually admired it. And now I marvel at it. A single grass plant in a loan flower pot that has grown to the height of just over 4 feet. It's beautiful. It plays in form and grace so well against it's background of various foliage.

I wonder if a plant -- this plant -- were to bear anything as tender as a conscious-mind... I wonder if it could, if it does understand it's place in evolutionary history. How grass being the most recent invention of plantlife on earth, gave mammals the edge over other animals, gave man the foot up to establish culture. And if, just if, it does -- what wisdom would it have to share with me....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

E. Lynn Harris RIP

E. Lynn Harris has died! At the tender age of 54, too.... My first love of his was his 1998 novel, "If This World Were Mine." I bought it in an airport bookstore on a whim, and had devoured it between Houston and Managua in one sitting. Ever since, I was complete fan of his work.

Was he in the same league as a Hemingway, Baldwin, or Sinclair? No. But he was an amazing story-teller, who wasn't afraid to include the presence of the DL Black men in his tales; and was that amazing? -- Hell yes!

News of his death has hit me like a gut punch. I wanted more of his stories and expected them for many more years to come...yet, I am grateful for the ones he wrote until now. May his spirit inform us all and inspire the next generation most expecially.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What I'm Watching #209

Watched this film from Japan today. We have been taught that Japanese culture is very reserved and polite -- if so, Japanese cinema channels its alter-ego. "Schoolboy Crush" is about a mythical island nation on the rim of Asia where androgynous boys rule the known world and vie for each other's attention and sexual, I mean it's about a group of teenaged boys going to an exclusive, jesuit run private school somewhere in the Japanese countryside. Well, actually, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There's sex for hire, sex for comfort, sex for punishment, sex denied, sex for blackmail, and a suicide to spice things up. And a creepy aside, one of the leads, Atsumi Kanno, looks a whole lot like Michael Jackson... which makes one wonder if MJJ's real goal wasn't to become white, but a Japanese "anime" character. It's really hard to know exactly what to say about this film that's just makes me think that of all the cultures I have been exposed to in the world, the Japanese is perhaps the most enigmatic.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What I'm Watching #208

Yesterday was Sweden; today I took a cinematic journey to the Philippines and watched "Moreno." It's a unique film idiosyncratic to the vision and life of its filmmaker, Chris Pablo. Chris tries to tell two stories here: 1) the growing dissolution of his relationship with his irrepressibly promiscuous boy friend of seven years, and 2) the plight of abused women trapped in a T'Bolio indigenous community and their intertwined struggle with poverty and polygamy. These are ambitious themes in the hands of a filmmaker with lots of heart by little cash, rudimentary technology, and a crew of "actors" who often doubled as gaffers, best boys, self-catering meals and working off the dime. Enjoy the ideas, appreciate the vision, and forgive everything else in the middle.

Sotomayor Score Card Up-date

Our Latest American Hero #135

Army Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp, 21, of Rosemount, Minn.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died July 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington of wounds sustained July 10 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.

“Rosemount Man Dies After Attack In Afghanistan”

21-year-old Ben Kopp of Rosemount died Saturday, July 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., of wounds suffered July 10 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Kopp was shot in the leg when insurgents attacked his unit, according to reports from his mother, Jill Stephenson on the Caringbridge Web site.

Kopp was treated in the field and later had surgery to repair his leg, but he lost an excessive amount of blood and went into cardiac arrest. He was in a coma and under care at Walter Reed Medical Center where he died July 18.

Kopp’s mother decided to take her only child off life support and donate his organs, according the local Fox news channel.

“Please continue to say prayers for all of the men and women who so proudly serve our country,” Stevenson wrote.

e graduated from Rosemount High School in 2006 and immediately enlisted in the Army.

“His continued service for America in the theaters of war is a testament to his sense of honor, and that of his family,” said Rosemount Mayor Bill Droste in a statement. “We want his family and friends to rest assured that we all are grateful for his and their heroic sacrifice. They are and will remain in our thoughts and hearts.”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I'm Watching #207

Just saw this Swedish film called "Sebastian". It's the story of a teenage boy's journey toward self acceptance and coming out to his friends and family. He manages to survive accepting parents, and friends, and a crush on his sexually conflicted best friend who is likewise very supportive -- But then again, this is Sweden not Alabama! Clearly different standards for defining drama. A pleasant little film.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What I'm Reading #17

A fascinating book for periodic, episodic reading is Norman Davies' colossal "Europe: A History". I've been nibbling at it for years and no time is better than summer time when one wants a distraction from time to time. Davies' knowledge is unlike anything that I've encountered on this topic, and he generously shares it in this 1,365 + page tome.

Tonight I was reading about the 1500's when I stumbled upon this gem: "At the Midsummer's Fair in mid-sixteenth century Paris, cat burning was a regular attraction. A special stage was built so that a large net containing several dozen cats could be lowered onto the bonfire beneath. The spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized. Cruelty was evidently thought to be funny." OMG!

Or this: "Andalusian Gypsy music in the style now known as flamenco has been played and admired since the sixteenth century...Flamenco simply means 'Flemish.' In the vocabulary of art, it also gained the connotation of 'exotic' or 'ornate.' One theory poses that Jewish songs banned by the Inquisition found their way back to Spain from Flanders, where many Spanish Jews had taken refuge. Another suggests that flamenco derives from the Arabic "fellah-mangu" or 'singing pheasant.'"

Or this: "Jachimov is a small Bohemian town in the Joachimsthal, some 80 km north of Pilsen. In 1518 Count von Schlick was granted an imperial patent to mine silver there and to establish a mint. His silver coins were produced by Walsenwerke or "rolling machines," and were formally classed as "large groats." Their popular name was jaochimsthaler, soon shortened to "thaler." Hence the origin of the modern word Dollar.

Is it any wonder that this book is so enthralling? And don't get me started on Nostradamus, Vlad the Impaler, Hexes, or the 100 year's war!


This is a group called Perpetuum Jazile an a cappella jazz choir that hails out of Ljubiana, Slovenia. That fact alone seems somehow amazing when remembering it was not that long ago when the former republics of Yugoslavia were warring and ripping apart at the seams of civilized society. Of all, Slovena is the most successful and prosperous. This way cool group testifies to that.

Healthcare Check Up

Where in the world is it better to get sick than the Imperical nation of the United States of America with its healthcare envied by all those living on the known planet? Hmmm... There are 36 nations with better healthcare? We're 37! in the world? The wealthiest, most powerful, biggest DICK filled nation in the history of the world, and a people cowering on the little Caribbean Island nation of Dominic stand a better chance of seeing a doctor, receiving quality health care?

What's wrong with this picture? I can attest, that as an employee of one of the most successful and wealthy school districts in America, my healthcare is stellar. If I were to loose my job tomorrow--I'd suddenly have bubkis for my plan; emergency rooms, the kindness of strangers, a complete burden on the rest of you working plebes.

I needed healthcare in Italy (#2 ranking) in 1990 for a strepe infection that boiled up on my left calf and got it for all of $4.00 bucks. It cost me even less in Costa Rica (#35 ranking) in 1984 for a remedy sold over the counter to counter-act a fungal skin infection on my face. I've been lucky.

Why should healthcare in the most prosperious and powerful nation on the planet depend on luck or employment? Why should change require politicians beholden to the contributions from contra-indicated interests like pharmasutical conglomerates and Insurance companies to oppose their fiscal masters in favor of their mere constituents? God help us, please....

Monday, July 20, 2009

What I'm Watching #206

Yeah, I'm in a manic movie mood these days! And a psychological pathology actually enhances one's experience when it come to the film "Running with Scissors!"

I can't remember a more fascinating movie. This film is a tour de force of story-telling. It's so many talented people playing so many kinds of's hypnotic. I loved the performances of Annette Bening, Joseph Cross, Jill Clayburgh, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alex Baldwin and Gwyneth Paltrow -- in that order. They're ALL amazing. And when the short of end of the stick holds Gwyneth Paltrow and Alex Baldwin, you've got a damn good time in your DVD player!

Put the scissors down, and then run -- don't walk -- to get this film. two thumbs way up!

Tarot Time: Reading 19 JUL 09

After reading a friend's Tarot card on Facebook, I pulled out my set and did a reading for myself last night. Now before I go on, I want to say this: Tarot cards are not magic. They do not channel mystical powers. There is NO supernatural or paranormal anything about Tarot cards. They simply act as catalyst to the human imagination. They provide perspectives on how to consider one's life and one's desires. No magic, just ideas.

But HEY! What a powerful outcome!! These cards are really all about creativity and possibilities.

Card one in the Stranger position is the Knight of Wands; the impish jokester, the insatiable sexual satyr who delights in the power to inspire and create. Card two in the Self position continues the theme of creativity. The 3 of Wands is another member of the Fire Arcana and begs one to contemplate the synergy of harmonizing the body, heart and consciousness. Card three is strength in the Friend position. It asks you consider the inner strength you possess and to trust it as you grow into the future. Card four is the second card from the Major Arcana and it's the Empress. In the Family position, it first asks you to contemplate your relationship with your mother, but more importantly how your mother's legacy channels through you to others. Card five in the World position is the 5 of Disks: the Worry card. It does not ordain worry, but rather counsels to be aware of the power of worrying to derail one's dreams, and to remember that the power exists within each of us to set aside worry through focussing on the simple contentment in our life.

In a phrase, the reading says to me: "Go for it!" Now, I just have to figure out what IT is!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What I'm Watching #205

"Clandestinos" -- which was inexplicably translated on the DVD as: "What's This?" is my latest film out of Spain.

In a nutshell, 3 delinquents (a Basque, a Mexican, and a Moroccan) escape from juvi, run off to Madrid where the ETA wannabe and Arab, blow up a flag and manage to capture 2 of ETA's most notorious operatives. Thus setting up an ending where each gets the girl, woman or man of their choice! God, you gotta love Spanish cinema!

Now lest you think this a comedy, it is not. It takes itself very seriously and in a couple of instances is very violent--people die. Which is why I found the happy ending so bizarre; right down to the warden of the juvinile detention center conspiring with the 50-something year old male lover of the teenage Basque separatist to set up a conjugal visit, when scarcely a week before the same kid nearly severed off one of his thumbs while holding him hostage in his escape -- but hey, why hold a gudge? Life's so short!

Sunday Funnies #26

I've heard of people who need to get their heads out of their own derriers, but this is a bit much! God, I love wrestling...

Mid-July Gardens #6

The echinacea purpurea is once again attracting the attentions of local bumble bees. Every year they arise along the steep embank- ment of my driveway. I never planted them there. They're all emigrants from long fizzled out plants that I put in the backyard years ago. And every year they arrive with more gusto than the year before, so what am I to do? I take my lead from the bumble bees in July and the Golden Finch in August and simply enjoy!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What I'm Watching #204

"The Curiosity of Chance" is a low budget indie film with a ton of heart and enough talent to pull it off. Set in the 80's, (camp appeal?) it tells the story of gay teenager, Chance Marquis, and how he came to fit in at a new high school. Set in Europe, with lots of Flemish and Dutch actors playing lesser roles, you'd think the lead actor was born there, too, with a name like Tad Hilgenbrinck. But you'd be wrong, this talented young man hales out of the Windy City. Along with co-star, Brett Chukerman, the two young men bring a sincerity to their characters that is both heart-warming and well-tempered. Definitely a movie worth seeing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Here Come da Judge!

In a nation with a 13% Hispanic population to NOT have a member of this ethnic community on the Supreme Court is a travesty of justice. Wisely, Barack Obama has rectified this situation in the person of Sonia Sotomayor. Her endurance of the Senate Confirmation process was nothing short of stellar given the vitriol and racist badgering of mysonginistic, homophobic, facists like Jeff Sessions, Lindsay Graham and Orin Hatch. Three men with enough related skeletons in their proverbial closets to freaking know better and thus behave better, but then until Republicans are caught red handed, they NEVER apologize for hypocrisy....

And still, nearly before the dust has settled, 3 Republicans have stepped forward to endorse Judge Sotomayor's appointment. Richard Lugar of Indiana is absolutely one of the last sane Republicans in congress. If I had the chance to interview him, I would ask him to remember when he served in the senate with people like Nancy Kasselbaum of Kansas and Sam Nunn of Georgia...O, those were the days. Joining him second is Mel Martinez. The only Hispanic Republican member of the Senate and a lame duck who's loyalty to his linguistic heritage supercedes his opposition to all that is Democratic unlike most of the rest of his party members. And finally, Olympia Snowe jumped on board. She is the most Democratic of the Republican Senators and why she doesn't switch parties is beyond me. History will judge her as possessing extreme fidelity to the party if little else--perhaps it was Sotomayor's "fidelity to the law" that swayed her support.

And so one Democratic pundant on MSNBC tonight predicted a confirmation with 80 Senators on her side. Given that there are now 60 Democrats and that prediction would require another 17 Republicans over the first 3 declared. Here's my score card:

1) Richard Lugar - INDIANA
2) Mel Martinez - FLORIDA
3) Olympia Snowe - MAINE

4) Susan Collins - MAINE
5) Judd Gregg - NEW HAMPSHIRE
6) George Voinovich - OHIO
7) Lindsay Graham - SOUTH CAROLINA
8) Lisa Murkowski - ALASKA
9) Jon Kyle - ARIZONA
10) John McCain - ARIZONA
11) James Risch - IDAHO
12) Charles Grassley - IOWA
13) Sam Brownback - KANSAS
14) Thad Cochran - MISSISSIPPI
15) Mike Johanna - NEBRASKA
16) Kay Bailey Hutchinson - TEXAS
17) Lamar Alexander - TENNESSEE

And I have another half dozen Republican possibles. It's the whole Hispanic thing. You have a nominee that is profoundly qualified--let Clarence Thomas forever set the bar!--and so you say "no"? Unless you live in the Dakotas, Wyoming, Vermont, or Maine kiss a sweet and loyal percentage of your constituency "GOOD BYE".

Who's Working...Who's NOT?

As we in this nation continue to deal with the economic fall-out of 8 years (2000-2008) of unbridled Republican laise faire economic policy, 7 years (2002-2009) of outrageous spending on unregulated private sector war-profiteering and nearly 30 years (1980-2009) of selling off American industrial and manufacturing jobs to sweat-shops from Mexico and Bangladesh to China and Haiti. The result is a national unemployment rate of 9.5%.

Now don't assume that our economy is designed for 100% employment. It doesn't. At it's healthiest, our economy supports an unemployment rate of about 4.5%. And that's because people find themselves in flux, the broad economy evolves with some jobs becoming obsolete as others emerge--our economy is a living thing. And that's okay.

The problem with our economy today is that it's not presently evolving, it's contracting. The afore mentioned policies have so extended the possibilities of economic growth that the entire system--like a hyper-extended rubber band--has snapped! The hyper-stretch was predicated upon years of unchallenged greed mascaraded by the greedy as the "American Way" and swallowed hook line and sinker by the masses because the true opium of America's struggling middle and lower classes is the hope that some how, one day, they will magically join the elite amongst us. It's a myth that plays upon our historical persona of a nation of individuals pulling themselves up by our boot straps because in America "anything is possible." This is pure, unadulterated BULLSHIT.

So this map shows us where the present economic angst is. The top five states on the unemployment ladder are:

1) MICHIGAN @ 15.2%
2) RHODE ISLAND @ 12.4%
3) OREGON @ 12.2%
5) NEVADA @ 12.0%

Any wonder that Obama won 4 of them?

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I'm Watching #203

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" was not my first pick in a Sunday matinee, but it was my fate on Sunday.

My understanding of the film was that it was basically just bad--and after the second film, it wasn't a stretch of my imagination. So I entered the theater with low expectations.

I left feeling that my $9.50 was not a waste of either time or cash~ It's not a perfect film, or an amazing sequel. Give me the scissors and I can make it a better film by about 20 minutes less!~ But it's not horrible, and perhaps in that simple declaration, it was a film that surprised me for the better.

Our Latest American Hero #134

Been a little while since I shared one of these. With the up-surge of casualties this month (23 in the first 11 days....) it seems urgent to do so. So without further ado, regrettably:

Army 2nd Lt. Derwin I. Williams, 41, of Glenwood, Ill.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment, Illinois National Guard, Dixon, Ill.; died July 6 in Konduz, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

"Williams Served For 16 Years"

GLENWOOD, Ill. — A 16-year veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard has been killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Derwin Williams, 41, of Glenwood was killed July 6 when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Konduz. His wife, Felicia Williams, says the military informed her of his death that evening.

Williams worked as a correctional officer with the Cook County sheriff’s office. His wife says he’d served in Iraq for one year in 2004 and was slated to return from his tour in Afghanistan in August.

In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by three daughters, aged 22, 18 and 9.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mid-July Gardens #5

The oak leaf hydrandea off the back of the sunroom is in it's mid-summer's blush. basking in the sun, swaying gently in the breeze, with leaves so full and supple even Adam and Eve would jones for their coverage, their soft caress. Just sayin...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Marion Barry

Marion Barry -- Washington, D. C.'s "Mayor for Life" -- has once again gotten himself into a little bucket of sticky, ucky, goo. The older he gets, the easier it seems to be for him to do this. As a result of this scandal, the local "City Paper" printed this cover.

It's become a little celeb du jour in it's own right as many have protested it's print content. In the midst of this, lots of people have posted comments on the various aspects of this story to the City Paper's website. After reading them, I sent my own:


Congrats City Paper! You've sold your quota for the month with this silacious cover. But here's the bottom line:

1) Marion Barry is a man who's done so FREAKING much in his life to end racism and advance the cause of equality for the people of the District of Columbia.

2) That was yesterday. No matter how wonderful his good works are/were they are not a free ticket to behave badly. Someone should tell him that.

3) White people by-and-large don't have a clue about racism, so they say really stupid and racist things without believing that they are doing so, because they still believe in the myth of a color-blind society...and have no clue what white privilege is, let alone that it benefits them in America with every breathe they take.

4) But such ignorance is not relevant to the issue at hand, other than the way it has displayed itself in some of the comments here.

5) So back to Marion. People, he's just an old man who enjoys SEX and has the means to pursue his desires without the good sense to know when he's crossed the line. He thinks his past good works entitle him to a present where he can have what he wants as a reflection of his status. And as long as his constituents choose to live in the past, and ignore, excuse, and deny his present outrageous behavior--why should he believe (let alone act) otherwise? That is the real deal here. Believe it!

Monday, July 06, 2009

By Any Other Name?

You know that I am a student of history, sociology, and well, all things interesting. I recently undertook a study of all of the names of the counties of the 50 states. One aspect of this is the frequency of names and how that relates to the office of the president. Clearly many counties were named to honor our presidents. Here are the top 7 most frequently occurring names which cover 12 of the presidents:

3 (a tie) JACKSON & LINCOLN 24
6 GRANT 15
7 (a tie) ADAMS (& J. Q. ADAMS), POLK, JOHNSON (& L. B. JOHNSON)

In the last 5 you have two sets of the same name. Who's to say in such a quandary what's more significant to the outcome of an election: belief in a platform or association with a name? The next most prominent presidential name of counties is CLINTON. None actually named after President William Jefferson Clinton. But a name common to folks and therefore containing a certain bias. As a lover of Linguistics, wish I would have more time to delve into all of this!

The top 5 NON-Presidential County names are:

4 WAYNE 15
5 (a tie) GREENE & WARREN

Outside of Benjamin Franklin these are military leaders (Generals). With the obvious exceptions of Union and Clay.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi!

Love this poster! And share it in the spirit of keeping front and center the life of Aung San Suu Kyi. She represents a people who deserve the same basic human rights and responsiblities that the rest of us enjoy and execute.

I have a friend of many years who actually visited Burma back in 2003. He's a photographer by vocation, and he shared with me how amazing and profoundly beautiful were the people of Myranmar. May their excellence be freed from the childish fears and selfish passions of their leaders sooner than later...

One Nation, Indivisible: White Americans

Back on June 7th I published a pair of maps depicted the percentage of Hispanic and Black Americans by county in the United States, and here is a map with the results of where White America lives.

As an ethnic identity, we know that White Americans are on the decline. One aspect of this is the fact that we hold a majority of the population in all of the counties in fewer and fewer states. In 2007, this would be only 18 of the 50 states. Now, you might imagine that 18 whole states (CT, DE, IA, ID, IN, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, OH, OR, RI, VT, WV, AND WY) is a pretty good place from which stage a conservative backlash. But you would be ill-advised to attempt this give the actual states involved!
Add in Washington, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and you have a lot of very majority white states electing our president Obama. Granted the old white guard offered a stark contrast in ideology, temperment, generation, experience AND skin color--so how much more of a message can the nation send?

We are moving toward a new paradigm. It's one that I honestly don't think our founding fathers would fear. It's one that I am looking forward to with trememndous hope.

Celebrate Good Times! Come ON!

Congratulations to the Indian Supreme court for their decision to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults! Institutionalized homophobia in India is one of the last negative vestiges of Colonial Rule by the British who brought their Victorian Christian values to the largely Hindu (i.e. pagan) subjects in South Central Asia. Before their conquest, the polytheistic spirituality of the majority Hindu people gave little regard to pronouncing judgment against Homosexual acts.

The image on the right above is from the Temple of Visvanatha in Khajuraho, India. It depicts a temple priest giving a "hand job" to a visitor and was carved in the 9th century of the Common Era. At that time Britain was a convoluted disassociation of warring kingdoms where the majority of the population was held in virtual slavery while fending off random attacks from Viking marauders and Normans bent on annexing the rocky island to their European empire. And literally hundreds of examples of Homosexual liaisons can be found in the stone sculptures in Hindu temples from across the centuries.

Furthermore, traditional Hinduism holds fast to the concept of a "Third Gender." Neither male nor female, that exists within society and is no more or less a member of that society (very much like the Native American concept of the Berdache which existed in some of the plains nations). Even the beloved and wildly popular Kama Sutra takes in stride the existence of Homosexual acts. Including them in the pantheon of activities to be engaged in in the pursuit of the fulfillment of carnal desires.

So India's Supreme court has not only struck a blow against the powers that oppose human rights, in taking this decision, it has also reaffirmed something very basic and very fundamental to the culture of the Asian sub-continent and its people.

Today's Sermon #17


The heavy-lidded enterprise of the dead
begins with forgetting, ends with forgotten.
Like smoke, so thick at first but higher
just a wisp, until it is indistinguishable

from air. The move from youth to old age,
doesn't it resemble falling, a leaf descending
from white birch to front lawn? You think
it drifts slowly? It plummets. And this well-

dressed elderly man crossing against the light.
At the curb he puts a hand to his chest. He feels
a fluttering which suggests the birth of angels:
a sudden consciousness, the thrashing of wings.

~ Stephen Dobyns, 1941 -

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Damn You, Lego!

Well, Lego has done it again! Which is to say, they've outdone themselves on their latest model. The Carousel is beautiful in it's execution and amazing in it's engineering. It not only spins, but the rides roll up and down on their journey round the fixed center, and it emits a bouncy carnival melody as it moves. Bravo! Nay, Bravissimo!!

What I'm Watching #202

"Black Is... Black Ain't" is the last film that Marlon T. Riggs directed and produced. In fact, he died from complications due to AIDS during the project, and it was completed by his assistant, Nicole Atkinson. Billed as a frank look at the contradictions in African American culture, at 87 minutes, it's barely a Table of Contents. It whirls you through a montage of topics from AIDS, education, skin tonality, and religion, to suburbanization, language and definitions of cultural terms, music, manhood, and ritual. It's so all over the place it really leaves one wondering what he could have done with this topic, had he lived.

Helping him to tell the story is an army of African Americans from across the socio-economic spectrum from California to Louisiana, from South Carolina to Maryland. He takes you to jazz clubs and ghetto neighbors, to Cajun kitchens and upper middle-class suburbia in search of answers to what black is and black ain't. And mixed amongst the witnesses are cultural icons like Angela Davis and Cornell West, the poet Essex Hemphill and the dancer Bill T. Jones. He uses quotes from people like Zora Neal Hurston and clips from Louis Farrakhan speeches. It's a tour de force of a documentary in serious need of an expanded notation. And most poignant of all is the way in which he weaves into the narrative the story of his own decline in the last months of his life, while co-producer Nicole interviews him through one hospitalization to the next to the last.

Completed only in 1994, there are portions of this film that feel very distant from today. Not many, but some that seem to say, we're not a stagnant nation, and "Black" is not a fixed point, but a movable force within and without its cultural place in the greater fabric of America. Students of cultures, aficionados of history, and those who long to learn to know to grow will find this film a necessary step in their journey.

Kudu's To VQR!

Pow! Another home run from my favorite literary quarterly. Once a quiet little backwater publication with poems and fiction, it has transformed itself into one of the most ambitious and engaging university based magazines out there. VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review) chooses a theme and works it with outstanding prose and photos that make National Greographic look like yesterday's news. The summer 2009 issue features articles on the people of the middle east. You go to the Gaza Strip, you read about the history of the West Bank, Beruit, Lebabnon, Sadr City, and the images are simply stunning.

But more there are still amazing poems and fiction, criticism and a graphic novella--AND an amazing photo-essay of the young mothers of Port-au-Prince, Haiti! Favorite past issues have included a thorough celebration of Darwin and the theory of evolution, the effects of global warming on the worlds most vulnerable mountain cultures from Nepal to Peru, the cultural impact of the petroleum industry in equitorial Africa, and the world that is Cuba under Castro. Every 3 months, the arrival of VQR is like a little Christmas morning 4 times a year.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Early July Gardens 01

My Lysimachia Purpurea is in full bloom all around my yard. The deeply maroon to nearly chocolate colored foliage has lightened to a variation of medium purple to olive as the yellow blossoms are popping open. Due the abundance of rain this spring the height of the plants have also increased by a good 6" with some breaking 48".

I have a colony of Coreopsis Verticillata common name Zagreb Coreopsis growing in the little garden beneath my kitchen window. When I first planted it there, it went through a couple of years of only half-hearted return, but for the past 3 years it has thrived and muscled out the Evening Primrose, Bee Balm and Black-eyed Susan's. In mid-May I severely cut it back to make room for some Petunias and Snapdragons, but here it is, completely unwilling to accept any chastening.


Woke up this morning to discover my first Baltimore Oriole! A magnificent bird, and a real treat to finally see one here in Takoma Park. As a child, I would see them all of the time at my grandmother's home in Flintstone. She had an enormous weeping willow in her back yard and the orioles would build their hammock-like nests in the long swaying branches. The oriole was joined by many of the usual denizens of my backyard, Gold Finches, Catbirds, Carolina Wrens and Cardinals.

An hour later, I glanced out of front window to find a pair of Purple Finches perched on the powerline over my driveway. I can't remember the last time I saw a purple finch in my yard! What's next? A California Condor? One can always hope!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

228 Reasons To Be Proud!

As the month of Gay Pride slips away with all of the hoopla surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots this year, I've been thinking a lot again about the idea of pride. It's always been an odd fit in my mind. How can anyone be proud of an attribute that is not within their control? I'm finally understanding that its not the attribute that solicites pride.

Therefore, it's not pride in the attribute, but in the community that shares that attribute. A feeling of pride by association with those who share that attribute and in my opinion, too little has been done to emphasis the accomplishments of our forebearers. And thus I offer this post.

Again, as we bid good-bye to the 40th anniversary month of Gay Pride and the Stonewall Riots in NYC, I have compiled a list of just some of the Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual People who make me PROUD to be a member of the Tribe! 228 very excellent reason so far as I can see.

1) BERNICE ABBOTT (1898-1991, African American Photographer)
2) ROBERTA ACHTENBERG (1950- American Politician)
3) JANE ADDAMS (1860-1935, American Educator, Nobel prize winner)
4) CLAY AIKEN (1978- American singer)
5) ALVIN AILEY (1931-1989, African American Dancer Choreographer)
6) EDWARD ALBEE (1928- American Playwright)
7) CHAD ALLEN (1974- American Actor)
8) PEDRO ALMODÓVAR (1949- Spanish Filmaker)
9) JOHN AMAECHI (1970- English Athlete, NBA Basketball Player)
10) GREGG ARAKI (1959- Japanese-American Filmaker)
11) RENALDO ARENAS (1943-1990, Cuban Writer)
12) W. H. AUDEN (1907-1973, English Poet)
13) JOSEPHINE BAKER (1906-1975, African American Singer/Dancer)
14) JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987, African American Writer)
15) TAMMY BALDWIN (1962- American Politician)
16) SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981, American Classical Music Composer)
17) LANCE BASS (1979- American Singer)
18) AMANDA BEARSE (1958- American Actor)
19) SIMONE de BEAUVOIR (1908-1986, French Philosopher, Writer)
20) LEONARD BERNSTEIN (1918-1990, American Classical Composer/Conductor)
21) ELIZABETH BISHOP (1911-1979 American Poet)
22) ROSA BONHEUR (1822-1899, French Painter/Sculptor)
23) JOHN BOSWELL (1947-1994, American Historian)
24) KARIN BOYE (1900-1941, Swedish Poet/Writer)
25) BENJAMIN BRITTEN (1913-1976, English Classical Music Composer)
26) RUPERT BROOKE (1887-1915, English Poet)
27) RAYMOND BURR (1917-1993, Canadian Actor)
28) LORD BYRON (1788-1824, English Poet)
29) PAUL CADMUS (1904-1999, American Artist)
30) JOHN CAGE (1912-1992, American Classical Music Composer)
31) MARGARETHE CAMMERMEYER (1942- American Soldier)
32) TRUMAN CAPOTE (1924-1984, American Writer)
33) WILLA CATHER (1873-1947, American Writer)
34) CONSTANTINE P. CAVAFY (1863-1933, Greek Poet)
35) RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN (1934- American Actor)
36) OTIS CHARLES (1926- American Episcopal Bishop)
37) MARGARET CHO (1969- Korean-American Comedian)
38) VAN CLIBURN (1935- American Pianist)
39) MONTGOMERY CLIFT (1920-1966, American Actor)
40) JAMES COCO (1930-1987, American Actor)
41) JEAN COCTEAU (1889-1963, French Writer/Artist/Filmaker)
42) AARON COPLAND (1900-1990, American Classical Music Composer)
43) JOHN CORIGLIANO (1938- American Classical Music Composer)
44) HART CRANE (1899-1932, American Poet)
45) QUENTIN CRISP (1908-1999, English Writer)
46) WILSON CRUZ (1973- American Actor)
47) COUNTEE CULLEN (1903-1946, African American Poet)
48) ALAN CUMMING (1965- Scottish Actor)
49) MERCE CUNNINGHAM (1919- American Choreographer)
50) MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM (1952- American Writer)
51) JOHN CURRY (1949-1994, English Figure Skater)
52) JAMES DEAN (1931-1955, American Actor)
53) ELLEN DeGENERES (1958- American Actor/Comedian)
54) Charles Demuth (1883-1935, American Artist)
55) SERGEI DIAGHILEV (1872-1929, Russian Ballet Producer)
56) MARLENE DIETRICH (1901-1992, German Actor/Singer)
57) ANI DiFRANCO (1970- American Singer)
58) MARK DOTY (1953- American Poet)
59) MARTIN DUBERMAN (1932- American Historian)
60) ISADORA DUNCAN (1887-1927, American Dancer)
61) MELISSA ETHERIDGE (1961- American Singer)
62) RUPERT EVERETT (1959- English Actor)
63) EDWARD FIELD (1924- American Poet)
64) HARVEY FIERSTEIN (1954- American Actor/Playwright)
65) LESLIE FISH (1947- American Anarchist/Writer/Singer)
66) E. M. FORSTER (1879-1970, English Writer)
67) JODIE FOSTER (1962- American Actor)
68) MICHEL FOUCAULT (1926-1984, French Philosopher)
69) BARNEY FRANK (1940- American Politician)
70) STEPHEN FRY (1957- English Actor)
71) RUDY GALINDO (1969- American Figure Skater)
72) FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA (1898-1936, Spanish Poet)
73) WILL GEER (1902-1978, American Actor)
74) DAVID GEFFEN (1943- American Business Executive)
75) JEAN GENET (1910-1986, French Playwright/Writer)
76) ANDRÉ GIDE (French Writer/Nobel Prize Winner)
77) JOHN GIELGUD (1904-2000, English Actor)
78) SARA GILBERT (1975- American Actor)
79) ALLEN GINSBERG (1926-1997, American Poet)
80) ALLAN GURGANUS (1947- American Writer)
81) MARILYN HACKER (1942- American Poet)
82) LORRAINE HANSBERRY (1930-1965, African American Playwright)
83) E. LYNN HARRIS (1955- African American Writer)
84) NEAL PATRICK HARRIS (1973- American Actor)
85) LORENZ HART (1895-1943, American Musical Theater Composer)
86) MARSDEN HARTLEY (1877-1943 American Artist)
87) DARREN HAYES (1972- Australian Singer)
88) TODD HAYNES (1961- American Filmaker)
89) ESSEX HEMPHILL (1957-1995, African American Poet
90) JERRY HERMAN (1933- American Musical Theater Composer)
91) DAVID HOCKNEY (1937- English Artist)
92) ANDREW HOLLERAN (1944- American Writer)
93) JAMES HORMEL (1933- American Ambassador: Luxembourg 1999-2000)
94) VLADIMIR HOROWITZ (1902-1989, Russian Pianist)
95) A. E. HOUSMAN (1859-1939, English Poet)
96) ROCK HUDSON (1925-1985, American Actor)
97) LANGSTON HUGHES (1902-1967, African American Poet)
98) JANIS IAN (1951- American Singer)
99) JOHN INMAN (1935-2007, English Actor)
100) Sir DEREK JACOBI (1938- English Actor)
101) CHEYENNE JACKSON (1975- American Actor)
102) DEREK JARMAN (1942-1994, English Filmaker)
103) Sir ELTON JOHN (1947- English Singer/Composer)
104) PHILIP JOHNSON (1906-2005, American Architect)
105) BARBARA JORDAN (1936-1996, African American Politician)
106) LESLIE JORDAN (1955- American Actor)
107) MYCHAL F. JUDGE (1933-2001, American Priest)
108) JOSHUA KADISON (1963- American Singer)
109) FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954, Mexican Artist)
110) MOISÉS KAUFMAN (1963- Venezuelan Playwright)
111) ALFRED KINSEY (1894-1956, American Biologist/Sexual Researcher)
112) DAVID KOPAY (1942- American Professional Football Athlete)
113) LARRY KRAMER (1935- American Writer/Political Activist)
114) TONY KUSHNER ( 1956- American Playwright)
115) NANCY KULP (1921-1991, American Actor)
116) ADAM LAMBERT (1982- American Singer)
117) NATHAN LANE (1956- American Actor)
118) K. D. LANG (1961- Canadian Singer)
119) YVES SAINT LAURENT (1936-2008, French Fashion Designer)
120) MARK LEDUC (1964- Canadian Boxer Athlete)
121) ANNIE LEIBOVITZ (1949- American Photographer)
122) LEONARDO da VINCI (1452-1519, Italian Artist/Sculptor/Inventor)
123) ANDRE LOURDE (1934-1992, American Poet)
124) GREG LOUGANIS (1960- Philippino-American Diver/Olympic Gold Medalist)
125) PAUL LYNDE (1926-1982, American Actor/Comedian)
126) RACHEL MADDOW (1973- American TV/Radio Commentator/Host)
127) RICKY MARTIN (1971- Puerto Rican Singer)
128) JOHNNY MATHIS (1935- American Singer)
129) J. D. McCLATCHY (1945- American Poet/Writer)
130) KELLY McGILLIS (1957- American Actor)
131) CLAUDE McKAY (1889-1948, Jamaican Writer)
132) IAN McKELLEN (1939- English Actor)
133) TERRANCE McNALLY (1939- American Playwright)
134) CARMEN McREA (1920-1994, American Singer)
135) GIAN CARLO MENOTTI (1911-2007, Italian-American Classical Music Composer)
136) FREDDY MERCURY (1946-1991, English Singer)
137) GEORGE MICHAEL (1963- English Singer)
138) MICHAELANGELO (1475-1564, Italian Sculptor/Painter)
139) HARVEY MILK (1930-1978, American Politician)
140) SAL MINEO (1939-1976, American Actor)
141) ISAAC MIZRAHI (1961- American Fashion Designer)
142) MEGAN MULLALLY (1958- American Actor)
143) JIM NABORS (1930- American Actor/Singer)
144) KATHY NAJIMY (1957- American Actor/Comedian/Voice Artist)
145) MARTINA NAVRATILOVA (1956- Czech Tennis Player/Athlete)
146) ADI NES (1966- Israeli Photographer)
147) CYNTHIA NIXON (1966- American Actor)
148) HENRI NOUWEN (1932-1996, Dutch Theologian/Writer)
149) RUDOLF NUREYEV (1938-1993, Russian Classical Dancer)
150) DIANA NYAD (1949- American Swimmer Athlete)
151) ROSIE O’DONNELL (1962- American Comedian/Actor)
152) FRANK O’HARA (1926-1966, American Poet)
153) MARY OLIVER (1935- American Poet)
154) KANAKO OTSUJI (1974- Japanese Politician)
155) WILFRED OWEN (1893-1918, English Poet)
156) PIER PAOLO PASOLINI (192-1975, Italian Filmaker)
157) TROY D. PERRY (1940- American Clergyperson)
158) CARL PHILLIPS (1959- African American Writer/Poet)
159) DAVID HYDE PIERCE (1959- American Actor)
160) COLE PORTER (1891-1964, American Composer)
161) MA RAINEY (1882-1939, African American Singer)
162) ANTHONY RAPP (1971- American Singer/Actor)
163) AMY RAY (1964- American Singer)
164) ROBERT REED (1932-1992, American Actor)
165) CHARLES NELSON REILLY (1931-2007, American Actor)
166) ADRIENNE RICH (1929- American Poet)
167) ARTHUR RIMBAUD (1854-1891, French Poet)
168) JEROME ROBBINS (1918-1998, American Choreographer)
169) GENE ROBINSON (1947- American Episcopal Bishop)
170) CESAR ROMERO (1907-1994, Cuban Actor)
171) NED ROREM (1923- American Classical Music Composer)
172) KAY RYAN (1945- American Poet--16th Poet Laureat of the United States)
173) EMILY SALIERS (1963- American Singer)
174) SIEGFRIED SASSOON (1887-1967, English Writer/Poet)
175) MAY SARTON (1912-1995, American Poet)
176) DAN SAVAGE (1964- American Syndicated-Sex Advise Columnist)
177) JAMES SCHUYLER (1923-1991, American Poet)
178) ERNESTO SCORSONE (1952- American Politician)
179) DAVID SEDARIS (1956- American Writer/Humorist)
180) PARVEZ SHARMA (1964- Indian Filmaker)
181) MATTHEW SHEPHERD (1976-1998, American Martyr)
182) RANDY SHILTZ (1951-1994, American Writer)
183) STEPHEN SONDHEIM (1930- American Playwright/Composer)
184) SUSAN SONTAG (1933-2004, American Writer)
185) SAM SPARROW (1982- Australian Singer)
186) STEPHEN SPINELLA (1956- American Actor)
187) GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946, American Writer)
188) MICHAEL STIPE (1960- American Singer)
189) BILLY STRAYHORN (1915-1967, African American Composer)
190) KEITH STRICKLAND (1953- American Singer)
191) GERRY STUDDS (1937-2006, American Politician)
192) MAY SWENSON (1913-1989, American Poet)
193) WANDA SYKES (1964- African American Actor/Comedian)
194) GEORGE TAKEI (1937- Japanese American Actor)
195) PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893, Russian Classical Music Composer)
196) SCOTT THOMPSON (1959- Canadian Actor/Comedian)
197) VIRGIL THOMSON (1896-1989, American Classical Music Composer)
198) WOLFGANG TILLMANS (1968- German Photographer)
199) LILY TOMLIN (1939- American Comedian/Actor)
200) JIM TOY (1930- American GLBT Rights Activist)
201) HENRY SCOTT TUKE (1858-1929, English Artist)
202) URVASHI VAID (1958- Indian American Lawyer/Human Rigths Activist)
203) GUS VAN SANT (1952- American Filmaker)
204) CARL VAN VECHTEN (1880-1964, African American Photographer)
205) ELIHU VEDDER (1836-1923, American Artist)
206) PAUL VERLAINE (1844-1896, French Poet)
207) GIANNI VERSACE (1946-1997, Italian Fashion Designer)
208) GORE VIDAL (1925- American Writer)
209) WILHELM VON GLOEDEN (1856-1931, German Photographer)
210) TOM WADDELL (1937-1987, American Athlete, Founder of the Gay Games)
211) RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (1972- Canadian Singer)
212) ALICE WALKER (1944- African American Writer/Poet)
213) ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987, American Artist)
214) JOHN WATERS (1946- American Filmaker)
215) SUZANNE WESTENHOEFER (1961- American Comedian)
216) EDMUND WHITE (1940- American Writer)
217) MEL WHITE (1940- American Clergyperson)
218) WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892, American Poet)
219) OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900, Irish Playwright)
220) THORNTON WILDER (1897-1975, American Playwright)
221) TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (1911-1983, American Playwright)
222) RICKY WILSON (1953-1985, American Musician)
223) PAUL WINFIELD (1939-2004, African American Actor)
224) B. D. WONG (1960- Chinese American Actor)
225) NOBUKO YOSHIYA (1914-1973, Japanese Writer)
226) PEDRO ZAMORA (1972-1994, Cuban-American AIDS Activist)
227) FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI (1923- Italian Filmaker)
228) DAN ZHOU (1974- Chinese Civil Rights Lawyer)