Sunday, November 29, 2009

When Sheep Sleep Perchance To Dream

Today's Sermon #20

Apparently there is some newly discovered evidence that God may actually have created Adam & Steve, too!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Charlie Darwin" by The Low Anthem

I haven't sent out a video in a long time, this one is really sweet.

Black Friday Report

I ventured out on Friday, the most wicked shopping day of the year.

My first stop was Silver Spring, Maryland. There I found a parking lot only 60% full (a typical friday would find it 90% full). I purchased a flood light at Stroessener's Hardware (and helped a newly hired hispanic man with a crisp haircut--muy guapo--navigate the particulars of the cash register without any other customer appearing to cramp the experience.) Next, I visited the Border's Booksellers across Fenton Avenue and purchased an audio copy of Sarah Vowell's "The Wordy Shipmates". The store was only as busy as it would be on any other afternoon.

I left Silver Spring after finding no suitable table at Pier One Imports and drove over to IKEA in College Park. IKEA can be an utter nightmare, however, I found a descent parking place and made my way through the store comfortably to the purchase of a EFFECTIV cabinet. It matches two others that I had purchased there in the past and cost half as much as anything I would have seriously entertained at Pier One.

Other stops included the Bank of America branch in College Park, and the Giant in Hyattsville. Both were nearly empty. Make of this anecdotal data what you will....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Father Grant Gallup, 1932-2009, R.I.P.

The news has come to me on this day after Thanksgiving that a dear soul has departed our communion. Grant Gallup was an Episcopal priest who didn't really play by the rules of orthodoxy. He was born in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and was a member of the Stambaugh High School's graduating class of 1949. He became a priest in the diocese of Chicago where he served at the parish of St. Andrews and eventually made his way to the poorest barrio in Managua, Nicaragua. It was there in the barrio known as Monsignor Lezcaño, among his neighbors, that he died on Thanksgiving Day.

Dr. Louie Crew of Rutgers University shared this recollection from Grant’s days at St. Andrews in Chicago: “I remember asking Grant how those at St. Andrew's were dealing with his openness. "The same way I deal with theirs." When someone's son was arrested for using crack, Grant was there to help the family cope. When someone needed groceries to make it to the end of the month, Grant was there for them. His larder was never empty. On some days half the block seemed to show up in his dining room for a meal. He had the gift of endless, joyful hospitality.”

Beloved by so many in Managua, His funeral mass was celebrated today. He was buried in a cemetery just walking distance from the school, guest house and community center known as Casa Ave Maria that he established and maintained.

I shared one of my own memories of Grant on the blog, The Wounded Bird: “I was privileged to have known Grant in his final decades. I was even more blessed to have had the opportunity to visit with him at Casa Ave Maria in Managua on a pair of Christmases in 2003 and 2005. He was a master of hospitality, and his table in the poor barrio of Monsignor Lezcaño was like Louie's remembrance from Chicago, never empty. One night we walked through the streets to a nearby restaurant for a wonderful dinner, upon our stroll home a little boy on a bicycle called out to him, "Hello you old faggot!" and with out missing a beat in our conversation or a hint of irony, he waved at the lad and called back, "Good evening to you sweet boy!" He lived with such a level of honesty and generosity that everyone who knew him respected him and saw in him a witness of God's grace.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

It was a nearly perfect Thanksgiving Day: cloudy, foggy, and drizzly with tons of defused light casting a crisp, almost neon pawl upon the world. I snapped this image of the Japanese maple in my backyard from the vantage point of a second story window, to prove it. In photography, light is everything.

As to the subject: I bought this tree back in 1999 because my ex- waxed passionate about Japanese maples, and I loved to give him gifts. It was awaiting purchase at a humble little nursery off of New Hampshire Avenue a couple of miles north of the Beltway. When I first saw it, it was in late October, and it's leaves were a brilliant red.

That red sold it to me. That was the last time that I saw its leaves as red.

In season, they're a mustard yellow-green. In autumn, they turn brown and shrivel into little bundles resembling burnt popcorn. For the past decade, they've been a disappointment to me. And now in this atypically moist cool (but not cold) Autumn, the tree reminds me of why I bought it in the first place.

What to feel.....

By Any Other Name...A Kiss, Is Just A Kiss

Seems that that is not always true... I just heard about the recent kafuffle over a kiss planted by Adam Lambert on the lips of another man during the recent AMA awards on TV. Where the hell to begin?

For everyone like me who doesn't give a rat's ass about the AMA awards OR policing the act of kissing (!), please tell those who do, that the world has not ended! --The sun continues to rise, the rain continues to fall. God has apparently not seen fit to smite His wicked children because of a kiss OR the AMA awards! Grace triumphs yet again...or does it? How is this different from any other day, God fearing or Godless?

How is this kiss any different from any other? From the kiss between Madonna and Brittany? or Will and Jeda? or myself and Josh? or you and any other person whose lips you wish to touch with yours (or tongue with your tongue for that matter)?

Kisses happen all the time and for all sorts of reasons. Pretending that they don't is ignorant. Shielding this fact from our children is an exercise in futility. Judging others for their kiss-choices is small minded, petty, and pathetic. Believing that any God condemns any act of caring, tenderness, or passion that is given between consenting adults is blasphemous.

If you don't like something, don't DO IT! Live your life for you! Let others discover their lives with the same freedom of choice and dignity. And judge NOT, lest you be judged some glad morning....

Monday, November 23, 2009

On An Elemental Level

This is YOU! I stumbled upon this and thought how completely perfect a coda it was to my recent post from Bill Bryson's book.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today's Sermon #19

Red geranium
Reaching for the autumn sun—
One more day of life.

I wrote this haiku in 1998...I took the photo this afternoon.

What I'm Watching #220

"Ready? Okay!" is a movie with a very big heart, about a little boy who wants to be a cheerleader on this porochial school's fourth grade pep squad. The gay neighbor, Charlie, gets it. The grandmother gets it. His uncle Alex gets it.

And the movie is about what it takes for his mom to finally get it. A sweet film, with a positive message.

"You can do it! Yes, you can!"

Mid-November Gardens #1

With most of the flowering things finished and even the leaves mostly fallen from their branches, there are still things to witness. Take this terra cotta pot. I've had it for three years, and it's never "become" a member of the plant world, in spite of housing a collection each season.
Then I happened to take it off of the deck a month ago and set it on the moss encroached brick circle path where I forgot about it for a couple of weeks. Eventually I moved it up to the deck rail and within the last two weeks, it has turned these incredible shades of green as moss begins the process of colonizing it's furrowed surface. Isn't it beautiful?

And while most of the flowers are done, this odd little yellow nasturium has only just begun! And what an exotic little creature it is, too. When I study the blossoms, I am reminded of the flamboyant Chinese dragon costumes that celebrate the new year and sometimes guide the spirit of the dead toward their heavenly home in funeral processions.

What I'm Listening To #68

When I first heard the early CDs of Harry Connick, Jr., I was thrilled by his energetic, edgy-yet-vintage stylings of classical jazz songs.

If that's the Harry you love, keep playing those first CDs. This latest collection is like Harry singing karaoke, mediocre karaoke. Alas.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What I'm Watching #219

"The Kite Runner" is a powerful movie. I know it's yesterday's news. I just bought it today. I'm so glad that I did!

The performances are such that you empathize with nearly everyone. It is, however, in the end the story of a single man's evolution. That's its raison d'etre, and that's its Achille's Heal.

Holiday Shopping.

Living as I do just north of the District of Columbia, inside the infamous beltway, but in the MOST politically correct community in America east of Berkeley, California! I have many options when it comes to shopping. And while you'll find me toting a bag of organically grown veggies from the Sunday Farmer's market, or spending 3 times as much as I could for eye glasses, just because I want an honest-to-god optometrist shop alive and well on my Main Street, I cannot completely divorce myself from a childhood of box stores and strip malls. The vast majority of my discretionary spending occurs by conscious choice in Prince George's county, my county's more economically disadvantaged neighbor.

On occasion, however, I venture north to a collection of retail stores and restaurants sprawling across three expansive and interconnected groupings. The shops may have some sort of moniker, but I’ve never seen it. They are found off of exit 175 west between I-95 and Columbia, Maryland--very near to Fort Meade. I like going there because I can visit an everything story like Target, but also a specialty store like Borders Booksellers or Toy’s R Us. As it turned out today, I wanted to visit all of these and a few more besides. It’s was a mild, mostly cloudy with brilliant dabs of sunshine sort of day. A good day to browse and buy or not buy.

My first stop turned out to be the one that got me. I went to Borders, because it’s time to stop thinking about the last book I read and look for another one to divert my attention from the here and now. I chose two books after toying with four. Because I’d recently read his memoir, I picked up E. Lynn Harris’ “Basketball Jones,” and by Michael Chabon, “Gentlemen of the Road”. I then went to the DVD section in search of “Up,” but it was $29.95 and I know I can get it for ten to fifteen dollars cheaper at my local Giant grocery store!

So I turned and began perusing the DVD’s along the long wall of other choices when I happened upon “The Kite Runner”—a book that I had just put back—and that’s when I noticed him. He was a very handsome, rugged looking man of about 30. On his lap sat a little boy of about 4; a little boy pushing himself hard into his father’s chest, tugging at his shirt, rubbing the back of his hand, his forearm. A second son of about 7 was running around them and pointing out everything that he saw, as if he was somehow his father’s eyes. The man was tender in his responses and even apologized to me as he rounded the corner of the aisle in his wheelchair and mistakenly assumed that he had hampered my way. And that’s when his military haircut completed outed him. He was a soldier.

A soldier and a father with his two young sons, not on a mission to buy anything in particular, just hanging out together. And that’s when I noticed how often and emphatically the 7-year-old repeated the word “Daddy”. He started every sentence with it, and even ended some—mostly the questions—with it. And that’s when I thought I was going to explode in tears. For about five minutes, as I continued to shop and fight the urge to cry, I continued to swirl around this iconic trio. At one point I felt like a light bulb surrounded by moths…as inert and unconnected, yet somehow as magnetic, and that’s when I made my way to the check-out and left.

In my head I was hyper stimulated by the possibility that this man had been injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. I so wanted to meet him. Have that conversation. Convey my heartfelt appreciation. Provide some measure of succor to him and his sons. (And lest you think me hyper imaginative—I will guarantee you that he was military. No one cuts a head of hair like a military barber. Not the most ardent skinhead in Berlin! No one! When you see it as often as I do, you know what you’re seeing.)

But I didn’t. Instead I went out to my truck in the parking lot, and cried. And when I was done, I went to Pier One Imports…..

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What The Fuck IS Wrong With Us?

From the Baltimore Sun on November 18th, I am beside myself with sadness. I am sad so often that it aches within my chest. I am only saved by equal amounts of joy.

Grandmother asks why gay teen was in house with a convicted killer

It didn't happen often, but sometimes a student - usually a boy - would poke fun at Jason Mattison Jr.

About his skin-tight jeans and funky sweaters. About his boisterous voice that seemed to run nonstop. About his exuberance in recounting the most mundane of events. About his flamboyant mannerisms. He was 15, a sophomore in high school, and he was gay.

When someone harassed him in the halls of West Baltimore's Vivian T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy, he had a sharp, witty comeback at the ready, and he walked away smiling.

"Even if it hurt him, he gave the other person the impression he was stronger," recalled his English teacher, Ryan C. Jones.

But while Jason appeared strong and confident in the safe confines of his school on North Calhoun Street, unafraid to embrace his sexual orientation as part of his personality, the world outside did not offer those same protections.

Last week, at his aunt's house, one of the few occupied homes on a block boarded and sagging, he was found dead - raped, gagged with a pillowcase, stabbed repeatedly in the head and throat, and shoved into an upstairs closet. Jason's killing left his teachers, classmates and relatives in tears and family members asking questions of one another even in the days leading up to today's funeral.

Did Jason leave his mother's house and move in with his aunt, as his grandmother suggested? Or was he just visiting on that fateful day, as a cousin said? And why did people in his aunt's house open their door to the suspect, a convicted killer released early from prison because of flaws in his case?

"From now on, we do have to take more care in who we let in and who we trust," said Jason's cousin, Laquanna Couplin, who lives in the house on Llewellyn Avenue where Jason was killed.

She described Dante Parrish, 35, who is charged with first-degree murder in the case, as a longtime family friend, but she would not say whether he lived there or visited.

Couplin spoke briefly Monday while standing on her front porch, complaining that too many stories, too many accusations, made it difficult to grieve, and that she was tired of trying to set the record straight.

"He was a terrific boy, and we miss him very much," Couplin said. "We're hoping that justice is served and that the person who is responsible for this goes to prison and doesn't get out."

Of Jason, she said, "He was a sweet young man. He wasn't afraid of who he was. He had a life ahead of him. I just wish he could've had a chance to live it."

But his paternal grandmother, Wanda Williams, one of the first Jason confided in about being gay and who handed him a few dollars now and then for food and clothes, questioned how other relatives could have allowed the boy to be in the same house with Parrish, given his violent past.

"I haven't cried so much this entire life," Williams said. "My grandson hollering for help and there is nobody there to help him."

Jason loved texting and talking, and he spent his evenings chatting with friends on MySpace.

Jason was one of the most popular kids at school, his English teacher said, always first to class, always first to the cafeteria, where students fought to sit at his table, always first to turn in his homework and always getting near-perfect grades.

"He was outspoken and excited about everything he talked about," Jones said. "Walking into school, he was the first one to share what he did over the weekend. He was very, very popular, and he was everyone's best friend."

Jason wanted to be a pediatrician, Jones said, and the only thing the two debated was Jason's constant chatter.

"He was not a behavioral problem," Jones said. "He was a talking problem."

But after every dispute, Jason eased the tension by laughing, smiling and saying: "It's not that serious."

The Vivian T. Thomas school has about 425 students, about 80 percent of them female, and Jason quickly gained friends with his eye for fashion. He dressed in bright colors and scarves, and if there was a hole in his jeans, he had put it there to make a statement.

Jason hated conformity. He wanted to change the spelling of his name to "Jaysen," and that's how his classmates remembered him on their cards.

"Normal was ugly to him," Jones said.

Jatia Pledger, his best friend in high school, said girls at the school stuck up for Jason when boys gave him trouble: "We all had his back."

But as much as Jason talked, he remained secretive about his home life.

"When he was in school, he was a whole other person," Jatia said. "We were his family."

Jones, his teacher and confidant, said he never asked. "Looking back, I wish I would have," Jones said. "It was something that never came up. Personally, I wondered what his family thought of his orientation."

Jason's grandmother said the boy's father was out of the picture and that she became the de facto authority figure. His mother did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

When Jason came out as gay, there was some dissension in the family and though Williams said she stood by her grandson, his declaration caught her off guard.

"I accepted his sexual preferences," she said. "But I told him, 'You're young and don't understand life.' I told him, 'Plenty of young women would love to be with you.' He said he likes boys. Young people don't like to listen to adults, but I told him I'm not going to push him away."

Williams said Jason left his mother recently and moved into the house on Llewellyn Avenue, though family members there said he only visited.

A Baltimore police spokesman would say only that Jason "was staying at his aunt's house." It was there that Jason met Parrish, with whom the spokesman said the teen had a "forced sexual relationship."

Parish was 24 when he pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a man on Maryland Avenue in March 1999. In 2008, the Innocence Project, a group of attorneys who help people they believe were wrongly convicted, took up his case.

They found that Parrish had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder based on a faulty statement of facts read into the court record - there were two witnesses, not three, and a gun was found weeks after the shooting, not with Parrish when he was arrested.

A judge overturned his conviction, citing ineffective defense counsel, and in January, Parrish entered what is called an Alford plea, which allowed him to deny guilt but concede that the state had enough evidence to convict him. He was freed on time served, effectively cutting a 30-year sentence to 10.

Whether Parrish went from prison to live at the rowhouse on Llewellyn Avenue or frequented it could not be determined. Couplin would not elaborate beyond confirming that the man was a longtime family friend.

The day Jason's body was found, it was Couplin who called police, at 3 a.m. Nov. 10. She reported that someone had broken into the house and stolen a television from the living room. A police officer came and wrote a larceny report.

Couplin called police again at 5:09 a.m., saying that she saw blood on a banister leading to the second floor. She also reported Jason missing.

Police found his body in the back of a second-floor closet. Charging documents say that "several witnesses were identified and positively identified defendant Dante Parrish as the person responsible for this act." Couplin said she now believes the missing television was a diversion to make it look like a break-in.

Police arrested Parrish two days later at a convenience store on Moravia Road. A department spokesman said Parrish confessed to the killing the next day and is being held without bail.

Now, Jason's family and friends are left to mourn - informally at a memorial service at the school Tuesday night, and formally at a funeral at 11 a.m. today at Unity United Methodist Church on Edmondson Avenue.

Many of his friends learned of Jason's death from rumors on MySpace. They didn't believe it until they arrived at school and found his chair empty and a somber English teacher to break the tragic news.

"We were in shock," Jatia said. "We're still in shock."

Remembrances have filled Jason's MySpace page, which contains one note that seems indisputable, even amid the questions swirling around this death.

It reads: "Mood: Jason is loved."

And Yet Another Snippet from "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

“There are ninety-two naturally occurring elements on Earth….

“As you might expect, oxygen is our most abundant element, accounting for just under 50 percent of the Earth’s crust, but after that the relative abundances are often surprising. Who would guess, for instance, that silicon is the second most common element on Earth or that titanium is tenth? Abundance has little to do with their familiarity or utility to us.
Many of the more obscure elements are actually more common that the better-known ones.

“Abundance also has little to do with ease of detection. Aluminum is the fourth most common element on Earth, accounted for nearly a tenth of everything that’s underneath your feet, but its existence wasn’t even suspected until it was discovered in the nineteenth century by Humphry Davy, and for a long time after that it was treated as rare and precious. Congress nearly put a shiny lining of aluminum foil atop the Washington Monument to show what a classy and prosperous nation we had become, and the French imperial family in the same period discarded the state silver dinner service and replaced it with an aluminum one. The fashion was cutting edge even if the knives weren’t.

“Nor does abundance necessarily relate to importance. Carbon is only the fifteenth most common element, accounting for a very modest 0.048 percent of Earth’s crust, but we would be lost without it. What sets the carbon atom apart is that it is shamelessly promiscuous. It is the party animal of the atomic world, latching on to many other atoms (including itself) and holding tight, forming molecular conga lines of hearty robustness—the very trick of nature necessary to building proteins and DNA…. Of every 200 atoms in your body, 126 are hydrogen, 51 are oxygen, and just 19 are carbon.

“Other elements are critical not for creating life but for sustaining it. We need iron to manufacture hemoglobin, and with it we would die. Cobalt is necessary for the creation of Vitamin B12. Potassium and a very little sodium are literally good for your nerves. Molybdenum, manganese, and vanadium help you keep your enzymes purring. Zinc—bless it—oxidizes alcohol.

“We have evolved to utilize or tolerate these things—we could hardly be here otherwise—but even then we live within narrow ranges of acceptance. Selenium is vital to all of us, but take in just a little too much and it will be the last thing you ever do.”

Have I convinced you to just go out and get this book for youself?

Yet Another Snippet from "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

“We’re a twin planet. Not many of us normally think of the Moon as a companion planet, but that is in effect what it is. Most moons are tiny in relation to their planet. The Martian satellites of Phobos and Deimos, for instance, are only about ten kilometers in diameter. Our Moon, however, is more than a quarter the diameter of the Earth, which makes ours the only planet in the solar system with a sizeable moon in comparison to itself, and what a difference that makes to us.

“Without the Moon’s steadying influence, the Earth would wobble like a dying top, with goodness knows what consequences for climate and weather. The Moon’s steady gravitational influence keeps the Earth spinning at the right speed and angle to provide the sort of stability necessary for the long and successful development of life. This won’t go on forever. The Moon is slipping from our grasp at a rate of 1.5 inches a year. In another two billion years it will have receded so far that it won’t keep us steady and we’ll have to come up with some other solution, but in the meantime you should think of it as much more than just a pleasant feature in the night sky.”

What I'm Listening To #67

Alex Cuba's latest CD "Agua del Pozo" is just a joy from one track to the next. It is one of the most intimate CD's I've listened to in like forever. His voice is rich and sweet and I for one cannot resist singing along if for no other reason than to feel my vocal cords resonate along with his. Mellow, soothing, an everyman's voice, Alex sings songs of his own composition which wrap themselves around your heart in one instance and your hips in the next! As "Amor Infinito" left almost wanting to cry, and for no other reason than it was just so tender, "Tu Boca Lo Quita" and "Penita en la Cara" had me cursing my hoplessly Anglo genes that have always inhibited my ability to Salsa...but not my desire to try!

This is a truly wonderful CD! I rate it "a buy without reservation!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Snippet from "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

"If you could visit a cell, you wouldn't like it. Blown up to a scale at which atoms were about the size of peas, a cell itself would be a sphere roughly half a mile across, and supported by a complex framework of girders called the cytoskeleton. Within it, millions upon millions of objects--some the side of basketballs, other the size of cars--would whiz about like bullets. There wouldn't be a place you could stand without being pummeled and ripped thousands of times every second from every direction. Even for its full-time occupants the inside of a cell is a hazardous place. Each strand of DNA is on average attacked or damaged once every 8.4 seconds--ten thousand times a day--by chemicals and other agents that whack into or carelessly slice through it, and each of these wounds must be swiftly stitched up if the cell is not to perish."

And we think things are bad on the macro-level of our lives! Geez-Louise!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Funny

Speaking about Olympic athletes.....

The Hope of France

Brian Joubert is not an athlete whose name, let alone back story, would be very familiar to most Americans. After all, he competes under the red, white and blue of France--and not the U. S. of A. Yet he is an amazing athlete, and a person worth knowing. As a child, he had a kidney removed due to illness before he reached his first birthday. As a young man he has risen to the status of world champion in the sport of figure skating.

Wikipedia records his accomplishments thusly: "He is the 2007 World Champion, a three-time (2004, 2007 & 2009) European champion, a six-time (2003-2008) French National champion, and the 2006 Grand Prix champion. As of November 2009, Joubert is ranked third in the world.

And he is a model for companies like Izod. As a European, he needn't fret that a photo of his beautiful body in underware or less would in anyway impede his ambition to represent a nation in sports. And why should he?

Perhaps it's all those statues of classical men and women in marble that lead our European cousins to view the human body as a thing of beauty. To acknowledge it's form and functions without prudish distain. But one wonders really just why Americans allow a fringe of our society to still shame the majority of the rest of us into allowing the platonic appreciation of physiques to feel seemly and untoward. I for one look forward to the Vancouver winter Olympics, and I will be cheering this beautiful young man on as he strives to win the gold: a man who is beautiful for his response to life's capricious disadvantageous snafus and his body and it's physical abilities. Vive le Brian Joubert!

Monday, November 16, 2009

What I'm Reading #24

Is a wonderfully well written account of nearly everything! Otherwise, it wouldn't be called "A Short History of Nearly Everything"! As audacious as the title is, it is a really wonderful tour de force of ideas, personalities, coincidences and facts that have shaped the very foundations of scientific inquirey. Thanks to this book, I actually get what E=MC2 means, and I don't consider myself stupid--(what moron ever does!) None-the-less, this is a wonderful read full of ideas, personalities, facts, and possibilitites.

Here are a couple of passages to illustrate my assertion.

"Only half a dozen times in recorded history have supernovae been close enough to be visible to the naked eye. One was a blast in 1054 that created the Crab Nebula. Another, in 1604, made a star bright enough to be seen during the day for over three weeks. The most recent was in 1987, when a supernova flared in a zone of the cosmos known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, but that was only barely visible and only in the southern hemisphere--and it was a comfortably safe 169,000 light-years away.

Supernovae are significant to us in one other decidedly central way. Without them we wouldn't be here."

"When the poet Paul Valéry once asked Einstein if he kept a notebook to record his ideas, Einstein looked at him with a mild but genuine surprise. "Oh, that's not necessary, " he replied. "It's so seldom that I have one." I need hardly point out that when he did get one it tended to be good."

The book is full of gems, ideas, facts...I'm repeating myself! They're all so very amazingly good, too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What I'm Watching #218

Caught this amazing film this afternoon with my friend Kimeo. I expected to be the only white guy in the theater, and I wasn't disappointed, but for the record there were three white women who joined me in a see of African Americans. I tell you this because when people tell you that we are not a racist society, they didn't try to see "Precious".

Precious is nothing short of an amazing film. It plays out with an honesty and vigor that rarely attaches to a film about relationships, let alone a film about women, not to mention that the film is about black women. So many strikes against it, and it so triumphs. It demonstrates the utter depravity of human nature beat nearly to death by the realities of our society, and the resilience of the human spirit pushed to the fringe, yet offered hope.

I loved this film. If it goes down to ignominy at the academy awards, then it is dissed at the peril of the entire movie industry and we are condemned to one insipid movie after another. For my buck: Best Actress: Mo'nique; Best Supporting Actress: Mariah Carey, Best Director: Lee Daniels.

Oakleaf Hydrangea @ Night

Here's a wonderful photo I made of an Oak Leaf Hydrangea on Saturday night. It sits outside my sunroom and here is lit and backlit by night lamps. I love the colors. They are only available in autumn, but run the range of the seasons.

What I'm Watching #217

Wrecked billed itself as a gay "Short Bus".... Where to begin? This is a really BAD movie. Only people who spent their education on a short bus could make such a statement with integrity. Frankly, there is nothing about this film that warrants's just a wreck.

San Francisco PC

Got this beautiful postcard from my friend Rafa on his first visit to San Francisco. I remember mine. It's just one of the most amazing cities in the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Stamps for 2010

Some new stamp designs for the 2010 season. The first is for the winter olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Not figure skaters, or ski jumpers, hockey players OR even luge riders! but snow boarders! How amazing a choice. Does the USPS think it needs to appeal to a younger audience?

Another winter offering will be a commemor- ative quad of naval service men. I don't know the navy. I guess these are good choices.

I am, among other things a stamp collector, too. I have all commemorative stamps in mint condition from 1928 to the present and lots of others prior, as well as, most definatives, airmails, postage dues, etc. Our stamps are a reflection of our values as a nation in a way that little else can be said to be.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

War On Terrorism November Up-Date

This map shows the states (in black) where the casualty toll has met or surprassed that of the previous year. To date that would be 28 states and the District of Columbia. The top TEN by casualty rates compared to last year are these states;

Minnesota - 280% of last year's casualty level
Alabama - 250%...
Hawaii - 200%...
Rhode Island - 200%...
Utah - 200%...
Massachusetts - 186%...
Ohio - 180%...
North Carolina - 154%...
Georgia - 150%...
West Virginia - 150%...

What I'm Reading #23

"The Magician's Assistant" is my 3rd book by Ann Patchett, although it was written prior to either of the other two I've read. It is still beautifully full of all the things that I love about her writting. The way she takes people from disparately different backgrounds and unites them by a common event to reveal the depth of their humanity in all of it's complexities. We are left never knowing what to expect next, because the journey through the story belongs equally to everyone. We may know, or think we know, the principle characters the best, but even a minor player can suddenly transform a moment, be the catalyst to an epiphany.

Her stories reveal themselves like layers on an onion carefully peeled back. In both instances the effect on my tear ducts are very nearly the same. I can't help but become so entwined with the people in the novel that I shed tears all along the way. I don't cry, that's a really different act, but a shed tears in joy and sorrow at what is discovered and at what is lost. I love her writing.

Random Quote #109

"The universe is not queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose."

~ J. B. S. Haldane, 1892 - 1964

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What I'm Watching #216

"Glue" is a very interesting, stylized film by Alexis dos Santos. It's the story of Lucas who is just bored and filled with all the angst and desire that defines being 16. The fact that he deals with it in a little forgotten town on the barren plains of Patagonia is both irrelevant and profound. In our glimpse into his life, we see his passions, his fucked up average family, his two friends--Nacho and Andrea in the lens of his bordem and desire. It's a really interesting film about almost nothing at all, and what carries it so well are the performances of the 2 teenagers.

When you think of foreign films you usually think to Europe, Canada, India's Bollywood franchise or Australia, but there are some really amazing, powerful, courageous films being made in other places. Here's my top "Look To" non-European countries in no particular order: Thailand, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, and most definitely Argentina, and I would give South Korea and South Africa both honorable mentions.

Sunday Funny: Family Bar-B-Que!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Pre-Sunday Funny: a.k.a. Funny Bunny!

Parting Shots: My Gardens In November

This brilliant red geranium is from a plant in a planter at my back door. It's velvety redness has been a delight all summer.

In a large pot in my herb garden, another geranium blooms amidst parsely, basel, and rosemary.

The pineapple sage (aromatic herb) that I planted along the backyard walkway is finally blooming. A member of the salvia family, the crimson flowers are trumpet-like and demanding of a probiscus, while insects with such aparatus are rarer and rarer these days. Very curious.

Like Monet's gardens in France, the cooler weather has caused my nastursiums to explode in cascades of octagonally divided leaves and pantagonally petaled blossoms in burgundy red and banana yellow. All edible and peppery to the taste a la watercress.

I'm using this close-up as my current screen background on my computer.

What I'm Watching #215

"Finding Me" was billed as a breakthrough film from a Haitian-American director/writer. I'm no one to dispute that, except I'd ask, "Break through to what?"

My answer: a sincere story, but not a very good film in the sense of things that make films good. Things like acting, directing, lighting, sound production, writing....

When I was in 6th grade, a group of friends (classmates) and I wrote and made a film, a murder mystery. It was a school project. The school nurse's husband, Mr. Gormley, volunteered to use his new camera (8mm hand held) to do the actual filming. He was very generous to not only film it, but to do it the way we wanted him to! The year was 1972.

This film made in 2009, reminded me time and again of that experience.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Political Ponderings on the Great Divide in American Governance on a Federal level

We seem to be a nation that is obsessed with unity and bi-partisanship as a rhetorical campaign mantra, while dividing more and more in real terms by way of our political affiliations. It’s a fascinating phenomanon in which it’s driving force seems counter-productive to growth. While Democrates are generally available to modernity, Republican’s seem to feed upon a pedestrian xenophobia of all things new.

With these ideas in hand, I explored the way that the divide might be effecting the representation of densely urban areas versus sparsely rural. The comparison uses data from the top 10 urban areas according to the U.S. Census Bureau compared to 10 of the most rural areas in the nation. While the urban areas are based on census data, the rural areas are more loosely based on my own sense and research of the demographics of the United States.


That there wasn't a starker contrast between the basic representation of these radically different demographics by women: Urban 28%, Rural 20%. This suggests that the evolution of women in positions of authority politically is being uniformly advanced by all Americans. It’s clearly deficient, but it’s not discriminitory by population density.


Republicans out represent Democrats in the most rural areas of this nation. And conversely, city-folks would seem to trust Democrats more than Republicans to champion their issues.

I Love Elephants

Honestly, I do. I've seen them in the wilds of Africa and the animal prisons we call zoos. They are never anything short of magnificent. They hold their dignity well in all circumstances---except circuses! I hate circuses. They make baffoons of everyone whom they employ. If a human being wants to play the fool, so be it! But mocking elephants, (lions, tigers, chimpanzees, horses, etc.) is nothing short of cruel and ought to be seen as most unusual in the mindset of us humans. Elephants don't deserve to be turned into clowns...but I digress.

And so imagine my delight in happening upon this amazing photograph by G. Colbert.

I added the words, nothing particularly unique, and made posters of it as gifts to my 2nd grade teachers to inspire their students.

I'm Not Dead Yet!

But I have been away from my blog for a little while lately. It's mostly a disenchantment with my computer thing....and nothing worth going into. Instead, I'll tell you a little story. The other day I drove over to PG Plaza to get some things at Traget, and then to the Home Depot for a new rake. Afterwards, I drove into Hyattsville and grabbed a burger at an A&W there--the only one I know of in the area. They make a descent bacon cheese burger, not something that I indulge in more than a couple of times a year, but I was jonesing for one. To give me time to eat it in my truck, I drove into DC on Rhode Island Avenue. Around Fort Totten, in the Chillum neighborhood, I started to make my way back towards home.

At this point I turned into what appeared to be a neighborhood of circa 1970's ranch homes, just west of the metro line. It was midday, and the place was basically deserted. In an effort to navigate my way to North Capitol Street, I found myself thwarted by various dead ends, but kept exploring as I continued to move north out of the District.

At one street I noticed ahead of me a slothenly dressed African American man in his late 20's standing at the curb and bouncing an old basket ball. He had a baseball cap on his head, and a narly trenchcoat covered most of the rest of his attire. As I approached him he grabbed onto the basketball and held it until I was right about to pass him, at which point he bounced it directly in front of my truck. Given the fact that he seemed so out of place, and so focused on me, it didn't surprise me, and neither did I respond to it. I just ran the damn ball over! The height of my truck cleared it with no trouble, and it's age and lack of bounce kept it on the street surface.

In my rearview mirror, I saw the guy step into the street in my wake and give me an earnest shoulder shrug and half-hearted outstretched hands in a gesture that seem to say, "What the Hell?" And I thought, "What the Hell, indeed!"

Was I supposed to slam on my breaks to avoid hitting the ancient ball that HE tossed in front of me? I have no proof of his intentions, only the nagging intuition that he was trying to stop me for some nefarious purpose.