Friday, November 30, 2007

Battle lines.

At the CNN/YouTube Republican candidate debate, Senator John McCain said, regarding the quagmire in Iraq that, "our troops want to finish the job." A commenter to CNN.com replied after in this way:
I have never in my few years as a young Soldier in both an active duty and reserve component heard anyone say such things. It is a soldier's job to be neutral and fulfill the duties that the American people task us with. I think it is wrong to fool the American people into thinking that soldiers actually enjoy the brutal environment in Iraq and wish to stay there.

Regardless of the shared military experience of McCain and those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, the fact remains that those currently serving in battle are the only ones qualified to speak to how they see their own military experience.

The poem below is based on the Epitaph of Simonides, which is engraved on a commemorative stone placed at the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. I think it's a good representation of the discord between those who serve in battle, verses those who move the pawns of war.


Perished by Sidney Nolan

Inscription for a War by A. D. Hope

Stranger, go tell the Spartans
we died here obedient to their commands

—Inscription at Thermopylae

Linger not, Stranger; shed no tear;
Go back to those who sent us here.

We're the young they drafted out
To wars their folly brought about.

Go tell those old men, safe in bed,
We took their orders and are dead.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Misunderstandings.



When I was a wee lass, this print hung in my bedroom. I've had it for as long as I can remember, and looking at it is always comforting to me, in the same way that watching a favorite Saturday morning cartoon, or making popcorn in the Jiffy Pop stove way are comforting. It gives me that "coming home" feeling, if you know what I mean.

My mom told me that the picture was called "Guardian Angel," but my 4-year old brain interpreted that as "Gartie and Angel." For all of my childhood I assumed the picture was of little Gartie walking in the forest with an angel on her tail. I often wondered why she was named Gartie, what kind of name was Gartie, and why wasn't it Gertie, and for that matter, why wasn't it Gretel, and where was Hansel, and if I looked close enough at the picture, would I see breadcrumbs on the ground? It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized that it wasn't "Gartie and Angel," but "Guardian Angel." I felt stupid at the time, but that feeling quickly faded and turned into a sort of personal satisfaction at being so creative in my misunderstanding.

That said, here's a poem about a guardian angel that holds out hope in the face of hopelessness.

The Guardian Angel by Stephen Dunn

Afloat between lives and stale truths,
he realizes
he's never truly protected one soul,

they all die anyway, and what good
is solace,
solace is cheap. The signs are clear:

the drooping wings, the shameless thinking
about utility
and self. It's time to stop.

The guardian angel lives for a month
with other angels,
sings the angelic songs, is reminded

that he doesn't have a human choice.
The angel of love
lies down with him, and loving

restores him his pure heart.
Yet how hard it is
to descend into sadness once more.

When the poor are evicted, he stands
between them
and the bank, but the bank sees nothing

in it's way. When the meek are overpowered
he's there, the thin air
through which they fall. Without effect

he keeps getting in the way of insults.
He keeps wrapping
his wings around those in the cold.

Even his lamentations are unheard,
though now,
in for the long haul, trying to live

beyond despair, he believes, he needs
to believe
everything he does takes root, hums

beneath the surfaces of the world.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leftovers.

Some notes on my Thanksgiving holiday:

  • My mom cooked a magnificent dinner, complete with the best turkey I've ever tasted. Apparently, free-range turkey roasted in a bag is the way to go. We also had wild rice and pecan stuffing, an incredible sweet potato bake that tasted like candied heaven, mashed potatoes (our contribution), green bean casserole, rolls, cranberries, homemade peach and apple butters, cider and pumpkin and pecan pies. Leftovers galore. I love Thanksgiving. I love my mom. Thank you, mom and Steve!

  • Guitar Hero is more fun than I thought it would be. I'm not very good, but I actually get better every time I play, so there's potential for some serious rocking out. We like it so much, that we ponied up the funds for a second guitar so we can play together. A note about that: the only way to get a second guitar is to buy the game and guitar again. You can't just buy a guitar for the Wii. Fuckyouverymuch, Activision. So... if anyone wants a copy of Guitar Hero III for the Wii, with no guitar, let me know. I could put it up on eBay - you know, be one of those assholes who puts the picture of the box up and in really tiny print in the item description mention that I'm only selling the game and not the guitar with it... nah - I think I'd lose sleep over that.

  • Saturday night, we ate at Eden Alley (the usual yumminess ensued) and saw our first movie in a theater in months. No Country For Old Men is the best movie I've seen in years, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Afterwards, we walked around the Plaza long enough for me to realize it was too cold outside for the jacket I had on, and caved and bought a coat I've had my eye on at Eddie Bauer. They had it, it was on sale, and I walked out into the cold warmer than I had been.

  • Today is my sister's 22nd birthday. Last year, I went out with her and drank more than I ever had or ever will again. Happy birthday to my favorite sister.

Monday, November 26, 2007

O Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie by Philip Appleman


O Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie by Philip Appleman

O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,
gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice—
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good—
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.

Spechal peepul's day.

My faith in humanity has been restored.

I'm sure they couldn't refuse.

Patriotic people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wow.

It's all fun and games until someone shoots their eye out.

The tops.

It's holiday crunch time again.

Dinner(s) and a show.

My step-sister, Danielle, is a senior at Avila University, majoring in theater set design. I am embarrassed to admit that, up until this past weekend, we'd never been to one of her shows. We were seriously missing out.

Danielle designed the sets for Avila's production of "The Grapes of Wrath." In spite of sounding obviously biased, I must say that Danielle's sets were absolutely perfect and so much more impressive than I possibly imagined. The entire stage was backed with railroad ties that stretched up to the rafters. The ties wrapped around the sides of the stage, so that the audience was presented with a wall of worn and tattered wood. The stage floor was build up out of old scrap wood so that it matched the worn look of the background, but Danielle built several props into the stage floor that were used throughout the production. Two planks on the stage pulled out to be benches for a picnic table. Several compartments were built into the floor that were used as campfires, or graves. At one point, the front portion of the stage floor lifted back to reveal a pool of water that represented a river. To reflect major scene changes, Danielle build modular pieces that dropped from above the stage and hung suspended, as if by magic, above the stage floor. This was such an impressive technique. Each of these touches were unexpected and added to the feel that the set, much like the environment that was so harsh on the Joads, was not just a backdrop for the action but a live thing that could act on the scenes just as the scenes were acted on it. She also designed the car that the Joad's used in their journey - a charmingly old-fashioned yet haphazard jalopy that wheeled around the stage and was as much a character in the show as any of the flesh-and blood actors.

A model of the set was on display in the foyer, and I managed to get an unfortunately blurred picture:



Danielle is currently deciding on a graduate school. I hope she chooses one relatively close to Kansas City so that we can see more of her work. Just wow.

Before we went to see the show, we ate dinner at One Bite Japanese Grill in Overland Park, Kansas. We'd heard good things about One Bite from Brian and Courtney, and since we were sort of in the neighborhood, we decided to check it out for ourselves. One Bite is in a typical Johnson County strip mall, but the restaurant isn't your typical strip mall place. Inside we found a dimly-lit diner of sorts - booths line one wall, and a diner counter runs the length of the smaller-than-expected space. The color palate is modern and the booth we had was very comfortable.


The menu has some of the typical Japanese fare (seaweed salad, gyoza) and a whole lot of unexpected delights. We had two plates - the first was ginger marinated chicken skewers with Japanese eggplant. The eggplant reminded me of the pickled eggplant from the Noodle Shop, so there must have been some miso in there somewhere. Our second plate was the okonomi-yaki, or Japanese pancakes. We ordered the "Mix Special" which included veggies, meat and seafood.

I couldn't quite reconcile my eyes with my mouth. My eyes said this was going to be a sweet and gooey mess - the last time I saw a plate that resembled this one was when I ordered the pumpkin pancakes at IHOP. But when I cut into it, I found a filling of cheese, shrimp, beef and vegetables surrounded by dense pancakes and topped with a slightly-sweet ginger sauce. This dish was very good, but very rich and filling. We both agreed that a portion half this size would have been more than sufficient.

Our weekend adventure in eating wrapped up on Sunday night with a visit to what has become one of my favorite places, Mr. Le's Sushi and Vietnamese Restaurant:



Mr. Le's is located at Parvin and Brighton in Kansas City, North, in what I consider one of the shadiest strip malls around. There are some seriously icky people around this place, but they don't go into Mr. Le's, so don't be afraid. Inside, Mr. Le's is bright and cheery:



The food at Mr. Le's is what keeps us coming back, though. Despite the dubious location, Mr. Le serves up some of the best sushi we've had. The fish is fresh and the rolls are creative and delicious. Presentation is not brushed over, as with this spicy tuna roll (one of the best we've had anywhere):



But I'm a sucker for Pho, and the Pho at Mr. Le's doesn't disappoint. The broth is wonderfully aromatic - I've said several times that if I ever ask for chicken noodle soup while in the throes of illness, it is Pho Ga that I want, and not actual chicken noodle soup - that I can't even imagine how that flavor is accomplished. Lucky for me, I don't have to know because Mr. Le knows and is close enough to my house I can get a fix any time I want.



If you haven't experienced Pho before, you must do so soon. The salad-ish plate in the upper left of the above picture accompanies the Pho and includes bean sprouts, limes, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro and fresh basil. You put in as little or as much as you like - I skip the sprouts, add a touch of jalapeno, and put in a fair amount of lime, basil and cilantro. Despite the soup spoons that are brought with the Pho, I strongly recommend you eat the Pho with chopsticks and drink the broth. There is something very calming about eating a bowl of noodle soup with chopsticks. You are forced to slow down, have patience. Part of the experience of eating Pho for me is the exercise of eating it with chopsticks, and while I've tried to eat it with a spoon and fork, something suffers without the chopsticks. So give them a shot. Mr Le's is open on Sundays, which makes me a happy camper. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in.

One last thing before I wrap up - my sister has been telling me about Guitar Hero for six months. For the last couple of weeks, we've been casually thinking about picking it up for the Wii, and after Brian and Courtney got it over the weekend and told us how much fun they were having, we buckled and got it last night. The rumors are true - Guitar Hero is incredibly fun. Frustrating, aggravating, challenging and a whole lot of fun. I can't wait to thrash out (on Easy mode) over the Thanksgiving break.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I need an illustrator.

I can't draw. If I could, I would draw a picture to go along with this short poem, which popped into my head as I was lying in bed, thinking, "what strange words can I rhyme?"
The crowd at Town Topic
Is quite lycanthropic -
By day, they're just average Joes.

At night, the moon lingers
They eat with their fingers
And scratch other parts with their toes.

The picture would be of a warewolf in a diner, eating a cheeseburger, drooling and menacing, scratching his hind quarters with his back leg.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Told ya so.

Those music lessons pay off in the long run.

Hitchhiker by Galway Kinnell

After a moment, the driver, a salesman
for Travelers Insurance heading for
Topeka, said, "What was that?"
I, in my Navy Uniform, still useful
for hitchhiking though the war was over,
said, "I think you hit somebody."
I knew he had. The round face, opening
in surprise as the man bounced off the fender,
had given me a look as he swept past.
"Why didn't you say something?" The salesman
stepped hard on the brakes. "I thought you saw,"
I said. I didn't know why. It came to me
I could have sat next to this man all the way
to Topeka without saying a word about it.
He opened the door and looked back.
I did the same. At the roadside,
in the glow of a streetlight, was a body.
A man was bending over it. For an instant
it was myself, in a time to come,
bending over the body of my father.
The man stood and shouted at us, "Forget it!
He gets hit all the time!" Oh.
A bum. We were happy to forget it.
The rest of the way, into dawn in Kansas,
when the salesman dropped me off, we did not speak,
except, as I got out, I said, "Thanks,"
and he said, "Don't mention it."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where does Janet Reno fit in to all of this?

Men who look like old lesbians - more amusing than you'd think.

Handy.

Irony is not dead.

Speechless.

Leave it to The Times in London to publish this sobering story:

America suffers an epidemic of suicides among tramatised army veterans

From the article:
More American military veterans have been committing suicide than US soldiers have been dying in Iraq, it was claimed yesterday.

At least 6,256 US veterans took their lives in 2005, at an average of 17 a day, according to figures broadcast last night. Former servicemen are more than twice as likely than the rest of the population to commit suicide.
[...]
A separate study published last week shows that US military veterans make up one in four homeless people in America, even though they represent just 11 per cent of the general adult population, and younger soldiers are already trickling into shelters and soup kitchens after completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan

I don't know what to say. These statistics are just heartbreaking. What part of "Support Our Troops" doesn't include making sure they have proper mental health treatment? Oh, that's right - there are still a whole slew of folks out there who don't think that the brain can be sick and that people need to suck it up and be an adult. "Quit yer whining, whipersnapper. My pappy tore limbs off 150 Japs with his bare hands in double u double u two and he came out just fine." A raging alcoholic who mentally and physically abused his family, who once beat a man into the hospital with a pair of boots because the man woke him up from a sound sleep on a train, but just fine.

It's like this, people: your heart can get diseased, your skin can get a rash, your muscles can rip, your joints can develop arthritis, your brain chemicals can get out of whack, especially if the person is exposed to all manner of psychological stress and visual/physical horrors.

It's a sad fact that traumatic images and events get stuck in our memories more easily than we'd like (if you've ever seen tubgirl or goatse then you know what I'm talking about). Recent research is working toward treatments that, while they won't erase the memories themselves, may "dampen their emotional charge." I sure hope it proves effective.

There's a reason I don't usually post on topics such as this: I feel hopeless in the face of our current situation and I don't like to feel hopeless. So I try to focus on things I like and enjoy. I vote when the time comes, and I keep myself as informed as I can stand to be (thank you, Jon Stewart), but there's only so much I can take before I have to visit Can I Has Cheezburger for, as Boing Boing puts it, a unicorn chaser.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ed by Louis Simpson

Ed by Louis Simpson

Ed was in love with a cocktail waitress,
but Ed's family, and his friends,
didn't approve. So he broke it off.

He married a respectable woman
who played the piano. She played well enough
to have been a professional.

Ed's wife left him . . .
Years later, at a family gathering
Ed got drunk and made a fool of himself.

He said, "I should have married Doreen."
"Well," they said, "why didn't you?"

In all fairness.

The Just World theory.

Archived.

We take a lot of pictures. Always have. We started in 1995 when we got our first digital camera, and have been going strong ever since. In 1999 we had what I refer to as The Great Hard Drive Disaster, wherein thanks to a hard drive failure and lack of experience regarding the necessity of back-ups, we lost all of the photos we had taken up until that point. Our two trips to Minnesota were gone, and that was sad. Now there's no proof that I danced with Snoopy on New Year's Eve.

Since then, we've been diligent about backing up our photo library. But keeping tabs on an ever-growing number photos is not easy. Therefore, over the last two weeks, I've been gradually uploading my entire photo collection to Flickr. I've created sets and collections and tags and titles and descriptions and privacy settings on nearly two thousand photos, and I am thrilled to say that I am finished at last.

Going through all of my photos was a walk down memory lane and a reminder that we need to take more pictures. I discovered many forgotten gems in the mix, and will be posting some of them on occasion.

For example, in 2002 I found out that a high school friend was expecting a baby in a couple of months. This friend was one with whom Heather and I used to spend a great deal of time, but she had drifted out of our lives. Anyway, I knew Heather would be surprised by the pregnancy news, so I made sure I had my camera ready when I told her that Kandi was seven months pregnant:



Ah, the power of digital media. Gotta love it.

So with all the Flickring, I've been a bit lazy with the blogging. C'est la vie. The most exciting thing I've done in the last couple of weeks was seeing Avenue Q at the Music Hall on Sunday afternoon. I've been looking forward to seeing that show since I got the cast recording in 2004, and this production didn't disappoint in the least. I loved every subversive second.

While we were waiting out in front of the Music Hall for my parents (who bought the tickets - thanks Mom and Steve!), it was fun to play "Avenue Q or Ararat Shrine Circus" with the passing crowd (the circus was next door in Memorial Auditorium). Suffice it to say, it was fairly easy to distinguish between the two groups, not entirely because, while Avenue Q is based loosely on Sesame Street, it is NOT a show for kids. So anyone toting a parade of rugrats was automatically heading for the circus. Also, most (but not all) persons who looked like they should be in the circus, were heading for the circus.

Of course, I didn't get pictures of any of this. My bad. Maybe next time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Three Goals by David Budbill

The first goal is to see the thing in itself
in and for itself, to see it simply and clearly
for what it is.
No symbolism, please.

The second goal is to see each individual thing
as unified, as one, with all the other
ten thousand things.
In this regard, a little wine helps a lot.

The third goal is to grasp the first and the second goals,
to see the universal in the particular,
simultaneously.
Regarding this one, call me when you get it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Housewarming by Thomas R. Smith

In my dream I was the first to arrive
at the old home from the church. Wind
and night had forced through the cracks.
I pushed inside, turned on the lamps,
lit a fire in the stove. Frozen oak
logs stung my fingers; it was good
pain, my hands reddening on the icy
broom-handle as I swept away snow.
On Christmas Eve, I prepared a warm
place for my mother and father, sister
and brothers, grandparents, all my relatives,
none dead, none missing, none angry
with one another, all coming through the woods.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Orange by Wendy Cope


paperpiles by SophieMuc

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

The most true thing.

LOLCat Wasteland: april hates u, makes lilacs, u can no has.

The last nail.

Please, McHammer, don't hurt the supercute Olivia Munn.

The Small Cabin by Margaret Atwood


Wabajisik: Drowned Land (1929) by Frank Carmichael


The house we built gradually
from the ground up when we were young
(three rooms, the walls
raw trees) burned down
last year they said

I didn't see it, and so
the house is still there in me

among branches as always I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake

but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest

the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind

collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.

Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.

Where did the house go?

Where do the words go
when we have said them?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Fred Phelps post.

As a Kansas Citian, I think I'm legally obligated to comment on the Fred Phelps $10.9 million dollar lawsuit.

As a teenager, I attended Broadway Baptist Church, which was often the target of Phelps and his cult due to the gay-friendly nature of the congregation. One of my high school teachers also attended the church with her family. One Sunday, as my teacher and her family were leaving the church, her father put his arm around her brother. The Phelps cult was on site that day, and as soon as they saw two men with their arms around each other's shoulders, they started in with the "God hates fags" bullshit. My teacher and her family are better people and better Christians than the Phelps cult, and as such they simply turned the other proverbial cheek and ignored the venom. But Phelps had certainly shook them up a bit - not so much for what he said, but for how he went about spreading his message of hate. It's a powerful thing, being in the presence of so much anger and psychosis.

On the surface, Phelps and his cult appear to be protected under the umbrella of free speech. I obviously think what they do is disgusting, but as the quotation goes, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That said, there are limits to what we can say. We can't say to a stranger "I'm going to kill you" because that is a threat. Just as we can't yell "Fire!" when there isn't one because that's reckless endangerment.The Phelps cult can't picket the funerals of soldiers with their "God hates fags" message because that's "defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress." So what we're looking at here isn't a free speech issue - it's a defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress issue.

It's one thing for Phelps to say ignorant, ridiculous, hateful things - the Fox News Channel does that every day - but he stepped over a societal boundary by intending to cause emotional harm to others by making shit up. That's the basis of "do unto others as you would have done unto you." Apparently, Phelps skipped past that part of the Bible.

Speaking of Fox News, I wonder how their viewers and readers are handling this whole Phelps thing. I mean, it seriously must make most of their heads explode. On the one hand, many of them probably "hate fags" as much as the Phelps crew. But they "support the troops," so the whole picketing funerals thing must be a turn-off for them.

Anyway, I don't like to give any attention at all to Phelps and his cult, but a nearly $11 million decision against them is worth mentioning.