Saturday, December 13, 2008

Upon the wings of forgotten music...

Sometimes, when the mood strikes, when boredom precludes other ventures, or when something in me longs for remembrance, I drag out my little Ipod and see where it will take me. It still amazes me that something the size of a postage stamp can hold a full day's worth of music. It should come as no surprise to those who know me that the music I have loaded into the diminutive machine is, for the most part, of a generation that is now slipping rapidly into old age. My generation.

As I listen to the anthems of my youth, I am transported back, to a time when so many things really mattered, and when my passions were never too far below the surface of my thoughts. I find myself filled with a deep longing, not for a return to those times, but rather to the consciousness and passion that so filled me then. And to the sense that there was something more to me than my functionality, my accomplishments (or lack thereof), and my many mistakes and failures. There was so much before me back then, and I find myself wondering where all that potential went, and how much of it is left. And most poignantly, I find myself hoping that there might still remain some spark of the best that I thought I could be.

Some songs fill me with a bittersweet sadness. "Child's Song" by Tom Rush reminds me of the time when I finally sought a path apart from my parents', and departed without the anger that had become such a predominant part of our relationship. Another of his songs, "Old Man's Song," reminds me of a rapidly approaching Autumn. Yet I do not feel the hopeless frustration he describes; perhaps I have simply not reached that feeble time. Or, perhaps I have found a path that will keep the regrets of old age at bay. Only time will tell.

Other songs remind me of loves past; the beautiful muse who held such a huge part of my soul for most of my adult life; the lovely "platonic" friend in college - we only acknowledged having been in love with each other as our paths were to diverge forever, her to Alaska, and me to serve in the Navy. There were the many random infatuations that touched me over the years, each returning for a moment of silent acknowledgment. The wife who bore me the greatest blessings any human may experience. I can barely recall the anger at our ending, for clinging to the pain serves me no purpose. Better to simply love and let go. And there was the one woman to whom I finally shared the core of my ugliness, and who loved me, nonetheless. Taught me, at long last, not to hate myself. To each of these, I can conjure only tenderness, and recall only love. There is no need to go back, and no longing to do so. I have been graced with their presence, and hold the sweetness of that presence still. The woman who shares my life and my heart nowadays knows the stories. Knows their place at the table of my reverie. And is herself touched that I now choose to give my love to her.

Perhaps I am trapped in a time-warp of sorts. Few examples of modern music touch my soul as do those shining moments we now call "classic rock." I have no doubt that each generation clings tightly to "their" music, not so much for the inherent genius it represents, but rather for the instantaneous transport it provides, a free ticket to dreams nearly forgotten. A rekindling of potential, to remind us that it has been neither lost nor wasted.

And then, just as I feel so fully immersed in sweet melancholy, the wisdom of my Ipod hears the beating of my heart, and shifts completely the mood of its offerings. Jethro Tull, Hendrix, Bugs Henderson, Crosby Stills & Nash, and finally, the greatest hard rock band of all time. Funny... as "Whole Lotta Love" screams through my head, I might as well be sitting in the back of Michael's old yellow van as we - loves of our semester in tow - careen through the winding paths of the Piney Woods, in search of a perfect sunset (or at least a couple cases of Boone's Farm from the liquor store across the county line). Makes my eyes red every time I hear it. And wouldn't you know it? It just now began to play. The Ipod knows, and is all-wise. And I am compelled to listen, and again to follow those forgotten paths. Perhaps even to "go into the kitchen, make me something good to eat..." as that fine troubadour Jonathan Edwards used to say. It's a good place to be, and I thank all those who have joined me on that journey, even if only for a moment.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ya just can't make this stuff up!

Well, our newest political rock star has done it again, sticking her expensively-shod foot in her perennially open mouth. I'm referring to her having fallen hook, line, and sinker for a prank call from a well-known Canadian radio personality, posing as French Prime Minister Sarkozy.

I won't include the text of the entire call here, since it is available elsewhere. However, I think it worth noting that, given the McCain / Palin's vehement (and misleading) rejection of what they claim to be Obama's willingness to meet with foreign leaders "without preconditions," it would seem that one essential precondition to engaging in a discussion with any foreign leader would be knowing who you're actually talking to! Palin apparently disagrees.

I'm certainly not in a position where anything I say (or write) might affect American policy, much less, national security, but if I received a call from someone I didn't know well enough to immediately recognize, I certainly wouldn't discuss my own or a client's personal matters without at least verifying the caller's identity and the appropriateness of their call. And perhaps I'm just a bit too careful, but I consider any dialog with a head of state to be at least significant enough to warrant a modicum of caution. Apparently, Ms. Palin doesn't share that sense of caution.

Despite what any thinking person (or at least, one not blinded by their own ambition) would recognize as clues as to the absurdity of the call, Ms. Palin marched right along... a challenging task, what with both feet, and the greater portion of her lovely legs, now firmly implanted in her gullet. Asked about hunting wolves from helicopters and the joy of killing things, she just palled up to the idea. Offered a degree of sympatico at the veracity of being able to see another country as a requisite for knowing anything about that country, one could virtually see Palin nodding in agreement. Even when the fake Sarkozy spoke approvingly of a porn flick starring a Palin lookalike, Palin didn't blink. She never blinks, remember?

Now, I'm sure that even as her handlers and spin-meisters try to present her as "just being a good sport," they're undoubtedly wishing they could just slap a muzzle on her. Beyond the inevitable giggles this latest faux pas will incite, and the addition of another challenge to a campaign that has been brilliant in adding to its own challenges, this latest incident begs - and sadly, answers - one very serious question: Is this woman qualified and prepared to step into the role of vice president, much less, president?

I would challenge anyone to put aside the partisan spin - from either side - stop the giggling, and answer that question honestly. Their answer should reverberate in their mind as they stand in the voting booth on Tuesday, poised to make a decision that will itself reverberate throughout the world for at least the next four years.

Myself, I want someone who blinks. Or thinks about blinking. Or at the very least, thinks.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Where from here?

As the sun sets golden behind the western peaks of the Sangre de Cristo, lines of celebrants stream down from the mountain, their torches dancing and flickering in the whisper of dusk's breeze. Far below, the throng awaits, their chatter silenced as the torch-bearers approach.

From the silence rises a lone cry, "Burn Him!" Then another. From a few scattered voices, the cry is taken up until the din of it is literally deafening.


In closely choreographed movements, the torch-bearers cast their flaming brands at the feet of the effigy, and as the flames consume it, screams issue from the loudspeaker in the marionette's head. And in mere moments, once the figure is consumed in flame, the crowd squeals and screams with orgasmic delight. Zozobra is dead.

Of course, this is just a big, harmless party, its attendees bent upon casting out the demons of gloom that have haunted them during the year, and bidding that gloom to be gone from the year before them.

Leaving the desert, we enter an arena, filled with revelers clutching "America First" signs. From somewhere in the midst of the crowd arises a cry of "Traitor!" From across the room, "Socialist!" And from another section, "Kill Him!" as the host of the party simply - and silently - smiles.

The similarity between the two scenarios is chilling. One can only wonder when the torches will begin streaming down from the far reaches of the stadium, and whether, given their preference, the celebrants might delight in the screaming agony of a black-faced effigy, bedecked in a three-piece suit, as it is engulfed in that cleansing flame.

God Bless America. What have we become?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McSocialism defined

The McCain campaign has gone to great lengths to paint Barack Obama as a socialist, in hopes of frightening undecided voters. What they apparently fail to realize is that at least some of those undecideds actually know how to use to verify the truth of their accusations. Furthermore, they seem to think that Americans are either too stupid or lack memory capacity sufficient to recall the McCain campaigns own words and actions. As noted in a New Yorker article penned by Hendrik Hertzberg*

"During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and
that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” The exchange continued:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .

MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be
called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual
check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she
told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful
distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist."

C'mon, John & Sarah... at least give voters credit for being intelligent enough to observe and remember what you say and do before you accuse the other guy of doing it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Barn Dogs

Update: Finally able to get a shot of this sweet elderly lady.
Her name is Truffles.

This is a wolf-Malmute hybrid named Muncher,
so named after killing a goat & calf. He's now our official garage wolf!

And this is a hound called Buddy, who was the first to "adopt" us.

I'm going to depart from my regularly scheduled rant, and talk about something that brings me real joy. Out here on the ranch, there are quite a few dogs and horses - most of them rescues - who owe their well-being (if not their lives) to the compassion of a woman named Amy, daughter of Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams. (We seem to have a tendency to live next to sweet dog-lovers. Our last neighbor is the President of the Homeless Pet Placement League in Houston. Another sweetheart!) Many of the dogs live in fenced-off yards, but the most sociable are allowed to roam free on the ranch. And a few of them have adopted Connie and I.

I say adopted, but what has actually happened is that they have grown accustomed to the 6PM suppers we offer, the morning treats, and the affection we bestow upon them. They have us pretty well trained.

At first, we felt sorry for them, since they didn't have warm houses, soft beds, or people they could claim as their own. But that perspective was based more upon our own preconceptions than upon actual circumstance. No, they don't have warm houses; what they do have is a collection of barns and garages where they can huddle together against the cold, or hide from the sun on the most blistering summer days. Their beds are wherever they want them to be, frequently in our garage, or on the soft grass of our lawn. They wander as they please (and seem to know that the road is not a good place to go), with no demands placed upon them. They swim in the pond when they feel like it, play in the pastures, and grace us with their presence when they see fit. Oh... they also manage to show up at 6 on the nose every afternoon, and announce their availability for the feeding ritual. Most nights, Muncher stays the night on a bed we've prepared for him. When it's cold outside, Truffles lets us know it's time to bring her into the warm house for the night.

Our feed bill has gone up considerably since they made us a part of their routine, but I can't imagine anything we could spend that money on that would give us so much in return. You see, these guys are living the life that most people only dream about. Their needs are met. They are loved (probably by more folks than we are aware of). And they have the kind of freedom that we humans only know as children, and most, not even then.

We like to tell ourselves that they love us as much as we've grown to love them. Might be little more than a fantasy, but I doubt it, because even when they're hungry, they still belay their feasting for as long as one of us offers a kind word and a scratch behind the ears. Ever since losing my beloved Rex, shortly after moving to the ranch, there's been an empty place that only a big, friendly dog can fill. And these guys do a great job of filling that hole in my heart. I only wonder if they know how precious they have become to us. I hope so.

Rogue? Diva? Nah... Just bein' Sarah!

I had already decided to vote against John McCain before the Republican convention. Upon looking past his press kit and learning about his history, I learned that he was really no different from Dubya, with the exception of having actually served in and being shot down over North Vietnam, and being held as a POW for several years. Yet even that entry on his bio is not particularly accurate. Still a child of privilege who used it to get things he wasn't qualified for.

Once I heard who he had chosen as his running mate, I decided to not merely vote against him, but to actively support whoever was most likely to defeat him: Barack Obama. What I had not expected was that as I learned more about Obama, I would come to respect him and actually see his candidacy as being far more than just an alternative to McPalin's. He actually holds the promise of healing the wounds of the last 8 years, both here in the US and abroad.

The bottom line is that McCain's selection of Sarah Palin was nothing more than a political stunt, performed to further his own ambitions, no matter the cost to the well-being of the country. Nobody with a brain and an ounce of integrity could honestly say that she was the most qualified Republican available for the ticket. And after hearing and seeing her, it is pretty obvious that she's far from being qualified for even a cabinet position, much less second in command.

Lately, McCain's advisors are complaining that she's "gone rogue," acting in complete defiance of her advisors and handlers. Well, guess what, guys & gals... she's just doing what the people who've worked with her say she's always done: looking out for #1. And I'll give you a clue: #1 is not this country, Alaska, or even her family. It's queen Sarah, the Thrilla from Wasilla. She has dreams of being the Republicans' candidate for the top slot in 2012, and I, for one, hope she gets it. I can't imagine anyone who would be better to ensure that the Republicans remain locked out of the White House for at least another 4 years. The Democrats will surely screw things up in their own fashion, but at least the economy will improve, and we won't be getting daily body-count figures on the news every night.

So here's to you, Governor Palin! Keep on marching to that different drummer that only you can hear. You might get another 15 minutes in a few years, but I doubt it. Recent history notwithstanding, the Republicans simply aren't that stupid. And given 4 or 8 years, they might even realize how they screwed the pooch these last 10 years, abandon their "compassionate conservative" identity, and get back to their roots as real conservatives. If not, they'll end up descending into the same pit of obscure irrelevance that you have dug for yourself. Hell... I'll even spring for the cost of another shovel!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The "W Syndrome" in action

Reading the headlines on this morning, I was struck by the realization that, while the Republicans have tried to turn Obama's past marijuana & coke use into a deal-killer, it seriously looks like they've recruited Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to head up their campaigns.

Sounds ludicrous, I know. At least it did until one really thinks about the fact that they are actually supportive of Joe the Plumber's announcement on conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham's program that he's considering a run for Congress in 2010.

I mean, think about it... The guy is planted by Republicans to pull a "gotcha" on Obama, misrepresents himself (he's not even a licensed plumber, and is in no position to even consider buying the plumbing company where he works), and the sham is publicly exposed. Now, the guy's attempts to extend his 15 minutes would be pathetic enough, but as it turns out, the Republican machine is not only supporting the idea, they are excited about it! Ingraham said she would lend her assistance, and the National Republican Congressional Committee welcomed Joe's candidacy with "open arms.”

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize that these folks aren't actually tripping. They're desperate. They see their grip on the political brass ring slipping rapidly away, and are willing to do whatever is necessary to get it back, even to the point of fielding candidates with some degree of personal appeal in lieu of capacity for governance.

First, we had the hockey mom whose primary claim to political fame was as governor of Alaska, where the biggest problem she faced was getting a few pennies more from the oil companies to give to her constituents. Never mind the inconsistency of these actions with her frequent rails against socialism. She's cute, and can appeal to those people whose eyes glaze over when someone starts actually discussing policies.

Now, we have a pretend-plumber who read his lines well enough, but obviously started zoning out when Obama began answering his questions. What's next... a 35-year-old in a persistent vegetative state, held up as a role model for other comatose citizens?

I can understand why the "machine" would support such candidates. After all, look how easily they were led into situations so clearly beyond their capacities. They don't even seem to be aware that they're far out of their depth. One can imagine how easily they could be handled if they were actually to win the offices they seek. Kind of like Bush, but without the personal agenda.

Nope, the machine isn't tripping on acid. They're running on empty, and frantically searching for some foothold. If they succeed, it won't reflect poorly on them. They're just doing their cynical best to survive. It will reflect pretty badly on the intelligence and values of us citizens, however. But maybe having been a laughing stock and pariah to the rest of the world for 8 years, we've actually grown accustomed to it, even learned to prefer such a distinction. I think I'll call it the "W Syndrome." I sure hope there's a cure. If not, we'll all need some of that acid before long.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Careful... it's "Them!"

I don't blog here very often. Most of my blogosphere energies are devoted to discussions on other boards, such as my friend Steve Salerno's SHAMblog or my beloved Connie's Whirled Musings. But every once in awhile - like today - I find myself wanting to get something off my chest sans the filters of someone else's topics.

These last few days, we've seen the presidential campaign deteriorate pretty badly, its rhetoric consisting of far more mud than relevant information. I had expected as much, given the presence of Rove and Schmidt. To be honest, I was surprised that John McCain would choose to avail himself of their "expertise" in guiding his campaign, especially given the hatchet job they'd done on him in 2000, followed by his pledge to keep his campaign clean and eschew the mud-slinging. I had always thought of the man as being honorable... that is, until he sold his integrity after 2000 for a place at the table. Sadly, he was not the only one. Even Colin Powell, whom I really admired for a long time, abandoned his principles and was admitted to the Big House. Unlike McCain, however, Powell has belatedly and publicly acknowledged his error, restoring a modicum of his integrity, if not his political career.

The recent turn of events inspired me to look more closely at all the candidates. I felt that I had obviously missed something about McCain's motivation (and perhaps even his character), and felt obligated to educate myself fully before casting a vote. Well, I have to tell you... what I found out was distressing, to say the least.

The more I dug to find the truth about the "dirt" that was being shoveled on the Obama campaign, the more I discovered that the worst of it was either a mountain from molehill spin on insignificant events, or completely fabricated. The Swiftboats had obviously been loosed. Thankfully, the American public is, as a whole, more sophisticated this time around, and isn't being swayed the way they were in 2004. Frankly, the more I dug, the more convinced I became that Obama was our best hope for setting aright the excesses, abuses, and downright malfeasance of the last 8 years.

Conversely, the more I dug into McCain's story, the uglier it got. That he pretends to be above the muckraking fray, while sending out his "pitbull with lipstick" to shovel the hate was only the start. As it turns out, even my earlier image of him was based upon a carefully articulated and publicized persona that bears scant resemblance to the real man. Rather than compile a list of everything I found, I suggest you read an article that appeared in, of all places, Rolling Stone magazine. While the tenor of the article is certainly indicative of a strong negative bias, the incidents and events described therein are presented with surprising accuracy, and paint a picture of a narcissistic, spoiled brat who typically throws tantrums when things don't go his way. It offers new insight into his chosen moniker of Maverick, which, as it turns out, came into common use after a man by that name made his fortune in the 1800s by discretely stealing others' cattle. I strongly recommend that you read the article, and do your own research to determine how credible it is to you. Here's the link.

Now... to the "them" part...

I read in the paper the other day a remark that Gov. Palin had made some remarks about Sen. Obama that a few pundits and commentators were claiming had racist overtones. She had been telling audiences that Obama "Doesn't see America the same way you and I see America," punctuated with her trademark conspiratorial (and perversely flirtatious) wink and smile. I initially took those analyses with more than a grain of salt, having heard Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cry racial wolf too many times to take the accusation seriously any more. |Then, a couple of nights ago, I was lying in bed and recalled a conversation I'd overheard as a kid. The people at the next table in a cafe were discussing "colored" people, and I recall them saying, "Niggers are different from us. They don't see things like you and I do."

You betcha, Sara... We get it.
Recalling that conversation, along with the mindset it represented for so many people in pre-civil rights Texas, literally made a chill run down my back. Despite my having been desensitized by the Sharpton effect, I clearly saw the message behind Palin's remarks, and her attempt at cuteness was revealed for the meanness that it truly represented. Upon researching her activities in Alaska before hitting the national stage, I discovered that the meanness I had only just begun to see had long ago been accepted as common knowledge. Compounding her obvious lack of qualifications for the role of vice president or (shudder) president, it appears that she lacks the temperament to deal with the complex negotiations that will certainly face the next administration.

The fact that the Republican party has at least publicly rallied behind the McCain/Palin ticket has to leave an objective voter wondering. Is "America first" merely a campaign buzz phrase, or does it really translate to "Republican America first?" In private, even the most conservative pundits are questioning the viability - much less, the qualifications - of their current ticket. Some have even come out publicly and stated that Palin is clearly not vice presidential material. But of course, there are those who blindly accept anything their party (or candidate) does, no matter how disingenuous, but such myopic individuals (some of whom, I've had "interesting" discussions with - and blogged about - in the past) are thankfully members of a fringe minority, on both far ends of the political spectrum, and don't represent a significant voting bloc. Judging by recent polls, I am confident that reason will win out over fear, that truth will emerge as a more valuable commodity than meanness, and that we'll finally see the folly in creating more and more images of a malevolent, collective "them" that really exist only in our own fears and biases. We'd better pray (or hope, if that works better for you) that my confidence is well-founded, because if it's not, we may well see this fine experiment in democracy falter and fade, just as others have done in the past.
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