Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

The photos are from this week-end and represent the end of my holiday season. Downtown Ashland, in southern Oregon has a large amphitheater for Shakespearean plays during the summer, a woodsy park that runs along the creek up into the hills and during the winter even ice skating for those so inclined.

For the holiday season the main street shops and restaurants are always decorated like a picture book. (It helps that main street is only 7 or 8 blocks long.)

Being in Southern Oregon was a nice finale for my holidays. It was good getting back home though where by tomorrow night my house will be a lot sparser as holiday villages and decorations disappear back into their boxes. Tomorrow we can all start learning to remember it's 2007 when we write a check, and I can start on losing the extra pounds the delicious holiday dinners added to my waistline-- I hope.

I am eager for the new year and hoping it will be a great one for us all. 2007 can't come fast enough for me!

And now seems like a good time to thank all of you who read this blog and especially those who have commented-- agree or disagree. Your words always add to my enjoyment in the writing. They are the frosting on the cake.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Road Ahead

"All my life's a circle; But I can't tell you why; Season's spinning round again; The years keep rollin' by. It seems like I've been here before; I can't remember when; But I have this funny feeling; That we'll all be together again. No straight lines make up my life; And all my roads have bends; There's no clear-cut beginnings; And so far no dead-ends." Harry Chapin from Circle

The season that seems to be the most 'me' is summer; but there are other times, throughout the year, that I not only find important but to which I always look forward. One such is the time between Christmas and New Year's Day.

It is an over the hump time. With the winter Solstice behind us, each day is getting a tiny bit longer. Although we are heading into the coldest days of winter, it comforts me to know the days are lengthening. The bustle of Christmas is behind and ahead lies the quiet of January. Okay it's not always quiet, but it is a slower pace although on a small ranch (big ones even more so), it's a time of heavy feeding of livestock and new births.

In a few days it will be 2007, and I am always hopeful with the start of a new year that it is going to be 'the' one. No matter how often I find out when it's over that year wasn't so super after all, I still always think as I enter-- new roads and days ahead and they're gonna be good.

This is my time for reevaluation, of assessing where I've been and where I am going-- spiritually, emotionally and physically. Using the new year as a time of new resolutions has a bad rap in my opinion although I don't call what I write resolutions. They are goals with suggested ideas for how I think I might achieve them. Since I became a computer user, it is what I use as I intersperse a few special photos or art from the year I am leaving. These represent what has been and what I want more of in my life.

Once written down, I don't go back over those goals until the new year becomes the old one. I have had a feeling they work best if I am not constantly readjusting what I wrote. I also don't write what I hope someone else will do for me. These are for me and aimed at my doing the things and being the woman I want to be-- and yes, at 63, I am still working on that.

This is also not a time I beat myself over the head for failures. I simply look at what I wanted, what steps I took to get there, and reassess what might be more successful in the coming year-- if I still want the same thing.

One of the main advantages of taking time each year to do personal goal making is you are less likely to get pulled along by someone else's goals. If those near you know what they want, but you don't, you are likely to be the one wondering at the end of your life whose road you followed.

Starting in the year 2000, I have had a dream day that is still at the heart of my goals. I wrote it because I had read a book on how to get what you want. You were to describe a day you considered most perfect. Write it down in detail, visualize it. From year to year, some elements of my day were proving elusive because they involved someone else; and then I realized to have my ideal day, I have to be the woman in it. Now most of my goals are aimed at being the woman I visualized.

Seven has always been my number; so, of course, I believe 2007 is going to be a good one. Yep, this one is 'the' one. May it be for you also.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Mystic Northwest

That could have as well been spelled mist-ic this week as the clouds hung low over the valleys and sat on top the hills. We don't often see traditional white Christmases in northwestern Oregon, but we do see a lot of white through frost or fog.

The fog can be so thick at night that it's like pea soup, but the day before Christmas, it was light, serving as a reminder of the mystic feeling of the coastal range where I live. The hills are broken by river valleys that sometimes run west directly into the Pacific Ocean. One hill over, they might flow east to larger rivers that head for the Pacific by a different route. These hills, from northern California up into Canada, are the fertile soil for many myths of the Native Americans who first lived here (First Nation as they are called today in Canada).

When the Luckiamute band of the Kalipuya peoples lived in the area I now call home, cedar forests towered over the land (where the people had not burned them off to enable the Camas roots, berries and other foods they depended on to grow).

Some would build cedar longhouses; and in them, the people would sit around the edges and watch as storytellers with wonderful robes and masks retold the myths of how their people came to be and of the dangers that lay beyond the firelight.

There were stories of Big Foot throughout these hills, but also a wild woman. Dzunuk-wa was a creature of huge size with a black hairy body twice the size of a human and red eyes that glowed. Her lips are shown pursed in the masks that are still made to depict her. "Uh, huu, uu, uu," the people would hear in the distance and know that the one, who came with a basket on her back to steal away children and eat them, was nearby. The children always outwitted her due to her poor eyesight, but she had powerful knowledge of the forest where she dwelt and was much respected-- and feared. Was she a female Big Foot? Who knows...

She is only one of the many inspirations for carved masks that depict the myths of the people, myths intended to teach people (as they are with most Native American stories) the wisdom they need to survive in a world that could be dangerous to those who were ignorant and unwary.

(There are many images of the Wild Woman in museums and shops in the Northwest. This image came from Free Spirit Gallery.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Tis the season where spiritual symbols abound--
lit candles from Hanukkah;
fires in the fireplace,
a myriad of lights from Saturnalia;
A tree from paganism;
Nativities and Advents
from the story of the Christ child.

Tis a season of dichotomies--
with wondrous gifts under brightly lit trees
except when there is no money.
Bountifully laden dinner tables for the family to share--

or a lonely table when there is no one there.
A loving time with that special someone--
or the time you miss them most.

Tis a season of love, giving, and magic.
Of a Santa who brings gifts, asking nothing in return.
Of the Christ who came as the ultimate gift
of divine relationship to man.
How did a holiday season about this man,

who was born and lived so simply,
become such a time of excess and opulence?

Well never mind all that.
Tis the season for dreams, peace and love.
Of a new year soon to begin
where we can make it the one
our dreams and wishes come true.
Could peace come to earth?
We start with our small place in it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Those Christmas Newsletters

Christmas newsletters that cover the whole year, tell and sometimes illustrate each family's myth-- do you like them or fume when you read them?

There is no way I'd write a personal letter to everyone on my list (although generally I do write a few words on the cards), but I am at a point where I don't know whether to include a newsletter or not. At first they were fun; then I got a rather satiric one from someone on the prior year's list that made me think everyone didn't think they were fun.

This year when it came time to decide whether to write one. I wasn't sure. For one thing, there was no new or big news. I decided to go ahead but with few words and pictures of farm life. Choosing which photos was a challenge as with limited space (I keep my letters to one page), and not wanting to use many words, I had to simplify.

My uncertainty about sending one came from some of their negative press, but conflicting that was my own feeling about how much I enjoy receiving them. For a lot of our distant friends, this is the only thing I know about their lives. I especially like those with a few pictures of them on vacation, with their kids, whatever they chose to send. With the computer, fancier and fancier newsletters are possible. For me, they are a heck of a lot more fun than a simple Merry Christmas with a name.

This is not so much an opinion piece as a question. What do you think of those 'newsie' little letters? Do you send your own? If you send them, are you honest, try to cover what really happened or do you sugar coat your news? Do you enjoy receiving them or think they are a cheat?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Caretaker or Destroyer

Do you ever wonder how some people can do such horrible things to others? Do you try to understand human nature and what makes some work to stop atrocities and others turn away? How do you explain to yourself something like-- Hell comes to Chad?

It is in the nature of animals, human and otherwise, to divide ourselves into groups as we try to stay safe, find comfort zones, and understand life. Our human groupings tend to have a variety of reasons for existing. Menses types want everybody to know how smart they are. Beauty contests label the fairest of them all. Religions divide people into saved and unsaved. Sometimes human divisions are on the basis of birth and can't be changed no matter how someone tries. Sometimes they are a series of choices made to belong to what seems to be the 'right' group.

A long while ago, I looked at such groupings and didn't see it as working for me. I saw that there were similarities between people that went beyond the usual labels. I simplified my division-- Caretakers and Destroyers.

Sometimes, in the beginning, it can be hard to discern where someone fits, but eventually it becomes obvious. Very few people would want to see themselves nor do they want you to see them as destroyers. Most justify their actions-- no matter what they do, they claim it's the right thing. Even less want to think their acceptance of certain things might make them destroyers not by their direct action but by their acceptance of destruction as the price they must pay for their personal security or prosperity.

The Constant Gardner is, in its essence, a film about caretakers and destroyers. Based on the book by John LeCarre, it is the story of a man who wants to live a peaceful life but is pulled into an alternate universe. It is one he might have suspected existed but preferred not to acknowledge.

The film illustrates well how all the destroyers are not firing guns. Some do it through choices they make that lead others to die and they don't care because all that really matters is their own benefit. In The Constant Gardner, the bad guys are on the ground, terrorizing, shooting, enslaving, starving others, but they are also in government offices, in corporate boardrooms where they make decisions to test drugs on unsuspecting Africans as well as give them free medicines that are out of date and sometimes of no use-- except for their own tax write-off. (Read, Pharmaceuticals and Africa, in case the idea of such things actually happening is beyond your imagination.)

Most of us don't know enough about what is going on in the world. We cling to our secure zone and try to tell ourselves the evil being done is not our responsibility. But when we don't do whatever we can to stop such atrocities, are we being silent partners to the destroyers?

Kind of going along with this, the most recent Tony Hillerman mystery, The Shape Shifter, has a character who also divides people, but he does according to prey or predator. That fits fine with my definitions and extends the meaning of caretaker. Caretakers don't have to be weak or prey. They can fight for what is right. Just as destroyers don't have to be strong. Sometimes to be a caretaker requires making the hard choices; but in the end, caretakers work to build life, make it stronger. They are the ones who solve problems, who create worlds that last. Destroyers destroy or enable destruction.

Where all this matters most is when it comes time to vote, but it can be about where we donate and what we purchase, the friends we make or choose not to make. Being aware has always been important but maybe never more so than today.

Years ago, we had a beautiful example of a caretaker personality here on the farm. It was an Appaloosa horse named Kitty Dawn. When lamb or calf would be born, if the mother was not right there to take care of it, Kitty would forcefully guard that baby from all that might endanger it. She would stay by it until we saw the situation and took over. It wasn't part of her herd-- except in the broadest sense of the word. Too bad more of us don't see our herd in the broadest sense of the word.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Living on a creek has a lot of wonderful advantages with the summer beauty, the potential to irrigate pastures, all the birds and animals it supports, but it also has its moments, as with the Northwest's recent severe storm, where one wonders exactly how high the water is going to rise.

In the nearly 30 years, I have lived here, it has never come closer to the house than the edge of our driveway. One particularly bad year, we drove into the nearby town where they were giving out sand for filling bags. We brought home enough sand to fill some bags, formed our little bulwark against the rising water, saw the water come to the edge of them but then recede. (By the way, disposing of sandbags after they are no longer needed isn't the easiest thing in the world.)

In this flood, although the creek went over its banks, and the rain poured down, it didn't threaten the barn or house. Since we fence the livestock away from it, we didn't have to worry much about animals drowning; although with two new calves, I worried a little anyway.

For a little while, this creek became more a river than a creek. The rising water did some damage in knocking down trees, forming natural dams that can potentially become a future problem, and eroded a few banks. The beaver have been contributing to the downing of trees. Too many beaver can denude a creek bank as much as too many cows. Our beaver are bank beaver, don't build dams in the creek, but they still gnaw down trees.

These pictures are when the water had gone down some. The day it was the worst, pictures were out of the question, not only because of the high wind, but the sky was so dark that my camera thought it had to be dusk. It kept demanding a flash which didn't do much for illuminating anything in the distance.

The storm sounded fearsome. I never like high wind, but we didn't get the brunt of it. The farm lost no trees from the yard, no buildings, and only had power out for an hour one night. Some not far away are still without power. I love living along a creek. Value it highly, but it's not without some problems.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Secret

"Your thoughts and your feelings create your life."
"Who you are is not who you were."
"What we are is the result of all we have thought."

While I am not a huge believer in simplistic answers to complex life problems, I am a believer in our attitude being a big part of the solution or the problem. The movie, The Secret, is mostly made up of theologians, authors, counselors discussing the secret that those who are successful have found changed their lives. The secret goes back through history to say the universe is there to give us that for which we ask-- when we know the way.

Sounds good, but to start with-- for what are we really asking? Just being sure of what we want can be a major obstacle to some of us.

"Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." W. Clement Stone

Larry King, twice in the month of November had most of the speakers from The Secret onto his interview program. Links to the archives are November 2 and November 16. Reading the transcripts will give you a pretty good idea what the film is about.

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." Martin Luther King Jr.

The thinking of the film was not new to me and probably will not be to you. I have believed we draw to ourselves both positives and negatives, and that our attitude is key to the quality of our life. Through the years I have made collages to illustrate what I want to have in my life, to help me focus on being the person I want to be.I have written what I want to see in my life, what I want to accomplish. I think I am making progress but I am by no means to the place where I can feel as though I already have what I am working to gain, nor am I always even sure exactly what I want. Which is why I bought The Secret. I figured what could I lose? Maybe it could help me see this in a way that would finally let me break through.

The film speaks of how often what we are putting out to the Universe is the opposite of what we really want. I don't want to be fat. So the energy going out revolves around fat and guess what we get back? I sure don't want to be like-- fill in the blank. Guess what happens?

The secret is putting our desires and wishes into positive statements and following up with the feeling we already have what we have requested. Not the feeling-- it'll never work out.

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." Henry Ford

In the essence, it's:
1. Ask 2. Believe it is yours. 3. Feel you have already received it.

It takes time but The Secret says we can change the thought patterns and feelings that have been sabotaging what we most want. I am trying to apply it. Time will tell if... oops.. I know it'll work out!

[Update October 15: Actually I don't and am more than ever not sure any such simplistic answers really help us with deep problems. Maybe they just lead us to find a new way to blame ourselves for things not working out. Maybe there is no 'secret' and it's a lot of possible ways to get to where we need to go. We just keep hoping for that magic button which will let us skip steps and send us straight there-- wherever there is.]

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

cropping for the picture

Sometimes with digital cameras, you have a photograph (like the little version alongside here) that is good enough but not what it could be. With today's options in photo programs, tools that used to be only for professional photographers are at our fingertips. An original photo is a rough draft. It takes editing to bring out all that is possible.

As I wanted to get up snow pictures quickly on my blog, I did end up using this version. Pleasing snapshot, but it kept bothering me for assorted reasons. It had good basic elements, but the woman was working against the composition. What is the subject? Adding a figure to any photograph adds interest but also complicates the composition. Her dynamics seemed to be taking my gaze out of the photo and away from the scenic interest. Like a sentence structure that isn't quite smooth, it was not all it had the potential to be. Often the answer to this is cropping, and it's easy to experiment with various crops on the computer.

Sometimes composition can be controlled through the camera; but in this case, I took the original with auto-timer from a hay bale, not a tripod. I couldn't control composition. I could only choose the general elements I wanted.

Incidentally, when I take such a picture, when I work with it later, the figure isn't me to me. It's just a figure that is supposed to accomplish something for the final product. Although I took several that day that were more flattering, I found this one more interesting. Even though it presented problems in the composition, I liked the figure's sense of being poised for motion (which given how the photo was taken by timer happened to be accurate also). I liked the darker figure and lighter background. I didn't like how she looked away from the snowy scene and at the camera. To me, it conflicted the photograph.

Cropping it this way or that, I tried to keep all the elements but work it down to one subject. With her body language and looking away, it didn't work no matter what I tried. Finally I decided this was two photographs fighting against each other.

In the first, the fence post thrusts strongly into the sky, taking the eye up and into the center of the composition. It holds the photo together. In the second, the woman is now the center of interest and instead of her pose leading to unrest, it creates a dynamic element of country woman and snow. I like how the barn wall works with her hair to carry the gaze through the photo but no longer with unrest, rather the kind of circle, you always want to have happen.

Finally for fun, here is one last adjustment possible with today's photo programs-- the same photo in black and white where, to me, it does work as a whole
. I think black and white works partly because it brings out the design of the snowy tree branches behind the figure, tying the elements together. To stop the eye from wandering out of the picture where the roof was, I drew a small, black border, similarly to using a mat with a framed work.

When a person has the time, it is fun to play with a photo, experiment with its composition and create something new-- taking it beyond the
casual snapshot.

(To fully view photos, click on to enlarge.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

What Tarot Card are You?

This fun test came from Journey to a new life blog. Interestingly enough, since I sometimes read Tarot, the card the test indicated for me is the one I often draw for myself when doing a reading.

You are The Empress

Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, luxury, dissipation.

The Empress is associated with Venus, the feminine planet, so it represents,
beauty, charm, pleasure, luxury, and delight. You may be good at home
decorating, art or anything to do with making things beautiful.

The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Homosexual families

In case you haven't already read of it, Mary Cheney, Vice-president Dick Cheney's daughter, is having a baby with her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe. This has, not surprisingly, led the religious right wing of the Republican party to weigh in. Not that anybody asked me to do likewise, but it's the kind of topic this blog exists to discuss.

As I have said before, I favor homosexual marriage being legalized. I do not believe such weddings should be forced into churches that regard homosexuality as a sin. There are many ways and places to be married. The main thing is our government (state and federal) should allow legal, civil unions for consenting, adult partners. If our culture really wants children raised in stable, loving homes, this is a no-brainer.

It shouldn't by now but it still always amazes me the kinds of things the far right religious types say at such a time. So far I haven't heard them wishing Mary and her mate joy in the coming birth. They aren't saying-- isn't it great that stable, homosexual couples can experience a normal family life. Nowhere have I seen-- hey, grandma and grandpa, congratulations. Nope, instead it's-- love is no substitute for a mother and father in parenting. Are these people nuts? Do they think before they spout?

Most of that bunch have been supportive of a war that requires many mothers and fathers go off to fight and possibly be killed or maimed, but now it's every child deserves a mother and a father? Are they aware men have for centuries gone off to fight wars, search for gold, work the land, or be at a job all day and into the night. If you read the biographies of many famous male pathfinders, their wives often raised their offspring with the help of aunts, friends, grandmas, and the older children while the men were off-- finding paths.

I think the real fear of the religious right is that when people like Mary Cheney have a normal family life (with by the way loving grandparents), raising their children to be responsible citizens, it proves the lie of how evil homosexuality has to be.

These religious right wing groups are only happy when they can see gays behaving promiscuously, dressing weirdly, promoting sexual relationships with children, or ideally living celibately. When homosexual unions are instead seen to be stable, happy and loving-- some with children, the lie is shown up for w
hat it is. Part of the problem gays face is our culture working against their ability to live in healthy sexual relationships like heterosexuals. It's time we stopped listening to this abuse of religion.

Do you know how often Jesus warned against homosexuality? Try never. He might have gotten to it eventually after greed, excessive pride, phony religiosity, pomposity, hypocrisy, etc. The Bible makes a few comments about homosexuality, but in the Old Testament, it also says don't wear fabrics made of two different things. Stone to death a disobedient child, etc. The Apostle Paul spoke about how bad it was for two men to sleep together but only once and didn't mention two women. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was not so much about homosexuality but about greed, twisted values, promiscuity, and violent, abusive sex.

It is the ideal for each baby to be born into a home with a mother and a father, but it's not how life works for many people. So, congratulations to Mary Cheney, Heather Poe, and *holding my nose* Dick and Lynn Cheney. All they should have to worry about are the same things all families with kids worry about
-- that's more than aplenty!

Because I like to illustrate any blog I write, I had a bit of a problem thinking what to use this time. I do not have any same sex paintings of couples in the house, but I did have one of a pregnant woman. Parapluie painted it when I was pregnant with my first child and a neighbor lady had asked me to pose for her. The woman offered to sculpt my head and give me the end result-- which I still have in a closet somewhere. Parapluie painted us during that process. For years, Parapluie's mother had this small painting; but after she died, Parapluie gave it to me, and I hung it in the room where I write as part of the inspirational art on my walls.

The second is a silk screening my mother-in-law made of a rooster and hen. Yes, male and female is the ideal-- Adam and Eve; Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah; David and Bathsheba; Hillary and Bill (you see how well heterosexual matings always work out).

The main thing children need to have as part of their lives are on-going, strong relationships with healthy adults of the male and female type (uncles, aunts, friends, cousins, grandparents). And most of all that thing the conservative flake (no, I didn't misspell that) said didn't matter as much-- love.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Full Moon Rising

"I see a bad moon arising,
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today."

"Don't go around tonight,
Well, it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise."
Credence Clearwater Revival

No moon is a really a bad moon. Beautiful, inspirational, indicators for planting, spiritual rituals, mood enhancing or depressing.
Full moons are the times often hospitals see more accidents, more violence. Something about them does impact people...

So is that my excuse for thinking right now about what's going on in our country? Is it why I'm worrying about our media and why it seems to be so far off base with its lack of dealing with what really matters? Does anyone else notice we are being bombarded by 'non' stories when there are things we need to know; but if they get noticed at all, it's on the back pages.

Why is it even a story if an American actress, married to an English musician, said the English are brighter and more
intelligent than Americans? The woman has since denied she said it, but would it matter if she had? First, is it wrong to look at other countries and decide they might be superior to ours for one reason or another? Secondly, who cares what she thinks? Why does this hit the newspapers and TV? Will Bill O'Reilly suggest boycotting her films? Is this crazy to you or are you one who thinks everyone in any country should be effusive on how wonderful it is-- no matter what it does?

Why didn't the murder of the male teacher in Afghanistan, who had the effrontery to educate girls, receive more coverage? He knew he was taking a risk, but he felt girls should receive educations like boys. First Lady Laura Bush even visited Afghanistan awhile back to emphasize how wonderful it was girls were finally being educated. There's sure a bad moon on the rise there. The Taliban types kidnapped that teacher, partially disemboweled him; and then tore him limb from limb, leaving those limbs on display to frighten others from daring the same thing.

"Looks like we're in for nasty weather. One eye is taken for an eye." CCR

Our media's constant drumbeat has been on Iraq, which makes sense, as it's a terrible problem; but why aren't we hearing more about how Afghanistan is slipping back under the thumb of the Taliban types? It's evident to all but the most rabid Bush supporters that he rushed us into Iraq for no reason (that has yet been revealed anyway) leaving behind a half-finished job in Afghanistan which is currently in the process of unraveling.

Then there has been all the 'news' about whether a certain pop star was making a comeback, getting a divorce, losing weight, making new friends that weren't such good choices, and wearing underwear... not! First of all if a photographer went into a local mall here and photographed up ordinary women's skirts, he'd be the one arrested... But the main thing is why was it a story on any news program, let alone most of them?

Current news that should matter to all of us is the hearing for Gates as Secretary of Defense. He is going to be approved and maybe he should be. I don't know enough about him and given the type of people Bush usually picks, maybe this man is the best we could hope for; but was it a significant item to you when he said we have to stay in Iraq or the whole region will go up in flames?

Irrespective of these hearings, we are being told if we stay in Iraq, it will still blow up the whole region if we take the side of the Shiites over the Sunnis... same thing if we do the reverse. Whichever side the US picked, the other side has friends ready to enter into the fray. In the case of the Sunnis, that would be Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sunnis in Iran.

Our presence in Iraq galvinizes the terrorist element in that country. Nobody likes invaders and to many there we are perceived as that most especially when we build bases and say we are staying far into the future. It's also obvious to anyone, impartially looking at the situation, that those terrorists are mostly home-grown. Al Qaeda doesn't need to go to Iraq to cause trouble. They can save their energy for retaking Afghanistan or attacking innocent people around the world. Terror is doing just fine in Iraq without their help.

Could it be our news is screwed up because Americans can't handle the truth any better than their president? Bush was taking away as many of our liberties as he could get away with and what slowed him down? Not his usurption of power but rather his failures. Suppose he'd been efficient, would Americans be nodding their heads to his power grab and saying Amen?

Dissent is threatened in this country. We hear so much talk about the need to spread freedom around the world while we are seeing people try to erode our freedoms here. Even a blog that dares to write about things that are going wrong, about Bush's ineptness can receive death threats. The Dixie Chicks lost most of their fan base for daring to say what they thought about Bush.

If it is said enough times that Bush is and has been a good president, will it make it so? I guess he thinks a half a billion dollar presidential library will convince everybody.

One last thing-- if anyone thinks that the problem is just Bush, they are not facing the whole picture. He represents, and has all along, a certain political movement which wasn't born with his presidency-- hence we have Gingrich speaking on limiting freedom of speech to control dangerous... uhm exactly what was he worried about stopping? Dissent that upsets people and interferes with the plans of those in power perhaps? We might need protecting all right, but it's not from someone peacefully arguing against what a president has been doing but rather those who would stifle such dissent.

And then there is McCain who wants the presidency so bad he doesn't care what it takes to get there (yes, you can insert Hillary's name there too). McCain's latest i
s blaming the end of Bolton's term as UN Ambassador as being the fault of Democrats. Might we say instead credit goes to the Democrats given what I have heard about Bolton's abrasive style while holding that job! Do we really need more enemies around the world? Do we believe we are in any position to demand others follow our dictates? Bolton was what Bush wanted because he represents the kind of bullies Bush admires; and while Bolton might be gone, our country and the world have two more years of Bush, who feels he must regularly remind us he is the Commander in Chief, the Decider. Like who can forget?

(Moon pictures taken December 5, 2006 at 6:45pm using Canon Rebel. No tripod and no timed shots thanks to the 100-400mm Image Stabilizer Zoom Lens. And thanks to Parapluie for the idea of taking pictures of this beautiful winter moon.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Freedom River

Sometimes it is easy to think that the problems we face, the divisions in the United States, and the current political issues are unique to our times. Reading Andrew Sullivan led me to this UTube, Freedom River. In a simple way, it speaks poignantly of today's questions of immigration and also of the people, like Newt Gingrich, who would limit freedom of speech because it's safer. It reminds us of those who wish to lock in ideologies of the past whether they still work or not, of the need to guard our environment (not just the physical one but the internal soul of the country), and illustrates the kind of greed that only sees value in dollars and immediate gain. It is most of all a stirring reminder of the dream upon which this nation was founded.

Freedom River was made by Orson Welles in 1971.

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Last Friday, with our daughter and son-in-law, we watched the dvd, 'An Inconvenient Truth.' It was powerful viewing; and I would advocate every American watch it because whether you think global warming is happening, you should see this film for its statistics, its vivid illustrations, and its logical approach to what is being done-- or not done. If you are sure there is no man-caused global warming, even more so, see this film and come back here to tell those who read this blog exactly where the statistics are wrong.

I had a minor quibble with the film, which I will mention below, but it didn't take away from the power and concern that the film evokes-- or should evoke.

Before I get into my opinion on the film, I wanted to discuss a disturbing aspect to all this. In an op-ed in the Washington Post,
Laurie David wrote that the National Science Teachers Association, NSTA, refused donations of 50,000 copies of 'An Inconvenient Truth' for the schools. The argument they used in their denial was it would damage their fundraising abilities (insert Exxon) for those who donate heavily to help (propagandize) school programs.

So basically let's not confuse students with contradictory facts? School isn't there to explore arguments but rather to indoctrinate? Is it the fear that they don't want anybody arguing this on the science but instead what it means economically (insert short-term)? Is this the 'earth is flat' crowd who are now arguing against any scientific look at what is happening on economic grounds? Or maybe it is still religious with the emotional reaction that God could protect us even if there was any major climate change coming.

Does it worry you that corporations might be impacting science teaching in the schools by their 'generosity?' If it doesn't, it should. Was this what the far Right has had in mind when they have done all they can to gut public spending for schools? Are they doing what Bush has been trying to do with the news media-- insert advertisements to benefit large corporations into every lesson plan.

Searching online for more about this teacher group's policy, I found this blog,
NewsBusters, that was spilling over with glee that 'An Inconvenient Truth' had been denied to the schools. Can't have our kids encouraged to think now, can we? Who knows with what they'd come up. The writer, however, did give room for this rebuttal from CommonDreams

In case you are not one for checking out links, this is a snippet from the rebuttal by John F. Borowski regarding what kind of information NSTA finds appropriate. "I am an environmental science teacher of 26 years and I have a steamer trunk of materials from past conferences: Project Learning Tree's Energy module, supported by API's Red Cavaney who wants ANWR opened, opposes the Kyoto Treaty and wants more public land opened to energy exploration; Lesson plans, coloring books, free coal samples from the American Coal Foundation: minus any substantive discussion let alone mention of climate change; Lessons and videos from a group that was called the "Greening Earth Society: funded by the Western Fuels Association. The message of the film was firm and academically clear: there is no human induced climate change."

You get the idea. What works with corporate America is what the schools should be promoting and nothing that might confuse children about disasters approaching or even such nasty subjects as consumer responsibility! Are Americans paying enough attention to what is happening to our schools?

Well back to the film-- I am no scientist but watched it with two scientists and an anthropologist (masters and doctorate between them). Yes, having degrees doesn't necessarily mean someone has commonsense, but it does mean they know how to listen to statistics. They felt it was very impressive. Me too.

Powerfully the film does not rely on hysterical or emotional arguments. It lays out in a logical format what we are facing. It shows how shallow our liveable atmosphere really is-- how the existence of the level of human life we currently know is not an easy-take-for-granted thing but rather occupying a narrow window. It illustrates with graphs what you can learn from the glaciers with the measuring of carbon dioxide levels from the last 600,000 years and how they matched with warmer or cooler temperatures. It shows where our levels are heading in the very near future.

What does that mean for what comes next? Despite right wing claims, scientists agree carbon dioxide levels are rising and climate change is happening. They aren't sure what it will mean given it has never gone to this level before-- in those 600,000 years. It could mean horrendous future storms. It could mean no wind. It could mean dying sea life and no sea currents. It could mean rising ocean levels of up to 20 feet. Statistics can suggest, can indicate trends, but cannot predict infallibly something like this.

The film asks what is being or has been done to prepare for this. Kyoto might or might not have made sense, given it didn't deal with the pollution for developing countries, but the main argument against it has been economic-- short term economics. Solid cockpit doors were too expensive too-- once.

Did you know that in the United States, we have the lowest standards for automobile fuel economy of pretty near anywhere? We've all heard how unfair it would be to demand better fuel economy. It would destroy the automotive industry. Well it didn't seem to hurt in Europe, China or other places around the world. Why haven't the levels been raised here too? Money! And not any that will line your pockets.

Some will say there is too much emphasis on Al Gore in this film, but this has been his cause. He is part of this story because it is how he learned about it, what his background is, what he is doing about his beliefs, and I think the human element was an important part. This is a man on a crusade to convince people before it's too late-- if it isn't already.

My minor quibble came from the way the loss of life in New Orleans was pushed as being due to Global Warming (instead of dike failure and flooding). The certainty of future catastrophic storms isn't a given of what will come from these rising carbon dioxide levels. It's a quibble but due to a light hurricane season this year, it has allowed naysayers to say-- SEE!!! And, of course, as usual ignore the more serious possibilities looming.

What the film mentioned but could have emphasized more was how New Orleans illustrated heartbreakingly the consequences of massive flooding. If many scientists are right, this will be around the world in many areas with no economic resources to do anything to help the people. Heck, with our great economic resources, how much have we really helped New Orleans to date? We can build dikes for big cities and in richer areas, but will they be high enough to keep back what is coming if the glaciers in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica melt and the oceans rise 20 feet? They showed what New York City alone would face.

People keep saying the earth will always be there. That is not our concern. Our concern is us being here and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the numbers currently here. One scientist has said he believes with what is coming, the earth could support half a million people. What happens to the rest?

Even if it what is coming doesn't reach that level, we could still be facing refugee problems with potential Ice Ages one place and global flooding in others. Are any of us preparing for any part of this? It's too expensive? You have no idea what expensive could look like if we get the kind of massive shifts that are being predicted by many experts.

So decide for yourself what is going on. Watch this film, please. And if you have kids or grandkids, make sure they see it. Those 50,000 copies of the DVD sitting in a warehouse, as things currently stand, won't get to them but you can!