Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pelicans on Klamath Lake

I am not sure what the appeal of pelicans is. True, they are elegant, graceful birds, seeming to see themselves as superior to others. Whatever the reason I find myself watching them anywhere I see them in the air or on the water.

These three came to a certain part of the lake several times and we assumed because a school of small fish were there.

Fishermen in boats passed them, generally respecting each other's territory.

Once in awhile a bit too close but the pelicans were soon back to their zone. They weren't to be distracted from their task which was the same as fishermen on the docks or in boats-- getting fish.For anyone who is a fan of birds, likes more scenery, or more dragonfly pictures (a lot more), I had put most of them onto a Picasa site: Creatures and Scenery of Klamath Lake.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Birds on Klamath Lake

One of the things we most enjoyed on this trip was watching the birds. They didn't have to do anything to make it pleasurable. Just be there, just be going about their business which was generally surviving but not looking like they were struggling to do it.

We'd watch the little duck come up past the house with her ducklings and when she didn't have all three, we'd wonder what happened and feel relief when one would come swimming fast as it could to catch up.

Other than photos of the kids and grandkids, I took the most photos of birds and realized they deserved a blog of their own (two actually). There isn't much to say about them other than how enjoyable it is from a canoe or sitting on a beach and watching birds doing anything.

The fireweed was almost finished blooming, but the hummingbirds kept flitting to it and leaving. I only got one photo that even came close to clicking before the hummer had gone.

A swallow's mud nest was above the garage.

Six geese swam ahead of the canoe down one of the channels until first one and then the rest decided they had had enough of the interlopers and took off. It isn't like I want to be a bird. I know they can have a hard life but they do add something special to my life wherever I am.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Klamath Lake vacation

First of all, the Klamath Lake vacation was not about roughing it. It was about family, nature, water, fun, good food, comfortable beds, and simply being. For four nights, we all rented a two bedroom, two bath, two story house on the shore of Klamath Lake which had what they called a bunkhouse or studio above it with a third bedroom space (you can see it to the left and above the house in the photo). That meant for sleeping our kids got the main house while Farm Boss and I took the studio. That meant a climb up the driveway every night to go to bed which was only a factor to me once.

The house is charming with windows in every room overlooking the lake. It has a big stone fireplace at one end of the living room and lots of sofas and places for cousins to play. Considering the grandchildren range in age from almost 2 to almost 11, the space was welcome. It has decks all the way around it with steps leading to the gravel beach and a safe swimming area (although in those reeds were leeches which means no dallying as you wade out to where it was deep enough to swim), a dock, good fishing spots, and an easy place to launch canoes (we brought four).

Sitting on the gravel beach, there was that the kind of peacefulness you suck into yourself. There were other people out there on their boats, but our beach was very private. I watched the children playing, swimming, swam myself, enjoyed the air, the way the day had a rhythm to it that was so relaxing.

Sitting there, maybe talking, watching the birds out on the lake, enjoying the breezes, the changing light, seeing my children and grandchildren interacting with each other, was my kind of vacation. I expected it would be good before we went, and it didn't disappoint at all.

We did not plan a lot of activities. I had two unexpected additions. The first one involved a lack of good judgment on my part. After the first full day, I began to feel terrible right after dinner. I helped clean up but literally had to convince myself I wasn't dying as I walked up the gravel driveway to where we were sleeping.

My arms ached so much that I thought at first it was from the exercise of paddling in the canoe. Couldn't be the swimming as it's not like I swam that much. It took me a little while to realize that I had not been drinking much/hardly any water. It was hot and I had been exercising in different ways. As soon as I began to drink a lot of water my body could deal with the dehydration. You can bet I didn't let that happen a second time, but there was another surprise ahead which will be in a future blog.

When I was younger I always thought I'd like to learn to canoe, but I wasn't sure about it. I mean it's not the same as boating. There are things you have to learn. You use your body more, your balance. Learning it at my age, I wondered about that balance part; then came the opportunity to try it on Klamath Lake two years ago. Last year we bought our own canoe and every time I am out on the water, I love it.

It changes my whole perspective when I see the shore from out there, when I float along so quietly, helping to move and guide the canoe. Canoeing down a little arm of the lake , seeing geese or other waterbirds gliding ahead of me, it makes me feel one with the lake in a way I don't even when swimming myself.

All photos from Klamath Lake. Next set of photos will be of the birds of Klamath Lake.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Heat Wave

My part of Oregon has been hit by a heat wave which means for us 100 and high humidity, the kind where nothing dries very fast. This morning, at 6:30, I got in from helping move irrigation pipe which is the only reason we can run the livestock on this place that we do.

Unhook, then lift the metal pipes (40'), carry them, hook them up again, turn on the pump, and water is thrown onto a new part of the field. The cattle particularly like it right now as they will stand in the spray to get cooled and keep the flies off. This morning we had the pipes moved before the sun came up and a darned good thing too as it's going to be a scorcher again.

Yesterday, for the first time this season, we hooked up the room a/c unit. Normally our creek cools off our house at night but this heat wave is one with little or no breeze and now about 65 at night. If we had this kind of temperature more often, we'd have air conditioning but we don't. We get it for a few days some years, sometimes a few weeks but rarely for long.

Yesterday we watched Titanic. We hadn't even owned a copy, but I got a yen for it We found you can get some of the DVDs very reasonably (new) on eBay. It was a good day to watch ice bergs although I can't say it cooled me that much. The waterworks, that it always inspires, didn't either.

I read that the Congress is going to compromise on the health care bill and not have a public option... Uh yeah right compromise. Basically it means they have desperately, both parties, been looking for a way to keep those profits flowing to the insurance companies. Supposedly this is done in the name of bi-partisanship. Horse pucky or some such phrase.

Congress is in the pocket of the big corporations, and they never wanted a public option. They want the health care business to remain profitable and not benefit the lower working class. They just waited to make it look like it wasn't a choice on the left.

If they do this, mandate insurance, with no competitive public option, it will explain why the insurance companies liked this all along. They have a captive market that has to pay what they choose. Monopolies don't make for competition.

If Congress dislikes public health care so much, why do they have it? Why do they have it for $35 a month, no co-pay and no deductible (which is what I read they have for their insurance)? I get it, public option health care is only bad for everybody else.

Universal insurance won't be free. You can bet on that. They will decide if you can pay for it and that will likely take into account what you have in the bank. It won't let you opt to buy braces for your daughter and take the chance that you won't all get sick. Supposedly this will make it cheaper for everyone. That remains to be seen without a public option. The insurance mandate is not like the automobile where we have a choice on driving. This will be if you are alive.

To me, the public option made it viable to take a risk on this mandate. If that's not in there, I don' t trust them at all about the rest. :(

Bill Maher has been saying that there are some things that should not be for profit (I know, a weird attitude for Americans to espouse), and one of those used to be people's health care. I am old enough to remember doctors making house calls and when ordinary people could afford health care without paying a lot of money for insurance. It's been a lot of years though and I don't see how this will make it better. There will be more transferring of money from the richer to the less well off, the government will go more deeply into debt, and for what?

I can already bet on who will disagree with me on this. They have insurance and don't have to fear a catastrophic illness that leads to bankruptcy or death.

(Tomorrow will begin 5 blogs, with photos, on our recent trip to Klamath Lake. Narrowing those photos down to a few was really tough this time. Experiencing them was not.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cowboy Ethics

Cowboy Ethics by James P. Owen, photographs by David R. Stoecklein, has as part of its title, 'What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.' Shortly after I received my copy from Amazon, I saw an article in the New York Times that seemed to along with the thinking: [The Nanny Nation].

What the book and the article refer to is the mythology of the West, some of which is still true today and some of which was never true but has been part of the American story.

When I think of the cowboys I know, and I know more than a few, they are men who do try to hold to a code whether they always succeed or not. They are men of hard work who often only 'retire' when their bodies give out and that's more likely to be 90 (if they live that long) than 65. They stick to a job because no one else will come along to finish it. They don't expect somebody else can clean up their messes because nobody is there to do it.

The book Cowboy Ethics is as much about the mythical West that John Wayne so often exemplified as it is the real deal. You can go around dressed like a cowboy but have no idea what the job is all about. Real cowboys got a bad rap when Bush rode into the White House on its ethos but really only knew about the expensive home on land that used to be ranch land, the pick-up truck, cowboy hat, and boots.

There weren't a lot of the real cowboys back in the West. There aren't a lot today but the ethic, of which the book speaks, that many of us grew up believing was the right way, that still represents, to me, a good way to live and treat others.

One of the things I hear a lot today is how it doesn't matter what you do or what choices you make-- it all works out. You don't hear a rancher say that. Ranchers know that if you don't feed the cattle, get them wormed, vaccinate when required, pull newborn calves when they are in trouble, build fences the right way, maintain them, shepherd the grass, store enough hay for the winter, build good relationships with neighbors, sell stock at the right time, you won't be in the business long.

When businesses fail at their management, they should lose, but that stopped in our country in 1971 when President Nixon decided Lockheed Martin was too big to fail. From that time until today we see corporation after corporation, bank after bank, that if they are big enough, find the government supporting their mismanagement. It's always done to benefit the country-- or so they say; but it ignores the reason for the problem. It rewards failure for those big enough and slowly erodes a sense of consequences.

Sometimes I think what has gone wrong with us is that we are not connected enough to consequences. Ranchers know about consequences and yes so do some other professions, that are more physically on-the-line with rules of physics that cannot be ignored. You can't tell those kind of people that it doesn't matter what they do, because they know different.

There are absolutes for the rest of us too, and I don't think they come out of any holy book but rather from being taught by our parents, by looking at how life works, making mistakes and learning from them, finding our place in the world. We need a personal code of ethics by which we live and that others know they can count on us to abide by. Here is the Code of the West from the book Cowboy Ethics:

1. Live each day with courage.
2. Take pride in your work.
3. Always finish what you start.
4. Do what has to be done.
5. Be tough, but fair.
6. When you make a promise, keep it.
7. Ride for the brand.
8. Talk less and say more.
9. Remember that some things aren't for sale.
10. Know when to draw the line.

You don't have to be a cowboy to live by that code.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Race in America

Back home and we found one lamb had been killed by a coyote while we were gone. It happened because it slipped through the fence and got out into the larger pastures. The youngest lambs have that ability no matter how we try to find their holes. Otherwise the farm was okay, and I was happy to be home after a great trip.

As I had said, I had no news at all on the trip; so the first I heard about the policeman vs. the Harvard professor vs. Obama vs. the right wing pundits was on the car radio once we got into range of radio stations. Huh? Where did that come from?

From what I heard then and still was still hearing Friday, I don't know if the policeman was nasty to the professor through his tone, or if the professor lost his cool because of past instances he has experienced. You can say all the right words and use a tone that demeans another, and we all know how easy that is to do. On the other hand, we sometimes react badly to something when we are tired, which the professor had to have been since just returning from China.

If you haven't heard about the situation, it involved a Harvard professor arriving at his home and needing to jimmy the locks as he either forgot his keys or they didn't work. A neighbor reported seeing two black men trying to break in and called the police. When the officer arrived, the whole situation quickly descended into a he said-- he said situation.

Evidently the radio Limbaughs went ballistic after President Obama was asked about it in an interview and said he thought the police overreacted and had behaved stupidly in arresting the professor even if he had been having a rant. This was his own home. Yelling is disorderly conduct when it's your own home? In some areas, like Cambridge, it is whatever a police officer wants to say it is-- period. There are tapes of the altercation but evidently not from the beginning. At any rate the 58 year old professor was cuffed, arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, and arrested before charges were eventually dropped.

What you have thought about this probably relates to whether you are a minority, right or left winger. I remember all of the times I have heard where police assumed someone was a crook simply because of their skin color. One immediate example coming to mind was a few years ago in Phoenix when a black legislator was driving to her home in a nice car and in an expensive neighborhood. She was pulled over just because she seemed out of place to the police officer. No crime. No reason for stopping her other than she was black.

How many times do these things happen leading any minority to know that they will be targeted when a white would not?

Would we still have right wingers trying to prove Obama is an illegitimate president, because of questions about his place of birth, if he wasn't black with the name Barack Hussein Obama? There is no proof at all that he was not born in Hawaii. The state of Hawaii viewed his original birth certificate and said it was legitimate, but the conspiracy talk will not let up and why do you suppose that might be?

Facts and logic play no part in settling something like this. Someone like G. Gordon Liddy gets time on a cable news program where he can say he isn't sure that Obama isn't an illegal alien. Would that even occur to Liddy if if Obama was white?

Obama was criticized for speaking up about this professor and the policeman. He said, that although he thinks he chose his words poorly, it is part of his job to get into important issues to our nation. Since he wanted the conversation to be about health care, a worthy topic right now, I bet he's really regretting that this became the topic of the week.

It is important that he is opening a dialogue between the professor and the police officer-- good for us all. Given the reaction from the Republican base, it is obvious race is still a sore point in this country. It is way past time to have real conversations about how we should treat all citizens equally under the law.

Photos will be coming; but as always, they are taking some time to sort and decide which ones will best explain the vacation which as I said, on many levels, was a good one for me. The one above is an evening on Klamath Lake.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Songcatcher

Netflix might prove expensive for us if we keep wanting to order the movies to buy after seeing them. One more joins that list. Netflix is cheap, an excellent way to see a lot of good films, but how could I see The Songcatcher only once?

The plot is a framework for us to get to know the people of Appalachia and the music that runs through their blood. Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer), a musicology professor at a university in the early 1900s, is frustrated by the limitations of her position-- talented, hard-working women don't get made full professors. She is in a dead-end affair with a married man, a full professor, more interested in bedding her than helping her.

So Lily takes a leave of absence to visit her sister who is teaching at a small school in the hills of Kentucky. When she gets there, she is astounded to hear the music these people's ancestors brought with them from their native homes in Ireland, Scotland and England (Emmy Rossum plays a young mountain girl). Music is part of their soul and Lily starts out to collect those songs, these wonderful lyrics, far purer than any available elsewhere with her intent to put them into a book.

For those of us who love hill music, real folk songs, the sounds of dulcimers (I have one Farm Boss made many years ago), banjos and fiddles, the singing of songs that tell stories of a hardscrabble life that wasn't easy when they came and won't get better but has left them with a richness money can't buy, those things let us have two hours sharing something we will never really know personally but can feel deep inside.

The Songcatcher is about music, about culture, nature, beauty, about finding the freedom to let go and be ourselves. It is also about a love whose name must not be spoken and about a love that doesn't come conveniently but cannot be denied. I had not seen Pat Carroll in years but she plays a wonderful, old mountain woman, Viney Butler, talk about spunk and spirit.

The film takes Lily from the fine lady with a lot of self and society imposed limitations to a woman who can strip down to her basic elements as she stubbornly digs her toes into mountain soil. A beautiful film on all levels, it's one of those little independents that often flies under the radar but should not. Movies like this one enrich and help us grow as people-- and do it with great joy.

If you haven't seen it, I heartily recommend it. If you have, but it's been awhile, rent it again or maybe like me-- buy it. It took an award for best ensemble film in 2000 and with good reason. All the characters in this film are rich and fully portrayed even when they are onscreen very little real time. They are part of the fabric of the tale.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time is a River

One of the things on my list of desiring to learn has been fly fishing. I read books about it. I have my pole and equipment and have learned what Farm Boss can teach me, but it takes doing it to really make it your own.

Now I don't desire to catch fish to keep. I have a barbless hook. I fish as he does for the joy of learning how to convince the fish that my fly is a living object, a food that is part of their food chain. It requires knowing the river, the pole, and the fish.

Because of this yen, I was drawn to the novel, Time is a River by Mary Alice Monroe. I first heard of it when it was out in hardback, but I don't like buying books that way. Easier to read once they are in paperback; so I waited and then this spring, there it finally was.

It's a great read of a woman trying to heal from emotional and physical hurts, and how a North Carolina river, an old cabin, and fishing are part of that healing. Oh there is a man in the story, several of them actually as the main character, Mia, learns about the woman who had lived in her cabin many years before she came to it. It's about art, journaling, fishing, the heart, and made an excellent read.

The writer put together two very intriguing YouTubes as part of selling her book and they were good teasers for getting the book:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Klamath Lake

This week, I will be on vacation at Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon with the (grown and ungrown) kids, canoeing, swimming, maybe some hiking, and no internet. We rent a house there big enough for all of us. It looks right onto the lake, has a small beach for the kids to play, and a dock for them to jump off into the water. Many many opportunities for me to take photographs.

Lack of internet means unless I hit an internet cafe, new comments won't appear until I get back to the cows and sheep. Please post your ideas anyway. Although I always okay dissent, I do not want obscenity, threats, or viciousness, and with the occasional political posts, I can't turn off comment moderation.

The blogs will, however keep right on appearing as I have them pre-scheduled. They are all about ideas, books, or movies and often written ahead of time anyway.

Politically, I plan to not spend any time keeping up on what's happening. Around the dinner table, it's likely we will be talking about politics because we do that. Our kids are opinionated, the discussions often passionate, not always in agreement, but flavored with logic, love, and a common sense of purpose.

(Photo is from two years ago at Klamath Lake.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Circuitous Route

So you right wingers wonder why we on the left have worried about the current Republican party? Wonder why Obama would be like a breath of fresh air to us? Read a few of those links. Ideally all of them. You know mostly I tend to think that what someone believes is not my business. Does it work for them? Great.

Except can I, not someone who wants to see Christian world dominion, not someone who expects Jesus's return any day, not someone who believes in a fundamentalist god, not someone who thinks that what fundamentalism teaches is good for humans, for life, for quality living, not even for love, how can I not feel threatened by these ideas and those who want to force them on all of us?

If you are a Christian, one of the fundamentalists, then you think what you read in those links above is good and the only hope for the world. To you, it is a spiritual war between good and evil and you are clear as to which is which. If you are not, however, then I'd like to share something with you about a dream of mine.

It was last week and I woke up remembering that I had been making sandwiches, a lot of sandwiches. Sounds mundane, right? The last sandwich was weird as I had made it with all the meat outside of a small piece of bread. Much meat. Little bread. Kind of a messy sandwich with no idea why I would make such a thing. I didn't feel upset at making it but couldn't figure out why.

The first thing I thought when I woke up was that it related to the Bible, to some book in the Letters of the Apostles, and something I had been missing. I had no idea how or even why I would have drawn that connection but I got out one of my many Bibles and began reading.

In the past, using different translations, I have read the Bible through (that means from start to finish) more than 6 times and been heavily involved in Bible studies-- very in depth Bible studies. I thought I knew it pretty well, and I did but what I saw when I went back to it was a new thought to me-- or maybe an old thought that I have come back to seeing.

Lately I have taken to calling many in today's church christianists because I thought they missed the point of the early church. I thought they had gone off on tangents regarding things that don't even appear in the Bible. It took me awhile after reading to realize that these people, like the pastor in California who is proud to say he's praying for Obama's death, like these people trying to take over our country and mandate everyone do what they see as righteous (when they don't even live that way themselves), that they are the Christian Church. Read the vindictiveness of the Apostle Paul's words, right after he has talked about things like love and god, and you see it's nothing new for today.

The bread in my sandwich was what Christ taught and it has been smothered by meat, big gooey, and rich meat that satisfies people but it's not what Christ said he was. If we are going to take the words of Christ to have been his words, debatable since it was the early church that decided what was to be thrown out (yeah, I know after being channeled... channeling which is so evil in anybody else).

That first group of people who named themselves Christians immediately set out to form a set of rules and an organization to fit what Jesus said. It would be a new religion with the power of miracles and the might of God. Jesus never began that religion. He was speaking of relationships but mankind likes religions and this group formed a doozy.

Jesus wasn't named Jesus and whether he said the exact words, well like I said, you have to believe in channeling. Which is evidently okay in someone like Loren Cunningham, who through direct message from god, formed the group linked above. He was given the 7 mountains to conquer as part of taking over the world for Christianity.

Way back, whatever didn't fit the doctrine the Apostle Paul wanted set up was thrown away to reappear centuries later in scrolls that were discovered in caves, the Gnostic Gospels. Keep in mind that Paul, the major founder of the church, wasn't a follower of Christ until after the Crucifixion. He was extremely knowledgeable in the law as he had been a member of the Jewish religious aristocracy. After a supposed godly encounter on the road to Damascus, he turned that knowledge into setting up this new religion.

In his writings, the Apostle Paul often whined and complained, begged others to do his will and threatened consequences to those who failed. He was the real forefather for the church we see today.

The sad thing for me is to wonder what truths might mankind have discovered if Paul hadn't done that? Did he come to build up Jesus's church, something Christ never asked him to do (unless we take his word for it), or did he come to subvert it? The things Jesus talked about like caring for the sick, watching out for greed, charity for the poor, being wary of pride, compassion, caring, love, sharing, those things were the bread that have been swallowed by meat. Men like meat a lot but let's not bother calling it godly.

(Incidentally I am not trying to say that there are not followers of Jesus today who follow the rule of love. Those followers are likely to sound a little like socialists.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

So far so good on Obama

Almost 6 months ago, Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States. As soon as he got in office, well actually before, the pressure began. The media is always quick to say he's failing or that the people are turning on him. Many people said Obama promised this or that because it's what they wanted and now have declared he failed. On it goes and won't let up while he's in office or likely even after he's gone. It never does on the others.

I was one of those who heavily supported Obama and want to say, 6 months later, I am happy with the results. I understand that the right wing is not. Well, I spent 8 years having to deal with that feeling when they were in power. Temporarily, at least, there has been a shift and I am pleased.

No, the problems aren't solved. No, I am not pleased with everything he has done (Obama Administration Okays Logging Rain Forests), but he is doing much of what I expected based on his campaign. I expected him to be left wing but also a pragmatist. I expected and feel that he is in a learning curve and unfortunately, because of two wars and the economy, doesn't have the time some presidents have had to get his feet under him.

He gets complaints, such as Zell Miller recently lobbed against him, that he should stay in Washington instead of traveling like say to a world economic conference overseas.Some don't like that he has date nights with his wife or goes out to get a hamburger. Remember there were those who found fault with Bush for being in a bubble. You cannot win and Bush certainly learned this lesson early-- if he didn't come into office knowing it. Give up trying. The most you can please is your base and not always them.

From my perspective, Obama's recovery package is not as disastrous as Bush's stimulus was in terms of the worst people getting it. Is it solving the economic problems? I had hoped it would be more infrastructure, but whether it's working to help the country come back, that I don't know yet. Maybe we are facing a worldwide readjustment which nothing can stop.

My personal concern is for Obama to work to stop the country's rush to dissolve the middle class, which would end up with a have and have not society. There is tremendous pressure from the wealthiest to keep to the trend of concentrating wealth. Greed has become a virtue which amazes me in a nation that calls itself Christian but then a lot amazes me where it comes to politics.

The recent suggested surtax, to pay some of the cost of health care, is being misrepresented by the right which won't surprise any leftie. Basically it is a graduated surtax but won't tax anybody below the level where Obama promised to not raise taxes. Is it a good idea? Again, I don't really know but putting things on the tab as we have the last 8 years, that's definitely not a good idea. You can only do that for so long. We've done it for too long.

I hope for the best from Obama's suggested programs and want to remind people that it took awhile to get us to where we are. Even if Obama is doing all the right things, it can't be fixed instantly. I never expected it would. I also understand we have a lot of Americans who have been led to expect something for nothing. They won't be pleased with any suggestions that cost them something.

Knowing how the right has defended their guys/gals no matter what they do, some think the left should the same thing and the temptation is apparent when you hear your people being attacked or even ridiculed. If we operated like the right, with emotions and visceral responses, we'd ignore what Obama does, his programs, and support him without paying attention to the plans. If instead we are about ideas for solutions, we can support him and still disagree with his programs. That's called having the ability to think independently.

After the righties lost the last election, the way they have behaved since, their anger and vindictiveness which has been illustrated beautifully in Sarah Palin, I am more than ever convinced our solution lies with Democrats-- imperfect though we all may be.

However, because I believe in the two-party system, I really hope the Republican party nominates someone of real quality next time, someone capable of running this country, someone of the actual conservative political viewpoint, not libertarian, not fascists, but real conservatives. I am not confident that can happen in the Republican party of today. [Peggy Noonan] said it well for what the right is seeking and what Palin provides.

Listen to them talk for long or read what they say and you know that this country has those who don't care what is best for the nation but only for themselves. They cloak their self-interest in words like patriotism, but there is nothing patriotic in what they shrilly demand.

There is nothing patriotic in slyly using racial words to prove how clever they are. There is nothing patriotic in gender or racial bias. They worry so much that there might be affirmative action but their real goal is to keep 'others' in positions where they can't compete or get their share of the economic pie. Obama stands against everything they believe and they are doing all they can to tear him down.

For me, I am happy with seeing a president I can be proud of, one who displays, as David Brooks said in a recent New York Times column, dignity. When he goes overseas, it's not to tell the world what we demand (upsetting as that is to neo-cons). We are not in any economic position to dictate anything-- nor should we want to do so. What we take power over, we also inherit responsibility. As Powell told Bush, if you break it, you own it.

I grew up in a time where the United States didn't think our obligation was to run the world. My coming of age came during an era of trying to help nations work together on solutions and many organizations were formed with that goal in mind. It hasn't always worked. Some right wingers believe only might makes right. Usually the same ones who don't want to pay any taxes.

The biggest complainers and probably the ones who are quickly saying they don't like him anymore, are likely those who never voted for him. He won 52.9% of the vote and if his numbers dip below 50% then someone might say he's disappointing supporters. That could happen but hasn't yet. Currently he is back to the numbers that he had when he started. Makes sense to me.

Obama must do the best he can with the time he has because in 4 years, the Republicans are likely, despite my hope, to nominate another inept politician who makes them feel good, who feeds their emotions, who satisfies their need for revenge, or promises something for nothing. Telling right wingers the true cost of anything is not the way to get their votes.

Sarah Palin is perfect for those Republicans. When I think, nah, they wouldn't do that, I remind myself that these are the same people who gave us George W. Bush. Palin will be worse... maybe. Who knows, including the right, what anybody will get with her. Her time in Alaskan office, her pointless lies and deceits don't encourage one to believe it will be good though.

She could well win. I have seen a lot in my many years of observing politics, but the one thing I have learned is never underestimate the ability of the people to be fooled. W.C. Fields had it right many years ago and people haven't changed since.

As for me, I will enjoy the current direction (grimacing now and then when I see something like 'logging the wilderness' okayed) for as long as I can, and hope for the best if that direction shifts again. At least for now the Senate has a 60 vote Democratic majority (welcome Al Franken) which admittedly isn't any guarantee of victories on programs, but it's a lot more than we had.

I am not one of those who wants to see one party running everything but if the Republican party is going to earn the trust of people like me they have to put forth real conservative candidates It's up to the Republicans if that happens. Do you suppose they even remember what the word conservative means?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This and That

Sometimes I think I should try and understand the craziness from the religious right. Other times I think trying to understand it is useless. There is no logic and what there is instead is a religious viewpoint of life that boggles my mind. Having just finished A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, I am well aware it's not unique to this country.

Here is a link explaining a religious group calling itself The Family. There is a lot online if you want to know more about them. They organized in 1935 to fight against the New Deal and Roosevelt. They are the ones organizing today's Washington prayer breakfasts. Is it a religious cult? They would say not since they base their group on Christianity.

Evidently they feel all they have to do is confess their sins to each other, hide them from the world and work to keep themselves secret. They are only accountable to each other-- which means through each other to God. There was a book out about them awhile back, but until the latest scandals from Ensign and Sanford, it got very little attention. I had no idea it existed. If you didn't either, read up on it.

There is nothing unusual about church groups and men or women belonging to them. Promise Keepers is one of those, but this one is more than that. It gives these men a cheap accommodation while they are in Washington, and it forms a network that is secretive, powerful-- and purposely hidden. What would they hide from the world? Did they condone Ensign paying bribes to keep his mistress hidden? What kind of sins would they tell others about or are they above any other authority?

Whether you think it's a good idea probably totally relates to how much power you think religion should have where it comes to governing. If you believe in a theocracy, you like it. If you are an unbeliever, you most decidedly do not. The Family by Jeff Sharlet.

Then there is this bizarre (to the left) story that has been unfolding about the colonel who was being sent to Afghanistan, decided he wouldn't go, and used Obama's birth certificate as his excuse. His lawyer in the lawsuit, claimed Obama was not president. Supposedly after he sued to stop his detachment, the military backed off and enabled him to stay home. It is portrayed as a major victory for the conspiracy people:From World Net Daily.

As there usually is, there is more. The colonel actually volunteered recently to go to Afghanistan-- obviously with one purpose in mind, making it into a lawsuit around Obama's birth certificate. He didn't have to sue the military to stop his deployment. When you volunteer, you can just say you changed your mind. Although it is being portrayed by World Net Daily and the lawyer who represented the colonel as a significant victory proving that Obama is illegitimate, actually it was simply following the rules to release him.

There is evidently more. The soldier was a contract employee who dealt with the military. It turns out that if you sue the military, you are no longer welcome to work there. He was fired. Doubtless another birth certificate conspiracy? *s*

I would like to understand why it would matter where Obama was born or that McCain was not born in the United States. Both grew up Americans and wasn't that the point of the original law. They were babies then born to American citizens. In Obama's case it would be a technicality that Hawaii was a possession, not yet a state until two years before he was born and that his mother was so young. What is this whole charade about? Why take up court time with such things? You know what it's about and none of it is for the best of this country.

After three days of hearings, I am even more pleased to see someone like Sonia Sotomayor nominated for the Supreme Court. If I was a Republican, I'd be ashamed of how those senators revealed their racism and bias against a woman.

Excuse me, Lindsy Graham, but you worry about a temper in a Supreme Court justice, but it was no concern in a president? That is amazing or would be if someone operated on logic. It would also be amazing for a logic based person to find fault with a female for asking tough questions as a judge but find it okay in a male. Haven't we gotten past that? Clearly not. And logic was no part of the harassment I heard in the questioning from the right wing. But then those senators were only playing to their base who wanted them to do all they could to destroy her. If you cheered them on, you are in the right wing, whatever you like calling yourself.

I have understood something that Republicans currently seem to want to forget-- when you win a presidential election, if you hold the majority in the Senate, the Supreme Court picks might be part of that victory. It is one of the most important reasons that elections do matter. Obama should not appoint middle of the road judges. He has the right to replace people with those who follow his (and his supporter's) political agenda.

I was upset with Alito and Roberts being added to the court, but I understood Bush had that privilege and he definitely used it. When O'Connor, a centrist conservative was replaced by a far right neo-con, I wasn't happy but to the winner go the spoils.

We, who believe this country has been going the wrong direction, have to hope we see more Obama picks like Sotomayor. It still leaves the right with a 5 vote advantage which isn't likely to change in my lifetime given the age of those 5-- and they make the most of it every chance they get..

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's a question of fairness

Questions of fairness confront a country and the humans in it every so often (if they are thinking type humans). Often culturally, as much as anything, we form a set of values that says this is right and that's wrong, but then something comes along to challenge those values.

The Visitor is a film to do that. It had been on my list of-- I should see that but it'll be hard to watch-- for a long time. I had thought to wait until I was in a relaxed mood, but maybe it wouldn't make a difference when I saw it for its impact.

It is the story of a lonely professor, Walter (played with depth and soul by Richard Jenkins), living in Connecticut, who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his wife. He is probably in late mid-life and possibly a lot of his meaning had been coming through and with her. He has written books, taught lectures about global politics at a university, but he's doing as little of anything as possible as he just gets through the days.

Reluctantly forced by the university to go to New York City for a conference, he opens up the apartment, that he and his wife had maintained there, only to find someone living in it-- two someones. She, Zainab, is from Senegal and he, Tarek, is from Syria, and they thought they were authorized to be there by an unseen Ivan. They do not want to cause any problem and leave to find somewhere else, but Walter brings them back not knowing that both are in the United States illegally. They are part of the hidden underground that come into the country legally or otherwise but do not leave when their time runs out.

Tarek's vitality and music begin to change the rhythm in Walter's heart. The two very different men form a caring relationship. Walter is particularly drawn to Tarek's drum, called a djembe that is played by the hand and with a rhythm the musicians must find from within themselves.

That is the first half of the story and then it turns complicated, forcing Walter and the viewers to do some soul searching, when Tarek is first mistakenly arrested and then detained by immigration authorities. Walter who has seen global politics from an abstract, technical view is suddenly confronted with a personal reality.

A policy of secure borders has to mean you treat other people as though only rules matter and there's no way to consider individual cases? Rules are to be obeyed, cross each 't' properly, or you are out, laws are enforced by people with no more freedom to look at individuals than the ones who are in the prisons (and they are prisons whether we call them detention centers or not)? At least Tarek was not suspected of being a terrorist, if he had been, we now know things would have gotten horrendously worse.

Many of us think it's only fair to have a closed border. We want to have a world where all people are treated fairly. We want to maintain our qualities as a nation, but this is a film to make you ask-- what are those qualities? We came from immigrant ancestors-- every last one of us-- and the difference is only in whether we got here early or late. How do we fairly deal with that reality in the world of today where fear of terrorism has changed so much? How do we justify legally bringing people here for cheap labor and then sending them back to deny them citizenship?

Watching Walter try to deal with the immigration people, get a lawyer for Tarek, the viewer is likely to question their own values. I won't go farther with discussing the film, but I recommend it for all peoples as a film about human nature but especially here in America where we are still wrestling with questions of immigration and security. It came out in 2007 and is on Netflix.

If we are going to authorize things being done in our name, we should at least know what that means to real people-- and this film fairly and without being maudlin does show the human price.

It's good that I saw it and Il Postino close together because both show how the system sometimes tragically impacts ordinary people in ways that its citizens might not have intended or wanted. The question from The Visitor is-- what can we do about it?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Il Postino

Sometimes a book leads to a movie and sometimes the other way around. As I began searching for more information about Pablo Neruda, I saw a DVD on Netflix which I vaguely recall hearing about years ago but had never seen.

Il Postino is the story of Mario, a humble Italian postman, who had little direction to his life until coincidence changed everything. He learned that the famous (infamous to some since Neruda was a passionate communist) poet, Pablo Neruda, was living in exile at the edge of their village.

Delivering mail each day to Neruda, he saw the passion with which Neruda lived his life, he admired his ability to evoke feelings with words and asked him questions about poetry. These questions led to a friendship, between these two very different men, that is at the heart of the story. Mario began by thinking he could learn how to attract women to himself if he could find words such as Neruda wrote, but he learned so much more about life, purpose and to appreciate the place where he lived.

The film, subtitled, is beautifully filmed in Italy with a great cast. The reality of these actors, how they made me feel that, yes, they were those people, made me also aware how often films are cast poorly with people who look and feel nothing like those they are supposedly portraying.

It was even more poignant knowing that the postman, Massimo Troisi, only 40 years old, died to finish making it. Perhaps he would have anyway as he had a heart damaged by rheumatic fever as a child, but he saw this story of a simple postman and life as so important that he put off treatment to get it completed, dying the next day.

I won't go more into the film because it would spoil it for anyone who has yet to see it. It was nominated for Academy Awards which it richly deserved. After seeing it on Netflix, I bought a copy of it at Amazon. It will be a movie to watch again.

Photos are clips from: Il Postino and Il Postino

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Night in Isla Negra

Where it comes to reading, I go in spurts where I read almost no books and then where I always have one or even two going. Often one book leads to another-- sometimes in unexpected ways.

'In This We are Native' by Montana writer Annick Smith wasn't a memoir that I expected would lead me to a Chilean poet, but it did. (Poets and poetry enthusiasts, when you see who the poet is, please forgive me. I am not as widely educated in poetry as many.)

It was his house first but then the life that added to the poetry and made me look for more and more information on Pablo Neruda. To be honest I liked (Is like, such a mild word, adequate? Well, I cannot think of what might be better. Remember I am not the poet) his love poetry, but the poems about place, about his experiences, his soul experiences, they are why I went further in exploring who this man had been. What led to these poems?

Is place what helps create such poetry or are those, who would create that kind of art drawn to certain places by their energy? I am very land oriented. Houses come and go but where they are situated, that is something you cannot create. The setting comes first, but, wherever they are, I love to see the houses that creative people have created or in which they have lived. The houses tell so much more about them.

Neruda's house which he called Isla Negra, from where it is located on the Chilean coast with sand and rocks to look toward, was clearly one of those houses. Perfect setting, intriguing house with large windows, interesting rooms and a concept of making it part of the ground from which it arose. It did not detract but added to its surroundings.

If I had many lifetimes to live or maybe many homes, one would be on the ocean, overlooking an isolated stretch of beach with sand and rocks on a rugged coastline where the waves crash against those rocks and sometimes during a very big storm, you worry what else they will crash against. There are tame stretches of coastline (well most of the time, no ocean is tame all the time), but they have little appeal for me. Isla Negra, steeped in the power of the ocean, of nature, would.

Oh and might I add, I would be a gifted poet who could find words like those below to paint a picture of what I was experiencing. I realize the price for such insights is high but oh how words like these enrich, how they seem to give the reader something to suck into their being, think about, and then draw from themselves feelings they they would not have felt otherwise.

The Night in Isla Negra
Pablo Neruda

Ancient night and the unruly salt
beat at the walls of my house.
The shadow is all one, the sky
throbs now along with the ocean,
and sky and shadow erupt
in the crash of their vast conflict.
All night long they struggle;
nobody knows the name
of the harsh light that keeps slowly opening
like a languid fruit.
So on the coast comes to light,
out of seething shadow, the harsh dawn,
gnawed at by the moving salt,
swept clean by the mass of night,
bloodstained in its sea-washed crater.

Neruda's poetry is online, where I found the poem, at the link above under his name. Because the coast of Chile seems very much like Oregon's, I used one of my photos from May along Oregon's coast at the top. With a little search, I found these photos online of [Isla Negra]. Then I liked this article as it explained the draw that I felt when I began to look into who Pablo Neruda had been: [from the literary traveler].

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friends to hike the trail

The wildflowers were wonderful, the view of the mountain great, but also there was the time with friends, the kind of friends with whom you have hiked many trails, where each can do their own thing, and still enjoy the experience together.

Unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture of Parapluie, Fisherman and Farm Boss eating lunch after the hike was over. There were wooden picnic tables and not like the lunch was spectacular or anything but it was the end of the trail-- for that day.

Well not quite, as we did stop for one more set of photos on our drive back out-- the lilies that hadn't yet been blooming higher up.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wildflowers of Iron Mountain and Cone Peak Trails

When I came home from our Iron Mountain hike, I had to sort through several hundred photos. The easiest to delete were out of focus or seemed to have no purpose. I was still left with an unmanageable number. So I asked myself which were the best and created a temporary folder. I have found temporary folders let me play with the various images without deleting anything I might later regret.

The ones that didn't make it into the temporary folder were still good, to me, (some are above). But too many photos in a slide show leave the viewer tired before they reach the end.

Because I didn't want to download the photos one by one to Picasa, I downloaded Picasa software (free from Google) for my desktop which enables uploading a whole folder at once. I had already experienced the benefits of that kind of software having done it when I had a Flickr site. It apparently is going to also now be my primary way to view them on my computer. So far it looks good, but I am still considering how I like their tools.

For the completed slide show, I would have enjoyed adding music although imagination can provide the best music. If you click on my link, just imagine the sounds of birds, the breeze in the trees, boots crunching on gravel, maybe low voices from other hikers on the trail.

Iron Mountain and Cone Peak Wildflowers

All photos were taken with Canon Rebel Xsi using the Canon 18-55mm or 55-250mm lenses both with Image Stabilizers.

Halfway through the hike, I learned something new about my camera. It came out of frustration as in the shade of the tall pines, hemlocks and cedars I kept trying to photograph a small flower, which should be called Mountain Orchid if it is not. Every image looked washed out. Finally I asked Farm Boss what can I do to make this work, and he explained it to me.

Using a setting labeled Tv which enables changing the shutter speed depending on the light and the desired effect, I saw most photographs right from my camera exactly as I wanted them (still cropping some to emphasize points that show up more clearly in a photo than I might have seen while framing them).

Years ago when using our 35 mm cameras, I had learned about shutter speed and how it can enhance a photo but never had learned how to do it with the digital. The camera had taken such good photos on automatic that I hadn't explored its capabilities.

Because I am not someone who learns technical things well from books and do best when I am actually doing it, I tend to put off reading manuals. Just because my camera can take nice photos on automatic doesn't mean it can't take great ones if I take the time to learn and use those tools. I like that it makes me feel more in control of the photograph. What I get then is not so much an accident or luck but my planning and recognizing the conditions.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Iron Mountain

If you live or travel to the high mountains in early summer, you already know what a magical time it is as the wildflowers burst into full bloom. This is their chance to propagate their species, and they make the most of it. Much of the year, they are buried under snow. Even in early July, a few snow banks linger in shady spots.

Summer is the wildflower's season. Intense colors, lovely shapes, each aimed at enticing to themselves the insects that will spread their pollen and make sure that next year more of their type will still be there. Side by side, their diversity is amazing.

July 3rd on Iron Mountain in the Cascades, Farm Boss and I hiked the trails, photographed the flowers, and enjoyed the vistas with Parapluie and her husband, who I have nicknamed Fisherman here for the obvious reason. They had been there many times before and talked of its beauty in early summer, but I really hadn't expected it to be as wonderful as it was.

Iron Mountain and Cone Peak are noted for having 300 types of flowers. I can't begin to name the ones I saw, well maybe a couple, but for me it's not about names but the glorious feeling you get when at that elevation, hiking along a trail, turning a corner and there spread before you is a rainbow of colors, planted by nature.

If you go clear to the top of Iron Mountain (I didn't), it rises over a thousand feet from the trailhead. It does it with a series of switchbacks; so nothing requires being a mountain climber. I did see a lot of walking sticks and had been reminded by Parapluie to bring ours because the trail did have a few steep spots and a lot of places with loose rock.

Walking at an elevation of nearly 5000 feet, when you live at under 300, means frequent breaks, but I'd have taken those anyway to get the photographs but also to let it all soak in.

If I had gone clear to the top, I'd have had views of several snow capped mountains-- dormant (for now) volcanoes; but I was there for the mountain wildflowers, and to see a hole in the wall (which took going quite a ways up), and did get, as a bonus, a photo of Mt. Jefferson.

After I got home and began to work with the flower pictures, the thing that most impressed me was how they are so brilliantly colored, wondrously shaped, with each doing what is required to draw to them the insects they need. What other reason could there be for those tiny hairs on this white one?

The butterflies visiting the flowers will often match their colors. It is all very symbiotic. To say it was a treat is to barely express what I felt when up there.

At one point a butterfly was drawn to Farm Boss and then Parapluie, landing on their clothing. We weren't sure why it picked them. A sign? Serendipity? The fact that they both have Type O blood that also draws mosquitoes?

In the photograph, if you enlarge it, you will see the butterfly's battered wings which I am guessing means it had flown a long way to get to this place. That fact alone seems one of those little miracles of life. How could something so tiny fly potentially thousands of miles? How does it know where to go? How beaten up can its wings be before it can't fly again?

Seeing butterflies in the high mountains is one of those things that goes beyond words, paintings or photographs. You just have to be there once to know what I mean. Two years ago we were in Montana and saw them flitting all around a small meadow in the Bitterroot Mountains. Many years earlier we were in the high Cascades and saw hundreds of Monarchs in a small, canyon. Each is a memory that I have stored to never let it be forgotten.

Each of the rock gardens seemed to be planted. No gardener could do a better job of mixing the colors and putting together combinations that resonated joy. Sure, plants can't feel joy. Tell me you know that for sure!

(Tomorrow will be more photographs, and for fans of mountain wildflowers, I will add a link to even more from the recent hike. To fully appreciate them, I think it takes seeing them in mass. If you visit my wildflower site, doing a slide show maybe, giving the individual blossoms time to really sink in, you will get some of the feeling of being up there from the early morning 'til almost noon as the light changed and then walking a little higher for different flowers or those which only grew under the shade of the big trees. Magic is all I can say.)