Friday, November 24, 2006
Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to be spoiled and poisoned.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving their carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feelin' their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind his own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories . . . ("Alright, let's see your arms"). . . ("You always were a headache and you always were a bore")
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
Speaking of Turkey (warning: awkward segue), controversy over Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide has recently re-surfaced due to the nation's desire to join the European Union. But before President Bush and his soon-to-be ex-Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton wag too pious a finger at Istanbul, we need to remember that this country too was founded on genocide.
The natives of the eastern shore were friendly during initial encounters with the white colonists, though when one native allegedly stole a silver cup, an English captain and his men torched an entire village in retribution.
Myles Standish pretended to be a trader and beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat - he brought his head to Plymouth where it was displayed on a wooden spike for years as a symbol of "white power." Standish had the Indian man's young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure.
Entries from Governor William Bradford's diary included:
"To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice and they GAVE PRAISE THEREOF TO GOD."
"It pleased God to visite these Indeans with a great sickness, and such a mortalitie that of a 1000 and a halfe of them dyed, and many of them did rott above ground for want of burial."
The early colonies waged war and succesfully eradicated the native inhabitants of the east coast, namely Powhattan's confederacy, the Narragansetts, and the Pequots. More people came from Europe, and more space was needed. The colonists forced an awful choice on the natives: migrate, or go to war with us. Through uncountable wars and skirmishes and loss of thousands and thousands of lives, the American Indian was ousted from his/her land in all corners of the continent.
Howard Zinn's "A People's History of America" documents the endless series of promises made to various Indian tribes. Of the 350 treaties made with the Indians, every one has been subsequently broken.
Thomas Jefferson told Congress that the Indians should be encouraged to farm small plots of land, to quit hunting, to trade with whites and to incur debts that they would have to pay off with huge tracts of land. He also said, "Two measures are deemed expedient. First to encourage them to abandon hunting. . . Secondly, to multiply trading houses among them. . . leading them thus to agriculture, to manufacturers, and civilization." Zinn points out that Jefferson echoes clearly the point of Karl Marx, who states, "It [capitalism, the bourgeoisie] compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production, it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst."
Andrew Jackson instructed an Army major to tell the Choctaws and Cherokees that they would be given land, outside of the state of Mississippi (their homeland) in which they could be free, and he would protect them as their white father. They could have the land "as long as Grass grows or water runs." This eloquent lie became famous for its symbolic falseness, as it epitomized the whites' ability to make grand promises that kept changing and changing to meet the needs of their growing society, while never considering the lives of the people who lived on the land first (consider the plight of the Dakota, and Crazy Horse). Forced migration and land grubbing by the whites eventually encompassed the entire continent.
Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; on the same day, he ordered troops to march against the Sioux in Minnesota. He subsequently ordered 38 Santee Sioux hung on Christmas Eve for leaving the reservation in search of food.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians; but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."
So, for as long as I've been maintaining this blog, every Thanksgiving I've posted Burrough's prayer. Some have complained that it's too cynical ("Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger"). Given our dreadful history, and the selective national amnesia our country displays each Thanksgiving day, I say it's not cynical enough.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Perhaps I should explain.
In an attempt to manage my time well, I booked myself with back-to-back dentist and doctor appointments for first thing in the morning. A dental hygienist, the pretty blonde, scrapped and poked at my teeth with various metal instruments before polishing them with some sort of dental buffing device, and then used baking soda in what felt like a sand blasting procedure - the washing my mouth out with soap of which I spoke.
Immediately after the dentist, I drove over to visit my urologist for a six-month check on my PSA after last year's prostate cancer scare (to those of you new to this blog, I'm fine). Anyway, after I coughed up my $15 co-pay, the doctor, a decent enough professional of Pakistani descent, performed the "digital examination" of my prostate, a procedure I'm glad doesn't need repeating more than twice a year.
But that's not what I want to blog about today. What's interesting to me was the news relayed to me yesterday morning by the hygienist, namely that my former ex-girlfriend L., also a patient of the same dentist, has moved to New York City.
She hadn't bothered to say "goodbye."
But my point here is not to cry in my beer over her departure, but to observe my changing perceptions about her, about our relationship, about life in general. When we were together, I thought she was just about perfect, or at least perfect for me. I was so happy and I loved her so much. After we broke up, I started to see things differently - her contempt for me, my constant inability to live up to her expectations and to get her to see me as her equal, how we were constantly on the verge of ending the relationship. What a fool I'd been, I would think, how could I have thought I was happy when I was so obviously miserable, how could I think she was so worthy when she was so obviously self-centered?
With all the hours I'd spent in Zen meditation, examining my mind, it astounded me that I still had such a capacity for self-deception.
But then I looked at it a little deeper, and thought that if I still had the capacity for self-deception then, might not I still have it now? After all, in which condition was a man more prone to self-deception - with a loving heart or while trying to protect a wounded ego? So which view was correct - L. the goddess or L. the bitch?
Eventually, I found the Middle Way, realizing all opinions and attitudes are provisional and subject to change - today's enemy might be tomorrow's friend, and vice versa. Therefore, we shouldn't cling to out impermanent and ever changing moods and ideas; it's all relative.
And with that attitude, I found some peace, and accepted that I should just enjoy the brief moments of pleasure as they come, and not hang on or try to preserve them. L. and I had our good times and our bad times, and now they're all in the past, but meanwhile, what's happening in the here and now?
Well, apparently, in the here and now, or rather the there and then when the hygienist told be that L. had moved out of town, the peace was shattered and a million conflicting emotions were raging in my mind. Feelings of anger and abandonment, acceptance that things with her were now forever in the past with no chance now for reconciliation, relief that I was not going to run into her around town someday, and even happiness that she got what she always had wanted - a good job offer in the Big Apple (I found a press announcement through Google from her new firm, and she does indeed seem to be far better employed now). But mostly I just felt confusion that I could be experiencing all of these different emotions at the same time.
And I still had the Pakistani Doctor to look forward to.
One day, the Buddha picked up a bell and rang it, asking his disciple, "Subhuti, can you now hear the bell?"
"Yes, Bhagvan, I can," Subhuti replied.
The Buddha stopped ringing the bell and asked, "Subhuti, can you now hear the bell?"
"No, I can't, Bhagvan," Subhuti replied.
"Subhuti, how can you keep these two conflicting views in your mind?," the Buddha asked.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "The storm system that spawned damaging tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama weakened by the time it reached Georgia, but still managed to dump record rainfall in Atlanta on Wednesday. The deluge caused a few minor problems across metro Atlanta. About 50 homes in the Collier Hills neighborhood were without power just before daybreak Thursday after a tree toppled onto power lines, then crushed two cars and damaged a pickup truck.
"The storms had moved eastward into the Carolinas by Thursday morning. The National Weather Service said 2.87 inches of rain was recorded by the city's official rain gauge at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the most ever on Nov. 15. The old record for the date was 1.94 inches, set in 1914. The heavy rain also erased the city's rainfall deficit for the year. The 44.80 inches of rain so far this year is .17 inch above normal, the Weather Service said."
Fortunately, my home was not one of the 50 in Collier Hills to lose power, but my driveway was impassable due to all the wet leaves. My driveway has always been steep, but the loss of traction due to the large quantity of freshly fallen leaves caused my car to spin out and halt about halfway up the hill. I slid back down, backed up a little, gunned it and tried again. Only halfway up that time. I tried a third, and a fourth before finally making it with squealing tires on the fifth attempt.
Finally getting in the house, I found that my high-speed internet access was out Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Thursday was not quite as rainy, but still overcast and glum, and when I got home Thursday night, it took me three attempts to make it up the driveway. And the internet access was still out. Friday morning, too.
By Friday evening, I decided to call Comcast tech support, who put me through various drills ("Unplug your modem and them plug it back in. Turn off your computer and turn it back on. Simon says. . ."). When Techie Number One couldn't help me, I was connected to Techie Number Two, who walked me through various tests of my IP address before finally giving up ("I can't help you. I'm giving up. Sorry it didn't work out. You might want to try your computer's manufacturer.").
I tried everything I could think of, even removing my Norton Firewall and virus protection. Nothing. Saturday morning, the connection was still down, but when I passed by the computer a little while ago earlier this afternoon, I noticed that the Google Talk icon down in the system tray was active, and thinking that might mean that somehow I miraculously got back on line, I tried, and lo and behold, there you all were, right where you've always been.
No idea what's going on. One of those things. In the words of the now unemployed Donald Rumsfeld, stuff happens.
But excuse me now, I have some leaves on my driveway that need blowing.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
In the cab, I saw a Silver Line bus on Washington Ave. (St.?), dispelling my illusion that the tandem buses weren't street ready. At the end of the day, I took the Silver Line to the airport, schlepping my luggage along with me, and further noticed that the buses were running on overhead electric, not diesel. I don't recall whether the bus on Washington was electric or diesel.
This is being typed on the Logan Airport wi-fi ($7.95/day). I arrived here early (4:30) for my 6:30 flight, and now the flight has been delayed to a 7:30 departure and a 10:00 pm arrival in Atlanta. Even assuming that the flight sticks to its revised schedule and is not further delayed, by the time I pick up my checked luggage, get my car out of the park-and-ride and drive home, it will be midnight. So if you work with me, don't expect to see my fat ass in the office too early.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
This morning, though, it was still raining, so I walked from the Radisson to Boylston Station and took the Red Line to Park, switched to the Green Line and rode it to South Station, and then got on the newly-discovered Silver Line to the WTC and walked over to the Massachusetts Convention and Conference Center (MCCA, although every time I see the initials, I think "Macaca").
Anyway, the Silver Line was a double revelation to me - the first was its mere existence, and second it was my first experience riding on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT has been proposed for Atlanta's Beltline, much to the disappointment on most residents, who were hoping for light rail. Their complaints are two-fold: first, that roads, as opposed to rails, for the buses might mean that cars might later ride on the Beltline, which would then just devolve into yet another highway. The second concern, especially in my neighborhood where the path for the Beltline rail is not quite as apparent as elsewhere, is that the buses will run on our city streets, further congesting our already traffic-choked roads.
However, I could see from this morning's BRT ride that if the Beltline is developed anything like the Silver Line, these fears are unfounded. The roadway for the BRT was way too narrow for anything but a professional driver in the bus - the BRT path is nothing like a city street. In addition, the linked buses looked like they wouldn't be able to navigate very well on city streets, relieving the second concern.
All in all, the BRT experience felt very much like the light-rail experience - the bus pulled into the South Street Station Silver Line stop just like the streetcars do, the doors opened just like on the streetcars and the seats were arranged just like the streetcars. The bus proceeded through the subway tunnel just like a streetcar, and even after it came aboveground just at the WTC, the "road" still resembled track more than it resembled something you'd drive a car along.
None of these observations will be popular among the Beltline advocates who are dismayed by the very idea of it going BRT. However, based on my Silver Line ride this morning, I think the concept is compatible with the Beltline.
Oh, by the way, for no other reason than that the rain finally stopped and I could use the exercise after sitting at the conference all day, I chose to walk home tonight rather than take the Silver Line again. A nice night for walking, and the view out my window finally cleared up.
Monday, November 13, 2006
But anyway, it's soggy and dreary here in Boston. I walked the 1.5 miles from the Radisson to the Convention Center this morning in the damp brisk dawn air, and spent the day listening to speakers on the subjects of Smart Growth and Brownfield Redevelopments. It was raining harder by the end of the day, so I took the T from South Station to Boylston, changing from the Red Line to the Green Line at Park, to get home (I sound so Bostonian, don't I?).
After a day of hearing the praises of Smart Growth and the New Urbanism, I was tickled to see Greensmile's comments about yesterday's post on The Big Dig, namely, "What pisses me off is that  they made it faster to get into a town with a car and didn't add one damn parking place and  with a small part of the cost overruns, they could have extened all the subways by a mile or added 5 miles to the bus routes...thus eliminating the need for all of the new road capacity except the new harbor tunnels."
Agreed, and it makes me grateful to be involved with Atlanta's Beltline development, the first major urban proposal in the South that doesn't include four lanes of new highway, that couldn't qualify for a NASCAR track if the commuters were to abandon it.
The forecast tomorrow is for continued crappy weather, with a shitty front moving in sometime tomorrow afternoon. I may have to break down and take a cab to the Convention Center.
Reporting live from Boston, I'm etc.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
I'm not a big fan of Macs - especially this one sitting in my mother's kitchen. I know they have their fans - apparently devoted ones based on their brand loyalty - but I simply think they know not what they're missing.
Anyway, I'm in Boston, having successfully navigated Delta's air transit system between Hartsfield and Logan. From the airport, I took a cab to Mom's house, which had to detour through Chinatown (the cab, not my Mom's house) because the bridge between the airport and the Mass Pike is still closed after partially collapsing last summer and killing a hapless motorist.
I don't know how much Massachusetts had to pay for the "Big Dig," but if I were them, I would be pretty upset to have to have it closed for repairs a mere few months after opening. If that had happened in Georgia, someone would be out of a job by now.
Republicans are probably wondering how we could blame this on Clinton.
Anyway, shortly after arriving at Mom's, she and I headed up to the Town of Methuen, Mass. for dinner and visiting at my sister and brother-in-law's house. A fine time was had by all.
And that's about it so far. Today, we'll watch the Patriot's game (american football), apparently a Boston ritual, and then I check into my Downtown Hotel for the rest of the week.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
No, this election wasn't about any sort of national embracement of Democratic ideals and policies - whatever they were. Hell, the Dem's barely articulated any coherent platform and when they did finally open their mouths, it managed to come out as an insult to the troops.
No, this election was a rejection of the status quo, a national turning away from the sleaze and corruption of the past few years, and dissatisfaction with a costly and an increasingly apparent pointless war. But it had nothing to do with any sort of raising of the national consciousness.
I don't mean to be a Gloomy Gus, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It's just that liberals and progressives need to keep in mind the realpolitik that they've lucked into office by being the guys not responsible for the current mess - not necessarily the guys with a better plan. Right now, John McCain has a better chance of becoming the next President than Hillary Clinton, and the nation still doesn't understand John Kerry.
On an up-note, things generally work better when the Congress and the Presidency are in the hands of different parties, and the Dems seem to have stumbled onto the formula for getting themselves elected (moderation in the south and midwest, liberalism in the west and northeast) and look like they're going to stick to that script for a while.
Anyway, that's it for now on politics. I've never been good at articulating political theory, and although I leave tomorrow morning for Boston, Massachusetts, home of Ted Kennedy and a brand-new governor, I'll let the pundits and the partisans pontificate on politics from here on in.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
PIERRE, S.D. - A woman who died two months ago won a county commissioner's race in Jerauld County on Tuesday.
But no, not that news, but this - the day after the Democrats have regained control of the House after 12 years, and seem assured of having a majority in the Senate as well (barring any Katharine Harris-style highjinks), Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld finally resigns!
I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A dead woman won re-election to a school board in rural Alaska after her opponent lost a coin flip meant to break an electoral tie.
HOUSTON - A slick new campaign mailer shows a smiling Republican state Rep. Glenda Dawson meeting with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. It reminds voters of Dawson's many notable achievements in education, economics and politics. What the ad doesn't say is that Dawson has been dead since September.
Ah, Texas. . . with dead Republicans running for office, you have to wonder how Kinky Friedman came in third in the Governor's race.
Not that things are much better other places. I live in Georgia, so I ought not to point a finger too much, but New York's new statewide database of registered voters contains as many as 77,000 dead people on its rolls, and as many as 2,600 of them have cast votes from the grave, according to an analysis by the Poughkeepsie Journal.
But, I'm already off-message. I didn't come here to talk about Rummy or dead Republicans. I came here to talk about the effects of yesterday's midterm election on environmental policy. See how easily I get distracted on politics?
Many enviros have cited yesterday's Democratic victories as a possible indicator of change to the country's environmental and global-warming policies. After all, eco-enemies like Richard Pombo were defeated, and green-leaning governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm (Michigan) got reseated, and incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi has a long record of environmental activism, including very vocal support on getting the Maximum Contaminant Level for arsenic in drinking water reduced.
However, there is very little chance the power shift will alter Bush's opposition to binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions per the Kyoto Protocol, which he rejected in 2001 incurring the wrath of environmentalists everywhere.
Delegates and observers gathered in Nairobi for a UN climate-change conference aimed at finding a replacement for Kyoto, which expires in 2012, said Republican losses should help the environment. "This is good news for climate," said World Wildlife Federation climate-change director Hans Verolme, optimistic that Democratic control of Congress could lead to pressure on the administration to boost efforts to combat climate change. "You will see a lot of pressure on the administration to work on domestic policies that will have a positive impact on the environment as a result of the US midterm elections," he said.
"The main message from the results. . . is that the U.S. is moving substantially in the right direction, and climate is very much front and center on the political agenda in the U.S.," said Steve Sawyer, a spokesman for Greenpeace. "(But) it still doesn't mean that we're going to have national binding emissions caps in the U.S."
John Coequyt, a Greenpeace energy policy advisor, agreed that the elections may have showed greater environmental awareness among U.S. voters, but warned against exuberance, noting the polls were largely a referendum on the Iraq war, scandals and the economy. "For delegates here, it's not going to have an impact on negotiations," he said, referring to the talks in Nairobi. Still, he said, some U.S. races showed promise, particularly the re-election of Schwarzenegger, a Republican who is at deep odd with the administration over global warming. "There are a number of elections that were decided by environmental issues. You can make the argument that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger won his re-election based on climate change," Coequyt said.
However, voters in California also rejected a renewable-energy oil tax endorsed by both Bill Clinton and Julia Roberts.
Also in California, seven-term Rep. Richard Pombo was defeated by a last-minute onslaught of campaigning by well-financed environmental groups supporting Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney, a left-leaning energy consultant who heads a company that manufactures wind turbines. National politicians on both sides of the aisle considered the race to be a high-stakes battle, with Bill Clinton stumping for McNerney and both the President and the First Lady rallying on Pombo's behalf in the campaign's final stretch.
Pombo, 45, chair of the House Resources Committee, was targeted by environmental groups riled over his support for offshore and Alaskan oil drilling and making the Endangered Species Act more palatable to land owners. McNerney, 55, has advocated devoting more government money to alternative energy sources.
As recently as three months ago, McNerney was an underdog not even supported by his own party. But more recent polls showed McNerney gaining as Pombo faced anger from voters over his stay-the-course stance on Iraq and links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The race was an expensive one, with campaign contributions of more than $2.5 million pouring in on both sides. McNerney, largely funded by environmentalists, received a last-minute infusion of cash from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which had previously considered the district unwinnable. The GOP devoted more than $1 million to shore up Pombo's campaign.
Meanwhile, Missouri passed the Stem Cell bill. The rabid, insane Christian right are screaming that the bill will allow human cloning, although it expressly forbids human cloning. My greatest fear following this election, however, was planted in my mind by idrmrsr, namely that Nancy Pelosi will take me to a camp and milk me of my semen even while I sleep to fertlize eggs and produce embryos to cure Michael J. Fox.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I'm not sure if I forgive him. Because I spent all of last Saturday playing and experimenting with the programs. I possess neither musical instruments nor musical abilities, so I just grabbed a bunch of random sound files that I found over on usenet, and after several hours, this was the best that I could come up with. I started in the mid- to late afternoon, and when I finished, I looked at the clock and it was almost 4 a.m. (at least it was Fall-Back Day, the national holiday for getting an extra hours sleep).
I listened to the piece over again the next Sunday morning (okay, afternoon, but it felt like morning after the late night before) and decided that I had to be able to do better than that. Surfing the net for inspiration, I found this web site where Brian Eno and David Byrne have put up all the tracks used for two of the songs from their groundbreaking "My Life In the Bush of Ghosts" (1981). They're encouraging the world to "edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks" any way one wants, so I took them up on their offer and generosity (I can't think of any other artists who've put their actual raw tracks on line like this), and went to work.
By the way, with every passing year, Brian Eno and I are starting to look more and more alike.
Anyway, armed with all of their cool multi-instrument percussion and other musical tracks, I fired up the software again, and came up with this. A small improvment, but too derivative of the original in my opinion (the more I tried to "improve" the track, the closer it got to sounding like "Help Me Somebody" from MLITBOG).
Anyway, I've started. I can see now that any free time that I might have thought I had left will now be taken up with looping, mixing, fading and syncing music tracks, and for that I can't really blame Nick (after all, I saw it coming).