31 December 2006

Happy New Year

In case I don't get around to saying it to those who drop by: Happy New Year!

I figured I would add this now since I will likely not be able or willing to post after tonight... unless I am drunk enough to do so, but considering my mood, that is unlikely. I will more likely be too tired to do so.... anyway, everyone stay safe and enjoy yourselves :)


Update: Just wanted to say New Year's Eve/ New Year's was great... and I love you all, the whole wide world, especially my lovely visitors and commentors... yes, I am afraid I am several sheets to the wind, but I blame that on my Brazilian hosts and friends, not the least my parents, who encouraged such behavior. Thankfully, I only made a reasonable fool out of myself :) And really, I had a blast... will probably post some other stuff related to this later... great time. Again, much love from this end.


29 December 2006

Tulsa or Somalia?

I might be a little off on politics and geography, but how does one compare Somalia to Tulsa and say Tulsa is worse? I was rummaging through another board on a game I play (Nation States to be specific) and a question was asked 'Why is the US so afraid?' Most of the post was typical anti-US and anti-European stabs at each other and therefore had less reason and more emotion. Further into the thread, someone makes this post:

True story: Conversation I overheard on a Boston subway train among two American college students and a student from Somalia. That's Somalia, people. The Somalian guy was telling them about a cultural studies trip across the US that his exchange class from Somalia had taken.

Somalian Guy: So we ended up in Tulsa [OK].

Americans: TULSA! What the hell were you doing there?

Somalian Guy: I don't know, but I will never go back there. There was nothing in that place. And the country around it, it was so poor. We were driving on a road made of dirt, and it went nowhere.

One American: What did you learn about the US in Somalia? Did you think we didn't have rural areas, that it was all urban and built-up?

Somalian Guy: No, we knew there were rural areas, but we had no idea it was that bad.

Yep, that's the view from Somalia, folks.

Since this is my blog, I can be a little more critical: What?! Look, Oklahoma may be seen as backward at times by the rest of the nation (and especially us Texans), but nothing in Oklahoma compares to Somalia... anyway, what follows is my response to this lunacy and my response to the American fraidy-cat image:

Are we talking the same Somalia that was nearly starved to death in the early '90's? Also the same country that was so completely ravaged by civil war that the UN and the US had to intervene? (at times poorly I might add, but hamstrung by rules of engagement).

I doubt Somalia and Mogadishu have anything on Tulsa... seriously. I may laugh at my Oklahoma neighbors for being a little rustic at times, but nowhere in Oklahoma do I have to worry about fighting a local warlord for a scrap of bread. And yes, the GDP in OK is lower than say, Texas, but higher than every nation in Africa by a fair margin. Clearly, the Somalian was embellishing a bit.

As far as the main point, we live in a perpetual state of fear propagated by a media that is bent on creating more viewership by turning the smallest issue into a full blown end of the world crisis. Now, trans fats are being attacked as bad for you. Outside of nutritionists, who knew what a trans fat was 10-15 years ago? The media latches on to one thing, what sells. We have no national outlet for news therefore the competing interests and sometimes 'good facts' as opposed to 'true facts' of the media, meaning taking a partial truth or partial lie and spinning it as completely true. The fear is created by laziness as most of us do not have the will or want to catch up on real news, and what then is real news? Bias creeps into everything that is said and done, and we are all affected by it. If I were to say I was unbiased on an issue, I would be lying. I may not care, but that in itself is a bias toward ignorance. Apathy is as dangerous as ignorance, and history, most of the time, has borne that out.


28 December 2006

Who Said This?

What follows is a little quote quiz, but I have made it a bit easier this time. I am going to give out the answers, they just need to be matched to the quote. They are deliberately deceptive and a couple are out of character for the person they match, and a couple are in fact, buried in the blog if you so desire to search that way. For whatever reason, these struck me as odd, humorous, or perplexing, and sometimes ironic and poignant.

The Answers:
A. Napoleon Bonaparte
B. Leon Trotsky
C. Robert E. Lee
D. Dave Barry
E. George S. Patton
F. Abraham Lincoln

The Quotes:
1) 'If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there is a man on base.'

2) 'Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better.'

3) 'You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.'

4) 'To write history one must be more than a man; for the keeper of this great justiciary must be free of all preoccupation of interest... and of vanity.'

5) 'Whiskey - I like it, I always did, and that is the reason I never use it.'

6) 'It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. '

A couple of these are probably obvious, but this is certainly more a fun than serious exercise :)


27 December 2006

25 Books

In a previous post, '25 Songs' (link in the sidebar), I detailed many of the songs I quite enjoy. So, with my attention diverted to some other gaming issues, I have decided to throw out a list of some of my favorite books, not necessarily in order, but those that have affected me deeply and have helped mold some of my thinking. Some are older favorites, others are new gems. Either way, I could make this about 50 to 100, but I did not really want to make anyone numb from boredom (not that it might happen anyway :)

1) The Stand by Stephen King: I am not really a fan of King, but I love the unabridged version of The Stand (and the miniseries is not bad either).

2) Chronicles by Froissart: One of the few primary sources for the early part of the Hundred Years War. The only problem is that Froissart was more biased to toward the English and likely exaggerates some of the casualty figures, as was common in the Middle Ages.

3) In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made by Norman F. Cantor: A fantastic book that postulates some intriguing theories about the Bubonic Plague and the other outbreaks during the time of the Black Death and how the Black Death helped create the modern era.

4) Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill: This more recent book affected some of my thinking on ancient history and the philosophy of why it all matters using the context of The Iliad and The Odyssey. (It also inspired two poems, so never bad in that regard).

5) The Iliad and The Odyssey: Perhaps not surprisingly... reading the above book has
helped me understand better two of the greatest books in Western Literature.

6) The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove: Robert E. Lee gets the Ak-47 during the Wilderness campaign... time-traveling Alternate History at its best.

7) Holy War by Karen Armstrong: Though I disagree with some of her assertions, Armstrong creates an interesting portrait of the struggle for the Holy Land.

8) Timeline by Michael Crichton: I did not care for the movie, but the book was fantastic and had one of the more extensive bibliographies you will ever see for a work of fiction.

9) Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke: An older book, but a true classic of science fiction and certainly the most philosophical book of early science fiction.

10) Robots of Dawn/Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov: While I loved Foundation, I read these books first and found I was able to relate to them more. They also helped tie in the later Foundation books.

11) Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: A classic, though technologically dated, disaster book of a rogue comet striking the Earth before Meteor, Armageddon and Deep Impact.

12) We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Lt. Gen Harold Moore and Joe Galloway: A fantastic book and movie (regardless of your Mel Gibson feelings) that tells the story of the first major battle of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the soldiers on both sides.

13) Inventing the Middle Ages by Norman F. Cantor: Perhaps the seminal work on the history of Medieval History. (ie, intellectual history)

14) 12th Planet by Zechariah Sitchin- Written in the late 70's, this book proposes the ancient Sumerians knew far more about our past, and our future than we let on. Intriguing read, and he still has a strong following today, thanks to his many books.

15) Battle Cry of Freedom by James S. Mc Pherson- The finest single volume work on the War Between the States (Shelby Foote's versions are two or three volumes, I forget) and one that treats the conflict in a very fair manner. Very easy to read.

16) The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter: Simple story in some ways about the discovery of a time viewer, but complex in the area of philosophy. What one might expect from Clarke and Baxter.

17) Green Cathedrals by Philip J. Lowry: I read this before the local shrine (the Ballpark in Arlington) was built, so it is dated. Still, this book is a must for anyone interested in the history of baseball and its temples. Also has a great entry on a place in an Iowa cornfield.

18) The Albigensian Crusades by Joseph Strayer: One of the least known crusades, but one nonetheless and just as brutal as the others.

19) The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery by Richard Elliot Friedman: An intriguing look at how Yahweh's involvement in human affairs fades from Genesis to the end of the Old Testament.

20) Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance: My dad would put this at number one, he being possibly the biggest Vance fan on the planet, but I find the collection of stories and novels of the Earth near the end of time to be simply great science fiction/fantasy.

21) The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill: A book that started my own quest for the historical Jesus.

22) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: One of my favorite books in high school, and I still have a soft spot for it. Also a book that greatly influenced the way I write.

23) Wilson's Ghost by Robert S. McNamarra: Not the book on which The Fog of War is loosely based, but this one is more relative than the Vietnam experience (not to diminish that in any way). This book looks at trying to stop the trend of violence borne from the end of the Great War.

24) Let the Sea Make a Noise: A History of the North Pacific by Walter A. MacDougall: This book was one of those that told me I should really study history. After reading it, I knew that I wanted to work with history. The book is written uniquely in a story narrative told by the voices of those involved in the history of the North Pacific, then switches perspectives via date and voice. Very, very well done.

25) The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara: Technically a novel because it uses dialogue, this history of the Battle of Gettysburg (and later became the movie Gettysburg) is one of the finest, with some incredible romantic and realistic imagery of the War Between the States.

25 December 2006

A Future Promise

Hope everyone had a great Christmas. Now moving on to what I normally do :)

Oddly, it was place and not a person (or a specific person at least) that inspired the following poem. I find that the serenity of a place can do as much as any other form of inspiration, sometimes more so. And I have found, as I have gotten older, that my romanticism is just as bound to place as it is the idea of romantic/courtly love. Perhaps it is my view on the universe itself that has changed this. Anyway, what follows is the result of such a view, emotion of hope and future mixed with the ideal of place.

'A Future Promise'

The beauty of dawn long ago
would not...
compare to what I have seen.
An instant, all it took;
a connection joined between the seconds
reaching into the depths of this soul.

A world born in a universe past
could not...
bespeak the enfolding joy,
a word or two remembered
through the memory of tomorrow
waiting beyond a veil of stars.

This simple emotion meant for other days
should not...
drive into the core of my being.
A wonder beyond hope,
a saddening, frightful reminder
of this life I so long for,
resting upon that distant shore.


23 December 2006

Happy Holidays Wherever You May Be

Most of us will likely spend our holiday with family and/or friends. I have already spent some time with family, and will be tomorrow and Christmas day, so I am lucky in that regard. So, I wanted to wish everyone the best for this Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate) since this will likely be my last post until after the holiday.

In any event, I want to leave you with a short little Christmas piece I wrote some years ago when I was away from family and working, and had to work during Christmas. I was also working with some people who were also away from friends and family and I sort of had them in mind when I wrote this; however, I find it applicable to anyone that has to spend time away for whatever reason during the holidays (or time away they do not necessarily want to spend during any part of the year).


Because I cannot hold you on Christmas Day,
I block those thoughts out
Bury myself,
Working my winter away.

I know I promised to see you on Christmas Day,
Not able to return
A deadline here, finish this please,
While I remain and they have their Christmas Day.

So dreary... tired
For the best, really you will see.
For a future and perhaps no more
Working my winters away.

Because I could not hold you on Christmas Day,
I drift warily into
A short winter's nap.
Perhaps I will dream...
Dream of holding you another Christmas Day.


22 December 2006

An Untitled Blog Entry...Um, Journal Entry

This piece is a strange departure in that I wrote it without a title in mind. Nothing seemed to fit, and years later, nothing really does. As the poem evolved, starting as some ramblings in an old journal (hence the final title) in 1992 and arriving in its present state oh, in 2003 I think, I never saw anything that struck me except the sort of journal-like stream of consciousness feeling that permeates the piece. And as I have grown, so too did the poem change. Granted, I have changed since, but I am comfortable with the way the piece turned out, and am thankful that could recognize the changes I needed to make in the end. So, what this poem tells me, is that my normal formula for writing (having a title in mind, not changing much, editing sparsely unless it is a typo or grammar issue) was thrown out the window in this piece...

As for other things, I would like to wish everyone the best this holiday weekend, though I am sure I will add something before Christmas, but in case this is the last entry y'all see before then, Merry Christmas and all that polite holiday business :)

'An Untitled Journal Entry'

He reached for his armor...


A cool wind wisps through my hair
caressing me in the soft light of 'morn
A verdant canopy filters sunrise in
patterns random and radiant
leaves still fresh with moisture of nights chill
I rest against an aged oak gnarled with
The passage of days such as these

Armor? Still wearing it... constraining
Crushing at times but proper and right
Vanity? But I need the armor

Waiting watching in the cool of shadows
I know what should be... that smell
the wind shifts the harbinger of souls
that delightful presence
trying to hide hoping not again
could be... I am wrong.


A fragrance looms as burning sensation
deep within my mind
reminding wishing for days I cannot forget
Close your eyes... go away
A whisper a brush of a hand

Pulling against the helm...
holding against fear able to breathe again but wanting
not looser it feels
But I cannot lose the armor

Back from that place when I was so young
thought I had lost to you...stop...
hair like a whirlwind racing amidst
myself reaching into a soul
eyes shattering my being to the core of my heart
A kiss... remembrance

How old? without the armor...trying to pick up
gauntlets the mail but so long ago
Reaching for me but duty calls must go to war...
holding on refusing to yield

The armor falls.



dreaming once more of her
So real lying in the cool grass
filling me with life lost healing wounds
unable to mend
Shifting in the moonlight glancing at her form
Whispering three words to the air
The wind carries them
She does not hear

Armor... not even a thought or care in the
depths of passion cradled together humbled
by her spirit and wonder
Who needs armor?

Breathing in the nascent starlight
feeling her warmth against my skin
Awake and reaching for me
the moon reflecting those gems into
places thought forgotten but not even explored
A caress... somewhere a star dies
preceding a kiss

Hearts beating ignoring the scattered pieces
the curiass floating away wanting to
drift into peaceful slumber
unable to stop wondering thinking of


Warmth of dawn creeps over me
ushering my hopes to feelings of her joy
But the smell... that sensation gone
now drifting with the changing wind
warmer yet kinder
I sit and listen for awhile
Such a beautiful sound...

Armor? All that is left... within myself
no chord to strike an empty shell
waiting... waiting for its routine

I reach for my armor.


21 December 2006

Personal Sin

Not original sin, if one is a proponent of such a thing, but something just as bad, a sin against one's self. This type of sin, or evil, or what ever you would like to call it is the root cause of other applications of sin and/or evil. And one can easily say that a sin is not evil, but evil could very well be a sin. Even doing some forms of good can be a sin (as I mentioned in the post 'A Good Heart and Right Action'). Still, the type of festering that allows such failings creates an attitude that can lead a soul down a darker path. And whatever path you may call at, a soul in such a dark place recovers only with extreme difficulty, time, and on occasion, a little hope.

This all leads to a relatively new piece, which combines the world of my continuous waking dreams with this contemplation upon the path of recovery from our personal brand of sin.

'Personal Sin'

Make me a dream...

Purging this curse of memory.
Let time forget
These sins I have borne,
Their stain...
Entombed within the deepening dark
Of my soul.

Give me some respite...

Cleansing this fire of madness.
Let me forgive
All that I have known,
My choice...
Concealing such burdens beneath the well
Of my heart.

Make me a dream...

If only to sleep...
Mayhap, even forget.


Thursday Thirteen

At one point I had promised to do a comparison a la Thursday Thirteen with Star Trek. Instead of Star Trek's merits versus another series. In the spirit of community accord to list reasons why Star Trek and Star Wars are great(and why) as opposed to the 'why one is better than another'. This way I can reasonably mollify the Star Wars and Star Trek fans without injuring the other's ego... unless you happen to be fans of both. So, without much fanfare I present 13 reasons Star Wars and Star Trek are awesome:

1) The Force: 'May the Force be with you' became a pop culture phrase of good feelings in the late 70's and early 80's but now it is more philosophical as The Force has become more universal (though I disagree with midicholirans... before The Force could be present in any of us. This made Force-users more specialized).

2) Phasers: Such a cool name for a weapon, plus generally far more destructive than the common 'laser' and 'plasma' weapons.

3) Lightsabers: No explanation necessary. If you were a kid in the late 70's and early 80's you wanted a lightsaber... admit it. I still want one, but I am, as I always admit, a super-nerd.

4) 'No, Luke. I... am your father.' The greatest line in movie history, one that even shocked the ones saying it. (In rehearsal, the line had to do with Obi-Wan killing Anakin).

5) Transporters: This is an easy one. Who wouldn't want to be teleported instantly anywhere on the planet, or a planet.

6) Warp Drive/Hyperspace: Again with the technology, but trans-light speed is a necessary component (if it is possible) to colonizing the galaxy.

7) Yoda and his abuse of the English Language: Awesome this is, I tell you.

8) Droids, or Androids if you will: I prefer R2 and C3PO over Data, but pick your poison, I suppose, though Data is more of a Deus Ex Machina than the droids.

9) The Fett-Man: 'nuff said :)

10) The Boys in White (Stormtroopers): Makes any ground battle easier. Of course, their training must have gotten worse later (or the genetic material got worse). One day, killing Jedi with ease. Next day, losing to Ewoks... go figure.

11) Khaaaan!!!: One of the great Shatnerisms ever. A bit over acted, Wrath of Khan is still my favorite Trek film.

12) Borg: An enemy to fear and sometimes respect. Added a sense of woe and terror to an otherwise placid Trek universe :)

13) Massed Starship Battles and Dogfights: Especially as a kid, this was amazingly cool, even if you can't hear the sounds in space.

Well, I could probably add 13 more, but in the interest of civility, I will forgo such a thing :)


19 December 2006

Five Questions

Just a little Q and A with myself, questions I wonder about, think about, most times not aloud, lest I get accused of a variety of PC crimes... :)

Seriously, most of these are simply lame, but some are hard questions one must ask about motives and methods of those around us, how history has affected us, and how the machine of politics and media distorts our perceptions. Some are even obvious questions with some obvious, or not so obvious answers.

1) Is cultural imperialism(or social imperialism) better or worse than actual imperialism? Let's beat them with Coke and McDonalds (or democracy) instead of conquering them, or for the anti-American crowd, let's just out breed them (ah, no stopping demographics. The US and New Zealand are the only Western nations with a sustainable birth rate at the present time).

2) Should not the 'holiday' spirit be the 'year-round' spirit? Or does being a hypocrite for only 2 months of the year make you feel better about the other 10? Needless to say, I question this every year, and get no easy answers. Some people are extraordinarily generous year round, some or not. Sometimes it is financial, other times it what is expected of them. Me, I help when I can if I can, holidays aside. I just like the holidays for the extra time to spend with family and then there's the food :)

3) Would Jesus approve of Christmas? Clearly, he might not approve of what Christmas has become. But as for remembering his birth, the Jesus of History would certainly be confused since he probably expected the Kingdom of God to be at hand before his death as he was an Apocalyptic Messianic Jew... though as a Messianic Jew he might like the idea of being remembered. As for the Jesus of Faith, I am sure he would approve of the 'spirit', but would probably like it to be year round.

4) Should the media be blamed for the perception of the problems in the world? Certainly a loaded question, for I think the media has its agenda (all media outlets want their papers to be sold, their programs to be watched and listened to, so this is perhaps obvious) and wants to press it. Anyone who reads the NY Times, The Washington Post, or even The Dallas Morning News knows this. Conversely, if you watch Fox news and MSNBC, agendas are easy to read. Now, strange thing, Fox sports is sponsored by MSN, though their news outlets are diametrically opposed... never could figure that out. So, we can blame them for perception, but we have only ourselves to blame if we cannot read between the lines and understand bias and perception in the mixed up world of media.

5) Why do celebrities get accorded the status of 'celebrity' and why should we care? I think it is something that we lack in self confidence that we have to give credence to those who can do certain things better than us whether it be act, play sports, or give speeches. I mean that generally, for there are those like myself that simply give nary a care to the concept of celebrity. Now, I do respect certain actors and athletes for their work on film, stage, or on the field, but I care little about what happens in off time. And I certainly do not like hearing about it on the news, but such is the way of modern society.

Just some odd points to ponder that might or might not make sense and an example of the random things I think about during the day.


18 December 2006

Fitful and Waking Dreams

I might have mentioned certain insights into my dreams at one point or another and the simple fact I dream a lot, not daydream, though I will zone out now and then, even while doing something like blogging. I mentally multi-task a lot, and my dreams reflect that type of activity, meaning my mind has trouble slowing down, or shutting down so I can get some real sleep. The following are a couple of 'dream' related poems that touch on the good, and sometimes ill, of dreams (I also have two more related poems, but not quite, more dealing with empty hope, and I will address them another time).

Strangely, the first poem was not really a result of a dream but a hangover turned concussion. I had way too much to drink many moons ago and wound up passing out briefly on a friend's driveway. When I staggered inside and finally passed out, it turned out to be more from the bump on the head... turns out the concussion cured the hangover. Still, I woke up refreshed enough to write the first poem, which again illustrates to me the weirdness of inspiration. The second poem had something to do with me whining about love and the forms love takes in dreams... pretty traditional inspiration by comparison.

'Fitful Dreaming'

'Some see the world for what it is, and ask why. I see things that never were and ask why not.' - Robert F. Kennedy paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw

It is the fate of the fitful dreamer to forever question
For good or ill, they ponder;
Restless in slumber, tireless in vision,
But lost to tomorrow,
Sometimes forgetting today.

The fitful dreamer knows the lessons of the past;
The joys and pains they recall.
Hoping for the best, expecting the worst,
Trapped in the cycle
That is the burden of today.

What, then, is the place of the fitful dreamer?
Wanting for long ago and far away
Lingering in the ebb and flow of time,
Yearning for futures gone,
Confined to the tragedy of today.

It is the fate of the fitful dreamer to forever question,
For they can see tomorrow
When many cannot even fathom today.

'Waking Dreams'

'Tis too late for me to know,
What an end lies within my sight.
Your image continues its haunting;
You are my burden within the night.

'Tis too late for me to hope,
Movements and forms beyond tomorrow.
Lost in a cacophony of thoughts,
Becoming then an instrument of my sorrow.

'Tis too late for me to love,
For you are but a dream.
No amount of longing makes you real,
Even if real is what you seem.


17 December 2006

Playoff Nonsense

For once I'm a little happy with the way the NFL worked out today, with perhaps the exception of the Philly-NY game, but how do you choose between those teams. And who would have thought I would be happy for a Redskins win? So, due to a combination of factors, the Cowboys have cliched a spot in the Playoffs, and should they beat Philly next Monday (on Christmas Day), they win the division... so, a much better weekend than that debacle last weekend against the Saints. The rest of the season should be entertaining, or interesting, at the least. I will try and return you to less mundane matters when I can :)


15 December 2006


If you have read the comic strip 'Bloom County', you might remember this phrase uttered by one of the greatest comic characters ever, Opus the Penguin. It occurs in a Sunday strip from the early 80's if I recall. Since I have been unable to find it on the web without a paying subscription to a comic site, at least without digging a bit deeper, but it is a Friday night and I have other things to do... um, sort of. Anyway, the gist of it is a bunch of people complaining about being offended about various phrases that might be construed as 'sensitive'. In the end, the bemused Opus, amid a bunch of offended people taking offense, Opus simply proclaims in a calm demeanor, 'Offensesensitivity'. Indeed, this strip was printed before the term 'Political Correctness' was even a glint in the eye of the offensible, or for that matter, offensive. When I was nine, I found that funny, now I find it prophetic, ironic, and still funny, but I always found 'Bloom County' to be at times charming, warm, political, prophetic, sensitive and insensitive all at once, and at age nine I thought the art was pretty cool and it had a bunch of cool animals that loved to pretend they were the crew of 'Star Trek'... (photon flippers and such things :)

So, my whimsical example aside, I wonder if we are less or more sensitive than in say, the early part of the 1980's, before the world of political correctness and revisionist Disney history descended upon our not so tranquil world. The current generation probably cannot remember a time without that phrase in their vocabulary. Of course, few of the Internet generation remember a time when computers were rather utilitarian and gaming was the purview of arcades (such places are getting fewer and fewer). Maybe the world needs more penguins with a sense of humor... oh wait, Opus is still around. Some good things do not end after all.

Hmm.. what started as a possible diatribe on how we might be a little too sensitive these days has turned into a flight of whimsy and retrograde naivety... must be the holidays, or maybe another memory of holidays past.

Have a great weekend everyone.


14 December 2006

New Sidebar

I thought I would add a section that has some links to a few older posts that contain additional data to hang me with, or something to that effect. I will probably add my most recent post on Travels to this as well, since travel has been such a big part of my life... but I figure I will wait a couple of days on that. Also, I intend on adding a glossary of terms, since many who read my blog may or may not necessarily get my wide range of interests, so I thought I would clarify as best I can :)

'Til then,


13 December 2006


As promised, here is my sort-of travel article, more generally weird advice from my many wandering across this strange and wonderful world. Frankly, it is much lighter fare than the last post (though if you have an interest in Holocaust issues, do read) and other issues I have been dealing with today.

So, I have decided on a few comments in the form of a little advice for those really strange situations that always come up when traveling. I have written several travelogues and when I was in Australia last time, I kept a travel journal I updated on another site that became a series of essays on my visit and walkabout of a sort. Of course, my journey did not begin there, and my fascination with traveling begins at a very young age when we would pile into the car and visit my dad's family in Arkansas. Since then, I have managed to visit and/or drive through every state in the 'Lower 48' (that quest being completed this past summer when I finally went through North and South Carolina) and a couple of provinces in Canada. However, most of my experiences, odd or otherwise have occurred overseas, starting in 1991 with a trip to Eastern Europe and the then Soviet Union. It would not be the Soviet Union for long, as their government collapsed and was faced with a coup d'etat scant weeks after I left. The atmosphere of the post-Communism era in Europe and the almost post-Communism era in Russia was astounding. It seemed like everyone in each country I visited loved us or at least loved our dollars. I am sure the people have changed since then, having not been back, though I would not mind visiting again. Since, I was last there, Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary and Poland stayed more or less the same; the Ukraine became a nation (and was preparing to declare its independence from the USSR while I was there); and the Baltics have gone their own way. Plus, Leningrad became St. Petersburg. In fact, when I left it was Leningrad... one year later, when my Dad visited there, it was St. Petersburg.

Well, this entry is not so much a travelogue per se, so I will spare you a whole lot more detail, especially about my two trips to Australia. Let us just say I was very young (19) the first time I visited, and older (31) the second time. Needless to say, time and the political climate in the world changed my view and most others. Regardless, political climate did not alter my enjoyment of the visits.

Ok, some travel tips... my top 10 things to do/ or not do when traveling this wide and crazy world. Also, I am not going to give you obvious advice, like say, don't drink the water or always keep your passport safe. Oh no, what you will find below is either going to be incredibly useful or totally useless depending on your situation:

1) Pack Light- Some might think this belongs in the obvious section, but no... I have seen some luggage that will overwhelm the most strong willed of pursers. Seriously, in Eastern Europe, the lighter you travel the better because the trains off load quick and you need to get your luggage quickly or you might have to reclaim it in Bratislava when you are headed to Warsaw. In Australia, I found that often times bus and rail stations were not so close together, or the local hostel was a bit of a hike (on average 1 to 2 miles in some places), so traveling light in the heat of an Australian summer prevents your death from dehydration or a host of any other heat related issues. Granted, another way to deal with this is to rent a car or fly or take a cab, but those are not concerns for us mortals and backpackers.

2) The best deal in not always the best deal- This is mostly to deal with my experience with hostels, no not the ones out of Eurotrip or Hostel, rather than conventional hotels, but it is possibly my advice might apply. Just because a place is 20 dollars a night, does not mean it is worth the 20 bucks. When in Australia, I stayed at a variety of YHA's (mostly safe and comfy youth hostels), and all averaged around 20 to 25 dollars a night. Some were worth it, others were not, especially when air conditioning is a concern. Sometimes it is better to pay a little more for the creature comforts, than swelter in subtropical heat to save a few dollars. On the other hand, I stayed in a few places (the Dunsburough and Augusta, Western Australia YHA's) that were worth the money and then some. I think in the end, for me, it all averaged out.

3) Try stir-fried Kangaroo in black bean sauce- In Adelaide, I had the most marvelous birthday dinner at a Thai restaurant that served Kangaroo... yummy. I don't really recommend salt water Croc, though... a little too chewy.

4) Don't take the scenic route into Canada unless your license or license plate is from a state bordering Canada-Sounds strange, eh? But I digress, the Canadian guards were only doing their job... a couple of college students up for the day to go visit Winnipeg and decided to take the scenic rout. Instead, the border guards see our Texas plates and licenses and decide we might be smuggling drugs into the Great White North. I explained I was going to school a scant 80 miles away, but to no avail. Therefore, they wound up searching our car. Because of that lovely experience, we came back through the main crossing on I-29 in North Dakota and had no problems.

5) Do not attempt to kill the March flies- One of the many pestilences in Australia, the March fly is one of the most annoying, for it will constantly buzz you, and it bites... much like a horsefly. Indeed, aside from its aggressiveness, I am not sure how much different it is from a horsefly. The problem is, the March fly's buddies seem to know when you whack one of them, and it only makes them madder. So, kill a March fly at your peril.

6) Digital Cameras do not handle seawater and coral very well, or at all- Tell this to my digital camera, still resting at the bottom of the Coral Sea... *sigh*.

7) See the Hermitage- for our Tennessee audience, not Andrew Jackson's home (though I hear it is nice), but the museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Truly one of the great museums in the world, rivaled only by the Louvre I suspect. I have not seen the Louvre, so I cannot make that judgement, but I have it on good authority.

8) Cape Le Grande National Park- A not as well visited place, as it is some 60 miles or so from the nearest town(and about 600 miles from Perth), but well worth it for the great beaches, the sometimes friendly dolphins, and at times, the magnificent desolation. I sat on a beach at the Eastern edge of the cape for about half an hour or so before another person showed up. One of the best half hours of my life... never felt more empty and alive at the same time.

9) Travel across Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) by ferry- For Sydneysiders, they would probably say, well, sure. It's far easier to cross by ferry than via the tunnel or the Bridge... though pretty scenic across the Bridge. Trust me, the ferry is the way to go to visit the north side of the harbour and easily the best way to get to the most scenic zoo on Earth, Taronga Zoo (which is on a hillside that overlooks the harbour).

10) Finally, have fun. I know it sounds a little trite and obvious, but I have so many involved in 'whirlwind' tours not having fun when they should be. Of course, this might be difficult if you are traveling for work, but the above advice would probably not apply in that case in any event.

Hope this advice helps, for you never know when these events might occur in your travels.



I thought I would be completely depressing tonight/this morning. Actually, what prompted me to post this instead of tomorrow's entry (my take on travel advice) was the somewhat infuriating conference going on in Iran concerning 'alternative' views to the Holocaust. The conference included a keynote speech by the nuclear weapon seeking president of Iran Ahmadinejad in which he simply bashed Israel. Another fine guest of the conference was one of the South's favorite sons, David Duke. Anyway, Germany responded by hosting their own conference in Berlin that laid out as much evidence as possible to confirm the Holocaust (and Germany would know I should think).

Therefore, I thought I would post something I wrote concerning my own visit to the infamous work/death camp, Auschwitz. Birkenau, the larger death camp was destroyed by the Allies (though you can climb one of the towers and get a panoramic view of where Birkenau would have been) as the war ended, so all that remains is Auschwitz. I visited Auschwitz in the summer of 1991 as a part of my tour through Eastern Europe and I would never be the same.

A person sometimes does not know when they lost the innocence of youth, but after my visit, I knew. Sure, I had heard of the camps, even had read about them at the Holocaust museum in Dallas, but the full weight did not strike me until I stood upon the grounds of Auschwitz. Frankly, the experience was so overwhelming that I did not quite understand until later, and I have had difficulty talking, much less writing about being there. Finally, about 2 years ago, I was able to put into words my visit.


I remember...

Their deaths a statistic
Butchered out of fear.
They were made less than animals,
Judged for being born
In this ghastly, terrible place.

I hear...

Their cries of confusion
Wondering what they had done.
Herded into those rooms,
Slaughtered with cold calculation
In this frightful, horrible place.

I see...

Families torn from one another
Selected for a cruel end;
Crushed without regret.
They were mere numbers
In this maddening, nightmarish place.

I wept...

For what seemed days
Their souls calling to me;
Yearning for vindication,
Haunting me for all time.
I wept in this terrible place.

I remember...


11 December 2006

A Little Irony

I find irony to be interesting, at least from a historical and political perspective. On the other hand, I have not cared for it much in my personal life, as irony tends to not be so great when it happens to you. When it happens to others, does it then become poetic justice? I suspect if it is someone you do not like, or that person does not matter to you, but I bet it is irony to them. Anyway, that is not really the point. I was thinking of irony in general and how it has applied to history, and if anything is filled with irony it is one of my great loves: history and her bastard step-child, politics (or is it the other way around. Did history create politics or vice versa?).

I have been reading (and have almost finished) a book on the Cold War and was struck with the fact that the author is right: most of the current generation of college students were toddlers or grammar school students when the Cold War ended. I actually began college as the Cold War ended. In fact, the first courses I took were while on a trip to Eastern Europe and the USSR as the walls came tumbling down upon them, so to speak. I missed the Berlin Wall, but got to stand in Red Square while Russia was still the Soviet Union. And St. Petersburg was still Leningrad, but just barely (I wonder how many remember St. Petersburg was once Leningrad that was once Petrograd that was once St. Petersburg... and you thought Constantinople, er... Istanbul had a crazy history... funny, both cities have been celebrated in song about the same time.. wild). Ok, that was a parenthetical out of control. I suppose that is my current mind set. I need to write, so I simply do, and let it go. In the end, it is always better that way. Back to the point on the book, aside from the little ironies... and that is how the perception of our world has changed in a scant sixty years or so. Think about it, especially if you do have a little background in history. The time scale is amazing, really. To affect change in so small a time (and in our generation as well with computers and the Internet) is remarkable. This type of accellerative history began, to me, in the late 1800's with the Industrial age, especially in the US after the War Between the States. Since then, it has seemed that the world has been on one collision course after another, and one only thinks what the next one might be. Can the world continue at this almost exponential pace? In some ways I hope so, only because of my fascination with science fiction, but the historian in me remains dubious, especially since I feel myself being left behind at times. Sure, I am reasonably computer literate, but I have only a few clues about iPods and other assorted i-things, and I certainly have no ability to speak 'Net, finding that I can type longhand a whole lot faster than it takes for me to think of the possibly shorthand (with few exceptions). And texting... just talk to me, email me, or leave a comment. I do not mind hands free phones, as they remind me of comlinks/communicators, though it is weird when I hear someone talking at me, then I realize they have a wireless headset. So I suppose I look a little to the future while rejecting it some. I suppose that is always the case.

I guess the irony in all this is that I feel at times the world has raced by and the faster it moves past me, the further I want to dig into history to recant this rampant acceleration. I had always hoped I could adjust. In some ways, sure, though in others, I want to dig into a book, cut myself off from the world on a quiet beach and ruminate and reminisce of simpler time that were not as simple as we might imagine.

As I have mentioned before, I suppose I am at odds with this decade and using the tools of this decade to comment about it. Yeah, I know... ironic.


10 December 2006

Two Journeys

I had thought about being a little depressing, perhaps complaining some about the Cowboy's dreadful loss against the Saints (and I like the Saints too, so not too mortified... it could have been the Eagles or Redskins). It often happens and I had a little bit of malaise concerning some family issues, but I am determined to let it roll and instead post something that is somewhat dear to me,while still appealling to my inner nerd and those who are inner nerds, especially Star Wars fans. What follows might appeal to sci fi fans in general, but this is mostly a misty memoir about watching the Saga with my brother and other family over a span of nearly 30 years. It also chronicles my journey in relation to the movies, in a sense what I was doing and where I was going.

In the end, it is a bit sentimental and perhaps overblown and a little personal; however, Star Wars was and is a major influence in my life and explains a few things :) I wrote this piece around the time of the last film, and as the 30th anniversary approaches, I thought I would post this.

And looking back on how things have gone, I am not sure I would change things... much.

'Two Journeys'

Not so long ago,
Dreaming of galaxies far away...

So young and naive, barely a child
Reaching toward something so amazing,
Real and imagined, borne of heroes
And hope...
The triumph of good, knowing it would
Always prosper... always vanquish

Brothers and friends rebelled against
An empire of bedtimes, watching one last time,
Winning another fantastic battle, bred from
Endless summers...
We waited for another triumph, fearless
As youth can be... not understanding
What was to come.

Fathers and Sons tried to understand
How to redeem each other from their own
Fall from grace, tempered by unenviable
I held fast through the suffering, believing
As an innocent would... triumphant in survival.
Evil would not wait.

Facing adulthood, still a tad naive,
Traveling from a continent to another,
Real beyond words, torn by images
Of death...
What was good did not prosper, not in that
Cruel, terrible place... understanding
What fear really was.

So young and naive, just a child
Reaching back to a mother's love,
Warm and real, but lost hidden in a realm
Of fear...
Good had its triumphs, hoping it could still
Prosper... Evil, though,
Could wait.

Love and lovers reveled as they often do,
Spurning empires of reality, dreaming another Time,
Ecstatic in fantastic moments of desire, born
From Love's ideals...
We embraced what could not end, confident in our
Goodness... not realizing how quick
It fades.

Triumph and tragedy become such a blur,
Defined by moments, some real... others imagined,
Though still yearning for something so amazing
Yet always beyond our grasp...
Heroes and villains, darkness and light...
A choice... not understanding
The source of one's fear.

It all comes to a close...
I remember being so young and hopeful
Not so long ago,
Still dreaming of a galaxy far, far away...


08 December 2006

Do You Remember Freedom?

The whole idea of the word freedom is an interesting concept, one that I think is misunderstood at times. For some, they believe they can do anything they want regardless of the consequences. For others, they realize the gravity and responsibility of the word. Like all things, freedom comes with a price, and ours has been the sacrifices of others for us to enjoy so many privileges that are taken for granted (and I am certainly not blameless here either). Doing what I am doing right now is the result of events set in motion by those who have sacrificed for freedom. Still, it is easy to give up freedom in exchange for other things: security, comfort, employment. It has been done, and will be done again. This is the cold example of history. History also reveals that while we believe we are all born free and have the right to be free, for the majority of our minuscule existence, this was not so. Freedom is a new concept, temporally speaking, and one wonders sometimes, when my words mean so little in ages hence, if we will, or have the right to, remember.

What follows is almost a commentary wrapped in a poem, or some slightly poetic prose that is a bit of a departure in style, perhaps more free verse than I am accustomed, and certainly a lot more sarcastic than normal. I wrote it not too long ago, but many it existed in a conceptual (meaning raw) form some years earlier


At least I'm free...

Ever feel as if you're caught between right and wrong?
Or is it right and left...
The fencepost hurts.
A third way, not the way...
Republican, Democrat the only... Green!
Republican, Democrat the only way.
But it's a democracy!
Well, no. A federated republic actually.
Tired of feeling compelled to make a choice
When no choice will do?
Story of the world...
At least we have a choice at all.

At least I'm free...

Ever feel like you can't say what's on your mind?
Who to offend... why to offend...
Time to get sued!
But the First Amendment protects...
Stop it or I'll sue!
I did not harass, just said hello
That's it I'll sue!
Wonder if it is all worth it
With the power of judicial review
Judicial what? *sigh*
Want my freedom of speech!
At least if they don't sue.

At least I'm free...

Ever feel the need to question these ridiculous acts?
Is it unconstitutional, unpatriotic, treasonous
To demand removal
Of damnable laws and homeland threats?
But we need to be protected!
At what cost?
How many lives is your freedom worth?
Tired of wondering who is watching you
In those private, quiet moments...
I want freedom to live my life,
Something new in this world.

At least I'm free...

Ever feel if you're caught between right and wrong?
Knowing what you must do.
Wanting to defend the greatness of a country
From the arrogant few
Who seek more power to corrupt
To destroy... to limit freedom.
What will be the cost?
To make this place great again
What can we do?
Wonder if the struggle is worth it
With Big Brother poised to strike
Want to live free or... what?
Just want to live my life.

Hey, at least I'm free...

In two hundred years we'll all be dead...
All our words forgotten.
What, then will endure?
Perhaps a lament...
Do you remember when we were free?


Belief and Thought

I might have touched on this some in an earlier post, but briefly. What I am keen on discussing, in this post at least, is the contrast between the usage of the word 'belief' and its derivatives and the word 'thought'. I tend to say 'I think' instead of 'I believe' when discussing matters of opinion because belief implies faith (though many people will interchange belief and think and not care otherwise) more than saying 'I think' does. Even 'I feel' seems to have less of a connotation.

Now, many people have a great deal of faith and would have no problem using belief in the phrase. I do. I did not in the past, as I was surely a true believer, but not any more. Nor do I say that thought and logic rules me... truly not. Indeed, I am less rational in defending my feelings than what was once my beliefs.

Much of this goes back to my dealings with religion and the problems I have had with them, ranging from starting as a Fundamentalist Baptist (plus 12 years of Baptist School all the way through high school), then allowing myself to be taken in by Wiccan thought. In the end, while I did not reject the concept of a god or universal hand in our lives, I certainly rejected the personifications of god/goddess in all its forms. I still feel the energy of the universe and know my place in it, but do not need to worship an anthropomorphic manifestation of the universe to understand. If this understanding is served better by your worship of a humanized divine being or otherwise, then wonderful. If it gives you power in your life and makes you happy, then I am happy for you.

So, this rejection then became my decision not to believe, but to understand and to feel.. and to know. Now, some of this is similar to belief (and I do slip from time to time... hard to shake some of that programming) but the word has such power and has caused so much destruction throughout history I have rejected it. Belief is murdering people as I write this.

The question then is... 'Am I right or wrong?' I hope I am right, really. Belief has murdered as many souls as passion, probably more. Of course, if your belief is a peaceful path to understanding of the spirit and the universe, then I hope your life is blessed by it. I simply cannot use a word to describe my understanding that has so much blood on it.

'Till we all understand,


07 December 2006

Fontevraud Abbey

This post follows the last one on John of Gaunt slightly, in that he was one of the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, one of the most successful and most problematic of English dynasties. It gave England such great kings as Henry II, Edward I and III, and such fools as Richard II and Edward II, plus a couple of misunderstood ones, including Richard I, the Lion-Hearted and his brother John. This dynasty also gave England (though she would hardly like to have been associated with England) the duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor, and her lands that would be fought over until 1453, three hundred years after her lands became a part of England. Most of the early Plantagenets could not speak English (though it was in a rather primitive vernacular at the time) and really did not want much to do with the land they ruled, except to tax it (Richard I's favorite pastime besides killing) and give birth to constitutional history (Magna Carta and only then at the point of a sword). As such, they are buried at Fontevraud Abbey, near Chinon, in France. Still, these names and their history have a majesty to them that I always found alluring, so after reading a biography of Richard I, I was inspired to jot this little piece down after seeing a picture of the abbey, perhaps wanting to know what it might have been like to witness the majesty in person...

'Whispers at Fontevraud Abbey'

I hear the whispers of their lives,
emerging from these forgotten walls.

Crumbling ruins barely maintained,
Nearly a millennium gone.
Faces and forms carved in simple granite,
A quiet reminder of Bordeaux and Chinon,
that conquering family entombed within.

Tales of troubadours and crusaders
dance from their solemn repose,
Tempered by fire and sword.
They spring from the darkness,
twisted by romance and the passage of time.

Lioness and Lion, Duchess and King,
Eleanor and Richard
Still whisper at Fontevraud Abbey.


The Last Knight

I have just finished reading another excellent book, The Last Knight, by one of my favorite authors, Norman F. Cantor, professor emeritus at NYU and formerly of Princeton. He has also written one of the definitive intellectual histories of the Middle Ages, a book called Inventing the Middle Ages, and a fabulous book on plague history: In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made. Needless to say, when I saw this newer book by Dr. Cantor I had to read it, and once I got started I was rarely able to put it down. Thankfully, Cantor's books are all easy reads, as he approaches most of his books with a layman's perspective, never sounding off-putting. Of all the authors I have read on the Middle Ages, he is certainly the most approachable. His latest effort is quite approachable but does ask the reader to have a little background in Medieval History and the Hundred Years War. Still, it is not so much as he does explain the background details rather well.

The book itself concerns John of Gaunt(Ghent), founder of the Lancastrian dynasty (his son was Henry IV), and uncle to the last Plantagenet king, Richard II (deposed by Gaunt's son, Henry IV). Gaunt was one of the last great magnates of the Middle Ages, as after his death, the power begins to rest in nations and the middle classes, though only slightly so until the 1500's and really nations do not become 'nations' until the Treaty of Westphalia which ends the Thirty Years War in 1648. Still, as Gaunt passes, the seeds of the modern world, for good or ill, have been sown. One other interesting note about Gaunt, his grandson through his daughter Phillipa would help usher in the age of discovery in Portugal. Henrique never made it to the throne of Portugal, but would garner much more fame through his more well-known sobriquet as Prince Henry the Navigator who started Portugal, and the rest of Western Europe down the path of Discovery (that the Chinese had already laid out for them).


05 December 2006

To Quote Or Not To Quote

As I have mentioned before, I find the use of quotations liberating and oft times interesting. Some might not find them interesting, but that is ok with me. They have the right to be wrong. :) Ah, nothing like love and goodwill toward all, right? No, these quotes are not Christmas themed, but I was watching the end of 'Boston Legal' and it was sort of Christmas themed. In any event, what follows is a selection of the obscure, bizarre and somewhat nominal. Enjoy, if you will. If not, I will try and do better next time.

1) 'I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.' --Albert Einstein -- I have used this as a header for my War and Political Poems on another writing website... something of an epigraph, or perhaps an epitaph, depending on what the future holds.

2) 'To write history, one must be more than a man, for the keeper of this great justiciary must be free of all preoccupation of interest... or vanity.' -- Napoleon Bonaparte -- I rather like this one because of the shock factor... Napoleon, the Napoleon? I also like it since it reminds me that I need to seek objectivity in history, though it is often hard take a step back and render an objective view.

3) 'The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.' -- Kosh, Babylon 5 -- I still use this in my signature file on occasion, as this quote from my favorite TV show reminds me that sometimes events are far beyond are control regardless of our attempts to change them.

4) 'You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.' -- Leon Trotsky -- Another one that makes one think of the source. On the other hand, quite the astute observation from one who probably understood better than most.

5) 'A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.' -- George Moore, The Brook Kerith -- I always liked the romanticism in this, and sometimes it can be true... but home is what you make of it and where you decide it to be. Nice sentiments, though.

6) 'Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.' -- Charles M. Schulz -- Ah, Charlie Brown and your wisdom. I am not as much a fan of peanut butter, but I take the meaning.

7) 'I do not know what I seem to the world, but to myself I appear to have been like a boy playing upon the seashore and diverting myself now and then by finding a smoother stone or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay before me all undiscovered.' -- Sir Isaac Newton -- I know this used as my header for the blog, but I have never explained my usage of this fine quote by Sir Isaac Newton. I keep it as my header as a reminder that if a man like Newton can be that humble before knowledge, then I know I have much, much to learn.

8) 'Inter Arma Silent Leges.'/'In times of war, all laws are silent.' -- I originally read this in a book called All the Laws but One about the removal of civil rights in wartime. (specifically the suspension of Habeus Corpus) Most interesting read, and the discussions were, well, intense.

9) 'Poets are mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese' -- G.K. Chesterton -- As a poet, I thought this was pretty silent... and I am still silent on the whole cheese issue.

10) 'Talk not of ruling in this dolorious gloom,
Nor think vain words can ease my doom.
Rather I'd choose laboriously to bear
A weight of woes, and breathe the vital air,
A slave to some poor hind that toils for bread,
Than reign the sceptred monarch of the dead.'
-- Achilles, The Odyssey

-- I have used a portion of this quote before in my poem, 'The Ferryman', but it is not the Alexander Pope version of The Odyssey. I read a portion of this recently in a new history of the Trojan war, and really liked its elegance. And it is an interesting take on our own mortality.

That should do it here, and I hope I have not bored away most of my audience.


At Odds With This Decade

note: just one odd thing before I begin, was it just me or was Fox being a little misleading, advertising a new 'House', then hitting us with a 1st season repeat... a good one at least (the origin of his condition), but still misleading... ah, well at least 'Boston Legal' is new :)

This is something of a two-parter only in the fact it is the first post of the evening. The next post, having to do with my quotation obsession has nothing to do with this, unless collecting quotes is at odds with the i-generation. Anyway,we have hit the halfway point of the decade (more than halfway if you cannot add and consider 2000 the starting point of this decade) and I wonder if it has an identity? What will it be called? How will it be remembered? (I rather like my i-generation jab, but the i's or the i-decade sounds a little off). When we reach the teens, what will the media (since their opinion is what really matters) make us think about the Ought's? The One's? A decade of War and Insurgency? A decade of Technology Rampant?

It always makes me wonder if the only thing this decade will be remembered for is rising oil costs and terrorism. It is probably well that those things should be remembered, but consider the technological changes of this decade. Look at a new car in 2006 vs. a new car in 2001. The new gps systems in most new cars and other technological improvements have been stunning, and who had really heard of a hybrid car before 2001? (Ok, I admit, I knew they were coming, but did not think I would actually drive one for awhile). Look at internet usage and cell phone saturation. Amazing to think that some countries in Europe are over 90 percent saturation. (Finland is near 100% and I hear babies are just implanted with cell phones by Nokia :) Now, in the US, it is not so high, but that day is coming. Everyone seems to have a cell phone, and most everyone I know has high speed internet (all but one of my friends and most of my family). Five years ago, many of my friends had high speed, but myself and more than a few others I knew had dial up. And as far as cell phones, everyone I know has one... 5 years ago, it was about 60 percent (5 years before that, about 20 percent).

Of course, is all this technology rampant good for us? Some of it is, making information flow easier, but sometimes its nice to not have so much information at ones fingertips. Researching in a musty library, reading a book or two, does not hurt at all. Now, we have Wikipedia and the like, which is not always right, to give us information about anything at all. The problem lies not in the fact that such things exist. It is that it makes us lazy and engenders plagiarism (as many professors can attest). I have seen(and participated in) many a discussion about academic integrity, and how professors are to be made accountable for what they say and do. To me, how the Internet has given students a way to circumvent good old fashioned work is galling, and is at the heart of academic integrity. The failing is that many do not notice... or, as has become more commonplace... do not care. And I not just in academia. Apathy is quite the disease now. I know of far too many people that could not be bothered to do much of anything. They do the one thing they are interested in, and eschew any other interest or responsibility so they can do more of their one thing (which is usually a form of online game or other related crack). On the other hand, I help friends make money off of obsessive interests. The irony, of course, is not lost on me.

Well, I suppose I have wondered, waffled and roamed tangential, as I tend not to focus on too many things at once. Perhaps that is why I am at odds with this decade... I have a such a wide variety of interests in a decade of apathetic focus (strange oxymoron, but that is the best way for me to describe it), it frustrates me a little bit. Now, I have been accused of being obsessive, except after observing those I know in their behavior, I realize I actually am not. So, whether for good or ill, that is how I am. And likewise for this decade I guess.


04 December 2006

TV Game Shows

Another list so it must be a 'Tell It To Me Tuesday' over at http://www.theartofgettingby.com/ I've watched far too many game shows in the past and present, mostly because I have felt I could beat the pants of most of the people on those shows. Modesty aside, here a few that I love for intellectual and sentimental reasons:

1) Jeopardy: My favorite of all time. The last time I was in LA, I wanted to audition, but they had closed them for the time being. Missed my shot at Ken Jennings, and yes, I think I could beat him and the guy that beat Jennings. Jeopardy appeals to my inner nerd and on the right day with the right categories, I could make quite a run (so long as I did not get 18th century opera or East Asian literature :)

2) The Price is Right: I always loved this show because I watched so much as a kid at my grandmothers house, and Bob Barker was always one of the best hosts on TV. The price games were always entertaining too.

3) Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: I thought this show was nominally too easy and probably should audition for it if given the chance. C'mon... multiple choice? Bah. The same goes for 1 vs. 100, perhaps the easiest money on television.

4) Deal or No Deal: I enjoy this mostly because I like to watch people completely ignore the odds for the sake of greed... and, are they ever going to get any calm people on this show?

5) Wheel of Fish...um, I mean Fortune: (if you have seen 'UHF' you understand) I like the puzzle quality to this show, and this show has had some staying power offering some complexity combined with luck (which means 'Deal or No Deal' could be on forever :)

That, as they say, is that and thanks for playing.


Winter's Tears

Now that winter has arrived (at least in spirit even though we technically have 17 more days), I can finally add this piece, which started, long ago (about 12 years actually) in a completely different direction and style. The original poem was more stream of consciousness and free verse, but the final form actually rhymes and has a consistent imagery. In the end, I like this one better, if only because it takes a personal experience and makes it more universal.

'Winter's Tears'

"Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been'". --- John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller

Tell me.

Lost in the silent cold
Replaying her words in my mind,
I struggle for emotion
A voice I have not the strength to find.

I cannot.

Enfolded in a blanket of night
Frost forming within my heart,
I long to seek courage
Only one thing keeps us apart.

Tell me.

Awakened in the mournful dawn
Drifting through the frozen day,
I wait for an answer
Except she has nothing to say

Tell me.

Yet I cannot.

Her lips brush against my cheek
Cold from a deep despair,
Only wanted those words
Warmth I could not share.

Tell me.

Her pain haunts me in the bitter twilight
Nothing left to say,
A tear wells in my eye
And falls far, so far away.


01 December 2006

Listening To The Band

Not a music post, but one dealing with the great pandemic of our time: AIDS. As today is Worlds AIDS day, I thought I would add this poem I wrote a couple of years back. I was inspired in part by one of my favorite books: In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made by Norman F. Cantor and the fantastic movie about the early struggle with AIDS: And the Band Played On. In this piece I make allusions and comparisons to the Black Plague (which was probably two diseases: Bubonic Plague and Anthrax, hence the two forms of the Plague) and AIDS, not in the similarities of the diseases themselves, but the idea of the pandemic that can change the world, especially if public awareness slips. In the case of the Plague, its mere existence changed the world and helped shape the modern world. I am not sure what kind of world AIDS will shape when it is all said and done, but if we continue to pay lip service to a very real pandemic, there might not be enough of us left to pay lip service. Also, AIDS has a tendency to mutate, like many viruses, and perhaps something worse will come about if AIDS is not stopped, or at the least contained.

'Listening to the Band'

Smooth notes distracting,
Danse Macabre reaping,
Broken hearts weeping,
Another soul contracting,
Plague biding its time.

Blood pathogens corroding,
Red ribbons hiding,
No longer siding,
Public support eroding,
Death enjoying its time.

Third world inciting,
This problem denying,
Nations against trying,
Instead keeps fighting,
Compassion wasting its time.

Talking heads braying,
About life saving,
Vaccine effects staving,
Doctors are praying,
Hope buying more time.

Jagged fear returning,
Band still waiting,
Good feelings abating,
Pandemic tide turning,
Who's listening this time?

Smooth notes distracting,
Danse Macabre reaping,
Another soul weeping,
Plague keeps reacting,
Death listening this time.


30 November 2006

The Unconditional Path To A New Self

Wow, that title sounds like I should be writing a self-help book or should be asking for donations so that we can build a spaceship and ride a moonbeam to Vega...

The journey of the soul since its inception has been one of trials and joy, mostly trials, for that is the inherent nature of our lives. These trials are supposed to make us stronger and prepare us for the next one. Often times, it is not the case, and more often than not these days, as we do have a tendency to blame our failings on others. And by others, I do not necessarily mean other people (though they do top the list), but I also mean governments, institutions, and conditions. As it turns out, governments and institutions are comprised of people and they create conditions, so maybe I do mean other people. In any event, it seems that many of us cast blame upon these things, especially their conditions, whether real or not, treatable or not, or simply a good excuse and great party story. Now, I do not mean diminish or denigrate anyone with a condition that cannot be helped. What I mean is a general attitude of letting others take the fall for our own inability to struggle and prevail. Life is a mess, one filled with our mistakes and ones that others make for us and against us. Therefore, we have to understand this when we are on a path to understanding the self. We have to understand the inherent darkness and inherent light in us all.

For my part, I had been unable to for many years. I blamed my failings on my parents, my friends, my lovers, and conditions. I refused to look inward and cast any of the blame upon myself. Quite natural, I have noticed... at least in late 20th-early 21st century Western cultures. Some of it is politics. We see politicians cast blame and think we can do the same. We see corporations blame us for not spending enough money or for causing them to embezzle, so we blame them in return for economic reasons. We litigate, we harass, we hurt and we destroy. I embraced this way of thinking, and in doing so, hurt myself terribly as much as I hurt others. And that is one of the conundrums of this way of thinking. In the end, we hurt ourselves in hurting others. Unless, of course, you have no conscience. Only after I had done so much damage in my life and to others, did I even begin to comprehend what I was doing. And it took a long, long look into the darkest parts of my soul to see what I could do to change.

Even after climbing out of the abyss I found myself in, I wanted to use my condition as a crutch until I created a new path, an unconditional path to a new self, one that simplified the way I thought of myself and yet at the same time created (for me at least) a more complex but more rewarding view of the universe. This new path did not come easy, as few things do. I went on walkabout, literally and metaphorically, casting aside all I that I owed and knew and went for a walk. I kept walking until I could meet myself again and once that happened I understood. What I personally understood was only meant for me, but I did begin to understand what the universe at large meant and what I was doing to help myself and others... which was not much, really. Still, I did begin to understand that I could only blame myself for my past actions, my present condition, and my future. This has led to a most enlightening journey these past two years (almost 3 now) since I left Australia. Indeed, I did not really completely absorb the lessons of that journey until about a year later, when I started seeing my writings and journey as a whole, seeing my life as it should have been, as I want it to be. In life, in love, in friendship, the choice is now mine and mine completely, with no blame or guilt for others. I admit, I still think of the what might have beens and missed opportunities of life, but as one who love history, discussing what might have beens is only natural, and thinking of those things can help one learn for the future and continue to journey upon their chosen path.

For most of my life, I let conditions and burdens consume me and such trials altered where I should have gone and what I should have done. Regret? Of course. To say otherwise would be a lie, but one can move past such laments and regrets and say goodbye to a life that was made more of a burden than it should have been. My life is simpler now, one that does not need validation from others or a condition to define it, or to cast blame upon it.

Everything I have done has led to this moment... until the next one. It really does not get much simpler, or more complex, depending on your point of view :)

Have a safe weekend everyone.