Saturday, May 20, 2006
Out in the Garden is a delightful book by Dean Riddle that first convinced me that I, too, could be a gardener. And that it was a task worth taking on.
I just came in from my tiny, unimpressive, needs-tons-of-work suburban Virginia garden. (It's funny how, in America, we say "yard" where the Brits would say "garden." Ground Force, in addition to providing endless hours of porn in the form of Tommy, (about whom I feel the way the comic strip Cathy's mother felt about Prince Charles on his wedding to Di: "He never even got to meet you!") Tommy, if you ever tire of Mrs. Walsh, those children, the Cockney part of London, ok, my father's family were Cockneys while the Walshes were still living in Wales, but, you know what I mean . . . ) also helped to convince me that gardening wasn't too serious an endeavor for me to mount. Pun intended)). I pulled weeds from the herb bed, esp. the section devoted to dill. By mistake, I pulled up a tender dill seedling along w/ the weeds and grass. I ate it. it tasted fresh and green and the way that I imagine Spring in Sweden (the land of my peeps) must taste -- forget the Wild Strawberries, Ingmar. (Do you do this too? Do you free-associate all the way through your garden? If you do, I'd love to hear about it, either in comments here or via email!)
I stuck my nose deep into the tiny, pink old fashioned roses that the people who were here before me planted outside the screen porch. It's enough to say that I'm not a huge rose fan, (rose bushes look gorgeous for about three weeks out of the year and, for the other 49 weeks, not so much). But the smell of a rose does amazing things to a human. At first, my thought, nose buried deep in the rose, ass pointed high in the air, was that smelling a rose takes us to a different place. But then, I thought, "No, not really. It takes us to Earth." We live too little of our lives here on Earth and too much of our lives on tv, on the internet, in our heads. Smelling a rose brings us back to Earth.
T. Thorn Coyle is big on reminding us of this: we are EMBODIED consciousness, at least for this time around, this life, this attempt to become who we really are. We are spiritual to the extent that we are able to connect our bodies, our minds, and that ineffable something else that the xians call soul. I remember this best in the garden, fingers dirty, nose in a plant's sex organ, dill leaves on my tongue, sun reaching past me to have the most amazing sexual congress with the green leaves that make food from the sun.
Thriving. For me, it happens out in the garden. Where does it happen for you? How will you make it happen, how will you keep on making it happen under the Bush (was any man ever more incongrously named?) coup? Does it happen for you at all?
I'm going to go plant moonflower seeds (I bought some more, since the last packet had so few) around the foot of my deciduous magnolia and see if they'll balance the leaves of GWPDA's black iris for the rest of the summer. And attract the hummingbirds. Then I'm going to sit under the Green Man wind chimes that my gorgeous friend Kathy gave me and see what the wind can say to me today.
Go here and listen to Stephanie Miller's interview w/ a very hip, very funny John Kerry. Kerry "gets" so much -- he gets that we need to quit cutting taxes on America's wealthiest citizens while borrowing money and shipping manufacturing jobs oversees. He gets that we need a real, comprehensive energy policy -- yesterday.
But how he can still defend his vote to give Bush authority to use force in Iraq is beyond me. He says now that he regrets the vote because Bush broke his word to Congress to use force only as a last resort to enforce inspections. Well, John, what possible reason did you have to trust George Bush even back then? Come on. You just can't be that naive.
And how can he say that his only mistake in response to the SwiftBoaters was not having enough money? John, you were one of the best-funded Democratic candidates in history. If you didn't have enough money, no one's going to. The problem wasn't money. The problem was spending the money you did have on Bob Shrum and shit consultants who told you to ignore Karl Rove's attacks -- a strategy others have tried and that has NEVER WORKED EVEN ONCE.
And how can Big John still not get it about election fraud? John, they stole the election from you. Miller does a good job of trying to hold his feet to the fire on this one. Finally, he says, well states will legislate paper ballots even if the feds won't and hopefully we'll win back one House or the other this fall. John, that's not a plan. I guarandamntee you Ohio and Florida won't institute paper ballots and Ohio and Florida have selected George Bush twice over the will of the rest of the country. I know that I sound like a broken record (butcha are Hec, butcha are!) but until the Democrats decide to throw everything they've got -- and I mean everything -- at electing the Secretaries of State in Ohio and Florida, they might as well not bother running anyone for President.
So here's a smart, hip, personable, funny guy, the kind of guy I'd love to hang out with and have an elitist glass of pinot noir, a guy who would move America forward, a guy you can see beginning to repair the damage done to our image abroad, not least because most world leaders would probably also enjoy having an glass of elitist pinot with him, a guy who desperately wants to be president. In short, he'd be a great president. But he's not going to get that chance because he still has the huge blind spot all the Democrats seem to have concerning what's happened to electoral politics in America. John, more money isn't the answer and the fact that you think it is scares and depresses the bejebuz out of me.
Thanks to cs, art is bread at Eschaton for the tip.
Friday, May 19, 2006
When I was a little girl and my mother needed to do something nice for herself, she'd buy herself a hat. Ladies don't these days, as a rule, wear hats -- more's the pity -- so when I feel that need, I buy myself a Hermes scarf. (I'm not saying how many I have, although my son occasionally asks me; that's a secret known only to my brilliant friend Elizabeth, who helped me set up a database to catalog them.)
So, last night Elizabeth and I went to the invitation-only party for the grand re-opening of the Hermes store in Tyson's Corner. Tres impressionnant.
Hot air balloon in the trademark Hermes orange. Gorgeous black Clydesdale paraded through the store accompanied by chic young girls in jodhpurs and boots. Massive bouquets of white peonies that smelled so much like honey you kept expecting a beekeeper to show up. Attendants at the valet parking who were, shall we say, pretty-pretty boys avec accents franÃ§ais who surely have never done valet parking duty ever before in their young lives.
Nice people passing trays of champagne and nibbles. E and I tried the steak tartare, which was being served, as so many appetizers and desserts are these days, on spoons -- automatic portion control. But it was very nice, just the right amount of spice to go with the steak. There was a gorgeous, huge, black Kelly bag that I looked at the way Jimmy Carter admitted to having looked at some women -- with lust in my heart. E and I perused the scarf counter and then had a lot of fun noting really big hair, really big boob jobs, and really bad plastic surgery. Speaking of which, the only semi-celebrity we saw was Andrea Mitchell, wearing a rather mud-colored Roccaille shawl.
We headed across the courtyard and had dinner at Colvin Run Tavern. We split the pate appetizer and E had lamb while I had flounder stuffed w/ crab, shrimp, tasso, and asparagus. Then we split the cheese tray. The food was amazing; the service pretty so-so and not nearly as nice as I've had the other times that I've been there. Colvin people, here's a clue, if you no longer carry Six Grape Port, don't suggest Six Grape Port.
So, I know, I know. There's a hole in the ozone, the world's a mess, there are wars and famines and diseases and all kinds of problems demanding our attention. But by now you know that I think we were put her to thrive, not just to survive. And once in a while, you have to put it all behind you and enjoy yourself. Now, go buy a scarf.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
BBC reports that, "New York has announced plans to expand free wireless internet connections into Central Park and other public places across the city. Officials estimate that the new system will be up and running by the summer and will attract thousands of outdoor computer users." BBC notes that, " For the ever growing number of on-the-move New Yorkers addicted to laptops and PDAs, this is good news. Many have grown used to paying for wi-fi connections in New York's cafes. Now, though, they will be able to log on outdoors and for free. . . . It is all paid for by corporate sponsorship and may be the blueprint for even more ambitious projects in locations including Philadelphia, which aim to eventually offer free wireless access not just in public spaces but across entire American cities."
Love the idea of free wireless available everywhere.
Via Witchvox, here's a very good editorial from the Portsmouth Herlad concerning the snit some xians have managed to work themselves into concerning the upcoming movie version of the DaVinci Code, a book that was really nothing more than a moderately entertaining potboiler mystery.
The editorial notes that, "Various Christian organizations have planned protests at theaters that will begin showing the movie, which is based on a book written by Rye Beach resident Dan Brown, tomorrow night." After noting that the DaVinci Code may, in fact, spur some people to investigate religious ideas, the editorial concludes, "However, many of these leaders are so outraged that such a book could be published, much less made into a movie for mass consumption, that they are missing the educational opportunities inherent in the discussion.
They are using words like 'heresy and 'blasphemy' - those ancient calls to arms that struck fear into Christians during the dark days of the Inquisition and witch trials, to limit the number of followers who will even consider reading or seeing what Brown has to say.
But these are not the Dark Ages. The light of intellectual inquiry burns bright and for the truly religious, whatever is revealed by that light will not detract from the beacon of faith that lies in their hearts.
It is only the irrational actions of self-protective church leaders who profess to be the only ones capable of seeing truth that can dim that beacon."
I think that's about right. I'll just add that the ONLY thing that could induce me to go see the movie would be the chance to piss off some fundi whack-jobs who think that they get to tell the rest of us what we can and can't read, watch, discuss, etc.
Here's a very good idea from People for the American Way:
I wrote you on Monday urging you to call your senators – often – until they stood up to the Bush administration’s troubling violations of our privacy rights. You certainly took the ball and ran with it. We have call reports pouring in on your conversations with Senate staff and they are encouraging.
Not only did many of you give your elected officials a piece of your mind, it sounds like many senators are listening more closely than they were when the week began. Judging from the call reports as they came in, staffers for the senators appeared increasingly overwhelmed and increasingly willing to note that their senators understood the public outcry and had concerns themselves.
Sustained input is powerful – and invigorating. Keep the calls coming. Give those on the fence an extra push, and encourage those already on the right path. If you haven’t called, pick a time today to dial your senators and let them know:
• vote NO on any legislative ‘fixes’ that would whitewash the executive branch’s illegal eavesdropping,
• support proposals to cut off spending for illegal surveillance, and
• support a full investigation of the NSA’s domestic wiretapping and its massive database of phone records, including the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121"
I figure if they're going to track our calls anyway we might as well make some calls to bitch about it.
BBC has a fascinating report on smart meters. A smart meter is a device that shows the consumer, possibly even remotely via the internet, how much energy her appliances are using and what it's costing. They have, as BBC reports, the potential to save not only money for the consumer, but a huge amount of energy. In turn, that's very good for the environment.
Most consumers are unaware, because they don't have any way to tell, that the electrons they use at, say 3:00 in the afternoon are usually much more expensive than, say, the same number of electrons used at 3:00 in the morning. This is because at 3:00 in the morning, there's not as much demand -- fewer people are running computers, hair dryers, diswashers, etc. So electric companies shut down the plants that cost the most to run (due to, for example, fuel type or emissions costs) and run their cheaper, baseload, plants, likely nuclear, wind, hydro, etc. As more people wake up and start to use their toasters, electric coffee pots, computers, etc., the electric companies begin running their more expensive plants. But that simply doesn't show up at all in the electric bills that consumers receive, nor do current meters show this information to consumers. Similarly, consumers are often unaware of how much money they could save by, for example, unplugging their tvs when they turn them "off" or by setting their refrigerator a degree or two higher. A smart meter can provide this sort of information.
As BBC notes, there are some implementation issues that need to be worked out, but I think smart meters have a lot of potential. Instead of giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, it's too bad the US government isn't giving a dollar-for-dollar tax break to electric companies to install smart meters in every home in America.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
BBC reports that "Ecuadorean oil officials cancelled Occidental Petroleum's operating contract after a long-running dispute." This follows Bolivia's nationalization of foreign energy companies and the imposition of hefty extraction taxes upon oil companies in Venezuela. There's something very interesting going on in South America, although Bush is too obsessed with the Middle East to notice.
For years, the conventional wisdom has been that countries couldn't nationalize assets because it would scare off investors. No one would, for example, build natural gas pipelines or oil wells if they worried that, once built, they'd be seized by the state. There may still be some wisdom to that, but I'm not sure that it's the hard-and-fast rule that it was once thought to be. Once a company recovers its investment and makes some profit, nationalization may be disappointing, but not necessarily disappointing enough to stop all future investment. Occidental Petroleum invested money in Ecuador. It made a large profit in Ecuador. Why wouldn't it invest again just because that profit was finite?
As I've noted before, I think that, over the next fifty years or so, oil and natural gas assets will have to be nationalized. Carbon-based resources are too scarce and the demand for them is too high to allow private investors to reap the windfalls that are already beginning to occur. Perhaps by the time we overthrow the Bush Coup, our neighbors to the South will have a history of energy asset nationalization that we can learn from.
BBC reports that a "fabled tropical ice field in Africa could disappear in two decades because of climate change, a study says." The article continues, "The Rwenzori Mountains straddle the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. They are home to one of four remaining tropical ice fields outside the Andes and are renowned for their spectacular and rare plant and animal life."
But what makes this more than just another in such a long stream of melting-ice stories that many of us have become, you should excuse the expression, numb to them is that this particular ice field truly is fabled. As BBC explains, "Their legendary status may stretch back to a reference by the 2nd Century AD Greek geographer Ptolemy, who wrote of snow-capped equatorial peaks that fed the Nile: 'The Mountains of the Moon whose snows feed the lakes, sources of the Nile'.
Some researchers think conceptual maps prepared by Ptolemy are a good fit for the Rwenzori, which feeds Lake Albert, which in turn feeds the White Nile."
Ptolemy. These ice fields were mapped and described by Ptolemy. They'll be gone in a few decades at this rate. It makes me very sad.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Dictionary.com tells us that a coup is a sudden and decisive change of government illegally or by force. Synonyms include coup d'etat, putsch, and takeover.
A group of corporatists and neocons, using fundies as dupes, desperate that their attempt to seize power by impeaching Bill Clinton had failed, stole the 2000 election and the 2004 election. George Bush is just their puppet, the purportedly likeable cowboy that they used as a front man for their coup.
The difference between the American coup and, for example, a South American or African coup was that, in America, the might of the Supreme Court, rather than the might of the Army, was used to effect the coup. Like a skilled pickpocket, the corporatists and neocons stole power in plain sight. Unable to believe its eyes, America pretended that there had been no coup.
But that doesn't change reality. It doesn't make those in power today any less guilty of a coup. Nor does it change the fact that the tools we'd normally use in a democracy to effect a change of leadership won't work when dealing with a group that steals elections and engages in all the illegal acts against American citizens (warrantless spying, detention w/o charges or access to a lawyer, free-speech zones, arrest of those wearing t-shirts that could displease the emperor, leaking state secrets to smear opponents, lying us into a war where they've (via Haliburton) stolen millions of dollars and killed thousands of innocents, etc., etc., etc.) that this group of fascists are eager to perform.
The Democrats must quit pretending that we are dealing with honest opponents in a fair election. They must quit pretending that, if the rank and file will just donate enough money to fill the pockets of the right consultants, we can take our government back. Those tactics work if the other side doesn't get to "count" the votes in a darkened back room. They won't work in the American Interregnum, as I think this era will come to be known, because the other side steals elections.
So what is the answer? I don't believe in giving up. So the first thing the Democrats must do is begin to call the current administration what it is -- a fascist coup. They must begin to acknowledge what we're up against and quit living in the pretend world that they wish we still inhabited. They need to begin, loudly, announcing that the Republicans have stolen and will continue to steal elections. Will the press scoff? Yes, loudly at first. Democrats will be called poor losers, shrill, and insane, and will be accused of undermining our democracy (remember these people project like a metroplex). That can't stop us. The Democrats need to present evidence to back up the claim and they need to keep making the claim. They need to announce that the Republicans plan to steal the election this fall and state how they expect the heist will be pulled off. When the Republicans steal the November election, the Democrats need to call for, and we need to be ready for, massive civil disobedience. Let's not wait until November 8th to start organizing.
It's a coup. The first step towards replacing it and restoring American democracy is acknowledging what it is and naming it. There's power in naming.
Monday, May 15, 2006
May the Goddess Guard Him. May He Find His Way To The Summerlands. May His Friends And Family Know Peace
Former poet laureate Stanley Kunitz died at 100, asleep in his bed. The AP reports that, "In some ways, he maintained a quiet, contemplative life, working for hours at night on an old manual typewriter, and by day nurturing his beloved garden in Provincetown, Mass. But he also helped found two writing centers and was a self-described pacifist who was a conscientious objector in World War II, opposed the Vietnam War and criticized the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
'He was very outgoing, very cheerful, very funny, very interested in you and the others in the room,' said fellow poet Galway Kinnell. 'You could say that most of the American poets younger than he was tended to look up to him as their guide, their leader, their surrogate father.
'Of course,' Kinnell added with a laugh, 'after a while, all the poets were younger poets.'
Shortly before his 100th birthday, "The Wild Braid" was published, featuring poems, photographs of Kunitz in his garden and his reflections on gardening, art and the end of life. 'Death is absolutely essential for the survival of life itself on the planet,' he said, explaining his acceptance of mortality. 'It would become full of old wrecks, dominating the population.'"
He loved two of the things that I love: poetry and gardening. Here's one of my favorite poems of his:
The Long Boat
When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.
From The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz with Genine Lentine, W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.
You know, if you can spend a hundred years writing amazing poems and gardening, die in your sleep, and have Galway Kinnell eulogize you -- well, I think that's about as good as it gets.
Having just been there for the second weekend of the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival, I answer with a resounding yes. The sad thing is I was able to say the same while I was there.
Although I am a frequent visitor to The City That Care Forgot, I am pretty claustrophobic in crowds, so this was my first visit for any of the big festivals (New Year’s, Carnival/Lundi and Mardi Gras, Convergence, French Quarter Fest, Satchmo SummerFest, Southern Decadence). Jazz Fest was incredibly well-run. According to other attendees, the crowd was typical of other years. The music was fantastic, the food and drinks were ample and delicious (I’m now hooked on pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo), and I don’t think I ever waited in line for anything (food, beverages, the shuttle, the bathroom) for more than 10 minutes.
Many of my favorite places to eat, drink, shop and hear music – Galatorie’s, Irene’s Cuisine, Acme Oyster House, Dickie Brennan’s, Desire Oyster Bar, Fiorella’s, Court of Two Sisters, Marigny Brasserie, Johnny White’s, Violet’s, Fleur de Paris, Riverstone Galleries, Trashy Diva, Fifi Mahoney’s, Tipitina’s, Rock n’ Bowl, Blue Nile, Snug Harbor, Donna’s – were open and going strong. Many more places that haven’t re-opened yet are set to within the next month, in conjunction with the planned re-opening of the
The first weekend featured most of the big names, while the second weekend featured largely local talent, many of whom came home and are still displaced in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It was a cathartic event for the many, many locals who attended and performed, topped off by Antoine “Fats” Domino’s appearance at the concluding concert Sunday night. Ill and unable to perform, Fats left the hospital to come give his best wishes to all the festival-goers, and to thank us for contributing to reviving the city.
Aside from a few pockets, the city is a shambles. The French Quarter, which is all many tourists see, is about 2/3 back, with many of the remaining closed businesses due to re-open within the next month. The Garden District is in fine shape, with the high-end boutiques along
I stayed in the Central Business District. The hotel I usually stay in has not re-opened, despite the building sustaining no significant damage. (I’ve already composed an angry letter to the corporation that runs the chain.) Many of the buildings in the CBD demonstrate minor damage, but what’s even more worrisome is the volume of “commercial space for lease” signs.
The rest of the city is even worse. Driving up
Driving to and from the Fairgrounds, one goes past empty neighborhood after empty neighborhood, deserted houses often slid off their foundations, the ghoulish FEMA marks indicating how many bodies, human and animal, were found there. Although there are small pockets of people in most places, the overwhelming majority of houses and businesses are dark and silent. Every highway ramp and overpass parking area is full of flooded vehicles, towed there and abandoned.
The first time I saw the
I was constantly amazed at the ignorance of many of the non-residents I encountered. Fest goers didn’t recognize the
But the ugliest thing is our political “leaders,” who can’t even be bothered to force the insurance companies to pay up (which would cost the government NOTHING), so that people can go on with their lives. Nor can they be bothered to reign in the Army Corps of Engineers for causing the whole disaster with their decades ass-backwards pork barrel water “management” projects. Nor can they be bothered to pull their heads out of their tax-cutting asses long enough to actually RAISE taxes to go DIRECTLY to
Interacting with locals, my most common question was: “What can I do to help?” The answer, invariably (in a town whose primary industry is tourism), was come visit, spend money, come back, and encourage others to come. Despite the many problems the city still faces – loss of residents, loss of neighborhoods, bankruptcy, massive infrastructure problems – it is still
Do you know what it means to miss New
I miss it both night and day
I know that it's wrong... this feeling's gettin' stronger
The longer, I stay away
Miss them moss covered vines...the tall sugar pines
Where mockin' birds used to sing
And I'd like to see that lazy
The moonlight on the bayou.......a Creole tune.... that fills the air
I dream... of Magnolias in bloom...and soon I'm wishin' that you were there
Do you know what it means to miss New
And that's where I left my heart
And there's something more...I miss the one I care for
More than I miss
AFTER THE FALL - EP - complete!
I just finished recording, arranging and producing a powerful little collection of songs - I hope you will buy one, listen to it, love it, be inspired, tell a friend, and spread the good word. The EP opens with an emotional piano/vocal performance of "After The Fall", recorded live in New York City. The next two tracks, "Not Your Landscape" and "Wolf" were produced at Delphi 23 Studio in Williamsburg, adding strings, guitar, percussion, and synth effects to underscore their message of warning - you'll be singing along with their infectious hooks. "January Mourning" is a hauntingly beautiful acoustic piece about letting go, and "Fight or Flight" closes the collection with a dramatic call to action.
Rick Tippett of The Washington Post says "Very impressive...as always, what surfaces in (Clarke's) music is passion and soul." All songs touch on themes of love, loss, passion and pride, and they rock!
ITunes & PayPal coming soon - for now, please email me your mailing address in order to purchase a CD:
I will happily mail one to you along with some good karma--->firstname.lastname@example.org
AFTER THE FALL - EP
Release May 1 2006
All Selections ASCAP
1. After The Fall (Live in NY)
2. Not Your Landscape
4. January Mourning
5. Fight or Flight
All tracks (c) Amy Clarke & ScorpFaery Productions
Sunday, May 14, 2006
How many demands the beloved can make!
The woman discarded, none.
How glad I am that today the water
Under the colorless ice is motionless.
And I stand -- Christ help me! --
On this shroud that is brittle and bright,
But save my letters
So that our descendants can decide,
So that you, courageous and wise,
Will be seen by them with greater clarity.
Perhaps we may leave some gaps
In your glorious biography?
Too sweet is earthly drink,
Too tight the nets of love.
Sometime let the children read
My name in their lesson book,
And on learning the sad story,
Let them smile shyly. . .
Since you've given me neither love nor peace
Grant me bitter glory.
-- translated by Judith Hemschemeyer
Well, this one speaks pretty directly to me. I've been where Akhmatova was when she wrote this. I think it's the same place that Stevie Nicks was in when she sang, "And sometimes...when they ask her about the men in her life...she says, 'well, they are poets...and yet they are priests of nothing...aah, but they are legends.' And I thought that there was a...connection."
~Stevie Nicks, live version ending to Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You/Live From Red Rocks, 1986
And if I ever find a recording or an mp3 of that live performance, BTW, I am going to be the happiest woman on earth.
My generaton of women may be, please the Goddess, the last generation of women who get sold that lovely opium dream of living through a great man, of being muse to a great poet.