Thursday, July 31, 2008

hummingbird garden

We've been living in our new place for a year now and it really is okay - comfortable, spacious, nice view of the woods in the canyon outside the living room window but there are days when I miss my hummingbird garden. The first time we saw one it stopped at a random basket we'd hung just because it was nice to have outdoor flowers after years of no yard and no balcony apartments. We thought it was a dragonfly at first but after a few more visits we realized there really are hummers in the middle of the city.

Over the next eight summers we got good at planting gardens they were bound to love and since we were east facing (with Mt Hood in the distance) we grew flowers that like full sun but some shade as well - fuchsias and lotus vines.

The building was purchased by developers the winter before last and everyone was given 30 days notice to vacate. It was bad enough as it was but thank goodness it was winter since at least the pots were already empty and the hummingbirds used the liquid feeders.

We moved to a little house whose only benefit was that it was still close enough for us to walk to our jobs while we waited for this place to have an opening. The medical students and young doctors come and go in summer.

It's nice but the balcony is tiny, open slat boards with a balcony beneath so the water might drip on heads. No garden but we keep the nectar stocked and even though the balcony doors are over in a corner we hear them buzzing and slurping. Sometimes we even see them - iridescent green with pinpoint black eyes.

We pass the building that had eight summers of hummingbird garden and it's still mostly empty but the hummingbirds came with us.

Monday, July 28, 2008

shit from shinola beliefs

The Fifth Party is the party representing all of those who play nicely together.

We see a problem and recognize the solution involves building new and fun ways to solve the problem.

We stop to help each other along the path because it's more fun to travel with friends.

We share our jelly donuts and rootbeer (and beer) happily because there's always more where that came from. (Right, okjimm?)

We wear funny clothes and make our hair and faces look however we like because we know everybody's made of the same stuff underneath.

We all know we've had enough of the bad old ways:

The German press spent the weekend unraveling the meaning of Senator Obama's Berlin speech. This quote is from the left leaning Berliner Zeitung: "For Obama, as for John McCain, a militarily strong America forms the basis of all their foreign policy concepts. However, unlike the Republicans, Obama has two competing principles: maintaining the US's leading role and increasingly interweaving states in the aftermath of the Cold War."

"Obama makes no mention of fewer troops, agents or weapons. On the contrary, Obama does not follow any new theories that might lead to the end of the US's as the hegemonic power. Instead, his views harken back to the liberal interventionists of the '90s."

The world is crying out for the help of the Shit From Shinola Party. We need to work toward a shared vision with all the other people on our LittleBigPlanet this fall.

Now I have to go work on my new 10ft long silk scarf so I can use it as a tightrope if required.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the time is always now

I had to take a little time away from the busy campaign trail now that Divajood has declared for the presidency with the extraordinary Nunley as her running mate to reminisce again about the old days.. and I do mean old.

I've also been brushing up my typing skills so I can be a good Secretary of State when that happy day comes next January. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of real swearing at the swearing in ceremony.

I was thinking about how the lessons we learn when we first move out into the world end up being the foundation we build our lives on.

If you're not too busy campaigning yourself the new story is Outsider Art. I've always liked a good outsider and outside chances and outside possibilities. We may go the whole way, ladies. Your time has come.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

at what cost?

In the past week I've read a number of articles about Jane Mayer's new book 'The Dark Side' so this morning we decided to stop by the downtown Borders store to pick up a copy before getting on with our usual Saturday grocery shopping. I was expecting discounted copies of it to be stacked up on the new book tables out front so was surprised that we had find our way back to the rarely frequented political section where we eventually found two of them. The price was $28. Now I'm not saying we didn't have money to buy one because we did but I balked at the cost.

This seems to happen a lot that books with relevance to here and now are published in hard bound editions only rather than having original release in paper so more people can afford to buy and read them. I just find it irritating and although I'd like to support the author for all the work involved the truth of the matter is I'd rather use the $28 for other things - ie, a donation to the ACLU who would greatly appreciate modest donations and would put the money to good use by putting legal pressure on the clowns who decided to subvert the Constitution in the first place.

As it is I read a lot online and if you're interested in gathering the essentials of her disclosures I recommend any or all of the following links:

Harpers magazine published Six Questions For Jane Mayer

ProPublica talks with Jane Mayer

Chapter One is called Panic

Los Angeles Times book review

The situation the country is facing after two terms of the Cheney regime is unprecedented and I for one have no clue how we'll find a path to a better tomorrow. If the general public was better informed or a little less complacent it would definitely help but I really doubt there'll be lines of people at the library waiting for their chance to borrow a copy of 'The Dark Side'.

When I hear the word 'hope' I remember the old saying that goes 'Hope for the best but expect the worst.' Meanwhile, there's not much we can do as individuals other than be witnesses of the situation as it unfolds. I hope the weather is going to be nice for my vacation but I have no control over whether it rains or shines.

ps: The painting is another by Michael Sowa - he's so good.
pps: Thank you for bearing with my politico-social commentary. I promise to get back to sillier stuff next time.
ppps: What books do you pay $25 or more for?

Monday, July 14, 2008

fear or morality?

A question came up a few days ago about what would you ask Senator Obama if you had the opportunity to speak to him directly. I really have only one question and it's the one Sir Thomas More, who was a Chancellor of England when Henry VIII was king, asked his overzealous son-in-law in the film 'A Man For All Seasons':

"When the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

More put his faith in society’s system of judgment—the law. The great beyond remains unknown to humankind. Earthly society and laws offer the only shelter from the uncertainties of the universe.

That's the problem that faces us now - the one that may finally break this great social experiment called the United States of America. I read a review in the Washington Post by Andrew Bacevich of Jane Mayer's new book called 'The Dark Side' in which she has written a vivid account of our leadership's deliberate undertaking to make torture the law of the land.

Above all, the story Mayer tells is one of fear and its exploitation.

"That fear should trump concern for due process and indeed justice qualifies as a recurring phenomenon in American history. In 1919, government-stoked paranoia about radicalism produced the Red Scare. After Pearl Harbor, hysteria mixed with racism led to the confinement of some 110,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. The onset of the Cold War triggered another panic, anxieties about a new communist threat giving rise to McCarthyism. In this sense, the response evoked by 9/11 looks a bit like déjà vu all over again: Frightened Americans, more worried about their own safety than someone else's civil liberties, allowed senior government officials to exploit a climate of fear.

"Her account suggests implicitly that the present period differs in at least one crucial respect. Whereas the earlier departures from the rule of law represented momentary if egregious lapses in democratic practice, the abuses orchestrated from within the Bush administration suggest that democracy itself is fast becoming something of a sham."

For the first time in my memory we find ourselves living in a country where our highest officials risk arrest if they visit certain other countries.

I guess my main question to Barack Obama would be, 'How do you feel about returning this country to the rule of law?'

Saturday, July 12, 2008

looking our best

My hair's been growing without the interference of a 'stylist' for nearly a year now and, although I'm very glad to have left that particular six week observance go by the wayside, now I'm thinking about wearing a hat.

Dreadlocks might be a good idea. Back in March Gary did a post that had a picture of my nephew Ryan with his new dreads. I knew nothing about them but Ryan being a very sweet young man sent me a note with some history that included the fact that men wearing short hair actually just dates back to the Prussian Empire when Kaiser Wilhelm decided he'd prefer all his soldiers to look the same and sent them to the military barbers. Cutting everybody's hair gave them something to do besides pulling teeth.

So here I am with my hair getting longer by the day, the weather's getting warmer and hair falling over my face whenever I try to do anything drives me crazy. Having your hair ends soak in the silk dye is no fun either but what did I ever care about sophistication? In the meanwhile I've been using pins, clips and slides when I twist and tie it into one of those knots that looks like a bird's tail section. I rather like it but I did spend some time looking at knotty boy a salon in Vancouver BC that specializes in dreads. Out of their 3000 pictures I found one picture of an 'older' woman with dreadlocks - a Finnish lady of about 70 years sitting in a big blackwood frame chair wearing a dark shirt, jeans and boots. Her dreads hung down to the floor. I want to grow up to be like her.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

dear mr. fantasy

Just so you don't think my silk painting peaked with the picture of the one I posted on Sunday I thought I'd repost a couple of the later ones - after I gained a bit more control of the dyes. It's quite a complicated process but very satisfying.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Randal that I got to see Steve Winwood with the Spencer Davis Group performing in the Clearwell Caves near Cheltenham in southern England. I have no idea how they got permission to stage rock concerts there but over the course of the summer of '66 it was definitely the premier place to go for music and a number of then famous groups were eager to make use of the acoustics.

Imagine my surprise when I ran into this article on Discover:

"At least 12,000 years ago, the most popular musical events might have taken place in torch-lit caves next to walls covered in art, according to new archaeological research in France. Stone Age-era caves there bear paintings located in the most acoustically resonant places, where sound lingers or echoes. The first cathedrals, theaters and concert halls, researchers now theorize, may have been inspired by musical performances held in caves."

Iegor Reznikoff of the University of Paris said, "I am a specialist of the resonance of buildings and spaces, particularly of the resonance of Romanesque churches. The first time I happened to be in a prehistoric cave, I tried singing and humming in various parts of the cave, and quickly the question arose: Is there a relation between resonance and locations of the paintings.

"The tribes could make sounds with stones, pieces of wood, different types of drums and so on, so imagine picturesque scenes of cave persons dancing, singing and chanting to some kind of rhythmic music while the torch lights flickered to show the cave paintings."

That sounds a lot like what we were doing so I wish I could tell him just how cool and picturesque it was banging our gongs and wearing our pelts there at the beginning of it all. It's possible that all of today's music could have resulted from an ingrained human memory of the acoustical properties found in caves. I told you I was old, didn't I?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

it's all about context

I've had a longterm habit of reading some pretty diverse subjects with new scientific theories being pretty high on the list of general interests. Today I found a positive article about ADHD I think is worth sharing since many of my friends have carried around the label as well as medication for a condition I think is essentially a normal part of being human. The article pretty much confirms my feeling that there's a benefit to being able to focus lightly on multiple subjects rather than just one thing at a time. Here it is for you to decide for yourself:

A genetic propensity for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may actually help people thrive in nomadic environments, says a study of Kenyan tribesmen.

U.S. researchers found that a gene associated with the disorder was linked to better health and body weight in a group of nomadic cattle herders, but could cause malnourishment in their cousins who have recently settled and begun to grow crops.

"Our findings suggest that some of the variety of personalities we see in people is evolutionarily helpful or detrimental, depending on the context," said lead author Dan Eisenberg, an anthropologist at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.

Useful trait

"This insight might allow us to begin to view ADHD as not just a disease but something with adaptive components," he said.

The effects of these genes have been studied in industrial countries but little research has been carried out in subsistence environments which more closely mirror the environments where much of human genetic evolution took place.

"It is possible that in a nomadic setting, a boy with this allele might be able to more effectively defend livestock against raiders or locate food and water sources, but that the same tendencies might not be as beneficial in settled pursuits such as focusing in school, farming or selling goods," Eisenberg said.

The study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Now all we have to do is become nomads and we'll all be perfectly normal.

By the way this is one of my very first silk paintings and what I lacked in skill I certainly made up for in enthusiasm.