Friday, November 28, 2008


I'm thankful I'm not a Pilgrim
I'm thankful this will be my last post about Pilgrims for awhile
I'm thankful I was too busy feasting yesterday to update my blog
I'm thankful I'm spending Black Friday in the warmth of my bathrobe and not in a mall
I'm thankful I still have a half gallon of milk in the fridge and don't need to run to the store
I'm thankful it's 11:15 am and the kids haven't asked for breakfast yet
Im thankful for my pinon incense that makes my house smell like a wood fire; I think I'll go light some right now
I'm thankful for anyone who reads this post
I'm thankful that 53 days ago I was in Colorado and I can still remember it like it was yesterday
I'm thankful I'm blogging right now and not working on my grant proposal or my 3000 word paper, which will soon dominate my every waking moment over the next ten days.
I'm thankful I can blog even when I have absolutely nothing to say
I'm thankful for the feelings I have felt deeply, am one who feels deeply, that I'm free to feel, and am deeply thankful for deep feelingness for which I freely thank
I'm thankful for knowing things in my heart and soul that no one can dispute or take away from me
I'm thankful for many things I will not express openly, but when no one's looking they make me smile

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pilgrim Or Gypsy?

If someone held a gun to your head and you had to choose between being a pilgrim woman or a gypsy, which would you be? Remember, saying "yes" to one means saying "no" to the other, so choose wisely. As you can see, both wore long skirts and some form of flimsy cotton hat. Obviously the gypsy was better accessorized. But the pilgrim women carried a mean basket loaded up with squash and hedge apples, and their upper arm strength was second to none. Still, gypsies knew how to dance and sing and cavort, and cavorting is in much too short a supply these days. (Ca-vort: To bound or prance about in a sprightly manner; caper. ) And many a gypsy played violin. Keep in mind though, that gypsies were often reviled by young children who were taught to fear them, while Pilgrims have been fashioned out of construction paper and made into centerpieces for the Thanksgiving table since time immemorial. Certainly, Pilgrim women were known for their cooking of sumptious meats, they with their open hearths and rolling spits. It was their deft plucking of turkeys that led people to declare them "full of pluck," hence our modern-day expression. However, one need only remember Hester Prynne and her big scarlet "A" to know what happened to plucky Pilgrim gals. Personally, I would rather be born on the wagon of a travelin' show to a family of gypsies, tramps and thieves. That is, if a gun were put to my head.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goin' Incognito

At last my quest for anonymity has ended! I'm so tired of being recognized and greeted everywhere I go. But help is on the way, now that I've found the Pilgrim Lady Instant Disguise Kit. In just seconds, this kit will transform me from the 21st century denizen of cool that I am, highly sought after and admired, to a seventeenth century bonneted matron, who warrants nary a second glance. And no one will be the wiser. Just think of all the places I can go unhindered, while dressed like a pilgrim lady. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. With this new freedom, I can slip unnoticed into clubs, bars, gay bars --all manner of dens of iniquity, and I'll be totally disguised. I'll be that proverbial fly on the wall. I can help myself to any event I please --crash snobbish parties, stroll through local parades with cavalier ease, take umbrage in protests and rallies, without ever risking arrest. Yes, a whole new life is opening up for me, now that I've found the Pilgrim Lady Instant Disguise Kit. I can hardly wait to get started.

Friday, November 21, 2008

So Long Analog

Okay, Confession: I have a hard time letting go of 20th century electronics. I'm sorry to see the end of analog TV--and the boxy, rabbit-eared TV’s that went with it.

I know, I know --digital will give us better sound and picture quality. Those of us without cable will get more channels, blah, blah, blah. But digital seems somehow less…human. It’s slick and computerish and lacks the endearing clunkiness of analog. I remember when CDs replaced LP's. My new CDs were shiny and compact but they gave none of the sensory satisfaction of vinyl. No more dropping the tonearm on the turntable by accident, or gazing hypnotically at the grooves going round and round at 35 rpm. Gone were the discomfiting cracks and pops, the wax blisters, the mechanical action of gears and belts. The highly individualized experience of listening to records that might skip or warble as a reaction to moisture in the air or dust in the groove, was a thing of the past.

Now the powers that be want to replace our continuously-variable electromagnetic waveform with digital for TV broadcasts. Think what this means: No more rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil or bulky channel knobs with numbers. No more standing next to the TV to help the signal come in better. Back in my day, when Mom ran the egg beater, the TV in the living room buzzed loudly with snow until we begged for mercy. Our set was frequently visited by "ghosts", whose pale images floated across the screen, and if we were lucky, we could even bring in two channels at once. Well, soon those days will be gone for good.

Once we make the big switch to digital, the fine art of interpretive TV watching will be a lost art. No more toughing out bad reception to see the latest installment of Wife Swap. If the digital signal fails, you can't jimmy with the antenna or turn the TV on its head to coax a clearer picture. Digital signals either come through or they don’t. Analog signals deteriorate gracefully, it's said. They'll leave you with a shred of something, even if it's just a fleeting shadow on the screen, or some staticky audio. But when digital signals fall apart, you get nada. Bupkis.

I have an old TV I bought at a garage sale for $35, and I have a hunch it's not digital. So today I went online and ordered my coupon for a converter. With a heavy heart. Those who have cable have already joined the other side, and can't comprehend all my wailing. But those who, like me, have always taken their TV raw and over the analog airwaves, know this is the end of an era.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moment of Zen - Don't Be Afraid

From the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Random Thoughts Of November

We've pushed off from the shore of October. Heading for the high seas of December.

This winter, how cold will I be?

If I wear a coat that makes my shoulders look bigger than my head, will I command more respect?

Can I get a coat long enough to hide my bathrobe?

If I leave my car outside, I'll have to scrape my windows in the morning. On the other hand, if I park my car in the garage, the flame from the
water heater might mix with the gas fumes and blow everything to kingdom come. I'll probably go with the scraping windows plan.

I got some "pinon" incense at a Native American shop.
It makes my house smell like a wood fire. Awesome!

As the days grow shorter and darker, I am developing
a new past-time: Soup

Monday, November 17, 2008

Keep On Rockin' In The Free World

Neil Young has mounted himself into the engine block of his 1959 Lincoln Continental to create a new form of hybrid car. Way to go green, Neil. By the way I love this fine hunk of Motown metal. See photo below. The front grill gives me the jingly-janglys.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Son Of A Beatle! Dhani Harrison's Regrettable Fashion Spread

While waiting for my appointment at the women's health clinic, I browsed through a copy of a magazine called Fashion Rocks. It was either that or settle in with an issue of Conceive! Uh, thanks, but no thanks.
Twas whilst I was flipping pages that I happened upon a fashion spread so lavish with unhinged fantasy that I could scarce look away. It featured Dhani Harrison, son of my favorite Beatle, George.
Why was George my fave? Let's review: spiritual Beatle, played sitar, put garden gnomes on an album cover. Put out delightfully weird music video "Crackerbox Palace" years before music videos became commonplace. (Back then it was called a "short film" and it was directed by Eric Idle.) I saw the video debut on Saturday Night Live on November 20, 1976, and it said "Come! Join us! You belong in Crackerbox Palace with the rest of us oddballs." I couldn't find a way out of my livingroom in western Kansas, but I cherished the invitation.
But back to Dhani. Son of George is all grown up now, and he says his father told him he looks more like George Harrison than he, George Harrison did. Indeed, the sight of Dhani's soulful eyes and Beatlesque moustache makes it seem like 1969 again, and I'm six years old, in Mrs. Zitnick's kindergarten class learning to tie the big red shoe.

But I digress. With Dhani channeling George, it was inevitable that some fashionistas would descend on him and use him as a prop for their own diabolical retro-exploitative fashion schemes. And sure enough, that's what happened and the results are all over the pages of Fashion Rocks. See for yourself:

 Is this a Monty Python skit? No, it's  just Dhani Harrison enjoying a bit of sport in his back yard. If you think his hat is badass, just check out his belt. My life is so plain.

OMG. Dhani Harrison is lost in the wild with a fur creature who resembles Patti Boyd!

"Weeeee! We're young and rich and obnoxiously photogenic! Also stoned out of our minds! Cuz who really runs like this?

He's so Britsy. She's so Patti Boydishy. Together they're so creepy. Hmmm... Do you really want to evoke the relationship your Dad had before he hooked up with your mum?


Please, God. Make it stop.

Okay, that's it. This has gone on long enough. The woolly animal hides were bad. The Patti-George thing-- disturbing. But this purple pimped out cowboy hat? Dhani, you've become a fashion victim.  Get out now, while you still can. Get out of there. Flee! Go find a sitar, a tabla, a banjo, a Jew's harp, ANYTHING and reclaim your soul!

As an antidote to that hot mess, I give you George Harrison's "Crackerbox Palace":

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Take Care Of Our Veterans

We went to war unprepared to deal with the influx of returning veterans and their needs.

Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops is a grassroots call to put the issue of supporting the successful reintegration of our returning troops front and center before the American public.

Meagher documents how returning GIs with urgent mental health needs are being basically ignored. She introduces us to soldiers like Corporal Ken Dennis and Marine Private First Class Mathew G. Milczark who did not fall on the battlefield, but fell from their own hands; committing suicide, unable to come to terms with their war experiences.

Red-headed Samuel Vaughan Wilson III, 36, says he looks like Howdy Doody, but nothing about him is funny. The black ID bracelet of a platoonmate killed in action firmly around his wrist, he is at one turn intimidating and dark, at another vulnerable, self-deprecating, and visibly wracked with survivor’s guilt. He’s outrun death, but doesn’t quite feel alive.

“My father wants me to get screening for Traumatic Brain Injury. He thinks something is wrong,” said Wilson, who served as a combat medic in Afghanistan, survived four IED incidents, numerous firefights, and was credited, in one incident, with saving eight lives and maintaining his composure under “the most extreme circumstances in a combat environment.” But in September 2006, he left the military after 11 years under a rare medical discharge for post-traumatic stress disorder. He now struggles to understand where his physical injuries leave off and the mental ones begin. His anger, restlessness, and sleepless nights are classic symptoms of both mild TBI and PTSD. “We’ve looked into it,” he said, of possible TBI screening, “but I’ve gotten nowhere in the VA system yet.”

“TBI is going to be the worst story in terms of returning veterans,” said Paul Sullivan, an advocate with Veterans for America. He estimates that anywhere from 160,000 to 320,000 servicemembers and veterans are suffering from some degree of TBI today, “most of which are unscreened, undiagnosed, and untreated.”

“It’s like slamming a laptop against the wall,” said Patrick Campbell, 29, a National Guardsman who served as a medic in Iraq from November 2004 to October 2005. While the computer may seem functional afterwards, small quirks like a broken backspace key or a jagged line down one side of the screen soon become obvious and render use slow, frustrating, and intolerable for the long term.

“The concussive event—the wind and the pressure changes—it’s more damaging than the force of getting hit,” said Campbell. He will tell you that in a single incident, an IED explosion causes an intense shockwave of pressure. When close enough, it can form tiny, destructive air bubbles in the brain and blow out precious wiring inside a soldier’s skull. Those not affected by the blast wave may be hurtled through the air, slammed around in a vehicle, or hit in the head with debris. Their Humvee might overturn. As described by some, any of this could throttle the brains like Jell-O. In Vietnam, one soldier was killed for every 2.5 wounded; in Iraq the survival rate is one killed for every 16 wounded. But the effects of TBI may take hours, days—even weeks—to surface.

“There are a lot of people out there who have never been ‘right’ after an IED,” said Campbell, recalling one case in which a veteran had to carry around a notebook to write down everything he did, said, or had to accomplish because his short-term memory was shot. “Now they are at home and wondering why they are different.”

These stories are hardly rare. Physically, soldiers like him look healthy, but they come home changed, confused about their circumstances and often too ashamed to seek help. If they are still on active duty, they worry that their brain injury or PTSD will be mistaken for a pre-existing personality disorder, which could result in a bad discharge. They are anxious about getting a good disability rating when they leave the military, as statistics show the Army is lowballing ratings for PTSD, TBI, and other injuries, meaning there is a good chance all they will get from Uncle Sam is a severance check. Once out, they face a long waiting list at the Veterans’ Administration and a lack of mental healthcare access in rural areas. Many contemplate or commit suicide, get divorced, leave their jobs, and even walk the streets, homeless.

“The idea of okay, cheer them up, wave the flag, bring them home, and forget about them … we’re going to be paying for this for the rest of their lives. It’s going to be a horrible bill that we’re going to pay,” said Wilson’s dad, now a high-school teacher in quiet Farmville, Virginia. “If we’ve got any moral virtue left, we’ve got to pay it,” he added. “We really didn’t anticipate, as a country, and as a nation, the tremendous stresses on our medical system. It’s a horrible thing.”

According to Meagher, “as of the end of 2006, one-in-four discharged Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (nearly 150,000) have filed disability claims, over 60,000 of which have been for mental health reasons.” We have failed to provide adequate funds for the Veterans Administration to deal with these disability claims. The Government Accountability Office in 2006 found that the Veterans Administration had based its budget requests not on the projected demand for health care services but on the amount the president was willing to request.

Leader of the American Legion, Thomas L. Bock said, “this budget model has turned our veterans into beggars, forced to beg for the medical care they earned and, by law, deserve.”

Thanks to lobbying efforts by groups like the IAVA, (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), the VA announced in April that it will begin screening all incoming veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan for TBI. Now the pressure is on the Department of Defense, which only offers comprehensive TBI screening for the wounded coming into their hospitals, like Walter Reed.

With an estimated 5.5 million veterans being treated at the nation’s 1,400 hospitals and clinics each year—230,000 of them from Afghanistan and Iraq—and an estimated 470,000 more yet to move into a system that is experiencing a backlog of 400,000 disability claims and a six-month average wait for a medical appointment, it is hard not see fire on the mountain.

The image of the ever rough and ready, give 'em hell super human American warrior will likely never die. We must understand that our soldiers need the image in order to stay alive, but we also have to help them dismantle it when the shooting stops. Our ability to recognize the human suffering underneath is the only way to make our veterans whole again.

The above text is paraphrased from the following:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Failure To Blow Election Stuns Democrats

Party Faithful Mourn End to Losing Tradition

Written by Andy Borowitz for the Borowitz Report:

Just minutes after their party's longstanding losing tradition lay in tatters on the ground, millions of shell-shocked Democrats stared at their television screens in disbelief, asking themselves what went right.

For Democrats, who have become accustomed to their party blowing an election even when it seemed like a sure thing, Tuesday night's results were a bitter pill to swallow.
The head-shaking and finger-pointing over the demise of the Democrats' losing streak, which many of the party faithful had worn like a badge of honor, reached all the way to the upper echelons of the Democratic National Committee.

"Believe me, I'm as shocked by these results as anybody," said DNC chief Howard Dean, who indicated he has received hundreds of calls from incredulous party members. "We did everything in our power to screw this thing up."

Dean pointed to several key elements the Democrats put in place to ensure defeat, ranging from "a rancorous primary campaign" to "the appointment of me."

"Somehow, despite our best efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we won," he said. "I came in here with a mandate to blow this thing and I didn't get it done."

Carol Foyler, a lifelong Democrat who owns a loom supply store in Portland, Maine, said she has been "nearly catatonic" since the election results were announced.

"For the past eight years, I've fixed myself some herbal tea, turned on NPR, and ranted about the Republicans," she said. "All that has been taken from me."

Elsewhere, Sen. John McCain offered this comment on Sen. Barack Obama's victory: "My friends, I've got him just where I want him."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh Happy Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank You, President Obama

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
into your brother's face,
your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

- Maya Angelou

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Hear that? That's the sound of millions of votes being cast --the sound of sweet democracy.

May every person who is eligible, be allowed to vote, and may every vote be counted.

This morning a little after 6:00 am, I went to the Congregation Kol Ami, a synagogue up the street, to vote. The line went all the way back to the front entrance. A few hours later I went to a campaign post in Kansas City, Kansas, to make phone calls for the Obama campaign. We called voters in Wisconsin to remind them to vote and give them their polling locations. I was calling places like Oshkosh and Sheboygan. Most people weren't home, so I would leave a message with the address of their polling place, which often included the word Sheboygan, as in the Sheboygan Community Center. I really liked saying the word Sheboygan. That was the funnest part of the whole morning. I entertained the idea of trying to affect a Wisconsin accent on some of those messages, but didn't want them to think I was making fun of them. It was wild to know that some of these people would come home and hear MY voice on their answering machines. Whoa.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Simone's Book Club

My hope for this nation is that we can rise above the kind of fundamentalist thinking that leads to unhealthy religious and political extremes and creates an us against them mentality among its adherents. Writer Russell Shorto recently said that as we approach November 4, people are longing for a way out of a situation in which competing value systems continually threaten one another with extinction.

That is indeed my longing --that the country will choose to move in the direction of hope and inclusion and move away from fear and divisiveness.

And so this book caught my eye. I haven't had a chance to read it, but I would like to --on that golden, mythical day when I have more time.

The following blurb is from author Frank Schaeffer's website:

"The authors, an odd mix across the Blue/Red divide—one a founder of the modern evangelical movement, the other a liberal Jewish former Clinton aide—hold an extended conversation across many months, several states, and two countries—sometimes contentious, sometimes funny, exploring the idea of how unlikely pairings—and thus, the entire country—can come together. They argue that we’re entering a new era in history, and now is the time to rise up to it; to make ourselves able to tackle the enormous problems in our laps; to, in effect, move mountains."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What I Like About Ike

I'm pretty sure my parents dragged me to the Eisenhower museum once, halfway through a long drive across Kansas. It was mind-numbingly boring, the way museum visits are to young kids. I was completely unaware that the modern, high-speed expressway that had whisked us from Hays to Abilene was the result of his Interstate Highway System.

Years later, I would continue to feel unmoved as I drove on I-70 near Abilene, past road signs that advertised the Eisenhower Library & Museum. Wasn't Ike that old general who had presided over the Cold War era that gave rise to McCarthyism? In my mind he was linked to a bland, paternalistic culture that idealized white, middle class society but condoned the segregation and discrimination of African Americans.

Indeed, Eisenhower has been criticized for not openly condemning McCarthy's tactics, even though he deplored them. And he was fairly complacent about segregation, having been a baby when Separate but Equal became law. But a closer look at Eisenhower's words and actions show that he had respect for our constitution and democracy, and sought to uphold our ideals in a way that I admire.

During the McCarthy period, Ike 's own brother Milton urged him to publicly lash out at the witch-hunting senator, whom they considered an "evil man", but Ike felt that would only be getting down into the gutter with him. Instead he chose to work behind the scenes and make indirect statements.

One such statement defended libraries, after McCarthy had attacked the State department's overseas libraries for containing materials written by communists and their "fellow travelers." McCarthy harassed the libraries so much they burned some of their books, to remove evidence of them.

Eisenhower said, in a commencement address to Dartmouth:

"Don't join the book burners. "Don't think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend your own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship."

Eisenhower was a Republican who was wary of big government, but he believed that government had a role in providing a safety net for Americans. "Government, through social security and by fostering applicable insurance plans, must help protect the individual against hardship and help free his mind from anxiety," he said. He continued all the major New Deal programs still in operation, and expanded Social Security, extending benefits to an additional ten million workers. He rolled the added Social Security programs into a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Eisenhower's record on civil rights is mixed. He was not gung-ho about the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka U.S. Supreme Court decision, because he thought it was a terrible mistake to rush to de-segregate schools, when they were the most sensitive place to integrate. He preferred beginning with public parks, motels and cafes. However, once the Court handed down its decision, Eisenhower was swift in ordering District of Columbia officials to make Washington a model for the rest of the country in integrating black and white public school children.

In his essay on Eisenhower, Stephen Ambrose writes:

There is no doubt of Eisenhower's dislike for Brown. But there is also no doubt of his sense of duty and responsibility. Whatever one thought of Brown, he told (his childhood friend Swede) Hazlett, "I hold to the basic purpose. There must be respect for the Constitution-- which means the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution-- or we shall have chaos. We cannot possibly imagine a successful form of government in which every individual citizen would have the right to interpret the Constitution according to his own convictions, beliefs, and prejudices. Chaos would develop. This I believe with all my heart-- and shall always act accordingly."

Eisenhower abhorred the thought of using force, and told the press he couldn't imagine needing to use the army to enforce integration. However, when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus refused to integrate, and surrounded his school with the Arkansas National Guard, Eisenhower would stand for none of it. He placed the Arkansas National Guard under Federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into an all-white public school. The integration spurred violence, and Eisenhower and Arkansas governor Orval Faubus engaged in tense arguments. But Eisenhower made clear his determination to uphold the Supreme Court's ruling.

Ambrose writes:

"This was the great moral and character test of the Eisenhower presidency. He met it head-on. Despite his own feelings about the mistakes being made in implementing Brown, and his horror at the thought of using American troops in American cities, he called out the 101st Airborne and sent it to Little Rock."

This calls to mind another point Ambrose made in his essay: "It is easy to be virtuous when virtue is rewarded, as it was in the Army; not so easy when virtue is ignored and partisanship is rewarded, as in politics...."

Eisenhower had been Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe and had successfully invaded France and Germany in 1944. Yet it wasn't jingoism and blind patriotism he urged upon us, as he left office, but an "alert and knowledgeable citizenry" who would demand its leaders use great caution in using our power and influence. He warned us about the dangers of the militaryindustrial complex --a phrase he coined in his farewell speech --and his words are as relevant today as they were in 1961:

"There is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties...

We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications....

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist...

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Eisenhower did not glorify war. He called modern warfare "preposterous" and spoke of his contempt for it. “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.”

Eisenhower also appreciated not only the cost of war, but the toll it took on our ability to fight poverty: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Eisenhower displayed a deep appreciation for his responsibilities as leader of the free world, even though he may not have planned for them earlier in his life:

"When I was a small boy in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing and as we sat there in the warmth of the summer afternoon on a river bank, we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I told him that I wanted to be a real major league baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he'd like to be President of the United States. Neither of us got our wish."