Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ethical dilemma

OK. So what do you think?

Little Boy Blue? (left)

Or the Greenboy? (right)

(Currently named just for the not-very-visible color on their collar, although it might stick as name. . . . )

But seriously, here's the dilemma:

1. We originally thought to get a dog when our house is finished and we've moved in.

2. Dogs of this breed are not regularly to be had just for the asking.

3. Boy-Blue and Greenboy will be ready to leave their birthing home the end of May.

4. Our house won't be finished till probably August.

5. Our rental house prohibits pets (we have an express exception for our cat).

6. What do you think the answer would be to the request to bring a new puppy into our rental house for the last 3 months or so of our stay here?

7. Given 1 through 5 - and the probable answer to number 6 - what is the traveling distance (in a straight line) from Minneapolis to China?

Sorry. No. Let's try that again. Given 1 through 5 - and the probable answer to number 6 - what is the "ethical" course of action? And two: what impact do fortuitous circumstances have on the answer?

in hiding

We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.

Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)

Monday, March 24, 2008


Occasionally, one of my desktop web cams displays a picture of haunting beauty. If I'm lucky, I can "capture" it before it refreshes, never to be seen again.

Here's one I managed to catch.

I missed one a week ago, and find myself still regretting it. It's funny, though: it's the ones that got away that fill your dreams and the treasure chests of your imagination. In a way, I'm the wealthier for having just missed that shot.

This one is fixed. The other one - from last week - lives and sings and sparkles.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I watched the Ten Commandments last night - good ole Charlie Heston and Yul Brenner. . . . [WARNING: explicit "religious" content ahead]

The thing that really amazed me was the screenwriters' liberal use of scripture throughout the movie, and not just from the "time in question".

For example, there were repeated references to 'waiting on the Deliverer' - the one foretold - who would lead the Israelites out of bondage. There was even an old blind man, on the verge of death, who (having seen Moses) pretty much said: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation [your Deliverer], which you prepared in the sight of people. . . ."

Good as far as it goes, but interesting to remember that this didn't come until the new testament part of the Bible. . . . Well after Moses.

It's the story of Simeon, in fact, as told in the book of Luke, in chapter 2, when he sees Jesus. Funny how we get all these stories all mixed up. It all sounds good, and rolls off the tongue and feels vaguely "holy" - or at least powerful. But there's a big difference between waiting on Moses and waiting on Jesus.

Just like there's a big difference between the crucifixion and the empty tomb - the risen Christ.

Of course, we don't really have to deal too much with either of them over Easter, unless we absolutely insist. Instead, we have rabbits, chicks, eggs, flowers, chocolate, grass, baskets, food (ham or lamb?), Spring! and all the rites of Spring and the return of growing things. An empty tomb? Whatever. . . .

My mother sent me a "religious" email forward-thingee: a make-believe mock-up of Jesus' obituary. It talked about who Jesus was and what he did, including his 'recent death on the cross for the "sins of all mankind".' It ended with the notation that his mother, friends, and family requested "no flowers or donations" but that in lieu of that, we would all "go and do likewise", i.e.: live like Jesus.

That's it?

That's easter?

Go live like Jesus, eh?

I sent my mother an email back:
They left out the best part. He is risen! He's ALIVE.
God bless her, she wrote back:
'Great minds' and all that: that's what I sent back to the person who sent this to me. . . .

That's radical enough:
He is alive.
If we get just that through our heads, it would make such a difference.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of spring 'springing' around here, and - boy - if I had chicks aobut, I'd sure be happy watching their new little lives cheeping about. . . .

We're having neither ham nor lamb, but roast beef. And Yorkshire puddings (which I'm a bit worried about, never having tried them before), and I have several pounds of vegetables to wash, chop and stage for last-minute prep when the roast is done, so I'd better hop to it.

I'll be rehearsing my easter mantra, however, just so's the chocolate doesn't take hold and take over: He is risen. He is alive.

Thank God! Hope He likes what we're having for dinner.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

the protest song

I protest. No one is singing about what bothers me.

Does no one care?

Maybe it's that I can't quite figure out what's bothering me. I'm bothered - I know that - and feel generally pessimistic about where "we're" heading. And I want to protest. Or at least have an anthem song I can grab hold of.

Recently, though, our "protests" are supposedly on behalf of other people. We "protest" against the war in Iraq - the poor Iraqis. . . . those poor soldiers (unless, of course, they're hurting the poor Iraqis). The 'poor' Palestinians. . . . the Jena Sixians. . . . whatever African country is currently killings its inhabitants, or those of the neighboring country. . . . and let's not forget "Free Tibet" and "Save the Whale."

There's more. LOTS more.

But I can't get myself real worked up about that when it seems that everywhere I look is evidence of a general moral decline - decay, even - that makes worrying about others seem a bit out of place. I'm worried about us. Us, of the reality TV dramas, the Brittney fiasco's, American "idols", call girl dramas and client numbers, followed by the replacement politician's preliminary (and pre-emptive) confession of mere run-of-the-mill infidelity, an imploding stockmarket, magic money & Fed bail-outs, natural disasters, foreclosures, and billions spent on American Political Gladiators. 'It's the economy, stupid'? Maybe it's more than that.

I wish I could conjure up a "change I could believe in", but I don't trust it.

I don't trust us.

Maybe that's the problem. I have seen - not the 'promised land' - but the blackness of our own human hearts, the 'land of the damned.' It is us. It appears inescapable. If ever a people needed 'saving', we are it.

Don't make me get my guitar. . . .

PS - since then, I found a posting Music to Protest By. Interesting, as far as it goes. Most interesting that most of the music is from some time ago.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

class war or race war?

Check this idea out, that part of what Barack Obama was saying yesterday is:
There is some hope: black and white can unite around fleecing Wall Street and rich people, thus expanding government programs that can help all kinds of poor and middle class people, and thus understood, both groups can unite around the Obama candidacy. In other words, we need class war not race war.
This, from a guy by the name of "Mr. Roach" who posts here, who left a comment on another site summing up his take on what Barack Obama said yesterday about his 20-year relationship with a black pastor who has said very bad things about whites and the United States of America.

Perhaps that's true, as far as it goes. Somebody's gotta pay for all the let-the-good-times-roll of the proposed HOPE Obama wants to hand out. Might as well be those who still have the money for it.

But I didn't really hear so much of the black and white united bit. . . . Yes, I heard a lot about how we've had race trouble (from the very beginning of our "imperfect" union), and how we need to deal with it and change it, and how it's affected us all. But I noticed that - although Obama did talk about occasional injustice to white people, it's the blacks who have "black anger." Justified anger, don't you know.

Whites? They have "resentments."

Obama does in fact have an assignment for both black and white 'communities'. The black communities are to 'embrace the burdens of their past without becoming its victim', seeing a connection between justice for all and justice to 'them', and "taking responsibility for our own lives." White communities are to recognize that the past really did hurt the blacks and it's not just in their imagination, so blacks might need a little extra help, especially in the areas of the "fairness" of the criminal justice system and a good education. But that's no problem, because one person's dreams don't have to be at the expense of another person's dreams (no more zero-sum game theory for him!), and "investing" in black, brown and white children will ultimately help ALL of America.

I don't even want to get into the implications of those assignment descriptions. Let me just point out one thing. Did you notice that Obama continues to assume separate communities? Where's that coming from? Where do you see "white communities" talking about the benefits white people ought to be getting? Why is it ok for black communities to do what would be absolutely excoriated in a white context?

At this level, should we not be talking about "citizens"?

Oh. right. That would imply NON-citizens. . . . and we certainly don't want to talk about THAT.

Mr. Roach may be right that Obama is trying to shift the grounds of conflict, but this isn't about changing race war to a class war. This is about aggregating race war with class war, and a dose of nationalism just waiting in the wings to join in!

If you go to the Trinity United Church of Christ website - don't "skip" the intro - its logo is superimposed over the continent of Africa. Click on "About Us" and you'll see the references to being "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian", but also talk of being (and I quote): "an African people, and remain[ing] "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization." The church espouses a "nonnegotiable commitment to Africa." There is nothing mentioned about a commitment to America. . . . Oh - and there's a Black Value System, which the church ascribes to, which is very interesting reading, especially if you play around with substituting "white" for "black." Wright may have "retired" - NOTE: there's no mention of THAT on their website - but what he espoused and built remains very much in place.

Just TRY to imagine your local evangelical megachurch being "unashamedly white and unapologetically Christian" with a "nonnegotiable commitment" to, say, Ireland. Or the E.U. Or some other 'unabashedly' "white" nation, if such a place even exists.

I dunno. I'm just tired of the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

thought and action.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
William James (1842-1910)

This assumes, of course, that one is actually doing something - not just talking about doing something, talking about what others should be doing, or reacting to events, i.e., complaining about what others have done.

I like Wm. James. He's the same guy who refuted scepticism (and promoted 'faith') by saying:
Dupery for dupery, what proof is there that dupery through hope is so much worse than dupery through fear?

I wonder what he would make of the "believe" campaign. . . .

racism peek-a-boo

Thanks to Sarah over at Trying to Grok for posting this link - a piece about Barack Obama's appeal as "all of us", but rather insightfully pointing out that that also makes him none of us:

There is no Barack Obama. Everyone who meets him makes up their own version of him. He is an outstanding orator because he has learned to read the desire of those around him about who they want him to be and then to reflect and fulfill that desire. It has worked for him every step of the way until now. . . .

He has been too many things to too many different people. But all those people expect to see what they're expecting to see every time, and it's no longer possible in the simultaneous pressures of a presidential campaign. Even he doesn't know how different he is from venue to venue and person to person. . . .

From first to last, he's always been an outsider.
I think this is what I was trying to get at to when I started to grapple with feeling uncomfortable with Obama's Grandma. . . .

It's not that I have a problem with Obama's Grandma's colour, clothing or language per se. The problem I have is one of otherness - which she so vividly points out - in a situation where the goal is to elect a president who is representative of the electorate.

Are we really so diverse - and divided - that our only recourse is to elect someone who is ultimately like none of us? Worse, are we so easily hoodwinked by catchphrases that we don't notice?

I guess so. We've been basting for several years now in ad campaigns urging us to BELIEVE - no mention of WHAT to believe IN. The first one I was aware of was in Ireland - early 2002 I think it was - when Guinness-coloured billboards bearing only that word started appearing on the streets. Sometime thereafter, Guinness associated itself with "believing" and "impossible" athletic feats, with no detour of logic first required.

Don't get me wrong: I like Guinness. But I don't think that drinking it will make me heroic. Neither will buying the next product to usurp the tag: video game Halo 3. But at least Halo 3 tells us what it is necessary to believe:
A hero is more than a person, a hero is a belief. A belief that, against impossible odds, the world can be saved—and that the world is still worth saving. Heroes inspire that belief in us. They renew our faith and give us that most precious of all gifts—hope. The world needs heroes. That's why, when a true hero arrives, the world will honor him.
Obama promises us Change We Can Believe In. Great. What if that change isn't so "good"? What if it requires me to change into something I'm not? What if it changes me into the "enemy", for example, and those I have not agreed with - even if not formal enemies - into the so-called "good guys"?

This is all sounding very Nietzschian. You know, the: up is down; white is black; bad is good; rich is poor; you are me. . . . And: 'It's all "relative", don't you know'.

I don't like it. If that makes me a rascist - sorry! I actually believe in difference - although certainly some differences are more important than others. But you know what? I am not you; you are not me. You and I will never come a complete "WE" - there's always a bit left out. A bit that doesn't quite blend in.

Maybe we could spend a little more time looking at what it is we're undertaking - what change we aspire to - rather than whipping up the lemmings for a long, blind walk off a quick cliff.

When push comes to shove, just who is it that Obama thinks he "represents"? In a way, maybe he represents that bit in all of us that doesn't blend in, but desperately wishes it did. The Outsider.

But maybe not for President. . . .

Thursday, March 13, 2008

bluebirds - part two

I wrote about bluebirds a little while ago- saying I hoped they'd be moving in when we did.

Meanwhile, lookee here, what I saw out in the greenwood today! Sorry it's a little blurry. . . . Look carefully there, there are two bluebirds in that picture.

I'd better get cracking on that bluebird-of-happiness house.

no excuse

I just haven't felt much like writing.

A bit of the blah's, perhaps.

Today, however, I have an interview for a fellowship I applied for back in January. It turns out that "the" fellow has already been selected - the 'chair' of an ethics department who apparently is due for a sabbatical - but they are seeking funding for a second fellowship, which they said they hoped to be able to offer me. By today, they should know the status of the funding. . . .

I'm delighted to have gotten the interview! I can't tell you, however, how much I hope I also get the fellowship. In a way, it would feel like a clear nod to a more academic path. I don't aspire to tenured professorship. But a year's fellowship would be a great way to spend the year - continuing with my research into a slightly new direction while also pursuing publication of the dissertation. Not to mention finishing the construction of our house. And where is it, by the way, that Americans have somehow moved into thinking the building or other acquisition of a full-time residence is properly left to spare-time management?! Alright, alright. . . . I won't take that diversion. Although I will just say that one's full-time residence - being as it is the very fundamental requirement for shelter that it is (and I won't mention the other fundamental requirement of food - oops. I mentioned it) - maybe ought to occasion better than spare-time considerations. And by this, I do not mean selecting paint colours or decorating the foyer . . . .

But back to other questions of occupation - what occupies our time - what ought to occupy mine, anyway.

I am frustrated with the political process and the obscene amounts of money we seem willing to spend for so little in return. I don't really know what the candidates think, after all this, merely what they look like, as they say whatever seems most appropriate to the people listening at the moment. Then, they rehash what the other candidate said - supposedly inappropriate - to some other group, amidst calls for apologies or resignations of advisors or other camp-followers.

It's all very tedious.

Meanwhile, the stock market (by all reports) is hemorrhaging. Plus which, we're spending I don't want to think how much on operations in Iraq - so far, a largely thankless "investment", with no end in sight. It's hard not to think that perhaps we ought - each of us - to be responsible for our own neck of the woods. Democracy and 'freedom' is perhaps not a gift to be given, but instead a prize to be fought for and won.

Maybe that's the problem.

I'd better go bustle myself with the transformation from stay-at-home slug, to intellectual bon vivant and potential/promising fellowship recipient, however. That could take all morning. It's my way of trying to be responsible for my own neck of the woods, I guess. My way, of fighting for the prize.

Later, perhaps we'll talk about what I learned from taking on a legal case. A good thing I learned, believe it or not. But I just haven't wanted to write about much of anything. Good or bad.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

a question

Does it bother you that, if Barack Obama is elected President of the United States, his grandmother - pictured here - is a Kenyan tribal woman who does not speak English?

Is that a "racist" question?

I find it does bother me - which bothered me! - until I realized that the prospect of the President of the United States having a grandmother living in any foreign country and not speaking English, bothered me. Which maybe just makes me xenophobic. Or maybe it means that - for president - I'm interested in someone who has this country's best interests at heart, and will not be swayed or influenced by so-called 'foreigners'. Closely-related foreigners.

Of whatever colour or language.

I could be wrong, but I can't think of another President - or Presidential candidate - who presented such a scenario. What I find most interesting is that no one is talking about it.

Lots of people have talked about how "unfair" it is to show Barack in a turban in honor of his grandfather - implying that he is Muslim - but how about this? Going home for the visit to the grandparents in Kenya.

Here's an article about Sarah Hussein Obama and what she thinks about the American political process, or at least the election process. Oh - and Barack? According to his half-sister, Auma Obama: ""Barack's done extremely well and we're very proud of him." There is apparently also a half-brother. Barack met none of these other children of Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.'s - his father - until he was an adult. Of meeting his sister, Obama apparently wrote in his book Dreams From My Father: "I loved her, so naturally, so easily and fiercely, that later, after she was gone, I would find myself mistrusting that love, trying to explain it to myself."

I think this might be a good book for more of us to read. . . .

Meanwhile, I find myself mistrusting these scattered family and emotional connections to far away lands and countries. Or at least a little nervous about it. The fact that there doesn't seem to be much talk about it only makes it worse. But I'll bet the first person to really lay it out on the table will be branded something a whole lot worse than xenophobe.

But if John McCain had long-lost siblings and a grandmother living in County Donegal, who spoke only Gaelic, would that not occasion comment?

I remember when we were worried about President Clinton's friends and family from Arkansas!

posted without comment

Cake's Building a Religion and Barack Obama.

But what do you think?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

strange thought-fellows

Lately, my days have been taken with thoughts of design, decor, and money. Time factors in there as well, insofar as having to keep up with the construction process, and trying to balance outlay of money, ordering stuff, and considering replacement of money - i.e., namely by engaging in work-for-pay. What a concept!

It has effectively silenced much of my reflective thought, not to mention creativity. The bulk of my creativeness seems channeled these days into daydreaming about my garden and compulsive knitting. I have quite a stack of new neckwear, a gorgeous turquoise vest, and a growing pi shawl in a lace-weight Malabrigo in "Bobby Blue" [pictured].

I would have called it turquoise.

I've slowly started adding some colour back into my wardrobe. Notably, I see it still largely takes the shape of things that go about my neck or shoulders. For years, traveling as I did, I had restricted myself largely to black - adding only a silk scarf in colour - as the easiest to travel with and as calling the least amount of attention to itself. I wanted a basic well-done "uniform" that always looked nice, but didn't need to be fussed with. Black pants are black pants, after all, and occasion little comment.

Ditto: the black skirt.

The one place where style entered into the equation was in the matter of the jacket. There, you could have the short jacket, the fitted jacket, the boxy blazer, the peplum, double-breasted/single-breasted, the military cut, hacking jacket, or even a long coat. . . . Lots of choices! Not to mention textures.

Now that I'm a bit more settled, I find myself a bit more adventurous, colour-wise. Old habits die hard, though, so I still find myself edging to the black where pants, skirts and jackets are concerned. But in knitting, black is so hard to see! So I've allowed myself the luxury - there - of colour. Currently, it's turquoise. I think that looks nice with black - especially with a bit of silver.

As you see, I'm all flighty these days. Not at all what one would expect of a 'doctor of philosophy'. I expect it's reactionary. I'm feathering my nest and collecting shiny things, like any other self-respecting corvid.

I expect I'll resume my croakings soon enough.